Saturday, 30 December 2006

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

James Brown dies aged 73

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, died yesterday aged 73.

Brown died early on Christmas Day at Atlanta's Emory Crawford Long Hospital of congestive heart failure.

I'd add more, but I think it's impossible to top this quote from Chuck D, "James presented obviously the best grooves. To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one's coming even close."

Link to the BBC's obituary

Friday, 22 December 2006 Man of the Year Awards 2006 part II

The second part of's annual countdown of their men of the year has just been published.

You can read it here

Tuesday, 19 December 2006 Man of the Year Awards 2006's annual countdown of their Men of the Year has just begun.

You can check out part one here

The best albums of 2006

25. Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways
Even those with the toughest hearts will find it hard to listen to A Hundred Highways without feeling a lump in their throat. We have to thank Rick Rubin for ensuring Johnny's send off was handled with great taste and care.

Best track – God's Gonna Cut You Down

24. Danielson – Ships
Undoubtedly the most ambitious and focused work to come out of the Danielson camp. Few other albums this year flat out rocked like Ships did.
Best track – Bloodbook On The Half Shell

23. Kris Kristofferson - This Old Road
Quietly glorious and consistently compelling, This Old Road is quite possibly the best album Kris Kristofferson has ever recorded.

Best track – Pilgrim's Progress

22. Daniel Johnston – Lost And Found
Despite being the most polished album he's has recorded since 1994's Fun, Lost And Found loses none of the ramshackle Johnston magic.

Best track – Rock This Town

21. Dave Cloud & The Gospel Power - Napoleon Of Temperance
Babbling and brilliant, Napoleon Of Temperance makes you wish that Dave Cloud had stepped out of Nashville a lot, lot sooner.

Best track – You Missed A Damn Good Chance

20. Band Of Horses – Everything All The Time
An unfathomably seductive debut. You sense stadium-sized success ahead for this lot.

Best track – The Funeral

19. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
From the distortion and tuneless guitar screeching, this is unmistakably a Sonic Youth album but Rather Ripped features the kind of conventional song structures we haven't heard from them since the early 90s.

Best track – Turquoise Boy

18. Fujiya & Miyagi – Transparent Things
Transparent Things has the same locked down dance melodies and indie rock instrumental grooves that made Stereolab's Dots & Loops such a notable album. There's no reason why Fujiya & Miyagi can't have the same success.

Best track – Ankle Injuries

17. Cat Power – The Greatest
Cat Marshall's vocals are as distant as ever but by combining old and new as well as light and dark, she's made her best album yet.

Best track – Lived In Bars

16. The Knife – Silent Shout
Freakier and creepier than previous Knife albums but just as stunningly accomplished in its construction.

Best track – Silent Shout

15. Boris – Pink
By trading in the Melvins-esque slackness for a punch-you-in-the-face, pummelling assault, Boris have made their most incredible album yet.

Best track – Pseudo-Bread

14. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
Annoyingly young Zach Condon has channelled into the music of Balkan gypsy music to create and an album full of grandeur and intimacy.

Best track – Postcards From Italy

13. An Albatross – Blessphemy Of The Peace Beast Feastgiver And The Bear Warp Kumite
Tripping, head-splitting and totally unapproachable, Blessphemy was the most bracing, aggressive, aggravating chaos you'll have heard this year, or probably any other.

Best track - Lysergically Yours, My Psychedelic Bride

12. The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics
Only just shy of their two previous masterpieces, At War With The Mystics sees Wayne Coyne become global political commentator with staggering results.

Best track – The W.A.N.D.

11. Howlin' Rain - Howlin' Rain
Scything and crunching, Howlin' Rain's self-titled album recalls the rollicking, swampy rock of Creedence. It's a glorious and gritty debut.

Best track - Calling Lightening With A Scythe

10. Loose Fur - Born Again In The USA
Considering Jeff Tweedy, Glenn Kotche and Jim O'Rourke still refuse to consider Loose Fur as anything more than a side-project, it's incredible just how tight Born Again In The USA actually is. You can't help but wonder how good they could be if they started taking this shit seriously.

Best track – Thou Shalt Wilt

9. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I Am Dreaming
Between this, Wolf Parade and Frog Eyes, the rate we're seeing Spencer Krug prove his worth as a songwriter of major importance is staggering.

Best track – Stadiums And Shrines II

8. J Dilla – Donuts
45-minutes of truly timeless hip hop that will be regarded as a classic for decades to come.

Best track - Workinonit

7. Yo La Tengo – I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
Of course, they mastered dreamy, explosive rock music a long, long time ago, but even so, I Am Not Afraid Of You is a high water mark in Yo La Tengo's catalogue. Oh, and how about that title, eh?

Best track – The Race Is On Again

6. Scott Walker – The Drift
For The Drift Scott Walker retreated to the bloody margins of what can safely be considered music. The results are complex, multi-layered, harsh and absolutely fucking terrifying.

Best track – Cossacks Are

5. Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
Pharrell Williams instantly blew away the disappointment of his subpar solo outing by sculpting this perfect sonic kaleidoscope. At the time, Pusha T and Malice prove, not for the first time, that they're two of the finest lyricists working in any genre right now.

Best track – Mr Me Too

4. Howe Gelb – 'Sno Angel Like You
Gelb's third album in as many years was his greatest yet. By consolidating rock and gospel, he's proved that not only can he master any genre that he turns his hand to; he can invent several new ones along the way.

Best track – Howlin' A Gale

3. The Hold Steady – Boys & Girls In America
The album of the year in any other year this decade. Full of grace, charm, wit and emotion, Boys & Girls In America is the crowning achievement of The Hold Steady's career so far.

Best track – First Night

2. Midlake – Trials Of Van Occupanther
That this truly, truly incredible album is only second place is proof that 2006 has been a landmark year for music, possibly the best in history. Finely layered and clearly fussed over, Trials remains lush and beautifully organic.

Best track – Branches

1. Joanna Newsom – Ys
Unpredictable, magical, challenging and beautiful, Ys is a startlingly original and utterly magnificent achievement. With unparalleled vision, courage and a little bit of help from Steve Albini, Van Dyke Parks, Bill Callahan and Jim O'Rourke, Newsom has produced an extraordinary work of art.

Best track – Emily

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Russian intelligence HQ calls upon Batman

Even Vladimir Putin is suprised.


Monday, 11 December 2006

Anti News up at

In a cynical attempt to make me more popular with Google, this week's article features lots of mentions of Britney Spears' vagina.


Sunday, 10 December 2006

Wigan game verdict in the Observer

My verdict on our draw with Wigan yesterday is in today's Observer.

As ever, you'll have to buy a paper to read it.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Thursday, 30 November 2006

Scan of Disneyland monorail operator's manual

Posted on the Stuff From The Park blog.


Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Leicester Square gets wi-fi

Disgusting tourist trap, Leicester Square, is to get free wi-fi 24/7.

Nearly it makes it worth going there.


Monday, 13 November 2006

Anti News published at

Featuring limited, unfunny discussion of Mike Newell, Abel Xavier and Matthew Bates.


Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Album Review: Nightclub Version Of The Eternal

With their largest (and longest) tour to date over and done with, The Howling Hex have maintained their record of an album every six months by funneling their experiences into the golden hour of rock and roll that is Nightclub Version Of The Eternal.

While their previous albums - All Night Fox, 1-2-3 and the audio-visual extravaganza that was You Can't Beat Tomorrow - explored frontier sounds and sampled local cultures, Nightclub Version Of The Eternal's approach is far broader.

Socially conscious slogans are chanted on How Many Steps Now, Good Things Are Easy and Six Pack Days, backed by Rolling Stones-style riffs and rattling percussion. The New Border Sound, which chief Hex-man Neil Michael Hagerty forged while recording with Royal Trux, has been fine-tuned; Hammer And Bluebird and Lips Begin To Move are amongst his the band's greatest moments, with simple melodies and rhythms fuelled by African mantra-style patterns.

Nightclub Version Of The Eternal is both challenging and accessible, and exactly the kind of pioneering epic that The Howling Hex have always threatened to make.

Album Review: Hold Yer Horses

While her debut, Peakabokaboo, was an electro treat, former member of Vic 20, London-based Piney Gir (real name, Angela Penhaligon), has returned to her Kansas roots for the new album.

It's a move that means her second album, Hold Yer Horses, is an unadulterated country album. It's a move, she claims, inspired not only by Piney's hometown, but also a spate of performances at Working Men's Clubs, where her electro jazz pop wasn't such a neat fit.

