Friday, 30 April 2010

Counting your blessings

I never watch the telly, fate alone had me switch on BBC 1 ten minutes into Five Daughters, an unsettlingly naturalistic, expertly written three-parter dramatising the last days of the women who met their deaths at the hands of ‘Suffolk Strangler’, Steve Wright.

See what I’ve done? I’ve named him already, and not the women, but the drama does the opposite. The title flags up its point of view and intent which is to draw our killer-obsessed focus off the perpetrator and onto the women: Annette, Paula, Anneli, Gemma and Tania. The thing they crucially had in common wasn’t Steve Wright, or the fact they all, with varying frequency, made money selling sex, but that they were all seriously addicted to drugs, mostly heroin. The truth and drama are horribly sad.

There were about forty women working the streets in that district of Ipswich. Even after bodies began to surface, the women kept standing out there to make drug money, and the men kept driving by, and sometimes at the wheel would be Steve Wright. It’s hard to imagine being so in thrall to something, that you could rationalise the nightmarish risks involved in being on those corners, even as naked corpses are turning up in woods nearby. Wright was a murderer, but it was drugs that handed the victims to him so easily.

So when I watched Five Daughters I was thinking about the inhumanity in a system that lets people wind up with nothing when some people have everything, and about the crisis of feminism still faced with a culture that breeds men who visit prostitutes. If that sounds like a moral judgement, it’s really not, it’s a political one. Don’t ask me to explain the difference though. You have to wonder about the punters though, knowing as they do that the kind of men who kill prostitutes are also the kind of men that visit them in the first place, and not caring enough to want to distance themselves.

You have to wonder too what’s so bad that you need to be out of your head all the time. You wonder what the women were like before, what they wanted and never got. One of the descriptions says, ‘She had dreams of being a pop star … but ended up in a series of low-paid jobs.’ Disappointment. Despair. Is life under capitalism unrewarding or what?

Coincidentally, Vice recently posted a piece about a photographer who chronicles women working the red light district in Miami close to his office. Looking at the photographs seems lurid and intrusive but, dare I say it, addictive. I look at them and wonder, what has gone wrong? Who did this? How? Why? How hard it must be to fix a life like that in a world that despises its poor, and loathes prostitutes most of all. A wage slave, a drug slave, a sex slave, it’s a difference of degree, that’s all.

I started thinking how easy it is for some people to disappear and for nobody to notice, about the surfeit of life that poverty creates, just like the surfeit of material crap that capital depends on. Except it’s life we’re talking about. Why can’t it be worth more? The missing persons website has six pages devoted to stories of people found. There are seventy-eight and counting devoted to people still missing. Eight of John Wayne’s Gacy’s victims were never identified. Who’s going to try and find them now?

There has to be something better.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Small modern anxieties

Wish defaulted to black layout, not red

Never paid into work pension

Still haven’t watched Sorrentino’s Il Divo

Listening recommendations: Bear in Heaven are similar to: The Besnard Lakes, Yeasayer, Girls (I don’t agree)

Winter beige-food-bingeathon continues apace into April, May

New Sex and the City movie might be rubbish and I will be blamed

Dreaming about money, having it, not having it

Channel 4 doesn’t work on the cross trainer at the gym any more

Zach Condon was 21 when he recorded Gulag Orkestar

Microsoft Word defaulting to US spelling

Patchy beard

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Manchester Literature Festival

Okay I know it doesn't kick off until October, but I just came across their cool little video of highlights from last year. See ...

You just miss seeing my arm on the Michael Schmidt reading. That's it, I'm going to EVERYTHING this year. See you there.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Fit indie boys

Pop kids all look like mobile phone salesmen these days, and those really interesting dancey collectives always turn out to be short aged club gnomes. Indie and R n B is where all the totty is. Let's start with some indie boys shall we? Brilliant, this is just like Smash Hits ...

Yannis Philippakis, Foals

Sufjan Stevens

Pete Silberman, The Antlers

Keith Murray, We Are Scientists

Justin Vernon, Bon Iver

Chet White, Girls

Fabrizio Moretti, The Strokes

Eamon Hamilton, Briitsh Sea Power / Brakes

Ben Goldwasser, MGMT

Anthony Gonzales, M83

Friday, 23 April 2010

Hunx And His Punx played @ The Corner in Manchester in April

Hosted by the excellent disco dolls at Pumping Iron. The night was utterly sticky 'n' mental. Here are the snippets that survive ... (photos by myself and Mr Thom Docking)

'I don’t think he’s gonna miss her
Cos I’m a really good kisser'

'Give me back my jacket, I only have five outfits for the whole tour!'
'It looks better on me!'

