The Onion gets in on tasteless Ramones jokes. This week's front page has the headline "Ramones Reunion almost Completed." At least, and unlike the NY Press and Village Voice, the magazine is intended as Satire. (Check the Onion's other current headlines: "Organizers Fear Terrorist Attacks On Upcoming Al-Qaeda Convention" - political satire at its best - and "Matchbox Twenty Finally Finishes Watering Down Long-Awaited New Album.")
Isn't it always this way? The same day I announce we're winding down Step On, I receive a poster in the mail from one of my new friends in Manchester: an original architectural floor plan of The Hacienda for display at The Royale. Oh well: it gives everyone further reason to come down over the next three months. Maybe we should just turn Step On into a Madchester Museum?
It's that time of year. The last week has brought new albums in the mail by such heavyweights as Green Day, The Prodigy, a re-issued, re-packaged album by The Clash and, um, a bunch of covers by Paul Weller. Either it's not really that time of year or I'm no longer getting the juicy stuff. What I'm really checking the mail for is the new R.E.M. album, a watermarked advance copy of which is meant to be wending its way to me. Hopefully I'll get it before it actually goes on sale. In the meantime....
I'm in the midst of a massive, enormous, stupendous clear-out of music, for a stoop sale (Brit readers: "car boot" sale) of vinyl and CDs that I'll be holding Saturday October 2. (Local readers can contact me directly for more information.) I did this three years in a row round the turn of the Millennium, and then gave all the left-overs to charity, and cleared out literally thousands of CDs in the process. But I think the music breeds when I turn out the lights: there's so damn much of it I can't move round my office. It doesn't help that I'm a hoarder by nature and have traditionally erred on the side of keeping records and CDs on the off-chance I might want them in years to come, rather than letting them go and having more space in the house.
Anyway, on the positive tip, over the last week, while going through piles of uncollated CDs, I've uncovered all kinds of music that had either been misplaced or forgotten about, including such acts as Margo Guryan, Gary Wilson, Tommy Guerrero, the Fela Ransome-Kuti Live! Album with Ginger Baker, gospel albums by Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin, Travis's The Invisible Band, Death In Vegas' The Contino Sessions, Mint Royale's On The Ropes, and Eminen's The Slim Shady LP. Along with the not one, but two misplaced copies of Badly Drawn Boy's highly hailed new album. Which I can now finally listen to!
On the negative, I've had to briefly listen to such acts as Rusted Root, Funky Green Dogs, Local H, CKY, Days Of The New, Sparta, Bongolution, Carly Hennessy, Astroblast, Copernicus, Vallejo, Pat Green and Llama to confirm why I want to be rid of them. (Matchbox Twenty make the 'Sell' pile automatically.)
And this is without yet going through the vinyl, which hasn't had a proper clear-out in about 15 years.
(There's plenty quality music going begging, too: us journos often get doubled up on albums, so I'm boxing up a number of advance CDs of perfectly good releases for the stoop sale. Plus, I don't have room in my collection for hardcore punk, hard rock, the majority of singer-songwriters, most rap and most country all of which music has its merits, and certainly its followers.)
I came across a Flogging Molly advance CD and paused for all of a few seconds to remember the year I reviewed them on the second stage at the Warped Festival here in New York, and then threw it in the 'Sell' Box. The next day I received an e-mail announcing that Flogging Molly's new album Within A Mile of Home has entered this week's Billboard Album charts at Number 20. That's a phenomenal achievement for any band, let alone a non-mainstream Irish-American group on an indie label. (Cynics might say the appearance of Lucinda Williams on the album helped boost sales, but the group's main stage appearance on this year's Warped tour surely played its own part.) Now the only question is, should I still flog their album? Ouch! (Double ouch!)
Flogging Molly are one of many bands behind the PunkVoter movement, which, if you check its website, leaves even less doubt about its political motivations than did Red Wedge. As Flogging Molly's success indicates, punks make up a significant minority in America (I'm not being facetious) and, Johnny Ramone aside, not too many punks lean Republican. (Though there are some that do.) The Republican base in instead, as we know, is largely and passionately religious, but still I wonder about something I heard on the BBC World News this morning on my NPR radio station. And I quote: "Evangelical, born-again Christians make up more than half the American population."
