Thursday, 10 December 2009

My favourite albums of the noughties

It was tempting to post my least favourite albums of the last decade, but for now it’s hard to summon up the necessary level of bile to truly do such a list justice.

As for the top LPs? The albums below have soundtracked ten years of becoming a man, albeit one who tries to retain a childlike silliness, enthusiasm and sense of wonder alongside his more adult charateristics. Some have sold millions, some far less. Quite simply, these are the albums released since 2000 that I’ve loved the most and listened to the most.

Ultimately, I’m just a pleb who’s been lucky enough to get paid to write about music on and off for the last eight years so this list means nothing beyond my personal taste. It's pretty commercial by some standards, but life ain't always about import-only Squarepusher rarities.

My favourite albums of the noughties


1 Funeral – Arcade Fire
2 Back To Black - Amy Winehouse
3 Pieces Of The People We Love – The Rapture
4 Angles – Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip
5 Myth Takes – !!!
6 Again – Colder
7 Demon Days – Gorillaz
8 Talkie Walkie - Air
9 Asleep In The Back – Elbow
10 Maths + English – Dizzee Rascal
11 Shine – Estelle
12 XTRMNTR – Primal Scream
13 Carried To Dust - Calexico
14 Slider: Ambient Excursions For Pedal Steel Guitar – Bruce Kaphan
15 Some Cities – Doves
16 Since I left You - The Avalanches
17 Out Of Control – Girls Aloud
18 Everything Is New – Jack Peñate
19 Manners – Passion Pit
20 Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
21 Alpinisms – School Of Seven Bells
22 xx – The xx
23 Geogaddi - Boards Of Canada
24 Attack Decay Sustain Release - Simian Mobile Disco
25 Octopus - The Bees
26 Oblivion With Bells - Underworld
27 Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes – TV On The Radio
28 Lost Horizons - Lemon Jelly
29 Gotham! – Radio 4
30 Antidotes – Foals
31 Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
31 Silent Alarm – Bloc Party
32 The Renaissance – Q-Tip
33 Hot Shots II - The Beta Band
34 Original Pirate Material - The Streets
35 Speakerboxxx/The Love Below – Outkast
36 White Blood Cells – The White Stripes
37 LCD Soundsytem – LCD Soundsytem
38 Stankonia – Outkast
39 American IV: The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash
40 Hercules And Love Affair - Hercules And Love Affair

Monday, 30 November 2009

Top ten singles of 2009: Part Deux

Just when you thought it was safe to listen to those feeble Nick Drake records, along comes London Liked to say, "NO!" You must NOT flop down on the sofa and pine for weak tea and chiming acoustic melancholy. You must not moan unless you've got some brutal hangover bustin' up-side your head like some workman drilling the bastard road at 7am. You must... just... ROCK OUT to the other five (a bit like The Other Two only three louder).

You may ask yourself, where is my beautiful wife, where is my... OK, that's a joke more feeble than an entire chorus of Belle & Sebastians.

And typo-watchers, I mean a LOT of B & S, not belonging to them, so the punctuation is correct, OK.

You may ask yourself, why put numbers 6-10 AFTER 1-5? Surely, it's better if you reveal your fave singles of the year in descending order, to create some semblance of normality and a smidgen of anticipation, perhaps?

It would, but that's what THEY would expect and just like cackling old Freddie Sykes in The Wild Bunch, I've nothing but contempt for THEY.

6 Nothing To Worry About - Peter, Bjorn and John

Those ropey Swedish mo' fos who soundtrack adverts for third-rate DIY chains - pah, as if any real life Young Folks want to do DIY*, anyway. If you're young you should just pay someone else to do it or go without - are actually pretty tasty when they get children and handclaps involved.

In fact, this is the best use of kids in music since Josef Fritzl ran that choir. I mean, best use of kids in music since Gorillaz's exemplary Dirty Harry.

*I've spent enough of my life in DIY stores already...



7 Holiday - Dizzee Rascal


For reasons too dire to comprehend many sun-loving heads found themselves stuck at home getting meaner this year, instead of going off to large it on the Med'. One thing that did make The Big Smoke a little more bearable was this brilliant single from Dylan Mills. No wonder the Bow chap dropped the real name, though, eh? Sounds like he should be in Kula Shaker with that moniker.

I'm only joking, though, Dizzle, please don't kill me.

Some say the Raskit was better when he stuck to bangers like Pussyole (Old Skool), but Dizzee has a neat way of articulating simple ideas as well as any British lyricist right now. Even at the start of the grim London winter, a quick blast of this tune is as life-affirming as Madonna's hit of the same name.



8 Thou Shalt Always Kill - Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip (De La edit) feat Posdnous (Pos Plug Won)

The original was an instant classic and a rare occasion of comedy and music actually working together and not sucking like a cheap brass on his/her last trick of the night. Unlike, say Flight Of The Conchords.

This is not necessarily better than the 2007 version, but features Plug Won from De La Soul. Let's face i - and I don't mean the inescapable pointlessness of modern life - Plug Won could rap over the fuck-awful Go Compare advert and it would still sound like Brahms or something.

9 This Must Be It - Röyksopp

Everyone's favourite Norwegian chill-out/dance monkeys get busy with awesome Swedish ice queen Karin Dreijer Andersson (aka Fever Ray/one half of The Knife) and the result can only be the most heartstopping tranced-up podium-stomping moment on Junior, itself one of the albums of the year. On a record of great vocal moments, Karin's is the most scary but vital. The trio smacked it down the Royal Festival Hall in April, too. [Note: "Mark" - see link - was actually right about the badger hat, but wrong about Karin/Anneli.]



10 She Wolf - Shakira

Far better than anything else the Colombian crooner has turned out, this funky, sweaty number is worth hearing just for the jangly guitar and panting noises alone.

More fun than seeing how many five pees you can fit in your lover's belly button.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Top ten singles of 2009: Part One

The big Top 100 albums and singles of the decade chart is a work in progress, but here are the first five of my top ten singles of the year...

1 Fot i Hose - Casio Kids

There are no vocals in this short, sharp housey number from Norwegian indie-dance crew Casio Kids, but it's been the London Liked anthem of the year since the first listen back in January and a ringtone staple around these parts for most of the year.

Artists are often at their best when pushing themselves in new directions and here CK drop the New Order references in favour of a straight-up dancefloor sound. There's not much to Fot i Hose but supple bass, satisfying high-hats and a ridiculous synth riff, but every component part is essential.

It may be a wonder the bootlegging/mash-up crowd haven't thrown a few acapellas over the song but a much more interesting idea would be to get a top-flight MC to spit a few new bars over the top. Commercial success might beckon with a re-issue...



