Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wikipedia random article of the day

This is the type of thing that, from an outsider's perspective, makes England England.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Richard McGuire clip of the day

As y'all well know, we are big fans of Richard McGuire. Thanks to SFJ for providing this link. It's a bit creepy, but be brave, and tell yourself it's only pen and ink, or the digital equivalent thereof. (Edit: the SFJ link itself contains some more Richard McGuire, AND will, if clicked in the right places, take you to more, even, than that. Oh happy day.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Song of the day

"Toy Balloons", by Perrey and Kingsley. I so want to use this as my ringtone. But that would be, like, way beyond my level of competence. Help me somebody!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Song of the day

"The Carrier", by David Byrne and Brian Eno. Because it is at once so otherworldly and so beautiful.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Song of the day

"Hold On To Your Dreams", by Jah Wobble / The Edge / Holger Czukay. We have to be careful how much U2 we allow into the house, in case they take us over like the evil and sinister virus they are. But the appearance of The Edge on this track is more than outweighed by its having lyrics by Arthur Russell (you never know where he is going to pop up - and it is interesting (to me) that his appearance on this record means that Arthur Russell was in the house 20 years before I had previously thought; and there I was thinking that I was able to retain record-cover information better than most people (I have little Pete Frame-style diagrams running around inside my head like crazy paving)) and drums by Jaki Liebezeit, the Number Three of rock-n-roll drummers.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Misheard (or not?) lyric of the day

From Iggy and The Stooges, "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell": is it possible that Iggy really says "I needed love, but I only lost my pants"?

Presumed coincidence of the day

Has anybody else noticed a similarity between the neew album by Paavoharju, "Laulu Laakson Kukista", and Virginia Astley's "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure"? Just wondering.

Song of the day

"Nightporter", by Japan. For reasons that I don't really understand, I have been on a real Japan kick the last couple of days. Not the early glam-punk years, which have never meant anything to me at all (although my first memory of Japan was seeing them on "Countdown", in all their, ahem, "splendour", doing "Don't Rain On My Parade"), but the two final, essential albums, "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" and "Tin Drum". Two albums may not be much to make a reputation on, but then we only had two albums from Joy Division, and that was both enough and, in all speculative likelihood, the ideal number. Anyway. These two are as important to me as any other record in my collection; listening to them today it is particularly striking how they come across as the definitive sound of the early 1980s. The perfectly clean but(presumably) still analog synths, the FXed drums, the fretless bass, the slightly effected piano and airy synth combination that can be found on "Nightporter".

I have always loved "Nightporter". Perhaps not so much that it will eventually appear in my all time top 50 songs (c.f. "Ghosts", which stands a good chance, but isn't there yet), but quite deeply nevertheless. Its seeming ease in handling complex emotions might well have lit the path that David Sylvian was later to tread, to frequently sublime effect, in his solo career.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Song of the day

"Ultimate Warlord", by The Immortals. This song, which appears to be the only record The Immortals ever made, also seems to be a cover, credited to someone with the unlikely name of "Daniel Boone", who also released it as a single, under the moniker The Warlord, in the same year, 1979. Or maybe Mr Daniel Boone was behind both entities. I think we should be told.

The ten-year-old likes this because he can act out a Transformers-inspired musical-theatre piece over the length of its nine minutes. I like it because it's an intriguing slice of science-fiction disco which comes across as an amalgam of "Woman", by Mirage, and "I Was Made For Loving You", by Kiss. You can't invent something like that.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Why did Nelson Mandela choose to have a private party for his 90th birthday?

Answer: It was the only way he could keep Bono out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Who put the bomp?

Spurred into action by a certain friend of mine, who has divided his life into a list of the 50 most important songs therein, and by the way he still hasn't sent me that list, I have determined to do likewise. It is a difficult task, one that necessitates the songs coming to me, rather than me thinking them out. Thus, to date the list is somewhat short (it is also in no particular order, although the song that appears first does so for many very good reasons):

The Chills, "Pink Frost".
The Go-Betweens, "Cattle and Cain".
Television, "Marquee Moon".
Propaganda, "Dr Mabuse". (Ah, but which version?)
Donna Summer, "I Feel Love" (12 inch).
The Passions, "I'm In Love With A German Film Star".
Brian Eno, "1/1".

Stay tuned for additions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Song of the day

"One Day", by The Cannanes. It's funny what can pop into your head. The album on which this little number is something of an afterthought, "The African Man's Tomato" (aka "Lord Nelson's Seafood Capers"), is one of the unsung Australian rock masterpieces. Ask any of the twenty people who own a copy. It changed my life. (And I don't say that lightly, no I don't.)