Hold Yer Horses features reworkings of a number of tracks from Peakabokaboo, offering a cheeky cowboy-punk version of Girl ("when I grow up I want to be President, when I grow up, I want to affluent") and a breezy south-western take on Boston. Greetings, Salutatations, Goodbye; Que Sera Sera and Nightsong are also all included.

Thanks to Piney's incorrigibly captivating voice (think June Carter Cash as portrayed by Reese Witherspoon) the new material proves just as exciting. Find The Time is a rollicking Texan workout, while Big Apple Stomp combines no small amount of sass with a degree of coquettishness.

Even the subject matter is enthralling. Great Divide uses Jack Kerouac's tale of being stranded in the Rocky Mountains as its basis, while Trouble is about an illustration Piney saw in a children's cowboy annual.

Witty, entrancing and frisky, Hold Yer Horses is pulled off with fearless brio and enviable energy that suggests that Piney's talent may know no bounds.

Album Review: Too Close

"Bishop" Joe Perry Tillis first attracted attention as a migratory blues musician while roaming the south of the United States more than 60 years ago. He is a relatively unknown genius who played a style of blues that kept alive the traditions that inspired the likes of The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. He died in November 2004, but not before his unique approach to gospel blues had been preserved on record for the first time.

Tillis, who was one of the final performers of rural African-American music, was born in 1919 in Elba, Alabama. In the 1940s, Tillis played the Chicago blues circuit alongside all-time greats like Muddy Waters, Furry Lewis, Blind Willie Johnson and John Lee Hooker. The reason Tillis has never received the recognition garnered by many of his contemporaries is that he refused to record his music, explaining that he made more money playing live than he ever would by making records.

When a revelation convinced him blues was the devil's music, Tillis moved back home and began preaching the gospel, before once again picking up his guitar and forging his unique brand of gospel blues. Tillis continued playing his version of the blues, signing gospel and preaching - despite going blind in the 1950s - up until his death in November 2004. Never ordained, he adopted the title Bishop because of his work at Our Saviour Jesus Holiness Pentecostal Church in Samson, Alabama.

In 1972, Swedish music archivist Begnt Olsson tracked down Tillis at his church in Samson, Alabama, and recorded the tracks that comprise Too Close over three sessions. Tillis was frail, but played guitar, both electric and acoustic, with a trembling fragility and world-weariness that is truly transcendent.

Combining testimonies and extended hymns, Tillis' sound is musically similar to the blues, but his lyrics are totally in praise of the Lord and entirely without the dark overtones that usually proliferate in the blues.

God Don't Like It and Nobody's Fault But Mine sum up Tillis' reasons for turning toward the Church and abandoning his past lifestyle, whilst Kennedy Moan and Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt both highlight Tillis' political and social concerns. His slide guitar on the final track, Do You Know The Man, is stunning and his voice is fuelled with an enlightenment all but unseen in the 21st Century.

Tillis' unique gospel-blues style needed to be preserved and, for capturing a now largely extinct form of rural blues, Too Close is an essential document. The only shame is that this will be the virtuoso's only ever album.

Monday, 6 November 2006

Album Review: Awoo

The title alone tells you almost everything you need to know about The Hidden Cameras' third album. It's a contagious celebration that's playfully puerile and totally bereft of pretension.

The first single, also titled Awoo, captures this exuberance perfectly. Kinetic guitar chords give birth to jittery glockenspiel and a Pet Sounds-esque bassline, before the chorus lets loose strings and harmonies. The song is reprised at the end of the album as the WAning mOOn (check the not-so-subtle capitalisation) and despite different lyrics, melody and arrangement the song progresses in exactly the same way. The two songs explore two distinct sides of the album (celebratory pop vs. mid-tempo folk balladry) and they reveal just how much The Hidden Cameras can accomplish, even when just rejigging a few chords.

Elsewhere, Death Of A Tune is irresistible country-rock and Lollipop offers relentless stattaco verses, not entirely removed from REM's It's End Of The World As We Know It. For Fun, at just over five minutes, is uncharacteristically epic, but the serene instrumental breakdowns and emphatic choruses maintain the album's momentum. The eerie, distorted violin that creeps into She's Gone is further indication of the Cameras' willingness to tinker; likewise the triangle-like chime that brings each of Fee Fie's verses to a conclusion

Lyrically, The Hidden Cameras remain deceptively clever. Most critics dismissed the explicit sexual imagery of their debut album as an unnecessary gimmick, misconstruing the fact that I Want Another Enema concerned itself with the politics of how people perceive their bodies and Golden Streams was about journeying to heaven. Awoo still contains the same unique take on sex, love and politics of the body - if you're willing to scratch the surface - but Joel Gibbs has laced his sentiments in language less likely to be misinterpreted.

While Awoo doesn't necessarily mark a huge musical departure from The Hidden Cameras' previous two albums, with the mask of juvenility removed, Awoo makes it clear that band leader Joel Gibbs is one of indie's finest songwriters. Repeated listening of his latest attempt at guiding his band mates through forty-minutes of affecting and fun pop music is likely to remain one of the year's highlights.

Latest Anti News up at

Fans of Toby Higgins shed a tear, Anti News is back in the hands of its rightful owner this week.


Sunday, 5 November 2006

Album Review: Someone To Drive You Home

It seems like an age since The Long Blondes began staking their claim to become the indie world's current cause célèbre. So, after quitting their jobs as librarians, releasing four supreme singles and performing a raft of electrifying live shows, the Sheffield five-piece arrive with one of the most cocksure and bolshy debut albums imaginable.

Lust In The Movies opens with a crashing guitar shriek, while previous single, Once And Never Again - transformed from its comparatively meek original - thankfully retains its outstanding opening line ("you're only nineteen for God's sake / you don't need a boyfriend"). Elsewhere, the re-recorded Giddy Stratosphere has an assured strut that was absent from the already excellent original.

Kate Jackson's lusty vocals propel Only Lovers Left Alive and In The Company Of Women well beyond the inevitable Slits comparisons. Later, Heaven Help The New Girl is delicate and minimal, while You Can Have It Both Ways, with the dueling vocals, is the best song Pulp never recorded.

Someone To Drive You Home is stacked with tales of paranoia, mistreatment and self-harm ("you said you cut yourself doing the dishes"), but masked by such infectious and riotous indie pop that it's an irresistible proposition from a band with a dazzling future ahead of them.

Album Review: In My Own Time

Recorded over a six-month period in 1970/71 at Woodstock, In My Own Time was Karen Dalton's only fully planned and realised studio album. It was released on the tiny Just Sunshine label in 1971, and consequently only ever received the most limited attention.

Dalton's first release, It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best, was recorded spontaneously one night at a Fred Neil session. Harvey Brooks - the bass player at the It's So Hard To Tell session (who also played with Bob Dylan and on Miles Davis's Bitches Brew) - produced In My Own Time and managed to persuade the reticent Dalton to share her enormous talent with the world.

The delivery of the first line of album opener Something On Your Mind makes clear the presence of a singer with a rare gift. Vocally, Billie Holiday is the closest comparison, but there's something more cracked, more grainy and more pained about Dalton's delivery as it emerges out of the Eastern-tinged intro.

The now somewhat hoary When A Man Loves A Woman is turned inside out by Dalton's fractured croon and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) receives much the same treatment. Elsewhere, George Jones's Take Me and The Band's In A Station are both transformed well beyond their soul and country roots. It's the traditional blues number, Katie Cruel, with its haunting banjo and violin backdrop, where Dalton sounds most at home, recalling a host of lost Appalachian generations.

Dalton died in 1993, following struggles with homelessness and drugs. Remastered, with liner notes from Nick Cave, Lenny Kaye and Devendra Banhart, In My Own Time is made available on CD for the first time by Light In The Attic. It is, perhaps, the most perfect legacy she could hope to have left.

Album Review: Show Me How The Spectres Dance

Aged only 22, Manchester singer-songwriter Liam Frost has undergone a barrage of hype that would've made Nine Black Alps blush. Described by Elbow's Guy Garvey as "the most talented young songwriter Manchester has produced for years"; a quote that could easily come back to a songwriter at such an embryonic stage of their career. That is until you realise that Show Me How The Spectres Dance is one of the best debut albums to come out of Manchester for many years.

Anyone who caught Frost's performances a year or so ago will have noted that, sans band, the songs were intimate and melancholic, but perhaps lacked the weight to propel Frost over the most limited of cult status. The very presence of The Slowdown Family not only helps bring Frost's songs to life, but afford them the bigger, fuller arrangements that they deserve.