2 Tonight's Today - Jack Peñate

While not being utterly inauspicious, Jack Peñate's debut album Matinée suggested a future of rockabilly-tinged indie mediocrity. When Tonight's Today dropped ahead of Peñate's second album Everything Is New, jaws dropped. Was this the same fella with the check shirts and pleasant but unremarkable tunes, suddenly transformed into a shimmering tropical/Balearic love god? Had he been overdosing on the El Guincho records? Whatever the excuse, Tonight's Today is one of the best songs about partying too hard to be released in this or any other year.



3 Lost My Heart In Tokyo - Mini Viva

How could a song performed by two fun-loving girls named Frankee (Connolly) and Britt (Love) and written by Annie, Xenomania and Fred Falke ever fail? It couldn't.



4 Dem Na Like Me - The Qemists featuring Wiley

Killer Mcing, snatches of reggae, hardcore drums, spacey effects, all wrapped in a surprisingly listenable, poppy tune which troubled the singles chart about as much as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music troubled the album chart.



5 The Reeling - Passion Pit

Manners was certainly one of the best debut albums to be released in 2009. PP also proved themselves repeatedly in the live arena. Especially when they invariably finished their set with this, perhaps the happiest song released in what has been a miserable year for many.



Watch out for Part Two here soon.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Pretty Successful Broadcasting

Based on the above image, it's clearly time to experiment with the flash settings (and practice taking decent photos) on the tidy new camera, but at least it came out. Greyscale looks better than the original, hence my rudimentary Photoshop messing.

To The Enterprise in Camden, then for Flashforward, (see what he did there? No website, though...) an evening of up and coming acts organised by Sean Redmond.

Sean's an acoustic guitar-wielding troubadour who saw fit to kick off the evening with some touching heart-on-sleeve ditties.

Next up was one J. willgoose, esq, or if you're an interested listener or better yet, a cool alternative record label looking for a new act, Public Service Broadcasting.

J is a sound engineer by trade, so he's obviously adept at making recorded sound burst through speakers with punch, clarity and subtlety where necessary, but is also clearly a master at wiring up confusing, even bewildering, lengths of cable to complex chunks of electronic equipment.

The fact that J had a couple of technical difficulties (dealt with in amusing fashion, with a sampled public service announcement played on a loop) early in the set suggested his combination of gear was a little more complicated than a mere mic and amp. And so it proved.

A laptop, guitar, banjo, keyboard, sampler and theramin were all utilised during his set, often during the same song - pretty impressive going. Far too early to be suggesting the Tooting man is an alt/esoteric Prince, but so much instrument swapping can only impress. Especially on only his third gig.

It doesn't matter how many instruments you play or how savvy you are at recording if your tunes blow like a Dyson Airblade, but none did.

Mixergames in particular was a snappy alt-breakbeat number one could imagine Krafty Kuts dropping early doors at a party populated by cool people in Hawaiian shirts. New Dimensions In Sound, meanwhile, purred along cheerfully, a bit like Plaid and Groove Armada at their most relaxed, skipping hand in hand along a quiet coast. At least until about halfway through, where some OK Computer-era Radiohead guitar makes a welcome, if unexpected entrance. Theme from PSB was arguably the most immediate tune on offer and perhaps epitomised the PSB sound best (as you'd expect with such a title). Brief spoken word samples, nimble beats and flirtatious banjo riffs worked keenly with lightly trancey synths in a way Lemon Jelly would surely envy.

Intricate music can often be pompous and far too cool for its own good, a bit like the people who make it. PSB tunes are far from simple, but are great, unpretentious fun and work as both cheerful Sunday afternoon soundtrack and potential party starters. If and when there's a PSB album knocking about in 2010, it'll feature on the London Liked stereo...

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Raving about Leigh Righton


Inspiration comes from everywhere, but for the open-minded it's always a pleasure to have your curiosity piqued by an art form, theory or event outside of your usual area of interest or knowledge.

With this in mind, discovering the stellar photography of Leigh Righton was the highlight of my week.

One decent shot can do much more than tell a thousand words: It can confuse, amuse and excite. It is with this in mind that I post her vivid snap of Japandroids.

Japandroids are a scuzzy garage rock band from Vancouver, who make an envigorating, if slightly shambling racket, judging by their MySpace (linked above and I'm not repeating it like some sort of html Groundhog Day weirdo) but this is almost a moot point.

It's all about that image.

For a start, any juxtaposition or, better still, combination of fire and drums must be applauded. Both can be tremendously exciting, scary and out of control individually, but as a combination?

As ideas go setting drums on fire is almost as good the one Mars had when they first put peanuts together with chocolate in 1930.

The grimey white wall is a suggestive backdrop, too. Is it out the back of an abattoir or somewhere more mundane? Either way, one can imagine sinister goings-on just of shot.

Christ poses can look silly, but guitarist Brian King manages to look neutral and nonchalant in a steady, unconcerned, waiting-at-the-bus-stop way, almost as if he's saying, "Yeah, I always stand like this. And what?"

Drummer David Prowse's look has a touch of pugnacity and mischief to it. This is helped by his garb. There hasn't been a person born who don't look cool in a hood and he's clearly got the right brand of trainers on.

It's not fashionable to big up massive corporate companies, but if was good enough for Run DMC, it's good enough for a man sitting in south London with a laptop.

Meanwhile, whether it was intentional or not, there's also a nod to Jimi Hendrix's iconic '67 performance at Monterey Pop Festival, particularly in Prowse's pose. And why not? Destruction can be act of creation, too.

In conclusion, I'll be looking out for more pics from Righton.

Digging around on her website and clocking the top-rate work there made me want to start a band just so she could take our picture.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Top Old Skool tunes for maximum realness

There are loads of serious and frivolous topics worth writing about today. The Guardian's story about birth defects in Falluja evokes some truly appalling images that would seem to be more at home in the body horror sub-genre of sci-fi.

A baby being born with two heads?

Aside from the unbearable moral and social strain this would cause on the parents, it's just massively sad, especially when considering how hard is for many couples to actually conceive in the first place.

The X Factor no-marks Jedward are still a pop culture obsession for many in the UK. Most sensible punters have spotted the regrettable Irish pair for what they are: a huge waste of a sperm and egg.

One could even muse on why old people clutter up the supermarkets, pavements and roads on Saturdays when they've been sitting at home DOING FUCK ALL during the week.

But when there's an Old Skool rave on at SE1, it's just best to bang down ten songs I hope to hear most tonight and get into the spirit of things...

In no particular order...

What Have You Done - One Tribe


If this tune only comprised that awesome clattering beat and ominous synth reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks music sampled so memorably on Moby's G, it would still be mint. But the sorrow in Gem's mournful vocal and MC Nuts line, "I wanted your love not your blood, I'm not Dracula," make this One Tribe track essential.



