Thursday, 31 March 2016

The king and queen

I wrote this a few months ago, inspired by a ghost of a rumour of a story while parsing the nether regions of the net for tidbits.

I don't know why I loaded it so heavily with nonsense-rhyme, but once I started I couldn't stop


The fighter-writer’s laying on
 a million dollar bang and bash
in flash cache past the country clubs
Out on the wildest woody slope,
The painter-waiter fired a man
And hired a van to stack and stash
The stars whose cars some schlub
Would wash and crash for pills and soap.

The landlocked-dandy hawked his Hals
For board and bread aboard the bus
And shook his easy eyes’ surprise
To see on seats back left, mid right
The iron-siren soused with scowls
Averted from the fluff and fuss
Afforded her marauder-fraud
Folk-joker snoring in plain sight.

“Hey Moany Joany!” sneered the wisp
His beard a weird gypsy eclipse
“Hey Bitchy Mitch, how’ bout a song
To light the night bright blue, dame Joan,
A singalong, perhaps,” he rasped,
“A chorus ‘cross your bitter lips?
That ‘taxi’ track lacks class of course
But is at least, a little known.”

She stored her horde of howls and stings
For years beyond this tawdry trap.
‘He’ll have his fun, this unwashed imp
This limp-lord tramp of New York tricks,
I’ll bite back bright, my latent hate
Will staunch his aged arid tap,
For now, my frown will own this van,
This sinning stone can stick his sticks.’

The ill-matched batch of cult adults
Chugged cheerless through the towering maze
Till slowly Joni’s journey turned
To gentler greener sounds and sights.
The driver dreamer looked away
As hay was made amidst the haze
Of haves and has-been beatnik hicks
Now blinded by the city lights.

The full-up fun bus pulled up airless -
Careless careerists collapsed to ground
To see the scene of casual carnage
The great create when loose to play.
The fightwright held sure court on sport
Relating Zaire’s frightening sound
“The angry, hungry, jungle rumbled
To chants of Ali Bomaye.”

The tireless diarist shrunk back shrewdly,
Eavesdropped on the schmooze of pop kids,
Circus jerk-offs hawking showreels,
Deal sharks apt to be impressed less.
Downtown upstate upstart drop outs
Turn up tuned in, soon doubts set in,
Slick songs sicken sixties hipsters
“Turn down this cheap tin can synth mess.”

The auteur turncoats skulk and snap
The scene into a deep, dark farce
A wistful waltz time overlaid
 To frame the failures of the age,
Shaping squares round eastern faces
Wondering which west face to cast.
Thunder rolls in, wonder bails out,
Leading players vacate the stage.

The troupe regrouped relieved rolls back
To wherever they all came from.
“No fireworks” said the vagabond,
“No fireworks” she, for once, agreed.
Those were the last words that they spoke,
The one thing they agreed upon,
A shared assent no record kept
And neither would again concede.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Recent Rankings of Things and Things

I'm going to do something blunt and dull, but still quite fun. I'm just going to give a score out of 10 to every film of recent years and album of recent years I can remember seeing or listening to. What's more valuable than reducing two years of your own experience and several years of many people's creative endeavour to a series of arbitrary numbers?

Going back to the start of 2014 ...


Mostly what I've seen at the cinema, a few at home. I might have missed a few of the latter ...

The Wolf of Wall Street 7
Begin Again 7
Pompeii 3
Pride 8
Locke 7
Boyhood 9
Edge of Tomorrow 8
12 Years a Slave 8
Inside Llewyn Davis 9
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 4
Nebraska 8
American Hustle 7
August: Osage County 4
Dallas Buyers Club 8
Her 8
The Grand Budapest Hotel 9
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 8
20,000 Days on Earth 8
Gone Girl 5
’71 7
Nightcrawler 8
Mr Turner 6
Interstellar 6
Cold in July 6
The Drop 7
The Imitation Game 7
St Vincent 7
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 5
Paddington 7
The Monuments Men 5
Under the Skin 7
Birdman 8
The Theory of Everything 9
2 Days, 1 Night 9
Foxcatcher 9
Whiplash 8
Wild 8
A Most Violent Year 8
Inherent Vice 7
American Sniper 6
Selma 8
Into the Woods 6
Far from the Madding Crowd 6
Mr Holmes 6
Amy 6
While We’re Young 7
Southpaw 5
X+Y 6
Mad Max: Fury Road 7
Man Up 5
Legend 6
Sicario 9
Suffragette 6
Jurassic World 6
Spectre 5
Brooklyn 7
Black Mass 6
Carol 9
Bridge of Spies 7
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 8
Trainwreck 7
Mistress America 7
Slow West 8
Diary of a Teenage Girl 5
Love and Mercy 8
The Lobster 8
Creed 7
The Big Short 8
Spotlight 8
The Revenant 5
Hail, Caesar! 6
The Program 4
The Intern 2
Guardians of the Galaxy  7
The Lego Movie 6
The Fault in our Stars 6
Ex Machina 8
Inside Out 7
The Martian 8
Joy 6
Girlhood 7
Steve Jobs 7
Hell or High Water 8
Supersonic 6
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 7
Paterson 7
Captain Fantastic 7
Swallows and Amazons 5
I, Daniel Blake 7
God Help the Girl 5
Four Lions 8
Room 7
La La Land 9
Everybody Wants Some!! 6


