Thursday, November 22, 2007

christmas and birthdays all rolled into one

carcass. are. reforming.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"these dark days"

a great tune, and a fair description of these winter nights drawing in. here are 39 songs for surving them - take one each day and it should get you not just to xmas but tip you into the new year.

sonico "alamma"

this is from jamie bissmire's jack trax vol. 1 ep, a phono-treat which also features friend-of-the-site (in our dreams) paul langley of "sexual predator" (the song) fame. "alamma" is all layered up with plenty of DOOSHes and bleeps and noises and bass. in other words, pretty fantastic.

k.n. "technique on monday"

headspringingly fine tokyo techno, a-side of 12" on the ever-reliable cluster. can't really describe why it's so good, but basically it has that kind of air-raid siren sound, and then that kind of lorry-reversing sound, and then plays them across each other. actually, that's probably why it's so good.

ted maul "200 dbs down"

this is from the "white label" cd album on raise the game. not many bands named after "the day today" reporters, but then there are not many bands like t.m., a london six-piece (can't bring ourselves to say sextet, simply for the kinda jazz fusion images it conjures up in our easily frightened minds) who do thrash with a touch of drum and bass, plus some quieter passages that gleam with idle riches of leftfield noodlism. the more metallic (in)fusions are in truth a little overlong, but the frenzied d&b passages, part-reminiscent of purity, yet then lightly glittered with metal (of which this is one) have a certain irresistible energy.

obliteration "the instrumental"

unlike the june brides' "the instrumental", this "the instrumental" is just an instrumental, even if it's perhaps a measure of the mild disappointment engendered by obliteration's debut album "perpetual decay" that it's this slab of servicable, terrorizer-like grind that we've chosen to represent it. anyway, let's have some vocals.

harper lee "ilene"

"the matinee hit parade" compilation, sold as a celebration of 10 yrs of this most rewarding label's past, is actually a very positive primer on its future - perhaps the best v/a comp of this ilk since we set hands on the bus stop label's "peppermint stick parade" somewhere in the previous century. we therefore make no apologies either for liberally sprinkling tracks from this cd throughout this list, or of course for starting with our favourite.

harper lee always excel - sob, excelled - in simple brilliance, and "ilene" is cut from the same cloth, all uncomplicated thoughts and unforgiving battery of the emotions as keris howard turns on the taps of regret and floods the place to oblivion. there are elements to "ilene" which do perfectly recall his brittle youth in brighter - the "la-la-la's", the cascading second vocal, the lack of swearing - but once again there is something grown-up, wearier, about the words and the way they hang off the keyboards, and the chime of the picked guitars, that is pure harper lee, and a reminder of what we are all going to be missing so.

sarandon "joe's record"

"joe's record" (the song) - taken from "joe's record" (the record), a 3-track 7" from slumberland on glorious mottled pinkish vinyl - is a charismatic *splurge* of energy, a stop-start post-peel tour de force of spikiness from a band who have even now got to co-opt free frenchster and ex-keaton rhodri marsden to guest on a bit of keyboard. many people who have been the subject of popular music - the lady in red, whoever "ruby" is, even nelson mandela - would be entitled to have been disappointed with the rubbishness of the tune bearing their name, but joe, whoever he may be, must be happy as a pig in swill city that his record is completely storming.

looking for an answer "cada nacimiento es una tragedia"

more amazing espagno-vegancore from allegedly forthcoming "extincion" lp: at time of writing, downloadable from here

electrophonvintage "break my heart again"

this just sounds perfect starting just as "cada nacimiento es una tragedia" finishes, and along with "where you're not" represents the high watermark of the fabulously louche, snug, acousticky, genteel and pipas-petite "we sang a ye ye song" album on unique records. last we saw, you could find "where you're not" for download here.

general surgery "ambulance chaser"

and this sounds fabulous coming hot on the heels of epv, a growling demo from '05 which if you're lucky you can find at their myspace. seeing gen surgery and lfaa on their current / recent tour would be quite amazing we fancy (even better if electrophonvintage played a set in the middle).

