Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A Christmas Double Shot (Bonus Beat)

It's late, and I've still got presents to wrap, so I'm off. All you need to know about this is that it's Donny Hathaway, and it's one of the best Christmas songs ever. Have a good one, and don't forget to tell the people you love that you love them.

Donny Hathaway: This Christmas (single, 1970)

A Christmas Double Shot (Part 2)

Primal Scream are a band it isn't always easy to like. Their near-fundamentalist adherence to the tenets of The Rock'n'Roll Lifestyle can sometimes make them appear little more than a bunch of dicks suffering from an advanced case of arrested development rather than a group of people with a sincere belief in the redemptive power of music. Yet both live and on record, they're often capable of shoving such doubts right back down the throats of those who hold them. One of the best live shows I've ever seen was their performance at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool in April 2000. So often you'll hear bands say how they're influenced by this or that, or that their new direction is like X meets Y, and when you actually hear the end product, you wonder what the fucking hell they were talking about. But if Bobby Gillespie had said in 2000 that the new Primal Scream sound was like a Krautrock Stooges scrapping in a pub car-park with Sun Ra's Arkestra, Charles Mingus, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth...well, after that show, I'd have believed him, because that's exactly what they sounded like, and it was fucking astounding. I've seen them three times since, and they've never come close to matching the thrilling, terrifying, remorseless racket they made that night. They divided our party right down the middle and all; half thought it was near-transcendent in its magnificence. The other half thought it was a load of shite. Well, so long as you get a reaction, eh?

The album they were touring back then, XTRMNTR, is, for me, probably their best. I've never entirely bought the argument that Screamadelica is one of the great creative touchstones of late 20th century rock music, although I do like it. What's interesting when you play those two records alongside each other is just how radically different they are. Essentially, it's the same band on both albums, and this is the thing I admire most about Primal Scream; they don't stay in the same place for too long and, for a band that supposedly once typified the intensely conservative indie ethos of the 80s and 90s, this is pretty remarkable if you ask me.

They've also long been market leaders when it comes to mucking around with dance-music idioms, drafting in DJs and remixers like David Holmes, Andrew Weatherall and Jagz Kooner to not only remix their material, but to produce it as well. As a result, those less conventionally rock'n'roll/dancefloor aspects of their sound never give the impression of having been bolted-on as an afterthought for marketing purposes, as was often the case with some of their peers, back when "indie dance" was the buzzword of the day. Consequently, what you end up with is dance music which properly rocks out, and rock'n'roll with the kind of pilled-up, hip-twitching groove that today's pop kids are really diggin', daddy-o! Jagz Kooner's Spectre Mix of Swastika Eyes is absolutely fucking brutal. Imagine Neu! if they'd grown up on a Salford sink estate listening to nothing but Belgian techno from 1990 and Fun House by the Stooges. If you can't, then I suggest you play it as loud as you possibly can and find out what such a thing might have sounded like.

Primal Scream: Swastika Eyes [Spectre Mix] (single, 2000)

A Christmas Double Shot (Part 1)

I've been slacking off, and I plan on slacking off even more over the Christmas period, but since there wasn't an MP3 of the Week last week, I'm doubling up this week and throwing in an extra treat for Christmas.

In the spirit of the season, me and a few fellow internerds recently did a seasonal CD pool, whereby we divided ourselves up into groups and each person made a compilation for everyone in their respective group. In some cases (mine, for instance) it wasn't so much "seasonal" as "seasonally affected disorder", but it was interesting to learn a bit more about some of my friends' musical tastes, and it was fascinating to see where and how often they overlapped with my own. Not only that, I ended up with a lot of good music I mightn't have otherwise heard, and, all things being equal, hopefully they did too.

