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.