slipslide "let things fall apart"

and graeme elston has been making great records for 16 / 17 years, at least. while we enjoyed the last couple of slipslide sets we saw in london, "let things fall apart" seems to have a little more pizazz and sparkle than some of the other songs - it's a sweepingly fine, grown-up record, with sentiment as sorrowful and unyielding as harper lee's, yet it's still recognisably by the same guy who was recording scuzzier, but equally charming and intelligent pop songs for a turntable friend and co nigh on a generation ago.

chipmunk "64 bar statement"

at 16, chipmunk is fairly old for grime, perhaps, but he seems to have his head screwed on sentiment-wise on this "league of my own" mixtape. there are a few excellent tracks, inlcuding a couple produced by the equally ubiquitous and fabulous maniac, and the more knockabout, wiley produced "consistant" (sic), but you know we're always a sucker for 64 or sometimes 96 straight bars of rhyming, and it's always a good barometer for whether an mc can hold his own. chipmunk does the job.

little dee "star in the making"

and this is a maniac production too, as we suspect is half of what we've listened to this yr. if you are in any doubt as to how vital little dee is, check not just this song but the run of half a dozen or so tracks that starts, about halfway through this "don't let the name trick you" mixtape, with "calm down" - a pleasing lack throughout of the kind of slushy stuff that pads out most otherwise-arresting mixtapes - the guy is really raw, very exciting.

sunny intervals "sixty seconds to fall in love"

hidden treats don't come much more hidden (or as much of a treat) as the 5-track "call and response" mini-cd on wee pop! which is so much more than a lo-fi pocketbooks side project (although it is that). with lyrics, as you'd therefore expect, that entertain and actually reflect on london reality in doing so, while keyboards and guitars dance around them attempting unsuccessfully to rein in the singer's endless pop enthusiasm, this is the kind of thing that could give twee-pop a good name.

math and physics club "nothing really happened"

math and physics are BACK and they haven't lost it either, with their tender marriage of smithsian tales of youthful indiscretion and delicate, spinning guitars. the a-side of this cd-ep on matinee recordings, "baby i'm yours", pushes all the right buttons, but "nothing really happened" is even better: the smiths-isms combine most happily with the sort of spiralling, echoing guitars that made st. christopher's "cathedral high" soar so.

syer "normal day"

actually an ode of sorts to dagenham, prob the first since morrissey defined the britpop movement - not that anyone noticed - with "dagenham dave". the "side fx section 2" mixtape as a whole is a little patchy, as the music - even when the likes of jme assist - doesn't always match syer barz' own energy and authority, but he gets the balance right on this, its closing track.

manhattan love suicides "cracked open"

hinge-breaking, door-kicking-in noise-pop thrills from "kick it back" ep on magic marker, that follows on from the equally impressive re-recorded title track that manages to improve even on the album version, largely through increased feedback (yay). notwithstanding this, there is still an uncomfortable question out there as to how much better mls really are than pop threat, but there is at least no doubting that they are fairly amazing.

tippa irie "the neighbour next door"

tippa is an artist of the old school who probably loves lyrics even more than he loves the music (witness "lyric that's my hobby" or "lyric a rhyme"), and his new lp "talk the truth!" on lockdown is rumbustious, irrepressible, varied and, given that tippa is still best known for "hello darling" back in approx 1666, surprisingly informed with modern inspirations as his patented-over decades brand of uk dancehall seamlessly takes in all kind of bhangra and hip-hop influences and a number of guest slots and productions, the best of which are possibly the intro by soulforce and the tippa vs. frankie paul sweet reggae of "free up". anyway, today "the neighbour next door" wins because it's a bit like smiley culture's "police officer" (which it acknowledges)facing off chas and dave's "turn that noise down" (which it doesn't). such a combination strikes us as being approx as good as music can, in fact, get.

lovejoy "astronauts"

richard preece at his glimmering best - a most worthy tribute to the late k.g. which is good enough that it could have sheltered without disgrace on lovejoy's "everybody hates" album. can we have a single, please ?

