Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 here we come...

2011 is already shaping up to be a very nice year indeed.

Dean Wareham will be revisiting his pre Luna roots with a tres nostalgic return to Galaxie 500 territory. Giant Sand are playing as part of the best looking Celtic Connections line-up in many years. Twin Shadow and Sleigh Bells are both playing at two of the tastiest venues in town.

So, a great start to the year. Where's that bloody cheque-book...(old)

Giant Sand
Laura Cantrell
Elizabeth Cook anything else as good as this?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Christmas...

The Bishop's Wife was released just in time for Christmas 1947, but its magic stands the test of these 60 plus years. It's always a surprise to find this overlooked gem on the television or as part of an unheralded (pun intended) seasonal release - its sentiment may seem unsophisticated to many contemporary eyes and ears. No matter. The performances are heart-warmingly wonderful, the direction measured and assured and it features some late work by Gregg Toland; one of cinema's greatest photographers.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

O Captain, our Captain...

The musical influence of Don Van Vliet is everywhere. It is in the music of yesterday, it is inherent in many artists and musicians performing and recording today, and, perhaps most importantly, is parcel part of the musical legacy still to come. The beat poet, Greg Corso once importuned that he had no choice other than choosing the life of a poet. Everything else, was not gravy.

For Don, listening to Rhythm and Blues records was his, 'gravy.' He took this intense and genuine love and appreciation and distilled it into something magical - even calling his loosely assembled band of musical cut-throats, 'The Magic Band;' an epithet frequently lost on his musical detractors.

But, 'Magic,' they undoubtedly were. Capable of creating the most raucous, the most prescient, the most ominous sounds then imaginable by a society incapable, for the most part, of calibrating the true importance of his lovely noise.

But, 'lovely noise,' it was. Invested with an honesty and integrity and a love for and of the music he created. More and most importantly, Beefheart was able to communicate this undiluted, often sonically challenging, musical ideology to so many, to so many willing to embrace it fully and unconditionally - it is difficult to imagine any other artist of the past 45 years who has influenced successive generations of musicians and artists more.

Thanks Don.

'Moonlight in Vermont'
'Ice cream for crow'

'The artist formerly known as Captain Beefheart' 1/6

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas saturday night at the movies...

In what was a disappointing year for film and film releases; increasingly the best, the most innovative, talent seems to be involved in television production, there were still a few movies worth getting over-excited about...

Werner Herzog released two films towards the end of 2009/beginning of 2010. Although not a re-make as such, 'Bad Lieutenant, Port of Call, New Orleans,' and, 'My Son, My Son, What have Ye Done?' were two very different examples of his peripatetic approach to film-making - one, big budget and theatrical, the other, art house and very theatrical. The same technique and attention to gratuitous detail is there in both films; however, it does seem as though Herzog has abandoned somewhat his obsessive-compulsive tendencies - a positive, in favour of a less improvisatory style - a negative? Only time, and future film projects - will determine Herzog's preferred direction.

Werner Herzog

Jeff Bridges deserved his best actor Oscar for his fine portrayal of Otis Blake in Scott Cooper's, 'Crazy Heart.' It was a typical bravura performance from Bridges - one of recent Hollywood's most charismatic and capable actors. 'Crazy Heart,' itself is a fine film, deserving of its many plaudits, and is a greater work than the platitudes bestowed upon it would suggest; it's far more than an accommodating vehicle for a singularly excellent acting performance...

And now, to Alton Towers

Chris Morris delivered the funniest film of the year in, 'Four Lions.' It was billed as a, "controversial," film by the many who hadn't seen it, yet, it proved to be the film comedy highlight of the year - a film that went out of its way to make you laugh, laugh and then laugh some more. Like all the best comedy however, the film was more than just a convenient prop to hang jokes exhibited moments of real pathos, genuine tragedy and, above all, was stridently non-judgemental about what convinces ordinary people to do extraordinary things.


Christopher Nolan's 'Inception,' proved to be the blockbuster film of 2010. Nolan is quoted as saying he was influenced by the work of the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, and, certainly in subject matter, the film owes something of a debt to him and, also, to William Gibson - the conception that our dreams can be misappropriated and manipulated is a ready conceit of Gibson's novels of speculative fiction.

It is the most satisfing of Nolan's films and elevates him to something beyond that of genre film-maker.

Other films to catch the eyes in 2010 included:

Winter's Bone
The Killer Inside Me
Looking For Eric
American: The Bill Hicks Story
The Infidel
Toy Story 3


One of the most exciting films of 2010 was Giorgos Lanthimos's, 'Dogtooth.' It's difficult to describe the full majesty of its charged eroticism, its beckoning horror - the laziest way to do so is to imagine Jane Campion's 'The Piano,' remade by David Lynch and George Romero.

It's THAT good, it's that GOOD. And that's iT.

Trash Humpers
'Three Little Devils'
Harmony Korine - Work

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wrapped in plastic...

Although we shouldn't really be reading anymore, for those of us who still are 2010 has been something of a transitional year. New books by Philip Roth and Don DeLillo were entertaining rather than soul changing (although DeLillo's book was funfully fun.) Jonathan Franzen surprised less than a few people by writing probably the most highly regarded novel of the year - scabrously funny in parts, a call to a farewell to arms, it's scope and eloquent grandeur was not surpassed in 2010...

...except perhaps by the collected stories of Lydia Davis.