'Why are you West Coast kids always so into downers? You sound like punks but you're really just hippies. This is Manchester, we're all about the uppers, baby'

'Got To Be Real' by Cheryl Lynn

'Oh my god let's fuck'

'Would you spit on it?'

'You like Morrissey, you like U2,
What the fuck is wrong with you?'

'It's like like The Ramones teaching Martha Reeves and the Vandellas how to fist each other'

'I think we're sleeping in some kinda deaf institution?'

'I don't mind you guys standing on the tables but just be careful when you get down'
'What did he say?'
'He said you look fabulous'

I'm gonna wait in the bathroom stall and you come in after me'
'I'll give you this for nothing you know'
'I don't care'

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Everything Everything Hurts

You know I only do this blog for two reasons don’t you? One is to demonstrate that I go out waaay too often, the other is to keep the world informed of how amazing Everything Everything are.



Not only can you see the band play next week in Manchester but they’re doing it as an NME double-header alongside Mancunian mysterions Hurts, whose ‘Wonderful Life’ has been one of my very favourite songs of late. The Arthur Baker mix of said track is one of my favourite remixes of all time. For real!

Not only that but support comes in the bearded form of New York’s Darwin Deez whose eponymous long player is just starting to seep nicely into my subconscious. Since he’s the only one with actual ‘product’ to shift right now, he’s definitely landed on his feet. Make sure you do too.

Persuaders below, tickets here.

Spine-tingling version of ‘NASA Is On Your Side’

'Wonderful Life' by Hurts

Click on pic above for Spotify

Saturday, 17 April 2010


I love a good whinge don’t you? Cleans the slate and all that. Here’s a selection of what’s guaranteed to get the old waterworks going for me. Read ‘em and weep …

‘Real Love’ by The Beatles

I’m dead sentimental about the boys, if I’m hungover you can more or less set me off just by saying ‘George Harrison’, but even on a good day this one will get me. The song’s beautiful of course, Lennon skirting the edge of the sentimentality that marred a lot of his solo work, but absolutely winning here. It’s the video that really does it though, that first minor chord a minute in when dear old Paul comes into focus before it cuts away to the four of them, young and scruffy and alive. If that doesn’t get you then just as they’re repeating to fade at the close of the song, Paul leans in and hugs George goodbye. Yep, I’m gone.

‘Housewife, 49’

I had hoped on the back of this award-winning performance Victoria Wood would start getting a slew of serious and challenging acting roles, but of course those parts aren’t there for women of a certain age. This one she wrote for herself and it’s brilliant. There are a dozen heartbreakers but my favourite moment comes after their son goes missing and Daddy confronts Nella about the perceived betrayal that is her secret diary-keeping.

‘Why do you do it? Who wants to read what you’ve got to say?’
‘I don’t know who wants to read it, but I’ll tell you why I have to do it. It’s because I have nobody. I have nobody to talk to. I don’t have a sympathetic, loving, interested friend, I don’t have that person. I only have you.’

Floods … Of course that was the clip they showed at the BAFTAs. She won Best Actress that year. It’s eight minutes in if you’re feeling up to it.

‘I’m Too Sad To Tell You’ by Bas Jan Ader

Crying’s a bit like puking, once you see someone else doing it you feel like having a go yourself. Everything Ader did was touched with melancholy, the title of one 1969 installation was ‘Please Don’t Leave Me’. ‘I’m Too Sad To Tell You’ came the following year and is a three and half a minute film of the artist crying. It doesn’t sound much but I can’t watch it to the end, the impossibility of being able to reach out and comfort is too much.

A few years after this was made he was lost at sea. They never found his body. Sorry.

Carrie Bradshaw loves Samantha Jones

I’m never going to apologise for loving Sex and the City, deal with it. I’ve blogged SATC tearjerkers before but there’s always something new to discover. Samantha gets breast cancer and Carrie’s brusque Russkie boyfriend is curt to the point of painful about her chances of survival. Carrie gives him the lowdown on what Samantha really means to her. It’s probable most of our real and lasting passions in life will be the friends that we have, and not the other types of relationship, this cuts to the chase about it.