blak twang "help dem lord"

older readers will remember a time when blak twang received constant attention from these pages, not unlike wiley does now - the b.t. of "red letters" / "19 long time" vintage was a big part of the soundtrack to our late-90s hopping around bedsitland. anyway, after "the rotton club" album, which was perhaps a little meek compared to the soccer a.m.-friendly hoolie of "kik off" or "publik order", there was a little silence, now broken by an excellent, and much more grown-up twang (probably handy, given that lethal bizzle and co are now making music directed almost exclusively at 14 year olds). "help dem lord" is not the cheeky, blokey, ducking and diving tony rotton: instead, he steps back with anincredibly widely-targeted rant, full of the consciousness that fired our past favourites like "fearless". it's a 12" on rotton products.

captain polaroid "shatner"

scratchy, endearing lo-fi wedd pres cover, the energy of which happily puts one in mind of the thrill of hearing "george best" first time round (this is not easy) and so ties in with our recent gigwatching exploits. "shatner" is taken from the patchier "nineteeneightyseven" compilation via the filthy little angels corporation. the captain also appears, we should remind you, on the ever-necessary "honey the dog's home" benefit cd on ilfu, along with various major-league genii like the beatniks, the racer, and the horowitz.

terminator "05"

this being the storming show-closer from scorcher / the movement's underwhelmingly-titled "thunder power" mix cd. as terminator gets very excited about the aircon in his motor, his delivery fair puts one in mind of the near-horizontal deadpan cool of j. gambles, while still itching with a little menace.

club 8 "heaven"

a free download single from labrador, discovered as no end of these tracks are courtesy of http://www.indie-mp3.co.uk. while club 8 are never bad, they don't always make much of an impression on us: but, sandwiched between terminator and mistress, "heaven" seems veritably to spring out of the blocks, in a manner rarely seen since pine forest crunch did "cup noodle song" (and then fell off really badly, even worse than superrhymes).

mistress "the glory bitches of doghead"

in which a pastoral, rainsoaked intro soon gives way to fulltilt metalgrindcrust noise occasionally evoking clanging recent bolt-thrower or even midstream napalm. this tune kicks off the cd of the same name, on lord shane embury's feto label.

the would-be-goods "temporary best friend"

yep, more from this damn (fine) matinee comp. this is the WBGs sounding not un-heavenly, fact fans, which may not be surprising as this is a p. momtchiloff composition of the old school. as such, it rolls and roars and jangles supersweetly.

bedroom eyes "hand-in-hand grenade"

sublimely confident, tiptop, well-executed scando pop thrills from ep of the same name on cloudberry (tho "motorcycle daydream" is very nearly as good): also on their "valentine vacancy" download ep we think. don't be fooled when he sings about dan treacy though, because this is of far more polished ilk than the last tvp single (even though that, lest we forget, was one of the best singles ever, in a very different way).

marshall smith "please let this go on forever"

marshall smith are a combo featuring ex-a witness, pram and bIG*fLAME members (the latter being current sarandon bassist alan brown, a man also once responsible for the unrecognised greatness that was the great leap forward's strikingly ambitious, ever slept-on "don't be afraid of change") whose "colours" album obviously therefore sparkles when tracks like "cross of wages" and "jumpin' a red light" directly recall the happy, twisted, brutal indie-pop grooves of a witness. however, the downside of recalling the ever-wowsome a.w. is that you start craving keith curtis' vocals, so it is in some of the other tunes, like this and the title track, on which marshall smith really shine as a band in their own right: introspective, tight-knit indie melodies with bright guitars that you might expect of the forest giants or kelman.

kelman "is this how it ends ?"

and speaking of kelman... this is taut, shimmering, dreamy velvets vs. weddoes download single on linear from another seemingly perpetually underrated outfit...

obituary "evil ways"

download single on candlelight records, also on "xecutioner's return" cd album: we were a bit sniffy on first hearing, sorry... it's true that "evil ways" would be twice as good if it was half as long and didn't have the guitar solo, but then if it was half as long and didn't have the guitar solo, then it wouldn't be obituary. and then it wouldn't have the ever-warming john tardy vocal, which gives us the same goosebumps as jim reid's or tinchy stryder's...

skepta "greatest hits"

now this is, as you might guess, title track to the long-promised "greatest hits" cd album on boy better know. aside from 2 or 3 tunes - most inevitably the cringing, perhaps postmodernly bad single, "sweet mother" - this album meets even the unrealistically high aspirations we had for it. not even the fact that skepta, brother of jme and token non-e3 member of roll deep, was apparently employed to play peaches geldof's birthday party can detract from the fact that he is a real talent, and that his confidence is rarely misplaced.