Do they? Can someone point me to a reliable source that will back this up?
Thats right, we're winding down our monthly party at The Royale. At least for now. If you checked in on iJamming! over the last few weeks, you'll be aware that Posie and I are expecting another child in early January, almost exactly the day the first Step On of 2005 is due to take place. Obviously, wed have to cancel that event. (Step On, not the baby!) I could potentially come back on my own the following month, but February's notoriously slow in bar-land and I'll probably be all sleep-deprived and otherwise distracted and
you know what? I figure we've had an absolutely brilliant run, so much better than I would ever have expected when we started out, and I always like the idea of ending on a high, and so we're going to bow out what's been a brilliant monthly event at the height of the party season, in early December.
That leaves three Step Ons to get your groove on, as follows:
For next Friday, October 1, expect only myself and Posie on the decks. And, given the wife's steadily expanding stomach (why is it that women "show" more second time around?). No special guests. We owe it to ourselves to play everything we want. The usual mandate applies: a focus on baggy Madchester, a blatant imitation of Haçienda-era house, and then a whole grab back that goes back to sixties soul and right up to date with the latest indie rock. This is my last chance to hog the decks for several hours and who knows, I may even be amenable to requests this one time ;->
Friday, November 5, I'll be cutting out around midnight to get some sleep it's the NYC Marathon on Sunday morning and I do NOT need to stay up till 4 in the morning so close to the run. My good friend Nick Cain, who did such a grand job back in August, will take over for the rest of the night, presumably bringing in some of his Earth Warmth pals and, I'm certain, ensuring Step On stays on topic. (Nick is due to be a dad for the first time in March himself: congrats to him and wife Karen.)
And that brings us to Friday December 3, which should be an enormously enjoyable blow-out. I'm asking just about anyone who's DJ'd with us over Step On's 18-month run to come on down and play a half-hour guest spot. Dan Selzer, who gave us all such a magical set of proper Factory funk and Haçienda house back in June, has confirmed his return; my original Step On partner Jon Davies will also be back on the decks. So, I trust, will everyone else I get round to asking. We plan on starting early and finishing late. Put this date in your diary. And while you're at it, note the other ones down, too.
The winding up of Step On may or may not be permanent. I'm hoping we can continue to host Step On in the future as an occasional one-off. I love The Royale; the place is one of the finest, best-kept secrets in Brooklyn. Joe and Brendan have been, truly, the best, friendliest, most easy-going and certainly most enthusiastic hosts I've known in the typically short-tempered and tight-fisted world of New York bar-land. I'm certainly going to continue DJing around town (this one and others). But Step On is very much a Fletcher adventure, which means we don't have anyone to fall back on while we take parental leave. The arrival of our Junior in January seems like a perfect point to wave bye-bye to our monthly musical late night as we invite in late nights of another sort!
Don't be sad. Come on down to the last three Step Ons and see us out in style!
I keep the New York Times web front page open on the bottom half of my E-mail box; it allows me to see headlines as they come through. Last night, working late as seems to be the case these days, I noticed the following two contradictory headlines up top of the page and took a snapshot to prove I wasn't dreaming. If the first statement is true, how can the second event be taking place (within Iraq, as not clearly stated in the headline)? And if the second headline is correct, how can the President's claim to the United Nations possibly ring true?
Even later last night, I watched as Richard Clarke, not necessarily the most impartial of commentators, played the role of guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Clarke rightly asked how the US got to a situation where it's now launching attacks on entire Iraqi cities when it's meant to be those peoples' liberators. Stewart tried to crack jokes as is his job, but it was forced: there's not much to laugh about in Iraq right now.