Some of the best books of 2010 were not fiction titles. Bill Clegg's 'Portrait of an addict as a young man,' was a startling memoir - a wholly unsensational account of addiction and the tragedy that accompanies and encompasses it. Susan Compo's marvellous biography of Warren Oates - one of the finest actors ever to act finely - was an undoubted highlight of the year as was Stewart Lee's, 'How I escaped my certain fate,' a book about how to be a stand-up comedian whilst sitting down...

The Dalkey Archive published some of the most interesting fiction of the year. In, 'Dolly City,' by Orly Castel-Bloom, a son named, "Son," is saved from a premature end of life by the eponymous Doctor Dolly...the resulting satire is as ingeniously grotesque as it is hilarious. John Toomey's, 'Sleepwalker,' invaded and occupied similar territory - the Patrick Bateman styled protagonist lurching from one barely concealed catastrophe to another...

Patrick Ness, Sam Lypsite, Daniel Clowes, Kenzaburo Oe, Willy Vlautin, Philippa Perry, Gilbert Hernandez...Roger Sterling...all wrote books of varying degrees of excellence in a year of contrasting quality.

However, somewhat surprisingly, two of the incontestably finest books of the year were music titles. Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton's story of Dance Music and its DJ's, 'The Record Players: DJ Revolutionaries,'was as encyclopedic as it was readable - a real labour of turntabling love - containing honest and intimately revealing portraits of the culture, its progenitors, and its accompanying hedonism.

Alex Ross was roundly applauded for his magnificent 2007 treatise on modern music - 'The Rest is Noise.' 2010 sees its successor in the form of, 'Listen to this,' published by Fourth Estate. This is the music book many of us had been waiting for - scholarly without being rarefied, entertaining without being superficial, a masterly account of music and musicality in its many and myriad forms. From Bach to Bjork and then Bach

So, 2011, only 28 days to go...

This post is dedicated to all book-sellers past and present - for all their hard work, their dedication and their loyalty and for making the world, if only for an instant of an instant, a better place.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Rest is Now...

It's been a great year for new music and new records. Every magazine reviewer, newspaper columnist, their comparable on-line equivalents and, inevitably, blogs and bloggers of every size, shape and preference, have their own favourites of the year.

This one is no different.

Amongst the majority of the bigger circulation music magazines the albums of both Arcade Fire and Joanna Newsom held considerable critical sway - interesting in itself as the albums and the artists are very different. Intriguingly, there has been a return to guitar based music - with more than a gentle nod to the 1980's; itself a decade undergoing renewed critical re-evaluation.

Favourite records then included:

The Books, Hammock, Emeralds, KORT, Twin Shadow, Fang Island, Sleigh Bells, Jonsi, Hoat Chip, She & Him, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Beach House, The Fall, Janelle Monae, Errors, The Gayngs, Alasdair Roberts, Best Coast, Kurt Vile, The Bambi Molesters, Eric Chenaux, Swans, Richard Skelton, Tame Impala, Darwin Deez, No Joy, Twin Sister, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Ruth Theodore, Glasser, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, Barn Owl, Oh No Ono, Pocahaunted, Girls, Caribou....

Janelle Monae
Carolina Chocolate Drops
The Bambi Molesters
Barn Owl

There was also a wealth of re-issues and special editions of albums (no doubt dreamt up at the record company party) released including career retrospectives/compilations - Orange Juice, Dylan's Mono Recordings, Jon Savage's recently released introduction to late 1970's California Punk - to Springsteen's marvellous, 'The Promise,' The Velvets' 'Quine Tapes,' and the definitive re-release of Miles Davis's 'Bitches Brew.'

Bruce Springsteen
The Germs

Wire Marketplace
Volanic Tongue
Leaf Records
Domino Records

And that's it. Here's hoping 2011 provides the Swampabilly revival we've all been waiting for...

Mark Lamarr

***RIP Peter Christopherson and Leslie Nielsen***

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Most people are driven to drink on a bicycle with scratched paintwork, twisted and immovable handlebars, and a seat that's seen better days and nights... Richard Hawley, however, arrives at his destination - in this case, the Glenfiddich whisky distillery in Dufftown, with a pannier ful of musical loveliness that's incontestably great. It's difficult to think of anyone else currently making such soul achingly beautiful music so consistently.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

''and I'm not afraid to use it.'


BUT WHAT IF HE WAS.................................

...educate, inform and entertain...

It was something of a pleasant surprise to see the return of, 'Getting On' to BBC4's Autumn schedule - rarely has a sit-com been willing to exhibit such resolutely dark tendencies, such a complete lack of artistic compromise, such quality in writing and performance. Jo Brand, especially, has been a revelation. The same, although in a very different way, can be said of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan's, 'The Trip;' now showing on BBC2. It's a wonderful, gently sardonic little gem - full of melancholic insights into the world of celebrity and the hubris associated with it. New comedy on television worth getting excited about...who would have thought?

'Getting On'

'The Trip'

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Word, up...

By the sounds of it, Richard Ayoade's debut feature could be a small classic in the making. An adaptation of Joe Dunthorne's acclaimed novel, 'Submarine,' the film, which is yet to be given a UK release date, is a love story - but the kind of problematic love story you would expect from the co-creator of the still criminally neglected, 'Garth Marenghi's DarkPlace.' It's not a surprise that Ayoade's film has been so lauded: his music video work with the Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs showed rare comedic touches - it was obvious, even then, that he was destined for greater things. In the meantime...