even as we speak "100"

unforgivably ignored / forgotten non-sarah single from "a three minute song is one minute too long - the singles 1986-1990" compilation cd on egg records, which also features versions of a few more familiar tunes that later made it on to their sarah 7"s. this is jangle of a high order and, we would venture to suggest, ripe for an indie-disco near you.

verb t / the last skeptik "winterland"

typically neat track from "broken window", an album made at least as much by dj collaborator the last skeptik as by verb-t himself: "winterland" can't really fail, given that it has a guest slot from (former manage collaborator)syanide, and cuts from (diversion tactics deck genius) jazz-t. even ukhh student pin-up jehst steps up to the plate.

seb zero "one step too far"

what makes good grime ? it's not - as n-dubz might have it - about learning to temper the anger and incorporating "classic" song structures, verses, bridges and hooks. it's about one thing only - hunger, and being able to hear it -and frankly, if the beats are good enough, the more repetitive they are, the better. so this is fabulous stuff again, from the "thunder power" mix cd.

horowitz "hug target"

melody-melding fuzzy pop track on alleged forthcoming split 7" with ex-urusei bods project ako. the other track that horowitz contribute is arguably even greater than this, but it's an argument we'll return to another time.

the electric pop group "my only inspiration"

having got over mild disappointment that the electric pop group are not a pop group tribute band, i can at least report that they are fairly ace, sounding a bit like a more mannered sea urchins or the clouds, and that "my only inspiration", with even a touch of the "velocity girl"'s at the end, is now a permanent fixture in our empty little heads here at in love with these times, in spite with these times mansions. why not listen here ? as correspondents have mentioned, our northern european neighbours are really making a mark on indie-pop at the moment - there's more to the scandos than just pitergrind, you know.

ice pack "247"

b-side (but superior side) of ice pack and rob tryptomene's "freeloaders of society" 12" on cluster as liberator and mcaffer collaborate again, with one of their sparsest (and hence best) productions so far this year. it's a little frustrating that virtually every techno release these days seems to be incomplete without the music being uprooted by extensive samples of ppl going on about how brilliant drugs are: after all, listening to indie music would be significantly less enjoyable if every single track was full of samples of people going on about how great weak beer and dandruff were. perhaps we're just grumpy because we feel lonely in loving this music so much even when entirely sober, when really we should probably feel lucky in that.

tullycraft "the secret history of devil's paw"

given how amazing tullycraft are and have been for a long time now, how they are certainly one of the premier american bands of the best decade or so, how seeing "superboy..." live frankly slayed us, and how "disenchanted hearts unite" hinted at shocking greatness in places like "leaders of the new school" and "polaroids from mars" - "every scene needs a center" doesn't register with us in quite the way we expected or hoped. while the lyrics throughout are of a uniformly high standard, it's six tracks in before we make any real kind of connection with it, during "dracula screams of tiger style"'s slower passages and the wistful but rather lovely "the lonely life of a ufo researcher" that follows it. then, there's another hiatus before the album finishes with, in our view, its three best songs -all quite mid-paced and including a suspiciously well-observed / researched number called "one essex girl" - and reminds us that tullycraft can still pull up trees if they want to. anyway, this is the middle one of those three, and it's the best ballad we've heard since frank turner's "thatcher fucked the kids".

the lucksmiths "good light"

you can guess what v/a comp this is from. here the 'smiths have a slightly more driving (er, less languorous) sound and are all the fresher for it: and it seems perfectly conceivable to us that they are going to be making records this good at least until the end of time, which is a win / win for humanity we think. if you stop us in the street sometime we may also go on about their sprawling yet fantabulous "spring a leak" double-cd comp, and particularly about the excellent remixes by the likes of hydroplane and pipas that give the lucksmiths a new dimension (even on top of marginally more conventional temptations like the delicious "make a wish", their stripped-down take on "i've got it and it's not worth having" or their cover of the sugargliders' superb "dolly"...

the steinbecks "1987 + 1994 = 2007"

