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"?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Jokes denied by admin agro

This rather moody photo of Hammersmith Bridge sums up today's oppressive climate better than it did on Sunday.

Schlaping down the District Line to well-to-do West London is not this reprobate's usual MO but the aim was to watch Britain's most famous misanthrope present a new episode of his comedy panel show.

Alas the trot to Riverside Studios was a waste because of the badly organised ticketing system. The filming was heavily oversubscribed. The only option was to make like a weary production crew and sack it off with drinks at the lairy Irish pub opposite the studios.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Solid Gold serve up the goods

New experiences are what makes life getting up for, so it was pleasing to see Minneapolis ravers Solid Gold get their funky Cut Copy-style skills on @ The Queen Of Hoxton last night.

There's a hefty dollop of Passion Pit wired into their pneumatic synth and guitar oeuvre, but this is obviously a good thing. Debut album Bodies Of Water (out in the States back in January but due here later in the summer) is packed full of tunes like silkily anthemic current single Bible Thumper. There weren't many in the basement of TQOH to witness SG tear it up, but they'll soon reach a larger audience.

TQOH itself has only been open a few months having been Industry in its former life. It's still pretty damn Shoreditch, but in a good way. It's dark, loud and full of the open-brickwork opulence and trash-glam clientele that often make Friday nights such a rewarding mix of sleaze and decadence.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Bo' man chooses Clash correctly

Of the many fine hostelries visited in NW1, NW5 and NW3 (in order of chrono-
logical arrival rather than anything else) yesterday only one offered outdoor table tennis.

Photo is of the trusty best mate practicing on said table in the beer garden of The Old Eagle.

Despite the violent and sporadic showers beer gardens were clearly the place for a pair of jokers in north London because top telly chap Leigh Francis was supping a pint and hunched over a Mac with a writing partner out the back of The Abbey Tavern.

It would've been too predictable to quote a Bo' Selecta! catchphrase, even though Avid Merrion in particular is a brilliant creation. So instead I asked him and his pal the only question that really matters.

Like all right-thinking people they both prefer The Clash to The Pistols.
Here's top yank harmonica fiend Son Of Dave getting his Dizzee on. What would the Bow MC hero make of it..?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

2009: Just say no

Yesterday I took the above photo. It wasn't the final straw that sent me cackling insanely through school corridors with a heap of explosives and a rusty sawn-off, but it is one minor example of this year and how dog-rapingly shit it has been. Grey skies in July are more London than complaining about uselss public transport, but this was another depressing downpour that blew the last lightbulb of normality in my head.

If I could confidently say I was the only one hating 2009 and everything about it, OK. But surely there hasn't been a consensus like this in living memory: 2009 is the worst year in human history. Ever. You may find someone who disagrees but they're either lying, an idiot or so privilged they deserve a slap just for breathing.

This year is now over. Today is effectively New Year's Eve and tomorrow is 2010. To wax governmental, this year is not fit for purpose, so I'm boycotting the fucker. I refuse to recognise it, regardless of temporal and societal norms.

2009, you won't be missed.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Passion Pit fare better than beggar

Boston synth gang Passion Pit have excited many with their fluorescent muppet-pop on record but could they translate such iridescent joy into a winning live performance?

On Wednesday night @ Heaven a take on ‘Little Secrets’ may have suggested otherwise when the brilliant album track from debut Manners was stopped after a laptop went awry.

Lead geek Michael Angelakos and Co had better luck the second time round and threw themselves into a tremendously forceful, if ragged, rendition. ‘Sleepyhead’ leant less on the Irish folk sample than the original and was better for it, while the overall set emphasis was always on the euphoric, post-house music element of the band’s sound.

‘The Reeling’ rounded off the show far more convincingly than it ended the band’s Glasto set last Saturday and the damp, satisfied PP fans sloped off into the night. Or at least as far as The Ship And Shovell next door.

For a pub near Charing Cross, it's well worth a visit. Experienced London drinkers will know about the paucity of good pubs on the manor. The nearest top-grade hostelry is The Nell Gywnne but that's a bit of a jam along The Strand if you're on Villiers Street and looking for a drink within 50 yards rather than 500.

Towards last orders a homeless fella without any authorised vendor ID tried selling outside drinkers his "last" copy of The Big Issue unsuccessfully. He was unthreatening and good-humoured but a curmudgeonly middle-aged barman in shorts and a pastel-striped shirt moved him on aggressively. The illegitimate flogging of TBI shouldn't be encouraged but sun burnt matey in the striped shirt won himself no new customers with his attitude. Anger, commerce, crime and desperation - a typical London vignette.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Alberta take Kings Cross

With the exception of the first week in January there can't be a worse time for a band to play an important London gig than immediately after Glasto.

Yet New York-based rock crew Alberta Cross tore it up at a sweaty Water Rats last night a mere 48 hours after Blur closed the Somerset festival.

Much of the deep, folky longing of 2007 EP The Thief And The Heartbreaker remains but crucially frontman Peter Ericson Stakee and his lank-haired mob have added granite-hard riffs and a ballast of raw fury to the Cross sound.

Of the new songs culled from forthcoming debut album Broken Side Of Time 'ATX' is particularly fierce. The experience feels akin to watching angry Bob Dylan covering The Verve. But this comes at the end. Stakee's impressive voice and the sheer volume of these lads is inescapable from the start, when 'Ramblin Home' begins the show. It's here the My Morning Jacket similarities are most overt, but this is no bad thing considered the quality of the Kentucky band. Dust-blown country imagery is peppered throughout the set and there's a pleasing contradiction: for a band whose songs are so midnight blue and writ large with lonesome towns and sadness, Alberta Cross seem a highly personable bunch.

A more overt contradiction can be found at the group's core and it's familiar to all students of rock and pop history. Despite making music evocative of California and deserts, cowboys and cacti, Stakee grew up travelling between Sweden and the UK, while other central member and bassist Terry Wolfers is a north Londoner. To this extent the band are fakes, but hey, Jack White isn't a 1930s Delta bluesman and David Bowie was just a bod from Beckenham so maybe authenticity is as much about attitude as geography.

Punters who called for the swoonsome jangle and whiskey regret of 'Lucy Ryder' are sated when the band crank out the tune for an encore but they never did comply with my shouted mid-gig request to play Thriller.