Saturday, August 25, 2007

Goers of the Throbbing, Choppy Crowds,

Admittedly, I haven’t paid much attention but I have found 2007 so far to be a poor year for good album releases (albeit Bombshell by King Creosote is on the horizon). The judging of the Bellyaches Music Prize 2007 shall be rather easy. One album that I rate highly remains ineligible: Our Love to Admire by Interpol. It’s their most cohesive album to date. It’s full of songs for the grim moods that I permanently take up, hidden in those songs is always a ray of hope. Interpol are just a band that plays some songs, Interpol is more of an ethos to be submerged in and that act is only possible for layered people.

Some of those would have attended Interpol’s T on the Fringe concert at the Corn Exchange on Wednesday. Interpol have long been on my list of bands that I must see, thus I toddled along. I had never been to the Corn Exchange so this visit will probably be my first and last. The problem with liking bands that produce great songs, become critically and commercially successful is that they attract people and people need to be accommodated – the only way to do this is by putting them in horribly huge venues. I don’t mind the distance back of the venue and the stage, I don’t mind not being able to see much. It’s the people that I hate. Why can’t they find a spot and stay there for the duration? I thought some of the twits were solely there to do laps of the hall. They may have been thirsty but does that mean that they should shove people out of the way. One nimrod was on one of his laps, I was not aware of him thus he stayed kicking me until I realised that he needed through. More people also means that the likelihood of people singing and clapping along is greater. I didn’t pay for this treatment to be added to the songs. In fact, these are distinctly not part of the Interpol ethos. I feel quite duffer-like for having these grievances. I’m not cut out for the big bands at the big venues.

The band was excellent on the evening. They finally arrived on stage at 9.30pm; the crowd were quite irate by this time, there were boos. Somehow, this was forgotten when the ethereal five appeared with the din of feedback. They began with the opener on Our Love to Admire, Pioneer to the Falls, it’s an epic with a great chorus, “Show me the dirt pile and I will pray that the heart can take three stowaways.” The next song was a classic from Turn on the Bright Lights, Say Hello to the Angels, this, with its really fast, upbeat riffs, was expertly performed. I am not impressed with the forthcoming single, Mammoth, it seems incomplete, it lacks a beginning and an end. It was a night for me to Rest My Chemistry so its airing was entirely apt. Slow Hands is perhaps the best of Interpol’s singles, it was great to hear, I’d seen the video on MTV2 so many times, it was just like that. The crowd sung along to Evil, I did not but it was good. They played a great set, Paul mumbled some stuff to the crowd now and then, but he and Dan seemed to be having a good time going through their exquisite compositions. Carlos remained regal in the background, Sam drummed impeccably (with a pigeon on his kit) and the keyboard guy seems to fit in well. They ended the main set with Not Even Jail, and amazingly, the song just clicked with me, I got it, it wasn’t a bad song before but right then, it began to mean something to me.

They came back for an encore of three songs: NYC, Obstacle 1 and Stella was a Diver and she was Always Down. I thought it was something of a treat to have a three song encore; all three are classics. This is a bit of an odd statement, but the band has a three album back catalogue and it means that there is a familiarity with all their songs and it made the gig rather comfortable. Stella is perhaps my favourite Interpol song, it’s typically bleak but I reckon the almost onomatopoeic guitars are a work of genius.

Interpol were on top form and I fulfilled a personal aim in seeing them live, however, if they continue to play in venues like this, it’ll be the last time that I do so. It was good while it lasted.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Votaries of Synanthropic Pals,

The house sparrow is being squeezed. Like the weather, it’s one of these things that I’ve noticed changing during my lifetime (perhaps this is because I am a veteran of the planet Earth, perhaps I will witness more changes in the future); I miss the house sparrow.

This struck me yesterday when a flock of birds descended upon the garden; it was nothing special, except that it was. I was mainly interested because there was a willow warbler in the garden – a rarity – but the sparrows feeding on the scattering of seeds on the ground was quite captivating.

There are a number of reasons why sparrows are under threat; they have been in decline over the century, not only since the 1980s. Urbanisation can obviously be blamed. I suppose the spread of seagulls is a key factor too. More locally, on the scale of our street, I’d like to blame cats. Cats are evil. Owners must take more responsibility for their cats, they can’t just let them roam and kill. The government should consider stepping in; perhaps a cull is in order. There was an organised cull of hedgehogs on a Scottish island recently: if the authorities think that is fair to adjust the populations of two wild species (hedgehogs versus nesting birds), it must then consider controlling the population of an ill-behaved, unnecessary, domestic animal to boost the numbers of beautiful birds that are vital for the well-being of ecosystems.

I’ll appreciate the sparrows, because the cat people don’t.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Needy Perpetrators Blind to Unconcern,

‘Speak up. If you’ve something to say, share it with the group. Come on’
We waited.
‘Come on.’
‘You’re quite scary.’, she peeped.

From then on, John Hegley intermittently broke into an oily persona like that of a Richard Madeley or a Phillip Schofield to the enjoyment of the audience. He is slightly intimidating but I think if he does single out a member of the audience, that person is never humiliated; they’re asked to provide French translations, explanations for children or drawings.

This is the first year since I’ve started making use of the Embra Fringe Festival that I’ve had no appetite for comedy. I’m of a rather odd state of mind where I feel that no one can make me enjoy myself by talking at me at pre-appointed times. The funniest moments are spontaneous and often idiosyncratic of a time and place. I made an exception to my Fringe exile to see John Hegley’s show, Letters to an Earwig (translated locally to “Letters to a Clipshear”) and I wouldn’t mind going to see it again.