Every Open Eye - Chvrches           7
Have You in My Wilderness - Julia Holter               7
What Went Down - Foals              7
Benjamin Clementine – At Least for Now               7
American Interior – Gruff Rhys   8
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance - Belle and Sebastian  5
Shedding Skin - Ghostpoet           5
Return to the Moon - El Vy           5
Apocalypse, Girl - Jenny Hval       5
Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams           6
Sukierae - Tweedy           6
Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit - Courtney Barnett            7
Star Wars - Wilco              7
St Vincent – St Vincent  8
From Scotland with Love – King Creosote              8
Stay Gold – First Aid Kit  7
Crush Songs – Karen O   2
Divers - Joanna Newsom              8
Burn Your Fire For No Witness – Angel Olsen       5
This is my Hand – My Brightest Diamond               5
Black Hours – Hamilton Leithauser           6
Lost in the Dream – The War on Drugs    6
If I Was - The Staves        8
Kablammo! - Ash              8
The Race for Space - Public Service Broadcasting                8
Carrie and Lowell - Sufjan Stevens            9
Into the Lime – The New Mendicants      3
Universal Themes - Sun Kil Moon              3
The Classic – Joan as Police Woman         4
Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern     7
In Colour - Jamie xx         7
Primrose Green - Ryley Walker   6
LP1 – FKA Twigs                8
Are We There – Sharon Van Etten             8
Small Town Heroes – Hurray for the Riff-Raff       8
Bleeds - Roots Manuva  7
Benji – Sun Kil Moon       8
Night Time, My Time – Sky Ferreira          6
I Love you, Honeybear - Father John Misty            7
New Basement Tapes – Costello, James, Goldsmith, Giddens, Mumford  7
Fresh Blood - Matthew E White  6
Short Movie - Laura Marling        6
One Breath – Anna Calvi                4
Divide and Exit – Sleaford Mods 4
Rooms with Walls and Windows – Julie Byrne     4
Heigh Ho - Blake Mills     4
Natalie Prass- Natalie Prass          8
At Best Cuckold – Avi Buffalo      7
Morning Phase - Beck     6
Trouble in Paradise – La Roux     7
Divide and Exit – Sleaford Mods 4
Shadows in the Night - Bob Dylan              7
On Your Own Love Again - Jessica Pratt   7
No Cities to Love - Sleater-Kinney             8
Vulnicura - Bjork               8
Way Out Weather – Steve Gunn 4
Singles – Future Islands 4
Uptown Special - Mark Ronson  4
The Magic Whip - Blur    8
To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar       9
Commontime – Field Music 6
Untitled - Kendrick Lamar 7
Love Songs for Robots - Patrick Watson  7
All your Favourite Bands - Dawes              6
Currents - Tame Impala 6
Get to Heaven - Everything Everything    6
Coming Home - Leon Bridges      7
1989 - Ryan Adams 4
Second Love – Emmy the Great 7
Painting With – Animal Collective 6
Y Dadd Olaf – Gwenno 5
Pleasure Boy - Hannah Cohen     4
My Love is Cool - Wolf Alice         4
Salad Days – Mac DeMarco          5
Royal Blood – Royal Blood 5
Pom Pom - Ariel Pink      5
You Were Right – Brendan Benson           5
Total Strife Forever – East India Youth     5
Post Tropical – James Vincent McMorrow             6
Everybody Down – Kate Tempest              6
Lost Domain – Tim Wheeler        5
After the Disco – Broken Bells     5
First Mind – Nick Mulvey              6
DEAD – Young Fathers   6
Seven Dials – Roddy Frame          6
Upside Down Mountain - Bright Eyes 5
Brill Bruisers – New Pornographers          6
Present Tense – Wild Beasts        5