'Mr Smanks'

'Oxford Comma'

'Dean Lerner - Women'

Warp Records

Additional - 2011 saw the general release of Ayoade's film. The film has garnered many positive reviews along the way - see the film and judge it for yourself. It is reminiscent of Wes Anderson and the later fims of Richard Linklater. Sadly, however, from the point of view of this observer, the film is a huge disappointment - lacking any cohesive narrative, with poorly defined acting performances, bereft of any real direction, and is, at best, good naturedly contrived, at worst, a waste of time, intelligence and money that could have been directed somewhere more deserving. A shame.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I danced in flames and drunk in the depths of love...

This year has seen the passing of one musical great after another...

Gregory Isaacs, the 'Cool Ruler,' himself, one of Reggae music's true innovators - the personification and life-affirming embodiment of Lovers Rock - joins one of his producer's, Sugar Minott, in that great Dancehall in the sky.

Also, unbelievably sadly, the loss of Ari Up of The Slits at the cruelly early age of 48. For many, The Slits were the epitome of the Punk D-I-Y aesthetic - couldn't play, boorish, uneducated, raucously self-righteous, quintessentially full of themselves. What rubbish. What truth. The Slits first album is one of the most deliciously subversive records ever committed to plastic - bone raw, it rocks with a sensuality and ribald rebelliousness - and, in Ari, they had someone with the personality to pull it all together, to pull it all off.

Isaacs and Reggae music, particularly of the late 70's/early 80's, shared the same musical and cultural sensibility as Punk, and, often, similar levels of undiluted critical opprobrium. In the work of both Gregory Isaacs and Ari Up, music became, in effect, a call to arms, a unifying rallying cry. It was this overwhelming desire to communicate their musical ideas, and the success they had in doing so, that ensures their legacy.

Babylon Lovers Rock. Oh Babylon Lovers Rock.

'Mr Cop'

'Love Forever'

'So Tough,' and 'Instant Hit,' from Peel Sessions

Friday, October 22, 2010

The golden stereo...

Genius. Genius was easy for him.

Twat has long regarded Kurt Wagner and his seminal Nashville based band, Lambchop, as one of the great contemporary music makers. Released on October of this year, Kurt's latest release features a renewed collaboration with Cortney Tidwell - they recorded together in 2006. Tidwell is the granddaughter of Slim Williamson, who ran the 1960's countrypolitan record label, Chart Records - home to Lynn Anderson amongst others. It's a wonderful recording, full of understatement, sadness, joy and more than a little yee-ha. It is easily the best record of 2010 and, if TB were wont to produce an end of year best of list, then it would easily feature at number six. Buy it. Buy it now, y'all.


Connie Eaton 'Morning Blue'

Karen Wheeler 'Cry'

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Remember, remember...

On November 5th, it will be the 50th anniversary of the death of one of Hollywood's most remarkable, most resilient character actors. Ward Bond was, and is, synonymous with the films of John Ford - together they made in excess of twenty features. Bond brought an ineffable charm to these movies - his expansiveness and generosity shine throughout. What is often overlooked however, is the craft he brought to the process of film-making. Like his on and off screen friend John Wayne, Bond made it all look so easy. Yet, this is to do a disservice to his talent and to the work he put in to making his many and varied roles, for most of Hollywood's Golden Age of director's, seem as effortles as they do.

'Gentleman Jim'

'The Searchers'

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Il dolce suono...

Joan Sutherland will be remembered as one of the great operatic performers of the last hundred years. She performed and recorded extensively - her bel canto repertoire interpretations in particular are considered amongst the finest of extant recordings. Her impeccable soprano was especially suited to baroque music - it was during a performance of Handel's 'Alcina' at La Fenice in Venice, where she gained the sobriquet, 'La Stupenda;' an appellation, even at such an early distinction, that she thoroughly deserved. Her legacy as one of modern opera's greatest popular exponents is assured.

'Three baroque arias'

'Spargi d'amaro pianto'

'Sous le ciel tout etoile'

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A new box of truths...

Although the scheduled release for 'Nemesis,' is October 5th, any new Philip Roth release deserves to be given an early mention. His last three novels, some of which have engendered no little hostile criticism, involve similar themes of loss, physical and emotional impairment and psychological estrangement. Overlying 'Nemesis,' is a humanity that extends beyond the usual Rothian boundaries of tentative secularism and incisive social commentary - in fact, it is one of his strongest, even affable yet. Roth has always been overtly autobiographical in his writing - something which has tempered the sometimes savage satire central to many of his works. For those more at ease with his version of American idealism, 'Nemesis;' with its central tenets of community and the role the individual plays in ensuring the community endures, will prove a satisfying read.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Golden Boy

For Tony Curtis, acting, and by close association, life, was supposed to be fun. A star in over 120 films, he brought an essential joie de vivre to them - his participation rescued the more banal and ordinary, his professionalism and early recognised 'star' quality' contributed enormously in making some of the great films he was in, just that.

From early films, regularly alongside Piper Laurie, Curtis quietly grew into the assured performer that he became. His filmography is well known, but special attention should be paid to his 1950's output - 'The Sweet Smell of Success; The Vikings; The Defiant Ones; Some Like it Hot,' and, in 1960, the role of Antoninus in 'Spartacus.'

Curtis was more than just the prettiest of faces. One of his greatest roles; and a role for which he, in the public's eyes, appeared particularly unsuited, was that of Albert DeSalvo in Richard Fleischer's 1968 film, 'The Boston Strangler.' Although the film received mixed reviews at the time, Tony's performance stands dramatic test of time - assured, artistically uncompromising - an unflinching portrayal of a brutalised man.

For all of his films, and for his contribution to making life for those who only knew him on the big and small screens that bit better, thanks Tony.

'Sweet Smell of Success'

'Some Like it Hot'

'The Defiant Ones'

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sex Happens...

