Thursday, October 28, 2004

Peel the caps back

And here's your postscript: I saw the current incarnation of Extreme Noise Terror last night supporting Nasum, and they were, perhaps improbably after all these years, quite wonderful, playing everything from "Bullshit Propaganda" through to 2001's "Being and nothing" and "Damage limitation", and with lead shouter Dean Jones imploring his daughter in the front row to "stay punk". Before their last song, Dean just said, "This is dedicated to our best friend... John Peel" and then they seared their way through "Carry on screaming". I'm not ashamed to say it brought tears to my eyes. So, John, carry on screaming indeed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

legends and the Fall

Although I can't really find any words to say, I'm going to try and compose a few now as later on I will be having a drink for the late great John Peel and listening to "Atmosphere" and "Teenage Kicks" and I suspect I will get myself in a right st8.

The number of e-mails I received today with this horrible news is testament to the man's influence and outreach. The quiet evangelist. The polite radical. The revolutionary Radio 4 presenter, for heaven's sake. And I'm just thinking how it was Peel who first played me the Fall and Public Enemy and the Field Mice and Napalm Death and Half Man Half Biscuit and Extreme Noise Terror and the Sugarcubes, sitting here as I type and survey my record collection, pretty much every record I ever own. Listening to Peel sessions, buying Peel sessions, marvelling at everything from Where's The Beach ? to Electro Hippies to the Bhundu Boys to Gore. Being taught to value diversity, to investigate rather than merely to consume. The very worst thing about Peel's death is that there is no-one to take over. Comparing him to any other DJ isn't even a starter. Westwood plays great hip-hop, sometimes. Vance used to play great metal, sometimes. Janice Long used to play great indie, sometimes. Kershaw played great reggae, world and often even the odd bit of jangle. Peel did all of the great stuff and threw in house, techno, noise, beautifully dry conversation, botched cue-ins. Bastro. Jackdaw With Crowbar. Bastard Kestrel. Unseen Terror. Ut. Bubblegum Splash! This Poison! Catapult. And now he's gone, not only are there hundreds of fine bands that will never again be played on national radio, there are hundreds of future Joy Divisions and Undertones and Wedding Presents who will never even get to emerge. Remember how Peel was the only one who withstood hype. He admitted not to really getting the Stone Roses when the fashionistas had them down as messiahs. He refused to give Oasis a Peel Session at the same time that the rest of Britain seemed, madly, to be feting their every fetid chord. He was eventually, inevitably, banned from presenting Top Of The Pops because he was not sufficiently banal, or inane. On his last show, as I remember it, he introduced a Simple Minds video, with gleefully evident displeasure. And this is even before mentioning *punk*. When Peel championed the Pistols, it wasn't a cool thing to do at all. It alienated many of his listeners, but he was compelled to go with what was new and life-changing even then.

And, and, and. He appeared on Desert Island Discs and played Teenage Kicks and the Fall's "Eat Y'Self Fitter", the single greatest record ever to have been, and that ever will be, taken to that increasingly crowded island paradise. He curated the Meltdown festival on the South Bank in 1998 and it was superb. Highlights were many (an amazing post-midnight show from the Jesus and Mary Chain, for example), although a double bill of Lonnie Donegan and Half Man Half Biscuit also speaks for itself. I never spoke to him, ever. I remember a couple of gigs I went to where he was definitely there - Cornershop in Islington in about '94, and Blueboy in Bristol probably not too long after. But then from the FM dial he spoke to me for 20 years. Four nights a week I'd be eagerly taping stuff from his show, listening and learning. And every band he played were truly grateful to be played. I interviewed the Rosehips recently and was thinking just how, excellent band as they were, I'd never have heard them without Peel. That could apply to at least 80% of my all time favourite groups. Think of all the great labels that would never have got off the ground without his mentoring. And I remembered a story of how an ex-friend of mine once bumped into Peel out shopping in Colchester, and was hopelessly lost for words, as you would be in the presence of gr8ness. He could only muster (in retrospect, brilliantly) the phrase "You're John Peel". But Peel didn't miss a beat, just smiled and said, "That's right, young man".

I really don't normally feel moved by deaths, even of artists that meant a lot to me. But this man was the first, last and only. An original and irreplaceable. And it is extremely hard to think of an individual who has influenced UK music more over the last forty years. Seriously, think about it. Bowie, Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, the Pistols, the Clash, the Smiths, the Fall, the Cure, New Order (who have already admitted they wouldn't even exist without him).

I don't know how to celebrate his life, but virtually every tune I ever listen to will do so. For the time being, I might dig out the Undertones DVD, in which he interviews the band that he helped steer to immortality. First, however, I intend to get modestly, tearfully drunk. Tomorrow night, I'm going to see Extreme Noise Terror. You can guess to whom I owe my 17 year adoration for them...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

death and indie-pop, not death to indie-pop!

Now you know me. Indie writ thru my heart, like "Southend-on-Sea" through the best rock. My favourite single ever is by Bubblegum Splash!: my favourite album of 2004 so far is by Harper Lee. I am listening to This Poison! incessantly right now. But why are indie-kids so precious and narrow minded ? It's bad enough that few can acknowledge that half this year's best singles are hip-hop. Even worse, there are those that don't like metal and its variations: a genre that commits the cardinal sin for indie boys of not being "cool" and artful and insufficiently self-regarding. But I can tell you all for a fact that I went to see Obituary tonight at the Electric Ballroom and while I've never counted myself as a big fan, it was one of the best shows I've been to for years. Plus two fun-packed encores. And the crowd was a lot more friendly and less snobbish than I normally get at the Arts Cafe or the Betsey Trotwood... Think on that, people. Peace.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


I cannot disagree with a single word of this.

