23 December 2006

R.I.P. Sorcha The Pretty Kitty

4 Home - 39 p.r.S.P.

Aloicious has informed us via e-mail that my cat Sorcha had to be put down a couple of days ago. She apparently was in such a state that both the animal control "expert" and the veterinarian, whom he had gone to for advice, both agreed that it seemed to be the best course of action. This seems very very sad to me and I will miss her lots.

Sorcha was adopted by myself, my room-mate Clyde* and my two sisters when we shared an apartment in Manchester, Conn in 1998/'99. One of my sisters' pet budgie had passed away during one of the severe winter cold snaps. She was distraught and wanted a new pet right away. My other sister enthusiastically signed on to the plan, but I was a bit hesitant--knowing that both had active social lives and probably wouldn't be around much past the initial adoption to feed and clean up after the animals.

Well, one day, they rushed off to the animal shelter--and suddenly we were the owners of not one, but two little kittens. One we called Astral and the other one, who promptly hid underneath the refridgerator--so much so that we had to tilt the 'fridge back to set her loose--I called "Sorcha" (which is Irish Gaelic for 'Sarah', I think). No particular reason, I just thought it was a cool name. She had a really beautiful coat, tortoise-shell black on her back, all-white underneath and raccoon-like black stripes all the way down her tail. She also had these piercing green eyes which shone out, especially in the dark. The two got on well, and even curled up next to each other to sleep.

We started to notice that while Sorcha began to grow, Astral wasn't. She also began to eat less and less. My sister and Clyde brought Astral to the vet and they were told that she had a genetic liver disease and wouldn't live too much longer, even with acostly operation designed to fight the disease. With heavy hearts, we decided to have her put down. One of my sisters interpreted it as a sign of some sort--but I just thought that Astral seemed to be unlucky, poor thing. Sorcha ended up becoming "my" cat on default, when, as I had suspected--nobody else seemed to have the time to care for her. I think she also bonded to me, because I was the one who had fed her and cleaned her litterbox from the beginning.

Eventually, both sisters elected to leave the apartment, for different reasons--and it was far too expensive for Clyde and I to stay there. We tried to rope in some possible room-mates, as the pad was really nice and we didn't want to leave. In the end we moved out into a smaller place just down the road--and Sorcha moved with us. She never the most sociable cat and when we would have visitors or parties, she would dart into my bedroom to hide until the commotion had settled. She did actually let my friend Cathy pet her one night while Cathy was visiting--a rare occurance indeed. I tired of living with Clyde over the course of the year-lease--he had been my room-mate for four years at that point and while I tried to be patient with him, he just seemed to me to be irresponsible with money and just a mess most of the time. Once again, the race for another room-mate was on--and again, it didn't pan out, so regrettably, I moved back into my folks' house in East Hartford. On the day we were leaving the apartment, we had almost finished packing everything into the moving van--when I noticed Sorcha was missing. Thinking that she had run out while we had the front door propped open, we searched out in the snow (it was January) and ice for over an hour. I really thought she had gone and became very upset--only to find that she had been hiding underneath my folded-up comforter. It was such a relief to find her, as I knew she wouldn't survive outside--being an indoor cat her whole life.

That year (2001 Gregorian), I moved three different times. I stayed at my folks' place for a few months, then moved into the attic space of a house in Hartford for the summer. That proved to be not to my liking and I moved out in a hurry in September, following some drastic events (September 11th being just one of them--it's a whole other story). I stayed at my sister and her boyfirends' apartment for a couple of weeks, then stayed with a co-worker, who's fiancee was generous enough to invite me to stay at their house for a bit. They lived in Ellington, about 20 minutes away from East Hartford, and it was nice to stay there and get my head together for a while--until his relatives needed a place to stay for Thanksgiving. It was back to the folks' for me, for the next three years, in fact.

Sorcha was a trooper though all of the moving--and adjusted to each new place quite quickly. In the house in Hartford, she was often my only companion. The parking there was almost non-existant, which left a lot of visitors hesitant to stop by. I spent the summer in the stifling heat, reading Terence McKenna books, watching taped episodes of Six Feet Under and listening to Cocteau Twins albums--waiting for it to get cool enough at night to fall asleep and watching Sorcha "chase" birds while she was looking out of the window. At my work-mate's house--she mainly had to stay in the guest room, where I was staying, because of their Great Dane, Ava. The same situation confronted her at the folks'--with their pit bull and Alsatian/Labrador cross both trying to play with her/chase her around the house. I remember a funny moment when Xena (the pit) got a bit too close and received a well-timed clip on the nose from Sorcha. It was great, too, because my father kept insisting on "his dogs" superiority to her.

Pixie and I "got together" officially in 2003 and I was considering moving over to the UK to be with her. My biggest move yet and naturally, I wanted to bring Sorcha along yet again. The main stumbling block to taking her over was Herbie, Pixie's black Labrador. We knew that Herbie and Sorcha wouldn't mix--so the solution seemed to be to either find someone in England who could take Sorcha in while Herb was still around (he's 11 now)--or see if someone in Conn. could take her in. We couldn't find anyone here and our options in Conn. dried up fairly quickly. Aloicious agreed to take Sorcha in for a while, because he thought that he would only have her for a year, tops. Well, a year turned into two...and almost three. Apparently, her behaviour deteriorated over time and she seemed to become a nuisance, urinating on his clothes and futon. He sent me several e-mails stating that we either take her away from him or he would take her to a shelter. Eventually I had to agree to have her brought to a shelter--but Aloicious was even having trouble booking her into one. That was the last I heard before this latest message.

I suppose I feel like I let her down in a way--that I should have tried harder to get her a temporary home here--but there was also the cost of the flight and for the quarantine. There are also the stringent Defra pet importing rules that would need to be followed and she still had nowhere to stay here, even after the six-month quarantine. I also knew that she only would have a limited amount of time to stay with my brother. It was agonising not being able to do anything but sit and wait. I suppose it was probably for the best in the end, especially if her mental state had deteriorated to the point where the only option was to put her down. I'll miss you, Sorcha and I hope you're free and happy now.

*name changed for the sheer hell of it

Cross-posted at Demon Squad Local #77

21 December 2006

Log Cabin Home In The Shire

21 Demeter - 85 p.s.U.

It's an official six months since we began this here blog. It's the Winter Solstice for this Gregorian year. There wasn't much sunlight to be seen anyway, as most of England has been gripped in a chilly fog for the past couple of days--making the shortest day of the year seem even shorter.

Pixie and I have been getting ready for the annual Yuletide celebrations--going through the usual rigamarole, shopping for gifts (made slightly easier by IntraWeb purchasing), writing out cards and sending them...and drinking mead (for me) and mulled wine (for her).

Mighty cheers out to Singing Bear for the small pack of groovy CDs he sent--especially the Load Of Old Bollocks mix disc--a compendium of guilty pleasures ranging from Chicory Tip (dig that synth line!) to Barry White and even Golden Earring's Radar Love (with that ultra-catchy bass riff)..rock on, brother!

Another round of "Thank You"s go out to all of our friends and family who sent cards and gifts. It's nice to know that you're being thought of, even when you're downloading Samla Mammas Manna and Wigwam albums and can't be arsed to even shoot off a quick e-mail to say "Hello". It means a lot to us.

I discovered a very cool thing last week. It looks like Robert Anton Wilson has started up a blog. He's still recovering from his illness and has some time to post. You can check it out here--I've been frequenting there quite a bit lately, just to check to see when Bob drops a new post. Some members of the Maybe Logic Academy (founded mostly by R.A.W.himself) have started up a blog as well (ed. note - It actually started last year - I've just been slow to catch on--as usual). You kinda have to have some knowledge of Wilson's books and interests to "get" the posts--but it's a hoot nonetheless. The M.L.A. blog, called Only Maybe, can be found here.

...and finally--it's a Yuletide message from ol' Aloicious P. McGinnis himself--to all of you:

"I wish you all very Merry (Happy) Christmas, and a Happy New Year. FelizNavidad, Buono Natale, Joyeux Noel, frohe Weihnachten ! I hope that in the New Year that you achieve the goals you have set for yourself, and that you get to spend as much time as you want with your families and friends. Enjoy the Holidays, and the New Year brings new challenges and new goals for you all !!! Cheers"

Amen. Happy Solstice Everyone!

10 December 2006

Vashti Bunyan/Goldrush - The Zodiac, Oxford - December 9, 2006 (Greg.)

19 Azar - Year 1385

Our first gig at the Zodiac since it was sold to the Carling (tm) chain last month, featured a couple of hometown heroes.

Vashti Bunyan, the underground psych-folkie who was briefly part of the Incredible String Band's late-60s commune, is originally from Oxford. She released one largely-ignored (at the time) record, Just Another Diamond Day, in 1970--and then disappeared for twenty-odd years. The album was 're-discovered' by nu-folk vanguards Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom and The Coco Rosie--who started name-dropping Bunyan and even got her to perform a few 'comeback' shows. This led to her long-belated follow-up to "Diamond Day", Lookaftering (featuring Banhart and Newsom)--which was released last year. This would be her first Oxford gig since the mid-60s. Goldrush have been Oxford scenesters for awhile now and have had some UK-wide attention. They are also founders of local label, Truck Records, which puts on a nice festival every summertime--sorta the indie-kids' version of Cropredy. They've always been O-town runners-up to Supergrass and Radiohead--and it seems they should be more well-known than they are. They seem a bit of a mix between The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Neil Young--with lead singer/rhythm guitarist Robin Bennett's vocals sounding more than a little like the Lips' Wayne Coyne, which ain't a bad thing, to me anyway. Apparently, a while back, his vocals owed a debt to Super Furry Animals mainman Gruff Rhys.

