Thursday, 15 October 2009

Dr Lw harvey unleashes the medicine

For some time now, my love, LT Harvey, MA - and soon to be MSc - has rightly fulminated against the lazy editorial thinking that knocks out the monthly Observer Woman magazine. Below is a letter she wrote to the Guardian following on from a particularly dense article on the "Women's Page" of a recent G2.

Proud of her, I am.

"For an article about breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation to be printed on the 'Women' page seems to me to be self-defeating and even patronising ('It's in the blood', G2, Friday 2nd October). Yes, menstruation happens only to women. Yes, this can be a shameful subject to some women. And I appreciate that there may be an argument for challenging the taboo among women first - after all, if we cannot love our own bodies, how can we expect men to? Only as a united, collective power can
women achieve equality, autonomy and fulfilment, right?

Not necessarily, I would argue. For 'women' I would substitute 'humanity', for sexual inequality is detrimental to men too, and we all need to work together to combat it. But this cannot and will not happen when our differences are perpetuated, our experience polarised, by 'women's' pages, supplements and magazines. The publication of 'It's in the blood' as a 'women's' article merely reinforces why menstruation is taboo - it is hidden from the other half of the human race, the powerful half, and is being kept hidden at the back of G2, in a clearly demarcated 'women's' space, a space with, by definition, nothing to say to men. And what message does this carry, if men are excluded from female discourse? That women are a different species, with bodily functions so different that it is advisable for men not to know about them? The reverse of this certainly seems to hold for Kira Cochrane, when she writes: 'And might [discussing this issue] not prove an invitation for men to talk about their bodily functions too? (Surely something to be avoided.)' Whether or not this is intended to be ironic, I find it a deeply divisive and offensive attitude, and sadly the attitude I discern throughout the media.

The very existence of a 'Women' page is in itself adisturbing issue. Quite apart from the implication that women, like children, are set apart from the mainstream,
this too does nothing but perpetuate inequality. Again, if men are not allowed to participate in female discourse, how are women ever going to be understood in any way apart from 'other'? How can we ever get beyond 'male' and 'female', and
become 'humanity'? As an Observer reader, I am infuriated monthly (oh the irony) at Observer Woman magazine, a publication about sex and shopping with the occasional human interest article, which could be more appropriately titled Observer Fashion. I deeply resent this prescription of interests and the beliefs and values it conveys - even the title 'Woman', singular, suggests a homogenised ideal to which all female readers will aspire, or at least identify with. I find very little to engage with in Observer Woman - indeed I would go as far as to say it repulses me. Do I, then, not fit the Observer's view of Woman? Is this because I am a complex mosaic of a human
being with a multifaceted identity, part of which is as a creature with female hormones and organs including a womb and vagina which bleed every month?

If women are ever to have full equality, women must be acknowledged as people. Menstruation is something that happens to some people. Do not exclude it; do not
marginalise it by consigning it to the 'Women' page at the back. De-mystify it, normalise it, make it part of human experience. Celebrate our differences, yes, but let us not use those differences to create more division. There is plenty of it in the world as it is.


Lou Harvey"

Your proud pal,

Coc x

Sunday, 6 September 2009

More pretentious bleatings about the demise of everything pure, etc

Just as I had realised I hadn't written anything here for over three months, just as I was shaking my weary head in an effort to drop some cultural thought on the dusty carpet, along comes the Observer Music Monthly and its Beatles Rock Band cover story.

I know, I know. How very obvious! How very unvestigative! How very thoughtless! But then I cannot let it pass without comment. My initial comment was a long, shattered howl into the open pages. Up until this point, I had managed to keep my angry shouting over the years confined to the TV and the occasional Daily Mail headline, but having read about four paragraphs of the fawning, Macca-spouting drivel, Simon Garfield's bleating criticism of this corporate mulch damning all of us with faint rebuke, I got myself right mad.

It seems too obvious to type, but these dickhead Weekend on Sunday features have always been about lifestyle over content: Dutch wine, etc? In the same magazine, there is an (as yet unread, my hands still tremble too hard) article on Czechoslovakia's underground anti-Communist node, The Plastic People of the Universe, charting their role in the distant Velvet Revolution, and I can understand the allure of The Angle, of making pop music "relevant" to the outside world - but surely the whole point of the deification of The Beatles is that they defined Everything They Touched. I've nothing against the melding of the Fab Four with the MTV's Harmonix video game Rock Band format - it looks fun. What steams my broccoli is the fact that it's a rambling, arse-kissing, lazy skidmark of a cover feature, replete with ads for the latest regurgation of their back catalogue, when it should be confined to the Promotional Editorial sinbin.