... speaking of which, the sugargliders / steinbecks / lucksmiths synergy underlies this marvellous "far from the madding crowd" album on microindie on which tali white features prominently, and this is year-rolling back pop gorgeousness from it, as the brothers meadows manage to keep the vocals sounding slightly pained while the music remains as blissfully light and intertwined as "letter to a lifeboat" or frankly anything from the sugargliders or steinbecks since then. i mean, we're never quite going to burst with the hives of happiness we had on first hearing crumpled cassettes of "top 40 sculpture" or "which part of no don't you understand ?" but this is another song that oozes charm and angst in equal measure, sounding exactly as you would expect and - more importantly, want - the meadows brothers to. can't think of a better closer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the wedding present, university of london union, monday 19th november 2007

got an e-mail from our mate simon the other day. inamidst the usual talk of carcass and bristol rovers, it contained an obvious truth (albeit disguised as a question): "wp-gb: still one of the top 5 lps of all time?????"

but before we wax on that, the first instalment of this our latest "long weekend" of live action saw us take in a battle of the blues, in a cool but dry BS7 on the saturday. the first-half performance from rovers vs millwall was abject, blunt and lacklustre, the ball loosely launched towards centre-backs who would duly mop it up and launch it back into the madding fray bundling comically around in the centre circle. suffice it to say that rovers played as if in a trance, with rickie lambert seemingly asleep, and that the struggling lions' 1-0 lead at the interval (teenager ali fuseini coming off the bench early doors to score an absolute belter pretty much immediately) should fairly have been two or three. all rovers fans, were, of course, also still sporting black armbands following the recent demise of our most high-profile supporter, norman mailer.

it did, however, turn around, with a reinvigorated rovers fair hurtling towards the millwall goal for much of the second half, eventually rewarded by a penalty after rovers substitute, "our" andy williams, went down in the box (allegedly, of course - when, even at the front of the terrace, you're stood 120 yards away from the play, with parallax, floodlight blur and sunset playing combined havoc with contact lens vision, you clearly have no real idea what is going on at all, not that that stops all those calls to 6.06 claiming that any particular decision was a "travesty" and that, compulsorily, the referee was an "absolute disgrace"...).

anyway, lambert, by now miraculously recovered from first-half coma, despatched said penalty with lazarene grace. then, our second substitute, david pipe, the floodlights bouncing off his shining pate to create shooting stars of wingplay, went on a number of high-speed canters down the right side of the pitch, the last of which resulted in a cross being nodded home salmon-like by lewis haldane. and somehow rovers, despite being behind from 3.08 p.m. to about 4.40 p.m., tho it seemed longer, had contrived to pull out a first home win of the season (and technically, our first ever win in "league one" - aka division three, which was technically called, er, "the second division" when we last left it, via the trapdoor exit, about the turn of the century).

there was a bit of physical comedy, too - when akinfenwa came on near the end for the beleaguered londoners, he looked nothing like as dangerous as the guy we saw showing for doncaster and torquay not too long ago. instead, he looked suddenly the stockiest player to grace a football field since late-period maradona and was lucky to remain on it for more than a couple of minutes given a "forward's challenge" for which he saw yellow...

sunday, we went to see arcade fire at the ally pally (no, there's no point in asking: you'll get no reply). i gotta say that they weren't actually that bad, doing their best to imbue us all with a rosy glow given the near-sleet freezing chaos outside. of course, the set was far too long, but then that's basically an accusation that can justly be levelled at basically all bands, especially the ones that play arenas. the audience didn't strike us as the types who own that many records, or go to that many gigs, so we should probably take it as a massive +ve that nestling inamongst the usual keaneplay-type schlock in the cd racks of range rovers are outings by a broadsheet-adored canadian combo who resemble early u2 if they'd co-opted horn and string sections, drunk a few too many energy drinks and then kidnapped robert forster and cyndi lauper for vocal duties. it was also quite interesting seeing the support band, clinic, who have managed to escape us for some time - we thought they were at least ok, and infinitely preferable to the likes of franz ferdinand who we've seen at the same venue (we would link to our post on that, but that piece wasn't particularly well written either).

anyway, yes the main event came on monday - the weddoes. although on first hitting teenagehood i always tended to ensconce myself toward the soft, sensitive side of indie things (wallowing in the pastoral strum of the razorcuts, or the pastels at their feyest, before later veering fullsquare into the elysian fields of sarah records), somehow it was the decidedly non-rustic wedding present, even with all their frenetic strumming, that spoke to me more than any other band when i was 14, their early combination of conversational nous and flaming plectrum abuse still never having been properly equalled. and "george best", of course, their first long playing record, became the heart of all that.