It is very welcoming indeed to see the publishing again of Marshall Berman's seminal work on modernity, 'All that is solid melts into air.' Berman spent ten years writing his defining work - a treatise on the multifold aspects of modernism and modernity, specifically, but not entirely, concerning itself with the social and economic conflicts created by it. As Berman asserts in his introduction, 'to be modern is to live a life of paradox and contradiction.' That he attempts to illustrate and demonstrate these through interpretive literary devices - examining Marx and Marx's writings, for instance, to illustrate the inherently self-destructive nature of modernism - without self-aggrandizement, gives the book one of its many accomplishments. It is, quite simply, unique. Verso are to be congratulated for this re-issue.

'Preservation Institute

Friday, September 17, 2010

Same as it ever was...

Although 'Fear of Music,' is rightly acknowledged as one of the defining albums of the 1970's, 'Remain in light,' released almost 30 years ago, stands as Talking Heads' greatest artistic statement. The album was recorded in the Bahamas and features a stellar alumni - with Byrne, producer Brian Eno and engineers Stephen Stanley and Dave Jerden melding the disparate musical elements together into a cohesive genre defying, genre creating whole. Listening to the album again now it's impossible not to be struck by how little the album and its individual artistic concerns has dated. The music sounds as joyously alive as any music created since, whilst the lyrics retain a forbidding prescience that contorts and confounds as it inspires.

'I'm ready to leave-I push the facts in front of me'

'The Great Curve'

'Remain in Light...'

Monday, September 13, 2010

The big subject...

Claude Chabrol was more than just a film director. In many respects he was the originator of a new kind of cinema - turning away from the traditions of contemporary French films towards a more realistic depiction, free of studio restriction and the unmitigating shackles of the uncompromising star system. Chabrol was instrumental in the careers of many of his fellow Cahiers du Cinema writing contemporaries: Rohmer, Godard, Rivette and Truffaut, to name a concelebrated few. His own work reached its zenith in the late 1960's/early 1970's when he made a number of oustanding films - many starring his wife Stephane Audran - culminating in the classic, Hitchcock influenced 'Le Boucher;' for many his defining moment. Chabrol was ultimately a conventional film-maker but one who took sensuous delight in examining and satirising the very conventions that made his films so watchable, so unique, and so quintessentially French.

'La Femme Infidele' 1/9

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An intelligent attention

John Szwed is a highly regarded academic and writer. For almost 15 years he has been writing, fairly exclusively, about music - from an ethno-musicological point of view and also straight biography - some readers may be familiar with his scholarly, yet eminently readable books on Sun Ra, Miles Davis and Jelly Roll Morton - for which he won a Grammy award. Most recently, Szwed has turned his attentions to one of America's most important musical anthropologists - Alan Lomax. In, 'Alan Lomax: The man who recorded the world,' Szwed examines Lomax's legacy: from the early field recordings of rural music, to the 1930's/40's, when many of the artists he championed, both black and white, gained their greatest recognition. Written with authority, clarity and not without humour, Szwed's book is an entertaining account of an, at times, controversial figure, but, undoubtedly, an extraordinary one.

'American Folklife Centre'

'Association for Cultural Equity' is a wonderful site.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I ain't nothin but a gorie hound...

Twat Bubble loves The Gories. Formed almost 25 years ago they were/just about still are part of Detroit's golden age of rawk. That they rock and blues more than any other sonic funsters on the planet - including Dead Canary's Bassholes, the fabulous Dirtbombs and, hey, hey, The Cobras themselves is no small cheat. Check out the video below featuring Mick Collins and some fellow Detroit musicians...

+ (Gratuitous/Tenuous)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Yes Yes Yes

Always the bears knees when cover versions of classic songs are made - especially so when there is ample potential to hack and piss off a sizeable majority of people. Zola Jesus have been around for a while now - check out their/her website/myspace site.

'No No No'

Zola Jesus@MySpace


She loves me, she loves me not...

Oh, and the fourth series of Mad Men starts on September....

This is an exceptionally interesting and entertaining article written by Adam Curtis for his BBC blog. Curtis is one of the most insightful documentary film-makers currently making insightful documentary films - the peerless, 'The power of nightmares,' being just one of his investigative cinematic forays into our increasingly unreal world. Curtis is obviously a fan of Mad Men - how could you not be? His interest goes further and deeper however, recognising the appeal of nostalgia and reminiscence for a disjointed, unreassured public - the 'old wound that doesn't heal,' whilst examining more closely today's telegraphed infatuations with the banal, the freakish, the striving to overachieve. Now, where did I put that TV Guide....

'Don Draper's book shelf'

'Man in the grey flannel suit


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Young at heart...

Although it is the epitome of poorer journalism to rota a band's influences, in the case of Dominant Legs we'll be happy to...

A frankly timeless amalgam of 70's/80's guitar romp and beautified 90's tweeness, 'The Legs,' seem destined for outright stardom. Their record label, Lefse, has some of the most interesting bands around at the moment - check out the label site/alley by the railway station for some self-validation...Etc.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good Books...

Their first album in five years sees a return to sonic form for the mighty Books. The Books are unusual in the sense that they have successfully eshewed all critical attempts at pigeon-holing them. They're not part of a scene, they don't court small or large controversy and they don't sound quite like anyone or anything else - with the possible exception of Laurie Anderson...doesn't matter, if you're a fan of the uncommonplace then The Books might be for you. Or, your brother.

The Books

Golden Wonder!

