Wearing ill-fitting clothes from museum dressing-up boxes.
This is me and Frankie looking fly in the Barbara Hulanicki exhibition at Brighton Museum. There are some incredible 60s designs, and I’m pretty sure most of the Spice Girls’ outfits from the 90s too. It also triggered some pretty powerful reminiscing about the time we went to Coventry on a uni trip and everyone took it in turns to dress as monks and ride around on hobby horses. Good times :)
Last night we went to the new Duke’s at Komedia cinema to see Gangster Squad, which is basically like a movie version of LA Noire. All style and no substance but, if anything, it served as a timely reminder that I’m not really that fussed about substance. White-walled typres and art deco nightclubs > plot, dialogue, plausibility. EVERY TIME.
Then this morning, before Frankie went home, we went to the Herbie Flowers Jazz Breakfast at the Dome, which was AMAZING. He did Coconut by Harry Nilsson! And he’s like BEZZIE MATES with Bowie and Lou Reed. I had no idea! I had a three course breakfast (all three courses gloriously bad for me) and laughed at all the jazz jokes even when I didn’t understand them. And Frankie said that when I went to get us more tea, all the oldies round our table started competing to be the person who loves Herbie the most. So I’m basically going to be at every jazz breakfast from now until the end of time.
How long does it take to make your mind up about something? I consider myself to be quite a good decision-maker. By “good”, I generally mean quick. I have decided to move into houses based solely on the way the landlord opens the door. I try on and buy my winter coat every year in the space of about six minutes, depending on the till queue. I can tell you if I would sleep with someone after the first 0.45 seconds of first laying eyes on them.
I have learned tonight, however, that 25 minutes isn’t long enough to come to any sort of value judgement about Silver Swan at the Tate Modern. It’s a re-staging of Clod Ensemble’s 1999 voice-and-body thing that involves a 7-piece female choir accompanied by some dancers who move a bit like clowns and a bit like pissheads. That’s definitely the right way round; it really feels like the dancers are accompanying the music. In the Turbine Hall at Tate it becomes an enormo-work about scale and grandeur and humanity, as everything does in there, and it certainly sounds beautiful, but as a 20-something heathen with no real knowledge or experience of modern classical music, I needed it to be 90 minutes rather than 25. All I can tell you for sure is that I was really starting to get into it by the end. :(
(Swan attack LOL)
Lyrics from the songs that inspired the show were printed in the programme, and this one has made a bit of an impression on me. It’s either by John Smith or William Lawes or John Smith AND William Lawes but I can’t tell you for certain because searching for “John Smith” in conjunction with anything is a long and winding road TO DESPAIR.
THE SILVER SWAN
The silver swan who living had no note
‘till death approached unlocked her silent throat
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore
She sang her first and last and sang no more
Farewell all joys
Death come close my eyes
More geese than swans now live
More fools than wise
Beautiful innit. It brings out the 15yo emo in me. Also reminds me a lot of my favourite ever poem, We’ll Go No More A-Roving by Lord Byron, which is only marginally less depressing.
(Okay, so the internet says that The Silver Swan was actually by a dude called Orlando Gibbons, which I’m sure we can all agree is a vastly more Googleable name than John Smith.)
I’m not going to talk much about Sound Screen tonight because it’s a bit outside my usual remit but I’ve pretty much had my head blown off by Nordic Giants so it would be rude not to mention them briefly.
Sound Screen is a thing in Brighton that marries electronic music with digital animations and visuals so we saw a number of short filmy things with drums and samples and some very lovely soundscapey stuff, but then after the interval these two guys came out DRESSED LIKE LORDI and gave us such a faceful of amazing post-rock headfuck music that my left ear is actually a bit broken. I adored them. It helped that the films they played to seemed to have slightly higher production values than most of the others, and even some pretty heart-wrenchy narratives, but I just got completely lost in the whole thing. My eyes have been strobed to bits. They’d even BUILT A MASSIVE BOX to serve as a lead singer for the songs with vocals.