Who Is The Bad Man? - Dee Patten


For a start, any song that samples Jimmy Cliff in the brilliant Jamaican gangster flick The Harder They Come should be given a thorough hearing. Excluding said spoken snippet, the beauty in Dee Patten's 1992 classic is its simplicity, aside from that skittery, slippery beat, it's all about a bassline so heavy it has to get in a lift on its own. There's no wonder this can still be heard on many of London's better pirate radio stations.



Sueno Latino - Sueno Latino


Big tunes in Ibiza (and by extension pretty much every other Mediterranean clubbing resort) often lose something when they eventually make their back to Blighty, partly because most of the time its so damn grim living in a state where the sun barely shines and we have to keep our flesh wrapped up all damn year. This classic from 1989 was based on Manuel Göttsching's E2-E4, an album of ambient wonder and then some.



Papua New Guinea - The Future Sound Of London

Ten out of ten for the name of the crew who made this 1991 banger, even if they do hail from Manchester. In latter years Hybrid and Welsh liquid d 'n' b star High Contrast have turned in staggering remixes that have brought the tune to new audiences, but the original rocks dancefloors with its wordless ethereal female vocal and mysterious two-note keyboard motif. And, yes, like most tunes on this list, the bass is frighteningly obese.



Chime - Orbital

Another class tune from 1989, Chime was recorded by Phihttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=3419254208936534561l and Paul Hartnoll (Aka Orbital) on their dad's cassette recorder. Stick that in ya Cubase and smoke it, class of '09.



The Sound Of Eden - Shades Of Rhythm


Alas, the truncated version of this uplifting 1990 piano anthem embedded below is here as an indication only. The original gives the separate vocal sections room to breath and is structurally beyond many tunes of this era. Breathless, euphoric female crooning is just the start, there's still a smart bit of MC-ing to come and of course, that chorus. Heartbreaking but simultaneously comforting and knowing, there has probably not been a better couplet about a man's perspective of love in the history of dance music: "It's every time I see her / It's every time I see the girl."



Voodoo Ray - A Guy Called Gerald

Hacienda anthem, one of the first acid house tunes to take the UK, the sound of '88. Nuff said.



Pacific State - 808 State


Yes, yes, another Manc crew (including Gerald Simpson, aka A Guy Called Gerald). But this 1989 song is ineffably gorgeous. There's a funky d 'n'b Grooverider version, but the original is the one. Just an edit below, but you get the jist.



You Got The Love - The Source feat Candi Staton


Yes, it's just Frankie Knuckles' Your Love with a new vocal. Yes, it made No 4 upon its release in 1991 and is as well known by your mum and dad as by your mates. Yes, the Now Voyager remix was used at the end of the final Sex In The City. But. Just how damn uplifting is the Candi Staton vocal? The way she sings "Occasionally," is enough to make this solid gold tuneage.



Big Fun - Inner City

Pop techno genius from Detroit legend Kevin Sanderson. Good Life is perhaps more immediate, but this 1988 stormer is so damn cool it should have a picture of Johnny Depp on the record sleeve.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Why Halloween is the best day of the year

Unlike the embarrassing, false and sickly Christmas season Halloween can be enjoyed by people of all religions, ages and both sexes. Although many would claim the birth of Jesus has far greater significance than an event which fundamentally is about people wearing costumes and scaring each other, there are many other reasons why Halloween rocks.

As is fitting for an evening intrinsically linked with mystery, the night itself has murky and mystic origins. It has roots in Celtic, Roman and Christian traditions but also shares characteristics with festivals of the dead that occur in global destinations from Peru to Australia to Japan.

In terms of colours, symbolism and iconography Halloween can’t be touched by any other time of year. Pumpkin orange, vampire bat black, zombie white and severed head red are all out in force inside homes and businesses. Monsters, zombies, witches and deranged killers walk the streets. Goths and emo heads show no fear as they go about their routines looking more understated than usual. Who cares about a dour man in a trench coat listening to My Chemical Romance when there’s a man dressed as death, complete with robe and scythe, walking ominously alone along the northbound Northern line platform at Moorgate tube?

Pop culture would be a duller place without Halloween. Although relatively few movies are specific to the actual date, it’s quite reasonable to claim the whole of the horror canon for October 31. Two extraordinary films where the date figures centrally are the eponymous John Carpenter masterpiece and Donnie Darko, even if the latter movie’s narrative stops on October 30.

More broadly, Scream, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm St, Friday The 13th and countless others are perfect for a spooky night in and should be watched without much or preferably any lighting. A hollowed-out pumpkin with a lit candle inside is acceptable. For the real Halloween experience, the house should be creaky and empty except for the film viewers.

Since 1990 The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror episodes have been something to look forward to, generally being more twisted and violent than usual Simpsons episodes. The three-part structure grates on occasion but the content is usually as faultless as can be expected from Springfield’s fluorescent family.

Musically, Nick Cave, Bauhaus, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen are all great Halloween fodder, while pop would be a duller place without Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s Monster Mash or of course, Thriller.

Halloween. Dark, scary, naughty, kinky, murderous, violent, bloody, vicious, evil, filthy and painful. What’s not to love?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Griffin gets his moment...but still looks like a bell

BNP leader Nick Griffin was among guests appearing on Question Time this evening.

It has been the most talked and written about TV event of the week already and it will be no surprise to find the panel show receiving a far higher audience share than usual.

Hundreds of anti-fascist campaigners protested outside Television Centre during the show's recording, while 25 protesters successfully broke police lines to enter the Wood Lane building.

The show has not yet been broadcast at the time of writing, but BBC News 24 has been trailing clips of the show. Griffin comes across as smugly repellent and laughably anachronistic as ever.

His racist views are loathsome and idiotic to anyone but committed monoculturalists, but who wants to be one of the those? OK, six per cent of people who voted during the European elections. More fool them.

But Nick (how convenient it is that your name rhymes with the slang term for a male member), you may be proud of the publicity this mainstream media appearance has won you and your party. You may win the odd seat with the support of bigots, but you will never gain power in London. After all, this city's residents number than 50 non-indigenous communities of more than 10,000 people and comprise a population which speaks 300 languages.

While I'm caning your forename out of spite, there is something interesting about your surname. A griffin is a fictional beast that guards treasure.

Maybe I'm clutching at straws but with your dedication to an imagined time of racial purity, you're a real Griffin that guards what you innacurately believe to be treasure - a nation of white people.

Confused, sad and woefully misguided. You make Boris Johnson look like a model politician.

On a lighter note. If I was in a band, we would use this as our intro music. Imagine walking on to this. Wicked.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Bloomsbury Bowled over

Bowling is a relatively marginalised recreational activity in the UK. One hesitates to call it a sport because it’s possible to get drunk while doing it.