The enduring fascination with the Four "Shareholders" That Shook The Marketing Tree So Hard The Buds of Creativity Never Really Recovered is understandable. Towards the back page, my personal music critical Jesus, Paul Morley, puts another one of his fingers onto the point, sketching out the possible reasons for the global, epochal success and mythological importance: we needed a "gang of competitive, irascible auto-didactic ruffians craving glamour, experience and self-enlightenment" and they happened to be the right Beatles at the right time. It could have been anyone, and that certainly explains how otherwise inexplicably shabby the Lovable Moptops have become. Read it -

Admittedly, I came fairly late to this pop game. By the mid-Eighties, a lot of the battles had already been won, a lot of the marketing leylines of youthful "expression" had already been navigated. I had my own skirmishes, my own petty battle-lines, and a great deal of those scars are still livid enough to split their stitches on occasion. However, now that the internet has opened the history, present and future of recorded music out in front of us like a trancendental picnic cloth, we all stroll around our very own musical Tiergartens like self-indulgent aristocrats, taking down Mercury-nominated venison here, loosing the hounds on the latest alt.rock sensations there, browsing, always browsing, and above all, congratulating ourselves on the seamless continuation of our own idiosyncratic cultural narratives; now that we live here and now, the game is largely up. I know this; I know rock/pop is now a nostalgic creature at best, its most meaningful years far behind it. But the idea that the most exciting thing in music this month is John, Paul, George and Pacman grinds my scarlet guts to distraction. Write about music, you ulcerous cretins - isn't that what the magazine is supposed to be about? Isn't that what you're supposed to be so all-gosh-durned-fucking-fired-up about, you salary-drawing fuckstains?

The one good thing about this videogame release is the sneaking suspicion that this is the true reason for the curtain coming down on the trickling pop culture head-wound that is Oasis. After all, why should Noel continue to battle against his monstrous kin any longer now that he can pretend to be a Beatle from the comfort of his own cocaine-streaked coffee table? A stealthy genius after all.

Your (awkwardly pretentious) pal, Coc x

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Red Inquest

Not the rumination you might expect, picking over faults and failings from last night's disappointing failure to capture a third/fourth Champions League crown, instead I've been wondering why exactly I support United anyway. And where this niggling sense of robbery comes from. Normally, I consider myself very anti-corporate, not particularly selfish; a One Nation Under Dog kind of guy. I only EVER wear replica shirts on European Cup nights/morning afters. Yet here I am, gnashing my teeth over United's failure to haul themselves further up the golden ladder.

So what are my reasons for choosing Red over Right?

1. I should be following Bangor City. Or, taking geography to its most reductivist conclusion, Llanfairpwll, my home village side. Both teams have fought well above their weight in the past, due in part to the Welsh FA's privileged position in world football, and I am otherwise very keen to promote the Welsh associations in my life. My first game was Bangor City in 1983 (the magic GLC year!), playing non-league English at the time. However, United date from my Welsh years, when I was perhaps more interested in what set me apart from my environment, and (difficult as it might seem now) Manchester was my original "City", my first taste of people busying about and tall buildings.

2. My Dad supported them, even though they were perhaps more accurately, his second team after Macclesfield Town, who were strictly non-League all his life. He died before they leapt up into the Coca-Cola business. He got on a bus sometime during or after the war and went to see United play at Maine Road and became a fan. He followed them during their post-war flush of success, Matt Busby's first great side, and had already stopped his season ticket by the time of the Best-Law-Charlton era. He was a link to the time before United became national property, and longer before they were the hated monolith they are now. So there is that handy memorial angle, but it's not the whole story.

3. They were the best weapon to hand on the playground to fuck with Liverpool. My childhood was dominated in football terms by the Liver Bird and the perfidious influence of Dalgleish, bubble perms and 'tasches; and it was only United who seemed to be able to really get under their thick skins. Of course, this cuts both ways, and this last season has taught me that it takes only a stiff challenge from Anfield for my old animosities and insecurities to well up from the pre-PL era and fill my mouth with bile.

4. I loved their big-spending underachieving ways, their champagne-addled wrongheadedness. Paul McGrath's natural athleticism and nous riddled with self-doubt and self-destructive boozing v Alan Hansen's dour professionalism - where was the contest? I'm very aware now that I was buying into a what might be wielded as a brand nowadays, but at the time, I am sure, it was simply United's attempt to express themselves, having been somehow caught up in the glamourous riptide of football's showbiz side. The more remote consistency and success seemed, the more they seemed to reach for the chequebook. Perhaps Newcastle could be held up as a more recent example, but it seems that where the Geordies seem nowadays to specialise in blind, (literally) Messianic passion, United fans of the 80s and early 90s seemed nourished more by a throbbing sense of injustice. It was a simple refusal to accept that their formula was badly-conceived, that they weren't reaping the silverware on a regular basis. Only the FA Cup seemed possible, the format that seemed to match United's self-regard/romance quotient most neatly during the dark league days. What good could ever come of this refusal to face up to reality?

