Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space 1D. Giving Fans What They Want.

JD Oven Gloves

One Direction – that’s 1D to you.  The first band in US Billboard history to have their first three albums debut at number one. And no, I can’t name you one of their songs either.

One Direction star Louis Tomlinson likely to appear for Doncaster Rovers reserves - video

I first became aware of Louis Tomlinson -1 of 1D – when he got clobbered in a  pre-season charity football match. Undeterred, he is about to do something rather unique: he has signed a non-contract deal with Doncaster Rovers as part of an ongoing association with the club in aid of Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice, and will tonight make his debut for the reserves against Rotherham in front of  4,000 adoring 1D fans. This is very noble of Mr Tomlinson and we should all salute him for using his celebrity status to good effect. But it also struck me as somewhat unique in that everybody gains from his participation: the fans get up close with their idol, the club gets more people attending their matches and who knows they may even come back to watch the first team, Bluebell Wood will be better able to support and care for children less fortunate than ourselves, and Tomlinson fulfils the dream of playing for his beloved Rovers.

So that’s a good example of giving fans what they want. There are plenty of questionable ones. Anyone for a  Kiss coffin? Do you really need eight Pearl Jam live lps? Or do you lust after a pair of them oven gloves, immortalised by Half Man Half Biscuit?

casket.burial.KISS_.Premium2

Can you think of an altruistic act of giving by an artist? Maybe you can think of an act of pure exploitation that needs to be aired. Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.

Off you go then.

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space: The Christmas Single.

Shaky

It’s only a smidge over a fortnight away, but we are already nose deep in a miasma of festive hokey cokey. Never mind the pressures of performing adequately as bestower of presents and hospitality, surely it is the Christmas single that elicits the strongest of reactions. Yes, in the main they are a commercial race to the bottom bereft of the merest scintilla of musical worth, but they do seem to burn themselves into the memory in a way that other music mostly fails. Play Wham’s Last Christmas to the man on the street and it would probably stir a more emotional response than anything off Reflektor could yield.

Which of the X Factor’s burnt offerings will be repeating on us for years to come? Paddy Power have a SiCo chosen alumnus odds-on for Christmas Number One. But peer a little further down the list and you might be surprised to find narrowing odds for The Specials, AC/DC and U2.

So here’s your opportunity to get your esprit de humbug ratcheted up early and have a festive foam at the mouth about Christmas singles you hate. Or maybe, just maybe there’s one you sneakingly regard as worthy of attention. Support your suggestion with the thinnest of lyrical mastery, the tinniest in Casio presets and the cheesiest in video direction.

Off you go then.

Yo Llama! Yotanka! Edinburgh Festival Social Review Mash-up.

The Bow Bar retains its poise despite the gurning

The Bow Bar retains its poise despite the gurning

The Bow Bar is turning into a veritable honey trap for Spillers of late. Last month’s victim was Tatanka Yotanka who braved the throngs for a couple of swift pints prior to Barb Jungr at the Queen’s Hall, while I bolted for the door just in time to see Coriolanus at The Playhouse. Conversation ran the full spectrum from what ails to Grauniad, to the art of cabinetmaking and the joys of London life. Anyway, here is our round up of some of what we saw in Edinburgh 2013.

The Beijing People’s Art Theatre had a unique take on staging Shakespeare, employing TWO heavy metal bands (Miserable Faith and Suffering, death metal but turned down from 11 on this occasion)  in their production of Coriolanus. I had studied the play for the Irish equivalent of the A levels, and it seemed an odd choice for the Chinese Ministry of Culture to get involved in. what the implications of political power being exerted from the bottom up, and there is a telling comment about the difficulty in reasserting power once it has been ceded to the people. An entertaining evening, somewhat tempered by a lack of any menace in a 100 strong chorus.

The Summerhall venue had a terrifically varied programme this year. Song Noir by Pumajaw  brought a Lynchian approach to cabaret from Pinkie McClure and John Wills (ex-Loop), the highlight was an inspired take on the Peter Gunn theme with Maclure taking Mancini’s riff while Wells conducts a mash-up of what could be Dazed & Confused era Jimmy Page v The Prodigy. One of sport’s great rivalries forms the backdrop to Jamie Wood’s Beating McEnroe, an entertaining and immersive story of bitter defeat as tasted by his six year-old self. The yin and yang of Wood’s battles with his older brother are projected – sometimes literally – onto the epic Borg/McEnroe clash. A dollop of slapstick and the help of some only too willing members of the audience make for a startlingly bonkers finale with loss avenged in Wood’s inimitable hands-on fashion.

