Friday, February 26, 2010

Long Live Pere Ubu! Pere Ubu The Spectacle: Leamington Assembly Rooms Wed 24 February 2010

Pere Ubu remain one of the most interesting and exciting performance bands around, even if they have been going for several decades.

Unlike some - cough cough, Rolling Stones, we're looking at you - they're not in it for the money (though more would be nice), but instead place artistic integrity and musical challenge higher up their priorities.

Their current show - Pere Ubu: The Spectacle - is a concert interpretation of their (earlier production orginally performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall). Based on the Alfred Jarry play Ubu Roi, the show comes complete with projected animation, costumes and the driving musical stylings of the band (heavy bass, theramins, synthesisers etc). One attendee was overheard at the end saying "that's the most random pile of shit I have ever seen" but frankly it was hard to know if he meant that in a good way or a bad way!

Still, they did say on the interval caption projection: 'the more you drink, the more sense it makes'.

Despite Thomas's occasional yells of frustration - at himself and the band, he's actually rather lovely: it's born of a desire for professionalism and perfection that he gets cranky. And the band have been with him some time: it certainly isn't a Mark E. Smith type of antagonism, for all that Thomas growls irritably. And they do have a chuckle about things as well. Well, you would if you are standing there in a dress (drummer Steve Mehlman).

Hard to describe, and incredible to experience, the small (but mostly very appreciative 'crowd') eagerly went up at the end to purchase CDs from David Thomas, the band's driving force. Yes indeed, that "pimply, cross-eyed Thom York" doesn't come down off stage at the end of the performance to sit at the front and sell the band's product.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Politics, the economy and bringing in the votes/money

Shuggy, as reliably ever, makes an excellent case about who has been most politically damaged by the current economic situation in the UK.

Are we heading to a hung parliament in the ever-approaching UK election? I really do not know. But the economy is clearly screwed and our options are limited.

Loved Shuggy's proposed election slogan (lots more on the Guardian site) and the call to drop some of the shit that Labour are proposing.

Regarding the forthcoming election, I think the turnout will be interesting - both nationally and in specific seats/regions. Additionally, as yet none of the parties really seem to have nailed what will actually pull in the votes - as opposed to what policies they should adopt because they are just good/morally right, or the fairy-tale beliefs some have of what pushes voters buttons.

And to do anything, there still needs to be money. Money being spent (the government can't just stop spending) and money being generated (yes, that does mean taxes). I'm still hooting/despairing of the weekend proposal that shares in the 'state-owned banks' would be made available to the public at a cut down price to buy. Really?! We've paid once (collectively) by bailing out capitalism's finest attempt to screw-over the global economy and to make it work we get the chance to pay again (individually) to potentially - but maybe not - make a personal profit out of that collective payment. I honestly do not get that sort of crap.*

And I still do not get the public (and government) obsession with benefit 'cheats'. Most on benefits struggle to have enough to exist on, plenty goes unclaimed, and at the top various forms of tax avoidance take far too much 'benefit' out of the system and government income.

Everyone needs to get their act together on these points.

Sorry. I may be rambling. Could be the codeine. Could be the pain. Could be I'm just politically incoherent.

*then again I'm the person who warned and railed against the 1980s penchant for share-buying in utilities etc, including vociferously challenging my BTEC Business Studies tutors who were actively advising the students to borrow on creditcards to pay for shares and then sell them immediately on for profit (undermining even the semblance of the share sales being about giving individual ownership to users). I laughed like a drain when the BP share fiasco happened.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Editorial language: coverage of the Ray Gosling 'mercy killing'

Something really interesting has been going on in reporting about the Ray Gosling story over the last 24 hours (actually over the last 12).

Not having watched the East Midlands regional news/current affairs programme 'Inside Out' concerned, I only heard about Ray Gosling's confession when it was on the local news headlines after the 10pm national news last night.

There, the story was introduced as 'documentary filmmaker and journalist Ray Gosling has confessed on BBC East Midlands 'Inside Out' that he had killed a man in a mercy killing'. It went on say that he did not identify the man, although a brief extract from the programme broadcast earlier on Monday evening was included in the short East Midlands news bulletin.

