Right, let’s have a fairly arbitrary selection of links’n’tings that have impressed me / made me think / made me dance / made me laugh or whatever these last few weeks.
First up, Charles Randolph Rivers’ Slim Rhythm Revue. I was supposed to make my DJ debut at Newcastle’s (or rather Gateshead’s) legendary Trash Shack on Sunday but we couldn’t get the decks to work. Nonetheless, I did get to see Mr Charles Randolph Rivers play and that made it totally worthwhile. A fantastic one-man band, but whereas most OMBs tend to go the deep stompy blues or flat out daft route (Honkeyfinger, Bob Log III), Charles keeps things very much on the ‘billy side, with some surf and country thrown in. A fantastic musician, top raconteur and in need of a new car (saw him stranded at the side of the highway on the way into the city as a song probably has it). Nice shirt, too.
On an entirely different tip, nice shirts aside perhaps, we have the Worker Dandyist International. Like a lab-created hybrid of The Chap, Decadent Action, the IWCA and a Soho burlesque joint circa 1958, this is where you find out how to fight the class war in a classy outfit.
Updated regularly, primarily by a smart, politically sussed, magnificently moustachoied chap (who’s identity must remain a secret), you’ll find informed comment on everything from the recent riots to how best to care for your straight-edge razor. The manifesto says it all, really.. such as:
Dandyism may be thought of as a bit silly. True enough, it is a little daft but humans without humour are no fun to be around and fun is, after all, humanity’s raison d’être.
Dandyism is not for everyone and may be regarded as superficial by many. We agree: outward appearance is intrinsically superficial but, in the case of Worker-Dandyism, is a reaction against slovenliness, a rejection of the consumption of crap and an outward reflection of a dapper soul. We regard Worker-Dandyism as just one method of achieving greater happiness, friendship and social cohesion within the class.
Follow Worker Dandy on Twitter
Ah, The Skimmity Hitchers. Makes me proud to hail from Dorset.
You might recall me banging on about Who’s Afear’d, a trio of Dorset separatists living in exile in Bristol. Deeply committed to overturning the calamitous 1974 county border changes that saw aspirational hellholes like Bournemouth fall into our beloved motherland, they split a couple of years back. Cranmore Lydd has gone on to be crowned king of Dorset and member of 2,123 other bands, while Kev and Kes, or rather Tatty Smart and Scrumpy Jack, have added members and turned into The Skimmity Hitchers. Caught them for the first time at Endorse It! (of which more later) and they were absolutely brilliant. It’s mostly the same concept as Who’s Afear’d – take a song (usually country, but with excursions into ska and punk), change the lyrics to something about Dorset being great, Hampshire being shit, shagging, or badgers and cider being brilliant and then murder it.
A very belated mention for Test Tone Generators, who I promised to write about before the summer and failed miserably.
The work of Simon Doling, who’s played drums for World Domination Enterprises, Thule and most importantly, the incomparable Terminal Cheesecake (he looks after the web stuff for TC as well), he describes the project as psychedelic sludge, which works for me. Dubby and glitchy but in places (such as newest track Anfang Des Endes) a definite post-punk feel as well, it’s all good stuff and there’s lots on Reverbnation to listen to. TTG are now a live act as well – doubt they’ll get up here, but you should go see them if you can.
It’s ace to see that roller derby is really taking off in the UK – the first meet I went to, in London, was sensational. And Newcastle has the biggest team in the north-east, Newcastle Roller Girls (with an A Team, the Canny Belters and a B team, the Whippin’ Hinnies).
The bouts I’ve made it to have been totally rammed, so there’s a real local support, and judging from friends I know getting involved everywhere from New Zealand to Shrewsbury, it’s getting bigger. Not only that, but the Big Ten Inch AND Funky Butt both sponsor a roller girl.
I read two fantastic music books over the summer.
Simon Reynolds is my favourite music writer by a mile, and Retromania is his best yet. It balances a breathtaking amount of research, some real insight, a lot of humour and just enough abstract theorising (which has been a problem with Reynolds’ work in the past for a lot of people). It looks at retro culture and wonders if culture as a whole, and music in particular, is at a dead end of some sort. Tackling everything from garage punk to slavish Japanese fans to garage rock to digital culture, it’s easily the best book I’ve read this year and I totally recommend it.
Dorian Lynskey’s 33 Revolutions Per Minute would have been my music choice in any other year, it’s marvellous. A history of the protest song, using 33 key examples (from Strange Fruit to American Idiot) as bullet points, but doing a brilliant job of covering the social, political, cultural and musical context of each, the book is inspiring, illuminating, hearbreaking (for my sins, I didn’t know much about Victor Jara) and he manages not to let the research swamp his love and knowledge of music. His account of why the protest song seems to be a dead, or at least ailing, entity makes a lot of (depressing) sense, and I particularly liked his chapter on Riot Grrrl.
A couple of criticisms – I don’t ever need to read about The Clash and Don Letts and the Roxy again, but that’s not Lynskey’s fault; and I think he got a few things wrong in the chapter on rave culture (he’s fallen for the myth of the Spiral Tribe, and I reckon Treworgey Festival, which he doesn’t mention, is absolutely pivotal in the rave / festival culture crossover). But those are minor points. I also loce his description of Springsteen’s badly misunderstood Born In The USA:
It is a Trojan horse with the door jammed shut. The subversive lyric cannot get out.
Lastly, on the book end of things, my trip around the south west in August (more later) was largely accompanied by Caitlin Moran’s phenomenal How To Be A Woman. I’m not going to say much about it, it’s been covered everywhere, except that it’s a wonderful thing and you should all read it and then go stand on a chair and announce “I AM A STRIDENT FEMINIST”. Especially the boys.
I’ll pause only to include Moran’s description of Simon Reynolds in his Melody Maker days:
Simon Reynolds is a beautiful, pre-Raphaelite Oxford graduate into unlistenably cutting edge dance music, who spends all his time in clubs where people have guns, and is so clever, half of us are too scared to talk to him.
Meanwhile, the summer has been soundtracked by:
Lykke Li, Slim Cessna, Tim Hecker, Alabama 3, Caitlin Rose, Los Campesinos!, Ekoplekz, Singing Adams, Warpaint, Hollie Cook, The Supersuckers, Dowliners Sekt and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
If you haven’t got the Singing Adams album yet, you’re a damned fool.
Next up, a festivals round-up.
(PS – sorry for the amount of Facebook links, but Myspace is a waste of time and a lot of acts have fallen back on facebook without setting up their own site)
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