Appearing at the unjustifiably small 'Stand,' venue at this year's Edinburgh festival - Ladies and gentlemen, the unfashionably, the unfeasibly great Stewart Lee. It says much for the ego of the man that he spends his pre-gig time handing out fliers advertsising his own (and others) comedy wares. This year's show - and we would never spoil it for those yet to attend - is split disproportionately into two parts. Each proportion, however, is suspiciously beautifully formed, one, about six feet, the other, an equally startling five feet four. Which is about the size of it. And the median size of the comedy God that is Stewart Lee. If you miss out on his appearances this year you could do far worse than buy his latest book - available from the website.

'About the size of it'

Thursday, August 12, 2010

More than one good use for your heart..

One of this planet's loveliest top pop stars the mighty Milky Wimpshake return with some brand new tunes about old and new and slightly broken love. If songs about zoom and buzz are for you then so are the 'Shake.

Buy their bloody marvellous records.

Norman Records

We need that record!

I can also think of many more things to be concerned about than the closure of yet another crummy Independent record store...Hey, now hold on a minute.

The DVD about the film about the TV Shirt about the way of life....Of course the world needs more record shops and this film attempts to give some of the reasons why.

Brendan Toller

'I need that record'

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Always one to support new bands; especially those with a connection to (former) New Order alumni, however tenuous, meet the slightly mighty Sex Education. Hailing quite literally from Liverpool their album is out now - a download being readily available from their myspace site.

Sex Education

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Native New Yorkers...

Somewhat terrifyingly, it's 33 years since the creation of Tony Fletcher's seminal, real bible of the beats, 'Jamming!' magazine. This was a magazine which catered for all tastes; most importantly, TB's own imperfectly formed, fiercely prejudiced ones. The cover shown was possibly 'Jamming!'s' most successful issue featuring an almost frightening array of PROPER POP STARS.....(that's enough nostalgic reminiscences).

Fletcher has also recently written a rather wonderful history of the music of New York City - from 1927-1977. It's unique in the sense that it successfully attempts to properly put into musicological context the city's pre-eminent position as the music entertainment capital of America. That it does, again very successfully, against a backdrop of changing musical styles, thwarted and realised ambitions and apathy from an all too often anatagonistic City Hall, gives the book its real resonance.

Ella Fitzgerald 'All the things you are'

The Chantels 'Maybe'

Tito Puente 'El Cumbanchero'

The Fugs 'Kill for peace'

Ramones 'Judy is a punk'

Thursday, July 15, 2010

He gave the people

Sugar Minott will be remembered for many things - not least among them the ability to successfuly translate his musical ideas over four decades and a plethora of distinctive styles. Most memorably however, was his decision to work with Reggae legend Coxsone Dodd pre-empting the subsequent revitalisation of Dodd's incomporably influential 'Studio One' record label. Minott also played a huge role in developing young Jamaican talent; among them Tenor Saw, Tony Tuff and Garnet Silk. His distinctive voice, which effortlessly brought joy to his many devotees, will live forever.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

...repulsive beyond belief...

It was with great sadness that the death of Dame Beryl Bainbridge was received last week. Bainbridge was one of England's most entertaining writers. Her work carried through it a characteristically mordant, self-deprecating streak, typical of many writers from the North of England - where hopelessness and haplessness are doled out in equivalent addictive measure. Although not perhaps her best novel 'A quiet life,' written in 1976, has all the hallmarks of her very particular fiction: familial alienation, thinly veiled despair and, that old familiar, barely concealed violence; of one kind or another. In common with most great artists her work retains and confides a marvellous humour and it is this overriding quality, which she ably demonstrated throughout the bulk of her work, which remains central to her story-telling.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kevin Eldon - almost live...

This is any excuse to show Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap and Amelia Bulmore together. Jam was a quite extraordinary programme. Ostensibly a comedy sketch show, many of the episodes contained little in the way of traditional comedy narrative - instead the content was jarringly surreal, at times, genuinely unsettling, but always, and this is the important bit, incredibly funny. Eldon will be titting about in Edinburgh, as part of the comedy fringe, from the 6th of August 'til the end of the festival. Get your tickets now - if only to see one of this country's finest comedy actors in his stand-up 'kind-of' debut.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The wrath of Gods...

David Lynch producing a Werner Herzog film? Who could resist...

Timperley mourns...

Of course, Frank Sidebottom was an acquired taste. Papier-mache headed comedians have rarely been in vogue, incredibly more so even now - his brand of reverency appears entirely anachronistic when compared to today's sickly, glitzy diet of pomp and no circumstance. Chris Sievey's creation was everything that conventional pop music and Royal variety performance wannabe's could never be - genuine. And, often, genuinely funny. Thanks, Chris. And thanks too, to Frank.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Showing at a DVD player near you...

Hal Hartley has been making feature films for over 20 years. The furrow he has continued to plough is similar to that of the Coen Brothers and John Sayles - with success strikingly contradictory to theirs. Hartley often concentrates his film-making energies on short films, even music videos - witness his continuing relationship with Microcinema International, who distribute and promote his latest releases. Hartley is an enigma. His films have very much a populist agenda - good storylines, great acting performances and wonderful, wonderful music - often written and performed by himself and artists such as Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth, yet they attract only a very small, dedicated audience. Artificial Eye have recently issued a box-set; containing three of his most memorable films: Trust, Henry Fool and The Girl from Monday - if incisive social commentary and pitted black comedy is for you, then so is Hal Hartley...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

He's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction....