5. The United Myth. Here is where I start to get particularly perverse and irrational. I was very happy to buy into the idea of United as the Red Arrows of Destiny, a football display team set apart from other workaday concerns, the Harlem Globetrotters of world football. With its Fifties stars mown down by tragedy while (allegedly) merely building up to the heights of their powers, and thereby safe from actually disappointing the fans by failing to meet their potential, their magnificent trajectory was somehow adumbrated over the following decades. It acted as a powerfully intimidating benchmark for thirty years' worth of talented players; but somehow sustained my/our belief that United were one of Europe's, and the world's, greatest clubs purely because they hadn't been proved wrong. Munich was maybe our version of Barcelona's Franco. Surely we would have eclipsed Liverpool in exactly the same way as Barca would've been nine cups better off instead of those fascists at the Bernabeu. As it stands, we've still only won one more Cup than Nottingham Forest. That still burns. Until we get the trophy cabinet, we are only royalty in terms of our bank balance.

On the whole, these reasons feel as foggy and dissonant as they always have. We accrue trophies under AF with predictable regularity. We are arguably the greatest club in England in terms of domestic achievements (matching Lerpwl in the league, holding more FA Cups than anyone else). We have as many European cups as Barcelona (unfortunately). But any victories just seem to be thrown into a dull ache in my belly. Had we won last night, there would have been a brief buzz of justification, a sense of temporary fulfillment, then the anxieties and impatience would have percolated back up. I patronisingly yearn for a genuine thrill of reaching some hitherto undreamed pinnacle, instead of feeling the need to tick little silver boxes on the way to applying for the post of unassailably best club ever, and thereby best ever primary school decision ever made.

Your pal, Coc x

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Every Day is Unlike Sunday - ATP v Fans (Day the Third)

Day Three. Highly unusually for ATP, I am expecting Sunday to provide the most highlights. From Grails at 4.45 to The Mae Shi finish at 11.30, I hear nothing but net. Even the Pavillion stage seemed shrouded in a mysterious fug that gives it the mystic air of some kind of cathedral. Totally un-Butlins.

Grails are indeed massive. There's a kind of paranoid bliss to their sound, that works as a metaphor for my weekend. It sounds like the soundtrack to important life decisions. Some Eastern sounds, some dubby moments. I find it all very uplifting and am quite emotional when I move on downstairs to catch another act I'd mentally circled for greatness.

Future of the Left enter stage left with “ATP” taped on the back of Kelson's bass, and yet it seems the band have been held up as some anti-ATP totem by the Hipsters That Be. The band adopt this role with relish, setting themselves up against the “friendly bearded cunts” that make up the majority of the audience, claiming that 40% of the audience are made up of the same moneyed class nobs that litter the Royal Family, “if your foreheads are anything to go by”. Perhaps that's the point. Despite the fact that they seem closely modelled on a higher-regsiter version of former curators Shellac, they give off more static than the rest of the assembled rock stars rolled up into a mute foetal ball. By two songs, they've spoken more words than the rest of the bill does all weekend. They are sharp, gruffly eloquent and angry. They are not Beirut. They are not Health.

When people think of Welsh bands, they often think of the mystic, fuzzy types like Gruff Rhys' various projects or Gorky's. These boys are different. They are spiky Silurian fucks. They dress in Motorhead black. They are witheringly funny and will not tolerate dissent. They are those manly types with library cards that my Mam never warned me about. They are the upside of the British Pop Instinct, playing fierce, punchy, literate rock. Beautiful, beautiful men.

After that sharp, anti-rock punk blow to the senses, !!! suffer horribly by comparison. I've heard them play a couple times live before, including a great set at Glastonbury a few years ago, but I'd never actually SEEN them before. I had never seen the embarrassingly sub-Jagger posturing of Nic Jammer. (Do you see what they did there?) The bassline heroics are still there, but the rest of it is a lazy, muddy pile of “We Love You, England” showbizz bullshit. Funk, maybe. Punk? Nope.

I decide against Parts And Labor (previously burnt fingers) and Killing Joke (not one for middle-aged rock operatics), and I only come out to lend Spiritualized an ear when I realise I could be chalet-ing Sunday away completely. Weak. I have an innate suspicion of bands with Gospel singers backing them up. It suggests a lack of conviction, and it never worked for Paul Shane. All light show, no substance.

School of Seven Bells fail to bring their A-game to the party as well. “Alpinisms” is a beautiful LP, but cute as they are, the Deheza sisters fail to reproduce the magic. So I head to The Mae Shi. They are hyperactive, inventive and anarchic, with a sizeable nerdy shout-along pop edge. Blink 182 with Jello Biafra, or a band full of Mike Pattons. The sound is horribly muddy, but the sheer enthusiasm of band and crowd alike pushes it over the tape.

I take a quick look at The Jesus Lizard, watch Yow surfing the crowd and pacing about like a childbeater, but decide to see out the weekend back at Crazy Horse with Fuck Buttons on the decks. I'm just an iPod with genitals, you understand.

A day of contrasts it had been, a little underwhelming in places perhaps, but I'm already jealous of the lucky fuckers making their way down to Minehead next weekend. Please touch the hem of Laura-Mary Carter's garment for me. Thanks.