The bigger question is why so many people want to see them, though in the handbills for the other summer events where they’ll be appearing – T in the Park, the V Festivals – there lurk all kinds of answers. Other headliners include Snow Patrol, the Vaccines and the Maccabees, who will turn up, do their thing with tedious proficiency and go blankly on their way. In other words, it falls to four men at the tail-end of their 40s to remind modern audiences of the tightrope walk that once lay between triumph and disaster, and why even in the midst of a talent for self-sabotage, an elusive something can still burn through. That’s the highfalutin theory, anyway. The more prosaic truth may be that in times as grim as these, thousands of people will happily pretend that the last 20 years have been rolled back, and that if only for a couple of hours, they can be back in 1990 – happily looking to a future which, for the Stone Roses as much as anyone, singularly failed to happen.
John Harris on The Stone Roses, in The Guardian.
I have mixed feelings about The Stone Roses. They were shit and excellent at the same time.
Oh Jack White
You are thin and slight
You look a bit like you’d fizz and burn in daylight
(Like a vampire or a goth)
Oh Jack White
Your new album is alright
Actually it’s better than that, it’s fucking sweet, right?
(Even the slow ones)
Oh Jack White
You make me want to be a Luddite
Smash up my mp3s and watch uTorrent burn tonight
(even the Four Tet stuff)
Recorded as live on analogue equipmennnnnnnnnttttt
Oh Jack White
You brave and chivalrous guitar knight
I tell you what can go fuck itself - yep, the zeitgeist
(they just don’t understand free spirits like us Jack)
I’ve just finished reading the Simon Price Manics biog, and now I’ve gone all A-level Sociology and am thinking about class and how we define it and stuff. Because I’m fascinated by how we make aesthetic judgements, I’ve been thinking about how class is tied up with art, and how snobbishness can come in many different forms.
At uni we’ve learnt all about Pierre Boudieu and his concept of ‘cultural capital’; how the shared tastes of the dominant social class mean their position is retained, and how that ties in with financial reward.
In the Manics biog, Simon Price talks about how each of the band members are millionaires and “prole scum” at the same time.
I could draw a pretty decent flow-chart of my class. From an entirely subjective POV of course. (If this was a Sociology essay I would use the word ‘identity’ somewhere here.) I am a maximum of two generations away from working class roots and yet I am undeniably middle-class. My Mum was raised as such, with her architect father climbing the ladder via a series of golf club dinners and Masonic handshakes. My Dad was an independent teenager who discovered rock climbing and then my Mum, both pasttimes which took him away from his roots, literally and metaphorically. Other than a general left-liberal stance and belief in equality, neither parent was overtly political. Our home was a meritocracy, and my parents were arts-lovers. Dad: the guitar and mandolin, The Doors, the value of wide open spaces. Mum: Carole King, William Morris, pen and ink drawings. When I was growing up, we didn’t look down on our neighbours because they were working class, we looked down on them because they watched ITV.
I brought up the subject of class with my housemates a while ago and it backfired horribly. I can’t even remember what point I was trying to make, but it was about post-uni employment expectations or something. I have one housemate who was raised in an affluent village outside Cambridge, who genuinely believes that “most people, after they’ve been working for a while” can expect an invitation to a Royal garden party. I have another housemate, raised by the children of miners who, and I mean this with no disrespect, listens to commercial radio. The class system is evident in our house all the time. It’s unavoidable, and yet when it’s acknowledged it causes a fucking shitstorm. “Don’t forget that I can’t possibly want to buy this bag of salad because I’m working class, isn’t that right Meg?” etc etc until we all die of boredom.
It has dawned on me while reading this Manics book that my upbringing has given me slightly different class signifiers. Occupation and politics have played little part. My Dad has mostly had ‘blue collar’ jobs (hate hate HATE that phrase - it sounds so American) but he’s either been a male nurse, or an English ‘newcomer’ working in Welsh or Scottish forrestries, steel works, salmon farms. Looking after people fresh out of surgery, you can bet that the thing most important to his workplace ‘identity’ now is that he can find a Pink Floyd song appropriate to the condition of every single patient. In the same way, even if I have to go on the dole this summer, I’ll still consider myself middle-class because I’ll spend my days reading rock biographies instead of watching Jeremy Kyle.
Just the fact that I’ve written that sentence says that I judge you on your cultural choices more than anything else. I’m a snob who doesn’t like commercial radio or Jeremy Kyle. I do like the Manic Street Preachers. I value artistic talent over the ability to fix a car engine over the ability to negotiate a corporate merger. I don’t like Alan Sugar. I do like Noel Gallagher (in interview - less so the tunes). I love Jeremy Deller, who we could accuse of being an effeminate bourgeois artist glamorising the lives of a hopeless underclass. I like Brian Sewell because I respect his critical authority, but mostly because he sounds funny.
