Speed-reading away on research, I've returned to two biographies on two highly influential rock music figures, each of whose significant musical achievements and immediate financial rewards eventually proved to have come at great cost either to themselves, or to those around them. (In that sense, they were similar to Keith Moon as particularly talented but troubled souls.)
Big Beat Heat is an unsung, but highly worthy biography of Alan Freed and the Early Years of Rock & Roll. Freed, you will hopefully know, was the DJ whose Cleveland-based success delivering rhythm and blues (or "race") music over the airwaves under the name 'Moondog' saw him brought to New York in 1954, where he coined the phrase "rock and roll" (initially as a title for his show rather than to encapsulate an entire genre) and subsequently proved as important in bringing black music into white homes and hearts as Elvis Presley himself. But Freed was also an arrogant alcoholic, who ultimately became the fall guy for the "payola" scandal which rocked American pop culture in the early 1960s. He died in his early 40s, washed up and largely forgotten.
John Jackson's biography, published in 1991, seems to have been similarly glossed over by historians, for no good reason. Jackson tracked down most of the major players (including many of Freed's partners and his family) to present an authoritative but caring account, and best of all, he places Freed's story in context. Reading Big Beat Heat, we understand the DJ's role in a larger cultural picture that involved the birth of the teenager, the genesis of rock and roll, and the vast profits to be made from the combination thereof. We also learn that Freed's downfall was provoked, not so much by what radio stations today comfortably call "pay for play", but by the scandals surrounding the quiz shows of the day, in particular Charles Van Doren's ratings-winning appearances on the show 21. (That story is told in the movie Quiz Show, starring John Turturro.) Big Beat Heat is a book should be read by any one keen to understand the birth of our culture, and it's available in many libraries.
Mark Ribowsky's He's A Rebel: The Truth About Phil Spector Rock and Roll's Legendary Madman makes for even more compulsive reading, even though it winds up some 15 years before the present day and Spector's alleged recent killing of a female companion. Unfortunately, if you're in the UK you'll have a harder time tracking down this biography: while written with great respect for Spector's musical achievements, Ribowsky spared little for what he readily calls "America's Mozart" when it came to his business and personal machinations, and the bio was, if memory serves correctly, recalled by its British publishers under heavy threat of libel action. (Then again, the advent of the Internet and the likes of amazon.com since its 1989 publication means you can pick up He's A Rebel anywhere you live through the above link.) The libel threat shows a considerable insecurity of Spector's part: Ribowsky was only as harsh as the many people he interviewed, including Spector's first wife and many of his business partners, whose most common description of the genius producer's personality seems to be as "a shit."
Spector's story is one of the most fascinating and compelling in modern music, and Ribowsky nailed it. The reader understands the scope of Spector's enormous talent (and occasional good humour) as readily as he absorbs the breadth of Spector's emotional brutality. With the likelihood of a murder/manslaughter court case coming up, one imagines another Spector biography will surface soon; I wish it could simply be an updated rendition of Ribowsky's otherwise exceptional work.
As someone who only in the past month got round to seeing All About A Boy (pleasantly entertaining but disappointly devoid of its key Kurt Cobain plot line) and Monsoon Wedding (wonderful in every respect, if yet another 'minority' movie that uses marriage as a universally acceptable reference point), I'm shocked at myself for reversing the trend of a lifetime and going out last night to see the first public performance of The Matrix Reloaded. My reasoning? I'm holed away working on my own, the artsy village cinema seemed proud of its modest coup, and the 10pm performance seemed a perfect way to wind down and see what the local youth look like. (Like the skateboarders and snowboarders they are, mostly.) Oh, and like many of us, despite seeing it only once, I've remained curiously captivated by the imagery and wizardry of the first Matrix movie which has only grown in stature in the four years since it was released.
The Matrix Reloaded, however, like too many modern sequels, sacrifices plausible plot and intelligent dialogue for a cavalcade of special effects. Disappointingly, the ponderous first 45 minutes seem closer to a Star Trek re-run than a Bladerunner successor; only when our heroes Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) return to planet earth i.e. The Matrix does the movie begins to deliver on audience expectations. And when it does so it relies, understandably enough, on the same mind-bending mix of martial arts and special effects that rendered 1999's original Matrix such a cinematic breakthrough.
Reeves' gravity-defying kung-fu scenes quickly become repetitive, but the extended chase scene on LA's Highway 101 (as a Hollywood in-joke, even the supposedly fearless Morpheus refers to it as a no-go zone) is just about worth the price of admission. For fifteen minutes or so of spectacular pile-ups, fight scenes, and motorbike madness, the action movie cliché is escalated to a new level of hi-tech artistry, writer-directors Larry and Andy Wachowski rendering their love of video game impossibility a big screen reality. At its conclusion, the audience cheered for the first and last time of the night.
(None of the movies' mayhem seems to physically kill anyone, at least not in a way we might believe as "real"; this, I am convinced, is a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of The Matrix Reloaded influencing murderous, trigger-happy schoolkids the way the first movie was partially blamed for the Columbine Massacre.)
I've always loved films that toy with our idea of reality and present life as a dream. The Matrix suggests that we humans, rather than enacting free choice, are merely following the programming code set by master machines who steal our energy sources while we live out a game-like "human" existence. But for all that this is core to understanding the movie, only two 'characters' the Oracle and the Architect are allowed intelligent dialogue that provokes us to actually think about this; in each case, their statements seems deliberately elaborate so as to leave us desperately struggling to understand any "truth" to the plot and eager for the next fight scene to excuse us from figuring it out.
Is this the Wachowskis as The Architect(s), suggesting that movie-going humans would sooner follow predictable patterns and be entertained by machines than use their brains to make individual choices? Possibly, though I'm not sure they thought it through in advance. The Matrix Reloaded raises the standard of the futuristic action scene several times in its two hours, and somewhere in the middle of it, I think I understood the major life-or-death, is-it-real-or-is-it-a-dream issues. But I still left with the feeling that it had succumbed to its own predictable programming - that of the Hollywood sequel, in which, having made a monumentally influential film first time round while no one was expecting it, the movie-makers were given an unlimited budget to dazzle and impress, and duly reacted with all the glee and confusion of kids let loose in the candy store. With its overdose of cinematic sugar, The Matrix Reloaded will fill you up, that's for certain; whether it leaves you satiated or not is another story.