Anyway, although she wasn't in my group for the purposes of this lark, my friend Niki posted her compilation up on the net. Now Niki is an amazing woman, one of the most remarkable people I know; strong, fiercely intelligent, with a mind as big as God, and a heart to match. However, like many people when in the company of hardcore music geeks, she sometimes feels as if she needs to apologise for not having especially esoteric tastes. This is no big deal as far as I'm concerned, because I know she has good taste anyway, and one of the best things about this whole "make a CD for a few random friends" idea are those moments when you hear something you hadn't heard in years, in a way you'd never heard it before. So it was courtesy of Niki that, while wandering through the Covent Garden Xmas shopping chaos last weekend, "Let Me In" by the Osmonds came up on the iPod, and I really wasn't expecting it to have the kind of effect upon me that it did. I hesitate to use terms like "Proustian" to describe my reaction, but as I heard the song's opening line, followed by the strings playing a slow falling arpeggio with a warmth and richness worthy of Van Dyke Parks, I suddenly became...a little overwhelmed, shall we say. I was 13 again, and back in a world of unspoken teenage crushes, long summers and somewhat simpler (if occasionally guilty) pleasures.

The Osmonds got a bit of a raw deal in the 1970s. Even though they were enormously successful, and adored by countless teenage girls, it was clear they longed to be taken seriously as musicians and to receive the kind of critical plaudits that their immediate peers, the Jackson Five, were already enjoying. "Let Me In" was the lead single from "The Plan", a somewhat misfiring attempt at a prog-rock concept album, and was a much bigger hit in the UK than in the States, where their popularity had perhaps reached a plateau. When I hear it now, and its chorus swells to its gorgeous, heart-bursting peak, I no longer think about how fatally uncool it would have been at the time for a teenage boy to admit liking a song by the Osmonds, nor do I give any thought to what was then the hipster consensus, that it was all just saccharine MOR schmaltz. Instead, I hear something which doesn't contain the faintest trace of cynicism, and which wears its heart on its sleeve in a way that pop music rarely dares to do anymore. A little gem, in fact.

The Osmonds: Let Me In (The Plan 1973)

Friday, 12 December 2008

Bricks Are For Kids.

Over at hip-hop website Format, someone has been inspired to recreate twenty classic hip-hop album covers via the medium of Lego. Whilst I happen to think they're stretching the definition of "classic" almost to breaking point ("Stillmatic"? Common's "Be"?? Jedi Mind Tricks???), and some of the figures are, er, less than anatomically accurate, this is still a great idea. I've posted a few favourites below, but follow the above link for more of that good-good.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

MP3 of the Week - The Mahavishnu Orchestra: "You Know You Know"

I'm sure I'm not the only person to have discovered the Mahavishnu Orchestra via their appearance on BBC2's In Concert series in 1972. Not knowing much about music at that age, I was impressed more by the speed of their playing rather than what it was they played, and the combined musical pedigree of the various members didn't really register much with me either. Still, the performance was enough to have me seeking out their second album, Birds Of Fire, pretty much upon its release. There are a multitude of clips from the broadcast on YouTube and, while the term "ground-breaking jazz-rock-fusion" alone will be enough to send some people running, screaming, to the hills, it has to be said that, along with Tony Williams' Lifetime (of which Mahavishnu John McLaughlin was a member), they more or less wrote the book. They ended up becoming victims of their own somewhat unprecedented success, though, and the original line-up dissolved in 1973, due to internal strife which bassist Rick Laird later described as "too many chiefs and not enough Indians".

What I like about their stuff now, which I didn't get at all at the time, is its intensity and euphoria. Sure, it's incredibly complex on a technical level, and a lot more structured and disciplined than it might sometimes appear but, at its best, you do get the sense of a group of musicians genuinely aiming for something transcendent. Their instinctive jazzer's tendency towards improvisation could easily have led them into a world of jam-band tedium, something that disciples of theirs such as the Mars Volta occasionally fall foul of. Even now it can sound a little too full-on sometimes, but quite a lot of their stuff has held up well, as the good stuff generally does.