Then this morning, I listened as Brian Lehrer on WNYC hosted an interview with NPR's Iraq correspondent, Anne Garrels. At one point last year, as the Coalition troops drove toward Baghdad, every American network pulled their journalists from within the Iraqi capital. With one expection: Garrels was the only network correspondent to stay put, an act of journalistic bravery that puts her in a league of one, and an experience she has recounted in her book Naked In Baghdad. Garrels, briefly back in her New York home town, told Brian Lehrer this morning that the situation in Iraq was now so unstable that it was no longer safe for her to leave Baghdad and report from outside the city. Indeed she went further: Garrels, a veteran of too many wars, told Lehrer, "It is more dangerous now in Baghdad than it was in Chechnya when we all (the international media) pulled out." She is returning to Baghdad at the beginning of November; this bravest of reporters sounded genuinely fearful of the prospect, as well she should.
I want to see Iraq "on its way to stability and democracy," and to an extent, I don't care who gets the credit. But until we admit that things are NOT going as planned, we don't stand a chance of having these wishes fulfilled. I don't expect my 9 year old to issue bold-faced lies in the face of all contradictory evidence. We shouldn't expect it of our elected leaders.
A BUNCH OF
Protesters fight for the right to keep killing....
On a barely more comical note, Jon Stewart whose Daily Show, for those Brits who don't know him, fills the gap between proper news magazine, a full-on sendup of the genre and late-night comedy talk show showed clips from the Fox-Hunting Protests outside British Parliament last week. I'd read about the invasion of the commons by Hunt supporters, and knew that there had been considerable confrontations outside, but hadn't realized the extent of the conflict until now. As the TV showed footage of policemen beating off rural rioters with wailing batons, Stewart wryly observed, "Now I know why they don't give the British police guns! "
The police may or may not have been able to claim self-defense. Certainly the protestors were on the offensive. Stewart treated us to the sight of all those toffee-nosed gits in rugby shirts treating the protest as if it was one big scrum, with the "it-would-be-funny-if-it-wasn't-sick" sight of one particularly aggressive young man wearing a rugger shirt emblazoned with the number 1 and the word 'Etiquette' on the back. Stewart duly cracked a joke about the man's unusual interpretation of the word. Mr. Etiquette clearly believes in his right to keep hunting foxes. So here's a suggestion. If he's so upset that British Parliament finally, after all these years, voted to ban the Hunting of foxes using dogs, he could switch his Etiquette Rugby shirt for a fox outfit, and play at being bait for his horse-riding Hoorah Henry friends one weekend. As long as he agrees they can slice and dice him afterwards like they do the foxes. Wanker.
TRAINS IN VAIN
Richard Branson and Tony Blair declare a national holiday to celebrate the Virgin Train that ran on Time.
The BBC World News, reporting on the appeal by relatives of British hostage in Iraq, Kenneth Bigley, to the Prime Minister, showed new footage of PM Tony Blair hanging out at Euston Station waiting for a Virgin Train. Sorry, he was hanging out with a Virgin Train, alongside Richard Branson, launching the new Pendolino line of tilting trains. And as I looked, I thought, hang on, that's the train that broke down on me. A quick check of the papers this morning confirms it. Virgin's Pendolino may have set a London-Manchester speed record this week (under 2 hours) with the media watching, but that's the same train that took just as long to get me from London to Milton Keynes only four weeks ago. The Guardian report on the new trains closes with this caveat: "Sir Richard Branson admitted there were likely to be teething problems for the rest of the year." A likely understatement.
But credit where due, as suggested when I wrote that It's Virgin's World: We just pay for it, I yesterday received, from Virgin Trains in the UK, a full refund for my disastrous London-Stafford journey. That's magnificent consumer relations. Now if American Big Box store Circuit City had only been as amenable over their f'ed up extended warranties, I'd still be shopping there. But I'm not. And because of Virgin's superb customer satisfaction department, I'll gladly try Virgin Trains again. At least once.
It would be funny if it wasn't sick department, part 2: The New York Press, not known for its political correctness, today publishes a picture of the original Ramones line-up, crosses out three visages, and asks readers to choose, "How should Tommy Ramone die?" (The winner receives four tickets to a show at Upright Citizen's Brigade.)