Your pal, Coc x

Saturday Night's Alright For Writing - ATP v Fans (Day The Second)

Day Two. Begin by watching The Decline & Fall of Western Civilization: The Metal Years on ATP TV. I hated hair metal during the Eighties, and was delirious when Nirvana et al saw fit to sweep the preening pricks into the sea almost twenty years ago. Any admiration I feel for these pussy-hunting peacocks and their painted muses as I watch is so completely intermingled with contempt for their bone-headed hedonistic optimism that I leave the chalet in a strange mood.

The consistent subliminal message of ATP is that Americans ROCK so much better than we do. Perhaps this is because they are still at war with Daddy over there. We won that battle years ago, and Duran Duran rushed in to fill the void. They're audial; we're visual. They're stoned; we're rushing. All we want is a fucking disco: we're iPods with genitals. If we could just jam out the fucking pop signal that crashes into our faggy art school brainwaves, maybe we could sound heavy too. Even Mogwai had ironic t-shirts. We're doomed!

Retribution Gospel Choir is kind of name usually employed with a black irony by the thuggiest heavy rock geezers, but when actual Mormons are involved (Low's Alan Sparhawk) it becomes a little creepy. They rock, they wail, etc. but as I'm listening a new theory clouds up in my head. What exactly is rock'n'roll supposed to save us from now? Sexuality stopped being suppressed decades ago. Anti-authoritarian individualism has long been co-opted by ex-hippy marketing gurus. No matter how well-performed rock is nowadays, the initial impulse has long ebbed away and we're left with a noisy, fuzzy, empty museum piece. This is the sound of that magnetic husk.

I hang around upstairs to watch some of David Yow's other band, Qui. They churn and throb with satisfactory menace, but all eyes are on The Jesus Lizard frontman. He stalks about the stage, barking at hecklers, watching his own (voluminous) clouds of spit glisten in the stage lights. He reminds me of Chancellor Palpatine from Star Wars, but played by Sean Penn; and he cuts a sizeable contrast to the next band on.

Young Marble Giants are so English, it's too extreme even for parody. They bring on sheet music, despite the very un-orchestral nature of their sound. They make polite jokes about “tiffin”. At one point, Stuart Moxham says: “Nice forbearance everybody.” It is stiff upper lip middle class pop with husky guitar, observational lyrics and a refusal to be rushed. Despite the fact they are billed as playing “Colossal Youth” in its entirety, they don't perform “Final Day”, blaming an unco-operative keyboard. Irritating.

Grizzly Bear are already going by the time I get back downstairs. While I'm a bit suspicious of the multi-melodic aesthetic on anti-Eagles grounds, their lovely arching melodies match the circling shadows of the seagulls on the Pavillion ceiling so sweetly I just sit and watch pretty girls wander by and enjoy the warmth. There are so many checkshirts on stage it's like the band have been infiltrated by lumberjacks. This unsettling rock/pop dialetic mood will not leave me.

Beirut are so bad that we mime tearing the ears from the side of our terrified heads, but there is no escape. In the end, we flee to an empty Crazy Horse disco and watch a lone booty-shaker dance for her DJ boyfriend. We don't leave until we are sure this smug anti-music has finished, the aural equivalent of the pretentious, beige novels that clog the bestseller charts month after month. A horrible waste of trumpets.

We stumble relieved into Reds to see Errors, back to the pop end and voted for by The Fans. A bit like Mogwai with synths, swirling somewhere around the Hot Chip/New Order nexus. Our blood pumps once again. After a diversion of some more hippy rock nonsense from Sleepy Sun, we close the programme with Marnie Stern, a bizarre Suzi Quatro update with sewing machine fingers and a needlessly squeaky voice. It all feels a bit High School, as she and her sexy bass-playing bandmate trade slutty jokes, but it fits the need for Saturday night fun.

A long night of revelling follows, including mashing my skeleton to pieces in a sweat-drenched attempt to dance to “Windowlicker” at the Crazy Horse and watching a disturbing topless distress flare display. Garth Merenghi's Darkplace is on TV when I get back, but my body can take no more.

Your pal, Coc x

Arbeit Macht Freitag - ATP vs Fans (Day The First)

ATP v FANS, Butlins Minehead – 8-10 May 09

Sunshine? Weird. ATP is not about sunshine: it's about huddling around the flickering flame of alternative music under overcast skies. It's about booking a cavernous holiday complex and filling it with glamorous long-haired bearded psych-rock types, even if their waistbands thicken ever so slightly year on year. It's about Fuck Buttons playing every year. It's about monstrous seagulls and a deepening morass of nostalgia for the rainy days at Camber, when you could leave your chalet unlocked and the neighbours would pop round for a cup of absinthe. It's subtle, this incremental heartbreak. Some years it seems as though the gig is up, but I always drift back.

Day One. I skip Casiotone, giving in to bad band-name prejudice, and kick off watching Jeffrey Lewis on the Pavillion stage. He does his half-lecture on the development of punk rock on the Lower East Side, which is always a pleasure. “Bugs & Flowers” from the new LP sounds sweet and darkly lush. Then up I tramp to the moodily-lit cabaret lounge that is Centre Stage for one of the hotspots of the weekend.