Album opener, The City Is At Standstill, with its sweeping violins, glorious piano and enjoyable handclaps offers a perpetual urgency the likes of which Arcade Fire mastered on their debut album. Later, the atmospheric, harmonica-driven Shall We Dance has the feel of classic Bruce Springsteen in its step, Try, Try, Try is a tear-stained country shuffle and the mandolin accompaniment to debut single, She Painted Pictures, absolutely glistens.

However, despite the instrumental swagger, Frost's lyrical preoccupations weigh heavy on the album. Haunted by loss, several of the songs (notably Is This Love?) seem to trap grief in their melodies and release them with a sense of hopefulness, while Paperboats and This Is Love both capture the album's instinctive escapism.

Despite little homages to What A Wonderful World and The Smiths' William, It Was Really Nothing, Show Me How The Spectres Dance is a sui generis work and a tremendous curtain raiser for Liam Frost's burgeoning career.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Album Review: Ys

The Milk-Eyed Mender - Joanna Newsom's outstanding debut album - suggested a gulf between her and almost any other artist working today. The follow-up, Ys, widens that gulf to an ocean.

Spectacular on its own merits, little in The Milk-Eyed Mender suggested what would follow. The cover - a Holbein-esque depiction of Joanna Newsom as a Druid priestess - is backed by a distinctly medieval flavour to the lyrics. Newsom's voice, the major stumbling block for many listeners on her debut album, has traded in its somewhat child-like leanings for an entirely ageless tone.

While her voice and harp remain in the foreground, Ys frames them with a thirty-strong orchestra featuring strings, French horns, trumpets and oboe, courtesy of famed Brian Wilson collaborator, Van Dyke Parks. The way Newsom takes command of such grandiose arrangements, embossing her unusual African-influenced, staccato harp-playing with her distinctive and exceptional voice, is perhaps her most spectacular achievement.

Also highlighted are Newsom's peerless abilities as a story-teller. The pacing, mystery, drama and wonder of opener Emily (a dedication to her sister, who provides vocal harmonies) are only matched by the ingenuous breathlessness of Monkey & Bear. While the tales are undoubtedly peculiar - they are, at first, seemingly impenetrable - Newsom's cadence ensures repeated listens afford fresh discoveries.

Only for one solitary passage of the extraordinary, 17-minute long, Only Skin does Newsom take to the shadows and allow the misty murmur of boyfriend Bill Callahan to take centre stage. Newsom's voice soon returns, lifted upon theatrical trumpets and dramatic oboes.

Callahan and Van Dyke Parks aren't the only two famous names that helped Newsom piece this vast musical tapestry together; the album was mixed by Jim O'Rourke and recorded by Steve Albini.

Unpredictable, magical, challenging and beautiful, Ys is a startlingly original and utterly magnificent achievement. With unparalleled vision and courage, Newsom has produced an extraordinary work of art.

Album Review: Fur And Gold

Halfway through Fur And Gold's opener, Horse & I, you can't help but consider that the time Natasha Khan (the astonishing voice behind Bat For Lashes) spent as a nursery school teacher has given her the inspiration and ability to nurture childhood fantasies as a source of creativity. Dark and initially foreboding, Horse & I - like the rest of this stunning debut album - is the perfect construction of haunting storytelling and deceptively sweet melodies.

While Bat For Lashes is the spooky brainchild of Natasha Khan, her bandmates prove just as adept at creating portentous panoramas. Despite Khan's enchanted voice and theatrical presence, it is the vivid strings on Bat's Mouth create perhaps the album's outstanding poetic dreamscape, and the harpsichord highs of Sad Eyes are as potent an apothecary as any of Khan's vocals.

Debut single, The Wizard, is rife with distant thunderclaps and swirling foggy electonics, while there are elements of Godspeed You Black Emperor! chaos on Seal Jubilee and some bubblegum pop handclaps on Prescilla.

While the numerous eccentricies force comparison with Bjork, Kate Bush and Portishead, Fur And Gold is an altogether unique album. Moreover, shadowy, cobweb-draped and not a little bit spooky, it's an album that is not entirely of this world.

Album Review: Orphans

Three discs, fifty-four songs, thirty new and previously unheard recordings sounds like pretty standard fare for an artist box set, and yet, Orphans has as much in common with a simple career retrospective as Tom Waits does with the average singer songwriter.

The three discs are divided by genre: Brawlers is chock full of raucous blues and full-throated juke-joint stomps, Bawlers contains a selection of Celtic and country ballads, waltzes, lullabies, piano, and classic lyrical Waits' songs, while Bastards is filled with experimental music, stories and jokes.

The first disc, Brawlers, sees Waits channel The Rolling Stones, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters and T-Rex. The first of the new songs, LowDown, is in pure garage rock mode, with his 20-year-old son, Casey, on drums and San Francisco's blues icon, Ron Hacker, on guitar. A cover of The Ramones's The Return Of Jackie And Judy rubs shoulders with more traditional numbers like Bottom Of The World and Rains On Me.

Stealing the show, however, is Road To Peace, Waits's staggering condemnation of the Bush government and a companion piece to Day After Tomorrow from his previous album, Real Gone. It is, without question, one of the finest anti war songs ever penned.

The lonesome ballads and tender songs of innocence and hope on Bawlers come in sharp contrast to the other two discs and showcase Waits at his most romantic. The plaintive laments of Tell It To Me and Fannin Street meld poignantly with saloon songs of betrayal and despair like The World Keeps Turning. The bitter cabaret of Little Drop Of Poison (originally from the soundtrack to End Of Violence and, later, Shrek 2) explores what the heart gives and what it takes away.

It's the indefinable diversions into Waits's experimental side that are the hallmark of Bastards. The disturbing bedtime fable that is Children's Story, precedes a maniacal version of Heigh Ho, from Disney's Snow White & The Seven Dwarves and a cackling take on Daniel Johnston's King Kong. The poignant reminiscence of car ownership on The Pontiac and the spoken word Army Ants ensures that Bastards is anything but predictable.

Ever the stylistic nomad, Waits takes on the roles of inventive vocalist, literary lyricist, barking preacher, rabid poet, romantic melodist, innovative arranger and pioneer of sonic worlds as he scats, wheezes, blurts, rages, weeps, whispers and chugs through the three discs. Orphans will move the heart, shake the body and expand the soul.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Album Review: The Amazing Adventures Of DJ Yoda

After forging a reputation for turntable tomfoolery with his now-legendary How To Cut And Paste mix tapes, DJ Yoda has finally decided to move into the world of proper recording artists.

Two years in the making and highly anticipated, Yoda has teamed up with guest vocalists such as The Jungle Brothers, Biz Markie, Sway, Princess Superstar, Ugly Duckling, MC Paul Barman and Aspects to create an album that retains all the humour and entertainment of his regular DJ mixes.

Of the instrumentals, Wheels, the first single to be released from the album, stands out as insanely catchy, and as vibrant and colourful as the sleeve that houses it. Elsewhere, Tiptoe is a bizarre blend of old-English hippy-folk music, an ancient exercise video and scratching. It sits just on the right side of the line marked `annoying'.

As enjoyable as the instrumentals are, it's as a backing for other artists' rhymes that Yoda really excels. Biz Markie turns up and spits a couple of tuneless but ultimately charming verses on Breakfast Cereal and Haunted House. As the forefather of humorous hip hop, the marriage of the Biz and DJ Yoda is one made in heaven. Later, Bristol-based rap concern, Aspects, turn up on The Brush-Off and Ugly Duckling's Andy Cooper takes the mic on Holdin' Down The Block. Sway clearly relishes his opportunity to rap on Chatterbox.

Showcasing Yoda's colossal skills as a DJ and as a producer, without losing the sense of humour that has brought him such acclaim, The Amazing Adventures can only be considered a triumph.

Saturday, 28 October 2006

The James Bassett Issue

While I was on holiday, fellow columnist Toby Higgins dedicated an issue of the Anti News to me.

What a top bloke he is.

(not as funny as me, mind)


Monday, 16 October 2006

Latest Anti News up at

Leaping to the defence of Stewart Downing...


Saturday, 14 October 2006

Band name origins

Here's a fun list explaining the genesis of band names. Some real, some rumoured.

"BEASTIE BOYS - According to Michael Diamond, BEASTIE stands for Boys Entering Anarchistic Stages Towards Internal Excellence.

WEEZER - Band member Rivers Cuomo had the nickname Weezer in school because of a breathing problem.