This tune from their debut album "The Inner Mounting Flame" is amongst the easiest to digest for non-believers - a simple circular melody over a spare, funky groove, which steadily builds in intensity without over-complicating itself, and is a great example of how effective they could be when they took their foot off the gas for five minutes. Fans of Massive Attack may like to pay particular attention at the 1'54" mark...

The Mahavishnu Orchestra: You Know You Know (The Inner Mounting Flame, 1971)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Brazil, Nuts.

It used to be that, as far as Brazilian music was concerned, my familiarity didn't extend a great deal further than Sergio Mendes, "The Girl From Ipanema", the handful of Jobim tunes everybody knows, the correct pronunciation of "batucada" and who Bebel Gilberto's dad was. Thanks mainly to guidance and suggestions from numerous friends, or DJs like Gilles Peterson, Patrick Forge and Jez Nelson, and Soul Jazz's superb "Tropicalia" compilations, but particularly to the sterling work of the good people who maintain blogs and websites such as Loronix, Um Que Tenha, Brazilian Nuggets and Sabadabada, this is no longer the case. I now know a bit more about the differences between MPB, Tropicalismo and Jovem Guarda (or even that there is a difference), or that the Roberto Carlos who played full-back for Real Madrid isn't the only famous Roberto Carlos to have come out of Brazil in my lifetime. I can even tell you which track from the first O Terco album was sampled in Madvillain's "Untitled". Oh, well done, I hear you say. Bully for you. We're supposed to be impressed by this why, exactly? Well, you're not, not really. But you might be impressed by DJ Nuts. Nuts is a native of Sao Paulo, has been a key player on the city's hip-hop scene since the early 1990s, and is considered to be the leading turntablist in the country. In short, this fella is pretty much the Brazilian equivalent of someone like J-Rocc or Babu, with skills to match. Except that he also has an ace or two up his sleeve, the nature of which may become apparent from this clip.

Now, while I was busy acting all pleased with myself a paragraph ago, I neglected to mention that I hadn't even heard of DJ Nuts until a few months ago, much less heard any of his astonishing mix CDs. Then I discovered that Nuts can haz blog, whereupon he'd posted half a dozen of the bleeders. However, he'd chosen to host them on Zshare, which used to be a reliable enough host, but has become increasingly shonky in recent months, so unfortunately you can't download them from there until Nuts fixes the links. However, thanks to the efforts of another Sao Paulisto who posts on the Soul Strut messageboard under the handle MoogMan, I can now share a few of them with you, and trust me, you've never heard Brazilian music played like this. Being that Nuts is essentially a hip-hop DJ, he plays the music of his home country just as you'd expect a hip-hop DJ to play it - Disco e Cultura Vol. 2, for example, features sixty-three tracks - and the breaks-heavy, ADD, quick-mixing style he often utilises, particularly on 2004's face-melting Cultura Copia, may not be for everyone. Similarly, if you download any of them in the expectation of an hours-worth of variations on "Mas Que Nada", you might be disappointed. But if you can set those considerations to one side, then not only are these mixes great fun, but they also feature plenty of fabulous and often quite beautiful music.

Cultura Copia comes partially tagged, with a full tracklisting in the zip file, but Disco e Cultura Vols 1 & 2 (both 2005) are untagged, and 2006's Disco e Cultura Vol. 3 (which is chocka with classic Brazilian dancefloor jazz) is just one big file, so please be aware of this when opening them in iTunes or wherever. All come with gorgeous artwork, should you want to burn them to CD. If I happen upon full tracklistings for any or all of the Disco e Cultura volumes, I'll post an update as soon as. In the meantime, get stuck in.

DJ Nuts: Cultura Copia (2004) - 105mb

DJ Nuts: Disco e Cultura Vol. 1 (2005) - 142mb

DJ Nuts: Disco e Cultura Vol. 2 (2005) - 142mb

DJ Nuts: Disco e Cultura Vol. 3 (2006) - 171mb

MP3 of the Week - Iggy & the Stooges: "Gimme Some Skin"

This record cost me a (then) prohibitively expensive £1.50 on a French Skydog import when I bought it from Probe Records in Liverpool during the summer of 1977. I can't remember whether the person who actually sold it to me was a future pop star or not, but Probe being what it was around that time, the odds are it probably would have been.