I don’t really know what my point is. This has been a difficult post to write. One day I will incorporate some of these things into a PhD, and when you all call me Dr Vaughan there shall be no misunderstanding about where I fall in the social order. *safety wink*
Back at the band’s hotel, Nicky was thrown out of the bar for wearing only his boxer shorts. James collapsed on his bed having drunk so much that he temporarily went blind. Richey got into a fight with an Irish businessman about Catholicism. Sean, ever the sensible one, ended up at a rave with 2 Unlimited.The library was closed again today so I’ve been reading Simon Price’s Manic Street Preachers biog. He tells me on twitter that a lot of it is bullshit. I’m pretending otherwise.
What a week.
What a mental, exhausting, awesome, brilliant week.
I did ALL THE STUFF.
Here are the top 5 things of the week, in no particular order.
1: Baba Israel!
Tuesday was the day I went to the Arts Council’s State Of The Arts conference and totally lost my shit over Baba Israel, the AD at Contact Theatre. He’s such an amazing, talented, SEXY man. He was doing some sort of outreach project where he took some young poets and MCs into the morning’s panel sessions and then brought them onstage in the afternoon to rap about the stuff we’d been discussing. IT WAS AMAZING. He’s so fucking powerful onstage that I just kinda dribbled into a puddle on the floor and then went into full respiratory arrest when he came and sat next to me afterwards. I swear I didn’t breathe for over 12 minutes.
I’m not going to show you a picture yet because I’m all scabby and shit, but I had THE WORLD’S GREATEST EVER tattoo done on Wednesday and I’m well chuffed with it. The weather forecast for this week says we’re going to reach FOURTEEN WHOLE DEGREES on Thursday so it looks like I got my calf pimped at just the right time. Those pencil skirts don’t sashay themselves.
3: Old friends!
Because the SOTA conference was in Manchester, I took advantage of my prepaid hotel room and went out on the piss on Monday night with some of my homiez from the olden days. I met Daz and Andy and James in Odd and found out that Andy is a fucking vegetarian now. This is the man who used to SALT HIS OWN BEEF to store in our freezer and would look disapproving if I made a sandwich with fewer than three kinds of salami in it. My whole world was shaken. I’m pretty much blaming Andy’s massive lifestyle change for the fact that I neglected to stop drinking after my planned two glasses of red wine, instead ordering another bottle as soon as my other awesome friend, Nick, finished work. Ended up planning a Venn diagram which showed the combined careers of Alex Turner, Pete Doherty and David Bowie, then missed the last tram and got misty eyed about Guns N Roses in Fab. THEY STILL HAVE THE SAME DOORMAN. I even left my phone there and had to make the taxi driver turn back from about 10 yards outside my hotel. Aaaah, gooooood tiiiiimes.
I miss Manchester a lot. I’m excited about a move to Brighton, because this MA course is going to be the dog’s bollocks, but Manchester will always be home. I don’t know if I should move back there at the earliest opportunity, or avoid it forever because it’ll only be a disappointment compared to my 2007-08 wonder years. Life is SO HARD.
I have a housemate into jazz and a lecturer into jazz. Every so often I decide I’m going to get into jazz too, and start randomly torrenting every single band on the internet that ends in ‘Quartet’. Turns out that after all that effort I’m actually only into live jazz. Alice took me to see Arun Ghosh at The Y Theatre on Wednesday night because she works there so we didn’t have to pay, and it was fucking blinding. Perhaps because I’d still barely recovered from my MCR hangover, I thought his song about Longsight was incredible, and he even did his own Bez dancing in between playing that instrument he plays. An oboe? Some sort of saxophone? It was a blowy thing anyway. It also surprised me every time he said a song was ‘about’ something, even when it has NO WORDS. Just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how much you study ‘cultural capital’, there are still artsy things that make you realise you know fuck all.
Back when I was writing for ManchesterMusic, I went to the drinks-and-nibbles-bollocks for the Manchester Jazz Festival and started mouthing off about how the flute is a prog instrument and has no place in jazz. I’d barely heard a note of jazz in my entire life. What a fucking idiot. So I was on my best behaviour for Arun Ghosh. Didn’t even laugh when all the old jazz geezers started saying “beautiful!” and “mmm-hhmmm, play it!” under their breaths. THAT FAST SHOW SKETCH IS TOTALLY REAL.
