Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Boycotting the wedding

I like this story, about a Belfast pub who have made "a safe haven for our customers so it's somewhere they can go without hearing, or seeing, or talking about" the royal wedding. I also like current vogue for goth wedding cakes. Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas was real good for the ready-roll icing industry.

I think we're all entitled to a healthy degree of escapism, and I can see the comfort to be had in participating in archaic, gilt-edged traditions, especially when everything around us is scary and volatile, but I won't be watching/celebrating the Kate Middleton/Prince William wedding. Here's why:

  1. Glamorizing marriage when gay people still do not have access to that right is wack. 
  2. I believe the monarchy as an institution is bloated, gross, an emblem of Empire and false economy as a tourist draw.
  3. The wedding will cost MILLIONS - at a time when libraries and hospital wards are closing, and vulnerable groups such as single parents, immigrants, at-risk communities, the disabled, the unemployed, and the homeless are being targeted and victimized. Unacceptable.
  4. Its a major distraction, perfect for encouraging sentimentality and drawing us away from the spirit of protest when faced with terrible ideological government policy/cuts/economy woes etc.
  5. It doesn't speak for me, or reflect the cultures/communities I align myself with.
  6. Kate will wear a designer dress, William will wear a designer suit. Old-school bourgeoisie gender binary costume ick. 
  7. Kate seems (as much as I can tell from the obviously biased press) to be a fairly innocuous figure, but celebrating her 'sorta-but-not-really common-girl turned princess' fairytale just enforces the insidious socialization that girlz have been fed for years - wait for your dashing true-love prince to transform and validate you! Real womanhood can be defined through the pinnacle icons of white dress, church marriage, sparkly ring! Its Disneyesque propaganda, British style. 
  8. It enforces class divides and the worship of the rich. Let the peasants forget their woes by basking in the glorious and patriotic celebrations of the aristocracy! Never mind your disappearing pensions, NHS service or human rights - toast and cheer and hang bunting for your beloved royal family! Enjoy the spectacle of wealth and privilege vicariously! Hip hip hurrah!
Here's a song about an almost-wedding:

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Identity is the crisis you can't see - RIP Poly Styrene

Punk legend Poly Styrene has died. We all knew about the cancer, but somehow, it seemed to me that someone so vital just couldn't die. She was one of the first female voices I found when I  REALLY got in to punk, and later, when I'd left behind my safe hetero id for those early thrilling days of bisexuality,  her "up yours!" punk yodel was the siren sound I pogo'd too, wasted on Red Stripe. Poly had this shuddering call, equal parts shrill and raspy, that would crack into a higher note juuuust at the tail, like an angry kid whose voice is still breaking. On all of her most famous  slogans, it twists up at the end into a little girl falsetto that is both endearingly cute and also the flick of a fingers-up fuck you sign. She had a small puffy afro, train track teeth braces and looked/sounded FIERCE.

"Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. I say, oh bondage! Up yours!"

For me, X-Ray Spexs were a band I initially savored alone, in the electric privacy of my bedroom, wondering at the weird, spacey reverb and anti-deodorant message of 'Germ Free Adolescents' (I decided to file it next to The Slit's Typical Girls; worrying about "spots, fat and natural smells" was b.o.r.i.n.g). Later, Poly's songs became life anthems I howled along too, drunk and grinning, in a small, dark, sweaty basement club off Tottenham Court Road, surrounded by girls I'd kissed and boys I shared eyeliner with. I remember these perfect, stillness-in-the-chaos moments where the first, steady "Iiiiiiii" of 'Identity' would start up and all the Spexs fans would snap into action, taking up the wild yell like a tribe. I think it meant something different and awesome for each of us - all the beautiful freaks and queers dancing together in a space where we were (mostly) safe to just BE.

The club is no longer there - it was bulldozed recently to make way for the expanding tube station - and the Woolworths Poly worked in as a teenager and sung about in 'Warrior In Woolworths' has also disappeared, a red font emblem of staple UK consumer culture now sunk in nostalgia. For me, Poly represents the best of rebellious British women, a Brixton gyal done good. Her voice was just as potent to me in the late 90's/early 00's as it must have been to people in the the 70's, a voice that centered those gleefully inebriated moments saturated with jazzy punk saxaphone noise and freedom and the joy of finding a community of kindred weirdos. She gave my emerging queer self a rally cry.

RIP Poly Styrene.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Bilal interview

"I wanted to create something similar to what Marvin Gaye did with 'What's Going On'. It's about life, everyday people, everyday struggles.”

The only interview where my Dictaphone has failed me. Despite fresh batteries and a test run, my trusty lil Olympus crashed just 2 minutes in to our transatlantic phone call (hour and half Tune Yards convo from New York had eaten up all but the last memory capacity). I had to type out Bilal's answers in real time! Really fast! He was a real cool cat. We talked about moving on from Interscope and a botched 2nd album, how church choirs and Philly's jazz veterans shaped his aesthetic, and why he's more of a blues man then the neo-soul kinda fella everyone thinks he is.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Conversations at rock shows

I got chatting to a girl in the ladies toilets at the Trail Of The Dead/Rival Schools/Japanese Voyeurs gig last night (lets call her J). She was a photographer, and I'd offered to use some of her pictures for a review I was thinking of writing on the show. She gave me her business card and I walked away happy, thinking I'd made a handy girl-girl business/work connect.