(That story, conveniently enough, will be released in November as The Matrix Revolutions.)
The Shout! party celebrated the release of its excellent compilation album The Revolution Rave-Up Alive 1997-2003 Sunday night: The Greenhornes played live and I DJ'd the upstairs room alongside Kid America. Given the dismal weather and rather poor turn-out two weeks ago, I didn't expect much of a crowd, but Steve Pestana and Pedro Mena had done their promotion properly (which is why they've survived seven years in the city's club scene) and both rooms were packed all evening. Fact, there was such a crowd for The Greenhornes' set that only the front row could actually see them, given that Bar 13 sets up its bands on the floor.
Craig Fox and Eric Stein of The Greenhornes on the floor at Shout!: quite literally.
I squeezed through to take a few unsatisfactory pictures but felt guilty occupying their hard core fans' standing space and otherwise stood further back, unable to see the group but readily recognizing the song 'Good Times' (my fave track from the Shout! compilation and yet, curiously, missing from the new, third Greenhornes' album Dual Mono) and a sterling cover of 'Leavin' Here' which, if you've read Dear Boy, you'll know was the Eddie Holland song on which Keith Moon "came completely into his own." I can't claim that Greenhornes drummer Patrick Keeler quite rose to Moon's teenage precociousness, but the sound of syncopated cymbals booming across the room proved he was taking the task seriously. Indeed, there was something to be said for listening to, rather than watching, the Greenhornes, who were tight enough and have sufficient songwriting skills that their music could as likely have been emanating from the DJ booth as the small PA. That is, obviously, a compliment of the first order.
Still, as the Greenhornes sound, the club's compilation and the crowd each indicated in no uncertain terms, Shout! is all about rock music, which means I wasn't able to play as much dance music in my own set as I'd normally like to. (Nor as I did at Shout! last Memorial Day, a particularly memorable gig.) It didn't help that the first 12" I put on the decks a brilliant brassy rendition of 'Straight To Hell' by Leeds-based LSK had such heavy bass that it got the needle jumping more than the dancefloor. But as I followed it with the Clash' own reggae cover, 'Pressure Drop' I got to thinking about the possibility of one day doing a set of nothing but covers. It was noticeable that among the most popular cuts I played Sunday night were the Elektrik Cokonut's Moog rendition of T. Rex's 'Jeepster', and the mad Hammond organ version of 'Satisfaction' by Jimmy McGriff. People love an original take on a familiar song, no one more so than myself.
Other acts that made it in to my set included the Supremes, David Bowie, the Specials, the Beat, Bob Marley and The Wailers, the Soul Sisters, the Megatons, Hank Jacobs, Body Motion, Suzi Quatro, Talking Heads, Soho, Timo Maas, Chapterhouse, Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Electrosix, the White Stripes and Radio 4 a pretty eclectic mix considering the relative constraints. I'm still laughing over the fact that a full-volume medley of the feedback-ridden Creation's 'Makin' Time' and Who's 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere', followed by the Rolling Stones' equally chaotic 'Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?' completely cleared the dance floor at a sixties rock night of all things - but that's what you get for playing the Brit rock card on a crowd that had just been dancing to '96 Tears,' Louie Louie,' 'Sugar Sugar' and other comparatively safe feedback-free American singalongs.
A goodie bag was being distributed all night with a bonus CD The Revolution Bootleg Alive 2002-2003, featuring The Fever, Singapore Sling, and 11 other bands who didn't quite make it on to the official album along with a Shout! newspaper and a quaint collectors' item: a row of 15 button badges, wearable as a necklace, one for each of the bands on the album, one for Shout!, and of course, one featuring Steve and Pedro themselves.
Sadly, it was Steve's last night DJing at Shout! for a while. He's contracted tinnitus, the same painful hearing ailment that befell Pete Townshend twenty years ago. Townshend, it could be said without sounding cynical, invited the illness with all that feedback and guitar smashing; Pestanza, though, is 'just another' DJ/musician/music fan who's spent years in front of music speakers or wearing headphones and who's drawn the short straw of that constant ringing in the ears that makes being around music near unbearable. I've offered Steve a platform here to write about his experience thus far with tinnitus, perhaps to serve as a warning to others, and I'm hoping he'll take me up on it. By a totally bizarre coincidence, today, May 13, happens to be Tinnitus Awareness Day, so all of us who listen to too much music too loudly could do worse than surf around and learn more about it. (A google search will bring up these pages; an FAQ about tinnitus can be found here.) In the meantime, Pestanza will still be co-hosting Shout!, but expect to see him moving around even more than the average club promoter: with so much noise around the venue, standing still invites too much pain. Then again, if we're talking metaphors for life (and he and I were), then standing still invites too much pain in any connotation.
I'm moving round a fair bit myself this week so don't expect too many other posts: I'm sure there's enough on this page from last week to keep you occupied while I'm gone. If not, surf around the site some more. iJamming! is up to over 250 pages a virtual free book.
After getting hammered on the 5-a-side football field Monday night (that's hammered as in beaten, not hammered as in drunk) I attended two shows by visiting British bands. Though each was a four-piece centered round guitar, bass and drums, the differences were more pronounced than the similarities as much by way of public perception as anything else.
Over at the Knitting Factory, Echoboy was making his American club debut. Or rather, Echoboy were making their American club debut, Richard Warren's one man recording alter ego expanded in concert into a four-piece rock outfit. It makes sense: while the first two Echoboy albums (conveniently called Volume 1 and Volume 2) saw Warren immersed in the world of electronic experimentation, on the recently released Giraffe (read review here) he embraced more traditional songwriting.
"Don't look good at the Knitting Factory." Echoboy do their best at New York's least photogenic venue
And after opening with Volume 2's lead track 'Turning On', his show wisely concentrated on Giraffe's best songs. 'Automatic Eyes', 'Don't Destroy Me', 'Good On TV' and 'Comfort Of The Hum' all succeeded in concert by marrying their rhythmic pulse (often delivered via tape, then augmented by Leon Tattersall's rigid drums and Chris Moore's fluid bass) with the warmth of Lee Horsely's Hammond organ, and Warren's own heavily effected guitars and intense yet endearing vocals. Aside, perhaps, from other iJamming! cult faves such as Luke Slater and Morel, there are few obvious comparisons to the Echoboy experience; only on the new single 'Lately Lonely' and especially, the extended encore of 'Wasted Spaces', does the band descend into a dirty down-tempo punk funk such as invites easy references to Primal Scream.