John started off by rearranging the audience whilst singing his agenda, those at the back were made to fill the vacant front rows. Thankfully, I had camouflaged myself as a member of the public in the middle to rear section of the crowd (I played Camouflage by Stan Ridgway on YouTube when one of the DJs played Hard-fi on the radio this week). John then invited a couple of youngsters onto the stage to draw flowers to add to his artwork, a woman who stated she couldn’t draw was asked to draw some grass. I had stood in the queue outside next to one of the young artists, his mother was a pain in the backside.

‘I want to see him.’, as she pointed to a poster.
‘He’s funny, I want to get tickets for him.’, at another.
‘Oh, oh, I really want to see that show.’, again and again to her children.
‘You should go see there. It’s a comedy club for children.’, like they cared.

‘You’ll know her. She’s on television.’, at Kirsten O’Brien’s poster. This was the only person who she explained was to the children. She annoyed me quite immensely with her misjudgement of the children’s interest (which came down to how she gauged their age and attitudes) and constantly bleating. However, I must acknowledge that John Hegley’s show was an entirely appropriate appointment for the family.

The show featured some stuff I had heard before; I didn’t mind; Poem de terre (with a new gory translation), the poem about the armadillo, the showpiece song, Luton Bungalow. The show was peppered with an A-Z series of animal poems – E was for earwig and thus an amusing cascade of letters, not always about earwigs, was delivered by the sporadically genial John. It was a great way to spend a lunchtime hour, despite the lack of biscuits.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Persona Under the Illative Barrage,

The Perseid meteor shower swept in and made me to want to watch. I’ve never had much success with astronomical events. What should I expect with little understanding of the geography of the night sky and not viewing equipment?

It was cloudy on the night of the shower’s peak intensity, Sunday. The following night was my chance, we had clear skies. The glow of the street lights made viewing difficult from home. I was desperate to see some meteors, however, I did not want to be mugged or abducted. I opted to head out in my automobile, I drove north by north east. Driving slowly on the empty roads of the countryside, I watched the sky, as well as the road. I saw 6 meteors and was not involved in any Betty and Barney Hill-type scenarios.

Just streaks of light across the sky, that’s all they were. They were quite good but somehow 6 wasn’t enough. I saw a further meteor, my best sighting, upon turning into my street.

I’ve seen meteors or “shooting stars” before. The chance sightings of these outstripped my experience of this forecasted meteor shower, both were aesthetically equal (take note of how I downplayed beauty and drained majesty from the spectacle), but good fortune betters meeting expectation.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Combaters of Ubiquitous Corruption,

I could be Walter F. Starbuck, a man who planned nothing and accidentally stumbled into every chapter of his life.

I dwelled over Jailbird by Kurt Vonnegut for months (however, it’s a good book). Walter F. Starbuck was President Nixon’s special advisor on youth affairs; innocuously in the vicinity of the Watergate scandal, he was imprisoned. He is released and then jailed again.

The main theme of the book, for me, is how Walter is a rubbish human being; he supposedly proves inadequate in almost every situation, yet the attractive and interesting situations keep arising. Walter is the son of the immigrant housekeepers for a family of wealthy entrepreneurs, one of whom took a liking to Walter and funded a Harvard education. At university, he dabbles in communism. He was a rubbish communist, he didn’t really believe in the anti-capitalist ethos and he certainly didn’t act accordingly. He had problems with colleagues, women and his family. He ends up losing all his possessions and all his relationships.

All of the above was probably a clever trick of the author, the story is told in the first person through the main character, Walter F. Starbuck, who would have the public believe that nothing is his fault and he’s completely unwitting and innocent. It could all be spin, I think this is the first time that I have read a book and mistrusted the narrator. He’s a conniving capitalist like the rest of them, he looks out for his own people and he is utterly selfish. Vonnegut subtly alludes to this at the end when he has Starbuck pull one or two more scams upon gaining freedom. Starbuck paints himself as hopeless to gain the sympathy vote, he’s apparently someone who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time, but is it all a trick? Only Kurt Vonnegut knew.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Uneasy Drifters on Unformatted Days,

In the 21st century, on these isles, a throwaway culture exists. This is nothing new, as I found out today; they’ve been throwing stuff away for years. Thankfully, for the people of Perth, somebody has picked all that junk up and put it in the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, otherwise the town would be a dump and not the reasonably agreeable and leafy place that it is.

The museum is bigger than to be expected and full of quality items that would tickle the fancy of David Dickinson; he’s on an inferior ITV antiques show these days and he’s being strangled by a lack of scope for catchphrases. There are some vague things that don’t really fit in and the good information supplied is relevant to most places. The articles that are relevant to the evolution of Perth around its transport links are really interesting. It’s difficult to imagine big boats sailing up the Tay to reach Perth, but it happened. I also didn’t realise Perth had a tram system.

I also noted that the first newspaper in Perth was really inoffensive and impartial – this led to the repeated election of a Tory MP. It wasn’t until the founding of a new publication that questioned the politics of the day that this situation changed; unfortunately this was reversed with the founding of a new conservative newspaper.

There are some meteorites. One of them looks credible, the others look a bit odd – they consist of white chalky stuff, covered with a thin layer of black stuff. I’d like to know what the materials involved are.

I have a problem with taxidermy; however, I suppose that is preferable to caging animals. There are some examples of Scottish wildlife there to creep people out.

On the whole, Perth museum is rather good. I am quite envious of the nice areas of parkland in the town too, I think I could spend a day in the park reading or kicking a ball, it’s just not the same here.
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