Pippa Bailey’s Biding Time (Remix) is a beguiling multi-media exploration of the battle between art and commerce. First performed in 1987, it has been revived and remixed in a collaboration with Louise Quinn (and A Band Called Quinn), film-maker Uisdean Murray and Grid Iron’s Ben Harrison and benefits enormously from advances in technology over the last quarter of a century. Music and sound production are delivered to the audience via silent disco headphones, making the experience unworldly yet hyper-real. Louise Quinn’s songs and performance are strong in their own right and the production benefits from the story’s parallels with her surreal experiences in the music industry. I understand that this production will be touring next year, so it may be coming your way.

Off to the Scottish National Gallery on Princes Street where you can still catch the Peter Doig exhibition until the 3rd of November.  Doig has been fairly and squarely reclaimed  for Scotland on the basis of being born and resident in Edinburgh until the age of three but in truth he’s been elsewhere for most of his life; Trinidad and Canada  before art school in London and then retracing his steps back to Trinidad, painting all the while.  The exhibition title ‘No Foreign Lands’ reflects that journey and, coming as it does from fellow Auld Reekian (“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only…”) Robert Louis Stevenson, it bolsters the Scottish connection.

The show is of works from the last ten years in Trinidad.  Doig works a lot from photographs of scenes that resonate with him so there are quite often various versions of, or excerpts from the same subject and this show is a chance to see a few pairings of these which is a bonus.  Doig is a figurative, painterly painter who revels both in the medium and the depth of art history at his disposal, happy to quote at will from a range of other artists.  If you have even the most cursory knowledge of painting over the last century and a bit you’ll soon have at least half a dozen names in your head as points of reference and the notes by the paintings are not shy of listing them either.  Mine were Gaugin, Rothko, Bacon, Manet, Caulfield, Hopper and Jasper Johns for starters. This isn’t to suggest that the work is simply derivative, a better analogy would be with sampling in music; a painterly riff here, a structural backbeat there, a high class guest on backing vocals.

An enjoyable show and certainly recommended if you can get there in the next eight weeks. Many large scale pieces which range from decoratively atmospheric to deeply engaging.  A room of hand painted posters for film shows from which you can trace the graphic tendencies of some of the larger stuff, plenty of his working out in the form of sketches and photographs.  It may be his method of working from an already captured image but the most moving of these works have that veiled quality of a moment of dreamtime, the kind of sepia distance in which you feel you are reaching back to engage with something already lost to you.

Barb Jungr at Queens Hall was a night approaching perfection.  She’s been touring her ‘Stockport to Memphis’ album set for much of this year and I’ve caught it in various smaller venues.  Here we and accompanist Simon Wallace were blessed with a fabulous grand piano, a beautiful acoustic and Barb singing with the freedom and inspiration that comes from being on top of your game.  One of those nights where audience and performer conspire to make the silences as important and moving as the songs. Here’s Barb talking about Stockport to Memphis.

Tatanka’s reason for being in Edinburgh this year in particular was to support the young folk from Shatter-point Theatre who were breaking their Fringe duck and presented eight nights of improvised comedy under the name of A League of Ordinary Gentlemen – What Happens Next? A well tested format of building an hour long show from audience suggestions was given added momentum by youthful vigour, irreverence and liberal silliness.  Highlights included the pirates from Jersey chancing on the land of the Beyoncés, captured here in glorious Dimmovision by TYTV.

That concludes the report from the Edinburgh jury. Join us next year for some art, larks and of course beer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. They’ll Rock Your World. Eels @ Glasgow ABC

Knuckles, The Chet & E giving it large.

Knuckles, The Chet & E giving it large.

 

It doesn’t seem that long since Mark Everett last toured here, but hell, I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to see this band play again. They are here for the No Mean City Festival, but reading between the lines, these guys just love playing together and have a short UK tour to tie in with their festival commitments.

The evening’s entertainment gets off to a predictably unexpected start: bouncers insist that we retreat from the stage to make room for what appears to be a bunch of Virgin cabin crew complete with wheelie cases, but turns out to be a burlesque troupe. I must confess that this didn’t entirely throw me as I had seen them a few years back in Lisbon where the first support act was a ventriloquist. The whole thing passes off in entertaining enough fashion, with the su[pport baton passed to Misty Miller, fully clothed and sporting a Telecaster. Her main inspirations would appear to be PJ Harvey and her former drummer who provides ample subject material for her love songs. I liked her guitar playing which was a mixture of delicacy and dirty open chord distortion.