Mug Museum – Cate Le Bon        7
Lazaretto – Jack White   6
Rips – Ex Hex     7
My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall          7
Bonxie - Stornoway         6
What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World - The Decemberists          6
Hollow Meadows - Richard Hawley           5
The Light in You - Mercury Rev   5
Courting the Squall - Guy Garvey               5
Modern Blues – The Waterboys 5
The Embers of Time - Josh Rouse              5
Blood - Lianne La Havas 6
Sermon on the Rocks - Josh Ritter             6
Everything Ever Written - Idlewild             6
Goon - Tobias Jesso        6
Marks to Prove It - The Maccabees           6
Poison Season - Destroyer           6
The Lake Poets - The Lake Poets 6
Sprinter - Torres               6
Black Messiah - D'Angelo              6
Wildheart - Miguel          6
The Cellardyke Recording and Wassailing Society – James Yorkston           7
I Never Learn – Lykke Li 7
Futurology – Manic Street Problems        7
Popular Problems – Leonard Cohen         7
The Take Off and Landing of Everything - Elbow  7
Eska - Eska          6
Cradle to Grave - Squeeze            6
Pray for Rain - Pure Bathing Culture         6
Grey Tickles, Black Pressure - John Grant               6
Matador - Gaz Coombes               6
Art Angels - Grimes         6
Multi-Love - Unknown Mortal Orchestra                6
Lateness of Dancers – Hiss Golden Messenger    7
Carry on the Grudge – Jamie T    7
I Can't Do Without You - Caribou               7
My Favourite Faded Fantasy – Damien Rice          7
The Voyager – Jenny Lewis          7
Everyday Robots – Damon Albarn             7
The Midwest Farmer's Daughter - Margo Price 7
Dear Satellite - Mull Historical Society 6
A Sailor's Guide to Earth - Sturgill Simpson 8
The Hope Six Demolition Project - PJ Harvey 6
Singing Saw - Kevin Morby 7
Distance Inbetween - The Coral 6
Anti - Rihanna 7
Lemonade - Beyonce 10
The Life of Pablo - Kanye West 5
Crab Day - Cate Le Bon 6
Something More than Free - Jason Isbell 8
Side Pony - Lake Street Dive 7
Moon Shaped Pool - Radiohead 7
Blackstar - David Bowie 8
The Colour in Anything - James Blake 6
Hopelessness - Anohni 6
Konnichiwa - Skepta 6
Fallen Angels - Bob Dylan 6
Let the Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul - Dexys 6
Good Times! - The Monkees 7
Love You to Death - Tegan and Sara 7
Stranger to Stranger - Paul Simon 8
Love and Hate - Michael Kiwanuka 8
Why Are You OK - Band of Horses 6
Patience - The Invisible 6
case/lang/veirs - case/lang/veirs 8
Meet the Humans - Steve Mason 7
Nice as Fuck - Nice as Fuck 6
The Bride - Bat for Lashes 7
The Dreaming Room - Laura Mvula 8
Night Thoughts - Suede 5
Freetown Sound - Blood Orange 6
Light Upon the Lake - Whitney 7
Eyes on the Line - Steve Gunn 6
Furnaces - Ed Harcourt 7
Blonde - Frank Ocean 5
Schmilco - Wilco 7
Skeleton Tree - Nick Cave 9
No Mind No Money - Beach Baby 7
Astronaut Meets Appleman - King Creosote 6
Future Echoes - The Pictish Trail
Mangy Love - Cass McCombs
Foreverland - The Divine Comedy 5
Trick - Jamie T 6
Here - Teenage Fanclub 7
My Woman - Angel Olsen 7
We Move - James Vincent McMorrow 5
Seat at the Table - Solange 7
Joanne - Lady Gaga 6
Le Chaleur Humaine - Christine and the Queens 8
The Divine Comedy
You Want it Darker - Leonard Cohen 7
Views - Drake
Ruminations - Conor Oberst 8
American Band - Drive-By Truckers 7
Bon Iver
Remember Us To Life - Regina Spektor 6
Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop
Leonard Cohen
Jamila Woods
Drive-by Truckers
Mark Eitzel