20 years on and "george best" the record is back on tour, even if the man who gave it its title has somewhat inevitably parted from us in the meantime, and the london ulu is the only venue on the new tour that showcased it first time round too. it's not hard to imagine the original wedding present here, in this staunchly dating student union building that yet seems so much more cosy than newer venues like the godforsaken islington academy, where the weddoes had apparently played the previous night. it is hard, however, to imagine that the bar queues in 1987 could have been any worse than they are in 2007: it is also hard to imagine that the band would have allowed someone on stage with them dressed in full white rabbit costume (you probably had to be there. actually, you should have been there anyway) or for support to be provided by a group who would seem to have missed their true vocation of playing weddings. also, it was the first time we'd been to ulu since a napalm death animal rights benefit that we think turned up on one of their dvds (hence commercial availability of real life footage of stagediving ilwtt, isott collaborators).

anyway, to get back to the retro-shtick, i bought "george best" the week it came out, on the first day i didn't have anything after school to stop me, wandering to parrott records in chelmsford to part with five pound coins to nab a copy with free white vinyl single of "my favourite dress" - they had run out of the limited edition george best carrier bags - and then to the bus home. reaching the parents turntable then heralded the start of more mazy, fabulous listening days.

and so it's correspondingly fantastic, in this day and time (my brother) hearing songs like "don't be so hard", "what did your last servant die of ?" and "you can't moan can you ?" live - these were amongst the handful of numbers, when "gb" came out, that hadn't yet been previewed in radio one sessions for janice and john, and so sounded even more intriguing, dare we say exotic, at the time. as for the songs that had already been previewed via maida vale, well tonight we could remember not only every single lyric by heart (as did most of the crowd, who haven't aged quite as well as gedge) but also the fact that we taught ourselves the chords to them all at one point or another (not terrifically hard, as one might imagine): "a million miles", "something and nothing", "it's what you want that matters" all little jewels, sparkling against the diagonal rain of another unremittingly cold night outside. and the way that the last minute or so of "my favourite dress" does nothing more than twelve rotations of the same four bars of three chords, yet sounds so devillishly perfect, as if no other arrangement could have given it the power, charm and glow it still most assuredly has.

and, of course, there is the single that most closely preceded the album, "anyone can make a mistake" - "this monochrome stuff", as i think a moderately grudging sounds review branded it - but it's not just gedge who retains a special fondness for the song. frankly, for me, "anyone can make a mistake" is still to the 1980s what boyracer's "he gets me so hard" is to the 1990s: i.e. probably the best 2 or 3 minutes of it.

tonight, fighting a losing battle against perspiration and no doubt bleeding fingers, gedge mischievously seeks to blame long-departed drummer (and later popgun) shaun charman for the sheer pace of the songs on "george best", but of course this run through the album applies typical live-weddoes song acceleration, seemingly getting through the whole album in about 12 minutes (on "all this is more", which could hardly have been played any quicker, it seems that proto-hardcore influences happily intrude). we know that tonight we are seeing only 1/4 of the band that actually delivered "george best": that to all intents and purposes, the wedding present have for some time been one person, a mark e. smith-style survivor who has evolved into a completely natural, charismatic frontman. yet the wedding present have something else in common with the fall (and even the smiths): for despite new bands for two decades having been compared to them - the latest allusion to an alleged weddoes-inspired band occurring in the other week's guardian - frankly, nobody has ever managed to make quite the same noise (and quiet, those at the back who would still maintain this was somehow a good thing).