Health are awesome – Close Encounters with tachycardia. Constant battering drums, earthmover bass, guitar noises mashed through a thousand tiny metal teeth. At one point, a noise is emitted like the funereal sod hitting your coffin. Visceral, beautiful broken stuff. I desparately want to put my finger on what these tropical punk sounds from the Smell club and Brooklyn's Animal Collective types share, but I can't. Some sense of music as a living, vegetative yet potentially cruel force. It's so thrilling, I can almost forgive LA for Guns 'N Roses - but not Motley Crue.

Then a bleak period. I watch some M83 with fond memories of their “Dead Cities” era, but the slo-mo adolescent glory I remember translates into a dreary Euro drudge in the semi-oudoor atmosphere of the Pavillion. Unsuitable. Against my better judgement, I then sample Andrew WK. Rancid. Tom Cruise on Lazytown. He runs about the stage, preaching the party line in his white tee and jeans, hammering at his little piano. Self-help seminar toss.

Devo tried to warn us about shaven chimps like WK. Thirty years ago civilisation's decline was mainstream stuff, fit for perky novelty pop, before it became the domain of Radiohead and Slipknot. Five paunchy men in matching jumpsuits would normally spell IRRELEVANT; but seeing as no-one talks about how shit humanity is in this punky poppy format any more, they seem pretty fresh. There's the same sociopathic twitch to the synths, and the auld spudboys are as tight a unit as the black shorts they whip out halfway through the set. They play all the hits - “Mongoloid”, “Gut Feeling”; they wear all the outfits. They're living proof of how edgy youth gets fat and goes to seed – and it's beautiful.

Hip-hop acts always seem to stiff a little at ATP – a black, urban spectacle for white, middle-class onlookers to pore over without getting involved. Even Anti-Pop Consortium's brain-friendly dubstep-inflected enormity fails to snap people out of their museum poses - criminal. The boys crowd round their equipment, nodding and twitching and running glorious from the mouth, fizzing with a cool menace. “Human Shield” is massive, smashing thousands of crippled Lil Wayne clones like beer cans against its majestic forehead.

My Friday is finalled off by ATP-protegees Fuck Buttons. Seen them twice and loved them, but this time they lack a little special spasmodic something. Loops build, organs swell, drums are smacked, but there was precious little taste of chaos. A friend complains that they tick too many boxes without ever stepping out of them. I am sated.

Your pal, Coc x

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Thoughts of Chairman Coc re: Recent Urban Narnia


My first SFOTC! Excitement glands were tingling as we made our way over to Chapel Street. Confusion followed when to the untrained eye nothing seemed to be happening - the most low key festival I have ever known. As though the Other City was itself buried underneath the deserted Salford street, like a scruffy, urban Narnia of ginnels and workshops - an All Tomorrow's Pubs.

At The Salford Arms cross-purposes were at work, regulars out for a Sunday afternoon drink sat alongside Your Mama's Cookin' jiveabilly vintage business. It was still early. Over to Golden Lab, where Monopoly Child Star Searchers were playing their “primitive punk avant-thought”, backs turned to us, in a place that felt like an allotment shed - the sound of trees moving in the night; a beautiful Brownian motion of musical mosses and moulds; a slow-paced desert meditative noir; and a very promising start.

Lexie Mountain Boys (from Baltimore) came across like a bus-stop full of drunken Aretha Franklins, a breathless Olympian Village People acapella hybrid with nu-folk head bands and fake beards. All karaoke should be conducted like this. Mazes at the Kings Arms' Lamb & Wolf slot failed to match expectations - a limp White Stripes – so we doubled back for A Middle Sex at the URC. Playing alongside Hitchcock's silent movie, “The Lodger”, they filled the stuffy basement with the sound of a supercharged headache, amplifying the claustrophobic paranoia on the screen with droning loops and yelps and relentless rhythms; duelling Aphex Twins soundtracking Dr Who as a silent movie ghoul. Stone cold highlight.

Wu Lf Wu Lf impressed with pop/start Afro-noise hysterics and Eraserhead hair, their erratic sound scrambling for all available exits. Then, via some very standard indie harmonies from First Time Flyer, that left my right ear feeling as though it was missing a filling, and a plodding set from The Tombots, we failed to get inside The Rovers Return, which won the award for most consistently inaccessible venue of the festival. We could hear Cats In Paris' “Foxes” sparkle out the windows, and we cursed our restless luck before pushing on to The Black Lion.

The Terrorist showcase there seemed more like the promising beginning/exhausted end of a great house party. English Electric pumped out some Orbital-flavoured pop party acid meaty enough to offer a stiff handshake. Then we headed back to the crowded Kings Arms for Banjo or Freakout, who despite their terrible name, delivered an intense set, recreating a human-shaped Animal Collective feel, the sound rolling around and around inside a heartbeat. Bizarre instruments figured throughout, one tune apparently composed of arcade classic Galaxians and thumb pianos.