Admittedly, if practised at a hopeless, novice amateur level it would just about be possible to get laggin’ while playing football, rugby, cricket, tennis, curling, jujitsu and many others. Competing in the 110-metre hurdles or hurling a javelin while supping from a toxic tin of Super T would surely take more impressive dexterity, but you get the gist.

In the US bowling tournaments are big events, where participating Septics can win enough to keep themselves in cheeseburgers and Oreos for at least half an hour.

Not all of our transatlantic cousins take the game of frantic frames and fancy jackets seriously. The Farrelly Brothers’ ‘Kingpin’ is perhaps the most underrated of the aforementioned sibling’s films but is a minor comedy classic and arguably responsible for the artistic rehabilitation of curmudgeonly comedy icon Bill Murray. Highly arguable, given that ‘Groundhog Day' came out the year before, but I digress.

‘Kingpin’, the occasional episode of The Simpsons and the odd scene in Peep Show notwithstanding, 'The Big Lebowski' provides the most hilarious and best fictional portrayal of bowling in the States.

This latter Coen Brothers’ cult fave screens on a loop above the pins at the end of five lanes at Bloomsbury Lanes.

A knowing and playful touch of irony which helps the WC1 joint stay a step ahead of competition such as the reliable Rowan’s Bowl in Finsbury Park and the down-at-heel Lewisham AFL in the league of London’s top alleys.

Bloomsbury has long been beloved of the now-not-quite-as-cool-as-they-used-to-be Shoreditch hordes because of its karaoke lounge (replete with thousands of retro and indie tunes) and occasional new band performances and this too is a boon.

It was somewhat unsettling to bowl two yards behind an avant-rock skinsman/guitarist cranked out Battles-esque experimental sounds at John Peel Day last night (Saturday 10 October).

The alley’s website lacks full information about our unknown man’s stage name, but this will be appearing here soon. I never met Peel but listened to his consistently interesting shows occasionally and got the impression he would have enjoyed and been invigorated by the music played in his name.

Many other patrons did and were, not least the staggering casualty who could barely speak coherently or walk two steps without spilling his recklessly-nursed bottles of Asahi

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Tube-ular Bells

It's not fair to generalise about the differences between north and south London but true Londoners will always specify a favourite side of the river.

Last night on the Northern Line (one of the few things Islington and Lambeth have in common) my own belief in southern superiority was reinforced by other passengers of the kind I've only ever seen or met in an N postcode.

A white, bald and drunk Scottish man with a tattoo on his ear embarked at Old Street, played a Rangers anthem out loud through his mobile phone and sung along with it in ragged fashion.

Playing music through a mobile on public transport is usually the preserve of boisterous bus-riding teens into urban music, but the Scotsman's differing genre interests and transport method made no difference. It was annoying to hear a Caledonian football song played through tinny speakers on the tube. But is it best to ignore a Saturday night pisshead's foible?

Rangers fan and his pal were about to leave the tube at Camden Town when I decided to speak up, although not in the manner of a Grumpy Old Men contributor.

"You've got better music than that in Glasgow, man."

"[Indecipherable Glasgae muttering] You must be one of them."

After a second to think about the religious and sexual connotations of being described as "one of them" by a Rangers fan, I replied: "One of them? What, person with musical taste?"
Soon another man stepped into the carriage with a tattooed face but at least he declined to inflict his dubious musical and sporting taste on the rest of the weary Underground users in the carriage.

With a face covered in ink which doesn't rub off, though, there is no need to make an audible statement. You've already shown the world exactly how you refuse to kowtow to accepted decorative body norms.

Or rather, illustrated that the only jobs you'll ever be fit for are boxer, tattoo artist or thrash metal band roadie.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Blood and bikes on Waterloo Bridge

Just after seven pm last Friday (25 September) a man called Steve was riding southbound across Waterloo Bridge when he hit a bump in the road and fell of his bike.

Blood started flowing out of his right eyebrow and ear as he lay on the floor and a small crowd gathered to see if he was hurt.

I called an ambulance while a man called Phillip and a woman called Anna-Lise moved him and his bike onto the pavement. I took instruction from the emergency services phone assistant and passed on messages to Steve, while Anna-Lise and Phillip checked him out.

We waited with Steve while a paramedic came. He bled on the white barrier at the side of the bridge, the pavement and himself but rested his head on his bag while laying on the ground in good spirits.

The paramedic drove passed us and I had to call 999 again but once again a calm, professional emergency services bod straightened things out and got a message to the paramedic.

A few minutes passed and Anna-Lise, Phillip and myself waved our arms around in a line to ensure we weren't missed on the paramedic's return.

We weren't, so after performing some important checks the man in green thanked us for waiting with Steve and let us go while he and Steve waited for an ambulance.

As Philip and I walked off northbound towards Aldwych the flashing lights of an ambulance sped by going north, did a U-Turn at the traffic light junction by the strand and zoomed passed back passed us south to pick up Steve.

It felt good to get involved and help someone for once, even if all I did was make a couple of phone calls. Steve might have had a long wait in St Thomas's on Friday night and they might have had to keep him in for observation but I'm pretty sure the fella's going to be OK.

During our wait Steve told us he'd fallen off his bike badly before, albeit injuring his hip.

No serious bike rider goes through life without getting a few scrapes of varying severity, but Steve should probably think about some protective headgear when he takes to wheels.

Shortly afterwards I was walking westbound along William IV Street recounting the above story on my phone in loud, excited and extremely animated fashion. A belligerent middle-aged Irishman spouted some "feck, drink, girls," crap at me as I walked passed him, but his wife quickly chastised him.

Pah, you do one good deed in a lifetime of ill behaviour and some joker won't even let you bell your mum to tell her without sticking his unwanted nose in.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Jo Hamilton takes The Tabernacle

When trying to make a name for yourself as a cool new singer-songwriter talent and tunes obviously help.

Jo Hamilton has these and fortuitously had an exquisitely chosen party venue for the launch of her debut LP Gown.

The Tabernacle is a beautiful, mysterious and spookily inviting building and just the ticket for a certain intriguing, serious but friendly gig.

Hamilton was raised in the far, isolated north of Scotland and there's definitely a delicately unhinged Celtic otherness to her music, whether or not this is deliberate.

'Pick Me Up', which began her 14-song set on Tuesday (22 September), is arguably more tender beast live than in its recorded version but still packs a hefty punch, especially when it's augmented with bowel-loosening bass.

Five songs in 'All In Adoration' proves to be a subtle but welcome diversion. Powerful but nuanced vocal artistry from Hamilton and a by turns quaint, then enigmatic blend of sounds blend to create what is arguably the best tune of the two short sets.

She ends with 'Think Of Me', a lullaby of subtlety and emotional depth, which proved as popular in Notting Hill as it did when Jo performed the song at Bromyard Folk Festival earlier this month.

