So, this year’s Six Nations tournament will be decided in an hour’s time. Wales have to win by 13 points to wipe those Grand Slam smirks off Irish faces. I have been sending leg-breaking vibes all morning.
So, I thought I’d better tell you a little bit about Tunng and Tinariwen last night before I begin to pick up the rugby scent and require heavy sedation. First of all, my only criticism was a completely understandable one: the collaboration would have benefited hugely from collaborative songwriting, rather than simply rearranging material by each band. As a huge fan of Tunng and a not-so-huge fan of Tinariwen, the way they pretty much just played a Tinariwen song with samples followed by a Tunng song with added desert dirginess meant that I was alternately cheering with glee and then getting a bit bored. Tinariwen can be a bit turgid sometimes. But I did read that they only had five days to rehearse, and even then it was via translators. Can’t really complain.
On the other hand, there were some genuinely chest-bursting moments of brilliance. They turned the reverb up to about a million for Becky’s “ooooooooohOOOOoooo“s during King, until it sounded like she’d turned into a choir of angels, all in cutesy little strapless dresses. Then when they did Soup, which is always referred to as Tunng’s “metal moment”, the guitarist from Tinariwen came in with this incredible shredding twang until half the audience were holding up devil horn hands. Amazing stuff. Bullets was also great, with Tinariwen grooving about like belly dancers-cum-Christina Aguilera.
It was during the encore that Tinariwen really proved themselves to me, when they did something that was more like Mano Chau than any of their dustbowl bluesiness. There is something so beautiful about the French language, especially when half-rapped by a black guy in a Tuareg turban. It was like a hip-hop lullaby, with Tunng providing a few key boing noises. Superb stuff.
Have a look at the Bullets performance if you’re interested. I just found this on YouTube, although the quality isn’t fantastic.
Don’t forget: come on Wales come on Wales come on Wales come on Wales…
I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last few days, what with preparing for a haircut, actually having a haircut, and then lots of time spent in front of the mirror flicking the fringe of said new haircut backwards and forwards, but I have squeezed in a bit of reading too. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (so good they named it twice, etc etc) is connected to the last book I read, Rabbit, Run, because both titles include a comma which makes them look awkward when referred to in almost any sentence. Also, they are both absolutely magnificent.
I know I say this a lot, and every book I ever read has something about it that is ‘amazing’ or ‘brilliant’ or ‘incredible’ (yawn) but Iris Murdoch has a way of making words just slot into perfect sentences effortlessly. If I knew the first thing about linguistics, I’m sure I would be able to put my finger on exactly what makes her writing appear to flow like poetry, but it all just rolls along so smoothly and with such ease of expression. It really is amazing, brilliant and incredible.
She has also created the thing I love most of all in a novel; a protagonist who is a bit of a self-important twat. Hence my adoration for Gone With The Wind, and why I was so into Rabbit, Run (damn that stupid comma) and, in a slightly warmer way, Submarine by Joe Dunthorne. Speaking of whom, Joe Dunthorne is appearing at the Laugharne Weekend this year, and I am practically glowing like an emerald with envy at those who are going. In March and April last year I was having a bit of a crisis of impotence. I just generally felt useless and knew I needed to make changes in my life, but for one weekend, I took the meandering train from Manchester to Carnarfon, did loads of planning for my GREAT NOVEL while we chugged through Shropshire and the Welsh valleys, and then missed Patrick Wolf in order to drink Jamesons and Coke with Howard Marks, Keith Allen, and Elvis Costello’s manager. It was like stumbling into a literary version of Stella Street, just what I needed at the time, and this year the line-up is even better: all the regulars (Irvine Welsh, Allen and Marks, the Twin Town script reading, Simon Armitage) and then some, including Luke Haines from Black Box Recorder, a special show for nominees of the Dylan Thomas Prize, and a new musical project from members of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Teenage Fanclub. And Joe Dunthorne of course. Oh, I wish I wish I WISH I could afford to go!
(I’ve just remembered the second half of last year’s Laugharne trip was spent in Pilton Working Men’s Club, watching The Travelling Band win Glastonbury Unsigned and then sampling every flavour of cider available in the whole of Somerset. I woke up on the floor of a Travelodge listening to Jeremy Kyle talking about paternity testing. Gooooooood times…)
Aside from reading The Sea, The Sea, I’ve also been keeping on top of the BBC’s arts blog by Razia Iqbal, who brought this whole poetry-in-schools debate to my attention. Turns out that London’s Mayor, dear old Bullingdon Bastard Boris Johnson, has been spouting off about how the youth of today won’t get anywhere without being able to recite poetry off by heart. Now, I’m never going to say that learning great works of verse off by heart is a bad thing. Nay, it’s positively admirable. But, surely enforcing rote-learning in schools is going to kill any passion for literature held by ‘kids today’? It’s like turning Edgar Allen Poe into times tables. Don’t we want to be teaching kids how to examine a text and to come to their own conclusions about the writer’s intentions, and the merits of the piece? If your sole purpose in teaching literature is to enable teenagers to bark out some Wordsworth at an Oxbridge interview, then things have gone askew indeed. That is time better spent learning tables. At times like this I’m almost glad that Boris Johnson is entirely ignored by over 90% of Britain’s population…
But, rant over for now. If I’m quick, I should still be able to squeeze in forty five minutes of hair swishing in front of the mirror before bedtime. I’m hoping to have something genuinely exciting to tell you about this weekend too, as tomorrow night I’m off to see a collaborative gig between one of my favourite bands (Tunng) and a band who remind me of exhausted suffering at one of the muddiest Glastonbury’s on record (Tinariwen). English folk meets electronica meets West African tribal rhythms meets chilled-out dub. Sounds like it’s going to be incredible…