Archive for January, 2005


Regular readers (i.e. those that turn up every day and are only very slightly disappointed to find that I’ve not posted again) will realise that there’s not much more I like than having something to moan about. It’s what I live for, in the absence of much else – the thrill of the well-aimed jibe, the groggy excitement brought on by being able to scoff at another’s inferior product – I can almost pitch a tent in my pants just thinking about it. Which is why you’ll understand the tremendous, pulse-quickening glee I felt when one of those very same regular readers (thanks Cazz) sent me this link:

It’s a random frog generator. A generator. That generates random frogs. And of course it doesn’t credit the source of the idea, that fountainhead of all animal-related random imagery, my very own random kitten generator. This gives me all the ammunition I need to go on a week-long safari of moaning, an orgy of wanton griping, a great big dirty protest of bellyaching bile.

But I won’t. Because I quite like frogs.

And because I’m distracted. My iTunes software tells me that I’ve played ‘Ecstacy Dance’ by Gert Wilden and his Orchestra 1,885,628,525 times in the last 26 days, and to do so I fear I must have ripped a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum in some way. This, quite frankly, is a headache I could do without at the moment.

babenzele pygmy dinner

I own some pretty strange records. I have a cover of the Scorpions’ ludicrous power-ballad ‘Winds Of Change’ sung in Moroccan. I’ve got two albums of Mafia folk songs, records of quite astonishing lyrical power (once you’ve translated them from the original Sicilian):

Tonight the honourable society meets
The blades of our knives will turn red
With the blood of the traitors who have wronged us.

I’ve got a recording of Marie Osmond reading an avant-gaarde tone-poem. I have an album by disgraced 60s crooner PJ Proby in which he covers New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Garbageman’ by The Cramps. I’ve got a four-CD set of cold-war era intelligence agency messages broadcast on short-wave radio. I have a box-set of recordings featuring forest music by the Babenzele Pygmies of North-Eastern Zaire. I have a CD by the Thai Elephant Orchestra, which does pretty much what it says on the tin. Honestly. The list goes on.

Perhaps the stangest CD I own is by American musician Bob Ostertag. I can’t even possibly begin to describe it, so I’ll reproduce a section of the sleeve-notes here instead:

The sounds in this piece come from a recording of a young boy in El Salvador burying his father, who had been killed by the National Guard. There is the sound of the boy’s voice, the shovel digging the grave, and a fly buzzing nearby. In Part 2, there is an additional sound from a 3-scond sample of the guitar playing of Fred Frith.

Needless, to say, I’ve added it the “party shuffle” mode in my iTunes profile.

It’s a blast, really.

Anyway. Tonight I’m making dinner for a friend. I’m doing a black bean, pancetta and vegetable soup for starters and panna cotta with a blackberry couli for desert. Any suggestions for the main course? I’d like to do something with fish, I think.

sweary query

Here’s a question I’ve often pondered: Do people with tourette’s syndome go to the cinema, or do they always wait for the DVD release of a film, knowing that they’re likely blight other people’s enjoyment of a movie by suddenly shouting “TWAT!” during the quiet bits?

journey from hell

In 1922, the gloriously named Apsley Cherry Gerrard published The Worst Journey in the World, a devastatingly bleak account of Scott’s disastrous Antarctic expedition of a few years earlier. It’s a gripping read, and only falls down in one respect: the accuracy of the title. Gerrard obviously never endured the kind of minicab ride from Dalston to Kilburn that I’ve just braved, being hectored for the entire length of the trip by a born-again Christian driver on a mission to convert anyone unfortunate enough to share his car, to the soundtrack of Shanks & Bigfoot’s execrable “Sweet Like Chocolate” single played at ear-splitting volume, on repeat. Seriously. And he didn’t have any change.

I feel as if I’ve been violated. I’m guessing Captain Oates would only have made it as far as Swiss Cottage before bailing.

oh really

Years ago I was on a mailing list called tsluts. It’s where b3ta came from, sort of. It was kinda fun. Often someone would introduce a website to the group, someone else would ask the question, “shall we do them over?”, and everyone would get busy trolling the site in question, leaving odd comments or mild abuse in a humorous and mostly deserved kind of way. The combined force of the tsluts massive would descend as one and castigate the site for some imagined indiscretion or, as was often the case, for simply being crap.

Anyhow. Today I ran across a blog run by some student or other, where I read the following passage:

Blogjam is now an official term copyrighted by myself. Any use of said term will result in a lawsuit, unless accompanied by a link back to my blog.

And so I have to ask: shall we do them over?

Walking in a wilco wonderland

Hooray: it’s that time again, where my annual end-of-year music list is celebrated solely by me and rightly ignored by everyone else. I’ve elected to write this years listings in the style of a lazy music journalist, comparing each artist to two others while referencing some kind of narcotic. You’ll see what I mean. So here’s the top twenty-one, in no particular order.

Johnny Cash - UnearthedJohnny Cash – Unearthed
Lovingly compiled, lavishly packaged, and with beautifully written notes from Sylvie Simmons, this is one of those rare compilations greater than the sum of its parts. Like a cross between an acoustic Nick Cave and an aging Elvis Presley, on benzodiazepine.

Brian Wilson - SmileBrian Wilson – Smile
Nearly forty years in the making, and worth every second. Like a cross between The Wondermints and The Beach Boys, on vast amounts of prozac. Actually, that’s exactly what this album is.

Lucky Jum - Our Troubles End TonightLucky Jim – Our Troubles End Tonight
British singer-songwriter in good record shock. Tremendous, folksy stuff, like a cross between Bob Dylan and Tim Rose on cheap amphetamines.