It would be funny if it wasn't sick department, part 3: Not to be outdone, the Village Voice prints, on page 93, an advert that proclaims a Ramones in-Store Appearance. I'm not joking. Apparently, to promote the "first officially authorized" Ramones DVD, non-founding member Marky Ramone is showing up at a certain megastore to explain how dead Ramones can authorize anything. Presumably, he'll have security on hand to look both ways on the street as he crosses. Which Megastore is hosting this rather sick promotion, you wonder? Um, Virgin, of course. Told you it's Branson's world. Even when you're dead.
Synchronicity: How I love thee. Just as I was typing out, on Thursday, "I'm quite frustrated that I couldn't catch The Zutons" (at the V Festival in England last month), a friend e-mailed to say he had a spare ticket for their sold-out show that very night, opening for The Thrills at Irving Plaza. Perfect, or what?
Perfect, indeed. The buzz had been loud on THE ZUTONS in the UK, and it's picking up steam here in the States too, where the Mercury Prize-nominated debut Who Killed The Zutons is out this week.
But, as I learned on Thursday, The Zutons on stage are a very different proposition from the band on record. And for the better. Who Killed The Zutons portrays a largely restrained, sometimes semi-acoustic group flirting with different musical styles but mostly celebrating their quirky Liverpool storytelling ability. The live band is a much fiercer animal, a powerful rock group with an encyclopaedic range of musical knowledge and ability. If the group on record soothes and amuses, the band on stage engages and attacks. The Zutons perform.
There are several reasons for the live show's superiority, but prime among them is Abi Harding, The Zutons' diminutive sax player and backing singer, as well as an irrepressible dancer and crowd motivator. Her presence raises the otherwise all-male band beyond the realm of its obvious local peers (The Coral and Gomez) and predecessors (notably, Nineties Liverpool act Space) and into another sphere, one that suddenly ranks with America's ska revivalists, hardcore proponents, and avant-garde post-punkers.
Harding may be the visual attraction but every one of The Zutons is a precociously talented musician. Drummer Sean Payne, replete in pork pie hat (a 2Tone throwback emulated by several in the crowd), propelled the show with a jazz drummer's deft touch while introducing several songs from close quarters, right in front of The Thrills drum riser; lead guitarist Boyan Chowdhury may sport a dubious moustache as only looks good in Liverpool, but he flexes through the different styles with consummate ease; bassist Russell Pritchard succeeds in the difficult task of holding the whole rhythm together. Meantime, rhythm guitarist and lead singer Dave McCabe carries with him the quiet confidence of all great front men, aided by an endearing singing voice and a delightful sense of humour. His twice stated reference to The Zutons as hailing "from Northern Ireland" may have been a sly dig at The Thrills, who come from Dublin would like to believe they're Californian; his introduction of Abi as "the fit bird on the sax" went largely uninterpretated by the crowd, but Harding laughed as if she's used to it.
The Zutons' Dave McCabe and the person he calls "that fit bird on the sax" Abi Harding - a winning front duo.
McCabe and Vox AC30 - see what I mean about them making a comeback?
From opening song 'Zuton Fever,' the quintet had the crowd eating out of their collective palms. (And when Harding brought hers together - as much, it seemed, for her own between-sax enjoyment as for anyone else's benefit - the crowd instinctively clapped along.) 'Pressure Point' entered through the door marked blues, detoured into ska and emerged through an exit formerly reserved for New York no-wavers James Chance and The Contortions. 'You Will You Won't' was presented as predictably anthemic singalong, while 'Remember Me' had the same effect at notably lower volume. A song I couldn't name broke into a furiously intricate modern jazz work-out such as is, genuinely, beyond most young British bands; the extended finale of what I believe to have been 'Zutonkhamuun' (the group weren't big on introductions) saw McCabe start on melodica for a duel with Harding's sax, move over to percussion for a rhythmic battle with Payne, and finally pick up his guitar for an extended crescendo alongside Chowdhury and Pritchard. I know I won't be the first to note that the song's eastern melodies, vaguely ska rhythm and pronounced saxophone blasts render it reminiscent of Madness' 'Night Boat To Cairo.' Madness, it should be noted with all love and respect, had only one musician at the time of their debut album (that would have been pianist Mike Barson) who could have survived a jam on stage with this group.