If you're anything like me, you're probably sick of reading a seemingly endless stream of absolute guff about how this bunch of herberts or that shower of slumming Tristram Trustfunders are this week's Living Embodiment of the True Spirit of Rock'n'Roll - they're dangerous, they're wild, they bunk taxis, they date fashion models, they appear in the gossip weeklies, and they all look exactly the fucking same. Invariably, when you hear the music, it sounds just as you'd imagine from a band who've probably hired a PR company first and built everything else arse-backwards from there. It therefore becomes difficult to imagine that any such band would ever - indeed, could ever - make a record as terrifyingly, psychotically good as this as long as they had holes in their arses.

Recorded sometime in 1972 by my favourite Stooges line-up - Iggy, Ron Asheton on bass, his brother Scott on drums, and the great, great James Williamson on guitar - but unreleased until around five years later, "Gimme Some Skin" sounds less the work of a rock band than it does the end product of supplying musical instruments and studio time to a gang of delinquents, sociopaths and sexual perverts. Iggy's vocal sounds depraved, becoming ever more hysterical to the point where he's almost literally gibbering by the final verse. Scott Asheton pounds the kit like he just caught it robbing his stash, and Williamson's primitive, slashing riffs are closer to threats of violence than to music. It probably cost about $50 to record, and it sounds completely out of control. There was a particular reason the Stooges remained at the fringes of the music scene for as long as they did; they disgusted people, and it isn't difficult to hear why. Every time some knobber has tried to convince me that, say, "Appetite For Destruction" is a great rock'n'roll record because it supposedly signalled the death of Corporate Rock - as if a record that sold 28 million copies could signal the death of anything - I'd have loved to have played them this. Over thirty-five years after it was recorded, it still sounds as if you could catch something unpleasant just by listening to it.

Iggy & the Stooges: "Gimme Some Skin" (1972)

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

'I'm as raw as pickin' cotton with your bare hands...'

Two Roc-related videos in a week? If anyone senses a pattern beginning to develop, they're probably on the right track. Anyway, this is fucking proper. It's easy to find yourself an argument regarding what is or isn't real hip-hop on the internet, and I'm not about to start another one, but this ticks all the boxes for me. Although the features emcees are Philly's own Freeway and Brother Ali of the Minnesota-based Rhymesayers crew, "The Truth" is actually taken from "White Van Music", the debut album by highly-regarded Seattle beatsmith and DJ Jake One. Jake has been, as they say, making Real World Moves for a minute, and this album features yer actual Who's Who from both the mainstream and underground spheres of rap music; MOP, Busta Rhymes, Young Buck, Prodigy, MF Doom, Little Brother, Pos from De La, etc., etc. It's also one of the strongest and most consistent rap albums of a year that hasn't seen too many strong or consistent rap albums. You can buy it here if this scratches whatever itch you might have in this regard. I don't know if I want to add further fuel to the rumours that Jake may be doing an entire album with Freeway, so I won't. But I wouldn't mind some more of this.

Gold And Popcorn's Inaugural MP3 of the Week.

I'm going to try to make this a regular item. It shouldn't need much explaining, really; each week, I'll endeavour to post something good, or at least interesting, from the bowels of the external hard drive. And so we begin.

Patrick "Sleepy" Brown is one-third of the God-like Atlanta hip-hop/r&b production house known as Organized Noise. You might know him as the Ving Rhames-lookin' geezer who sings the hook on Outkast's "The Way You Move". He's also a solo artist in his own right, although his fortunes in that area have been a little chequered, courtesy of Tha Politricks Of Tha Bizniz. His records are worth picking up if you happen upon them, although they seem to be a bit thin on the ground this side of the Atlantic.