The Cannanes, bless their cotton socks, are still at it, too. Not that you'd know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


1. I appear to have come across as somewhat negative when writing recently about John Zorn's "Filmworks X". I must have been having a bad day. It's not like that at all.

2. Just as there are perfect Monday-morning-wake-up-call songs, there are perfect darkening-late-Tuesday-midwinter-afternoon songs, of which "Zaz Turned Blue", by Was (Not Was), must be one. The song, which is, if I understand it correctly, a sad tale of the unintended consequences of a bit of sexual experimentation in the park, is a triumph of vocal delivery by Mel Torme. He sings it so straight that the listener is put in a position of utter discomfort, not knowing whether to laugh or cry: was the Velvet Fog in on the "joke", or completely oblivious? (Everything about Was (Not Was), from their name onwards, is at some level a joke, at another level not a joke. Why does everything have to be so hard?) Also worth noting is how Torme morphs, early in the line "What were we supposed to do?", from Frank Sinatra into Scott Walker.

3. Next up in our continuing series entitled "This Goes With This", sub-category "Strange Bedfellows": "Love To Know", by The Marine Girls, and the seventh track on my CD version of The Minutemen's "Double Nickels On The Dime". (The disparity between the tracks listed on the cover of "Nickels" and the actual tracks on the CD is one of the many things in life that I have never understood. I am somewhat relieved to see that the three listings for this album on Discogs give three different sets of numbers.) If you listen to these two songs back-to-back you will know almost instantly whether you have the right Minutemen song. Were The Minutemen fans of The Marine Girls? Given what we know about Kurt Cobain's unexpected listening habits, it cannot be ruled out as a possibility.

4. One night last week Adrienne and I were given a get-out-of-jail-free card. We used it to go to the movies: to be precise, "Happy Go Lucky", the latest Mike Leigh joint. With Mike Leigh one is rarely disappointed, and this one is perhaps up there with his best. We are so conditioned these days to expect the unexpected that it is a relief to be able to watch a movie in which, when the main character is filmed tidying up the children's papers, she is not going to find, say, a hidden crack pipe or Weapon of Mass Destruction, she is simply tidying up the children's papers. (Also: why is it that, even though I spent the first 17 years of my life, and many long stretches thereafter, on the family farm, and have spent a grant total of about a week in London, I realise, whenever I watch a film like this, that I miss London as much as I miss the farm (and I miss the farm a lot)?)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Song of the day

"Papal Visit", by The Fall. The Pope is less than two hundred miles away, and yet strangely I don't feel any different. Is he losing his power?

(Actually, "Papal Visit" is the one unarguably dispensable item in The Fall canon. But, sitting as it does at the very end of the "Room To Live" mini-album (remember those?), which is otherwise prime Fall, its severance does no real damage. In the dim, distant and ever-receding past, I considered calling my radio show "Solicitor In Studio", but rejected it as too obvious.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Song of the day

"True Faith", by New Order. There must be a million songs that act like a musical caffeine hit, helping to shake off the cobwebs on a bleary Monday morning. "True Faith" is the one that worked this morning.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Filmworks Continue

I have been listening to death (perhaps unavoidably) "Filmworks X - In The Mirror Of Maya Deren", John Zorn's soundtrack to a movie about a "voodoo priestess" (I've never met one of those before). It is a very slight thing, this soundtrack, perhaps deceptively so; rather difficult to get to grips with in fact: you put it on, you immediately warm to it, half an hour later you realise it's still playing, and then it's gone. Was it ever there at all? Is that the voodoo talking?

The elements are in almost perfect alignment: Erik Friedlander on cello, Jamie Saft on keyboards, some spooky percussive elements floating around in the atmosphere (some by Zorn himself, who also acquits himself passably on piano on a couple of tracks - well, if Nick Cave can assail us with electric guitar on record mere weeks (I could be exaggerating here, but I suspect not by much) after first picking one up ...), a couple of beautifully lyrical themes creeping in and out of proceedings. But somehow as a stand-alone prospect this disc is an ever-so-slight disappointment coming after the heroics of vols VII to IX. (Although I see myself returning to it regularly: it suits a particular mood, of, what, gentle melancholia? Which is a not uncommon state for me.)

But never fear. In the way of things Zorn the following year, 2002, saw the release of not one but three further Filmworks: it is to those that we turn next.