E

E

 

Eels take the stage in regulation Adidas track suits, beards and sunglasses, with E sporting a somewhat ill-advised headband. Regular followers will be aware of Mark Everett’s whimsical attitude to pleasing audiences. Who can forget the post Blinking Lights tour, a noise-fest that would try the patience of the most ardent fan (and happened to be the ladyllama’s introduction to the band, which had her questioning my sanity). Tonight however we are in safe hands, with a set largely hewn for Wonderful Glorious with a smattering of oldies from Hombre Lobo (Fresh Blood & Tremendous Dynamite), Shootenanny! (Saturday Morning & Dirty Girl) and Electro-Shock Blues ( Climbing Up To The Moon), interspersed with good humoured joshing and band hugs for all concerned. It is rare to see a band enjoy themselves as thoroughly as these guys and the playing is bone-crunchingly tight; a total of three guitarists including The Chet ably driven along by Big Al (the lady llama prefers Kool G Murder, who she claims was “looking at” her in Lisbon!) and the excellent Knuckles. They would certainly be my nomination for best covers act and tonight they excel with a blistering take on Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well and a fabulous and faithful take on the Stones’ Beast of Burden – Amy would surely approve,

 

E in the zone and impervious to distraction.

E in the zone and impervious to distraction.

 

After the usual encores the band return after lights up with a kick ass Dog Faced Boy, accompanied by the burlesque troupe, this time fully clothed. A good time was had by all.

When Llama met Aba: Mini-social in Auld Reekie

Abahachi appears staggered that llamas can talk

Abahachi appears staggered that llamas can talk

It happened over a month ago. Abahachi was in Edinburgh to simultaneously prevent the decline of modern civilization and uphold standards in the field of understanding ancient ones. You guessed it, he was putting staff and lay about students through the mincer as external examiner. Who needs Michael Gove – although the Prof did lead me to believe that Persia may not be his chosen subject.

Now this is all very thirsty work, so the Prof, having previously been thwarted in attempts to find the beer, saw fit to engage the services of a specialist. Nobody in their right mind ever walks past the Bow Bar on Victoria Street and IMHO it is just as much a cradle of civilization as the Persian plateau: no TV, no piped music, no hen/stag parties – just beer and whisky.

Strong beer merged seamlessly with strong opinions on everything from a shared affinity for Deutschland to Nile Rodgers, and the art of hot & cold smoking. The cultural summit was sealed with a communique confirming Giorgio Moroder as our favourite track on Random Access Memories and the exchange of gifts – Karl Bartos CD for the Prof, nice bottle of home brewed beer  for the Llama.

Nice.

 

Llamalpaca presents The Gigs That Never Were

Elton’s in need of some Healing Hands

Reg, poor fella, is poorly and has had to cancel a number of gigs this week. I’ve never heard of somebody of his vintage suffering from appendicitis, but it sure sounds like a better reason than some have given for not turning up.

The Bangles once stood me up. I was due to meet them in the Hammersmith Odeon but success (for them) stepped out of the shadow and whisked them away (Eternal Flame went to No.1 in the US so they never bothered coming over).

Keith Richards was a no show at Wembley because he’d cut his hand and it got infected, so no Steel Wheels for me – suppose I should be grateful.

Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash a month before I was due to see him, once again at Hammersmith – what is it about that place, or was it just me?

Anyway, between the lot of us there must be QUITE A FEW gigs that never were. I want to hear about yours so we can all read ‘em and weep.

Nile Rodgers & Jean Pierre Muller: An Indigo Night in F

Edinburgh has played host to many artistic collaborations over the years, with none more intriguing than the 7×7 project between artist Jean Pierre Muller and seven musicians: Nile Rodgers, Robert Wyatt, Mulatu Astatke, Archie Shepp, Sean O’Hagan, Kassin and Terry Riley. The project commenced last year at the Summerhall venue with the creation by Jean Pierre of a street of individual houses to explore with the soundscape provided by his seven collaborators.

Last weekend saw a further development with Muller and Rodgers presenting their Indigo night in F – a broadening of the artwork, live performance and some engaging storytelling, drawing on Rodgers’ life story and career which had been joyously detailed in his recent autobiography.

The two tiered stage is bare and the soundtrack is 30′s jazz, a nod to their Harlem Nights sub-theme. Gradually the stage is filled with a series of pop-art style cut-outs and then Muller arrives at the easel to paint an introduction in art and words using a stencil to link the various ‘F’s: freedom, family, fate, frustration and so on. Nile Rodgers then appears between the cut-outs to introduce the first of the pre-recorded movements – a very contemporary sound with the sort of insistent groove and vocoder work one could readily associate with his most recent collaborators.

Rodgers’ storytelling is vivid and what a tale he has to tell, having been raised by hippy heroin addicts, he joined the Black Panthers and played in the house band at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. A life-size cut-out of the late Bernard Edwards is placed beside him as he introduces us to the collaborator with whom he became musically inseparable. What Rodgers brought to the table with melodies was matched by Edwards’ gift for arrangement, and we get a fantastic insight into their talent for creating music that appears on the surface to be simple and sing along, but is awash with innovation, jazz chords and a love of chromatics.