In a way, the sad passing of Dennis Hopper brings ever nearer the eventual end of the Rock and Roll era. As a very young man, Hopper played an important role in the movies that defined this decade - the 1950's - starring in both 'Rebel without a cause' and 'Giant;' both films which starred James Dean and which ushered in a newer, less prosaic cult of celebrity - that of the lionised dead one.

After these landmark movies, Hopper played the role of Billy Clanton in John Sturges' epic 1957 release, 'Gunfight at the OK corral.' It remains one of his best performances - deliberate and methodical, understated and reflective - many would say wholly uncharacteristic of much, indeed all, of his later work. Dennis Hopper was not the greatest actor the world has ever seen. In some ways he is reminiscent of Robert Mitchum decades earlier - a maverick, a one-off - someone who really shouldn't be making movies - and throughout his career he did what he could to avoid making them...

Hopper saved his best performances for characters he could really identify with. In Wim Wenders sprawling 'An American friend,' Hopper played the part of career criminal Tom Ripley - an outsider much like himself - which provided additional scope for his flawed genius. 'Apocalypse now' offered a glimpse into the real Dennis Hopper, at any rate his particular brand of mania, where everything can and does go - willing to introduce a new world with a shrug or tainted word.

Hopper's best two films were made 17 years apart. The existential hubris of Peter Fonda's 'Easy Rider' provided a template for counter-culture film-making for years to come. Hopper's pot-smoking, flag hating stereotype was the epitome of late 60's cool - analagous and antagonistic to Brando's portrayal of Johnny Strabler in Laszlo Benedek's 'The wild one.' It's a great film and Dennis Hopper's performance makes it great. Without question Hopper's crowning achievement was his portrayal of Frank Booth in David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet.' It is one of the truly great cinematic performances and shows how versatile Hopper really was. His terrifying portrayal of such a psychopathic monster has yet to be bettered in modern cinema - it was typical of Hopper to completely see himself as Frank - a man corrupted by demons, out of control, yet someone he could relate to and someone, he felt, he could bring to life.

In all of his films, and thoughout his career, Dennis Hopper brought the characters he played to gasping, fatal life.

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

'Blue Velvet'

'Easy Rider'

'Apocalypse Now'

Friday, May 28, 2010

Out of this world...

The 5th Galaxy Orchestra are one of a handful of bands, from all over the world, currently engaged in a competition to see who can most sound like Air. What separates T5GO is their applique approach to pop music - and the evident humour that very importantly accompanies it - check out their rather wonderful 'My Ultra Space Nintendo world,' also on YTube - that's enough abbreviations...

'My Ultra Space...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In Bill we trust...

Bill Hicks - comedian. There, we've said it. The recent docu-pic , 'American: The Bill Hicks story' chronicles the incredibly full and rich life of one of America's greatest performers. Bill's life and contribution to stand-up comedy has been well documented. However, this most recent film shows a side to Bill that few will have been privy to - that of the relationships with his family and friends and how these relationships comprehensively defined him. It's a story absolutely about love. Love of, and for Bill - more though, about the things that Bill was passionate about, consumed by, moved to tears and fury over. One of his most celebrated comedy monologues begins with the oft quoted phrase, 'It's just a ride.' Watching this film is exactly that - just a ride. A ride that lasted, for Bill, just 32 years. What never fails to move and inspire though is that his work NEVER seems to date. The performance never fails to exceed even the most jaded of expectations. The words, and the truth inherent in those words, is never lessened by Bill's inability to breathe with them. Bill Hicks - comedian. There, we've said it again.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grand Prix...

Scotland's very finest release their brand new album,' Shadows,' on May 31st. It will of course be all the things that a Fanclub album usually are - i.e. better than everything else. It's been a while since their last recording - 5 whole years in fact - and, if the taster from 'The Official Website is anything to go by, then we are all in for the most treatable of treats. It's also nice to see the BBC giving them some exposure for the new record - here's hoping the soon to be ensconced Tom Ravenscroft will, like his father, twenty - yes 20! - years ago, will play some tracks. With luck, at the wrong speed... A national tour will coincide with the release of the album from the 27th of May to early June. Go and see Scotland's greatest ever band....

Friday, April 30, 2010

..not, not waving, but not, not drowning etc..

Carrying on the lip-synching tradition of Darwin 'among the best 30 minutes slots in the history of King Tut's' Deez, one of the mighty Wave Pictures' best songs and videos - available now, very probably everywhere, for not very little. 'The sun came in like a pack of orange spaniels.' Class.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slicker than most...

Gang Starr are often cited as being part of the 'Golden Age' of Hip Hop; the music produced between the late 1980's and early 1990's. It was an incredibly fertile and innovative time - every new release seemed to be reinventing the genre; almost on a daily basis. Gang Starr were very much part of this - their second album release in particular; the heavily Jazz influenced 'Step in the arena,' remains one of the periods, and genres, defining records. Gang Starr's legacy is particularly potent, especially lyrically, as it paved the way for talents such as Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Outkast to communicate their own musical philosophies.

Keith Elam (Guru) 1966-2010

'Take a rest'

'Kissed the world'


Monday, April 12, 2010

Take it from somebody who knows...

John Miller has been writing and performing music for over 100 years. Few contemporary Country musicians - most certainly in the UK - can hold a candle to him and his band - they're the real deal. If you, or someone you know and care for a whole, whole lot, are a fan of genuinely uplifting, at times, heartbreaking, but always sincere, well crafted Hony Tonk Country music, then John and his Country Casuals will inspire and delight.

'The Folk'n'Western Recording Co'

Don't worry be happier...