5: Cake lols!
I’m wanking on a bit, aren’t I? This was supposed to be a quick post.
Number 5 is seeing my auntie and going into Chester for a manicure and to eat TEN TONNES OF CAKE yesterday. It doesn’t matter if your extended family are mentals when the close ones are really really awesome.
It’s hard to be a hipster in Leicester. The charity shops only sell shellsuits and nobody here has ever heard of any decent music from any era in the whole of human history so you can’t even tell them you were into The Shins way before they sold out. Now that I’m old and jaded and TWENTY FUCKING EIGHT YEARS OLD (and doing a music industry uni module), I can occasionally hold a candle to my hipster days by sneering at a teenager who thinks they’re the first person in the world to discover Nina Simone. Every so often I tell them about the time I played spoons for Mumford & Sons in a jazz club and they look at me in the same way they do when I say I’m going to get a job with Haus of Gaga after graduation.
It’s finally happened. I am too old to be a hipster.
I’ve made my peace with that. The last thing I want is to become like the indie Tim Westwood, bouncing round student nights on shit pills, trying to pull guitarists well into my 50s. While everyone else at uni is talking about illegal downloading like it’s the end of civilisation (and then going home to torrent this awesome new singer they’ve heard of; Nina Simone), I’ve been writing self-important stream-of-consciousness GOLD about Theodor Adorno and the death of the subculture. I’m a GROWN-UP now, innit.
But, with that in mind, I’ve been coming across some fucking stunning music recently. Music that, if this was 2007, I’d have already got bored of, decried the ‘crass unapologetic commercialism’ of, and moved on. The 2007 me would’ve seen a band’s appearance on the BBC’s ‘Sound Of’ list as a sign I should stop dropping them into conversation with immediate effect, but now I’m more excited about the Friends album than anything for ages. I love love love love love them and am totally gay for Samantha Urbani.
Urbani. AS IF that’s her real name.
And then there’s Django Django which I posted something by a day or two ago. The 2007 me would’ve deplored them for ripping off the little known sample-heavy Glasgow three-piece Down The Tiny Steps, but today I’m trying to get DtTS’s principle songwriter to reform the band and support Django Django on a fucking STADIUM TOUR. I’m so open-minded and mature.
Allen Ginsberg was staying at Mick’s place in London once, and I spent an evening listening to the old gasbag pontificating on everything. It was the period when Ginsberg sat around playing a concertina badly and making ommm sounds, pretending he was oblivious to his socialite surroundings.I’ve been reading Keith Richards’ autobiography on and off for months. It’s getting to the good bit now. The Anita Pallenberg, elegantly wasted period. I hate that he’s been so Americanised for the book. “Panties” and “off of it” and shit like that. Every so often some biting cynicism appears though. I feel a bit like Keith Richards is a wayward uncle. My Dad has made sure that he, and Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison, have been important figures introduced to my general education at an early age.
I think I’ve made my peace with nostalgia. I was in London with Hannah yesterday and we were talking about when I was in Manchester, going out six nights a week and getting embroiled in the local music scene, ostensibly to prove I could have a more exciting life than my ex-boyfriend but also because it was a whole fuckload of fun. I styled myself as some kind of music expert, writing about bands and reviewing for (boo hiss) Associated Newspapers as well as blogs and zines and stuff.
I eventually became stifled by the expectation of it all. I didn’t really give a fuck about sticking two fingers up at my ex anymore and I was too skint to go out every night, but I’d still be expected to make impassioned arguments about the legacy of Little Feat or the new Vampire Weekend bollocks on demand. So I fucked the whole thing off, hermitted myself for a few months and then moved to fucking LEICESTER of all places.
The point of this is that my closest companion when I’m messing about at home is 6Music, and I listened to Johnny Flynn on the train on Friday and it made me feel all warm inside. I’m on my way home now to put Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon on the turntable. I can hear the songs and albums that were a part of my relationship grieving process and enjoy the nostalgia in a way I haven’t been able to for a few years. I don’t have an opinion on the new Metronomy album because I don’t really give a shit and, perhaps more importantly, nobody expects me to give a shit. It’s really quite brilliant.
The LP was the perfect length - 20 minutes of anyone is fine. You can go and do something else and play the other bit later.Richard Thompson