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.


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.