‘It was the women who had the War’ … Rose’s speech in The Krays

The Krays is a criminally (haha) underrated film. Since it’s a working-class Cockney affair all the best parts belong to the women. Billie Whitelaw as Violet Kray and Kate Hardie as Frances are two of my favourite roles ever but Susan Fleetwood as Rose is Queen Bee. She gets tired and emotional recalling the War, the perpetual violence and disappointment of men and their consequence-free lives. She gives a little monologue that absolutely floors me, the writing is a dream. Three minutes in, link below, I’m gone by the time she says, ’One day they’ll drain Victoria Park lake …’. Susan Fleetwood died in 1990, she was only 51.

‘I Can Give You The Starlight’ by Ivor Novello

He wrote so many beautiful songs but somehow they haven’t aged quite as well as Cole Porter’s, except for this one, which rivals Porter at his best. Any version will do, Jeremy Northam’s in Gosford Park is suitable swooning, but I love Mary Ellis best of all. She sings like a saw, the notes are too high and the sound too big to be contained by the wax-and-rubber-band recording equipment. It sounds utterly wonderful on really good headphones and hits the sublime at these lines …

‘Call and I shall be
all you ask of me
music in spring
flowers for a King
all these I bring to you’

Many are the long nights this and a dry Martini have done for me. Funeral song please.

Trish’s suicide attempt in Educating Rita

Maureen Lipman’s Trish is a whirlwind of eccentricity and style. Rita’s shocked as all hell to come home one night and find she’s taken an overdose. The dialogue in the hospital when she comes around is terrific (four and half minutes in) …

‘Don’t cry Trish, you’re still here.’
‘That’s why I’m crying … It didn’t work. It didn’t bloody work … Poor Susan, you think I’ve got everything, don’t you?’
‘But you have.’
‘When I listen to poetry, and music, then I can live. But you see darling, the rest of the time it’s just me. And it’s not enough.’

I say that last line all the time.

You know it makes sense.

Friday, 16 April 2010

To walk steadily and rhythmically forward in step with others … March

January, broken resolutions, six weeks without pay. February, money in your pocket but nowhere to go cos it’s so freakin’ cold (even if it is your birthday, it was, I’m 32, I don’t want to talk about it). March is where it’s at, and I think, what am I saying, I know, I’ve just had the best March since records began. Wanna hear?

Kicks off with the Morrissey and Smiths Disco at the Star & Garter, about which I have blogged before. Above all nights that I have loved over the years, Jenks, Indiego, Molotov Pop, Suicide, Poptastic, Homoelectric, Keep It Unreal, Electric Chair, Friends & Family, Bollox, Clique … above all of these, the Smiths Disco is the place I truly belong. I am what I am.

The Friday after that I have my best night in a pub for AGES at the old reliable Briton’s Protection, and it’s a proper treat, it’s all bars and clubs these days, I miss pubs. Especially as I get to spend the evening with some of the finest and funniest people you could ever hope to meet in this or any other city. Fact.

The Friday after that it’s off to Manchester Cathedral to hear Midget Emperor of Glum, Stephin Merritt lead his Magnetic Fields in a superb semi-acoustic trawl through an astonishingly long and eclectic setlist in beautiful surroundings.

After the gig it’s off to Bollox where THINGS OFFICIALLY GO TOO FAR. Late on in the night Stephin Merritt walks through the door and I accost him. The exchange goes thusly:

Me: I know you! (I’m shouting, he has earplugs in, he is very short, I am spitting on the earplugs …)
Stephin: You know me?
Me: Yeah, we came to see you play earlier tonight, I’ve never seen you play before, you were really good, amazing, thanks!
Stephin: But you don’t actually know me?

Needless to say, we haven’t kept in touch.

The next day’s hangover etc. is BLEAK, just right for watching Matthew Dunster’s adaptation of 1984 at the Royal Exchange. I go from thinking it’s the most irritating thing I’ve seen in ages to being somewhat in awe, particularly of the staging which is slick and disorientating and tight, but also of Paul Moriarty and Richard Clews, distressing and inspiring performances both.

At Thomas’ Chop House afterwards, Dee and I neck a medicinal pint and discuss the alienating aspects of late capitalism. I daren’t go home alone so I go to a party in Hulme instead, drink wine and argue about Lady Gaga till two in the morning. (Late capitalism has its comforts too).