A series of terrific stories about Grace Jones, Club 54 and Diana Ross is interspersed with solo runs through Good Times/Rappers Delight, Upside Down and the fabulous Thinking About You and some entertaining banter with Muller, still at the easel on the upper tier. Towards the end of the performance Rodgers (thankfully) narrowly avoids decapitation as a mobile of Cab Calloway’s head – which was suspended from the ceiling – slips its mooring and crashes down onto the microphone.

The two artists are presenting this project as a work in progress, and have been in negotiations about taking the project further. The mix of pop-art, hit music and the pair’s engaging personalities are certainly a winning combination and it is a measure of the man that Rodgers has made the time to see this project through at a time when his currency is so high. Mamma Mia is certainly ain’t and, whatever happens, if you get the opportunity to see it just go!

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space. Analogue Recording.

mbv

In case you’ve been on the moon all day, My Bloody Valentine have released a new album. I went onto their website and was greeted by this stentorian pronouncement:

This vinyl album has been recorded as an analogue album. It was recorded on 2 inch 24 track analogue tape and mixed onto half inch analogue tape and mastered with no digital processing involved.

The vinyl is a true analogue cut, i.e. it hasn’t been put through a digital process during the cutting process unlike over 90% of all vinyl available today.

Nielsen Soundscan stats published by Billboard suggest vinyl LP sales in the US were up 16.3 percent, with 3.2 million units sold. According to the estimable Kevin from Avalanche Records (who knows a thing or two about stats, the universe and everything) UK vinyl sales were up 10.3% to just short of 259k.

If MBV are to be believed, no more than 26,000 UK vinyl sales are truly analogue in nature. Is studio-to-speaker analogue treatment  a half-hearted raging against the dying of the light or OCD type behaviour? Or is it just the audio equivalent of a hand-dived scallop on a bed of foraged grass clippings: an enhancement to the brand that fans come to expect?

Off you go then.

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space. The Concert Movie.

Stop Making Sense

“The best concert movie ever made”

Heard that a few times haven’t you? Talk about damning with faint praise.

I’ve paid good money in to see quite a few stinkers: vanity projects, over-hyped and massively over-dubbed. I’ve seen one or two reasonable efforts. But are there any great ones?

Now you may hold views on the concert movies which might be too withering in their honesty for publication over on RR. Here, however, you may choose to pay homage to your favourite such flick, delight in cruelly exposing ambition/narcissism interlaced with a bewildering lack of talent, or diss the concept of the concert movie and yes, even a considered meh is fully acceptable.  Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.

Off you go then.

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space. The Xmas Episode – Open Mic Week ! ! !

The Stage Is Bare And You're Standing There...

The Stage Is Bare And You’re Standing There…

There are rarely moments for reflection in the run up to Christmas, but when you finally get to sit down in a heap, the halo of good cheer can sometimes hover uneasily above the head of the curmudgeon. Is it fair or appropriate to spoil the party with a good old fashioned rant? Let’s face it with RR on hiatus and Shane’s much anticipated fix a few days away, this perhaps may offer a chance to vent some spleen without jeopardising domestic harmony.

In a departure from the normal format, this week’s Waste Of Space opens the floor to the Spillers’ unseasonal ranting. That’s right folks, you get to deal from the bottom of the deck – it’s no trump for this hand – so please step forward into the annoying glare of the Super Trouper with your very own Waste Of Space nominations. You don’t have to stick to musical objects of derision, although some might prove entertaining.

Off you go then.

Oh, and Merry Christmas to y’all.

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space. Peter Gabriel.

This week’s object of affection/derision is Peter Gabriel. It has to be said that the ladyllama is no fan, but he has had a varied career and I guess a fair chunk of it may have passed her by. Remember the Genesis era theatrics, or the political conscience? Or the jokes going round Africa about needing to quickly hide the rhythms any time he or Paul Simon showed up? Recently he has been reduced to revisiting his back catalogue. Has the man any talent or is he rock’s own jerkin-clad Chauncey Gardiner mucking around with a mixing desk in his oversized garden shed?

Now you may hold views PG which might be too withering in their honesty for publication over on RR. Here, however, you may choose to pay homage to some of his ouevre that moved you or delight in cruelly exposing overarching ambition interlaced with a bewildering lack of talent and yes, even a considered meh is fully acceptable.  Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.

Off you go then.

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space Episode Three. The Solo Album.

Your fellow bandmates think your songs suck – possibly because you’re the drummer. You can’t get them on the album, and you’re feeling unappreciated. Perhaps you need to get our of your recording contract, so it seems expedient. Maybe – just maybe – you are better than them and this will be the proof.