Their American label (Epic) surely hopes The Zutons will become instant radio fodder as briefly happened to Space here. But I also see them picking up fans from those who follow the American hardcore scene, where easily memorable hooks and choruses likewise emerge from extremely complex, frenetic, jazz-like arrangements and where many bands, as with The Zutons, can't help falling in ska. Either way, this is one British band that the Americans at least these New Yorkers appear to be begging for. Had I known how good they can be, I would never have let the chance go at V. Having now seen them in close quarters, my only concern is when I can catch them again.
A similar sense of excitement surrounded THE THRILLS around this time last year: The Irish group's debut album, So Much For The City (reviewed here), was recorded in the States with a distinctly west coast feel, and the group have toured America relentlessly since. (Read review of an acoustic show at Shout! here.) This Irving show, their biggest headliner to date, served as coming out party for the rapidly recorded (and presumably, ironically titled) follow-up Let's Bottle Bohemia.
As you'd expect from such a hard-working, clearly ambitious band, The Thrills have honed their show to a tee. The falsetto harmonies are remarkably tight for a club, the dynamics are spotlessly presented, the riffs and solos almost casually perfect. All of which makes their posturing and patronizing all the more offensive. I don't need groups to remind me what town they're in especially when it means the singer breaking from the acoustic introduction of their opening song to scream "Good evening New York Fucking City!" at the top of his voice as if we hadn't noticed they'd taken the stage. I can't begin to understand why a guitarist would pitch his microphone so low down he has to crouch to sing backing vocals. (For one, it makes him look stupid; for another, it's going to cost him a fortune in chiropractor bills.) And I have little truck with singers like Conor Deasy who demand, repeatedly we "make some fucking noise." The audience pays its money; it should decide for itself how much appreciation it wants to offer. Conor clearly has a Bono complex, and it's tempting to note that there's barely room for the one U2 front man on this planet. Besides, Bono has a sense of humor.
The Thrills in full throttle. Note low-set microphone at left. Is there an explanation?
The Thrills write some fine songs. And fortunately they played several of them early on, including 'Santa Cruz,' 'Big Cruz,' and 'Old Friends, New Lovers.' In fact they leaned more upon their debut album than Let's Bottle Bohemia, though new songs 'Saturday Night' (with its reference to "a soundtrack called hate") and another full of suspended fourths on the piano and guitar straight out of 'Pinball Wizard' showed something of a step away from their West Coast obsession. After Pádraic McMahon and Daniel Ryan swapped places (and instruments) to launch the second half of the show (as is their unusual calling card), The Thrills launched into 'One Horse Town,' unquestionably their finest three minutes and as splendid a pop song both melodically and lyrically as can be expected from the form these days. Unfortunately, half way through this particularly emotive semi-ballad, Deasy lifted up his mic stand above his head and screamed, "One last time New York City, make some fucking noise!" The (significantly female) audience obliged on the latter part of the request and I ensured the first part also came true by walking out.
It occurred to me in doing so that groups like The Thrills, who bully their audience into meeting some pre-ordained level of applause, are chronically insecure. They don't have the confidence in their own abilities (or originality) to just get on with the show and reap the rewards down the line, so they demand constant approbation from their fans. On the other hand, groups that are truly comfortable in their own skin rarely have to engage in such tactics. The obvious case in point would be The Zutons, who didn't need speak to the audience (and were not understood when they did!) to receive enthusiastic participation. The Thrills have probably heard it said that no-one ever went bust underestimating the general public - but while it's hard to deny that cliché, I also maintain that the public are not inherently stupid. I believe the punters soon learn to tell the difference between those bands that have it, and those that wish they had it. That difference was certainly on show at Irving.
Can you believe that, as Prime Minister, John Major once used that above most unEnglish of expressions in Parliament? But what was his choice? 'Action Replay'? 'Hindsight is 20/20'? Am I blanking or is there not really an appropriate equivalent?