By any standards this was an impressive American debut. As the once futuristic dance scene gives way to a frequently reactionary rock revival, there are fewer and fewer acts willing to mix the best of both: Echoboy, it would seem, has much of the field to himself.
Why then was the show so sparsely attended? (I doubt more than fifty people bought tickets.) Because Echoboy refuses to follow musical trends, perhaps; because he doesn't actively court controversy; because he's been around too long to be a press darling (though his previous band The Hybirds did enjoy brief hipness due to their association with Heavenly); because his record sleeves are dark and stark; because his most commercial songs are not quite commercial enough for airplay and yet his most dance-friendly rhythms are not quite hard enough for the dance floor; because he's on Mute Records, which puts out so much good music on such a regular basis that barely no one has time to hail any one artist before the next one comes along. Most obviously, though, he's not famous because he doesn't seem to care: as he sings on one of Giraffe's most approachable songs, "It's never going to happen to me, Because I don't look good on TV."
And there was this: everyone who was anyone, it seemed, was at the Bowery Ballroom Monday night where, having stayed until the end of Echoboy's set, I arrived just after The Libertines took the stage to find the venue so packed that I spent the first fifteen minutes pinned to the back wall.
The Libertines represent the first serious British contribution to a rock revivalist movement that has otherwise seen cities as disparate as New York, Detroit, Stockholm and Auckland make their mark. Given London's four decade reputation for non-ironic rock, it was only time before the UK capital answered back and the Libertines do so with all the right credentials. They've enjoyed grass roots growth in north London pubs, affiliation with the cool record label (Rough Trade) and the perfect producer (Mick Jones), they exhibit a Strokes like sloppiness of sound, pen suitably degenerate lyrics with appropriate youth cult references (e.g. 'The Boy Looked At Johnny'), display a reputation for public disorder, and encourage rumors of naughty substance abuse. You couldnt invent a hipper band for the moment, which might explain why the rear of the room was filled with ageing record executives from almost every major label in New York, each of them eager to bottle the band's youthful elixir.
Boys in the Band, from the distance of a full house. The Libertines' Docherty and Barat at the Bowery.
Do you detect some cynicism? Given the Libertine's overwhelming trendiness, I think a certain amount of suspicion is healthy. But if I was hoping for the band to fall down drunk or provoke an unnecessary riot, I was disappointed; the Libertines largely won me over - by virtue of simply getting on with it. For all the deliberate rough edges and sleazy media overkill, their album Up The Bracket is jam-packed with near-great songs: 'Death on the Stairs,' 'I Get Along,' 'Time For Heroes,' 'Boys In The Band' and, especially, 'What A Waster' all have hooks that cut right into the skin. On stage, drummer Gary Powell was an absolute powerhouse, and the frequent vocal interchanges between Pete Docherty and Carl Barat ensured the show ran at a brisk pace. I was genuinely impressed.
The night peaked with the memorable sight of former Loop member, current Rough Trade A&R Guru and life-long Crystal Palace fan James Endeacott accosting everyone in sight, proclaiming of a song then being performed (with its chorus of "yeah yeah yeah, no no no"), "That's the best song in the fucking world. Ever! And it's a b-side! It's a b-side and it's the best song in the fucking world. Ever." (Etc.) If you're going to have an A&R man, he may as well be that committed. (And judging by his manic fervor, James well yet end up being committed!)
It was too much to expect the night to continue at such a pitch. The Libertines brought on a complete unknown for the apparent sheer crack of it to share vocals on some dubious cover; they sprayed booze on the crowd; and when Barat stripped his shirt off - but kept his skinny tie on - I couldn't help thinking that it's time that rock got some new fashions.
It is this unoriginality the reactionary old-fashioned tradition - of the Libertines that worries me: they seem little different in approach than These Animal Men of a near decade ago, except the current New Wave of New (York No) Wave has proven an internationally popular movement rather than an NME weekender. Will the Libertines disappear as quickly as those aforementioned Great White Hopes? Or will they confound their critics to develop, like Oasis and the Jesus and Mary Chain before them, from an inside-the-industry buzz into a genuine Great Rock Band? A lot depends on whether their rumored drug (ab)use is, in the words of one disappeared Manic Street Preacher, 4 real. If it is, it will destroy them. But based on the ecstatic reaction of the supposedly hard-to-please New York City crowd (always allowing for the fact that the pogo-happy front rows were British), the Libertines are halfway there. The fact that Echoboy was the better show of the night barely matters in the short term: getting on in rock music is all about getting known, and The Libertines, clearly, know that already.
(A few after thoughts. 1) It strikes me as somewhat ironic that Rough Trade, the label that embraced the most experimental of post-punk music like Cabaret Voltaire, Scritti Politti, and The Fall, is having its most successful period with the most uber-traditional of rock bands like The Strokes and the Libertines. 2) The British press don't love the Libertines as much as you might think. Searching other live reviews on the web, I almost immediately found this comment on dotmusic "They're relentlessly OK, a band who've been thrust into the limelight because the singer could scrape eighth in a Julian C lookalike contest." Ouch. 3) The recent merger between the Knitting Factory and Instinct Records appears to be paying dividends in the downtown venue's bookings, and though I've never much liked the main room in the past, now that the notoriously under-ventilated space is smoke free, it's much more enjoyable. 4) On that subject, I was pleased to see the Bowery Ballroom's management strictly enforcing the no-smoking rule even at such an overly crowded show. It was a genuine relief to come home from the two venues without reeking of nicotine. Clearly, given the choice, people will stop smoking for an hour or two rather than miss out on a must-see band. There's no losers in that equation.)
Two complementary comments by Barney Hoskyns in his introduction to The Sound & the Fury: A Rock's Backpages Reader.
"The sad truth is that rock journalism has become little more than a service industry, with scant critical autonomy and even less responsibility to its readers."