The next day not only does my boy come to stay but we go to watch Suede play the warm-up for their Albert Hall gig at The Ritz. Warm up my arse, this is the real deal. It’s one of the best Suede gigs I’ve ever been to and I’ve been to plenty. Is it possible to be happier? They opened with ‘Europe Is Our Playground.’ Just scream why don’t you.

A couple of fleeting and forgettable days at work then it’s off to London for more Suede who blow the roof off the Albert Hall. Brett brings tears to my eyes with a solo rendition of ‘The Living Dead’. The gig is up there with Blur at Hyde Park and Morrissey at the Empress Ballroom. Triumphant. I have what amounts to a wet dream for my sixteen year old self when we go to the after party and meet the band who are as kind and personable as when I first met them fifteen years ago. Then we go to the after-after party and meet them some more. Whatever happened to the teenage dream? It came true, that’s what.

Next evening at the Apollo Shaftesbury with the Geordie and 1984 is knocked into a cocked hat by Mark Rylance in Jerusalem, it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen on stage I reckon, the last great thing I seem to remember being Michael Maloney’s Hamlet six years ago. Blimey. Jerusalem is a three act, two interval, poetic treatise on Englishness that made me cry in front of strangers and has the most moving, funny and gutsy dialogue you’re going to hear in a theatre in your life. Jez Butterworth wrote it and he has a gift and Mark Rylance turns in a performance that should rate with Lear as THE ROLE to prove your worth. Sublime.

The best Bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted follows at Bourne & Hollingsworth at the bottom of Charlotte Street and is required to steady my nerves. I am actually a bit delirious post-theatre. We can’t talk about anything else for hours, we live off the play all night, up to and including our delish veggie feast in Chinatown.

Measure for Measure at The Almeida in Islington the following night is good, interesting, a nice turn from Victoria Lloyd as Isabella, but really Jerusalem can’t be followed so soon, not even by Shakespeare I’m afraid. Fun drinks after amongst the impossibly good looking achievers of the Blair borough.

Next day is Saturday which I spend with my brilliant friend Helen. We troll round Camden Market, stopping for gins at the Proud Gallery, then whizz round the best bits of the National and National Portrait galleries (Vin Gogh! Monet!) before downing lychee bellinis at Amuse Bouche in Soho, devouring pizzas at the Soho Pizzeria then heading out East for drinks at the Ten Bells. Helen heads home so we stick around for beers at the George & Dragon then up to the Joiners’ Arms where the music goes out the other side of ironic into just plain bad. Top top night nonetheless.

At some point I drift home to Manchester and attempt to resume normal service.


April has some serious work to do.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Billy Budd

Herman Melville’s unfinished Billy Budd is somewhere high on my list of great unreads. The novel lends its name to a Morrissey song and a Benjamin Britten opera and it’s generally supposed the homosocial and possible homoerotic subtexts of the story were appealing to both. In any case, I haven’t read it, but I have read, and am in the process of attempting to memorise, the desperately sad ballad that closes the story, called 'Billy In The Darbies‘' ('darbies' are handcuffs).

Billy has been wrongfully court-martialled for attempted mutiny and is subsequently hanged from the ship’s yardarm (the horizontal portion of the mast). A fellow sailor composes a ballad chronicling Billy’s final night and day before the execution and it is this which closes the tale. It is full of exciting sailing paraphernalia and Billy’s sweet nature shines through. What makes it heartbreaking are the minute touches of human kindness offset by the brutalities of maritime justice, in other words, how cruel men can be to each other, and how kind.

Along with some Plath, Frank O’Hara, D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Tortoise’ sequence and the odd bit of Shakespeare it’s one of my favourite pieces of poetry. My favourite thing is to turn off the lights and say in a tiny slow whisper, ‘No pipe to those halyards. - But aren't it all sham? A blur's in my eyes; it is dreaming that I am …

‘Billy In The Darbies’