YO LA TENGO - translates to "I have it" from Spanish - said to be the phrase called out by Hispanic baseball players when fielding a pop fly ball. Singer/guitar player Ira Kaplan got the expression from a book he was reading about baseball called The Five Seasons."


Sunday, 8 October 2006

Season so far verdict in The Observer

As ever, the Ob don't publish this stuff online. So here's my take on Boro's season so far.

100 words on how the season has started for you. Matching your expectations? What are the problems? Where will you end up? Happy with the manager?
I really want to believe in Southgate, and his terrific tenure as a player means the fans owe him a degree of patience. But for all the goodwill, some tactical naiveté and odd team selections are making it difficult to shake the belief that managing a club with European ambitions is not the place to learn the ropes.

Given Villa’s wonderful start to the season, one can’t help but cast an envious glance towards the West Midlands and wonder if our chairman made the right decision in not pursuing Martin O’Neill.

We seem to lack any knowledge of how to turn defence into attack. Jagielka’s wondergoal and Henry’s penalty aside, all the goals we’ve conceded have been laughably easy.

On current form, if we’re not playing in the Championship next season, I’ll be pleased.

- Who has been your star player so far, and why
Jonathan Woodgate and Mark Schwarzer have barely put a foot wrong, but most pleasing has been the immeasurable improvement from Emmanuel Pogatetz.

- Who's been the biggest disappointment, and why
Yakubu’s form simply isn’t good enough for a man who shredded the entire Chelsea back-four single-handedly just eight months ago.

- Premiership moment of the season so far (not your club)? ie (Thatcher's tackle, Craig Allardyce squirming on Panorama, Van Persie's goal, Joey Barton's arse...)
Arsene Wenger celebrating a decade at Arsenal. For better or worse, the man has defined the Premiership perhaps more than any other manager.

- Cristiano Ronaldo - will he be player of the season? Boo-boy or genius?
A genius, if only he could cross the ball.

- Who'll win the title?
I’ll stick with my foolish pre-season prediction of Liverpool.

- Who'll go down?
Sheffield United, Charlton and Wigan.

Friday, 6 October 2006

Family wins Disney World to themselves

The Spangler family from Ohio won Disney World to themselves for day as part of Disney's Year of a Million Dreams competition.

The family arrived at the Magic Kingdom and found it eerily deserted. As they made their way up Main Street, 1,500 costumed castmembers came out of hiding and performed a song-and-dance routine for them. The Spanglers then had the park to themselves for the day.

I'm so fucking envious.


Monday, 25 September 2006

Anti News up at

We've all been focussed on fat Sam Allardyce and the possibility that [gasp] he might take bungs.

Anti News is no different.


Saturday, 23 September 2006

Tea Birds

The Tea Birds blog is devoted to nothing but cute girls drinking tea.


Monday, 18 September 2006

Anti News up at

The latest Anti News piece is up now at


Thursday, 14 September 2006

Monday, 11 September 2006

Battle of Ham's Deep

Lord of the Rings' Battle of Helm's Deep starring Muppets.


Anti News on

Other stuff got in the way last week, but Anti News is back on

And, since we picked up a point at the Emirates, I'm in fairly cheerful mood.


Friday, 8 September 2006

Deep-fried Coke

Deep-fried Coca-Cola has won the creativity award at the Texas State Fair.

"Gonzales deep-fries Coca-Cola-flavored batter. He then drizzles Coke fountain syrup on it. The fried Coke is topped with whipped cream, cinnamon sugar and a cherry. Gonzales said the fried Coke came about just from thinking aloud."


Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Haunted Mansion blog

The Ghost Relations Department blog is brought to you by a guy(s) with a serious chub-on for Disney's Haunted Mansion rides.


Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Anti News published at

Beat Chelsea, lose to Portsmouth. Same old, same old at La Riv.


Thursday, 24 August 2006

If Stan Lee wrote Watchmen

Even wondered what Watchmen would've been like if Stan Lee had written it?

Wonder no longer. Kevin Church has posted a hilarious remix.


Monday, 21 August 2006

Fan mail

Seems like my most recent Anti News piece annoyed Roddy Kerr, who opted to send me this email via

"James Bassett - hound

What a brilliant article vis-a-vis the yet another flop from boro in losing to Glasgow Rangers - 37th best team in Britain! (The Anti News, 14-8-06). Lets put it this way when your crap side are looking up from the championship - 2nd Division - next season my 37th best team in Britain will be playing Champions League football. Something your lot can't even begin to dream about...

Roddy Kerr"

I got served.

Latest Anti News up at

Losing the first game of the season after going two-up against a promoted side is pretty painful.

But not as painful as this week's Anti News.



Sunday, 20 August 2006

Season opener verdict in today's Observer

My verdict on yesterday's beating at the hands of Reading is in today's Observer.

It's been lovingly retyped on by forum member Windsor Boro. Here's a c+p...

"I didn't expect us to win today as when you face teams that have just been promoted at home they usually play above their station. But at 2-0 up we thought we could go on and claim 3 points. Still, Paranaby and Arca didn't look as confident on the flanks as Reading's wingers, Seol Convey, did: they caused us problems. Our strike force isn't an issue as Aiyegbeni and Viduka will get us goals, but we desperately needed Southgate in defence. We need to bring in a defender because we really missed the manager's presence as a player. We weren't as good after the break but it was pretty even and we were robbed of an equaliser when Viduka had a goal ruled out that should have stood."

Reading vs Boro verdict in The Observer

My take on yesterday's 3-2 loss at Reading is in today's Observer. Unfortunately the Observer bods don't put these pieces online. If you don't want to buy a paper, here's my take on the game....

"I didn't expect us to win today as when you face teams that have just been promoted at home they usually play above their station. But at 2-0 up we thought we could go on and claim 3 points. Still, Paranaby and Arca didn't look as confident on the flanks as Reading's wingers, Seol and Convey, did: they caused us problems. Our strike force isn't an issue as Aiyegbeni and Viduka will get us goals, but we desperately needed Southgate in defence. We need to bring in a defender because we really missed the manager's presence as a player. We weren't as good after the break but it was pretty even and we were robbed of an equaliser when Viduka had a goal ruled out that should have stood."

Saturday, 19 August 2006

Karl Matthews has MySpace!

Holy fucking shit! This might be the best news I've ever heard. EVAH!

As the man who has done more than anyone to spread the word about the genius of Karl Matthews, I can legitimately claim to have discovered Karl Matthews. Karl is a London-based rambling, witty and quite brilliant artist who records tunes on a Casio keyboard that pay tribute to his favourite Eastenders characters.

I have hundreds of his 12"s in my garage and, now, the rest of the world can hear his songs too.

I will sell 12"s for a price...

Kat Slater... JAH!


Monday, 14 August 2006

Anti News at

My weekly piece for now has a proper name. It's now called Anti News but will be just as unfunny and shoddy as ever.


Wolverine piercings

Brazilian dude Freakboy has added some Wolverine-style claws to his hands.

Wonder how he wipes his arse....


Saturday, 12 August 2006

Album Review: Under The Munka Moon II

Alice Russell continues to enhance her position as one of the UK's outstanding singers. Collaborations with Quantic and the Quantic Soul Orchestra helped forge Russell's reputation, but it was her compilation album, Under The Munka Moon - featuring collaborations and remixes from the likes of Bah Samba, Kushti, Quantic, Digitek and Plaid - that put her squarely on the map.

A proper solo album entitled My Favourite Letters soon followed, but clearly eager to work outside of regular album framework again, Russell has revisited the Under The Munka Moon template. The thirteen tracks on offer are testament to Russell's talent and her versatility. Russell switches genres with considerable grace and dexterity, all the while aided and abetted by her musical collaborators.

To that end, Russell, with assistance from Nostalgia 77, transforms The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army into a soulful lament; Could Heaven Ever Be Like This by Japanese electronica supremo Susumu Yokota is remodeled by Bugz In The Attic into an unorthodox broken beat number; and the Boub remix of Hurry On Now twists the original into head-nodding, hip-swinging `80s inspired reggae. Elsewhere, DJ Vadim's acclaimed hip hop re-dub of A Fly In The Hand makes a very welcome appearance.

That the tracks on Under The Munka Moon II should mesh together so well, is tribute to Russell's gifts as a singer. Her astounding voice manages to interlace an eclectic and esoteric collection into a quite lovely whole.