The first sign of "meet the new boss" came when Pixie's handbag was searched as we were entering the venue. She said that only happened once before--and I've never seen it happen since I've been attending gigs with her there. A real W.T.F.???!! moment happened as we entered the upper hall. There were four or five tables set up, with flowers and candles--as if we were in a bleedin' restaurant!! Some punters were already sitting at the tables--and people in front of the tables were sitting on the grubby floor so as not to block the view. I hope this development was only for this gig, in anticipation of an older crowd--otherwise it will seem a shame and may cause a 'haves and have-nots' feeling amongst the crowds. Oh yeah--hope you didn't enjoy Boddington's ale that much--'cos it's gone and been replaced with Carling brand.

KTB, a Truck-sponsored act were up first--and I wasn't too impressed. It was that same-ol'-same-ol' folkie singer-songwriter stuff you've heard so many times before, only it's done much better by people like Eliza Carthy, Kate Rusby and a million others you can think of. The lead singer even finished the set with a song with "willow tree" in the title--seriously, that should be banned from use as it seems to be a painful English folk cliche to me. The back-up vocals were handled by a couple of her mates--who were reading the lyrics from a notebook--and this is meant to be KTB's 'new single'..right. The Epstein were up next and their set was more enjoyable--though it seems Carling hasn't invested in a new sound system--'cos the mix still sounds shit for a louder band. The Epstein play a country/indie-rock synthesis similar to Goldrush's and it easy to see why they made the bill. They even have a guy playing electric banjo--I was hoping he was going to bust into some sort of Hendrix-inspired feedbacked banjo solo...but no. Still, we were treated to a quick set and apparently, it was the drummer's final gig with the group and I suspect he's of Russian descent because they finished with him vocalizing a Russian waltz--one of the guitarists oom-pah-ing away on a melodica.

Vashti took the stage after a 20-minute intermission, to the raucous applause of the crowd. She was joined by her 4-piece backing band, including a cello player and violin player. She can still hit all the notes perfectly--and she exuded a shy stage presence with her hippie-dippy charm intact. The "hits" were out of the way early in the set--with Just Another Diamond Day and her psych-folk gem Winter Is Blue following each other as the second and third tunes she played. A couple of newer ones were next, from "Lookaftering"--then another from "Diamond Day"--and that was all. She scurried offstage, smiling and looking like she enjoyed herself, basking in the applause.

Goldrush appeared after a few minutes and fired off a short preview set of all-new material from their forthcoming new one, The Heart Is The Place (due out in February, according to Robin). Going by what I heard, the Rev and Lips influence seems quite strong--though on one of the tunes, they managed to rock out a Neil Young-esque jam for the coda. Robin announced the song I'm Not A Machine as his "Woody Guthrie tune" and 24 definitely had a Mercury Rev-like sombre feel to it. There was also an unintentionally funny moment as John Bennett's keyboard stand collapsed and he finished the tune kneeling on the stage, sheepishly looking over at the rest of the group. Robin said "How come that didn't happen during Vashti Bunyan?" Karma, dude....just joking....maybe. They finished with just John and Robin, playing a semi-acoustic tune.

It was then announced that Vashti would be back on stage with her two friends, Jenny Lewis and Angela Strange. They performed in the early-to-mid 60s as The Three Of Us. The three duly filed out, took their seats and performed a close-harmony folk set that included Bunyan's early songwriting efforts and a cover of the Everly Brothers' Dream. This time Goldrush were their backing band and they did a nice job--playing with subtlety and grace--it was perfect for the trio's material. If only the crowd were quieter--especially during "Dream"--I almost thought I was at Brookes Uni., with the loud, annoying student crowds.

A good gig, and despite the (relatively small) annoyances--one worthy of attendance, especially for the chance to see another 60s survivor like Bunyan. The fact that she was so reclusive for so long makes it even more poignant. Hopefully she'll want to play some more shows, based on the positive response she received from the crows.

We may have to go back to see Goldrush, if they play an album launch show in February. Let's hope they've got a better keyboard stand next time.

28 November 2006

RIP Alan 'Fluff' Freeman

I've just heard the news that the venerable DJ, Alan 'Fluff' Freeman has passed away. One of the original BBC Radio One DJs, Fluff was best known for being the voice of the Top 30 or 40 (depending which year it was) 'countdown' where he was prone to using his well known catchphrases 'pop pickers' and 'not 'alf!'. Fluff's Sunday evening chart show was a must for all pop fans back in the 70's when the charts really meant something and a single had to sell around a million to reach number one.

If he is most famous for all things 'top 30' there was another, groovier side to Fluff. In the 70's, someone decided that it would be cool to give him his own 'rock' show on Saturday afternoons, where Fluff could play the stuff he really loved. So it would be that I would find myself glued to the radio on most Saturdays, come rain or shine, listening to the likes of ELP (his faves), Yes, Deep Purple, VdGG, Genesis and all sorts of other wonders for a whole three hours! A true education for a great-coated teenager back then. This was pretty revolutionary programming. The funny thing was, Freeman still did stints on the weekday 'housewives' afternoon slots where he would sneak in some real rockers. On a number of occasions I recall hearing the likes of Purple rocking the old dears to pieces. Well done, Fluff!

Fluff was also the true inspiration behind Harry Enfield's Dave Nice (I believe that's the Enfield one). Don't let anyone ever tell you it has anything to do with that prize creep, Simon Bates. RIP Fluff. Let's rock! Not 'alf!!

25 November 2006

Down In The Digital Flood

25 As - Year 169 Pataphysical

I haven't been posting much here either lately--mostly due to being busy doing other things and also a bit of "lack of inspiration". The busy part comes down to our long-awaited upgrade to broadband (Yee-Haw!)--we finally bit the bullet and signed up about six weeks ago. Since then, I have been a virtual kid-in-a-candy-store, downloading rare and out-of-print prog stuff from MP3 Sale and fromSoulseek. I did attempt to go "legit" with Napster, but the sign-up process failed, and I ended up being charged for the fee without being able to log in--I had my money refunded, but I decided not to try again. I've also d/l'ed Azureus, the bit-torrent client, for use at The Trader's Den, but I haven't figured out how to increase the upload speed--so until I do, I can't use it much--lest I be labelled a "leech" and get booted from the site. I did manage to grab Yes' show from Colston Hall in Bristol from May 1975 and I will be passing a copy to Singing Bear--as that lucky bastard was actually there. I've also d/l'ed records from Klaus Schulze, some Tangerine Dream boots--mainly from '74 to '77, Dzyan, Finch, Heldon and the Voice Of Eye/Life Garden collaboration, The Hungry Void - Volumes One and Two--and there'll be lots more (fingers crossed that the RIAA won't be able to shut MP3 Sale down for a while yet).

I talked with Aloicious P. McGinnis last night and everything seems O.K. with the fam. He says that he's been running around like the proverbial "chicken missing it's head" and has has zero time to post. Hopefully he'll have more time in a little while.

Robert Altman, one of the last real cool film directors, has left the planet. His finest achievement will probably always be M*A*S*H, the anti-war film set in the Korean conflict, but released at the height of the debacle in Vietnam--that in itself took balls of stainless steel. It also launched the careers of Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould, who played the proto-hippie, anti-establishment surgeons, 'Hawkeye' Pierce and 'Trapper John' McIntyre. Also featured, in a strong performance, was Robert Duvall, as self-righteous X-tian patriot, Frank Burns...and of course, Sally Kellerman as "Hot Lips" Houlihan, who shared Burns' respect for 'the rules' and God-fearing patriotism. The film was made into a TV show (ironically, Altman started out as a television director) and it's biting anti-war/anti-establishment humour was dumbed-down and Burns' character was transformed into a simpering wimp, played by Larry Linville. Alan Alda is now more-remembered for the Hawkeye role than Sutherland. Such seems to be the way. Altman continued on, releasing 'tiny epic', large-cast films throughout the 70s. I did see most of Nashville, but to be honest--I started watching it somewhere past the beginning and so I couldn't grasp what was going on. He flopped with Popeye in 1980 (though I thought it was genius casting Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl)--but bounced back with the acclaimed Tanner '88 series on HBO (way before Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts film), which chronicled the U.S. presidential election goings-on, much like an American version of Yes, Prime Minister. His Hollywood satire The Player also brought him back to the forefront, as did Short Cuts, which I didn't like as much as I thought I would--still, a unique film for '93..before all the Tarantino clones would sweep cinemas. He endured a few more flops, such as Dr. T. And The Women--which I did see and didn't really like at all--too much preening Richard Gere--but came back again with Gosford Park, an excellent English murder mystery, featuring Stephen Fry as the bumbling inspector investigating the case--and the great performances from Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith and Emily Watson. Altman was also a long-time pot-smoker--and didn't hide that fact. His maverick style will be missed. R.I.P. Robert.

There was the whole ex-Russian spy poison plot, too. I guess in the age of "The War On Terrah", some folks got nostalgic for some good ol' Cold War cloak-n-dagger stuff. Just in time for the new James Bond flick, too. Hmmmmm.....

Last--but certainly not least--I received an e-mail from Antares at Magick River. Here's the bulk of it:

Aloha all, I just received the following message to the world UFO community from A.J. Guevard who is the editor of Brazil's UFO Magazine. In it he announces the prediction of a Brazilian spiritual teacher and contactee, Jan Val Eliam, that extraterrestrial contact will occur some time between November 16, 2006 and April 30, 2007. What got my attention was the manner in which he described extraterrestrials showing up and ending the Cosmic Watergate:

"It will involve many huge spacecrafts that will be seen by everybody all over the world. The sighting will last only a couple of hours and the ETs will not perform any direct contact with the governments, but only with selected people here and there". Freitas also claims that the UFOs will be seen and largely registered by media, in such a way that the sighting will be undeniable by any means. "They will go away after a few hours but will be back after some months, and repeat it over and over, until we are prepared for their landing".