Monday Morning Management, then. I just want to join millions of footballing fans in saying RIP to manager BRIAN CLOUGH. For those of us who grew up with football in the 1970s and into the 1980s, Clough the manager was similarly revered, as influence, entertainer, outsider and hard worker, as his contemporaries The Ramones. (And we were too young to know Clough the phenomenal player, who averaged almost a goal a game throughout his professional career.) Not only did he lead essentially second tier football teams Derby County and Nottingham Forest to the league title, but he led the latter team to two consecutive European Cup triumphs, at a time when the English national team couldn't even qualify for the World Cup. A nation of football fans always knew that with Clough in charge, England would have done much better as a national team than their paltry record through the 1970s and 80s.
But Clough was a maverick, a hard-drinking, straight talking man who would frequently back up his authority with his fists if need be. (After he hit tough nut Roy Keane, a player who deserved to be on the receiving end if anyone does, he analysed the situation to the press: "He got up so I couldn't have hit him very hard.") And the stuffy powers that run the sport were never going to let someone like that take hold of the national team. Though other European clubs would surely have paid him top money, Clough stayed on at Forest some 18 years, a loyalty almost unheard of in contemporary sports. Sadly, like many who genuinely love the game, he stayed on beyond his capabilities, and was regrettably forced out after form suffered beyond repair and the team was relegated in 1993.
His drinking was part of the problem: Clough's ruddy red nose and boisterous, argumentative post-match interviews were constant signs of a man with a penchant for the hard stuff. But even in that, he harked back to a certain Glory Day in The Beautiful Game, a period when footballers may not have been paid like rock stars, but they certainly acted like them. When I think of Clough in his prime, I also think of Crystal Palace under Malcolm Allison, all decked out in gangster suits and fedoras, taking a post-match bath with nude pin-up model Fiona Richmond, photographed necking champagne like it was going out of style.
The sport is too competitive now and there's far too much money in it - for any player to engage in that lifestyle and last more than a couple of seasons. And managers are under such pressure that they, too, have to be constantly with it. (Though, back in the UK last month, watching some of the Monday night Sky Sports round-ups, my host and I noted several contemporary managers whose ruby red complexions were certainly not the fault of the TV's color balance.) Clough paid the price for his lifestyle: he had a liver transplant just last year, only to contract stomach cancer. Then again, he made it to the age of 69, and though retired from management, continued to entertain TV viewers through his last years.
When I went all the way north to Middlesboro-Palace just a few weeks ago, I heard on the Boro radio station that fans were collecting a petition to request of the Queen that Clough receive a knighthood for his services to football. I don't know if they issue them posthumously, and you might just wonder if he was such an outsider that he'd have turned down the honour anyway, but if ever there was a football character worthy of the highest recognition, it was Brian Clough. And given that he was associated with a sport in which the cliché runs rampant, I hope I can end with one: they don't make them like that anymore.
Brian Clough, at left, known for calling players "ugly." Iain Dowie, above, would gladly swap his reputation as Britain's "ugliest" manager for some pretty football.
The current Crystal Palace manager, Iain Dowie, is no Brian Clough. For one, he's a fitness fanatic. According to the programme from the Palace-Chelsea game of August 24, "It's compulsory that the players eat (after the final whistle) to rebuild their carbohydrates. (Then) we take the players back out on the pitch and do the warm-down
Players will go through all their stretches again, do some light running and some twisting and turning
. As part of our warm down
our players have to have an ice bath."
This is exactly the kind of advice given to Marathon runners. It's proven to work. Unfortunately, though it may keep the players fit, it clearly doesn't make them good enough to beat other Premier sides. Palace currently sit way adrift at the bottom of the table, with 1 point from 6 games and that lone point was taken against one of last year's fellow promoted sides, Norwich City.
Indeed, though Palace's position is to be expected we finished no higher than 6th in last year's 1st Division; we know we're not really up to standard it's truly disappointing to see that with this weekend's results, the Premiership is now laid out to form, with the three promoted clubs from last year sharing the three bottom spots, in exact order of last year's form. (That is, Palace at the bottom, West Bromwich Albion a place above, and last year's 1st Division Champions, Norwich City, one place above them.) More disappointingly, the newly promoted sides have yet to notch up a single Premiership victory between them, in 18 combined attempts.
