Friday, April 30, 2004

Unfinished Business

I am at the time of life when I no longer want anything whatsoever to do with Lou Reed except for the Third Velvet Underground Album. That aside, he is henceforth banished from the house, along with Sting and Bono, both of whom were expelled some time ago*.

So I wish that "Unfinished Business", the last song on the Go-Betweens' second post-reformation record, Bright Yellow Bright Orange, didn't remind me faintly of Lou's "Satellite of Love". But it does. As the saying goes, "We shall overcome".

I hope you all haven't lumped the return of the Go-Betweens in with countless other tawdry "reunions" (yes, Lou Reed, this too is all your fault; you will never be forgiven for your wilful destruction of Venus in Furs on the VU reunion/Sterling Morrison valediction tour). This is the real thing: two equally talented songwriters go their separate ways for a few years, then find reasons to start working together again. The "comeback" album, The Friends of Rachel Worth, had its seams showing (it could almost have been a compilation of their respective solo work) but on Bright Yellow Bright Orange the chemistry is back. It may not have the emotional heft of the best of their earlier work (me alone in a room w/ "Part Company" = great waves of tears) but it nevertheless is able to reach places deep within you that others can't. Listen to the intertwining of the guitars at the end of "Mrs Morgan". The gorgeously simple guitar line that closes "Poison in the Walls". The fact of Forster/McLennan taking in turns the singing of "Too Much of One Thing". It is all very simple and understated. And there is a sense that at this stage of their careers they can just kick back and have a little fun.

In the car on the way back from the coast we had on 16 Lovers Lane. Carl, our resident six-year-old music critic, is a big fan**. The new Go-Betweens may not reach those kind of heights, but the mere existence of the two latest discs is something which few of us could even bring ourselves to wish for; the fact that they are both bloody good, well, maybe you need to pinch me ...

*David Byrne was similarly banned around the time of True Stories, but has made a surprising reappearance owing to the listenability of Feelings and Look into the Eyeball, so take heart, Lou, remove the mullet and who knows?

**Carl's current faves apart from the Go-Betweens include Abba, the REM of Automatic for the People, Jonathan Richman, Manu Chao, Pet Sounds, "I Am The Walrus", Beck, Cornershop, Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation", and the soundtrack of Monsoon Wedding. The boy's got taste.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Dying to go there

We spent the Anzac Day long weekend, as Canberrans say, "down the coast", helping the kids explore rock pools and do jigsaw puzzles.

Adrienne saw, in the in-house literature at the place we were staying, possibly our favourite spelling mistake ever (beating out of first place the Yellow Pages ad for Murrays Travel that offered, amongst its services, "school executions"): a write-up of a local restaurant described said establishment as having an "interment setting". We think we know what they meant but, just in case we are wrong, we hope not to be going there for a few years yet.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Moving Show

What? This feels like a death in the family. Or at least a pet. It's almost as devastating as John Flaus leaving Film Buffs' Forecast. For as long as I can remember, wherever you were or whatever you were doing, Wednesday night was Movie Show night. Now David and Margaret are moving to the ABC. I hope they know what they are doing. At least they're not lost to the commercials, like so many others before them.

We would like to express our gratitude to them for their many years of service and we wish them well.

Monday, April 05, 2004


There I was, living my life totally oblivious of the concept of a "coaling station", when - lo and behold - coaling stations appear in consecutive issues of the New Yorker, first in a very enlightening piece by Joshua Micah Marshall (apologies if I got that wrong, he's not a NYer regular) on the American Empire, and then in a piece about the poor buggers held captive in Guantanamo Bay. It just goes to show, no matter how far in the past you think you're living, there's always someone even further back than yourself.

And this from the magazine that now brings you Sasha Frere-Jones on Madvillain.

F***ing Martin

What are we to do with Martin Amis? The jury is still out; Experience was a fine book, but Amis is (or so I had always assumed) primarily a novelist, and The Information and Night Train were hard work; and the almost universal hostility and derision that has greeted Yellow Dog makes it difficult, given the length of time it takes me to read a novel these days, to justify any kind of commitment to it (unfair, I know, but decisions to read / not read have to be based on something). Meanwhile I would appear to have moved on to David Mitchell – maybe a changing of the guard?

Well anyway, I have just been reading "In the Palace of the End", Amis's most recent New Yorker short story. How can someone who is capable of such wonderful images as "the room was ... an aviary of mobile phones" follow it a paragraph or two later with something as clunky as "the tendency to the tender"? And the story itself, while based on a very Martin Amis kind of idea (taking the notion of Saddam Hussein's body doubles and pushing that notion to extremes beyond which it would only be possible to look away), could hardly be said to warrant inclusion ahead of any other recent piece of New Yorker fiction (and suffers – as would anybody – from the unhappy chronology of appearing the week before Alice Munro), and I can think of at least three in the past 18 months that stand head and shoulders above it – and all by hitherto unknown (to me) writers.

Okay, almost nobody is better at words than Martin Amis, but words need to be employed in the service of something bigger, lest they become a dictionary. I have invested a lot of emotional energy in the past in my dedication to Amis's work, and I am not yet inclined to throw all of that away. But the tea leaves don't read well.

Friday, April 02, 2004

There is a light that never goes out

I have been a bit slow in reading this piece on perennial topic du jour Morrissey/"Morrissey".

The last couple of paragraphs are particularly good. O'Hagan needs to be careful, though, not to toss out the baby with the bathwater. Tipping a bucket over John Lydon may well be (a) fair game and (b) a good spectator sport, but what self-respecting home would be without its copy of Metal Box?

Pharmacological alert

Signs have been posted along Lake Burley Griffin, just down from the National Library, advising of the appearance thereabouts of death cap mushrooms.

Not sure if this is a warning or an invitation. The ducks down there have been looking a bit lethargic of late.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Look what fear's done to my body

I take it you have all read this.

I have taken to sleeping under the bed.