The above contact scenario matches in my opinion the optimal way for extraterrestrials to end the prolonged UFO/ET coverup by minimizing societal disruption and potential governmental opposition. Guevard maintains a neutral position on Eliam's prediction and describes the great controversy it has generated in Brazil. Guevard is one of Brazil's most competent UFO researchers so his neutrality suggests that one should not simply dismiss Eliam's prediction. While there have been many predictions of extraterrestrials showing up in mass landings, we should pay special attention to the method described by Eliam's prediction which is pretty close to how it will eventually occur. This prediction is something to definitely keep in mind over the months ahead.

Michael Salla, PhD

I suppose most will either dismiss that as rubbish, or completely believe every word. Either way, I suppose it depends on Game Rules. That is, if you play by the believer/non-believer UFO game--the rules seem to be: 1) All "UFO"s 'are' alien spacecraft and 2) the 'Space Brothers' really do/do not exist. I'm staying agnostic, as much as I try to do these days. Maybe it'll happen--maybe it won't. If it does, then it'll seem that all of the UFO/contactees will be vindicated...if it doesn't, then Guevard will just seem like the kook that all the non-believers think he is anwyay. As for the believers, they'll just think he got his timing wrong--and keep waiting for the Space Brothers to appear.

24 November 2006

Neil Young : Living With War

Apologies to my colleagues here at Blog Is Not......I haven't posted in an age and what I have posted has been pretty ephemeral. Apologies too, of course, to our legions of readers out there in Blogland. Anyway, I'm not really going to make it up to you right now because I only have time for a rapid-fire, guerilla style post but I just want to say how much I love Neil Young's most recent album. I know this one came out some months ago and it has taken me a long time to get to it but I'm glad I have. Neil makes a lot of albums and in recent years some have been a little hit and miss but Living With War really does hit the spot. For this album Young is back in 'Godfather of Grunge' (yuck!) mode, really cranking up the amps and hitting some very dirty chords. The reason for his burning passion? Seems he's wound up a little about the 'Iraq Debacle' and twisted minds in the White House. Lets be generous to Neil and forget that he once, around the time of 'back to the land' album, Old Ways, came out as a born-again Reaganite. We've all made mistakes, Neil, and you've certainly made up for it now! Every track reminds one of his glory days with Crazy Horse, from opener 'After The Garden', through the storming rage of 'Shock and Awe', the anger of 'Let's Impeach The President' to the penultimate 'Roger and Out'. The album closes, much like The Deer Hunter, with a wonderfully ironic 'America The Beautiful, except of course, he does think that America is beautiful but it's been hi-jacked by the Neo-Cons who have dragged it into the depths of the cess-pit.

Some might say that Young makes it seem all too simple and that global politics is far too complicated to be analysed on rock and roll album but really it IS that simple. Killing people is terrible; sending people to fight in an unjust and illegal war is terrible; politicians lying to the electorate is terrible; the establishment using the 'War On Terror' as an excuse to spy on the public and lock people up for years on end without charge is terrible; fraudulent elections are terrible...I don't need to go on. Neil Young has taken the temperature of the Western world and found that it is gravely sick. Best protest album in a very long time.

12 November 2006

The TSOG's House Of Cards Crumbles??

12 Tula - 1927 Saka era

The mid-term elections in the States happened last week--essentially a battle for the Congress (I can't remember if local state elections are involved also).

It seems that the TSOG (the Tsarist Occupation Government) took a bit of a beating at the polls--and George W. Moron crouched down with his tail lodged between his fore legs, hind legs and ears. He tried to joke about the situation, but, as usual, fluffed his lines.

Another consequence of the backlash is that Donald Rumsfeld, "architect" (if that's how you can describe the action) of the Iraq invasion and seemingly every inch a cartoon villain, was forced to step down from his post. Was it a "brave soldier taking his punishment" or "the rats deserting the sinking ship"...or maybe both?

So the Democrats have control of the Congress for the first time in 12 years--hoop-dee-doo. I don't think it's gonna be all "sunshine, lollipops and cotton candy" now. The Democrats have proved themselves to be the other side of the same coin time and again, full of the same professional politician class that makes up the Republicans. Still, it was nice to see any sort of humbling of the TSOG--especially over it's botched invasion and woeful domestic policies.

Meanwhile, back at the Baghdad ranch--Rummy's ol' buddy, Saddam Hussein, looks set to wear a rope necktie. There was a lot of talk about capital punishment and sovereign nations' right to choose their own methods of law. I still think that if the git was assassinated 3 years ago--it woulda saved a whole lot of aggrevation and bloodshed--but that's only my humble opinion. I don't agree with the death penalty--but then, a lot of Goddamn Insane's victims prolly didn't either--it's a tough call to make.

So The Smirking Chimp officially becomes a lame duck--it'll be interesting to see what happens in two years. In another, sorta related but maybe not way--I agree with Elton John in his view of organised religion. I don't like much of his music (well, anything after 1976 seems to be pretty much AOR twaddle to me)--but I think he's right on when it comes to this topic.

31 October 2006

Happy Samhain and the Pepper Calendar

16 Wandering - 39 p.r.S.P.

For about five or six years now, I have been marking the Celtic new year's eve--also called Samhain (pronounced 'Sow-in'--like the pig, not sowing seeds)--mainly to remind myself that "reality" isn't just contained in an X-tian/Gregorian matrix. Not all new years start on January 1st--in fact, only the Gregorian new year does. I did get a small inkling of this when I was younger, because I would see footage of Chinese New Year celebrations and those took place in February (Gregorian)--if I'm recalling correctly, which seemed strange to me at the time because they didn't mark their new year in January "like everyone else".

I only really became aware of calendar differences after reading this piece by Robert Anton Wilson (it appears in one of his books--maybe Cosmic Trigger III--I can't remember which one at the moment, but I read it there before I read it in an on-line form). It hits home the idea of how your "reality" is shaped by others' ideas of timekeeping and imposed "order" on universe.

I've been asked by Pixie and Singing Bear about "those weird numbers" and words above each of my posts. I've taken R.A.W.'s advice as an exercise (yeah, I'm ripping him off a bit) and I'm heading each of my posts with a date from a different calendar, whether it's the Hebrew, Islamic, Discordian or Thelemic (Aleister Crowley's calendar), even the Mayan 'Long Count' calendar. I've also developed my own system, based partly on Ezra Pound's calendar, which uses the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses in 1921 (Gregorian) as it's 'Year Zero' start. My system is based on the 1967 album by The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The record seems to be the high (no pun intended...maybe)-water mark of the fabled "Summer Of Love" to me. It was released on June 1, 1967--so that becomes the Year Zero date. Each month has 33 days (from the original album turntable speed of 33 and 1/3 r.p.m.)--making a total of 11 months and 363 days in a year.

The month names are:
Month 1 - "Pepper"
Month 2 - "Shears"
Month 3 - "Lucy"
Month 4 - "Change"
Month 5 - "Wandering"
Month 6 - "Home"
Month 7 - "Kite"
Month 8 - "Wight"
Month 9 - "Rita"
Month 10 - "Tea"
Month 11 - "Dream"

As you may have guessed--the names come from either words in the title of the tunes, or part of the lyrics in each tune (barring "Within You Without You" and "Sgt. Pepper's (reprise)"--I couldn't do much with those two). I haven't come up with any weekday names yet--so the days are just numbers, such as: 3 Lucy, 10 Dream, etc. The year is shown as "p.r.S.P."--meaning 'post-release Sgt. Pepper's'. It's been a fun exercise to throw off the shackles of Pope Gregory's reality-tunnel, even if I lapse back into his concensus "reality" for work hours and social occasions.

Speaking of the good Dr. Wilson--he had a couple of bad falls over the summer, due to the worsening of his post-polio condition. He has been in care since and is slowly recovering. Since the U.S. still (and probably never will) has no national health-care system, R.A.W.'s medical bills went through the roof. Douglas Rushkoff, another ontological guerilla and friend of Wilson, put out an on-line appeal and the Wilson-heads responded in droves. After seeing R.A.W.'s grateful 'thank you' to his fans at his website, I wanted to give a bit back to the man who's inspired me greatly with his writing--so I made a donation as well. If you're a Wilson-head and want to help the man out, you can make a donation by going to PayPal and sending it to R.A.W.'s account: olgaceline@gmail.com

Enjoy your Hallow's Eve.

30 October 2006

Forgotten Heroes of Pop (An Occasional Series)

Here's the first of occasional strolls down my memory tunnel to the (best?) forgotten heroes of 'pop'. Winnners of this week's Bear Award For Peak Pop Perfection In Groovy Hats goes to THE RUBETTES, who hit the UK 'charts' back in January 1974 with the awesome 'Sugar Baby Love'.