So is it going to be a Primitive Cool or a Nightfly? Your thoughts, please, on the solo album. Particularly the “while I’m still in the band” solo effort.

Now you may hold views on the solo album which might be too blistering in their honesty for publication over on RR. Here, however, you may choose to pay homage to your favourite or delight in cruelly exposing ambition (or writer’s block) interlaced with a bewildering lack of talent, and yes, even a considered meh is fully acceptable.  Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.

Off you go then.

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space Episode Two. The Concept Album.

Styx Give Robots A Bad Name

 

Mr Roboto. Two words to send a shiver down the spine from Styx’s Kilroy Was Here. Not convinced? Let’s try two more: The Elder. In the dock this week is that hoary old crisis-induced mid-career stop-gap, the concept album.

Pink Floyd. Marillion. The Beatles. Radiohead. The Thin White Duke. Mike Oldfield. Kraftwerk. Rush. The Who. The Art Of Noise. They’ve all done them. So far, so predictable. More intriguing and less likely protagonists include The Streets, Daft Punk, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Sufjan Stevens and arguably The Chemical Brothers and The Beastie Boys.

Now you may hold views on the concept album which might be too withering in their honesty for publication over on RR. Here, however, you may choose to pay homage to your favourite concept album, delight in cruelly exposing ambition (or writer’s block) interlaced with a bewildering lack of talent, or diss the concept of the concept album and yes, even a considered meh is fully acceptable.  Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.

Off you go then.

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space Episode One. Brian Eno.

There are more than a few people in music who divide opinion, and here is your chance to share your tuppenceworth. Some are talentless, while others waste what talent they have. Some are pretentious or may even have poor table manners. A Waste Of Space is all about creating an alternative history for the week’s subject, fuelled by the opinions, reminiscences and musical tastes of Spillers.

Now you may hold views on the subject which might not be considered acceptable over on RR. Here, however, you may fawn over the object of your affection or diss the blighter and yes, even a considered meh is fully acceptable.  Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.

Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno

This week’s subject is Brian Eno, who used to wear make-up and ostrich feathers and has since made a virtue of baldness. That’s all you’re getting from me – it’s up to you lot to write the rest of the Life of Brian.

Off you go then.

Camelid Wears Cotton Threads Shocker!

The ‘Spill is full of weird and wonderful things, characters and artists. Let us all gape in awe at the skills of Mr Saneshane aka arteesane whose fabulous and subtle creation is sported by moi in the photo. This, my friends, is the pertest perk of being temporary guru. Now I know that it’s not a great fit, but I’m hoping to grow into it…

llamainatshirt

Spill Challenge #50ish – Songs You Love That They Won’t Play Or That You Wished They Wouldn’t Butcher

No Self-Sacrifice aka I Ain’t Playin’That No More…

“We’ll play anything you want to hear – as long as it’s not Whiskey In The Jar”

The weary words of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott came to mind on Saturday.

I was at the Madonna gig at Murrayfield with a bunch of friends. We all got free tickets which were being handed out like Hard Candy the week before – it was far from a sell-out. I asked them which song they would really like her to play but – surprise, surprise – none of them were indulged by Her Madge. Instead we were treated to the rotting carcase of her latest magnum opus – a mildly entertaining but visually dazzling spectacle. What most would consider to be her best material was completely ignored or visually incorporated in sample length snippets while The Old Girl went off for yet another costume change.

We’ve all been there haven’t we? Finally getting to see your favourite band or artist and then – the temerity of them – being denied a performance of their best song, or worse still hearing it butchered in a flippant new arrangement. Here’s your opportunity to name and shame the blighters and give them some long overdue payback.

To kick things off I give you Air – Kelly Watch The Stars . I have seen them thricely and they have botched it on each occasion by speeding it up and turning it into a prog rock drumfest. While seeking a suitable link I note that since I stopped going to see them they have reverted to the original arrangement – the feckers!

So entries please – on the back of an old ticket stub – and embellish them as you see fit with video links, but please don’t embed the video or pepl wid iBits will get very ;-(

The Spill Challenge # 49 – Songs Of An Intricate Nature

Welcome one and all to this week’s Spill Challenge

 

For the uninitiated, a new challenge appears each and every Tuesday and is a blue blanket type device for Readers Recommend enthusiasts to prevent them from sucking their thumbs down to the bone in the time between the close of nominations and the appearance of results of a Thursday.

Some of our favourite music is often the most simple: Smoke On The Water, punk, Kraftwerk and early Rock’n’Roll all made a virtue of it – whereas Status Quo didn’t, but nevertheless found it a lucrative furrow to plough.

