Friday 30 December 2011

Poem: 'Angels Of Anarchy'


“she is standing on my eyelids
...she sinks into my shadow
like a pebble against the sky”
(from “Capitals De La Douleur”
by Paul Eluard - 1926)

the moon rise over the Headrow
with blood caking my sleeves &
hair dark tangles of sweat & scum,
moon coming up from the bottom of the sea
while the sun’s still stitched to the sky,
from double shadows I see gravity
and tides gobbling at the horizon,
an afternoon’s shoplifting and when
I wake crabs are crawling from my mouth,
the smell of dead pigeons hangs in the dust
& all exits are blocked

in the red light from the dashboard
my mistress hands me the knife,
she wears a carnelian in her fly, her
needle extracts the moth from my tongue
where its eggs are laid beneath my skin,
the moon sheds blood over the Headrow
while I dissolve in double shadows

I extract the eggs beginning with
my female parts, & we split the tips,
dragged into marble-white moonlight,
she reaches out her hand to pluck my heart
beating and pumping blood where it’s
grooved by her 6” nails,
I dissolve in her breath

the moons rise over the Headrow
where the street is on fire and
blood seeps under every door,
the smell of dead pigeons
hangs in the dust ...

Published in:
‘NO no.7’ (USA - October 1988)
‘GRUE MAGAZINE no.11’ (USA - Nov 1989)
‘TEMPUS FUGIT no.2’ (Belgium - Feb 1990)
‘POWER LINES’ (Personal Chapbook / Unibird Publ) (Oct 1988 -UK)
and ‘EUROSHIMA MON AMOUR’ Hilltop Press (UK-Oct 2000)

Thursday 29 December 2011

Live: Blur at Temple Newsam Park, 2002


BLUR (and friends)
at Temple Newsam Park, Leeds

Perhaps he read the interview too. You know, the one where Noel Gallagher tries to nail the BritPop Wars forever. Oasis, he brags, still play “Roll With It” live. Blur, by contrast, are too embarrassed to do “House In The Country” any more. ‘Nuff said. Perhaps Damon Albarn read that interview. Because tonight... Blur do “House In The Country”, ‘there’s a Big Country House over there, in’it? So it’d be stupid not to do it’. And indeed there is, Temple Newsam’s huge Tudor-Jacobean monstrosity. But if you think you remember Blur first time round, you’re probably wrong. Damon wears a blue M&S shirt with a LATE NIGHTS logo. An anti-statement. Alex James manages an image from Marianne Faithfull’s ‘Hang It On Your Heart’. And they’ve got a horn section too. But Stadium Rock? Naw. Life’s not long enough for songs over three minutes. And together they contrive an endearingly deliberate low-fi ‘if I had a set-list I’d know what was going on...’ dumbing-down clear through to the line of incandescent thunderflashes irradiating the night, immaculately timed to the OOO-OOO’s of “Song No.2”.

Call me a ‘professional cynic’, but it occurs to me that this could, perhaps this should be the Stone Roses on stage tonight. Back in the arse-end of the 1980’s, with Blur as baggy also-rans scraping a chart presence with “There’s No Other Way” (no.8. 18th May ‘91), and Noel Gallagher Roadying for Inspiral Carpets, it’s the Roses luminous harmonies that most clearly define the future. But as Ian Brown / John Squire’s band get hung up in various legal limbo’s, and the Inspirals implode when their ex-Roadie begins selling more records than they do, leaving only a chalk outline in Indie-Pop, Blur merely persevere. Probably all that’s now consigned to the musical equivalent of adolescent fumbling in each others underwear, but long after we’d given up on Blur, they never gave up on us. And, just a thought, but if Noel had offered “Supersonic” to his then-employers instead of to his ‘kid’s’ band, could it be Tim Hingley chatting to Tony Blair at no.10, and ‘Be Here Now’ by Inspiral Carpets? Perhaps not. In the meantime, beneath all that purposeful negative-imagery, it’s Blur that catch the pulse. Their mindlessly contagious Euro-Disco take on ‘Love in the 90s’ is given extra-texture by their seeing it as opportunistic hedonism numbing the ‘avoiding all work’ because ‘there’s none available’ angst. Perhaps they’re not that good, but they’re not that bad either. Like the Kinks, or perhaps Madness, they can sometimes, almost incidentally, freeze-frame the temperature of what it’s like to be English at this exact moment now, in all its dull desperation and raging calm.