Sugar baby love, sugar baby love
I didn't make to make you blue
Sugar baby love, sugar baby love
I didn't mean to hurt you

All lovers make, make the same mistakes, yes they do
Yes, all lovers make, make the same mistakes as me and you

Sugar baby love, sugar baby love
I didn't make to make you blue
Sugar baby love, sugar baby love
I didn't mean to hurt you

People take my advice
If you love someone
Don't think twice

Love you baby love, sugar baby love
Love her anyway, love her everyday

As can be seen (I hope!) from the image above, they were a sartorially hyper-cool bunch of chaps. They appeared on 'Top of The Pops' many times during the mid-70's but none of their subsequent appearances could ever match that very first time when singer/strummer, Alan Williams, mimed the first high-pitched wails that open their seminal hit record. Interestingly, it is an established fact that Williams himself never actually 'sang' those histrionic, trouser-squeezing, vocals on the record; it was some anonymous backing singer type. Still, us Rubettes fans will never let that bother us, as 'Sugar Baby Love' is an incredidble slice of mid-period Brit-Pop that has rarely been bettered by any. Coming on like a rocknroll revivalist meeting mixed by Joe Meek, 'SBL' is a must for any self respecting popular music obsessive. After this the 'Rubes' went into steady decline and can now be seen at a workingmen's club near you.

Buy the album and sample tunes here at Amazon UK. (sorry links don't seem to work but please check the song out if you don't know it!)

16 October 2006

Bob Dylan and John Lennon, stoned in a London cab

This IS quite funny. From 'Eat The Document' but sadly cuts out before Dylan puked up.

Video Posts

Oh yeah, the Fiona Apple video wasn't funny, was it?! In fact it wasn't even a particularly good video! I quite like her, myself, but what I really liked more was the discovery that I could post videos here. Maybe better ones to come?

Random Musical Thoughts

Prickle-Prickle, Bureaucracy 70 - Year Of Our Lady Of Discord 3172

Pixie and I are going to reorganise the massive CD collection, which has led me to wonder about a few things:

1979 (Gregorian): I'm not sure (as always, there's room for doubt)--but was this a pretty shit year for music? I mean, for pop & rock, as I do claim ignorance of what was happening in classical music or world music or jazz (though Miles Davis was still in 'retirement'--so it was prolly a pretty shit year for jazz, too) or folk and country. Seriously, the airwaves seemed to be ruled by corporate-rock behemoths (Boston, Journey, Styx) and a few 70s dinosaurs were still lumbering around (Kiss, Ted Nugent). Progressive rock was nearly gone (the "big 4" were just about done--King Crimson and E.L.P. had already split and Genesis and Yes were already making pop crossover sounds), punk (as a revolutionary musical force) was on it's last legs. Pink Floyd issued their Roger Waters-led overblown ode to a depressed rich rock-star, The Wall, and a generation of white-trash miscreants received a call-to-arms with the "we don't need no education" line (and yeah, I did that whole "carrying the boom box through the halls on the last day of school, blasting 'Another Brick In The Wall - Part 2" thing also, so I'm poking fun at myself here, too). Fleetwood Mac went the Floyds one better and spent an unprecedented (at the time) 8 months in the studio creating (under the guidance of guitarist/singer Lindsey Buckingham--I suppose the rest of 'em were too coked-out to object) the hugely over-rated Tusk double-album. Like "The Wall", there are a few good tracks sprinkled in amongst the chaff--but I haven't bothered to listen to it in 15 years. There were the young up-starts--but when was the last time you listened to Regatta De Blanc, or Candy-O? I thought so. Even Kate Bush's Lionheart seems like a holding pattern album. I suppose the New York scene was still thriving and Talking Heads and Blondie were making pretty good records at this time. Overall, though..was 1979 crap?

Here's a few good records from '79 that I can think of:

Wire - 154
Steve Hillage - Rainbow Dome Musick
Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box
Tangerine Dream - Force Majeure
The Clash - London Calling (I know - a perennial list-maker's favourite - but it is a good record)
Talking Heads - Fear Of Music
Robert Fripp - Exposure
Throbbing Gristle - 20 Jazz Funk Greats

Not very definitive, I suppose--but you see what I mean.

What Happened To Bob Seger?: Man, in the early 80s, this guy was ubiquitous. I remember once in 1982, I think the local radio station played that Night Moves (or whatever it's called) song all day--no other songs, just that one. It certainly seemed that way. And that was the poppier, 'Top-40' station. If you turned to the rock stations, ya got Mainstreet, Kathmandu, Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight, Ramblin' Gamblin' Man..and that warhorse, Old Time Rock And Roll, which, if I hear it now--makes me want to claw my ears off of my head and choke 'The Seeg' with them. I mostly blame Tom Cruise and that stupid scene in that film where he dances around in his tighty-whiteys with a tie wrapped around his head, or something. Because of that, the song became an anthem for overweight, white, inbred idiots who would request the song everywhere (weddings, bars, dances), then go into spastic movements that they would refer to as 'dancing'. I know it's not really The Seeg's fault--but he did write the damn tune. It's tough to believe just how popular the guy was then, given that he seems to have virtually disappeared now. I mean, he was giving Bruce Springsteen a chase for the "classic all-'Murican boy" crown. I suppose his career was given a shot in the arm when Metallica covered his whiny rock-star-on-the-road dirge Turn The Page (yeah, Seeg--it's tough making all the bread and getting all that head, but y'know--someone's gotta do it..it's a good thing you've stepped into the fray and taken some for the team). Ford, or Chevy (does it matter?) also used his last big radio hit, Like A Rock (from 1986), for their truck ad campaign...for oh, about 200 years now. I feel a bit sorry for him, despite all of that--'cos once the greying 70s generation are shuffled into the nursing homes of the future--it seems that The Seeg's tunes will follow them there and stay--it doesn't seem to bode well for a Bob Seger revival. That's O.K., The Seeg is somewhere, still workin' on his night moves...

14 October 2006

Ursine Celebrations

Without wanting to seem utterly self obsessed, this post is here to mark my birthday, which occured a few days ago. Similarly, without wanting to seem too full of self pity, I'll make the following observations:

I've become an age that is kind of neither here nor there ( although one always seems to be becoming more 'there' as the years pass! ). What I mean to say is...it's just a middling, non-descript age. I'll leave it at that.

I've been in rather ropey health lately and this clouded the occasion a little. having said that, on the day, I was okay. The night before, I'd been chucking my guts up but I was blessed on the day itself.

As a consequence of the above, the day passed tather quietly.

My presents (bless the Bear family!) consisted of CDs and I'm suffering from one of my occasional bouts of semi-deafness!! D'oh!

So, having made these observations, it still must be said that ANY birthday HAS to be something to celebrate, so here's to me!

Anyway, today I went out and treated myself to a bunch of things by way of further celebration (terribly materialistic of me but I hope I may be forgiven). I bought a lovely little four CD set of Woody Guthtie songs. 99 tracks for £14. Yes, I have them all already on vinyl but it was time to take Woody into the new century. Great little collection. I also nabbed Johnny Cash's American 3: Solitary Man for a mere fiver. On top of this, I managed to get myself a wonderful poetry collection called The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, which is a massive tome that has poems/writing by the likes of Jack Micheline, Alan Kaufman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lenny Bruce, Gregory Corso, Ginsberg, Kathy Acker and many others (including Jim Morrison and Tupac but I'll probably skip those pages!). It's pretty awesome stuff. Not ALL great but well worth spending time on.

Thanks to all my family and friends for their love and thoughts. I love you all and once I'm feeling better I'll be bugging the hell out of you all one way or another again!

04 October 2006

Here's To Hoping...

12 Mehr - Year 1385

..'Cos something is happening, and you don't know what it is...do you, Mr. Bush.

27 September 2006

Would You Like Some Brain Cells With That, Ma'am?

51 Beamtennherrschaft - Year 6006

Probably old internet news by now, but....I found this over at LDopa. It's an hilarious 911 call in which a disgruntled nincompoop attempts to get the police involved when the Burger King she's at won't serve her from the drive-thru window, as it is being cleaned--of course, she never thought to just park her (I'm imagining) gigantor SUV and walk into the restaurant. Some people really seem to have no clue sometimes.

Courtesy of YouTube, you can listen to the exchange here. It'll provide hours of entertainment.

(Thanks to LDopa and The Consumerist for the link to YouTube)

21 September 2006

Happy Autumn Equinox

21 Athene - 85 p.s.U.

It's that time of year again, summer has faded and the cooler air is due. The weather outside today doesn't seem very late-September, however--it actually feels like mid-August. I think the months chose a role-reversal this year. Good news for the sun-worshippers.

To help ring in the equinox, a couple of links:

The first being the annual recipients of the Stupid Awards--doled out to those people and quotes who furthered the cause of stupidity throughout this year. Surprisingly, The Smirking Chimp, George W. Butthead didn't win "Stupidest Man Of The Year" (though he has my vote). You can check the awards out here.

For those who are waiting for the flood of spiders to invade their home to "get out of the cold"--here's a page debunking several arachnid myths.


17 September 2006

Back From The "Jurassic Coast"

24 Elul - Year 5766

Pixie and I arrived back from holiday on Friday afternoon--and it's back to work tomorrow--but first, a quick holiday recap.

We traveled down the M5 most of the way into deepest, darkest Devon--ending up in Sidmouth, a lovely seaside town. The beach is a must for Pixie, so onto the pebbles we went. After a bit of "paddling" (that's wading to us Yanks) near the shore and exploring various rock pools (it was low tide when we arrived)--it was time to stock up on food for the week and get to the cottage.

The cottage was very cozy and actually bigger than our house. The village it's in, Tipton St. John (which does sound like a character in Spinal Tap, as Singing Bear pointed out), is one of those tiny English places that couldn't possibly be anywhere else. One or two pubs, one post office, a school and homes built into the sides of hills--I hate to use the word 'quaint', but if the postcard-view fits....