Good of the chaplain to enter Lone Bay
And down on his marrowbones here and pray
For the likes just o' me, Billy Budd. - But, look:
Through the port comes the moonshine astray!
It tips the guard's cutlass and silvers this nook;
But 'twill die in the dawning of Billy's last day.
A jewel-block they'll make of me tomorrow,
Pendant pearl from the yardarm-end
Like the eardrop I gave to Bristol Molly --
O, 'tis me, not the sentence they'll suspend.
Ay, ay, all is up; and I must up too,
Early in the morning, aloft from alow.
On an empty stomach now never it would do.
They'll give me a nibble -- bit o' biscuit ere I go.
Sure, a messmate will reach me the last parting cup;
But, turning heads away from the hoist and the belay,
Heaven knows who will have the running of me up!
No pipe to those halyards. -- But aren't it all sham?
A blur's in my eyes; it is dreaming that I am.
A hatchet to my hawser? All adrift to go?
The drum roll to grog, and Billy never know?
But Donald he has promised to stand by the plank;
So I'll shake a friendly hand ere I sink.
But -- no! It is dead then I'll be, come to think.
I remember Taff the Welshman when he sank.
And his cheek it was like the budding pink.
But me they'll lash in hammock, drop me deep.
Fathoms down, fathoms down, how I'll dream fast asleep.
I feel it stealing now. Sentry, are you there?
Just ease these darbies at the wrist,
And roll me over fair!
I am sleepy, and the oozy weeds about me twist.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Oxford Road

Street Zero ...

Street sign reading ...

"National Grid Repairs

Delays expected for 52 WEEKS

Find alternative route"

!!! ???

Street Hero ...

Midday sunshine

Japanese girl

Red hair

Black dress

Peach stilettoes

... We salute you

Texts are the new novels: Part 5

The only thing better than group sex is group texts

I HATE MY LIFE but I loved your party

I got in a lift full of people with my fly open

Did you bone him? He was in a right bad mood

Just woke up. Everything tastes of dying. Spent fortune. Went back to cash machine. Twice




Weil Weil Weil

I'm shy and fat and broke and old and I ate too much chocolate

Some hipsters are pretty. Some hipsters are piggy. That is my observation.

Yeah I'm fine! Except oh my god i feel like Shit. What was i doing?

'Contemporary or dead!' shall be the new call to arms!

Newsflash it looks like I've slept in my clothes and my weave is hanging off

Girls on in 15 equals sexwee all one word.

Don't look directly at the band or they may turn to salt

Having a bloody mary in soho to calm my nerves

God it's simply easier to break friends with you


Mmm teenage boys

Wanna come to a party on saturday? There'll be inverts there!

I really object to spending money on groceries do you know what i mean by that?

Reach across the pillow and snip off a bit of dread

Every pub, every street, every tube carriage has a man in it you would lay down your life for

ZOMG I'm so glad you didn't regard my onion rings

There are people walking round town completely wasted. It's Monday teatime FFS!

I love how you can't have sex during the week

Cover of Heat. Nadine 'I'm so sick of Cheryl milking it' Brilliant. She only got divorced five minutes ago

*inhales lighter fluid in preparation*

You'll be up to your neck in ass

You're a useless virgin and I hate you

So many lovely homes in south manchester. I'm completely lost.

OMG reverse towards him!

There are all types of alone though, and some are okay, look at me I'm more alone than I've ever been. You have to bear it. Things change really quickly.

Did you read about the she-teacher who fucked her 14 yr old student in disabled toilets at the British Museum?

He has the thickest blackburn accent you've ever been subjected to. He sounds positively jamaican.

It's fertiliser. Fact!

You're amazing. You're the queen of sex. Now ditch him

Camden Market, Tate Britain, Amuse Bouche, Soho Pizzeria, Vibe Bar, Dreambagsjaguarshoes

Mark's going to play the new Hole single at Duckie tonight, tell Matt!

OMG london is completely broken nothing works infrastructure's fucked and it's raining SCREAM!

Sky high in the airwaves on the morning show

Morning! Are you ready for some bleak dystopic theatre? Yay!

Some cock might cheer you up

Did you hear about corey haim?

The paranormal lesbian cat ladies are clearly the best.

Just passed guy counting his pills in the street. Love this city

Oh shut your mouth How can you say i go about things the wrong way?

OMG! *puts on bridal veil*

Only just made train, egregious woman trying to scan me a special offer on water i didn't want *slap*

In joiners. Our song is playing right now

Just walked past ricky gervais looking FAMOUS in beard and sunglasses

It's almost certainly the blue cheese pizza i ate for dinner but my whale dreams have been SO bad tonight

I did speed

I gave an impromptu speech at the do and banged my head on a heat lamp

I love you