Song of the day

"St Andrew (This Battle Is In The Air)", by The White Stripes. Not so much a "Who is this?" moment as a "Seriously WTF???" moment. Yes, it is Jack and Meg. At least, according to the credits it is. But there's not much to go on in making that identification with this decidedly wonky Irish jig, spliced with a punk rock aesthetic (in a nice way). "Cool."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Song of the day

"Minimoonstar (Shackleton Remix)", by Ricardo Villalobos. In which Mr Shackleton returns the favour for Villalobos having turned "Blood On My Hands" into the most ominous "memorial" to the events September 11, 2001 you could imagine: a kind of sonic equivalent to Don DeLillo's "Falling Man". This time around, Shackleton brings to RV's painstakingly constructed and unprecedented beats a sense of otherworldliness, a music that you might describe as dub-ambient-techno as long as you didn't associate that with Bill Laswell's "illbient" projects.

The other good thing about this song is that you can use it as the basis for several anagrams containing the word "Moomin" (and don't forget that Drawn and Quarterly's third instalment of the collected Moomin comic strips is due out in two short months; our order has been placed).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The People on the Bus

The guy sitting kind of diagonally opposite me is reading something by H P Lovecraft. I wonder if he has read Alan Moore's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier", which includes a section that is essentially a P G Wodehouse story written in the style of Lovecraft. It is, unsurprisingly, very well done, and very clever. As for Lovecraft himself: nah; he is way too overblown and turgid, if you ask me, for his stories ever to creep out from the dense thickets of his language.

The woman right in front of me is not far into David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas", which I have written about before. I hope she gets further into it than I was ever able to. The novel he wrote next, "Black Swan Green", awaits me in the local library, as soon as I get through William Gibson's "Spook Country", which I am having to tear through in the expectation that some other bugger will have reserved it.

The woman in front of her is reading John Birmingham's "He Died With A Felafel In His Hand", a novel that I can thoroughly recommend, about the shared-household experience, growing up, a mysterious death, and bucket bongs. The movie is good, too, something I don't often say about Australian movies. Adrienne is currently reading the sequel, "The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco", which she gave me a couple of birthdays ago and, true to form, is reading first.

You might think that the quality of reading material is unusually high for public transport. And you may well be right. But perhaps it says something about the nature of Canberra. Or else it was just a fluke.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Oh no, he's at it again

The headline in Saturday's Age was one I have been wanting to see for a very long time: "Act now or face disaster". The subject: climate change. As you all know all too well, I have been, to put it bluntly, scared shitless for three years now by what appears to me to be the bleak future for human life on this planet, and every day of inaction, at least as it seems to me, puts the day of reckoning one day closer. I have always been a pessimist by nature, but the way my mind is working at the moment, if the glass was more half-empty it would be as bone dry as the Murray Darling basin. (At the recent "Triumph of Landscape" exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia one of the standout Australian paintings was called something like "Floodwaters on the Darling River": a painting that isn't all that old (late 19th Century?) but feels like something out of ancient history.)

One thing I don't know is, has the rest of the world caught up to where I was three years ago? Or have things actually started to look worse even than that?

What I do hope is that the release, finally, of the Garnaut Report, and the attendant media avalanche, will go some way towards galvanising people's thinking: that this is an actual crisis we are facing (if not entering now). The time to act has to be now. The worst thing that could happen is that industry lobby groups, States'-rights advocates, and independent Senators derail the process by way of a thousand concessions. Already the signs are not good in this regard. But the government surely knows that it has to stand firm this time. Doesn't it?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Old fogeys at play

Wouldn't I have loved to have been teleported to Maxwell's, in Hoboken NJ, two nights ago for the the return of The Feelies?

Failing that, you can read about it here. (The article includes a photo in which they just look like dudes, playin'. How cool is that?) "A garage band reimagined by mathematicians" is not a bad descriptor of The Feelies, a band that have been very close to my heart for the best part of 30 years now. Theirs is an ageless, and timeless, sound; that they can walk back into the limelight after 17 years and give the impression they have never been away, or that the last 17 years never happened, is no real surprise. A thrill, yes, but not a surprise.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Topical songs

And the news items to which they relate.

Note: bad taste alert.

1. "Jimmy Stynes", by My Friend The Chocolate Cake. Here.

2. "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", by The Pink Floyd. Here.

Sorry. The second of these is a truly terrible story; I shudder to think of it taking place.