Lyme Regis and Charmouth are worth a visit, if you ever are in that area. They're both seaside communities with fossil-strewn beaches--some of the most concentrated collections of prehistoric bones and imprints in the world. Visitors are welcome to comb the beaches for interesting finds, though there are plenty of shops open if you don't score a dino bone or ammonite shell imprint and still want a souvenir. Pixie and I had beginner's luck with us and each found a stone with an ammonite print--although mine seems to be made of some sort of metal, which may not make it an authentic Triassic item. It does have that spiral shape, so I kept it anyway.

A trip to Exeter, the largest town in that area and home to Exeter University, was next. We visited the cathedral and looked around at some of the shops. I was keen to find a funky little indie record shop, it being a college town and all--but the only one we stopped in was very small and the prices seemed a bit steep to me. There was a Music Zone shop, which was having a sale--so I picked up a couple of Tangerine Dream re-issues and a Strawbs disc. Pixie's folks kindly let us poach their National Trust membership cards for the week and we decided to check out Killerton Manor House & Gardens in a place called Broadclyst. Killerton is one of those regal 18th century houses, all huge portraits on the walls and antique furniture in every room. The house is nice (with a special display of ladies' evening wear from the 1800's through the 1970s) and the gardens are well-manicured and extensive, but I was glad we didn't have to pay admission, as it didn't seem worth the price charged for entrance to me.

Our final full day was spent in Exmouth, yet another seaside town (I'm sensing a pattern here). We decided to go on one of those tourist-y sea cruises. This one was called the "Jurassic Coast Tour" and went from Exmouth, up the coast to Sidmouth, and back. I was a bit unsettled by the rocking of the craft, but I got used to it after a while. We passed by a Royal Marines shooting range and you could hear the pops and clacks of the guns. The captain joked over the tannoy that only four passengers had been shot since he had been piloting. I found the tour interesting, especially when we were given a closer look at "sea stacks", towers of rock that are free-standing, due to being eroded away from the mainland--also a peregrine falcon nest, created in a nook high in one of the cliff-faces. Having some time left in the day, we headed to a town called Beer, to explore the old quarry caves there. You aren't allowed to brave the caves alone--so we joined a tour group already in progress, with our hard-hats on. An older woman served as our tour guide and I had a chuckly moment when I thought of the League Of Gentlemen episode featuring a cave tour guide with a deadpan voice. The quarry itself seemed fascinating to me, with the methods of extracting the stone and the graffiti on the walls, placed there by workers over the years. The cold down there made the tour a bit uncomfortable--but soon it was done and we were back in the late afternoon sunshine. Pixie's trusty Kensington 100 Rover nearly didn't make it out of the town, with all of the steep hill roads about.

Our nights were spent at the Golden Lion pub, in Tipton. There's a crew of regulars, you know 'em from every small-town pub. One guy we called "Crossword Guy", due to his constant quizzing of staff and his friends about words to fit his puzzle. Another sounded a lot like Ian McKellen, so he was called "Gandalf". There were a few others, but we lumped them in as "The Crew", as they didn't stand out as much as the aforementioned two. We also enjoyed a nice meal there on Wednesday night--we started with garlic mushrooms and for mains, I had lemon sole (not de-boned, unfortunately) and Pixie had veggie enchiladas--I finished with a chocolate-orange tart and Pixie had some ice cream. We'd recommend the Golden Lion, if you happen to be there.

As with all holidays, this one ended much too soon.

10 September 2006

Off To Devon

19 Bhadra - Year 1928

Pixie and I are taking a five-day break--so we're off to Tipton St. John in Devon. Hope the weather of the past few days holds--we've been spoiled with sun. There have been forecasts of rain for Monday and Tuesday.

Anyhoo--see you's in five days or so. This blog is in the laps of the gods & goddesses and in the erudite hands & minds of Singing Bear and Aloicious (if he shows up--he's been AWOL as of late).

07 September 2006

Bob Dylan: Modern Times

How does a self-confessed Dylan fanatic go about providing an objective overview of His Bobness's new album? In all honesty, I'm not sure it's truly possible. When one has lived with a passion for Dylan and his music for 30 years, objectivity doesn't really come into it. Even Bob's detractors have to acknowledge the enormous impact he has had on the last 40 plus years of popular culture and he has once again established his 'legend' status following the success of the No Direction Home film and the first part of his autobiographical odyssey, Chronicles. On top of this, since 1997, the renaissance in Dylan's musical output has, to certain ears, proved to be his ultimate triumph. Who could have predicted, back in the dark days of the mid-80's when recording disasters were followed by cinematic calamity, that we could talk about Bob so positively today? So, what about Modern Times? I'm coming to that but, first, a brief 'history' lesson.

By the end of the 80's it seemed as though Dylan was lost and it would only be a matter of time before he became a 'has-been' with only his 60's legacy to truly maintain his legend. He has revealed how he no longer felt able to write. He felt he had lost touch with whatever creative impulse once propelled him through the artistic stratoshere. At his lowest point, following truly terrible albums like Knocked Out Loaded and Down In The Groove, Dylan linked up with The Grateful Dead in what seemed, at the time, a desparate attempt the revive memories of his glory years. On the surface, Dylan and The Dead seems like a totally incongruous pairing. Dylan was very much 'anti-hippy' in the late 60's; rejecting the 'counter-culture' for the 'conservative' lifestyle and artistic expression of life in the Catskills with The Band and his family. However, The Dead themselves had always been in touch with the roots of the music and Dylan had connected artistically with Jerry Garcia. It must be said that the resulting live album was a complete failure but the tours they did together encouraged Dylan to re-evaluate his songs and rediscover the source from which they sprang. Dylan ended the decade on a real high-note with the Oh, Mercy album and there was much optimism amongst his fans for a bright new future. Inevitably, things didn't quite work out as simply as that and Dylan began the 90's with the mediocrity that was Under The Red Sky. It was obvious that the muse had not yet made its full return to the soul of the poet. Seemingly in an artistic quagmire, Dylan turned again to the very source of his creation: the blues and folk songs of North America and Britain. In short succession he released the solo acoustic albums Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong. All the songs on both of these records are 'trad. arr.' but Dylan sounds completely inspired on tracks like 'Black Jack Davy' and Blind Willie McTell's 'Broke Down Engine'. After this return to his roots, there was another long gap before the release of Dylan's great return to form with Time Out Of Mind. In the meantime, he continued his 'Never Ending Tour', reworking his classic material and introducing a large number of folk and blues material to the shows. On Time Out Of Mind Dylan reforges American 'roots' music to make something all his own: an other-worldly brew of intimations of mortality and fire and brimstone. In 2001, he continued to look back with Love & Theft, adding belly-laughs and 1930's style shuffles for good measure. His popularity and crediblity took a definite up-swing.

Finally, we come to Modern Times. It has been five years since any substantial new material has emergrd from Bob's pen. Ironically, his profile has rarely been higher and he's STILL on the road. Superficially, Modern Times carries on where he left off with Love & Theft. We find rockabilly rambles and blues boogaloos; there are Hoagy Carmichael style tunes; there are songs with roots deep in the North American soil. The album opens with the literal rumble of 'Thunder On The Mountain', an up-beat, bluesy number that weirdly name-checks soul singer Alicia Keys. Bob has been looking for 'Aleesha Keeeys' even 'clear through Tennessee'. Either Dylan is just a dirty old man or Alicia Keys symbolises something Bob is trying to find in the spirit of America. I wouldn't bet against the former! The song is peppered with oblique references to the state we are in and the fact that the end times could be with us soon. Even though Bob rarely bangs the Bible in any obvious way these days, his mind is never far from themes of judgement and salvation or even damnation (in 'Rollin' and Tumblin' he warns some undefined group of people how they are going to 'burn'). If the meaning of 'Thunder On The Mountain' is somewhat obscure, Dylan manages to squeeze some brilliant lines into the song. At one point the genius manages to rhyme 'sons of bitches' with 'orphanages'. Yes, he still has poetic daring in spades. The second track, 'Spirit On The Water' illustrates some of the more problematic aspects of the album. This where Dylan and his, more or less adequate, touring band get into their Hoagy Carmichael mode with a seemingly hopeless plea for requited love. The song and arrangement are fine enough but it just goes on for far too long! A little editing would have been more than welcome. Dylan also adds a very poor harmonica solo that perfectly illustrates why he'll never be considered a rival for Little Walter or Larry Adler!

The album then moves up a gear with 'Rollin' and Tumblin''. The song is credited to Dylan and he certainly suppiles a host of new lyrics but it's really the old Muddy Waters nugget dressed up in fancy clothes. 'Love & Theft', Bob? The song itself is great and perfomed with some gusto. It must be said that Dylan's singing is the best it's been for a long time. Of course, this is a voice you either love or hate but, for me, his vocal chords have reached a point of indefinable, wrecked beauty that perfectly matches the mood of the songs. On 'When The Deal Goes Down', the ache and loving tiredness in the lyric is expressed utterly by Dylan's delivery. A couple of the other songs are light-weight, but highly likable, R&B rides through the landscape of hardship, disaster (maybe Hurricane Katrina?) and desire but it's the remaining, mid to slow-paced numbers that form the artistic core of Modern Times. The album closes with the epic 'Ain't Talkin'', a tale of a spiritual search for redemption in a lost world. This is 'Old Testament' Dylan. His favourite prophets would seem to be Jeremiah and Isaiah. There's little comfort to be found in a world 'filled with speculation' and people who 'will jump on your misfortune when you're down'. It seems that Dylan finds strength and comfort in the fact that he has stuck to the eternal truths, beyond organised religion and corruption:

'I practice a faith that's long been abandoned,
Ain't no altars on this long and lonsome road'

(* 'Lonesome Road' was a song recorded in the 1920's by Gene Austin and ripped off by Bob on Love & Theft on the song 'Sugar Baby')

We are all going to hell in a hand cart and we can't say Bob hasn't warned us! For all its doom and gloom, 'Ain't Talkin'' is a triumph and one of the peak moments on the album.