Next stop for Hamilton is Union Chapel on 6 December. Another London building originally used for praising god given over to musicians in search of their own adulatory audience. On the strength of her W11 smarts, the N1 faithful should warm to her with equal enthusiasm.

Here's a Soweto Kinch-adorned version of 'Paradise'.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Unexpected lunchtime penis

The unclothed body is nothing to be ashamed of or squeamish and should be celebrated.

But it was somewhat shocking to see a whacking great cock projected on a wall in the name of art today in Tate Modern.

A recent BBC London TV news report claimed the venerable South Bank institution was the world's most popular art musuem* and the former power station is certainly a great destination for weary screen addicts on a balmy September afternoon.

But US artist Paul McCarthy's Projection Room (1971 – 2006) is disconcerting if you weren't expecting it. Perhaps even accutely disturbing to the prudish.

The Tate themselves say the piece is:

An installation combining seventeen of McCarthy’s early videos produced between 1972 and 1978, as well as 170 slides documenting performances from the same period.

The selection is highly personal: most of the videos were made in the intimate settings of McCarthy’s homes and studios in Pasadena and Los Angeles. The participants are generally close friends, including Karen McCarthy, his wife of 40 years, and the artist Allan Kaprow.

And:

Paul McCarthy’s intense video, performance and installation works are rooted in taboo subjects such as sexuality, violence and repression. Since the late 1960s, McCarthy has explored Abstract Expressionism, Pop and Conceptual art, Minimalism, Body Art, and experimental film.

He combines these diverse approaches with references to television, pornography, horror films, amusement parks and fairy tales to provoke reflection on the social and psychological impact of the media. Using bodily fluids, paint, and food, McCarthy creates elaborate and grotesque explorations of family, childhood and dysfunction. His body becomes a canvas and a stage to lay bare the dark, disquieting corners of society’s subconscious and the pervasive infantilism of American mass culture.
To relate this back via my own limited appreciation and knowledge of art, I can only justifiably compare the sinister nudity, entrails and viscous fluids of McCarthy's home movies to a brilliant, if twisted satirical horror movie.

Much time has passed since I saw Society but it's one of those films which never quite leaves you. There aren't any scenes as brazenly full frontal as what can currently be seen in Level 3, Room 9 but fans of body horror should make their own minds up and check out both.

*no link to reinforce this yet. The heads over at White City may or may not be willing to back up their reporter's claim with hard facts such as footfall etc but I will find out the truth and post it here.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Royal Mail morons

I've not been recovering in The Priory* or short of things to blog about, life just got in the way... so.. A first post in nine days should not be about a hopelessly idiotic public service but on this occasion it must be.

There should obviously be some level of difficulty in redirecting your mail from an old address to a new one in case some scallywag rips off your post and steal your identity.

But it'd be easier and more convenient to teach a badger jujitsu than redirect mail via the Royal Mail site. Verification is harder than Joe Calzaghe.

The only other way is to go to a local post office and queue up like people did in the dark ages with forms and 27 different proofs of identity. No wonder the service is hemorrhaging money. I've nothing against postmen 'cause all the ones I've met are stand-up blokes. But, to coin a phrase, this is bollocks.

*neither the infamous rehab centre nor the Stockwell boozer.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Debelle's debut snags Mercury Prize

"I'm from South London, I don't normally get emotional." - Speech Debelle after winning the Mercury Music Prize last night.

Speech Debelle made a great debut album and nabbed the Mercury from under the noses of Florence Welch and Natasha Khan.

Evidently the judges decided it was time for some understated jazzy hip-hop to triumph over Kate Bush impersinations. OK, Debelle hasn't got any individual tracks as brilliant as Khan's 'Daniel' but the Crystal Palace MC's album is of a higher quality overall. Here's the best track from Speech Therapy, 'Spinnin''.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Loser lets Lewisham down

Last night half a dozen men stood on the pavement outside an Algerian restaurant in Lee High Road watching Algeria V Zambia on a TV inside the restaurant. Inside three dozen men watched the game. Men inside and out enthusiastically cheered when their team attacked, jeered and laughed when attempts on goal came to nothing and enjoyed themselves as football fans do.

Near the end of the game two white teenage girls walked up to one of the men outside the restaurant. The brunette, all cheap jewellery and poor dentistry, asked a Zambian man who was playing. He told her. She asked for a pound and then a cigarette. After receiving a cigarette from the man, she moved on with her friend as far as the Indian restaurant next door. She opened the restaurant door, threw the remnants of her take-away fried chicken meal into the restaurant and half-turned, shouting, "Fucking Pakis," at the Algerian and Zambian men on the street.

There are many different responses a person could have to this, from "Sterilization is too good for some people" to "Ah, the stupidity of youth." I just shook my head, exchanged a glance with the Zambian chap and said, "Dickhead." He nodded in sage agreement before we turned back to the TV.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Dodos still alive in Shepherd's Bush

Last night a man at an ATM opposite Shepherd's Bush Green (the Uxbridge Road side) gave a beggar money. But before this he forcefully told the man begging about his own experience of homelessness. He claimed to have spent time sleeping rough in Westminster. There are a few Londoners who would prefer to sleep rough in Westminster than spend any time in Shepherd's Bush, but I digress. The thrust of the change-giver's argument was that he had managed to beat the streets (in a manner of speaking) and become a chef, so there was no excuse. He even said, "I don't want to see you here still begging next time I come by."

Down Uxbridge Road at Bush Hall, US West Coast trio The Dodos were very much getting things done with little need for encouragement.

Frontman Meric Long, drumming mentalist Logan Kroeber, and vibraphone basher Keaton Snyder mate have the most unlikely names in San Francisco indie but they do make a fierce, clattering, baroque row deserving of far more fans than attended last night's show. They sold out the refined venue and cut interesting figures against a red velvet curtain background, beneath chandeliers. During 'Jodi', from 2008's Visiter album, Kroeger decided Snyder's brutal but captivating drumming could do with bolstering. He then smashed some cymbals with the kind of impressive brutality one would usually reserve for reality TV stars, people who queue at bars in single file and people who say or write any variation of the phrase, "That is/is not a good look."

2008 single 'Red And Purple' also went down like crack-laced sticky buns while 'Two Medicines' from excellent and imminent third album Time To Die (out 14 September) had a defiant, pummeling tone; psychedelic, but not in an obvious lets-just-play-the-guitar-a-bit-weird-aren't-we-kerazzzzy way. In fact, those who appreciate The Shins and Fleet Foxes may appreciate the influence of Phil Ek. Ek produced both those highly-waited bands and got his hands dirty on Time To Die.