This week’s task is to dig into the recesses of your mind and your music collection and offer your fellow Spillers something a little more cerebral, a liddle biddy more complex. Intricacy can come in many forms, musical and lyrical, so what we are looking for need not necessarily be exhibitionist in nature.

By way of inspiration I offer you Kate Bush’s Flower Of The Mountain. The song originally appeared in a different form as the title track of the Sensual World album and was inspired by Molly Bloom’s erotic closing soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses. She had originally set Joyce’s words to music but was refused copyright permission by his estate. When preparing the Director’s Cut album, she tried again and Joyce’s estate agreed to the use of the text. Blending literature and music can sometimes be a clunky combination, but I think she really inhabits the character and lets it soar off the page.

Kate Bush – Flower Of The Mountain

Stepping out
Of the page
Into the sensual world

And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again, yes
And then he asked me would I, yes, to say yes, my mountain flower
And first I put my arms around him, yes and drew him down to me
So he could feel my breasts or perfume, yes
And his heart was going like mad and yes, I said yes, I will, yes

It is quite possible that we have no volunteer for next week’s Challenge, so if you are feeling brave/inclined, speak now or forever hold your silence (or hold it until the following week at least). Challenge topics are ideal for all you luddites out there: simply post a video link/text combination in support of your choice, then just sit back and wait for the gibbering/frothing/adulation (don’t count on the latter) to begin. If you would prefer to do something fancy, the multi-talented Maki has written an easy to follow manual, under the “Manual” tab at the top of the blog, although please bear in mind that embedding video content will slow everything down for those accessing the page from a mobile device . Not much in the way of rules other than the requirement that no artist can be duplicated in one week – whoever posts firsts gets to keep their choice.

Some Entertainment For The Wash-up?

Merry Christmas y’All!

By now you will have muzzle-loaded every form of carbohydrate known to man within the space of 24 hours, some of you will have gorged on the charred carcase of poultry past, many of you will have fearlessly guzzled a combination of drinks that you would consider inappropriate on the most lost of weekends, and then to cap it all merrily furred your arteries up with the combined contents of a dairy farm and a sugar plantation.

So there you are, in a stupefied state, knowing only too well that there are only two things which can revive you: the riches of the Spill and the mundanity of tidying up the kitchen by way of tribute to your chef.

Lucky for you to have chosen to log on in this post-prandial fug, for I have something to help you through the dishes and hopefully most of the pots and pans. It is a sublime confection of music, wit, bonhomie and friendship. I posted a fragment of this session on the occasion of tfd’s retirement and had held off posting the rest as I knew it would be a necessary yuletide palliative.

Brendan Croker and Kevin Coyne recorded an album in 2002 – the story of their meeting and how the music came together is explained in their interview segment with Andy Kershaw. The whole thing is pleasantly bonkers, with the interviewer seemingly happy to try and compete with the ludicrous ramblings of his guests.

I used to listen to this every Friday at 5PM to remind me that there was something to life other than work, although I think you will find it works well while taking care of the clear up. I am on a farm for Xmas and while I myself will not be able to join you today, I will be enjoying every bloated gluttonous second of it and the washing up too!


The Oates Field – Wild Oates

I hadn’t heard of The Oates Field and still wouldn’t know of them were it not for a lil’ serendipity. I was due to review another act playing at the Edinburgh Fringe, which unfortunately had to cancel due to illness. The other musicians booked to perform included Alan Oates, and this is his newly released album.

The Oates Field is Alan Oates who writes and plays pretty much everything with Iona Marshall on backing vocals and Chris Lowrie on the drums. Oates is a regular on the Fence Collective’s live scene – a Fife based community of musicians regularly collaborating amongst themselves, moving between folk, indie and electronica.

The imprint of both Fife and Fence is evident lyrically and in ambience on Wild Oates which has a  broad range for what is a pastoral album in the true sense (Oates lives in Leith on the outskirts of Edinburgh). The arrangements are mainly based around Oates’ Lo-Fi guitar sounds but the use of electronica is sparing and effective and the whole album has an accomplished loose feel and open sound.

Life, Fife is an uplifting celebration of the music scene, Nature takes us on a trip to the countryside, Watches muses on the passing of time and has a great groove and The End of The Show which closes the album opens with a soundscape echoing the Boards of Canada. The four tracks are on the player below – please listen to the whole lot.

Llama verdict: a wiggle of both ears, lots of eyelash batting followed by a joyous trot around the enclosure.


Wild Oates is released today

http://www.the oatesfield.com

If You Go To Just One Show At The Fringe, Make It Chez Jack L

Welcome to the nocturnal red and black world of Jack L.