The two other superb tracks are 'Nettie Moore' and 'Workingman's Blues #2'. The eponymous Nettie is a lost love who appears to dwell in the far distant past of American history. There is a Civil War period folk song with same title. Perhaps this is the Nettie Moore who Bob misses so much? Makes a change from Alicia Keys, I suppose! Again, the world has gone wrong and the narrator can only be redemed by Nettie's pure love. The song itself is an interesting mix of basic, pedestrian drumbeat through the verse, with a smart time signature change incorporated between the first and second line. Then the chorus opens up like a flower as Bob tells us how much he mises Nettie. Then, at the heart of the album (track number 6) lies a true modern day Dylan classic. 'Workingman's Blues #2' (the first song with this title was recorded by Merle Haggard) is a hymn to the dignity of the working class in the face of neo-conservative economic repression. Has Bob gone back to protest song? Well, not quite. Dylan stopped 'finger-pointing' a long time ago and his art is now far too subtle to fall for such devices. What he DOES do is illustrate the plight of ordinary people with verses that tell of competition from from foriegn markets that force wages down; steel rails that hum as a reminder of the days of the Great Depression and the poor riding the frieght trains and the ravages of a political system that cares little for the life of the avarage man. All this is relayed via a beautiful, simple melody that matches the proud stance of the down-trodden people. If this seems far fetched, listen for yourself.

So, in some ways Modern Times does carry on where Love & Theft left off but still has a sound and feel of its own. There is a greater sense of impending doom here, which takes us back to Time Out Of Mind but this is also matched by a greater generosity of spirit in the songs themselves. The album title itself, whilst proclaiming something about the 'here and now' also seems to suggest that some truths are universal for every age and it's time to discover these things for ourselves. To bring things down to a more prosaic level, it's a very good Dylan album. It's not perfect and Dylan relies heavily on past musical forms these days but Modern Times is a fine achievement.

British Sea Power - The Zodiac, Oxford - 6 September 2006

33 Lucy - 39 p.r.S.P.

B.S.P. are doing a small club tour to preview new material and give the punters a chance to catch them in a tiny venue. Pixie and I caught them at The Zodiac last night. It was our first time seeing them live, so we were both looking forward to the gig.

iLiKETRAiNS were the support act and they stepped on-stage in their matching cavalry jackets, looking like they had stepped off the set of a U.S. Civil War epic. They started with a nice shoegazer-ish guitar drone, but things quickly deteriorated when the singer took to the mic. His voice was akin to a somnambulent Ian Curtis, or maybe a weak imitation of Peter Murphy. The muddy mix and the stifling heat in the Zodiac's basement didn't help matters. Their tunes seemed like a ghastly cross between Cocteau Twins (without the melodies and Liz Fraser's vocals) and Mogwai (that same quiet/loud dynamic). Either way, they clashed with B.S.P.'s up-tempo style. Thankfully, they dragged their morose backsides off-stage after five or six songs. It's safe to say that iDON'TLiKE iLiKETRAiNS.

B.S.P. walked on following a snippet of classical music (Elgar or Vaughan Williams maybe?), the stage by this time decorated with their customary foliage--even bassist Hamilton got into the act with a garland of leaves round his head. They launched into a new instrumental, which I don't have the name of--as they didn't announce any titles, including the tunes off of the first two records. Another new one followed, with the B.S.P. trademarks: tight melodies, stop/start sections and soaring vocals. They then treated the crowd to a spirited Remember Me, from the Decline Of British Sea Power album. That's how it went for the remainder of the show--a couple of new ones, then an old one. The flow was nice, though, and all the material worked, even though some of the not-yet-recorded ones had just sketches of lyrics. The boys were clearly having fun up there and I was hoping they'd perform their adaptation of the John Betjeman poem that they jammed at the centenary celebration earlier this summer, but it didn't happen. Eventually they wound down the regular set with Carrion and Spirit Of St. Louis, both from the "Decline.." album. They used an old crank air raid siren at the end of "Spirit.." which lent an air of weird authenticity to the song. The encore was a frantic Apologies To Insect Life followed by a really long jam where the boys got up to some wacky hijinks like sitting on each others shoulders, both clutchng a mic and singing "Freight Train!", wrestling and crowd-surfing. At the end, guitarist Noble was teetering at the edge of the stage, guitar in hand, looking like he would fall forward into the front rows of punters. Then it was over and we headed for the cooler air of outside as some of the crowd rushed the T-shirt table.

I would recommend seeing B.S.P. on this tour, if you can. They put on a stadium-sized gig in a small space and the new material is worth hearing before it makes it onto a plastic-n-foil disc. You do have to put up with iLiKETRAiNS's dirges--or you can just show for the Sea Power's set and skip the support slot. Either way, catch this one before it's over.

Here's a possible setlist, cobbled from a late August show, found at the B.S.P. fansite, Salty Water.

Instrumental (new)
Open The Door (?)
Remember Me
Open The Atom (?)
Mary (?)
Fear Of Drowning
Instrumental (new)
How Will I Ever Find My Way Home?
Lights Out For Darker Skies (?)
Plover Pt. 2 (?)
A Trip Out (?)
The Spirit Of St. Louis
Apologies To Insect Life
Pelican/"Freight Train" (?)

01 September 2006

Film Fun: Harsh Times/Snakes On A Plane

I have seen two films this week: Snakes On A Plane starring Samuel L. Jackson and Harsh Times with Christian Bale. If I tell you that I didn't think I would see a worse film than Nacho Libre this year but then I saw Snakes On A Plane, you have well and truly been warned. Avoid this travesty at all costs. It has benefited greatly from much unwarrented internet hype but we should have known that something was wrong when there were NO PRESS PREVIEWS. The producers surely knew they had grade one turkey on their hands. Jackson is in gun-toting, shouty mode all the way through this ridiculous mess. He plays a federal agent who has to accompany a witness to a gangland killing from Hawaii to LA. The gangsters arrange for a crate of deadly snakes to be smuggled onto the plane and at a certain point these little blighters are let lose with tragic consequences. The true tragedy is that the lunatic plot is accompanied by truly awful performances from everyone involved. On top this you get some of the worst dialogue you may ever hear in a mainstream film. It doesn't know if its United 93 or Airplane! Please pass!

In total contrast to the above nightmare is Harsh Times, starring Christian Bale. Bale plays an ex-army guy, recently demobbed from a unit that served in some Afghanistan or Iraq type conflict. From the off, its clear that he's carrying some heavy-duty mental scars from his time in uniform, as he wakes in cold sweats from horrendous nightmares. Initially we find him in impoverished but idyllic surroundings in a Mexican village with the woman he wants to marry and take across the border to Southern California but he has a problem: no job. He goes back to the States to team up with an unemployed pal as they, supposedly, seek work together. Bale's character is deseperate to join the LAPD but is rejected on psychological grounds. This seems to be a cue for him to lapse into rampant hedonism and rage. He is, however, offered a chance to join Homeland Security, if he can pass the appropriate tests. Without wanting to give too much away (because you really must see this film) things don't really go to plan. Bale and his mate are clearly trapped by the economic no-man's land created by the Bush administration and their like so, whilst they are to some extent the agents of their own misfortune, they are also victims of a society that readily sends working class people to war and gives less than a shit about them when they get home. The performances are all top notch and the story heartbreaking. See it.

29 August 2006

Cinema Corner - Literary Edition

Gutenberg 18 - Year 218 (Positivist)

The weekend after Cropredy, Pixie and I anticipated a Saturday night in--so we hoofed it to the video shop for a rental. We chose Capote, as we've both been wanting to see it for some time.

The story centers around writer Truman Capote (played to near perfection by the impeccable Philip Seymour Hoffmann), who is looking to follow up Breakfast At Tiffany's. The opening scenes of the film concern the brutal murder of a family in rural Kansas in 1959 and the manhunt which follows. Capote is shown at a swank New York writers' party, the toast of his circle of fellow scribblers. This contrast will be returned to often in the film. Nothing is shown of Capote's actual plans for his next book, but I think it was almost expected that he would crank out another sorta light-hearted affair like "..Tiffany's". This all changes as he spots a small article in the paper and clips it out. He phones his agent and tells him he's going to Kansas to write about the murders for a magazine piece.

Capote travels with his friend, writer Harper Lee (played by the also reliable Catherine Keener)--the time-frame of the film takes place before and then after her breakthrough novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, is published. They arrive in Kansas and try to get the inside story, but are treated with polite distance. A press conference is held and overseen by local lawman Alvin Dewey (played with downhome panache by Chris Cooper), who is confident that the killers will be found. Within days of the press conference, the killers are apprehended and brought to Kansas to face trial. By this time, Capote has ingratiated himself with the locals, regaling them with tales of Hollywood and his New-Yawk-via-Loosianna wit. He visits the sheriff's house one day and finds one of them, Perry Smith, locked in a cell within the house. The two eye each other warily, but there is a connection made which impacts the outcome of both Capote's life and his work.

Eventually, Smith and Hickock go to trial and are given the death penalty. Capote, realising that he hasn't found out exactly what happened on the night of the murders, tells them that he will find a lawyer to help with their appeal. Clutching his notebooks and early drafts, he heads back to his New York life of parties and notoriety. Some time later, he decides to visit them in Leavenworth prison, partly to be true to his budding friendship with Smith and partly to get more background story for his book (which he's decided to call "In Cold Blood"). These scenes seem to be some of the best in the film to me, as both use their symbiotic relationship to try and gain what each wants the most--Smith his freedom and Capote his story. Smith's attempts are, of course, doomed from the outset, making his cloying pleas to Truman to "find us another lawyer" all the more tragic. There also seems to be an erotic element, as Capote clearly fancies Smith's rugged good looks and "uncouth ways". They also bond over shared stories of rough, disappointing childhoods.