Friday, 11 August 2006

Album Review: Made In Brooklyn

Masta Killa's debut, No Said Date, marked the rare instance of a Wu Tang-affiliated album actually exceeding the hype and delivering on its own terms. Add to an impressive first album a list of producers, including MF Doom and Pete Rock, and it comes as no surprise that Killa's second outing has been eagerly awaited by hip hop fans.

Opening track, Then And Now, is a strange way for Killa to try and further his burgeoning legacy, as he plays no part - instead leaving it to relative unknowns Young Prince, Shamel Irief and Karim Justice to introduce his sophomore album. It's a bizarre move and one that doesn't wholly pay off. It does, however, make Killa's opening gambit on the MF Doom produced E.N.Y House all the more impressive. Doom employs his oft-used Battle Of The Planets break to good effect as Killa's husky drawl negotiates the uneven beat with some ease.

It'll come as no surprise that Masta Killa is flanked by his fellow Clansmen on several of the tracks and Method Man, Rza and U-God all guest on Iron God Chamber, which also features some lively production from Whyz Ruger. Despite Ruger's lean portfolio, the track is one of the album's most impressive; Rza delivers one of his best verses to date and Method Man is more animated than he has been at any point since 1999's Redman collaboration, Black Out!

It's What It Is also features Wu Tang heavyweights Ghostface and Raekwon, with some outstanding production from P.F. Cuttin of mid-90s group Blahzay Blahzay. With Raekwon's reputation tarnished after a few shoddy solo albums, he is still able to drop in for a ferocious guest spot. Ghostface, as is his wont, delivers a stunning verse.

Rza apprentice, Bronze Nazareth, who supplies the lion share of the production, ensures Street Corner's All That I Got Is You-style tale of adolescent hardship is backed by a suitably maudlin beat. The track also benefits from a slick Inspectah Deck guest spot. Ringing Bells, however, is Nazareth's stand-out moment and probably features Killa's best lyrics on the entire album.

At a relatively lean 13 tracks, with no unfunny skits, Made In Brooklyn is a superior and taut addition to the Wu canon, which not even the risible cod reggae of Lovely Lady can detract from too much. Masta Killa, along with Ghostface, continues to be the Wu Tang Clan's leading light.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Preview column published at

Despite the heartache of Eindhoven and the twinge of doubt as to whether Gareth Southgate will be tough enough to make a good manager, I'm quite excited about the new season.

Here's the preview piece I've written for


'Explosive' liquid dumped in big bin

On his blog, xolp makes a very decent point about new regulations about taking liquids and gels aboard planes."

"Sir, I'm going to have to take this bottle of water away from you since it might be a liquid explosive, and I'm going to have to mix it with all of these other bottles of possibly liquid explosive, and I'm going to have to dump them all in this trash can... together. Nevermind that the plot specifically mentions mixing chemicals and/or nitroglycerin... which explodes if handled too roughly."


Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Album Review: Radiodread

After their successful reimagining of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon (called, of course, Dub Side Of The Moon), the Easy Star All-Stars wasted little time deliberating their next musical makeover. However, while they decided upon Ok Computer (possibly the closest equivalent of Pink Floyd's masterpiece of the last 20 years) relatively quickly, the project took two years to record.

However, under the watch of musical director Michael Goldwasser, the Easy Star All-Stars and their guests will surprise many with their earnest approach to tackling the source material. Radiodread is not the work of parody that its title might imply, but rather an honest and sincere take on one of the greatest albums of the last two decades.

Some of the tracks are attempted with a degree of authenticity, so Horace Andy stays relatively true to album opener, Airbag, and the Sugar Minott-featuring Exit Music (For A Film) attempts to match the original's uneasy excellence. It is Frankie Paul's vocals on Lucky, however, that come closest to capturing the claustrophobia of Thom Yorke's original performance.

Where Radiodread really succeeds is when the artists veer off course and leave their own mark on proceedings. Paranoid Android, of course, would always prove a taxing proposition, but Kirsty Rock's Yorke-aping vocals pass muster. However, it is the incredible backing from Buford O'Sullivan's trombone and Pam Fleming's trumpet that make the track such a tantalising proposition. It's not quite Johnny Greenwood's crashing and crunching guitar, but it's a slick and worthy alternative.

Elsewhere, Toots & The Maytals help turn Let Down into a joyous, Rastafarian rave that even Thom Yorke has publicly admitted to being fond of. Later, the organs on Karma Police completely alter the tone of the original song, and Ivan Katz's drum work on Electioneering is nothing short of exceptional. No Surprises with The Meditations is far more uptempo than in its original incarnation, as Yorke's keening, weary sigh is replaced by a roaring boast.

The sleeve notes are at pains to point out that no samples from OK Computer were used in the recording of the album and it's hard to believe otherwise, such is the organic and natural production of the album. OK Computer's time shifts and cold electronics could have made Radiodread a complete joke, but, like Dub Side Of The Moon before it, Radiodread emerges on its own terms as an entirely satisfying album.

Friday, 4 August 2006

Arthur Lee, RIP

Arthur Lee, singer and guitarist of Love, has died at the age of 61.


Thursday, 3 August 2006

Album Review: Rogue's Gallery

While working on the Pirates of the Caribbean films, director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp became fascinated with the lore and fable of pirates and sailors and decided, along with Anti and Epitaph boss Brett Gurewitz, to create a compilation of songs paying tribute to life on the high seas. Needing a captain for their vessel, the trio enlisted legendary producer Hal Willner, who - just as he did on the fantastic Disney compilation Stay Awake - began matching up maverick musicians with extraordinary songs.

The artists clearly savour the opportunity to play pirate and each give it their own stamp. So, we have Bill Frisell's languid, haunting take on Spanish Ladies and Sting's hoary growl on traditional worksong Blood Red Roses, while Nick Cave snarls his way through Pinery Boy and Fire Down Below.

Never one to shy away from a chance to tackle traditional material, Richard Thompson clearly relishes Mingulay Boat Song, while his son, Teddy Thompson, performs Sally Brown. The family theme continues as Rufus Wainwright and his mother, Kate McGarrigle, play Lowlands Away. Rufus' dad, Loudon Wainwright III, also turns up to play the disgustingly funny Good Ship Venus and Turkish Revelry.

Other highlights include Gavin Friday from The Virgin Prunes' rambunctious take on Baltimore Whores and Antony's (of Antony & The Johnsons) astonishing vocal talents sitting alongside Bryan Ferry's monaural drawl on Lowlands Low. Jarvis Cocker's 7-minute A Drop Of Nelson's Blood is staggering, while the lilting hum of Bono's A Dying Sailor To His Shipmates is perhaps the track most likely to instigate a bout of seasickness.

Rogue's Gallery offers a look at the hardships, the horrors, the lusts, the lurid depths and the beauty that led men down to the sea for hundreds of years. In piratical terms, think of it as a treasure chest overflowing with bounty.

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Captain Beefheart's pad for sale

The Woodland Hills home where Captain Beefheart recorded Trout Mask Replica is up for sale.

A bargain at $849,000.


Monday, 24 July 2006

Indian man eats all the food at all-you-can-eat place

A bloke in India has made like Homer Simpson and taken an all-you-can-eat restaurant at their word.

"Once college students took sweet revenge on a restaurateur with Rappai’s help. He took an “unlimited meals” coupon and emptied the day’s food -- three buckets full of rice, one bucket of fish curry and 10 kg cooked meat -- in no time. Finally, law-enforcers had to be called in to end his sumptuous feast."


Monday, 17 July 2006

Straight Outta Compton

I have a feeling this might be quite old, but it's new to me.

Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt has recorded this version of NWA's Straight Outta Compton.

Pretty fucking cool.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Syd Barrett, RIP

Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett has died at the age of 60.

Barret was a genius whose career as a musician was curtailed in the 1970s due to mental illness.

If you haven't ever heard The Madcap Laughs, I recommend you get a copy right away.


Album Review: Preaching To The Fire

Perhaps chilled by the prescience of their debut album Unconscious Pilot, which was written in the summer of 2001 and depicted the escape from America during the outbreak of an unspecified war, The Great Depression (duo Todd Casper and Thomas Cranley) took breather for a year or two before returning with Preaching To The Fire.

With a name as overtly gloomy as The Great Depression, the grey, wintry atmospherics should come as no surprise; like Unconscious Pilot before it, the band's inspiration comes from anxiety, paranoia and alienation, but unlike their debut album, Casper and Cranley keep the atmospherics intense and alluring instead of blurred and repressing. To that end, there is no repeat of Unconscious Pilot's 8-minute Meet The Habsburgs. In fact, only one song stretches past the five minute mark, and even then, just barely. The relative brevity of the songs ensures that the sonic details carry more weight than they otherwise might.