Finally inside The Kings Arms we witnessed The Invisible's milky/funky, cowbell-bothering, masterful New York space-rock., which got biggest crowd reaction of the day. Then we ate our sandwiches and took in Huw Stephen's visiting Swn system at the Sacred Trinity, where the chattering classes sat on pews, drinking cans of Grunwalder lager under stained glass, with crazy, psychedelic primary school drawings of grey-pencil crucified Christs on the walls.

In this setting, the music was disappointing. Sweet Baboo wasn't exactly twee, but so musically and melodically minimal it felt like a dull, one-handed pub conversation. As for Marina & The Diamonds... for every Kate Bush, there are a hundred Toyahs. Another cadet from the quirky pop drama school, she limped through a weak approximation of eccentric songcraft, further pissing me off by covering Gwen Stefani's self-congratulatory reptilian anti-classic “What You Waitin' For?” Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Your pal,

Coc x

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Swine flu misses target by several dozen thousand pounds a year

Nothing is a clearer indication of how the dickheads that run large companies are set firmly in the face of common sense than watching the interminable policy leap-frogging of Waterstones and Borders.

After years and years of running a Distribution Centre in the remote corner of England that is Cornwall, Borders decided to close it last Summer and order the stock for stores via the publisher directly. In order to save money you understand, and of course it meant that a few Cornish people were cast out onto the stony ground, but you know ... it's not like they're that important.

Today I read in The Guardian that Waterstones (after somewhat smugly priding themselves on their expert staff ordering their own books for years and years) have announced that they will be opening a new Distribution Centre in Burton-on-Trent with stores now ordering from the central hub. The intention is to save money, of course, though there will be up to 650 jobs axed as a result, presumably in the sort rooms of their 300-odd stores. So, THAT approach means saving money and redundancies as well?

I must admit I am confused. It would be simpler, perhaps, to conclude that the wobbly-jowled cretins that run these organisations couldn't save money if it floated past them on a lifeboat, but feel the need to make themselves feel important by signing big important pieces of paper that smell of the future. Thinking out of the big blue sky box of thinking.

On a job interview last year, one such tubby bigwig asked me what I would do to save money if I was in charge of a bookshop. I talked about stock management and making sure no money was being wasted on supplies. He said he would sack the cleaners. Now, that's bold management!

Your pal,

Coc x

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Snakes On A Cheshire Plain


Following on from the gargantuan success of the Welsh language version of classic albums, we bring you....

Cheshire-based Movie Classics!

North By Northwich
Raging Bollington
Rear Winsford
Lostock And Two Smoking Barrels
Congleton Air
Macclesfield of Dreams
Chariots of Styal
Close Encounters of the Third Hyde
Pulp Frodsham
Sandbach to the Future
Davenham of the Dead

And so my hunt for a job continues apace!

Your pal,

Coc x

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

More words about music from my crumbling lips..


I'll keep this short, as my time management is absolutely appalling.

Here is my review of the Super Furry Animals' new LP which I downloaded about two weeks ago. I am a very slow thinker, and top-notch prevaricator. Why do now what I can put off indefinitely and never actually do?

Here you are - SFA - Dark Days/Light Years.

Your pal,

Coc x

PS If you haven't seen "The Damned Utd" yet, it's a good film for Clough initiates, but isn't as intense and interesting as the book. Imagine if it was somehow remixed with the Red Riding series that was on Channel 4, and you're nearer the mark.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear? ... Pardon?


While I appreciate the importance of paying heed to our roots, even in the glamour-driven, disposable culture of the pop song, I am disappointed (though not surprised) to read through the 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear supplement this week in the Guardian/Observer to find the usual weighting towards the Canon (Dylan, Beatles, Johnny Cash, whatever sits within the Mississippi/Mersey axis of rock).

Yesterday was "People And Places", and while there were some undoubtedly correct choices ("West End Girls", "Dirty Old Town", "007 (Shanty Town)"), I'm not sure we need another three Dylan songs, when there is apparently no room for Super Furry Animals' "Mountain People". Or perhaps that's the point of "Mountain People"? That they live in a forgotten quarter of the country anyway. I think the journos involved are more interested in polishing their knowledge of almost obscure blues and soul numbers rather than stretching their preconceptions a little.

And Glasvegas? Really? Can it be their success is based on anything other than James Allan's resemblance to Joe Strummer? I'm not sure. Stick with JAMC, I reckon.

Or perhaps all of this excitement has been spilled out by the gigcast and download release of the new SFA album, "Dark Days/Light Years", which I think is a real "return to form". Like those "return to form" albums that U2 and Beck and Oasis and Bob Dylan bring out every couple of years and everyone says "This is the best album since [the last one they did that everyone agrees wasn't shit]" until the next album comes out and it is relegated back into the shit basket.

Anyway, it's the best SFA album since "Rings Around The World".