When I went to bed a few minutes later, and was listening to the radio, I caught the Radio 4 news (and possibly even the World Service news mentioned the story once I switched over...?) who included the same story in their headlines and news coverage. They introduced the story by describing Gosling as a 'documentary filmmaker and gay rights activist' who had confessed to 'killing his lover who was dying from AIDS'.

None of those other phrases had appeared in the introductory comments to the East Midlands 10.30pm news coverage of the story which had included the Inside Out extract of Gosling talking about his actions....

By this morning, the 7am news was still describing Gosling as a 'gay rights activist' who had confessed to 'killing his lover who was dying from AIDS'. But by 8am, the news had changed the latter phrase to 'a friend who was dying from AIDS'.

By 8.24am, Sarah Montague this morning on Radio 4's Today programme described him as confessing to having 'suffocated his lover' which Gosling quickly clarified in the interview by saying "he wasn't my partner, he was my bit on the side".

Now, here are my thoughts:

1) why did East Midlands news in their coverage of their own programme omit/editorially exclude/forget to mention Gosling's position as a 'gay rights activist' and that the person he had killed was (in any way) emotionally connected to Gosling? Did they feel that Gosling's own words, in the extract included from the 'Inside Out' broadcast, were sufficient to make the context clear?

2) was it even relevant for the national news to mention Gosling's position as a gay rights activist, or that there was some emotional connection to the person who was 'killed' by Gosling?

3) why any change from 'lover' to 'friend'? (so euphemistic!)

I'm not passing judgment on Gosling, or his actions, but the editorial choices of language in this current news cycle have been fascinating to track.

East Midlands coverage of Gosling's confession
Police to investigate Gosling
More on Ray Gosling at his own site

Friday, February 12, 2010

In Praise of 6Music (please bring me evenings and weekends)

6Music is a strange beast and a station that may not be long for this world.

I am at work during the weekdays and the nature of my job makes radio listening not very practical, so I'm really an evenings and weekends listener: mostly that means approx 7pm til midnight weekdays (depending on what's on TV) which is generally Marc Riley, Gideon Coe and Tom Robinson, and at the weekends occasionally Adam and Joe on Saturday mornings, but mostly the Sunday run through of Jon Richardson, paying limited attention to the Music Week [which generally annoys me] but clinging on for the Huey Show, Jarvis Cocker and Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone.

I love these programmes, and part of the reason we keep a diary in the kitchen at home, where we do most of our radio listening, is because it lets us jot down info on new tracks played that we then hunt down (eMusic and visits to Rough Trade mostly). We have discovered LOTS of new music this way and between George and 6Music I would say the two are responsible for probably 90% of the artistes we get into that we hadn't already heard of.

Which makes me VERY sad indeed that 6Music may soon be lost because the very bits of it we love are exactly the bits ill served elsewhere, either because the presenters would not be easily accommodated OR even more frustratingly because the nature of what they do/play would struggle to be included.

Which makes me VERY sad indeed that 6Music may soon be lost because the very bits of it we love are exactly the bits ill served elsewhere, either because the presenters would not be easily accommodated OR even more frustratingly because the nature of what they do/play would struggle to be included.

  • Where would Radios 1 or 2 include the sort of live sessions that Riley and Robinson specialise in? Especially given the wide range of music styles they include...
  • Where would would the extended extracts from live performances be included that Gideon Coe so often presents? Let alone his magnificent duffing (you have to be a listener to get that)
  • The Huey Show is a rare beast to include music from the 1920s right through to today, with a wide diversity of genres covered as well. And Jarvis's meliflous tones - a wonderful new addition to the 6Music roster - bring not just great music but also lengthy doses of literature as well (such a great voice).

During the day, I accept 6Music may be hard to distinguish from Radio 2, which itself is an even stranger beast partially stuck feeding its aged audience of 'Light programme' listeners alongside collected masses of "cannot-cope-with-Radio-1-anymore, but-I-grew-up-on-punk, the-1980s, and-1990s-indie".

I'm therefore a bit fuzzy on the point of Radio 2, whch seems to be (kinda) abandoning its old audience but it can't quite work out where its audience stops and starts in terms of overlapping with Radio 1 (though it does increasingly seem that if you like anything older than chart music from 3 years ago, Radio 1 is probably not for you and Radio 2 will have to do).