Opening track The Telekinetic layers piano, warm ambient washes and gothic guitar patterns, while Make Way For Nostalgia features wistful, lilting horns. Snatches of background conversations filter through the hazy guitars of Somewhere Over The Counterculture, adding a further level of intimacy.

While their recent Prefix EP was distinct for its instrumental work, Preaching To The Fire features lyrics on every track. Written In Coal's vocal refrain of "who did this to you?" is gritty and desperate, while towering centerpiece Lux has the vocals flit between conciliatory whisper and desperate wailing.

The album's final track serves as a perfect sonic capstone to the anxiety and pensiveness that colours the rest of the album. At the same time, it's a fragile and beautiful flourish to a haunting and quite exquisite album. Rarely are darkness and melancholy so appealing.

Friday, 7 July 2006

Album Review: 1968

Despite (or perhaps because of) recording under more monikers than Will Oldham and having been a figurehead in underground music for at least two decades, David Pajo remains remarkably elusive. We do know that he was born in 1968 (hence this album's title), that he's recorded with Will Oldham, Billy Corgan, Royal Trux, Stereolab and was part of Slint when they created their landmark album, Spiderland, and that he was also a principal member of Tortoise and The For Carnation.

With last year's Slint reunion an unmitigated success, Pajo has once again forgone his M/Papa M/Aerial M/Thirteenth Letter confusion in favour of just Pajo. 1968 is the second album recorded under this name and instead of shrouding himself in the willful obscurity that marked many of his earlier records, Pajo is, once again, far more confessional on an album that shares his name.

All but one song on 1968 features drums and bass, whereas most of the previous album found Pajo alone with his acoustic guitar. Despite the extra instrumentation, 1968 is still decidedly honest and frank. His trembling timbre on Who's That Knocking sets a brittle tone, while the livelier tempo of Foolish King belies a dark centre ("my foolishness has lifted me far beyond man").

Later, We Get Along, Mostly is a superior indie-rock number that finds Pajo striking a balance between Elliott Smith's depressive sparsity and Simon & Garfunkel's airy lilt, Wrong Turn offers mild Magnetic Fields-style electronica and Cyclone Eye is backed by gentle, unobtrusive strings before the album closes out with the stirring, confessional I've Just Restored My Will To Live Again.

For someone whose earlier efforts with Slint forged a reputation deconstructing melody, 1968 has David Pajo in surprisingly winsome form.

Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Album Review: Graciously

Charity compilations are always a noble concept but often contain less than brilliant music. Not so with Graciously. One third of the proceeds from sales will go towards the recovery effort in New Orleans following the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina last year and all the songs were recorded at the Tucson-based Wavelab Studios by artists with a strong affinity for the place.

No Tucson-based compilation would be complete without Calexico and John Convertino, and Joey Burns' collective's Griptape Heart is an early highlight. Steve Wynn (formerly of Dream Syndicate and Gutterball) offers the delightful Riverside and Nick Luca's (musician/producer and second-in-command at Wavelab) Shadow Painting is boisterous, Counting Crows-esque rock.

Elsewhere, Denver, Colorado's Devotchka offer Twenty-Six Temptations, a quirky mélange of cabaret and Eastern dance music, Richmond Fontaine perform The Gits with their typically quirky punk energy and country and western twang, Amelia White does her best impression of Lucinda Williams on Skeleton Key and I Wish I Was Doing This by Robin Hitchcock is packed with typical lyrical inanities.

Tucson's most famous resident, Howe Gelb, teams up with Nottingham's Scout Niblett for a rambunctious version of Bow Wow Wow's I Want Candy, in what proves to be the album's stand out moment.

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Album Review: Avalanche

It seems that while Sufjan Stevens was locked in his bedroom from an annoyingly young age honing his craft, he was never party to a vital lesson: no one likes a show off. So, not content with the arduous schedule of his ambitious state-by-state travelogue - Stevens first decided to take a detour with 2003's gorgeous Seven Swans album - he's also decided to give us a compilation of the off-cuts from last year's Illinois album.

A little known and not all that interesting titbit is that Illinois was originally conceived as a 50-track double-CD. Presumably to prevent it becoming utterly unwieldy, it was cut in half and originally ran as a relatively spare 23-tracks. The Avalanche, therefore, represents the musical debris liberally scattered from an abundant epic.

With most of the unused recordings in skeletal form, Stevens invited many of the original musicians back into his studio to fill in the gaps, while he plays banjo, guitar, drums and an English horn on many of the songs. There is nothing about the resulting album that sounds even relatively unwanted.

The titular song was originally housed as a bonus track on the vinyl version of Illinois and it could easily have formed the centrepiece of the original album. Positioned as the opening track, it sets the bar absurdly high for an album of outtakes and extras. Chicago, meanwhile, is dense and challenging enough to warrant the three supplementary versions on offer here.

Additionally, each track from Illinois seemingly has a counterpart on The Avalanche; Carl Sandburg arm-wrestles Saul Bellow, the aliens from Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois, salute a statue of Clyde Tombaugh and the loneliness of Casimir Pulaski Day deepens further into the despairing Pittsfield.

A compilation of outtakes and extras it may be but, as an exercise in form, The Avalanche reveals the working habits of one of the most productive songwriters around.

Album Review: Yell Fire

Returning from a visit to war-torn regions of Iraq, Israel and Palestine in 2004, Michael Franti first put together a documentary called I Know I'm Not Alone, before deciding that the film required a musical accompaniment, hence the creation of Yell Fire!, Franti's most socially conscious album to date. Coming from the man responsible of the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy that's a bold claim, but somewhat ironically, the trips to Baghdad, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have inspired Franti to create his most uplifting set of songs to date.

As he approaches 40, Franti no longer exudes the rage which marked his earlier albums as a member of The Beatnigs, but that doesn't prevent him using Yell Fire! to drive home important matters like the precarious state of the planet and those who've rendered it so, the fragile condition of human relationships and the urgency with which people need to repair them.

Against the thread of righteous positivity, universal unification of spirit and aphoristic pacifism, Yell Fire! is stacked with deep grooves: the opening Time To Go Home, Everyone Ona Move and Light Up Ya Lighter all exhibit Franti's revolutionary attitude and contemplative lyrics, while featuring Spearhead's enriching cadence.

While the title track and Time To Go Home are calls to action, other songs such as I Know I'm Not Alone (an inspirational volley of hope), One Step Closer To You, which features a soulful backing vocal performance by Pink, and the beautiful Is Love Enough?, all tap into the album's compassionate side.

Yell Fire! succeeds in blurring the lines between Franti's worldview and his music so sufficiently, it makes it difficult to imagine one existing without the other. A tendency to raise the level of his vocals in the mix can leave Spearhead's reggae/funk/dancehall/hip-hop amalgams rather shadowed by their leader, but what Franti is saying here needs to be heard.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

The size of Earth

Pretty interesting set of drawings that show the size of Earth compared to other planets and stars.

Prepare to feel very insignificant.


Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Album Review: Toy

Toy are UK composer, Alisdair Stirling, and Jorgen Traeen, a producer from Norway. As a duo, their playful tunes mix kids TV and Japanese-style electronica with a touch of Scadanavian electro weirdness.

Opener, Grass Beatbox, will burrow itself inside your skull and stay there for months. It's saccharine sweet melody is irritating and gloriously infectious in equal measure. Later, Valley Cars offers a baseline that sounds like it's being powered by Woody Woodpecker's beak.

Swingswung is a subliminal delight with only what sounds like a cow's "moo" disturbing the peace, while Golden Fish In Pool is incidental elevator music infused with beats, grooves and a stifled trombone, the result of which is the most catchy pop number on the album.

Toy is the mish-mash of a thousand kids' cartoon characters running riot, which might sound as annoying as Crazy Frog on paper, but it's actually incredibly adorable and very charming.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Album Review: In The City Of Sleep

The Fever arrived fashionably late to the dance-punk scene of 2002. So late, in fact, that their debut album, Red Bedroom, wasn't released until 2004. Unfortunately, by the time they got here, we'd all had enough of the likes of Hot Hot Heat and Electric Six, and the New York five-piece never quite received the plaudits that their brand of jerky, danceable, proto-punk deserved.