I've upped probably my favourite track off his independently-released "The Vinyl Room" from 1998, which came out under the artist name Sleepy's Theme, for what I assume to be contractual reasons. I was put up on the album by a gent on the now-deceased Boundless NY messageboard who used to post under the name Feedback Loop, so all credit is due, because it's a fucking great album and I'm sure I'm not the only person whose radar it sailed right under. "Curse On You" is soulful, languid, yet slightly menacing in that "Every Breath You Take"/restraining-order-pending kind of way. The Organized Noise m.o. is evident from the jump - the characteristic blend of live instrumentation and head-bop programming, and the kind of swampy, atmospheric groove which has you reaching for cliches like "Southern-fried", "dripping with chicken grease", etc., etc. I'd love to be able to tell you where you can get hold of the album, but I still haven't formulated an official blog policy as regards offering up someone else's shit for download (he said, offering up someone else's shit for download...). All I will say is; a) Google Blog Search is your friend, and b) buy the album if you do manage to find it anywhere.

Sleepy's Theme: Curse On You (The Vinyl Room, 1998)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Guy Peellaert (1934 - 2008)

Guy Peellaert has died in Paris, aged 74.

Who hell he, you may ask? Well, if you own a copy of Bowie's "Diamond Dogs", then you've seen his work. He first came to my attention as a schoolboy, when I bought a copy of his book "Rock Dreams" in the sale at a local bookstore. It featured text by Nik Cohn alongside Belgian-born Peellaert's astoundingly vivid paintings and illustrations, images which were amongst the first to explore and examine the burgeoning mythology of rock'n'roll using a medium other than the written word.

Being barely in my teens when "Rock Dreams" came out, and having no concept that the book might be the kind of thing worth looking after and keeping in one piece, I relentlessly cannibalised my copy, decorating my bedroom walls with Peellaert's representations of the Stones, Hendrix, the Beatles and so on. The book was such a critical and commercial success that Peellaert was later commissioned to do the cover art for one of David Bowie's greatest albums,"Diamond Dogs". Controversially, Peellaert represented Bowie as half-man, half-dog, canine genitalia and all. These latter details had to be airbrushed out for the cover of the final release. Original unretouched copies are as rare as rocking-horse shit, and will doubtless become a little more sought-after now.

Peellaert's work was more far-ranging than just "Rock Dreams" and the "Diamond Dogs" sleeve, covering comics and movie posters as well as paintings and the kind of illustrations which brought him fame, but it's for these that I knew him best. RIP.

What's Young Chris been up to?

Yep, I've lost count of the amount of times I've heard people asking that question since the Young Gunz' last album, 2005's uneven "Rapid Fire". Actually, I haven't really, but I have myself occasionally wondered what's up with Chris and Neef. Well, it turns out that the Gunnaz are sort of on sabbatical, and that Young Chris' debut solo album is finally due out sometime within the next two or three months. If this video is any indication of its contents, it's going to be worth catching, because as you can hear, the boy remains Nice With His. New albums from both the Gunnaz and State Property are also scheduled for next year, but I refuse to officially anticipate anything until the Saigon album finally surfaces.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

'Chinese Democracy' - the rock equivalent of 'The Phantom Menace'?

Tomorrow, on November 23rd 2008, Guns 'n' Roses finally release "Chinese Democracy". If you've ever wondered what an album which took almost fifteen years and cost $11m to make would actually sound like, fill yer boots.

I can't stand Guns 'n' Roses, for reasons I can't be bothered to go into here - the "blogosphere" is already overrun with peanutheads who'll tell you at great length why Band X/Movie Y/Celebrity Z sucks, is an oxygen thief, or holds a metaphorical pillow over the face of "real" talent, so I'll pass on this opportunity, thanks. Nonetheless, it's undeniable that G'n'R are A Big Deal to many, including several people whose opinions I respect, and whatever else one may think of the band, their music and the Hammer-Of-The-Gods-turned-up-to-11 universe they inhabit, it's equally undeniable that "Chinese Democracy" is that rare thing nowadays - an Event Record.