Big & Rich - Horse Of A Different ColourBig & Rich – Horse Of A Different Colour
In which Nashville finally produces a modern country album that might instigate a shift away from the slick, sugary-sweet, sequined tripe that tends to populate the country charts. Like a cross between AC/DC and Merle Haggard, lying drunk in a barn on poison moonshine.

Ambulance LtdAmbulance Ltd
The best New York album since the Strokes debut (not much of a recommendation in itself, but it’s true). Stylistically a cross between Lou Reed and The Smiths drinking Jagermeister from a burnished kettle.

Sons & Daughters - Love The CupSons & Daughters – Love The Cup
Another Glaswegian triumph, a churning, tribal, country-fied masterpiece. Like a cross between Johnny Cash and The Gun Club on Cranhill Estate skag.

Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry BoatFiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat
Extraordinarily diverse hotch-potch of musical tinkering, featuring more ideas than a Stephen Hawkings compendium. A cross between Captain Beefheart and Mr Oizo playing mah-jong while high on tequila.

Detroit Cobras - BabyDetroit Cobras – Baby
Probably the best covers band in the World. A cross between The MC5 and Aretha Franklin race-tuning a Pontiac Firebird whilst slurping meths from a rusty cannister.

Wilco - A Ghost Is BornWilco – A Ghost Is Born
The Wilco formula is a strange one: write a great song, then attempt to disguise the fact. Like a cross between Hank Williams and Can dancing with Dr Moog on a cocktail of Tryptizol, Prothiaden and Molipaxin.

Mos Def - The New DangerMos Def – The New Danger
Nothing to do with Tony Blair, Mos Def confounded fans and critics alike with this gargantuan pot-purri of soul, hip hop and metal. Like Marvin Gaye being attacked by Public Enemy in a Bronx Alley whilst high on blunts and 40oz bottles of cough mixture.

Camper Van Beethoven - New Roman TimesCamper Van Beethoven – New Roman Times
In 2004 the Campers made an album that sounded like it was was recorded two weeks after their last proper effort, despite the fact that it took them 15 years to do so. A cross between Desmond Dekker and The Eagles drinking crates of Coors while painting abstract art on the bed of a beat-up Toyota pick-up.

Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand
Everybody’s favourite album of 2004, a fraught, homoerotic mixture of David Bowie and Wire whacked up on amyl nitrate challenging Debbie Harry to a knife-fight at a Hitler Youth reunion.

Seachange - Lay Of The LandSeachange – Lay Of The Land
Fronted by the strangely charismatic Dan Eastop, Seachange will be at the fore-front of 2005’s UK folk-noise movement, their Matador debut a cross between Joy Division and Fairport Convention playing Stooges covers whilst drinking a lovely hot cup of tea.

Fela Kuti - Music Is A WeaponFela Kuti – Music Is A Weapon
A well-selected best-of worth buying for the included DVD documentary, which features priceless footage of our extremely stoned hero performing in his Lagos compound dressed only in a rather worn pair of pastel blue y-fronts. Like a cross between Miles Davis and James Brown on enough Marijuana to sedate a pink elephant.

Daniel Johnston - Discovered CoveredDaniel Johnston – Discovered Covered
If there was ever any doubt about the songwriting genius of America’s favourite overweight sociopath, then this tribute album (featuring the likes of Eels, The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Tom Waits) should win over any remaining skeptics. Like the Beatles greatest hits rewritten by Forrest Gump being played at an indie-disco for hyperactive four year-olds gorging on cheeseburgers.

The Arcade Fire - FuneralThe Arcade Fire – Funeral
Not released in the UK till February 2005, The Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ is Pitchfork’s album of 2004, a ferocious, bewilderingly emotional cross between Wilco and Roxy Music wasted on absinthe at the emergency ward of a field hospital under mortar attack from Angolan freedom fighters.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of OrpheusNick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus
After a couple of rather ordinary releases, Cave returns to brilliant, often hilarious form. Like a cross between The Harlem Gospel Choir and Johnny Cash singing excerpts from The King James bible whilst dancing round a graveyard waving a rubber chicken at circus freaks. On heroin, naturally.

Mark Lanegan - BubblegumMark Lanegan – Bubblegum
Another smoldering classic from the archetypal gravel-throated singer. Like a crack-addicted Kurt Cobain singing newly discovered Robert Johnson songs for tourists to pay for throat-singing lessons, more specifically the popular Mongolian styles of Khoomei, Kargyraa and Sygyt.

Phoenix - AlphabeticalPhoenix – Alphabetical
The smoothest release of the year, these sophisticated Frenchies make the glossiest, radio-friendly tunes this side of Air and Steely Dan. On cocaine. Driving a Citroen with air-assisted suspension. Past a neon sign reading “this is all really rather sleek, isn’t it?”

TV On The Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty BabesTV On The Radio – Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
More post-punk perplexity from the Big Apple, as TV On The Radio confuse listeners with their peculiar brand of Brian Eno meets Pere Ubu electronic mayhem whilst injecting angel-dust into their swollen members at the Museum of Modern Art during a fund-raising drive to gather money for tsunami victims in upstate Vermont.

Kanye West - The College DropoutKanye West – The College Dropout
Hip Hop’s producer of the moment flies solo. Despite suffering from a distinct shortfall in the rapping talent department, Kanye has engineered a near-masterpiece, the most consisently funny rap album since Kool Keith’s scatalogically obsessed 1996 ‘Dr Octagon’ opus. It’s like Run DMC meets Erick Sermon undergoing methodone withdrawl at gangsta clown college with beats courtesy of Ennio Morricone’s drunk albino half-sister repeatedly jabbing a blunt spoon into the forehead of a dead otter.

Disclaimer: none of the above statements actually mean anything. They just sound like they ought to mean something. Remember that next time you pick up the NME.