It's always gratifying to see a, relatively, new artist praised and pilloried in equal measure. Darwin Deez has been writing and performing for some time now. His music is an interesting mix of New York rock and disco - a marriage not made in heaven but not necessarily forged in hell. Ahem. It's good times music for those of us to whom the concept is worryingly alien. Deez is not pretending to be something that he isn't - his music is stridently unfamiliar yet occupies the same noisenik space as early Strokes, earlier Devo even. Darwin Deez is performing as part of the nascent NME Radar 2010 tour - tickets for shows are available now - check Deez out; if anything to show your support for new music and new music that sounds a little bit like Beck.

Like, so good...

Julia Davis has been upsetting people for many years now. She is a monster, an aberration - someone who shouldn't be allowed near a computer, a camera, hell, a pen even. She has masqueraded as a comedy performer since the late 1990's; working with many of the so-called comedy luminaries currently plying their nefarious trade. As if working with Chris Morris wasn't bad enough, she has recently written and, 'performed,' with Jessica Hynes, a pilot for the BBC. Lizzie and Sarah is one of the crudest 'sit-coms' ever to have been considered for commission. It is cruel, gratuitous and bears all the sadistic hallmarks typical of Davis. Twat Bubble is outraged at how outrageous this shit gutter comedy is. In election year, I, and we, urge all right thinking Cosmonauts of comedy to contact their local MP - Davis, and others of her barbaric ilk, MUST BE STOPPED...!!!

Lizzie and Sarah Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Monday, April 5, 2010

long day's journey into...,

Twat Bubble has featured before the writer and neuroscientist, David Eagleman. In this interview with Sean O'Hagan for The Guardian, Eagleman revisits again his 'possibilian' agenda - for those of you unfamiliar with his book, 'Sum: forty tales form the afterlife,' Eagleman posits the possibility of a myriad number of post death scenarios - none of which he asserts as being more possible (or impossible) than the remainder. We look forward to his forthcoming novel - which promises to include life, the universe and maybe slightly more than everything...

Frank Huyler is an emergency physician living in New Mexico. He first came to prominence with the publication, in 2004, of 'The blood of strangers,' a wonderful collection of 28 short stories - all of them involving the day to night, life and death work of an A and E doctor. Subsequent novels have attempted to grapple with larger themes; whilst still retaining and maintaining a consistent thread of consideration and humanity - all 3 however unwaveringly focus on the singular disparities between life and death and the immediacy with which the former can so quickly, so unrelentingly, become the latter.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keep both eyes on the sky...

With Chris Bell and Alex Chilton, Big Star produced some of the most achingly beautiful music of the 1970's - in stark contrast to the baleful excesses of the time they focused on the craft that is songwriting - and what songs they were! The first album in particular demonstrates this - the only album to feature both Chilton and Bell - effortlessly marrying lyrical introspection with all out rock and roll assault. It is, and always will be, one of the great albums. After Bell left there were some who thought that Big Star would find it difficult to continue - however, 1974's 'Radio City' comprehensively dispelled this notion - with songs such as, 'September Gurls,' and 'Back of a Car,' reinventing power-pop and reinvigorating Chilton as a songwriter. 4 years passed before Third/Sister Lovers was released - ostensibly an Alex Chilton solo album, it is, unquestionably, one of the great underappreciated, unrequited works in modern popular music.

Chilton was more than just a member of one of the defining rock bands in history. He was, since his teenage years with The Boxtops, throughout his time with Big Star, and as a solo artist and producer, that genuinely rare thing - a gifted, troubled, generous artist.

Thanks Alex.

Paul Westerberg 'Alex Chilton'

Alex Chilton 'The Letter'

Big Star 'Kangaroo'

The Cramps 'Garbage Man'

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Another great day

Kenzaburo Oe's new novel, 'The Changeling,' is his first to be published in English since 2004. On the surface; and contrary to Oe's own opinions of his writing style and content, Oe is one of Japan's least Japanese authors - his recent work is more akin to the later writings of Philp Roth: in this sense his work has a determinedly Western feel - incorporating elements of reference markedly at odds with those commonly associated with his homeland. Oe's writing is highly imagined - autobiographical elements are woven into the fabric of his, often existentially derived prose - more than anything though, his is a world concerned with order, dignity in that order and the ambiguities created by it.

'The Changeling' is available to purchase soon in the UK.

'Other Karate Kid'

Monday, March 8, 2010

Here twines the path...

(Spoils) - released 2009 on Drag City records.

'River Rhine'

Alasdair Roberts is one of Britain's finest songwriters. This video juxtaposes images of examples of some of Andrew Goldsworthy's work with one of Alasdair's compositions,'River Rhine,' from his 2007 album, 'The Amber Gatherers.' Alasdair is playing at Stereo in Glasgow on the 14th of March...go and see him.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Crazy hearts on fire...

Jeff Bridges has been making movies for almost 40 years - his first major role coming in 1971 in Peter Bogdanovich's seminal, 'The last picture show.' Bridges brooding screen persona has often been the best thing about some of the movies he's made - the list is long and well known and his latest - playing the role of Bad Blake in Scott Cooper's assured debut, 'Crazy heart,' is guaranteed to enslave even the most wearisome. There's a nice cameo from Robert Duvall - himself no stranger to country music portrayals - winning the best actor Oscar in 1983 for his role in Bruce Beresford's outstanding, 'Tender mercies.' Jeff Bridges is one of Hollywood's most watchable character actors - he deserves his Oscar nomination and he deserves to win.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

'Let's rock..'