"Much of the freshest new rock writing can be found on music sites where anything goes and advertising rates are too low to corrupt contributors. The decentralization of new media may be disorienting, but we should all embrace it as a rock'n'roll lifeline."
Like Hoskyns, I've become totally disenchanted with the music print media's preference for a coddled relationship with the industry hand that feeds it in lieu of critical journalism; and like Hoskyns, whose rocksbackpages compiles music journalism from across the ages and makes it available online, I've put my faith in the Internet as the best for of media by which to communicate excitement and provoke argument the reasons I started writing to begin with.
But though I'm beholden to no one at iJamming! and can criticize at will without financial repercussions, I'm just like any one else in the biz in that I have good friends who are musicians, DJs, writers and even A&R executives at major labels. Readers need to accept that I'll occasionally stay silent on someone's project rather than destroy a long-term, closely valued relationship. (Come to that, the aforementioned friends need to accept that too!)
But the amorphous structure of a web site like this also allows me to simply state up front what a national newspaper might call a "conflict of interest" letting you know that a subject is a friend of mine and then get on with the reason for writing about them: their contribution to our culture. On this note, I'll tell you now that I've been good mates with Chris Mellor, aka Chris Coco, since he was editor at DJ magazine and I was first freelancing from New York; along the way, the friendship has been cemented through wives and kids, and we've spent many pleasant evenings over their Brixton dinner table or a Brighton bar, as likely talking about the differences between London and New York school systems as between Cubase and Digital Performer.
As such, I sometimes forget that Chris, who left his editor's job a couple of years back to pursue his production and DJ opportunities, is quite the success story these days, especially since he started hosting (alternating with Rob da Bank) Radio 1's Blue Room, broadcast during the ungodly hours of 5-7 am on Saturday mornings. Still, he's relatively unknown in New York, which made his visit here this week to DJ the launch of his Chillin' at The Playboy Mansion double CD a rare treat. He came over for dinner Tuesday night, and after Campbell held him hostage to a lengthy display of his Bionicle and Transformers collection, we talked music, media and yes, school systems, into the early hours. It was obvious from his enthusiasm for London clubs like Nag Nag Nag that Chris is no longer constrained by the chill-out/ambient/downtempo dance music that's been his mainstay for the last decade. This in turn made me realize it was time I actually listened to his radio show (as with everything on Radio 1, its available online for a full week after initial broadcast) and did so yesterday in stead of playing any of the CDs that breed on my desk.
I'd expected the Blue Room to provide a two-hour set of Café del Mar style bliss: what I got was new releases from Blur, Sigur Ros, Massive Attack, !!!, and Goldfrapp, previously unheard remixes of Primal Scream and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a French dance track 'Extraball' mysteriously credited to R.E.M.. Of course these remixes were relatively restrained, and there was some 'conventional' come-down music too (with names like Alpha, Bonobo and Caia), but then there was also the brilliant Streets-like dub geezer garage of LSK's 'The Takeover' in which Pete Tong is held hostage on air by a Mike Skinner soundalike. In short, the Blue Room is a paradise for the kind of music fan who hates being confined to categories. And it's clearly representative of an Anglo-American move away from precise BPMs into a dance floor free-for-all. (An aside plug: that kind of anything goes spirit will be on evidence this Sunday on the top floor at Shout! when I spin alongside Kid America.)
Chris Coco at the swanky Capitale, formerly the Bowery Savings Bank.
Given the eclecticism of The Blue Room and the current indie club scene, I know Chris felt a little weird about the launch party for the Playboy Mansion album last night, at the Grand Street venue Capitale, a vast canyon of a club inside the old Bowery Savings Bank headquarters. The venue is naturally ornate, with cathedral ceilings sporting Tiffany chandeliers, and a President's office which, even converted to a VIP room under strict New York fire laws, STILL has a capacity of 74 people; you can tell what these *ankers did with your savings and why they're no longer in business to collect them from you.
But such décor is of course perfect for a swank nightclub even if the neighborhood the Bowery is surely synonymous with New York deprivation seems inappropriate for the kind of conspicuous capitalism we saw on display there last night. We can't be too churlish: for the majority of childless Manhattanites, nightlife is still about dressing to impress, getting drunk and getting laid, and by any of that criteria, Capitale's a roaring success. In fact, it was something of a throwback to the days a decade ago when we'd occasionally attend this kind of upscale do simply because we could. (It was funny to see that the classic nightclub 'open bar' trick put one clueless bar tender to work for every 200 people, ensuring no one gets more than one free drink in the allotted hour is still alive and well too.)
For a supposed Playboy album launch there was a complete lack of bunnies on show, though that was compensated for by the number of Latin girls in little more than push-up bras, and what Posie and I were each was immediately convinced was the junior member of Tony Soprano's crew. (Paddy? Patty? An addition to the last series, probably in place of Pussy, he's not on the HBO cast list from the last series.) As we people-watched alongside him, Chris did his best to get the crowd dancing from a DJ booth somewhere up in the sky; the physical distance was a suitable metaphor for how far we felt removed from this upmarket crowd.
Far closer to home far, far closer to home I was astonished to learn that the Kills are based in Gypsy Hill. In London. The same Gypsy Hill, I can only assume, that runs from the roundabout where I spent half my childhood waiting for the number 3 bus (much of it singing Bob Marley's "I don't want to wait in vain, oh Lord") on up to the Crystal Palace triangle neighborhood I moved to in 1981. If you've never traveled up and down this hill, don't rush to put it on your London rock and roll guided tour: apart from what is supposedly a Black Plague mass grave, a chip shop I used to like, a run down train station and the side-street watering den the Railway Bell, which mysteriously kept winning the Evening Standard pub of the year contest in the 1980s (and which even more mysteriously, I was sent a painting of by my mother), it's one of the least desirable neighborhoods in the whole of Greater London. Further proof that rock'n'roll thrives when there's nothing else on offer? Perhaps.
Stellastarr* are touring the UK with the Rave-onettes this week. Good for them: I'm thrilled they're getting to travel so early iun their career. If you get the chance, do go see them. On this issue at least, the NME and myself are in agreeance (c. Fred Durst).