Meanwhile, is this the way the future feels? 40,000 people in one field? There’s so much sweat it’s a soakfest. But there’s that English politeness too. Still. That ‘excuse me’ ‘Oh, sorry pardon’ thing even to the height of the crush. Sure – there’s Wayne and Waynetta’s as well. ‘It’s a sign of the times, girl, says the song on the radio’. If we listened to that kind of song. Which, of course, we don’t. Indie fans are obsessive, oddly inflexible and rigid, with peculiar personal habits. They’re a strange, unpredictable and highly tribal bunch. Normal is what everyone else is, and you’re not. Not. So it’s great fun to be rude about them. Earlier, Stereophonics go for sex, drugs and oral hygiene. They do “More Life In A Tramp’s Vest” in three-way stereo, then “A Thousand Trees”, to close with Kelly Jones’ rousing ‘LEEDS UNITED FOR THE PREMIER LEAGUE!’ Er – aren’t Leeds United already in the Premier League, or is that a sly dig implying that their status there is at risk? Not that the assembled Shiny Happy People seem to care. While working that out we watch Hurricane #1, harder than Andy Bell’s former Ride, with their “Faces In A Dream” raging routine power-chord Rock. Then they do “Chain Reaction” – ‘I saw my baby crying / I told her, baby, don’t cry’. Pimple-brained advice direct from the Claire Rayner handbook of human relationships. If the lyrical intelligence quota falls much lower we can plant it in a hanging basket and feed it Baby Bio.

Until Blur open with the hard minimal riff of “Beetlebum”, the sound that dragged them from that strange kind of Old Sit-Com going the way of old Rock Bands retrophilia, into the warped present. Someone says ‘she sucks your thumb / and makes you come’ – why thumb? Because ‘cock’ doesn’t rhyme. If you think you remember Blur first time round, you’re probably wrong. Tonight they’re bitter-sweet symphonies of flavour, a treat and a disappointment at the same time. They do “Stereotype”, “MOR”, “VIP”, then go as far back as “Albert” from an album Damon mis-titles ‘Modern Life Is A Load Of Shit’ (1993), and back even further to an unexpectedly powerful “Sing” from their debut long-player (‘Leisure’ 1991). Until ‘one of those sad love songs’, turns into “The Universal” done with full glitterball effect. And on... “Parklife” might now be Nike-ad TV-Bubblegum with an Eric Cantona walk-on. And you can call me a ‘professional cynic’. But Blur at Temple Newsam? I’ll just say definitely. Maybe.

Published in:
‘CREATIVE TALES no.11’ (UK - July 2002)

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Book Review: 'Slow Chocolate Autopsy' by Iain Sinclair & Dave McKean

Book Review of:
(Phoenix House ISBN 1-861590-88-1
£16.99 - £9.99 p/back)

Fragmentation. Bi-mediality. A spread of forms. These are events in the lives of Norton. Norton or ‘Notron’. As in ‘Not Ron’. The text is spattered and ripped with graphic novel extracts. The graphic novel spliced and intercut with intrusions of text. Norton comes adrift in time. But is trapped by it. He’s there in Deptford (or Debt-ford, as in ‘till Deptford us do part’) for Christopher Marlowe’s death. Then he’s there in the East End for Jack The Hat’s brutal murder. The cover-blurb says so. The plot is less direct. More apparitional. Packed with ill-defined moments caught in entropy enclosures, where ‘a weasel crunching a mouse’s skull is amplified into a collision of icebergs’. And it is self-aware in the post-modern way of things, as Norton rehearses ‘the instructions he will have to write, so that McKean will be able to make a sequence of drawings... a stutter of frames’, or when he puzzles over ‘how to muzzle Anthony Burgess’ (who also did a factional Marlowe). His London is an unedited city, fit only for Comic-Book fiction or Direct-to-Video movies. And he transcribes everything. What he calls ‘the trivia of the real’. The Dysfunks, Petty Crims, Chaos Punters, Sewage Surfers, and even esoteric angles on the Mayans take on football as a ‘fate game reflecting demonic cosmology’. While the text spreads to weave around the lives that intersect Norton’s. Lives that use him as a nexus. For them there is no Last Exit from Deptford.