The artist in question is Jack Lukeman – one of Ireland’s best kept secrets – who is finishing a run at the Edinburgh Fringe this weekend.

The show is ostensibly built around a set of covers of Randy Newman and Jacques Brel songs, but let’s get a couple of  things clear before you get your coat on and race off into the distance.

Firstly I am generally a non-fan of tribute shows.

Secondly the set has at its core a meaty selection of songs penned by Lukeman himself which stand up very well to the quality of the numbers he interprets.

Thirdly there is Jack L’s voice which is a thing of beauty: by turns its warmth, range, power and raucousness are worked into the material, flawless in pitch and endless in mellow tone which envelops the audience and draws them into the material.

There are plenty of interpreters of Brel’s work at Edinburgh every year. They generally come equipped varying combinations of good voice, theatricality, campness and wit. My experience is that many offer two out of the four – Jack L is lavishly equipped with the lot and his enthusiasm for the work is evident.

He starts accompanied by keyboards and drums for Newman ‘s Lonely At The Top, Guilty and It’s Money That I Love, adds a guitarist before ripping through a dazzling run of his own material including Georgie Boy and the pin drop hush of Stardust.

The evening finishes with trio of Brel songs.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the night is how Lukeman and his band make what is a very uninviting space a place of their own – the venue is a 1980′s style lecture hall! At time of writing two shows remain, so get your asses down there – it’s the best show that £5 can buy.

The Rocker – 25 Years Gone

Copyright Jim Fitzpatrick

Happy Birthday to Phil Lynott – had he lived, it would be his 62nd birthday today. It would be very easy to grumble on about what was a sad demise and a profound waste of life of a charismatic and talented musician, but I am quite sure that Phil would have no truck with all of that and anyway I would like to focus on the good stuff.

When I was growing up, I guess Phil might have seemed a rather bizarre choice of Irish hero: he was black, his father had scarpered before he was born and he was decidedly Irish in a way that was decidedly uncool. He was interested in folk music, celtic art,  mythology and poetry at a time when we as a nation were not keen on admitting an interest in anything so downright Gaelic. He drew friends and collaborators from the unlikeliest places and was a fantastically colourful dandy in the Vatican state that I grew up in. Some of the songs were macho and sexist, yet everybody’s mammy had a soft spot for him because he was the most charming and unaffected of rockers – very bashful despite the on-stage posing.

From the early to mid seventies he wrote pop and rock music with a lyrical quality and a deft touch with melody. He was a fixture on Top Of The Pops – who else would be cock sure enough to install a mirrored scratchplate on his bass so that he could blind us all with his brilliance? We were proud of him and we were in his eyes his “supporters” – Phil was always a bit of a Manchester United fan.

With Live And Dangerous, Thin Lizzy launched the template for the heavy rock live album oft copied but truly never bettered – all the guff about studio overdubbing is rendered superfluous when you listen to the result.The Boys Are Back In Town remains one of the most played songs on US radio, but his musical legacy has been blighted by his own fractious relationship with record companies and collaborators who have found it all too easy to rehash the catalogue rather than explore.

In an obituary, Fintan O’Toole wrote that Phil was a nicer bloke than Geldof or Bono and that he had wasted more talent than they could ever dream of. Two clips can summarise what he was about and maybe where he could be, and twenty five years after his death, that is really all we have along with the indelible memories  for those fortunate enough to have seen him in his prime.

Victorian Dad – A Tonic For Our Times

Spillers!

I have an idea, but it needs a bit of polishing with a lil of that ol’ Spill Magic!

I am seeking ideas for a new reality TV format with a nice high concept title: Victorian Dad.

Rather than A Clockwork Orange, the idea is a particularly harsh take on Supernanny – a kind of finishing school that we are badly in need of, in my humble opinion. Young males in need to correction will be ‘schooled’ by myself in good manners and the ways of the world (and in the process frightened to within an inch of their lives).

I have outlined a few suggestions below, and I welcome further input from yourselves in the form of prohibitions, lecture ideas based upon the hobby horses of fellow Spillers and suggestions for pieces of music the yobs should be schooled in.

Here’s my own diktats, but please let loose with yer own!

No Fast Food – meals are to be taken sitting down at the table in the absence of any media.

No fizzy drinks – I will learn them on the fine art of lemonade making if they are good.

No phones – other than the landline in the hall.

No Playstation

No Burberry – fake or otherwise

No hoodies

Up by seven and in bed by ten – no exceptions

No consorting with other yobs unless they acquiesce and agree to join The Programme and have themselves conditioned

School to be attended at least until the age of 18

No sleeping over at “friends”. Any attempts at evading this rule will be met by a snatch squad which will return them to home with immediate grounding for one calendar month

No television – other than University Challenge, natch.

Over to you!