A few years go by and Capote is no closer to finishing his book. There's a nice contrast with Smith's imprisonment in Leavenworth and Capote's imprisonment to the creative process and missed deadlines. He stops answering Smith's letters and retreats to Spain for a time. Just as he fears he is going completely mad, Capote hears that Smith and Hickock's final appeal was turned down and they are to be executed. He makes a few last visits to the prison and on one of these, Smith finally tells him what happened on the night of the murders--which makes for a greusome, violent flashback. It turns out that Smith had caused the carnage--though he hinted throughout the film that it was Hickock who cracked and ordered the family killed. Truman promises to Smith that he will attend the execution--and he does so, in a teary and sober moment--watching Smith's body hang from the gallows in a dreary, warehouse-like building.

Of course, "In Cold Blood", published in 1965, went on to become a literary smash and Capote was feted even more than he had been for "Breakfast At Tiffany's". All this came with a price, though, and he never really recovered from the whole experience. In fact, he never published another full-length novel until his untimely death in 1984. His slow decline in the late 60s and 1970s must have been painful to watch, for his close friends.

I really enjoyed "Capote"--as I didn't know a lot about the man (I confess to never reading anything by him--though I've seen the film of "Breakfast.."--though that doesn't count). He's just one of those famous writers that are canonised, but don't seem to be widely read anymore. Philip Seymour Hoffmann's performance makes the film, as do most of the supporting cast, otherwise it could've well been just a documentary. There's been a slew of "biopics" out of Hollow-wood over the past five to ten years--but I would heartily recommend "Capote", it definitely seems to be one of the better ones to me. I may actually read some of Capote's work as a result of watching this film.

27 August 2006

Brief Lessons In Ancient Welsh History

There was a time, my children, when druids and sprites, sea-goddesses and bards of the old tongue, walked the mountains and shores of Wales. There was also a time when there were musicians, older than the oldest oaks and yews and they were NOT called Super Furry Animals, Manic Street Preachers or Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Among these ancients there were two of which I shall speak today and they were called Man and John Cale.

A new compilation has just been released called Keep On Crinting: The Liberty/UA Anthology. It features choice tracks by the awesome Man, who I consider to be the greatest band to ever come out of Wales, bar none. Covering the ground from their self-titled third album to their final UA recording, the live Maximum Darkness, this double disc set shows Man at the peak of their powers. Heavy on live, extended tracks, we are reminded that Man were incredible improvisers, with such extended work-outs as 'C'mon'(with male voice choir!) and 'Many Are Called But Few Get Up'. The inter-play between the guitars of the various members (there were a few line-up changes) is truly thrilling but the star of the show for me is Mickey Jones who was an ever-present until illness made him go into semi-retirement just a few years ago. Mickey is the Welsh Jerry Garcia, only better! There often seems to be a creative tension between the band's 'space-rock' tendencies and their commercial sense which gave birth to the finest achievement, the Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics album in 1974. The whole of the second side of this album is featured here, along with Malcolm Morley's lovely 'California Silks & Satins' (they really should have come from SF). Man brought the West Coast to Wales and gave much back of their own take on psych-tinged rock. Buy this (or get someone to give it to you!)

John Cale is another Welsh giant. Even if he is connected far more with the Velvet Underground and the avant-garde NY scene, he never lost his sense of Welshness even if this Welsh in a wider Euro context. His classic 1973 album, Paris 1919 has recently been reissued with bonus tracks and proves that this is one of THE great records of the 70's. In the studio with a handful of Little Feat players, Cale still manages to create an utterly European album that seems to fill the air with a sense of fading glory. The arrangements on every track are impeccable, my particular favourites being 'Andalucia' and 'Paris 1919'. The bonus tracks are well worth having too as the different arrangements and simpler mixes really bring something new to the record. Celtic genius.

23 August 2006

A Beacon From Mars

Setting Orange, Bureaucracy 16 - Year Of Our Lady Of Discord 3172

Pixie had an e-mail sent to her a few weeks ago, which she forwarded on to me. The text reads:

"Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. Itwill look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will cultimate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of Earth.

Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like TheEarth has 2 Moons. Don't Miss it.....

The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287.

Share this with ur friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it .................. again."

I dunno--it seems like a hoax to me. Still, I may be watching out for it. Of course, with the way the weather's been--it'll probably be raining that night.

14 August 2006

Cropredy Capers 2006

17 Rajab - Year 1427

We're back from the festival and it was generally a good time, but marred by a few unexpected events--that and some of the music just didn't seem to me to be as quality as last year. I won't post a diary like I did last year, in the interest of not boring the reader. I'll post highlights (and lowlights) of each day.

Thursday (10th August): After setting up camp, our crew headed down to the main stage area. We missed the wRants, so I can't tell you how they were. PJ Wright came out and played a set of trad. folk stuff--not bad, but not spectacular, either. I'd have thought he'd throw in a Bob Dylan cover, as he's the singer in The Dylan Project--a Fairport off-shoot, but no..not a sausage. Feast Of Fiddles provided the best set of Thursday, with six or seven fiddlers on-stage (including Chris Leslie and Ric Sanders of Fairport) sawing away. They coaxed some wonderful textures from their instruments and they even had Pixie dancing at one point (I kid you not). Their closing tune was a credible version of Fairport's Battle Of The Somme (found on the Live At The L.A. Troubadour album) and I was impressed at their arrangement (though I still missed Richard Thompson's sliding, gliding guitar notes). The musical low point hit with Chris Newman and Maire Ni Chathasaigh (pronounced 'Ha-Ha-Sig, if you're interested), an Anglo-Irish duo whose music would fit better in a small tea room than an outdoor festival. While they gamely tried to engage the crowd, Newman's guitar plucking and Chathasaigh's harp couldn't provide much spark. Then Chathasaigh sang in a strange ululating fashion that sounded a bit off-key and that sealed it for the audience. They were given some polite applause to send them on their way. Steeleye Span closed the night, not exactly in a triumphal manner--but at least it made up for the previous act. Maddy Prior's pipes still can hit most of the notes and Peter Knight's fiddle-playing is up to scratch. They've recruited Ken Nicol from the Albion Band on guitar and Liam Genockey on drums, for this line-up. The set seemed to go on a bit too long for my liking--but then suddenly they finished with a lively version of All Around My Hat. The nadir of the festival also happened during Steeleye's set when some thoughtful individuals (who had actually purchased tickets) decided to rummage through tents in the various camping fields and relieve people of some of their valuables. Security were able to thwart the thieves after a time, but quite a few festival-goers were robbed before then. That kind of thing puts a damper on the good-natured vibe of a place like Cropredy.

Friday (11th August): Shameless Quo opened the day at noon--we missed them, but we heard a bit walking into the arena. They played all of the Quo's "boooogie" stuff, no Pictures Of Matchstick Men or anything from Ma Kelly's Greasy Spoon..meh. Bodega were next--another Irish/Scots combo. They won the Radio 2 Young Folk Award for this year. Competent musicians and some nice reels, but again, a feeling of deja vu crept in after a few tunes. I was disappointed with Then Came The Wheel, despite their pedigree (members of Maddy Prior's band, Albion Band and so on)--they played sub-Dire Straits blues-rock and I took to calling them "Reinventing The Wheel". Ashley Hutchings, original bassist with Fairport, was up next with his new-ish group, Rainbow Chasers. While it was cool to see 'The Guv'nor' still up there, jammin' away--he sorta resembled a creepy older uncle, as the other band members are probably half his age. The lyrics of some of the tunes left a lot to be desired also. They played a tribute song to Nick Drake--and it was pretty much Hutchings' anecdote about meeting Drake, set to music...I'm not joking. Speaking of pedigree, Deborah Bonham was on-stage after Rainbow Chasers, and yes, she's related to that John Bonham. Almost needless to say, her set was heavy on the blooze-rock and they were easily the loudest act of the fest. She's got a good rock-n-raunch voice, but really, does the world need another Janis Joplin or Suzi Quatro? They did perform a decent version of Zep's The Battle Of Evermore, with Deborah taking both Robert Plant's and Sandy Denny's part--and their encore was (natch) Zep's Rock And Roll. When Deb's band cleared off, Frank Skinner (yes, the comedian) walked onstage to do announce that the 1969 line-up of Fairport were receiving gold records from Island Records for their ground-breaking Liege & Lief album. Skinner did a bit of stand-up first--with the best line being that the crowd's attire was "Wicker Man chic". They managed to round up almost the complete '69 line-up--with Richard Thompson, Dave Mattacks, Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol ambling out to accept their awards. Chris While accepted Sandy Denny's and Ric Sanders accepted Dave Swarbrick's. Flook, another trad. Irish group, bookended Bodega with some sprightly bodhran playing and flute work..and then it was time for "Johnny Too Bad", John Martyn. I do admit to being slightly disappointed with his set. It's not entirely his fault, as he is confined to a wheelchair now, much like Robert Wyatt--and it's tough to give a charismatic performance in that state. When he dug into the Solid Air songbook, he showed he's still got some spark--with brilliant versions of May You Never, I Don't Want To Know and the title track. The rest of the set was made up of newer tunes and a couple of re-arranged One World selections. He was having problems with the effects gear for his guitar--so there were a few delays. He finished with a cover of an old jazz song--possibly originally recorded by Billie Holiday--it was a class touch and well done. We skipped Graham Gouldman & Friends, billed as 10cc (which Pixie changed to "1cc")--but from what I could hear, they performed credible versions of 10cc's tunes, like The Things We Do For Love, as well as Gouldman-penned hits from the 60s, such as The Hollies' Bus Stop. No robberies reported in our field for Friday night, thankfully.