Norton is also a drug-dealer’s alias lifted from William Burroughs ‘Junkie’. A final collage reproduces a page of the Beat Generational docu-novel as a Lit clue. Other references include the unacknowledged use of Bob Shaw’s ‘Slow Glass’ as ‘light came out of him at the wrong speed’. There’s probably more I’ve missed. Iain Sinclair is a poet. You can tell. He writes lines like ‘each breath is a sucking sound. A criminal thirst drinking roses from the flapping wallpaper of memory bedrooms’. Stuff like that. Dense and rich with layers of multiplicity. He did ‘The Kodak Mantra Diaries’ in London in cahoots with Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg and Burroughs had some sex together. They’re both dead now. Norton is still a time-surfing echo drifting in and out of texts and decades. McKean, a some-time Neil Gaiman accomplice, has a charge-sheet that runs from Tori Amos album sleeves all the way to Batman’s ‘Arkham Asylum’. And he’s Sinclair’s perfect foil, sampling and sound-biting his art into precision-blurring treated assemblages that dazzle and confuse. Like the prose it interrupts. This is a novel. But it is one of fragmentation. Bi-mediality. And a spread of forms.

Published in:
‘LATERAL MOVES no.22: Camp Issue’ (UK - August 1998)

In The Nursery CD: 'Groundloop' (2000)

CD Review of:
(2000, ITN Corp 002/ EFA CD 70122-2

‘Groundloop’ is 43:10mins of intelligent Twenty-First Century widescreen sound-sequencing with a blade-to-flesh sensory edge, as far beyond Philip’s Glassy chill-out as it is above William’s Orbit. The stark acoustic neo-classical precision of “Imparator” leads into subliminal cyber-moods and darker things beyond, through the noirishly morbid Left Bank frigidity of “Qui Mal” and the sophisticated diseased decadence of “Hymn Noir”, to the submerged digital abstraction, glacial strings and beautiful desolation of “Synature”.

ITN are survivors of that same Sheffield-industrial Funk circuit responsible for early incarnations of Moloko (as Chakk) and All-Seeing Eye. But since their formation in 1981 – and their debut mini-album two years later, identical twins Klive and Nigel Humberstone have stayed truer than most to their vision, while extending out way beyond its original confines. Coasting technology’s curve they’ve produced multi-layered cinematic soundscapes fusing ambient to dance, through collaborators as diverse as Andrew Weatherall and occult writer Colin Wilson. Produced experimental album such as ‘Lingua’, exploring the universal language interfacing phonetics to sonics, while naturally extending into film trailers and soundtracks for the likes of CH5’s late-night cult ‘La Femme Nikita’, ‘Rainmaker’, and ‘Random Hearts’ as well as Euro-Arthouse projects, BFI commissions and Optical Music scores for Expressionist silent-movie classics (‘Dr Caligari’).

So while their electro-roots seem still discernible behind the fragments of ripped dialogue on “Displaced” in David Elektrik’s swirling Cabaret Voltairesque “Yashar” drum-programming, or the martial percussion and evocative Spanish voice-overs to “Chronicle”, their conceptual glaze of intense orchestral classicism has now elevated its own unnerving beauty on up to the next level. Lushly symphonic instrumentals get augmented by atmospheric vocals from linguist Dolores Marguerite C, with electro strings on the ‘loop and edit in surround’ title-track, and “Allegory” – which sets poems from the ‘Rubaiyat’ of Omar Khayyam, to exquisitely tragic keyboards. While eastern rhythms insidiously infiltrate your brain in silver shivers, they morph into eye-contact with seductive voice-overs soft enough to break your heart, ‘unborn tomorrows and dead yesterdays / why fret about them if today be sweet?’ ITN is an acid-chilling sweetness. Yet undeniably rich.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

'Angel Body & Other Magic For The Soul'

In case you missed it first time round, the BBR speculative fiction anthology 'Angel Body' is half price on Amazon UK for the next 7 days: Described by Paul Di Filippo (Asimov's SF) as "one of the best original anthologies of the year", it contains an introduction by David Memmott, stories by Don Webb, Andrew Darlington, Lance Olsen, Brian Evenson, Thomas Wiloch, Ernest Hogan, Scott Edelman, W. Gregory Stewart, Mark Rich, Tom Whalen, Lorraine Schein, Mark Bilokur, Misha Nogha, Denise Dumars, Conger Beasley Jr, and Bruce Boston, plus poetry by Lee Ballentine, Nathan Whiting, Steve Sneyd, Dan Raphael, Sandra Lindow, and John Noto. Offer ends next Monday 19 December 2011. Angel Body and Other Magic for the Soul