For a band whose debut album was most notable for the wailing vocals of their singer, opener, Curtains - a mid-paced instrumental - is somewhat of a curveball. While it's the only track without lyrics, Curtains is merely the first indication that singer Geremy Jasper is no longer the focal point of the band. Where Jasper's temperamental and bratty vocals catapulted over his band mates instrumentation throughout their debut, on In The City Of Sleep, his voice is buried much lower in the mix. It's a brave move, and ultimately a successful one, as it allows the crashing drum beats and elastic bass to come to the fore.

The new approach has also given The Fever the willingness to experiment; while their debt was straight-up dance-punk from start to finish, there's a great deal of invention to be found on In The City Of Sleep. Waiting For The Centipede is a bizarre proposition that encompasses elements of vaudeville and barbershop, Crying Wolf begins like a Fellini circus tune but ends up sounding like London Calling-era Clash, while the beautiful Magnus sounds like a Dennis Wilson lullaby. Later, the band successfully employ a glockenspiel on Do The Tramp and embrace the menacing weirdness of The Butthole Surfers on Eyes On The Road.

Jasper, however, refuses to remain in the background for the album's entirety, but with sixteen tracks, there's more than enough room for him to provide some old fashioned rock posturing. The Secret is probably Jasper and the band's finest moment, but the Little Lamb & The Shiny Silver Bullets, Mr. Baby and Hotel Fantom prove that there's ample skill behind their strut.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Where old Disney rides go to die

Jeff Lange has posted a report from Mouse Surplus, the enormous warehouse that stores all the disused Disney gear.


Thursday, 8 June 2006

John Tenta RIP

John 'Earthquake' Tenta has died at the age of 42.

Tenta's death follows a lengthy battle with bladder cancer.

Tenta had some success as a sumo wrestler before entering the WWF as Earthquake in 1989. His feud with Hulk Hogan in 1990 is one of my favourite wrestling memories.

Tenta is survived by his wife and three children.


Friday, 2 June 2006

Album Review: The Trials Of Van Occupanther

With Grandaddy no more, The Flaming Lips pushing farther and farther into space and Mercury Rev seemingly on a self-imposed hiatus, a gap has opened for a quirksome, melodic, psychedelic American band. Enter Denton, Texas, five-piece, Midlake.

The Trials Of Van Occupanther is Midlake's second album and while their debut, Bamnam & Silvercork, was, at times, primitive, the new album is a fully-realised beast. Roscoe, driven by keyboards and both charming and infectious, is a perfect opening statement from a band who sound much more confident two years on from their full-length debut.

Like Grandaddy - to whom the band are most often compared - Midlake's chief concern, at least on their new album, appears to be a desire to retreat from modern day materialism to a more simple life of honest toil and nature. In the case of the album's fictional titular hero, this means invisibly transporting pales of water.

But while there's a degree of fantasy in the album's midst, singer Tim Smith's lyrics prove that The Trials Of Van Occupanther is grounded in reality. The gothic crawl of Branches gives us the biggest insight into Midlake's world as Smith sings, "we won't get married, because she won't have me", before closing the song with the heartbreaking refrain: "it's hard for me, but I'm trying".

Smith's bandmates have also clearly become more adventurous since Bamnam & Silvercork. Home sees the band adding fuzzy guitar solos to their repertoire, while In This Camp too proves that the band are equally adept at cultivating soon-to-be indie anthems. Elsewhere, Young Bride cascades along on a wave of carefully laid-down percussion and tempered strings, Gathered In Spring's conclusion is deliciously swamped in Eric Nichelson's keyboards and Chasing After Deer is just a lone guitar and Smith's trembling vocals.

Repeated listening of The Trials of Van Occupanther's charming and infectious songs might unveil hints of Neil Young, Mercury Rev, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens, yet there's no mistaking Midlake's brilliance for anyone else's.

Album Review: Napoleon Of Temperance

Mixing the intoxicated tone of Tom Waits, the incoherent babbling of Wesley Willis and Daniel Johnston's fractured pop, Dave Cloud's star could've shone as brightly as any of his contemporaries. That is, if he had ever left his home state of Nashville.

This may all be about to change for, in April, Cloud left Nashville for the first time and toured Europe with his band, The Gospel of Power, a contingent of caballeros that includes members of Lambchop and Clem Snide.

Matching this bold move, and having recently signed to Fire Records, Cloud releases a new album, Napoleon Of Temperance this June. To familiarise a European audience who might not have previously heard of Cloud, the new album includes his two previous albums in their entirety and throws in a few entirely new tracks for good measure. The result is a colossal 45-track, double CD.

Whether he's playfully toying with Herman's Hermits' I'm Into Something Good or telling of his love for a Honda Superhawk on Motorcycle, Cloud's compulsion is to make noise and play with words with unabashed salaciousness. It's also clear that Cloud savours delivering his words dramatically, as he mixes the raspy tone of an old-time Southern hipster with the elocution of a competent voice-over artist.

Furthermore, despite surrounding himself with musicians as talented as Tony Crow, Matt Swanson and Matt Bach for the recording of Napoleon Of Temperance, Cloud clearly enjoys using his vocal chords as an instrument in their own right. Consequently, two distinct vocals chase each other through Save The Last Dance For Me and three voices speak and sing their way through a variety of riffs on Booty Shoe II.

Cloud also explores the unique qualities of his voice, settling on particularly rich notes or slow vibratos (notably when covering War's All Day Music) or simply playing with the effect created by repeating single words on album opener Vixen... Vixen... Fox... Fox. At the conclusion of the second disc, Evil Dracula Man permits Cloud the chance to attempt B-movie vampire voices.

The production has clearly been done on a shoestring, but while Cloud has absorbed the punk ethic of raggedness, he hasn't absorbed the rage. Indeed, there's a degree of mischief about the entire album, but no more so when Cloud is tackling other artists' songs. He mangles K.C. & The Sunshine Band's Get Down Tonight with a series of Casio drones, but he also croons his way through Gamble & Huff's Me & Mrs. Jones, The Rolling Stones' Let's Spend The Night Together and David Bowie's Moonage Daydream. The Beach Boys' Warmth of the Sun, Bob Dylan's Lay, Lady, Lay, Irving Berlin's Heatwave and a pair of Bee Gees' hits ( (Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away and a string-laden version of How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?) also receive a twisted make-over.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Album Review: Detrola

Having made their debut with 1990's stunning Livonia album and forged a career of eccentric dream pop, His Name Is Alive branched out in the new millennium with 2001's Someday My Blues Will Cover The Earth, an album which, astoundingly, featured nothing but urban soul ballads, before appearing to go into deep hibernation after the release of their final 4AD album, 2002's Last Night.

In fact, Warn Defever and his cohorts had actually been busier than ever, delivering .mp3-only tracks, EPs and albums. However, the lack of any widely available new material seemed ominous for fans of the Michigan-based collective. Detrola, His Name Is Alive's first album for the aptly-named Reincarnate Music, lays to rest any concerns about the band's existence and is definitely worth the four-year wait.

Rather than tackle a single genre with the eleven tracks on offer, the recesses of Detrola contain hints of all HNIA's back catalogue. The folky torch song vocals of Lovetta Sharie Pippen immediately recall their second album, Home Is In Your Head, while much of the late-night electronica hints at the more up tempo moments of Last Night.

So, within this potpourri, HNIA treat us to Introduction, a traditional spiritual dirge, some New Order-inspired instrumentation on In My Dream, a galloping Vaudeville sing-along (Get Your Curse), Beach Boys' melodies (You Need A Heart), some free jazz saxophone runs (Seven Minutes) and the electro hypnosis of *C*A*T*S*.

As Send My Face sends the album to a bittersweet conclusion, we are left to ponder that the four year gestation might have been required for HNIA to so expertly learn each of the genres they succeed in attempting on this new album. Bewilderingly eclectic Detrola may be, but it's no less enjoyable for it.

Monday, 29 May 2006

Album Review: Everything Wrong Is Imaginary

It's often said that the best records come out of intense personal turmoil and Kurt Heasley (who is, for all intents and purposes, Lilys) is certainly no stranger to turmoil. While he was creating the 8th Lilys album, his wife had a psychotic episode and abandoned him. This left Heasley as a single parent of his three children. Putting his family first, Heasley decided to record his guitar and vocal parts at home and send the tracks to producer Michael Musmanno, who filled in the missing spaces with various studio musicians.