the other great thing about the wedding present is that they still refuse to play encores, a habit that all bands need to get into, and long since abandoned by the few that had it (especially new order, who have recorded little encore-worthy material since they started playing encores). and while the re-run through the dozen pearls that = "george best" is bookended by nine other songs from TWP thru the ages, the band seem so into the spirit of the history lesson, the tribute to the album that put them on the map, that they even modestly neglect to tell that there's some more product out there, a live cd called "shepherd's bush welcomes the wedding present" on dream catcher (who, funnily enough, have been home to napalm death in the past) as well as the self-explanatory "live 1987". so seek, and bask like we did in all the rediscovered, halcyon weddoes memories you thought you'd never again experience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

islington planning department and the sex pistols vs. the fa cup first round proper and milky wimpshake

in the latest double-whammy of continuing local cultural vandalism, no sooner has highbury caff (as frequented by local luminaries like alan davies and er, us) been replaced by a bloody KFC than the jorene celeste, a pub / bar of at least some palpable charm and dimly lit old-fashioned beauty and one of our few places of respite left around north one, is being replaced by a chain "burger bar and cocktail lounge". while it is a truism that every discovery of a good pub or hangout these days is just as inevitably a stumbling upon an endangered species, it still seems criminal that, like mistress p's in clapham old town, the polar bear in soho, the black lion and french horn on pollen street, the old king lud of i, ludicrous fame, even the now-derelict canonbury in er, canonbury, the handful of places that we discover years too late and that are all-too fleetingly special are always the ones that disappear post-haste, whilst the identikit bars roll on and on, the foxtons minis parked outside and the fashionistas parked inside.

then, walking down upper street today, once so full of the character of the old pubs and coaching inns, we were reminded how only recently the old parr's head became another clothing chainstore, while the mitre seems to have been boarded up completely. there is also, of course, the additional affront of still seeing the reckless records shopfront - reckless having being forced to vacate islington years ago through increased shop rents - and yet the unit has remained unoccupied ever since. great work by the landlord there.

so we went to a favourite haunt in the city, the pound off london wall, to commiserate over all this, as for reasons that i can't quite elucidate, this stuff is depressing me hugely right now. unfortunately, when we got to the pound it had been completely gutted - another away from the numbers, understated hostelry bites the dust.

anyway. the other week, we went to see the pistols. given how low our expectations were, the fact that we still managed to be disappointed is fairly remarkable, but the upside was that, having walked out after six or seven songs, we were able to retreat into the altogether more authentic environment of the beehive in brixton. the gig itself was a strange and unaccountably unappealing combination of vaudeville, karaoke and beer festival: introduced by a tape of vera lynn singing "there''ll always be an england", which went down very well with the punters, especially the lines "if england means as much to you / as england means to me...." which were sung with particularly fervent, unironic gusto. lydon himself then picked up the theme unremittingly, remarking how sick he was of england being sold down the river and exhorting us all between songs to be proud of being english - a sentiment that went down like wildfire amongst the snarling, beer-lobbing punters. for our part, we still love the pistols, and always will, for without them music would be frankly nothing. but as we have said before, the day that we are palpably proud of being english has not yet arrived - it may yet, for example, be the day that the killers of stephen lawrence are brought to justice. (if you wish to contribute invective about our political correctness or something, feel free - we got used to it in the days we were foolish enough to linger on the bristol rovers messageboards).

luckily, the day after that saw an utter reversal in our fortune and hence to our whingeing self-pity. firstly, we were treated to a positive performance from the aforementioned bristol rovers f.c. (aka the black arabs, fellow "swindle" fans) at orient in the fa cup, with the late salvaging of a very deserved draw courtesy of a rickie lambert header - cue happy clappy mayhem. incidentally, there was also a moving, warm and impeccably-observed remembrance service on the pitch at half-time, a reminder of the clapton orient players who joined the footballers' battalion in 1914, and of course not all of whom returned. then, we pottered down to brixton hill where in stark contrast to the previous evening's damp squib, electrophonvintage charmed us, horowitz ruled our school and milky wimpshake returned after an unacceptably long absence to reclaim basically the whole world of popular music as their own ("needed: heart handbook", "philosophical boxing gloves", "weirdo", "milk maid", darlo, "i wanna be seen in public with you", "it might sound dramatic", "nightclub voyeur cliche", basically you name it). an uproariously fine evening of entertainment.