Saturday (12th August): We cheated a bit on the festival experience and set out for Pixie's brother's house (about 20 minutes away from the site) for hot showers and bacon sarnies for breakfast (not Pixie, as she's vegetarian). We decided to miss out on Richard Digance's "Family Folk Hour" or whatever he's calling it now--it just seems really bland and really trad. to me. We also missed Sam Holmes & Her Band--I don't know who she is and the programme doesn't give her much of a description, so she's an enigma at this point. Returning back to the festival site--Pixie and I helped her brother and his family disassemble their tent, as they were going to leave a bit later in the afternoon. While we were doing that, Dave Swarbrick's latest venture, Lazarus (a joke on Swarb's medical conditions the past few years), took it to the stage. A trio, with Swarb on fiddle, Kevin Dempsey and Maartin Allcock on guitars, they played for an hour and we caught the final tune while walking toward the stage area. I regretted missing Swarb in action--but I figured he would join in on Fairport's set later in the evening. He didn't. King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys were up after that. They're a six-piece 50s rock-n-roll/jump blues retro band--straight down to the matching blue zoot suits and names like Shark Van Shtoop and Crab-Claw Tromans. I was thinking "Oh no--it's Sha Na Na time" but they got the crowd dancing and clapping and I had to give in to the sheer exuberance of their performance..and Cropredy this year desparately needed a pick-me-up of any sort. Dervish took the stage after King Pleasure and various Biscuit Boys vacated--and while they are deft musicians, the Irish reel overload was kicking in at this point. Singer Cathy Jordan put in an energetic act and the band followed behind, but it was all too much jigging and bodhran-ing for one weekend. Glen Tilbrook, formerly of Squeeze, was the penultimate act. He's the subject of an indie film documentary, which followed him around as he toured the U.S. last year. He played some mannered folk-style pop tunes and his stage presence was amiable enough, with his long in-between song banter. He would say "Cheers, luvs" every time he took a sip from his beer. As seems to be the way..his own songs were met with mild enthusiasm and the old Squeeze tunes drew the roars from the crowd. Finally, Fairport Convention hit the stage sometime after 9 p.m. They played a good mixture of old and newer tunes--including a surprise The Journeyman's Grace, from Angel Delight. I also heard Sir Patrick Spens, Tam Lin and The Deserter. Chris While joined the Fairports to sing Sandy Denny's Who Knows Where The Time Goes? and back-up on "The Deserter". I admit to losing some of my enthusiasm when they played some of the newer stuff--but it doesn't seem to have the quality of the "classic" years. That being said, they can still rip it up when they want to--as when they performed The Lark In The Morning medley. Glen Tilbrook also joined them for a mini-set of his tunes--the highlight being Squeeze's Tempted (covered by Richard Thompson--which was mentioned by Simon Nicol). Everything wound up at midnight, with the obligatory Meet On The Ledge, but we were already back at the tent by then. The next morning, in the rain, we packed up our gear and headed home. The end of another Cropredy.

12 August 2006

Damaged : Lambchop (City Slang)

'Here's a little story 'bout regret
Doesn't have an ending, it's not finished yet
But from what I know this far, it's just a peep at who we are
And an incomplete sentence that you said'

(Kurt Wagner, 2006)

It's been a two year wait since Awcmon/Noyoucmon but now we have the fruits of Lambchop's labour in the form of their new album, Damaged. I was fortunate to be able to get my copy a couple of days ahead of the release date, thanks to those brilliant fellows down at Diverse Records in Newport. Having listened to it a few times already today, here are my initial observations.

Damaged is 10 songs long with 'interludes'. These linking, rather airy and brief pieces, give the album an organic feel as one track bleeds into the next. That's not say we are dealing with a prog-style concept-monster here but there does seem to be common threads between many of the songs. There is the problem of true communication between people:

'Turning to her husband she so carefully said
My dear what put that idea in your head?'

And there are the ludicrous demands that relationships inevitably put on individuals:

'And I promise that I won't live without you
And I promise that I won't be that mean
These stupid promises are accumulating
In a grossly unwholesome scene'

As usual, Kurt Wagner places all these human problems in the context of the smallest parts of everyday living, which makes the tragedy all the greater. In 'I Would Have Waited Here All Day', a song that was originally written for a Candi Staton album, we see the detritus of our lives in the coffee cups and dirty dishes left in the sink. The female protagonist's lover walks 'dripping wet from a midday shower' and dries off his 'dick'. Makes you understand why Candi turned this one down. The song is marvellous and is soaked through with the pain of our unfulfilled expectations.

Wagner's eye for the wonder of the mundane is beautifully realised in the opening track, 'Paperback Bible', where he seems to be compiling an inventory of 'stuff' to acquire and other 'stuff' to get rid of, along with things that other people have to offer. Is this a weird market of the lost? It's all accomplished in a near-conversational style that wraps the song in a loving, demotic tongue:

'Yeah I'd like to find
A twenty seven inch color TV
Has to be non working
An RCA cause I need the parts'

Musically, the album is something of a step back to the minimalism of Is A Woman but the sound is enriched by the predominance of strings (of guitar and 'quartet' variety) over piano. This tends to sweeten the bitter pill in the lyrics but to good effect. Where Lambchop's musical landscape lies these days is less easy to define than in the purer 'country-soul' influences on What Another Man Spills or Nixon but this is not a criticism. Lambchop are confident in their ability to take the volume and the emotions 'down' without losing any feeling in the process. In fact, the quieter they get, the more effective they are. The secrets of Lambchop music often rest in the smallest of detail. You are meant to listen hard.

Damaged is a more than worthy addition to the superb catalogue of idiosyncratic music that Lambchop have developed since the early '90s. Long may they carry on whispering in our ears.

09 August 2006

A Cropredying We Shall Go

4 Lucy - 39 p.r.S.P.

Pixie and I are off to the annual Fairport Convention gathering near a village outside of Banbury, Oxfordshire. Yes, it's Cropredy time again.

The line-up doesn't seem quite as spectacular as last year's, but there's plenty of folk-rock goodness to keep us entertained for the three days. Steeleye Span are playing tomorrow night and "Johnny Too Bad" himself, John Martyn, is on Friday night. Unfortunately, no Richard Thompson this year (unless he makes an ultra-surprise appearance). For the 70s rockist contingent that's bound to show up--there's Graham Gouldman & Friends, billed as 10cc (I was excited when I first heard they were playing, as I thought it was a full-on reunion..but alas..) and a Status Quo tribute band (!) called, what else, 'Shameless Quo'.

I'm expecting some of the "smaller" acts to surprise--as last year we were treated with The Muffin Men, playing funkified versions of Frank Zappa tunes (with star support from Jimmy Carl Black, an original Mother Of Invention). The Ukelele Orchestra Of Great Britain also dazzled with their set of originals and covers, of which the best seemed to me to be Hawkwind's Silver Machine and Fairport's own Matty Groves--though their covers of Talking Heads' Psycho Killer and Chic's Le Freak were pretty ace, too.

We've just about got all of our gear together and we're ready to roll! A report will be issued when we're back. Singing Bear and Aloicious P. McGinnis are running this here blog in the meantime--so give 'em your undivided!! Peace and Music!

Reasons To Be Cheerful...one, two three and more!

It has to be said that the mood has been pretty heavy lately. Just as we have been picking ourselves up following the death of Syd, we are knocked down again by the sad news of Arthur Lee's passing. For people like us, for whom music is a central part of life, this can be hard to deal with but the best we can do is shed a tear and turn back to the songs. Following Syd's passing I couldn't even bring myself to listen to him. Thinking about his life and the fact that he is now gone just made me too sad. Recently, however, I've been playing 'Piper At The Gates of Dawn' once more and spinning the solo albums and Syd is making me smile again. Thanks, Roger. I'm anticipating putting Love on the stereo any day now and cracking it up high and flying with Arthur and chums once more.

We always have the music. Two other musical reasons to be very cheerful are coming our way soon. Firstly, mid-August sees the release of the new Lambchop album, Damaged. I've only read one review so far but things are looking good. Of course, as far as The 'Chop are concerned, I wouldn't care what any reviewer says anyway, they are always worth listening to. It's rumoured that the album was recorded in the aftermath of Kurt's marriage breaking up and follows a period of ill-health for Mr. Wagner. I don't really know how true any of this but I'm just hoping Kurt is feeling good about the future. I can't wait to hear the album.

The end of August sees the release of the very long awaited new recording by Bob Dylan. Five years after the awesome Love & Theft, Bob has finally dragged himself off the road and into the studio long enough to allow us to hear some new songs. Dylan has admitted that he finds the writing doesn't come easily anymore but, having heard clips of all the songs on Modern Times, I'd have to say that things are looking good in Bobworld. Rave reviews have already been posted by MOJO and Uncut, magazines that normally know at least a little about good music and BBC Newsnight Review largely gave it the 'thumbs-up' as well. The overall feel of the album isn't a million miles from Love & Theft, with Bob as the Old Testament prophet, looking on the state of the world with a wild smile, mad eyes but some love in his heart as well.

Full reviews of both Damaged and Modern Times to follow. In the meantime it's time to enjoy the rest of the summer. Peace and Love.