I was up at the front for most of the show, and noticed an influx of photographers when Rival Schools came on. Out of the 8 or so snappers clicking away, at least 7 were women. J was one of them. I remember thinking it was good to see so many laydeez up at the front working a rock show (though the sound engineer was, rather predictably, a dude), and then immediately followed this up with "but it would be even more rad to see more women headlining stages at rock shows". I told J this when I bumped into her later at the merch desk. Below is roughly how the exchange went:

J: "Oh. (Screws up her face). I don't really dig women in rock"
Me: "Umm. Huh?"
J: "Yeah, its not a gender thing. Its just about pitch"
Me: "Pitch?"
J: "Yeah. They always sing way too high; I don't like it. Its just my preference"
Me: "Really? So what about people like Tairie B?"
J: "Who?"
Me: "Or Angela Gossow? Patti Smith? Mia Zapata?"
J: "Oh, I don't really know those people"
Me: "The all have pretty low growls, not high pitched at all"
J: "Yeah, I don't really know them"
Me: "OH"

Maybe it was all the Tuborg (or just the sheer shock of hearing such unexpectedly ignorant bullshit, from a woman) but I wilted. How do you even begin to reeducate people who think like this? I tried to recommend some of the rad and fierce female bands and artists and singers who have shaped, subverted, challenged and innovated rock - in all its various forms, communities and spheres - but by that point she'd sensed the major flaw in her attitude and had decided blank, stubborn retreat was the safest option. I felt a real, crushing dismay.  Major love though to the woman who stopped me as I was walking back from the bar to tell me how rad it was to see someone wearing an L7 t shirt. Yeeaah.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Chipmunk - Transition

Grime's teenybopper wants us all to know he's a big boy now, with his sights set on international fame. There's a whole lot of cloying, imported US gloss on this LP, and personally, I would have liked something more authentic and London centric. UK emcees have spent a long time overcoming dominating US influences (which is why So Solid were, in their own volatile way, so pivotal) so it kinda sux for grime that one it's most promising young'un has tried to blend North London swagger with slick, urban US shine.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Record Store Day 2011 and unashamed vinyl sniffing

Inspired by Record Store Day and John Doran's elegant defense of good old fashioned rekkids: a choice selection from my own crates. Some of these were inherited (albums I was weaned on), some were paid for (as in a physical cash transaction  - no clicking/shipping involved), and some were presents. I remember the story of each one and all of them are dear to me, for different reasons.

Descriptions where the picture/font/words ain't doin' it.

The Breeders - Safari EP

Babes In Toyland Fontanelle LP (cherry pink vinyl)

Bessie Smith - The Worlds Greatest Blues Singer (double disc)

 Signed L7 single a- Andres/Stuck In Here b- Bomb/Shirley

White Lung - Its The Evil
The Holez (Hole)/The Monkeywrench split single Germs tribute a-Circle 1 b- Shutdown
Cocorosie - God Has A Voice And She Speaks Through Me
YYYs - Cheated Hearts

Calamity Jane/Rockin Rod split single c-Strychnine
Signed Daisy Chainsaw single a-Love Your Money b-Get Real Pleasure
Tune Yards (ltd edition) a-Gangsta b-Bizzness

Babes In Toyland single (purple vinyl) a- Bruise Violet b-Magic Flute/Gone

Friday, 8 April 2011

Tune Yards interview

My first ever full page Rock & Pop feature for The Guardian - an interview with the super rad Merrill Garbus of Tune Yards - is out today!

I flew out to meet Merrill back in February. It was the first time I visited NYC/the US, (the first time I'd ever gone abroad to interview an artist too) and I got to meet her ma and pa, who had come down with a gaggle of cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles to watch Merrill perform for Roomful Of Teeth at the Kaufman Center. They were crazy lovely, just full of pride for Merrill, and rightly so. She's a vibrant creative force, an incomparable artist/composer, and an unbelievably grounded and friendly soul. We bonded over feminism and (working) class politics and I felt only the smallest flicker of shyfangrrrlness at the end of the interview when I asked to have a picture taken with her.

I wish I'd been able to include everything we talked about (word counts suck). I left out a lot of body image/male gaze dialogue and choose instead to delve into a discussion/analysis of w h o k i l l , her second album. My life has been saturated with w h o k i l l 's songs since late January (I was one of the first to get the LP and having to hold myself back from screaming all over Twitter about how A W E S O M E it was was mad frustrating); I poured over the lyrics, memorized the breaks, had the melodies looping in my head each night before sleep,  hummed the hooks on the plane to NYC, and beatboxed Gangsta incessantly with my girlfriend, who has become equally enamored/obsessed with the album. We sung the softer parts of Powa over our first plate of buttermilk pancakes in one of those 50's style, perspex and pastel-coloured diners I've always wanted to visit, and shouted the chorus to Bizness over and over like some wild, joyful mantra as we explored the streets and sights of the Big Apple.

I'm glad Merrill's no longer starving for her art. I want plenty more good things for her. She's one of the good ones.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Andrew Lansley is a dickhead

Far too angrrry to successfully articulate how I feel about Andrew Lansley and his NHS 'reforms' i.e privatization. This dude is close though.