But this really does not help address the problem of 6Music which I think has a very particular sort of audience it caters for and which is not really supported by other stations (and utterly not so in the commercial sector). What could replace 6Music - at least those bits of it I see as unique and worth preserving - is actually not even 'radio' at all in its traditional sense. Instead, it would probably be provided via digital music online: the likes of Spotify etc. But I happen to not only like the music that 6Music introduces me to, but also its presenters and the passion and interest they show in the music they play. And where could I get them...?

NB: hat-tip to Skuds for the blog post title

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Book Review: Mark Kermode - It's Only a Movie (and other early Valentine's Day gestures)

I know he isn't to everyone's taste, but I do love the 'good doctor' Kermode. I don't always agree with him, but that isn't the point. He's passionate and opinionated and his rants are just hysteria-inducing (to me at least).

So my Valentine's Day present was inevitably a copy of Kermode's autobiography book "It's Only a Movie". It's brilliant and I've already read it from cover to cover and laughed aloud multiple times (additionally, giggle-struck urges to read sections aloud to Neil are a good sign it's tickled my funny bones).

Anyway, this is therefore added to the long list of quirky - and much appreciated - Valentine's Day gifts I have had from lovely Neil which over the years also included the original film [on VHS] of 'The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3'.

However, Neil is not without his romantic side, albeit that he approaches it with endless quirkiness.

Tuesday evening he calls from downstairs to me. I struggle to the top of the stairs.
"Lisa, Lisa... sit down!"

He proceeds to sit on the penultimate stair facing towards the front door; struggling with sciatica I sit behind him.

"Okay, we're on a plane, taking off... vroom..." he 'pilots' the plane 'upwards' with an arm gesture.... "and now here's some food and a drink..."

[My partner is lovely, but utterly, UTTERLY bonkers]

"... and now we're coming in to land" and he gestures the nose of the plane downwards.

He stands up, offering his hand to me: "so we're off through immigration... and to collect our suitcases..."

We walk through the back living room/former dining room towards the back porch.

"... off we go, into a taxi"

.... and then he pushed at the shut kitchen door, revealing it to be in almost complete darkness.

On the kitchen work surface he had set up, lit by tea candles, a set of wooden figures of New York (from Muji) thus recreating our night-time first arrival into New York over 10 years ago.

I must admit, I cried. He is lovely.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: Live Music review 5 February 2010, Leicester De Montford Hall

Last Friday, despite my near screaming pains from this damn trapped sciatic nerve [yes, STILL causing me grief several weeks on], Neil kindly ferried us to lovely De Montford Hall in Leicester to see the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. I knew them only by reputation - chiefly the praise of Marie from some time ago - but booked early (Marie saw the UOoGB back in 2006, back in the days when she was writing under 'Struggling author'!). Good job we booked early for Leicester, as it was an inter-generationally packed house.

The remarkable and transformable space that is DMH has seen some wonderful sights in its time, including the various Summer Sundae performances (most memorably of course last summer's Monotonix gig which possibly still makes the DMH staff come out in a cold sweat). With its ability to shrink back its seats in a bleachers-like set up, DMH can offer an open-plan, all moving, non-stage-using, jump-from-the-balcony-into-the-crowd type of space --- or it can bring out the seats to join seamlessly from said balcony, adding hundreds more seats for more sedate performances.

Mind, in some respects I am not sure I'd call the UOoGB that sedate, and they certainly created a series of a hugely appreciative standing ovations as they were pulled back on stage for more of their surreal ukulele covers and banter.

Do, PLEASE if you get chance, go and see them live as they are quite gloriously entertaining (even if I was in excruciating pain throughout the gig). I laughed a lot - much needed - and also cried slightly when they covered 'Teenage Dirtbag' with the sort of reverence the song deserves as a paean to hopeful nerds everywhere. Uplifting beyond words. And who can resist tuxedo dressed ukulele players doing versions of 'Theme from Shaft', 'Yes Sir, I can boogie' and the George Formby [banjo] classic 'Leaning on the Lampost' reinterpreted as a melancholic Russian folk song. Brilliant.

They have their own UOoGB YouTube channel and their site includes opportunities to purchase both DVDs and CDs. The live performances though are something else - so if you can, go see them!!!