The resulting album, Everything Wrong Is Imaginary, is yet another stylistically nomadic record to add to Lilys' impressive canon. The smoothed-out disco funk haze of A Diana's Diana, the Guided By Voices pop of The Night Sun Over Sun Juan and the Pink Floyd tribute that is Knocked On A Fortune Teller's Door all show that Heasley's willingness to experiment hasn't been tempered by his tumultuous personal life. Perhaps the most divergent track, however, is With Candy, a curt, disjointed avant-rock number that features the stinging garage guitar of Heasley's overtly retro period, some of the dreamy sound-waves of his earliest work and some new forays into electronica.

There is a degree of stylistic goofing as Black Carpet Magic jolts from giddy noise to giddy noise and Still In All The Glitter nearly gets lost under its own veneer, but when the music gets too muddled, Heasley's world weary lyrics maintain the album's excellence. No more so than when he sarcastically declares "everyone knows everything" on Black Carpet Magic.

Witty, acerbic and intelligent, Everything Wrong Is Imaginary proves that Lilys continue to brim with imagination and, more importantly, are startlingly able to splinter and bend pop convention.

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Album Review: Fast Man Raider Man

Sometimes you have to go back to move forward. With a solo career in danger of stalling, a reunion with the Pixies has clearly lit a creative fire within the artist formerly known as Black Francis, and Cooking Vinyl are preparing to release the third Frank Black album in as many years.

Where last year's critically applauded Honeycomb album found Black working with legendary Memphis session men, here he expands his list of collaborators to include The Band's Levon Helm, P.F. Sloan, Heartbreaker drummer Steve Ferrone, Marty Brown, Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson, Simon Kirke from Bad Company and Free, and the legendary Al Kooper. Musicians returning from Honeycomb include Booker T & The MGs' Steve Cropper, Reggie Young, Buddy Miller, Spooner Oldman and Chester Thompson.

Black's clearly relishing spending time in the studio with his heroes and, by his own admission, he was more relaxed during recording this time around: "On Honeycomb I was walking on eggshells," Black admits. "These guys are still legends, but now that we'd hung around a bit, I was more at ease".

Perhaps because of this, Black doesn't adhere to such a strict blueprint this time around. In fact, there was a degree of overlapping with the recording of this and his last album (no bad thing since Honeycomb formed a high watermark in Black's solo career), Highway To Lowdown, Sad Man's Song and Where The Wind Is Going were all originally recorded for Honeycomb but didn't quite fit into its laidback remit. Since Fast Man Raider Man lacks such a distinct tone, there was no problem including them this time around. In fact, they form three of the album's highlights.

Elsewhere, Wanderlust has Black doing Van Morrison better than Van Morrison, Fitzgerald and Elijah both hark back to the time when Black and the Pixies were turning rock music on its head, while My Terrible Ways is a true, tragic story of heroism in wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Fans of the screaming, shrieking Black Francis may be confounded as he moves further and further away from his Pixies heyday, but to attempt to curb a talent as endless as Black's would be a crying shame.

Album Review: Progress Reform

With three limited 7"s to their name and a live show that is already the stuff of legend, Leeds-based enemies of Caps Lock, iLiKETRAiNS are all but redefining the phrase `hotly-tipped'.

Progress Reform - the band's first mini-album - features two of the band's previous releases, Terra Nova and A Rook House For Bobby, as well as five other tracks of intellectual, darkly uplifting sonic exploration.

Those dismissing the band's decision to wear British Rail uniforms during their live performances as a blithe gimmick would do well to re-think. In fact, it'd be taxing to find a band that take their craft as seriously as iLiKETRAiNS. Terra Nova tells of Captain Scott's doomed 1912 Antarctic expedition, while A Rook House For Bobby depicts the life of Bobby Fischer, the troubled chess grandmaster who ended up joining an apocalyptic cult and had the fillings removed from his teeth in case they influenced his behaviour, before being arrested, imprisoned and arriving in Iceland as a reclusive exile. In four-and-a-half minutes, Simon Fogel's drums punch the stomach, while David Martin's lyrics tear at the heart.

Elsewhere, Citizen is a jangling mess of distorted guitars and thumping drums and Martin's threatening lyrics on Stainless Steel ("Don't go in the kitchen, that's where all the knives are kept and I won't be held responsible") are masked by gentle, affecting guitars. At the close of Progress Reform lies The Beeching Report, a track which features iForwardRussia!, Napoleon III and This Et Al on backing vocals as some sort of iniquitous choir.

Leeds can claim ownership to perhaps the most exciting music scene in the country at the moment, and with Progress Reform, iLiKETRAiNS can probably claim to be the city's most exciting band.

Monday, 15 May 2006 Writers' Awards 2005/06

The annual Writers' Awards have just been published.

It's been a very strange season for Boro and this article makes interesting reading, I think.

Read it here

Saturday, 13 May 2006

Videogames in Lego

Here's a great Flickr set of videogame scenes rebuilt with Lego.

This is Metal Gear, but Katamari Blockacy is also brilliant.


Thursday, 11 May 2006


We Shall Overcome

Monday, 8 May 2006

Latest column up at

The last one of what's - whatever happens in Eindhoven - been a monumental season.


Friday, 5 May 2006

Album Review: Red Thread

Keith, the hotly-tipped Manchester four-piece with the most Google-unfriendly name since The The, finally release their debut album through Lucky Number on 29th May. Red Thread is released on the back of last year's excellent and critically acclaimed, Hold That Gun EP.

Back There is a low-key but confident introduction, which shows a band proudly wearing their Smiths influences on their sleeves. Killing Me continues in the same vein, but before Keith can be written off as one-trick indie pretenders, they demonstrate their versatility with a flurry of rich and varied tracks.

While Hold That Gun is sumptuous, jangling pop, Mona Lisa's Child offers a burst of disco grooves. That Keith embrace of elements of dance music should come as no surprise, after all, they play label mate Sebastian Tellier's masterpiece La Ritournelle regularly as part of their live set. Later, they revisit their Mancunian ancestry with some New Order-esque keyboards on Leave It Now, For Now.

But there are yet more feathers to Keith's bow. Faces is a drifting, somber number that is preceded by Gunshot Revelry, an overwhelmingly atmospheric ballad that recalls elements of The Beta Band. Towards the album's conclusion lies The Miller, an organic jam, which begins with riffs played on an Aztec tongue drum. It's further proof that Keith might pay just homage to their heritage, but they have more than enough skill to make their own imprint in the annals of Manchester's music.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Latest column up at

High on Uefa Cup success, I've decided to write a piece that outlines why Steve McClaren is the right man to manage England.

I'm fairly certain this one will come back to bite me on the arse.


Album Review: Howlin Rain

A supergroup of sorts, Howlin' Rain features Ethan Miller from Comets On Fire, John Moloney from Sun Burned Hand Of The Man and Ian Gradek on bass. Unlike fellow Comets On Fire alumnus Ben Chasny, for his latest release, Miller has elected to create an old-fashioned free-wheeling country rock album, but one which throws in a few crunching crescendos for good measure.

Most of the songs are straighter than might be expected from some of the defining members of New Weird America, but there's always a hint of eccentricity somewhere nearby. Calling Lightening With A Scythe begins as a sweet, Steely Dan impersonation before imploding for a minute with a flurry of fierce feedback. Later, the dusty opening to Roll On The Rusty Days mimics a trademark Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers number before Howlin' Rain lose their restraint and create a frantically apocalyptic ending to the track.

The band barely draws breath before they embark on the colossal, bewildering, nine-minute opus, The Hanging Heart, and Death's Prayer In Heaven's Orchard is indication that Miller is prepared to burden his already strained vocal chords with his best Bon Scott impression. He never quite reaches the same vocal highpoint, but, nonetheless, both tracks ensure the point has been made; Howlin' Rain will leave no page of the rock canon unturned. Later, Indians, Whores And Spanish Men Of God offers the rollicking, swampy rock of Creedence Clearwater Revival, while Show Business is a wilting ode produced to guarantee its winsome blemishes remain intact.

In Sand And Dirt - the least inviting song on the album - lies towards the conclusion, and is a more formidable proposition than the other tracks; Gradek's bass and Moloney's drums form a fearsome and imposing accompaniment to Miller's razor-sharp guitar. With that burst of darkness out of their system, the album closes with the nine-minute, Lynyrd Skynyrd-aping The Firing Of The Midnight Rain. It's the best song Ronnie VanZant's Southern collective never recorded.

According to Ethan Miller, Howlin' Rain "make music to beat the steering wheel of your van to or sing along with while drinking whiskey in the bathtub on a Saturday night with your dog". Remarkably, that's not too far wide of the mark. Howlin' Rain is a glorious and gritty album.