Which is bizarre, when it's presumably being written by those it purports to castigate...

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Keris Howard is still God...

At some point i hope to go into more detail about the new album. But until then, i just need to say that Harper Lee's "I don't need to know about your wonderful life" is probably my favourite song so far of a 2004 that has witnessed a number of very beautiful and fabulous songs...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

indie-pop supplemental

rather unforgivably i forgot to mention that the rough trade comp also features (a) the INVENTORS of indie, the television personalities, with the unmistakably divine '81 lo-fi shamble of "look back in anger"; and (b) "preposterous tales" by i, ludicrous, a legitimate call for best track on the whole damn thing, and another justification to salute rather than scorn the rough trade bods for their fairly eclectic tracklist. so that's 2 more reasons why the compilation should find its way into yr shopping bag, if only as a stocking filler for an ancient c86-obsessed favourite aunt or uncle...

Friday, October 08, 2004

various artists "indie pop 1" (rough trade)

long after the event we welcome 2xcd from rough trade showcasing a useful 46 indie tunes, and all people can do is slag it (well, i'm thinking of here), saying ooh, i would have picked a different 46 songs - no kidding. but the whole point is surely that if this comp contained just a HANDFUL of great long-lost songs, it would be worth fast-forwarding thru any number of aural monstrosities. (and in fact i'm delighted to say that there are very few complete duds on here - just the sign o' the times that the worst song on here is the most recent, aberfeldy's dismally dull "vegetarian restaurant", complete with dreary falsetto...)

IT IS WORTH YOU BUYING THIS COMPILATION because it contains first outings on cd for the likes of this poison!'s "poised over the pause button". IT WOULD BE WORTH BUYING if the only track on it was my real revelation, a r kane's "when you're sad". IT IS WORTH BUYING because until someone does the decent thing and re-releases all my bloody valentine's best stuff, we need to have "paint a rainbow" on our cd players. IT IS WORTH BUYING because unless you already have them all it contains classic and / or excellent tracks from june brides, flatmates, the wedding present, primal scream, josef k, mary lou lord, razorcuts, television personalities, felt, sea urchins, THE SHOP ASSISTANTS for god's sake - it has the shining jewel in scotpop's crown "safety net" - the pastels, mccarthy, talulah gosh... and heavenly's "sort of mine" which THEY PLAYED IN THE VIRGIN MEGASTORE ON OXFORD STREET to an absolutely unadoring and unsuspecting audience of latenight city shoppers but it put a full smile on my face.... and it finishes with "government administrator" by eggs and "sweeping the nation" by spearmint, and whilst neither song make me spin on the ceiling with ageless ecstasy like "you trip me up" (yep, that's here too!! god yes!), they show how "our" whole scene in fact folded so easily into producing fantastic proper, real, likeable, songsmithery, only to be rebuffed by the cold, insular mainstream.

it does not matter that there are about 500 or 600 ace indie-pop tunes that are not on this compilation. instead, it is worth just immersing yourselves in the better tunes and the sleevenotes, and reflecting on the truth that, as matt haynes says, that somewhere around indiepop zero aka 1986, "the ruins of the old pre-punk world were [still]... ours to have a jig in".

it does not matter that guitar music these days is in a fcuking state, nor that oasis and co put out the embers of punk's co-opting, positive flame in the 90s, even that "punk" these days is a trio of public schoolboys who vote tory because their disposable consumer tripe has made them a royal mint. it does not matter that ukhiphop and grindcore and garage and grime are producing the sort of quality now that today's crop of indiepopsters can but dream of. what matters is that we don't have to forget, or ever be ashamed, of what we enjoyed back then, and best of all, we don't even have to stop enjoying it. i'd rather this compilation existed than didn't to the power of 10, so thanks be to rough trade for letting us have it. aight ?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

protest and survive ?

And the trend of giving into bullying started, I suppose, with the fuel protests of recent years by which individuals that depended even more than the rest of us on an unsustainable and unaffordable source of energy for their living decided to blockade the rest of us into subsidising them through a series of clearly illegal industrial actions. There was a certain wry joy in the deadening irony of right-wing newspapers refusing to condemn wildcat strikes and secondary picketing bringing large swathes of the country to a close by "their" disciples, whilst continuing to rage against "left-wing" unions who were striking (and thus - horror of horrors - "inconveniencing" us put-upon middle englanders) after having jumped through every procedural hurdle the law now requires, not least the secret ballot of the affected workers. What the current hunting escapades seem to be doing is confirming the suspicion that we always had that, if actions the press repeatedly condemned were being committed by people they actually felt an ideological or other kinship with, then they would be virtually free from criticism, or at least attract explicit sympathy and understanding - the death threats to anti-hunting MPs being a prominent example. At least, unlike the fuel protests, the Government were prepared in the face of recent pro-hunt rallies to actually let the police uphold the law. But one suspects, even if the front bench doesn't manage to wriggle out of its moral obligations to accept the will of the House, that attempts to enforce the new law when it falls into place will be made, at best, with little of the vigour that is usually reserved for the rest of us.