Your pal, Coc x

Monday, 16 March 2009

Os oedd Elfys Preseli yn dod o Ynys Mon...


As I have almost nothing better to do (ahem!), I have translated a few classic albums into Welsh. This may well become an occasional series.

That is all.

Profiad Simi Hendrics - Wyt ti'n Brofiadol?
Rhobet ap Dylan - Gwaed ar y Traciau
Ffloyd Pinc - Ochr Tywyll o'r Llun
Y Cwymp - Ar Byw o'r Profion Ddewiniaid
Penradio - O'r Gorau, Cyfrifiadur
Y Cerrig A Derigla - Alltud ar Stryd Fawr
Dafydd ap Owi - Siggi Serlwch a'r Pryfed Cop o'r Planed Mawrth
Y Trawiad - Galw Llundain
S.L.G. - Pawb sy'n Brifo
Gwynfyd - Mewn Groth
Y Pistolau Rhywiol - Ni Wnaeth Beth Fo'r Eirin, Dyma'r Pistolau Rhywiol!
Rhyd-y-Goed Mac - Ysgithr
Adran Llawen - Mwynhadau Anhysbys
Gelyn Y Gwlad - Mae'n Rhaid Wrth Genedl o Filwyn i Dal Ni'n Ol
Anifeiliad Anhygoel Blewog - Mane

Your pal, Coc x

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Title Wanted - Enquire Within

Take a sideways squint at this, and tell me your words.

I've been meaning to try and write my review-type opinions of an album for some time. Cowardice has meant that it had to be about a band I knew quite well, personally even. And I betray my background in English Lit Crit quite nakedly.

But I was struck that The Nightjars were singing almost all the time about the city, the band's muse and its tormenting Furie. All Greek mythology and shit. It was the same feeling I got about the Polytechnic's LP, that it was all about them negotiating with the music business - "Won't You Come Around?", "Rain Check", and of course, "Cold-Hearted Business".

Here, here - look here!

Perhaps I should stick to penning songs about unemployed military donkeys.

Your pal,

Coc x

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Underground Dentistry

For a short while there, I thought I'd glimpsed a tiny wobbly crack in the universe.

Watching Being Human, BBC3's supernatural dramcom about a werewolf and a vampire and a ghost sharing a house in Bristol*, I am almost convinced from my standard dislike of the vampire in fiction as an aristocrat rockstar bullshit.

My personal sympathies tend to lie more with the dirty, punkrock spittle of the werewolf or the democratic dead-eyed slump of the zombie. Vampires are poseur fucks. They literally suck.

However, my interest in things toothy was piqued by one Annabel Scholey, who plays a genuinely sexy vampirixen. Dark bob, chewable cheeks, heaving cleave. This however is not the story. 'Specially since she been finished by a table leg through the bosom anyway. The story is that she had seemingly not been recognised by the interweb.

I could find little or no trace of the little lady. Tiny pieces of the corner of my mind began to drift toward the ceiling like dark grey smudges rising from a bonfire. How could this be? Something had become loose at the hinges in the universe. Some graven law was rubbing away before my keyboard-clacking fingers.

Then I realised that her name was spelt wrong. History was denied, but there was a press shot to be admired.

Peace out.

Your pal, Coc x
* Not even a squat, which seems terribly law-abiding.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Well, that's Two Hours of My Life I'll Never See Again

Part of my advancement into senility and cultural irrelevance involves the acceptance that pop culture will not be as it was. I almost accept this. But every now and then, something happens which churns my guts up a little too much.

This time it's MTV2's decision to drop 120 Minutes from the schedule and replace with some weak-arsed Vintage show or somesuch. The flickering light of the truly alternative is that little bit close to cold extinction. Truly thrilling videos were on that channel; now the early hours can be condemned to the same shit heap that the crayon-scented NME regularly reports on. Music seems to be on the way to serving as nothing but a soundtrack to visiting fucking Top Shop. Maybe that's all it ever was.

As I type, MTV2 is showing The Stone Roses' I Wanna Be Adored as part of their Top Ten of 1991. An admirable tune, which caused a considerable stir on its release in 1989. Foetus-sucking cretins.

Fuck the lot of them.

Your pal, Coc x

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Palladins of the Posts

Sports journalists: A lot of fun to read, as long as you ignore the content.

I always head first for the sports section of the Guardian each day, because I am a philistine, for one thing, and because the news is slightly less depressing for another. Finally, the writing is a little more imaginative, as I suppose they have more room for artistic manoeuvering in reporting a cricket game than carefully-worded press releases about paedophiles.

What I consistently fail to understand, however, is the predilection for back-page fogies to witter on about how things were in their day, or how morally giant some whiskered amateur was before the wisdom and gentle glory of the game was absorbed by dirty monies. I resent being subjected to their senile drool.

This morning, it was David Foot writing about collecting autographs. Is there anything as dull as a list of sports stars from a distant decade? Free from their context, presumably supplied by the fading recollections of older readers, they are close to meaningless. Eddie Hapgood anyone? (He captained England during that tricky, yet heroic Nazi salute business. Way to go, Ed!)