The Dodos, just 'Dodo' when the band was Long on his Jack Jones, can be a bit wet on record but have no fear live. Fans of the excellent School Of Seven Bells, would be advised to get on the case quicker than they can change their names to something ridiculous by deed poll.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

New noisy duo set for debut LP japes

Giving The Kills and The White Stripes a run for their money when it comes to cool duos making dynamic, occasionally terrifying, music, The Big Pink sound like lots of other brilliant, noisy bands (particularly My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain on 2008 single 'Too Young To Love').

Londoners Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell are set to wow plenty of heads with their excellent debut album A Brief History Of Love (out 14 September), regardless of how familiar their sound is, while if anyone should be given a break it's Furze. The dude used to play guitar for German techno savage Alec Empire, enough to send anyone running to the nearest exit, weeping for a soft pop world of Michael Bublé covers performed by the Care Bears.

'Dominos', below, is out next Monday (7 September) if you like that sort of thing. And you really should. Any band named after The Band's debut album can't be all bad, even if they do disobey spelling rules with their single titles.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Inevitable overreaction follows football lairiness

There's only one big football story today and it's nothing to do with my own team, who were found to have the most dedicated Premiership fans in London by a Virgin Money survey published earlier this month.

Last night West Ham and Millwall met at Upton Park in a Carling Cup second round tie which predictably went sour outside and inside the ground.

Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of football and football fans in the capital could have foreseen trouble between these two firms and it's no surprise all manner of clueless, reactionary pundits and officials from Sky, the FA, the BBC and elsewhere have been chiming in with their two cents. One game blighted by the shocking image of old fat men running on a pitch does not mean a return to the '70s. One poor stabbed fan and a dart in the head for another unlucky punter outside the ground doesn't, either. It's obviously a terrible shame anyone got hurt at a football match and doesn't set a decent example for young fans but let's get some persepctive after one heavy night in east London.

Worse tragedies happen in schools, estates and high streets every day. Some people, usually those with the pwer, just aren't happy unless they've someone to blame for anything and everything. Anyone. Anyone but themselves.

As ever Scroobius Pip talks a great deal of sense on the matter.

London Liked had its own spys present. A WHU fan said this:

"Most West Ham fans booed the pitch invaders which won’t get a mention in the papers.

The Sun this morning reported some Millwall fans surrounded a few police on horses and were trying to push them over!?!? The immediate area around Upton Park tube on the way home was like walking on a road of broken glass , which left little to the imagination. And the West Ham fans gathered outside the ground (who clearly hadn’t been to the game) certainly weren’t there to clear up the mess!

Great atmosphere after 75 minutes or so. Up until then it was pretty poor. Would certainly have turned into a fall scale riot on the pitch if the Millwall fans hadn’t stayed in their section.

Had a number of messages during the game about the violence outside so was obviously a little nervous but seems like the bulk of the fighting was in side streets up to half a mile away and planned.."

A Millwall fan who accompanied the spy above writes:

"It was a good game in which the Lions share of possession was indeed with the Lions, until the trouble started within the stadium. This in turn lifted the performance of the Irons. I didn't feel at all threatened as I've been to many games like this, all I had to do while in the west ham end was talk about them in the third person.

There were lots of muggy old bill around but didn't see any real trouble as we were stuck on the District line for half hour outside of Mile End. This was because of all the trouble at Upton Park, which resulted in both that station and East Ham stations being closed. We had to walk from Plaistow.

Funniest thing of the night was a bloke running out of the Millwall end and just piling into the chicken run*. Didn't see him after that.

But it'll be the Spammers who get in trouble as the FA set a dangerous precedent a few years ago when Victimpool were visitors down The Den. On that occasion we were charged with failure to control the crowd in our own stadium.

The goings on outside cannot be put to either club as it is a matter of civil unrest which comes down to the plod. Enjoyable evening."

*Chicken Run definition according to above Millwall fan: West Ham's old stand to the left of the away supporters, made infamous by the ICF's exploits in the 80's. Visiting fans have to walk up the side of it to gain entry to the away end.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Basement Jaxx return with fantastic fifth

If the album sleeve suggests Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe have been busy concocting an intriguing, sinewy potion of funk, digital dancehall, shiny techno, psychedelic synth weirdness and dry desert calm it's certainly done the trick.

Basement Jaxx are back with a new album, then, and this time they've brought a full crew of mates with 'em.

The Brixton-based pair have always loved a collaboration or two ( Slarta John, Kele Le Roc , and Dizzee Rascal being among the best, most distinctive vocalists to have graced their tunes) but this time no less than a dozen tracks on Scars (out 21 September) include a guest. From this fifth album only lead single 'Raindrops' lacks a cameo and instead includes a Felix vocal and vocoders.

Such keen team spirit may have some believing the now-veteran house pioneers were incapable of coming up with their own ideas. After all, in 2009 it must be impossible for many followers of pop, dance or urban music to avoid sighing or rolling their eyes when they see yet another "Feat" credit under a song.

All too often those four letters mean, "I've got my more talented pal to come down and spit over a few bars to divert attention from the fact this song licks ring." Either that or, "I'm far too busy to write an entire song on my own while there are amply-jugged groupies in need of a ploughing. Get me Akon on speed dial."

So what about those guests? The inclusion of Beatles-splitting Japanese artloon Yoko Ono on 'Day Of The Sunflowers (We March On)' is inspired and provides the album's highlight.Yoko sings about “20,000 fishes coming down from the sky” before simulating being brought to climax. Well. Maybe she's simulating. Hard for a bloke to tell, sometimes. Either way it's terrific stuff, particularly as the tune has a stinging Justice bassline, elliptical Daft Punk/Kraftwerk bleeps, spaghetti western noises and warped computer game oscillations.

The Bellray's Lisa Kekaula, vocalist on 2004 single 'Good Luck', turns up on the unexpectedly sultry Prince slowjam 'Stay Close'. It's a rare calm moment on Scars and may sate the appetite of still-mourning Michael Jackson fans wanting another act to produce a new 'Man In The Mirror.' Detroit soul singer Amp Fiddler brings his Ice Cream van cool touch to 'A Possibility', the only other relaxed tune present and a winning blend of Hawaiin guitar bliss and afternoon sunshine.

Dev Hynes, aka emotive indie stalwart Lightspeed Champion, crops up for some inspired melancholy on ‘My Turn’. This being Basement Jaxx, Hynes yearning lilt and delicate acoustic guitar is accompanied by percussion which sounds like the feverish nocturnal twitching of agitated crickets and a formidably dense bassline. Elsewhere ‘Twerk’ may be named like a new, highly addictive street drug, but sounds like the perverted aunt of 1999 single ‘Jump N Shout’ with Slarta John’s MC-ing supplanted by fierce Tampa-based female rap duo Yo! Majesty’s rhyming.