I like Event Records, or more precisely, I like the idea of them. I mean, I can't remember the last time I was startled by an Oasis record, for example, but each time a new one comes around, I'm curious to hear whether Noel Gallagher's managed to pull anything out of his arse that's near the measure of "Slide Away" or "Rock'n'Roll Star". Likewise, with every new Madonna album comes a degree of certainty that it won't sound too much like the previous one. Which is to say that Event Records often hold a fascination for both fans and non-fans, even if only, in the latter case, to shore up an existing belief that the performers in question are no more than charlatans, fanfarons and snake-oil salesmen. Being somewhat long of tooth and grey of beard, I can remember when Event Records seemed a good deal more plentiful and frequent than they are now. The two-year gestation of Stevie Wonder's masterpiece "Songs In The Key Of Life" is a good example; how on God's Green Earth, people asked at the time, can an album take two years to make? When the end product finally arrived, though, and everyone got to hear it at the same time (more or less), the wait was, in the case of "Songs...", definitely worth it. Now, if you'll please briefly excuse me while I draw a discreet veil over "The Second Coming"...

Anyway, content notwithstanding, it could be that "Chinese Democracy" marks the passing of the Event Record, on some level at least. Reviewing it for The Onion's AV Club, Chuck Klosterman makes a very astute point to this effect;

"For one thing, Chinese Democracy is (pretty much) the last Old Media album we'll ever contemplate in this context—it's the last album that will be marketed as a collection of autonomous-but-connected songs, the last album that will be absorbed as a static manifestation of who the band supposedly is, and the last album that will matter more as a physical object than as an Internet sound file. This is the end of that."

I think this is dead-on. Peer-to-peer trading of watermarked copy-protected advance promos, the drip-drip of officially-sanctioned leaks, being able to treat albums like the buffet at a wedding (courtesy of iTunes et al), where we pick and choose what we want with no obligation to take anything we don't - all have rendered the notion of the album as a self-contained 'Grand Artistic Statement Which Has Something Important To Say About The World And That' rather redundant. It appears that nobody's told Axl Rose any of this - or if they have, he wasn't listening - because "Chinese Democracy" has 'Grand Artistic Statement, etc.' embedded in its very DNA. But the inherent risk in giving the world advance notice, as Rose has done, that the next one will be The Magnum Opus is this; what if it turns out to be a load of shite? What if, after all this time, Axl Rose has completely lost sight of whatever it is he wanted to say, to the extent that the making of the statement has now become as, or more, important than the statement itself? After all, Rose's megalomaniac tendencies have been well-documented, and megalomania can do funny things to one's sense of perspective. Now, I should add at this point that I'm not much of a "Star Wars" fan, so I could never quite fathom the eagerness with which the arrival of "The Phantom Menace" was anticipated by those for whom "Star Wars" was a formative part of their childhood. But one comment made upon its release by a bitterly disappointed fanboy has stayed with me; "It's official - I have wasted my life". So, to return to the doubtless not-terribly-original observation at the top, has a decade-and-a-half of sitting on your hands been worth it? Or is "Chinese Democracy" rock music's equivalent of "The Phantom Menace"?