This incidentaly underlines the utter uselessness of collecting autographs, or having your picture taken with celebrities for that matter. You've seen someone famous at the shops; why do you need written confirmation? How would that enhance the experience? I suppose folk just whip out their phones and film them these days. Or play with themselves.

I understand that we are supposed to worship the values and heroes of whatever era of sport in which the writer enjoyed their boyhood, and it is always a boyhood, of course; but I don't understand why. Won't someone fax me the secret?

Your pal, Coc x

Thursday, 8 January 2009

In Partibus Infidelium, Chumps!

Charlie, Charlie Brooker - everyone knows your brain...

He is a mortal man, this Screenwipe man. He has fallabilities pouring from the usual pores, and makes mistakes, and Dead Set really wasn't very good. Just another zombie movie (weirdly) with all the acerbic, culturally incisive teeth dissolved by everyday bile. But he is still Charlie Brooker. He slays reputations the size of cliff-faces armed with sheer boggle-eyed scatalogical indignation, and that deserves him the title "Christ of Our Age".

He has a terrible listening face though. I'm convinced he's not a listener: he's a ranter. I wouldn't want him interviewing me for a job, for example. Though I have been interviewed by at least one ranter, and that wasn't much fun either. I want to be interviewed by people who have already offered me the job. Maybe he has a job for me.

He was talking to writers last night - Tony Jordan, Paul Abbott, the godlike Graham Linehan, the Peep Show creeps, and Russell T DrWho. Always massively frustrating these things. How they became writers: fuck's sake! It's purely biographical. There is no career advice in there; no advice as how best to sit down and get writing. (And some scenes seemed to be filmed next door to a kids' swimming pool.) Everyone does it differently, except they agree the first draft is the hardest.

I have written nothing (ie finished it) since I was 21. Not counting songs, gig reviews and poems obviously. It is beyond the time I should give up on the idea, isn't it?

Is there anyone who wants to pay me for wandering around my own head for a few hours every day? (No, there isn't.)

Your pal, Coc x

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Blunt Sexual Objects

Affirmatronics, ugly buglies!

While it doesn't exactly crawl with glossy goddesses, Neighbours seems to pulse with a lot more hormonal thunge than it used to in the days of horse-faced cancer-dodger, Kylie Minogue. They seem to have recruited a whole phalanx of pouting bleached Valkyries to ride the diseased imaginations of the watching deadbeats. But can anyone tell them apart? Teenage perfume representative Margot Robbie or "bikini model" Imogen Bailey? Perhaps they have vats of the xeroxed beauties, floating naked in viscous gels until the time comes to inch them down the production line to glamorous oblivion.

Is this me coming to terms with a future of daytime TV, as plans A-C for employment seem to be spiralling out of the sky, toxic columns of black furrowing out of their screaming, doomed engines? Perhap. Get thinky about the thinkless, just like I did back in '95.

The only thing that keeps me going at the minute is Gary James' history of Manchester football. I enjoyed the first hundred pages or so, and I was fascinated to learn of Manchester Central FC's birth at Belle Vue to fill the gap in east Manchester left by City and United; but if I'd realised what a morbidly bluenose bias slopes through the book, I would never have bothered. He's a curator for City apparently, which would explain the skewered opinions, but he goes to such lengths to show how any good that came to or from United was blue in origin that the fabric of credible reality bends like a crumbling rainbow. And that can't be good for posterity, can it?

I even got a signed copy from the guy. I knew I should've read it first. Only the sting of the fiery coals of injustice keeps me reading through the salty burn in my tearducts.

Be beautiful, my shining gangsters!

Your pal, Coc x

Thursday, 1 January 2009

2008 - Lingering Bastard...

Happy twelvemonth, ya fuck-plants!

2008 has been a mixed year, but I hadn't realised until today that it was an extra, extra long one. Not only a leap year, but with a leap second tacked on the end.

This time of year always feels as though it has skipped between the cracks and outside the rules, and it's nice to have it confirmed by science. I almost always estimate the time in five minute chunks because I loathe the pedantry of folk who seem to believe they have some god-given hot-line to the atomic clock because they've worked out how to operate Teletext. It's up there (in that space where people put things they reckon are worth gathering together to make a point) with people who believe they have the only correct interpretation of the Word of God. I can picture Martin Luther hammering his digital watch to the door of the Wittenberg post office, or whatever. It's a margin of error - get over it, numb nuts.

Having been off work, in fact having no work to be off, since 6th December, this period has no obvious endpoint, which seems nice. But once the shiny new year begins the long blunting process on the 5th, once the three wise men come round and tell me to take down my lovely decorations, I will be pretty fidgety. The comforting contact of Xmasses Past will dissolve into penniless relentless Now. The future smells a little non-committal, like the tingling scent of snowfall-to-come.

Until then, I'll keep fannying around with my CV.

Your pal, Coc x