Kelis's distinctive tar growl adorns the title track while Australian 'Black And Gold' hitmaker Sam Sparro gets histrionic on 'Feelings Gone', a superior chunk of charty house set to make a big splash as a single (release date TBC). This being a release from the band Armand Van Helden alleged, "Took house music and fucked it in the arse*," there is obviously tonnes more to be written about Scars, but this is a blog and not some endless navel-gazing wordspew**. For now only two things worth saying remain.

Santigold's vocal contribution to the brilliant nu-skool naughties Specials ska of 'Saga' is perhaps better than anything on her debut album of last year and the south London streets the Jaxx so love have clearly influnced their music again.

Scars couldn't be more Brixton if it tried to sell you drugs outside KFC.

*this is a very slight paraphrase for grammatical reasons.
** is there a difference?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Lobster found in Kensington Gardens

The Serpentine Gallery is currently showing the Popeye series by US artist Jeff Koons (the sculpture above is his 'Acrobat' made between 2003 and 2009). It's full of aluminium lobsters and monkeys made to look like inflatable toys, oil paintings including images of Popeye, and in one striking picture, entitled 'Elvis', a topless glamour model adjacent to, yes, another lobster.

Apparently, Koons has a lot to say about consumerism, taste and sexuality. His Popeye work certainly raises as many questions as it answers and there are times when a non-professional viewer (ie me) will wonder just what Koons is driving at, but his work is on display until 13 September, so the curious should mosey on down to Kensington Gardens and have a look. The baffling and contradictorily calming mirrored pavillion is worth several glances, too.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Jamie T's tribute to 'Tease Me' man

After a couple of years in the wilderness after his highly-regarded debut album Panic Prevention Wimbledon rapper and acoustic hooligan Jamie T impressed with comeback EP Sticks And Stones.

Now his new single takes the name of Pliers' forgotten '90s reggae pop partner, Chaka Demus.

Whether or not Mr Treays also wanted his new song to act as an unofficial soundtrack to Notting Hill Carnival is unclear but it is released on the West London jamboree's final day (August 31).

This aside the tune has more of a celebratory, party feel than any of his previous work, yet also retains a typically skewed Jamie T take on patriotism with references to "two world wars and one world cup" but also "an English man in every coward".

Either way, come the first Sunday in September, it'd be no surprise to see the words 'Chaka Demus' in the Top 10 for the first time since 1993.

The brand new video is below.

Monday, 17 August 2009

New Putney crew release moody debut

Of this week's new albums there is only one which really competes with Simian Mobile Disco's 'Temporary Pleasure' in the excitement stakes.

Theoretical Girl may have made a great set of folkish heart-on-sleeve ditties with 'Divided' but Putney quartet The xx are moodier, tighter and utterly focused.

Even if there aren't many laughs on debut XX, there is always something mysterious to listen out for. Regardless of any sales or critical acclaim which follows, London Liked would be prepared to bet (not in any legally binding, financially liable sense, mind) The xx will appear on plenty of the cooler end of year lists come December.

Below is their single 'Crystalised' and cover of Womack and Womack's classic 'Teardrops'.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Simian Mobile Disco in synth sickness

Album launch parties usually take palce at an intimate venue and entail a playback of a new record and/or a live show comprising songs from said album.

While in attendance an audience of journalists, pluggers and other industry types will typically drink as much free booze as possible as quickly as it can be consumed.

Simian Mobile Disco eschewed the standard live PA route for a much more interesting interactive experience at the launch party for second album 'Temporary Pleasure' on Friday (15 August).

This time round space-tech SMD duo James Ford and Jas Shaw made a bunch of new loops and tones for themselves (and everyone else present) to play using a "human synthesiser".

Despite the name this "instrument" is not a collection of harvested organs or severed limbs but a video installation designed by Kate Moross and produced by 3D boffins Inition. Apparently it is the "first ever-human augmented reality music and visuals mixer".

The installation is simple enough. A wall-mounted CCTV-sized video camera points towards a handful of circular foam mats (not dissimilar to slipmats) on the floor.

Each mat represents a different drum sound or synthesised tone which begins playing when it is picked up and tilted towards the camera at the correct angle. Each tone or beat gets louder or quieter in the mix as each corresponding mat is moved closer towards or further away from the camera.

If all this sounds absolutely baffling, it is. Visually it makes little sense until you actually have a go, but Timothy Cochrane's photos show SMD themselves and confused drinkers getting into the spirit of things.

In the wrong hands the result is a cacophonous din but lots of fun for anyone making it. In the right hands the result is still fun but also a throbbing, intense listen, like...well, like SMD's music.

Between Monday and Friday (21 August) from 12pm 'til 6pm anyone can walk into unit 1.12 in Kingly Court (a shopping precinct off Carnaby St, W1) and play around with the installation for themselves

Have a go. After all, it's not often you can just walk into an empty shop in central London to make live experimental techno.

As for the album? It's out Monday(17 August), has tonnes of killer colloborations on it from the likes of Beth Ditto and Super Furry Animals fella Gruff Rhys and is well worth checking out. In general SMD seem to have taken things in a more spacey and acidic direction following their excellent FabricLive 41 compilation.

For anyone brand new to SMD, 'Hustler', below, is arguably the best of their older tunes. Caveat: laptop speakers will not do it justice.

Monday, 10 August 2009

BFI uncover London street history

It's not just British Pathe who have an extensive vault of ace old London footage online.

True to their impressive physical resource down on the South Bank the BFI have a wealth of material on the net worth a glance and more.

Three examples are below, but for the full range the institute's YouTube channel is a good jumping off point.





Saturday, 8 August 2009

Prince Albert wins pub pun prize

Only Fools And Voices is perhaps the best name for a south London karaoke night imaginable, so congratulations to The Prince Albert on Royal Hill in Greenwich.

The SE10 street is also home to three other pubs. Some 50 yards south of the the Albert Meantime Brewing Company linchpin The Greenwich Union sits next door to popular Young's hostelry Richard I, while gastropub The Hill perches on a corner a few yards north of the other three.

Even if it didn't have such a great karaoke night moniker the Albert is easily the best of the four. Aside from the selection of beer and cider, availability of full packets of cigarettes behind the counter (none of this 16/17 cigarette per packet extortion one expects from machines) and pool table, the deal is sealed with a jukebox. London and particularly south London is a something of a jukey desert in 2009 so any tune provision is not to be underestimated. It may also give drinkers a few ideas for a Only Fools And Voices slot, too.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Invisible to reissue best song next month

Jazzy post-rocking Londoners The Invisible released a staggering eponymous debut album back in March to critical acclaim but less commercial excitement than the plucky threesome deserved. A re-release of the record's brightest moment could be just the thing to excite the punters and flog a few units, so come September 30 the formidably funky and righteously beautiful 'London Girl' will be available all over town and beyond. Here's the video.