So anyway, for shows like the Blue Room, I love the BBC, but I've yet to get over the cowardice of the Beeb's decision to pull its Keith Moon documentary earlier this year because the long dead drummer's former band mate Pete Townshend had been arrested (not charged, note, merely arrested) under an Internet Child Porn witch hunt. Now that the police have decided not to charge Townshend with a crime (though he has been officially cautioned for accessing a site back in 1999), dare we assume that the Moon documentary will be re-advertised and broadcast so we can all see what the problem was with showing it in the first place?
Having generally stayed away from the New York clubs these last few weeks (being in the UK, being jetlagged, being otherwise engaged), I made up for it in typically aggressive fashion Thursday and Friday nights. I attending a couple of New York artist concerts, a couple of their post-gig soirees, a new local watering hole - and even managed to spin some records at one of these events.
The Diesel-u-music event at the Hammerstein Grand Ballroom on Thursday night was presented to the media as a party to die for, with an open bar all night, free food, a private DJ set by Ladytron and, best of all, "confirmed personalities." I wasn't sure whether this meant personalities who were confirmed to show, or people whom Diesel had confirmed to be personalities, but the distinction proved irrelevant, as I couldn't find anyone on that list whom I know by face such as Moby, Radio 4, Interpol and Josh Wink. Add in that the food was finished by the time I showed up, and the only free drinks were vanilla vodka and Rheingold beer, and this was not exactly the sort of freebie you like to be talked into crossing town for.
Fortunately, I've been to enough of these events to take their promises with a large dose of salt, so I wasn't disappointed by anything except the missed opportunity to rib my friends in Radio 4 for being "confirmed personalities." No, I attended for the music a long overdue opportunity to see The Rapture in concert, the bonus of a De La Soul set, and the possibility that the four winners from Diesel's Unsigned Bands competition, each performing a ten-minute set, might actually be worth watching.
And they were. At least the two acts I arrived in time for were. Wow! Cougar played pretty straightforward (that's pretty and straightforward) power pop, though the female singer failed to do the songs justice. A friend who was last seen setting off to travel round the world popped up from nowhere to tell me he'd once helped them release a single in France; Emperor Norton is apparently about to release a single in America.
More instantly impressive were the Carlsonics, a D.C. five-or-six piece very much of the moment. That is, they sound like the Stones, move like Primal Scream and rock like the Hives; they have a front man, Aaron Carlson, who's a one-man cyclone, and also feature what's becoming the obligatory bonus member - the cowbell player. They were loud, witty, confident, accomplished, energetic, entertaining and highly memorable. I'm not entirely sure how the Carlsonics won an "unsigned bands" competition, as they're contracted to Brooklyn's own Arena Rock Recording Company, home to Home (hello Andrew), Superdrag, and others; either way, when their album arrives in July, I'll be looking out for it.
The Carlsonics in full sonic groove mode
The Rapture's Gabe Adruzzi and Mattie Safer
One of these days we'll get a proper album out of The Rapture too, but I'm happy to wait. After all, the prime reason the California-by-way of New York group has so excited so many people this last couple of years is because of their evident enthusiasm for buzz, matched by an equally apparent disinterest for the conventions of the music business. Their record releases have been haphazard and frequently of limited edition. Their gigs have been similarly sporadic. They don't announce their songs onstage. They've only just got a web site together. They recently added a trumpet player who also plays the cowbell. (Told you it was obligatory.) Why ruin it all by doing something as ordinary as signing to a major record label and releasing an old-fashioned long-playing CD?
In concert, The Rapture are almost indisputably funky and impossibly scratchy. But for all their stated influences, that doesn't mean they sound like the Au Pairs, nor Delta 5. Rather, The Rapture live sound the way Pigbag would probably have sounded had there only been four of them. (And if they'd featured fellow Bristolian Mark Stewart screaming occasional vocals the way Rapture guitarist Luke Jenner does.) One could also suggest that The Rapture are trying to sound like Talking Heads ultimately sounded live, but they've still a long way to go before they sound like that. (Then again, Talking Heads had a long way to go before they sounded like that too.) Best of all, the Rapture play dance music the way a lot of white boys raised on rock'n'roll do so inadvertently incorrectly that it turns into something quite unintentionally brilliant along the way. (cf Happy Mondays.)
That said, bassist/vocalist Mattie Safer and drummer Vito Roccoforte are as tight a rhythm section as you'll hear from a white indie band right now, Gabe Andruzzi's alto sax adds a seriously screeching dimension and Jenner, set off at stage right in his own universe, offers useful sex appeal as a bonus. And for all their deconstructionist post-punk reconstruction of rock (and house), The Rapture are sheer, unadulterated, fun. Which means that while I know they played 'House of Jealous Lovers' and 'Olio,' I've no idea what else was in their set and I don't care. Finally, because they don't want to sound anything like the Rolling Stones, the Rapture are far more important than just about any 'new' rock band you're hearing buzz on right now. Word has it The Rapture did indeed recently sign the big record deal that's long been on the cards and that their debut album will be out before the year is. It will be increasingly difficult for them to have so much random fun thereafter. These, then, are their golden days.
Luke Jenner of the Rapture
Mattie Safer of the Rapture
Trugoy and Pos from De La Soul
Fifteen years ago, the same could have been said of De La Soul who, with the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and other members of the Native Tongues posse, helped reinvent New York's indigenous hip-hop the way The Rapture might yet reinvent post-punk New York funk. But De La Soul's creative positivity was waylaid by gangsta rap; their output slowed and their following decreased. They never called it a day, however, and as indicated by the Hammerstein Diesel show (my first opportunity to see them live in at least a decade), they can still command an audience.
Like The Rapture, De La Soul were unadulterated fun, serving to remind of the power brought by just two Mcs and a DJ. But too much of their set concentrated on audience participation at the expense of their considerable repertoire. Twenty minutes in, for all that everyone had their hands in the air and was roaring along boisterously to whatever chant Posdnuos and Trugoy the Dove were currently encouraging, the only hit we'd heard was 'Potholes In My Lawn,' and we left for the after-show party at Apt, where I hoped my wife Posie would get the chance to understand why I've been so enamored of 2 Many DJ's.
