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.