Well...yes. And no. If it was ever Axl Rose's intention to cause a paradigm shift in rock music with this record, then I'm afraid he's fallen flat on his arse. I've often been told by fans of G'n'R that it was the stripped-back directness of "Appetite For Destruction", and its preference for the fundamentals of rock'n'roll (or G'n'R's idea thereof) over stadium-rock hair-metal bombast, which caused it to have such a seismic impact (I'm still not buying that line, but that's another story). Well, guess what? In the bombast stakes, this makes the complete works of Richard Wagner, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Jim Steinman sound like a Nick Drake demo. Minimalist it most assuredly is not. And, like most modern rock records, it's been ProTooled to fuck and back - Rose's vocals are clinically on-the-money throughout, and every riff, bass line and drum fill has been arranged with draughtsman's precision; a sure-fire indicator that several hundred man-hours have been spent in post-production. There is nothing raw about "Chinese Democracy"; the dirty fingernails, cracked lips and calloused fingers of G'n'R's previous manifestations have been comprehensively excised. You could eat your dinner off this album. It's been polished, buffed and polished again, almost to the point of blandness. But here's a funny thing - when it works, it sounds fantastic. Case in point being "Street of Dreams", a spectacularly over-written mid-tempo rock ballad that's a dead cert to be bashed out at "American Idol" auditions from now until the franchise utters its death-rattle. "Madagascar", one of several songs with somewhat gnomic titles, is the sort of swaggering, roided-up, industrial trip-hop you could've heard on umpteen movie and videogame soundtracks over the last decade or so, but the twist here is that, instead of yet another guitar solo that sounds like a massacre in a poultry farm, there's a spoken-word collage featuring snippets from "Cool Hand Luke" and Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Yet when you hear it, rather than thinking, "Oh, for fuck's sake!", you instead begin to think that, despite the played-out nature of this and other devices, such as the dated nu-metal grind which drives a number of songs, "Chinese Democracy" is actually a very coherent-sounding record. The cliches make sense. There's plenty of light and shade, a first-rate grasp of modern hard-rock dynamics that might conceivably have Josh Homme rushing back to the drawing board, and any number of surprising and even affecting melodic and compositional flourishes. When you think about what a maddening clusterfuck its creation must have been, this is pretty remarkable. Imagine if the best thing that could have been said about it was, "Well, at least it's not completely fucking awful..."

And, you know, it isn't. In fact, it's pretty good. Whether or not Jimmy Iovine and the board of directors at Interscope feel they've got their money's worth now that Rose has finally delivered the bloody thing is moot. One thing's for certain; somebody did a bang-up job of keeping advance copies out of the reach of mp3 blogs, so there's a genuine likelihood it'll actually sell. If there's enough about it to have a committed naysayer like me conceding that, yes, this record is a qualified success which will perform well on its own merits rather than on the reputation of its creators, and no, it is nothing like the bloated, sprawling, unfocused, Ishtar-like monstrosity that many people might have expected, then it probably deserves to. I might even buy it myself. If it recoups, mind you, then I'll show my arse in the Vatican.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Yeah, it's funny now, isn't it?

Emory Douglas.

Emory Douglas, one-time Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, has an exhibition of his design work on show at the Urbis in Manchester until March 2009. As you might expect, the bulk of it is Panther-related; flyers, handbills, posters, copies of The Black Panther newspaper, as well as a ton of archive material such as photographs, video, audio and even something about the BPP house band, the Lumpen, who I'd never previously heard of, but who sounded a bit like the Chambers Brothers-meets-early-Sly-Stone on the evidence of the recording on offer during the exhibition.

The whole thing does a good job of contextualising not only Douglas' contribution to the BPP, but also the conditions and circumstances that led to the rise of the Panthers in the first place. It starts off pretty grim, but gradually turns into something very inspiring and uplifting, or at least I thought so. I visited it on the Saturday before America elected its first black president and proved that it can still sometimes deliver on its founding principles, so in a way the timing couldn't have been better. It's free, too, so if you happen to be in Manchester between now and next spring, you should go.

I took some photos as well. They're fairly standard camera-phone snaps, but hopefully they'll offer a flavour of it.

Intro: More droppings on the ever-growing pile of cultural bird-shite.

Well, not yet, at any rate. There will be soon, though. Music and popular culture mainly, football and politics occasionally, and anything else I feel like gobbing off about should the mood take me. After all, this is the brave new fuckin' world, anyone with a broadband connection and an opinion is now a cultural commentator, and the internet is one big pub argument. God spare us...

"You wear a lotta gold, but you're eatin' popcorn" - Jesse Bonds Weaver Jr., Philadelphia, USA, 1986.