ONE TOO MANY DJS
Apt., in the Meatpacking District, has a reputation for exclusivity, especially the upstairs room for which you often need a reservation, but I'll forgive it that sin: the lounge is as comfortable and pleasant a space as you'll find to hang in New York, with the considerable bonus that it sells quality wine by the glass at (somewhat) sensible prices. That means a Roger Perrin Côtes du Rhône and the unusually classy Davis Bynum Pinot Noir, but we were in a white whine mood and plumped for a Sancerre and a Californian Viognier. The latter was a producer I'd previously not heard of (Hani? Hari? Of course I failed to write it down) but it had all the qualities that makes Viognier my favorite white wine in the world. I offered a taste to a friend who, proclaiming never to have experienced anything like it, immediately bought himself a glass; viognier is instantly addictive.
After listening to former Transmission host Dan Selzer whip up a meticulously-mixed set of Chicago house and Factory electro, we headed to the downstairs den to hear David and Stephen Dewaele, aka Soulwax, aka 2 Many DJs, do their thing. Sadly, not only did they go on later than I'd hoped, but they invited DFA/LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy to spin alongside them. Nothing against Murphy, whom we recently witnessed deliver a great set at the Tribeca Grand, but his beat-matching skills are non-existent. The Dewaele brothers on the other hand, are among the few people who can mix the Rolling Stones into T Rex and make it sound like the most natural progression in the world. With the three men taking turns at the turntables, the contrast in DJing abilities became increasingly evident as seamless segues were followed by sporadic trainwrecks. No one's perfect all the time, and I admire 2 Many DJ's generosity in sharing the decks; it just may not be the best way for them to spread the vibe for which they're famous.
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME
Friday afternoon found me at Joe's Pub, the downmarket-sounding name for the highly upscale little lounge attached to the Public Theater on Lafayette Street, the occasion being an early-evening double header for Jesse Hartman and Laptop. Having recorded his first album for a major label (read a review here) before, naturally, getting dropped in a corporate shuffle, and having temporarily migrated to the small Norwegian Trust Me Records for his follow-up The Old Me Vs. The New You (read an interview here), Hartman has now secured what looks like a long-term partnership with Gammon Records, known for such varied but quality acts as the Mooney Suzuki and the Langley School Music Project; the third Laptop album, Don't Try This At Home, is released this week.
Hartman, an accomplished film-maker, has also been working on a screenplay entitled Don't Try This At Home, based loosely around his experience as a teenager playing alongside his childhood hero, Richard Hell; prior to an early evening Laptop gig, he hosted a late afternoon reading of the script. I've been to a few screenplay readings now and they're difficult to pull off in public, given that they fall somewhere between theater and literature and require considerable concentration from the audience, a process often hindered by overly loud bar tenders and unnecessarily quiet actresses. The Don't Try This At Home reading suffered these typical minor infractions, but came across remarkably well despite them; Hartman and his writing partner Greg Takoudes had assembled an impressive roster of readers, from the teenage hero Charley on up to his (fictional) parents, with a highly believable trio of has-been rockers (including the token Englishman) playing the reformed (in name, if not in habit) Nicky Limbo and The Nothings. The coming of age story ended, after a suitable denouement, with Laptop on stage performing the song The Old Me versus The New You.
Addicted to Laptop: Jesse Hartman accompanied by Kristin on bass, Emily on guitar, Carrie on keys, Jessie on drums, and wife Emilie on keys.
Laptop gigs, to the best of my knowledge, used to involve little more than Jesse on stage with a guitar and a computer. But revitalized by his new label, new album and screenplay, the latest Laptop is like a living incarnation of Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to Love' video. Hartman has surrounded himself with five fashionable females for a deliberate dose of glamour, one adequately excused by the fact that four of them can play with the best of them. This became fully evident an hour after the screenplay during which time I DJ'd a purposefully eclectic, though hopefully complementary set from the likes of Lou Reed, Wreckless Eric, Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget and Flying Lizards when the band played an hour-long show to a capacity crowd.
With the exception of the aforementioned second album's title track, and the debut album's classic 'I'm So Happy You Failed', the set was drawn entirely from Don't Try This At Home, which is closely related to the screenplay (i.e. Jesse sings as the character Nicky Limbo) without being an exact interpretation of it. As someone who tried to incorporate music and video into a project (Hedonism) before settling down to finish it as an old-fashioned novel, I can relate to Hartman's determined multi-media ambition. All the audience really wants to know, though, is if each component works on its own merits, and while the new album akes a few listens to settle in (it's more musical, conceptual and less cynical than its predecessors), the live show is an instant winner. Hartman's a strong presence in his own right, but he's struck gold with the current band, especially guitarist Emily Barracano and drummer Jessie Torrisi, whose use of syn-drums provided a genuine throwback to early 80's new wave. Set highlights included 'Ratso Rizzo,' which embraces New York's current slip back into grit and grime, 'Testimonial #6' ("how could I ever live without you?"), and the sing along title track. Visual highlight was seeing Jesses's wife, Emilie, dressed to impress as a secondary keyboard player, despite her claim to have no interest whatsoever in performing.
Afterwards, a few of us headed over to the internationally famous but spectacularly unglamorous Lit on Second Avenue which was, thanks to enforcement fo the new smoking ban, blessedly free of the stench that previously rendered it one of my least favorite dive bars. As some of the Laptop girls lived up to the typical rock band post-gig habit of making out with their girlfriends (Jesse's wife was not among them), I took an opportunity to check out the bar's art gallery, currently featuring the rather demented work of former Replacements drummer Chris Mars. At up to $6000 a painting, it's out of my price range cheap, but the pieces, inspired by Mars' elder brother's battles with schizophrenia, have the violent immediacy of Joe Coleman and other tortured geniuses. The Replacements were so often seen solely as Paul Westerberg's vehicle, but as Chris Mars' solo albums and now his artwork have helped reveal, they were much more than a one-man band.
The last stop Friday night was at a brand new, fringe-of-Park Slope bar called Royale. Situated at the far end of Fifth Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, it's a surprisingly spacious yet refreshingly intimate space with an elaborate back room decked out in a reasonable approximation of Arabian Nights. The bar serves mildly interesting wines (a sangiovese and an unwooded chardonnay-trebbiano alongside the fail-safe pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon) in generously measured but poorly rinsed glasses. It also features a raised DJ booth at the club's rear, which and this was the reason I stopped by - was playing host Friday night to the Earth Warmth/Sound Gizmo crew and their friends from Worship in Philly. When I left, it was to the rare and refreshing sounds of properly mixed uptempo dub reggae. Though New York is in a genuine fiscal crisis that threatens to have serious long-term repercussions, the flood of Manhannites to brownstone Brooklyn means that this particular neighborhood continues to flourish. Royale's a worthy addition to a Fifth Avenue whose watering and dining holes already offer an embarrassment of riches. I'll be back.