Monday, 3 August 2009

You Have Been Watching (the audience shuffle their bums)


Under normal circumstances three hours is far too long to sit on arse-aching seats watching four middleweight telly heads talk about Casualty, Iron Chef America and other cathode ray nonsense.

With this in mind yesterday's filming of You Have Been Watching was worth attending if only to reinforce a few opinions and uncover a mild surprise or two.

Charlie Brooker's guests last night were 'The Office' hero and occasional film actor Martin Freeman, TV actress and presenter Liza Tarbuck and US stand-up comic and occasional Have I Got News For You pundit Reginald D Hunter.

Predictably Freeman was a thoroughly decent chap. He wore a sharp suit and natty sky blue socks, made the odd snappy comment and came across, well, just like Tim from 'The Office. Friendly, witty, but perhaps a little bland. The kind of man your Gran would like.

Liza Tarbuck made a few scurrilous comments about a famous brand of sausages and the specific parts of a pig which comprise their product. These remarks can't be repeated here and won't be mentioned in the show for legal reasons, even if every sausage eater in the UK has probably wondered about the provenance of their meaty dinners occasionally. Otherwise Jimmy's daughter was lightly sassy and had a smattering of Scouse charm. The longer the evening went on, the more I became convinced that she was made in a factory whose sole purpose was to produce annoying Loose Women presenters.

Of the three chatees it took Reginald D Hunter to enliven proceedings sufficiently. Some time before 2005 (this is vague but I've only kept a full diary since that year) the best mate and I had the enviable pleasure of seeing Hunter perform what would now be considered an intimate gig at The Porterhouse, an expensive but stylish boozer just off The Strand.

Back then his fearless tackling of race, sex and relationship taboos held an obsequious audience enthralled for his whole set. Years later, he's become a regular fixture on Have I Got News For You and won the 2006 Writers' Guild Award for Comedy with his controversial 'Pride and Prejudice... and Niggas' stand-up show. He knows it, but he is still extremely funny. Like comics as diverse as Lee Evans and Richard Pryor, Hunter is a master of timing and body language. Even when his material is simple, the oldest comedy cliché rings true, "It's the way that he tells 'em."

Anchoring the topical chat about silly British, US and Japanese TV was scruffy curmudgeon Charlie Brooker. His trainers were dirty and scuffed but his mind was its usual Kitchen Devil sharpness. For many men and women of a certain class, age and vocation (especially, but not exclusively, struggling journalists and Grauniad readers) Brooker has become something of an icon. He articulates many familiar ideas about the generally depressing nature of TV, politics and modern life, just more succinctly and hilariously than anyone else. His programmes and columns are often laugh out loud funny, all the more surprising when considering the misanthropic persona he has become famous for.

He made plenty of mistakes reading his fast, acerbic script, but this was more than compensated for by his skillful and creative manipulation of adlib conversation with his guests and frequent use of extreme profanity. On an unrelated note, it's unclear if he has any agenda against Amanda Holden, but he's evidently not a fan.

As with every weekly TV show about topical subjects, YHBW undoubtedly has a dedicated team (including producers chatting in Brooker's ear during filming, no doubt feeding occasional lines) but what impressed was the manner in which he reined in and unfurled branches of conversation with amusing ideas, at will. In short, Brooker is pretty damn funny in real life, too. The bastard.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Toilet scheme comes up trumps


It can often be a frustrating and unintentionally hilarious experience trying to find a public toilet in London, so it was pleasantly surprising to see the sign above while walking past Machico Tapas Bar.

Since January businesses around Lambeth having been letting people pee for free.

That is to say, use the facilities without paying for any goods or services.

Richmond borough was praised for their CTS back in March by Mayor Boris Johnson who has evidently been keen to open up lavatory access.

He may not like us boozing on the tube, but at least if you do he's made it easier to relieve ourselves upon finishing our journeys.

Although using a commercial business without offering any financial remuneration is pretty lame (even in a recession), psychologically toilet users are surely inclined to remember the offer of free toilet use and associate it with attentive service.

Even if this is isn't the case and punters are just pleased they don't have to make like Paula Radcliffe and spend a pound in the street legions of cab drivers, couriers and weak-bladdered types will find the scheme useful.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Friendly Fires give summer 09 Kiss Of Life

As first premiered at their Glasto show last month, here's the brilliant new Friendly Fires single (out August 31). If it has the same frantic carnival feel as Jack Peñate's utterly vital Everything Is New album, that's at least partly 'cause still furnace-hot producer and Kensal Rise resident Paul Epworth twiddled the knobs as he did on Blackheath chap Peñate's meisterwork.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

SW10 art fun: Emin not present

This Julian Murray sculpture was on display last night at Heatherley's School of Fine Art. It was the student's annual exhibition and alongside Murray's prescient piece (it certainly epitomises the mood of many people) were an array of oil paintings, prints, watercolours and Samson Kizito's metal alligator (may appear here at a later date). Everything had some merit, ranging from tasteful beachscapes fit for a living room to twisted post-Guernica torment with nudity (Jess Brass's paintings).

A good show, you might say, if you were a fan of terrible puns. If you were a fan of a terrible bunch of overpaid and underworked footballers, you may like the view from the Lots Road educational institute's roof, as it encompasses Stamford Bridge.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The London Game rediscovered

Board games have a distinct whiff of geekiness about them but are at least an amusing diversion from electronic consumer goods.

Ultimately, any distraction which stops people, albeit momentarily, from tapping or scrolling feverishly and incessantly on their phones, Blackberries and MP3 players can only be a great thing.

Games publisher Condor and The Priory Arms should take equal credit in this particular case. Condor brought The London Game to the world and the Priory has been kind enough to provide drinkers with a copy.

It's not as uncompromising and hilarious as any real tube experience, but easily as frustrating.

Three improvements would make this game longer and more appropriate for lengthy drinking sessions.

Presently the game only includes tube stations as far as Zone 2. I propose a new edition which includes all 270 stations on the network and each of the 40 DLR stops. This would make the game pretty convoluted, particularly if manufacturers could implement the second improvement simultaneously.

Currently each player receives two tokens per game to close any station of their choice. This should be upped to three or four depending on the amount of players, so disruption levels are more in keeping with the real life experience.

The final improvement should be Hazard card alteration. For now Hazard cards move one or more players to alternative stations on some flimsy pretext or another. A dose of realism might work.

How about "Watch tourists get sold pony drugs before taking in a night of shit indie, watery lager and kebab vomit: Go to Camden Town", "You decide only one haircut on the same head is not enough: Get down to Old Street" or even "Time to tar and feather the recession villains: Send half the players to Westminster with lead pipes and the rest to Bank with nail-adorned spanking paddles"?