On April, 8, 1990, ABC aired the pilot show of one of the defining television programmes in history. Twin Peaks was more than just a TV show. For some people it became a way of life - the settings, loose ensemble cast and convoluted storylines - at times apparently barely comprehensible - jarred with the majority programming schedules of the day - the late 80's/early 90's in American broadcasting was not a time for artistic uncompromise. And yet the show worked. It found its shout. It was a commercial and critical success, internationally as well as domestically. More than anything, the show had an abiding impact on popular culture, still does. If you've never seen it you're in for a, sort of, treat - the first series especially is as beguilingly wondrous to watch as it was all those years ago....

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

'You know I'd catch the next train, back to where I live.'

Tom Fogerty (1941-1990)

'Dear America - 1/10

There have been many films and television programmes made about the American war in Vietnam. Bill Couturie's wonderful 1987 docu-pic, 'Dear America,' differs from the majority of these in the unsensational way it depicts the vestiges of ordinary lives in extraordinary situations. There is a heightened poignancy in allaying the narration; much of it by famous actors and celebrities, with stock images, popular music and archive footage, creating a world that is familiar, yet wholly, and horribly, unrecognisable. Unavailable in the UK for many years, Couturie's, at times unsentimental portrayal of an America at seemingly insurmountable odds with itself, is available to view at the above and subsequent links.

No dogs allowed!

It's been thirty years since the publication of Chris Van Allsburg's debut children's book, 'The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.' His is a peculiarly unique vision - the stories, and particularly the illustrations, convey a sense of melancholic intimacy rare in any fiction. Van Allsburg is an artist, a sculptor. He uses this artistic sensibility to create magical worlds, imperfectly realised, where each page is; not unlike the precisely unsettling fiction of Shirley Jackson, slightly at odds with its predecessor - doors that will not shut. Further information can be found on

Sunday, February 7, 2010

...on me 'ead son...

We're really going to be spoiled for comedy choice soon. Anything with Omid in it is worth seeing three hundred times - David Baddiel's new film, 'The Infidel,' promises to be the funny movie of 2010 - possibly even funnier than Chris Morris's forthcoming opus. Omid Djalili is one of the truly great comedy performers and this new film could be his most celebrated role yet. Released in April, the official trailer can be viewed on the Guardian website 'The Infidel'

'Nothing to do with me'

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

...Not just the drummer...

Broadcast by Channel 4 on April, 2009, this is a wonderful short film about Pop music - not, as Paul Morley is quick to point out, the pop music predicated disingenuously by the likes of Simon Cowell - but Pop music like Buzzcocks, like The Smiths, like Dusty Springfield...

Monday, January 25, 2010

No more tiny tears...

'Falling down a mountain.'

Released imminently on the wonderful Constellation/4AD labels, the new album from those otherworldly tunesmiths, Tindersticks. 'Falling down a mountain,' follows in somewhat hallowed footsteps, but, no doubt, follows them well. Always a pleasure to hear from, and finally hear, new material from Stuart and the lads.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'I'll rise with 'til I rise no more.'

'But I held my breath, kicked my feet
And I moved my arms around
Moved my arms around.'

Kate and Anna McGarrigle were rightly held in the highest regard by fellow members of the song-writing confraternity - witness the line-up of music making luminaries on their 1975 debut album - and the myriad cover versions since of many of the featured songs.

More than anything, they had an innate ablity to make the commonplace seem magical - the music they made and the words that tempered their compositions will stand the test of any time.

Thanks Kate.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

...All we really need is Neil...

'Protest song'

Neil Innes was 65 at the beginning of 2009 - and we missed it.

It's almost impossible to adequately contextualise Neil's contribution to comedy/comedy songwriting. His groundbreaking work with Python and the Bonzo's was merely a precursor to his finest work - on the criminally underrated 'Rutland Weekend Televison,' and, in 1978, 'The Rutles,' film - possibly the greatest mo-vie ever made.

Neil Innes - you're a bloody genius!

Friday, January 8, 2010

..a small, good thing...

Vic Chesnutt was a one off. He first came to prominence in the early 1990's - early albums introduced a wicked sense of singularly dark humour allayed to a formidable songwriting sensibility that few of his contemporaries shared. His recent passing leaves a not inconsiderable void - there are few musicians who appear willing or sufficiently adroit to lay bare their souls with such honesty - as an artist, Vic rarely, if ever, gave less than one hundred percent of all of himself. And for this gift of all gifts, we should be eternally grateful.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Protect me from the bad...

Jonathan Carroll's latest novel - his thirteenth, which is scary in itself, sees him covering somewhat erstwhile ground. There is a poignant familiarity between this novel and his earlier, 'white apples;' itself one of the defining literary moments of 2002. Carroll resembles Neil Gaiman in his ability to create multi-layered worlds inhabited by multi-faceted characters, who seem to drift seamlessly from one page to the next, from one book to the next - something inherently unusual in contemporary, non-genre fiction. Jonathan Carroll, like Gaiman; like Venasque, like Calliope...You will want to read all of his books. And you will want to read this one.

'The ghost in love.'

...brand new Cadillac...

It's almost impossible to ignore the beginning of 2010 without celebrating Elvis Presley's upcoming 75th birthday - last seen, Clydey Clyde's fried ham and ham house on 51st and third...Elvis Presley was, and always will be, the pre-eminent figure in twentieth century popular music - Sinatra and Beatles fans can look away now. His influence is even greater now, than it was yesterday. We at TWAT! are proud to acknowledge this fact by appropriating one of his least well known songs - Vern Godsall and Bobby George's 'Long black limousine.'
Now where did Charlie put my scarves and my water?

'Long black limousine