Easypeasy, this reviewing business. If in doubt, give it a 6.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Trellick Tower

Trellick Tower - Emmy the Great

This is not only one of my favourite songs of the last decade, but also one I consider a truly great song.

It's on Emmy the Great's second studio album, from 2011, called 'Virtue'. The album generally expanded the sonic palette from her debut album 'First Love' but this song stands out for its spare simplicity.

The melody is simple, lilting and repetitive, shifting subtly every now and then to great effect.

Though biographical knowledge shouldn't really matter and might often be deemed intrusive, in this case it was well known, and is helpful to know, that Emmy the Great wrote the song about a former fiance who had broken off the relationship in order to pursue the work of God (as a missionary, I think, though perhaps that's padding).

The song is an elegy for the relationship. If you didn't know the back story you might reasonably think it is about the death (even religion-inspired suicide) of a loved one. It mourns.

Trellick Tower, in case you don't know, is that beautifully ugly towerblock that dominates the West London skyline, the one with the lift shaft at the end attached only by occasional walkways. It was designed by Erno Goldfinger, and is a thing one is never sure whether to love or hate.

I'd guess 100s of 1000s of people have some kind of sentimental attachment to it, some tale in which its shadow looms.  I think of it in terms of Sundays as a child, my father picking us up from Ealing and driving us that short stretch of the A40 into his flat off the Edgware Road. Trellick Tower is visible pretty much the length of the journey. I'd always stare at it as we drove past, measuring the journey by our angle to it. Weird and wonderful.

Trellick rhymes with Relic. That's serendipitous for this song. The song is grounded in an urban reality but also makes skilled and learned use of Christian imagery. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I love it. I sometimes think the reason I had some hope that there was something for me in Coldplay was Chris Martin's lyrics often reminding me of the Book of Common Prayer or Hymns Ancient and Modern, that beige and comforting version of Christianity which provided some succour in my teenage years.

But Emmy the Great does it 50 times better. This is a deeper, more passionate and spiritual understanding of the lure of faith. There is one line in particular which I think is a little masterpiece. Funny, as is sometimes the case, that, here 2 minutes 9 seconds through the 10th track on an album from 2011 few people bought, is a line of an insight and simple beauty I've rarely heard. She sings "I think relics ache for when the saint had breath, they miss the thing that changed them".

Perhaps the line has a particular resonance for me. I always enjoyed learning about relics when I studied Medieval History - these random items supposed imbued with holiness, the way that a place could become a site of pilgrimage, of renown, by claiming to have a spoon which was once bent by St Frodo of Ithicum.

But, also, it's just a great line in a love song.

I remembered, as well, that one of my less appalling poems in my splenetic youth was some concise albeit melodramatic relic of a relic. I was but 20, I don't know how it stands now, but I minded it less than other things for a long time. I've edited just a couple of words nevertheless.

If i took a holy relic
in these clammy palms of mine
maybe i'd use it an ashtray
or maybe i'd drink cheap white wine
out of the sacred chalice,
maybe i would be that careless
with my brittle little soul,
maybe i'd use the ancient bowl
in which Christ washed disciples' feet
to vomit out a night's deceit.

Fun guy, i was ...

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

March 1

There've been no posts on either blog for ages - I've been busy with work and other things, and to be honest I haven't got much interesting on my mind, nor listened to much new music or watched many new films.

But I like to keep it ticking over. I unwisely said a few months ago that I'd use the blog mainly as as vehicle for improving writing verse. Nonsense, of course. I've done neither for ages. But I have, at least, a couple of things I wrote a few months ago to keep the blog ticking over.

I had a go at writing some pessimistic polemic - there's nothing particularly new here but there is at least some ripe rage and I managed to stick closely to a slightly awkward rhyme scheme, so I'm happy enough with it.

Those goading right wing fight hawks, smuggened up
 to rosy relish in the puking bliss
of victory, doubled over and in bold
blue capital C condescension, kiss
their own worst features patriotically,
impatient for a victim kind enough to lay out cold
with one breathtaking sucker punch, a sleight of hand which twists
the neck, attacks the brain and breaks the wrists.

The tricks they can resort to with no fear
Of nights disrupted by the pricks of cruel
Self-loathing range in subtlety, but serve
to spark new outrage without fail, and fool
The rump who rally round robotically
To claim the victim, rife with pride and high on nihilist nerve,
A drain on good resources and a privileged pariah
Who has no business holding his chin higher.

The richest joke, they’ll tell us, while their knives
Carve out our eyes – 'we sold you our old traps
But you’d no clue how best to use them, nor,
Of course, the heart. You misread all our maps
And mimicked the dark trade pathetically.
There is nothing so amusing as a left-wing slack jaw
Trying to sing a hymn he can’t abide, his shoulders taut
At meekly spouting all he so long fought.'

Our tragedy is weakness as a sign
Of moral strength. The winner’s game’s employs
Such shameless disregard for history’s arc
From shadow men who leave it to the boys
To waste time speaking out prophetically
On hope and progress – luxuries for the corduroy chattering class,
They spit, such elegantly brazen poisonous tirades
With gleeful privilege that never fades.