I was pretty down on the debut issue of the new, Brooklyn-based Jest magazine, so credit where it's due. The fourth issue has some genuinely funny stuff. I love the addendums to recent prominent stickers and posters under the heading 'protest signs for moderates'. Examples: 'War Without End? Not In Our Name
Unless France and Germany come along, then I guess you could maybe use our names.' 'Giuliani Was Not A Jerk
for a month or so after September 11th', And 'Guns Don't Kill People, People Kill People
But I gotta admit, they do it more efficiently with a gun.'
I also laughed at, 'Who Said It? Iron Maiden or Saddam Hussein?' The answers are not as easy as you'd think. "Have you found what the devil that besets your soul promised you?" may sound like a classic metal lyric, but it's attributed here to Saddam Hussein from just back in March. On the other hand, "I don't want to die, I'm a God why can't I live on?" may sound like the last words of a narcissistic dictator, but they were in fact penned by Iron Maiden back whenever. It's a good concept; they should keep at it.
Not all of Jest, indeed not that much of it, makes light of dictators (or moderates), but enough of it aims to ridicule the recent war that it inevitably steps well over the line of good taste. Unfortunately that's right up front in the editorial in which it tries to lampoon the concept of "rape rooms" as cited in President Bush's speech of March 17th. The editorial concludes, "Honestly, all of us would like to do a little more raping, but who has the cubic feet to devote to it?" Not me, and I don't have the column inches that Jest can spare either.
Why am I not amused? Perhaps because I read the Jest "editorial" the same day as I also read what happens when a dictator's son gets to personally punish the national football team for its poor performances. ("Some players endured long periods in a military prison, beaten on their backs with electric cables until blood flowed.") Read the chilling details for yourself and you'll soon learn to forgive David Seaman's occasional lapse of concentration. And you won't consider the subject of rape rooms suitable for humour either.
Having expressed a guardedly positive resonse to the concept of the Apple Music Store, it's only appropriate that I write enthusiastically about another new manner in which to hear and purchase music even if it is being launched by most indie music fans' idea of the Devil incarnate. Clear Channel Communications yes, the same behemoth that owns all those radio stations and simultaneously promotes all those concerts and yet which has escaped the antitrust laws designed to constrain such blatant conflicts of interest has announced plans to offer Instant Live CDs at its concerts. The company has already been testing the concept at clubs in Boston, offering custom CDs recorded from the sound board (with some obligatory crowd noise mixed in) within five minutes of the show's conclusion and claiming sales from as many as one in three gig-goers.
The concept, on the surface at least, is a boon to music fans, who will no longer have to smuggle in their own recording devices or trail the web looking for bootlegs of dubious quality so as to own a treasured souvenir of a memorable occasion. Given that Clear Channel is currently offering artists up to half the $15 proceeds (approximately five times what an act makes from a major label release) the artist is unlikely to object, and may well indeed prefer that the audience spends its disposable gig-money on the band's music rather than a t-shirt or baseball cap. There's even talk of allowing instant MP3 downloads to a digital device: presumably, you could bring your iPod to a gig and listen to the night's show on the bus ride home.
Disadvantages? Artists who signed their contracts before the days of the Internet and CD-burners may not have the legal freedom to offer live recordings (at least not without cutting their labels into some of the profits). Cover versions may well prove exempt due to the need for mechanical licenses from the song's publisher. And from a musical point of view, I can imagine many acts balking at the idea of releasing the night's concert without having a say in the actual mix but then they have even less control over the quality of bootlegs that circulate rampantly anyway.
A company called Disc Live is apparently trying a similar experiment in New York, though I've yet to notice it. Perhaps that's because most of the promotions so far have been with unsigned or self-released bands who can make their own decisions and serve as risk-free guinea pigs. Still, the idea is already proven at the arena level: Pearl Jam offer live CDs online the morning after every show (with discounts to fan club members), and according to a quote in the New York Times, Phish have sold 100,000 downloaded albums since launching a similar online initiative at the end of last year. That's over a million dollars in income, all of which avoids middle men like record companies and retailers: it's hard to think of a downside for either artist or audience.
I remain as suspicious of Clear Channel's intentions as the next astute music fan especially when the company talks about how "There's a panoply of alliance and bundling opportunities that this product would offer." But as the recent war in Iraq demonstrated, the wrong people can occasionally do the right thing, and while there will inevitably be downsides, who knows? This may well be Clear Channel's opportunity to redeem itself with fans and artists alike.
Thomas Friedman took up the same issue that of the wrong people doing the right thing - in his column for yesterday's Times. Castigating both the conservatives who "want to use the victory in Iraq to defeat all liberal ideas at home," and the liberals "who so detest Mr. Bush that they refuse to acknowledge the simple good that has come from ending Saddam's tyranny," he called on Democrats to "help shape this moment, and not leave it to the Bush Pentagon," stressing that can't happen if "Democrats are sulking in a corner, just trying to point to everything that is going wrong in Iraq." As almost always, he's right, and I hope those of my well-meaning left-leaning friends who are, indeed, still sulking that the war was so swift and thereby successful, take his point and help seize the moment for the greater good for everyone.
Finally, I seem to be on a new musical journey, gradually discovering the one genre I'd previously ignored: that of late sixties/early seventies American rock. Recent months have found me thrilling to the conceptual epic of Steppenwolf's Monster, along with the progressive psychedelia of Rotary Connection. This past weekend, I unearthed The Very Best of Rare Earth, a white Detroit rock band that was signed to Motown in 1969 and immediately hit big with its cover of the Hitsville chestnut 'Get Ready.' Like the Rotary Connection, Rare Earth rarely wrote its own material: even the socially conscious songs like 'Hey Big Brother' ("you better get in touch with the people," love the cliché) and 'I Just Want To Celebrate' were composed from outside. But still, what recordings, what energy, what emotion. Hard-rocking soul from a musical halcyon period I still know so little about. Further comments and suggestions welcome. As always.