A Fright At The Museum

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A visitor returning to the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland would certainly be taken aback: how the hell do I get in and why are there so many people in here on such a beautiful day? I used to walk past it on my way home from work. They had late opening on a Tuesday and if it was raining I would go in for a wander. It was badly lit, badly organised and there had been repeated attempts to modernise which were utterly useless.

There was however a masterplan to put things right: the neighbouring site was to become home to the Museum of Scotland and it would eventually link to the original Venetian inspired Victorian building. So out went the flea-bitten taxidermy, fusty display cases, stupid mezzanine levels and water features and in came the clarity of a well designed space and the second most important thing in a museum: light.

The entrance has been reworked so you go in at basement level and walk up to the splendour of the Grand Gallery which was bathed with dazzling sunlight on Saturday, the day after it had re-opened. The place was packed out so we only got about halfway around the exhibits.

Being a relatively small museum it keeps the quality up and the repetition down so it’s a child friendly place. The galleries have been opened up vertically to create neck-craning spaces filled with suspended exhibits. There are good exhibits on the ancient world and on design in the home. You can go up to a rooftop terrace for lunch and a fantastic viewing platform giving great views of the city. And it’s all free!

Go Wild In The (West) Country

Dear Spillers

I am planning a trip to Cornwall with my good lady and I need some advice. It’s our first time venturing to the south west and we need some of your local sageness. We are breaking our journey from Scotland at Bath and then heading down to St Ives, but we have two days between and were looking for some suggestions on where to go (keep it clean!) and any ideas on good places to stay.

Dieter Rams – The Man Who Shaped the Modern World

I was keen to do a post that was related to our shared musical interest, but in a more oblique fashion. There are few things that unite or divide opinion like music, but the look of things is certainly one of them. Modernism or Victoriana are just as likely to elicit a negative reaction as they are to be embraced, but all eras have styles or objects of enduring appeal.

I have worked for 20 years on and off for design companies. This happened entirely by accident, a result of a job interview I did in London. My interviewer was late and tipsy and I was offered the job on the spot. What sold me was a visit to this German company’s showrooms – it was like a Pauline conversion. I had no idea I was interested in design up to that point, but leaving there that day I was sure that I was! Since then I have worked mainly with German manufacturers of high end kit and they all took their cues in one way or another from one man: Dieter Rams.

Rams is an industrial designer. His goal was to make products from a functionalist persuasion rather than an aesthetic one –  the design being based on what is purposeful rather than starting out with the mindset of producing something which will look pretty. However many products which he designed do indeed look pretty. Here’s his take on hi-fi equipment.

Braun SK4

The SK4 must have looked like something from outer space when it was launched in 1956. Nicknamed “Snow White’s Coffin”, it had a see through lid – an innovation typical of Rams. He was ahead of his time on speakers and tuners too!

Braun LE1 Loudspeaker

Braun 9 FM Radio

These products look as good now as the day they were launched. Rams became chief designer at Braun in 1961 and oversaw a range of products from juicers to clocks and calculators. In the 80s he came up with Ten Commandments of good design. They may seem trite but they are universal in their applicability and it is amazing how often they are not followed, leaving us with unappealing, incomprehensible or plain useless products!

Good design is innovative

Good design makes a product useful

Good design is aesthetic

Good design makes a product understandable

Good design is unobtrusive

Good design is honest

Good design is long lasting

Good design is thorough, down to the last detail

Good design is environmentally friendly

Good design is as little design as possible

The last commandment is probably the most telling. He’s not really interested in minimalism, things are not pared down for just that end. His maxim is Less, But Better. These commandments and the quality of his work have had a profound impact on the way things look today. There will be something in your pocket or on your desk that betrays his  influence on product designers, the most obvious disciple being Jonathan Ive of Apple. Check out some of these products and their progenitors.

Braun T3 Pocket Radio & Apple's iPod

Apple iPhone & Braun ET44 Calculator

In each case the Braun product predates the Apple one by 30 years or more.

Dieter Rams retired in 1998 but many of his designs are still in production. He recently said that Apple are the only company currently manufacturing products that adhere to his Ten Commandments. I don’t really go with that in that one of Apple’s core strategies in recent years has been to drip-feed innovation onto the market, forcing their devotees into an endless cycle of product purchases to “consume” innovation. This to me is a profiteering strategy which does not place the customer at the product’s focus. Apple will eventually pay the price for this, they are losing customers already to the Android product and their focus on innovation is on the wane

I have a Braun alarm clock which I have thrown around my bedroom for nigh on twenty years. It is voice activated, keeps time perfectly and of course looks beautiful. Rams will remain an inspiration and next time you pick up your iPhone or iPod, smile and spare him a thought!