APRIL 28-MAY 4: Flaming Lips, Madonna, Bill Maher, The Dixie Chicks, the war
APRIL 21-27: Rotary Connection, War(n) Out, Cocaine Talk
APRIL 14-20: Belated London Musings on Death Disco and CPFC.
APRIL 7-13: London Musings: Madness, Inspiral Carpets, the Affair, the Palace, the Jam
MARCH 31-APRIL 6: Music be the spice of life, London Calling: Ten Observations from the Old Country
MARCH 24-30: Six Foot Under, Peaches/Elefant live, MP Frees and Busted Boy Bands
MARCH 17-23: Röyksopp live, Transmission, Worn-Out War Talk
MARCH 10-16: Live reviews: Stratford 4, Flaming Sideburns, Joe Jackson Band, Linkin Park. Why I Oppose The War (For Now).
MARCH 3-9: The Pursuit of Happiness, Weekend Players, U.S. Bombs, Al Farooq, A New Pessimism, Brooklyn Half Marathon
FEBRUARY 24-MARCH2: Orange Park, Ali G-Saddam Hussein-Dan Rather-Bill Maher-Jon Stewart TV reviews, Stellastarr*, James Murphy, The Station nightclub fire, the Grammys
FEBRUARY 17-23: Village Voice Poll, Singles Club, Smoke and Fire
FEBRUARY 3-16: Snug, The Face, Pink, Supergrass live, Keith Moon, Phil Spector, Gore Vidal
JANUARY 27-FEBRUARY 2: Communist Chic, Spiritland, Daddy You're A Hero, Keith Moon, State of the Union, CPFC and more on Iraq
JANUARY 20-26: Divisions of Laura Lee, Burning Brides, Words On War, Child Abuse of a Different Kind, Losing My Edge
JANUARY 13-19: Pete Townshend, Pee Wee Herman, South Park and more Pete Townshend
JANUARY 6-12: Interpol in concert, Tony Fletcher's Top 10 Albums and Singles of 2002, More on Joe Strummer and The Clash, Fever Pitch and Bend It Like Beckham.
DECEMBER 31 2002 -JAN 5 2003: A tribute to Joe Strummer, Radio 4 live on New Year's Eve
DECEMBER 25-30: NO POSTINGS: ON VACATION
DECEMBER 16-24: Metro Area, Breakbeat Science, Sting makes Wine, New York Downtown redesigns, Keith Moon anecdotes, Campbell's jokes.
DECEMBER 9-15: Tiswas, pledge drives, The View from Up North
DECEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Weekend Players and Snow Lit Piano Bars)
FOR NOVEMBER 25-29 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Joe Hurley, Thanksgiving, Sven Väth, Richie Hawtin)
FOR NOVEMBER 16-24 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Longwave, The Pleased, Get Your War On, Powder, Radio 4, Supreme Beings Of Leisure, Ben Neill, Baldwin Brothers, Thievery Corporation)
FOR NOVEMBER 9-15 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes CMJ report including Datsuns, von Bondies and My Favorite, and political Eagles)
FOR NOVEMBER 2-8 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Halloween, the New York Marathon, and British Cuisine)
FOR OCTOBER 26-NOV 1 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes live reviews of The Streets, Mooney Suzuki, Sahara Hotnights, Flaming Sideburns, Stellastarr*; Jam Master Jay; Halloween)
FOR OCTOBER 19-25 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Underworld live, Atlantic Avenue antics, Girls and Boys night)
FOR OCTOBER 12-18 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Bali Bombing and stupid editorials, the Electro-Clash festival, VHS Or Beta, Ballboy, Mindless Self Indulgence, 2 Many DJs, Tom Petty, The Streets, pointless stop-the-war e-mails)
FOR OCTOBER 5-11 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Steve Earle and John Walker's Blues, Dreaming Of Britney, Girls Against Boys and Radio 4)
FOR SEPTEMBER 28-OCT 4 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes White Stripes live, Morel live, My Generation re-issue)
FOR SEPTEMBER 21-27 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Creation live, Village Voice, Wine not Whine and more)
FOR SEPTEMBER 14-20 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Firefighter Andre Fletcher, Untamed, Uncut, and more September 11 Musings)
FOR SEPTEMBER 7-13 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Sep 11 memorials, Did Bin Laden Win?, Scissor Sisters and Electro-clash)
FOR AUGUST 31-SEPTEMBER 6 MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes The Strokes live, The Rising, Saint Etienne, Team USA, a.i., Tahiti 80, Dot Allison)
FOR AUGUST 17-30 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes holiday musings, wine reviews, Luna at Southpaw, and more)
FOR AUGUST 10-16 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes lengthy Who live review)
FOR JULY 27-AUG 9 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Area 2, 24 Hour Party People Party, Hootenanny Tour, 2 Many DJs and more.
FOR JULY 20-26 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Wilson Pickett, John Entwistle, rebuilding downtown NYC)
FOR JULY 13-19 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Love Parade, Teany, RenewNYC, Femi Kuti, NRA, Londonisation of New York, Britishification of Global Rock)
FOR JULY 6-12 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes Mike Meyers as Keith Moon, the RAVE Act, John Entwistle, Michael Jackson, Southpaw, Moby Online, Layo & Bushwacka!,(accidentally deleted)
FOR JUNE 29-JULY 5 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup Final, John Entwistle's legacy, The Who's decision to carry on, the meaning of July 4)
FOR JUNE 22-28 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Dr. John, Doves, Mermaid Parade, John Entwistle's death, Timothy White's death, Clinic Firewater and Radio 4 live, The Who's decision to carry on)
FOR JUNE 15-21 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Liars live, GiantFingers, the Big Takeover)
FOR JUNE 8 -14 DAILY MUSINGS CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, StellaStarr*, Jose Padilla, Dee Dee Ramone, suicide bombings)
FOR JUNE 1-7 DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE (includes World Cup diary, Southpaw, Six Foot Under, Andrew Sullivan)
FOR LATE MAY DAILY MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR MAY'S EIGHT DAYS IN A WEEK'S MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR LATE APRIL LONDON MUSINGS, CLICK HERE
FOR EARLY APRIL MUSINGS, CLICK HERE