Sure, the newly promoted teams need to tough it out, and if they can't stay the course with the big boys, then hey, it makes sense for them to go down again. Or so it may seem to those who treasure their ongoing Premiership status. But the continued separation of the Premier League from the rest of English football is not healthy for the sport as a whole. Not for the spectators, not for the economy of the other clubs, not for the national team and ultimately, not even for the big clubs themselves, whose existence in some glorious bubble is not what got most of us into the sport. Going back to Brian Clough's era, who doesn't long for the day when teams could be built to European Cup winners level over a short period of time based not on unlimited spending budgets brought on by elitist TV income, but on getting the best performances out of arguably mediocre players and that largely the result of marvelously entertaining and mainly maverick management?
American readers: This is not a British sports column. Just remember, when we talk about football, that the USA did every bit as well in the last World Cup as did England, founders of the sport. Both countries went out in the Quarter Finals, to the eventual Finalists. However, the US have a way to go before they achieve similar respect in cricket. After surprisingly qualifying for the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy of One Day Internationals, currently being played out in the UK, they lost their two group matches, to New Zealand and Australia, respectively, in embarrassing emphatic manner. But hey, we're talking about a country that, says the BBC's web site, has only four that is, 4 grass wickets in the entire country. The sport of 'soccer' was in similarly sorry state not too many years ago; it's now most popular youth game in the country. As a certain British Petroleum giant would say in its American advertising, It's A Start.Freestylers, on the other hand, were so animated they almost lifted the Big Top off the ground. Primary MC Aston Harvey resolutely refused to stay still for more than a second, working up every corner of the crowd as Matt Cantor and Andrew Galea provided the rhythm and various guest MCs popped on from left and right to ensure the temperature stayed close to boiling. I saw Freestylers several years ago in New York, at the height of the Big Beat craze, and they didn't connect. Here, however, it was like they were everyone's best friends. And when they brought on "Julie" to MC their dance hit 'Get A Life' from this year's explicitly entitled album Raw As Fuck, I realized why: with her chubby frame, uncomplimentary mini-skirt and rough'n'ready voice this could have been any Julie from any English high street up on stage. She was the audience, and they were her. Even the blokes felt the affinity. Some things only make sense on home turf.
SEP 17: The V Festival Review: SEP 12-16: Johnny Ramone, Village Voice vs. New York Press, Love Parades
SEP 11: Absolute Affirmation: A New York Hitlist.
SEP 3-10: The Futureheads live, The Good News, Step Off, No Sleep Till Brooklyn
AUG 23-SEP 2: No postings: On summer holiday.
AUG 16-22: 33 Notes on 45 Bands: Little Steven's International Underground Garage Festival
AUG 9-15: Step On, The Summer Hitlist
AUG 2-8: Crystal Palace are shirt, Crazy Legs are back, The British are Rapping, Losers Lounge, Step On
JULY 26-AUG 1: Farewell to Orbital, the Nike RunHitWonder, Pere Ubu in the Park, Devo, Dave Wakeling, Berger & Wyse
JULY 19-25: Live reviews: Mission Of Burma/Electric Six/The Fever/Van Hunt/Brazilian Girls/Apollo Heights/L Maestro; Crime Watch, Book Watch, TV Watch, Booze Watch
JULY 12-18: Jeff Mills' Exhibitionist DVD review, Midweek W(h)ines, Los Pleneros de la 21/Kékélé live, The Homosexuals,
JULY 5-11: Nick Hornby's Songbook
JUNE 28-JULY 4: The Streets/Dizzee Rascal/I Am X/Funkstorung live, Wine, Football and festivals,
JUNE 21-27: Lollapalooza, Morrissey, Deadwood, London Calling, Stone Roses, Euro 2004,
JUNE 14-20: Fast Food and Cheap Oil, Party Prospects, More Clash, Radio Indie Pop
JUNE 7-13: MP3s vs AIFF, Step on, June Hitlist, The Clash,
MAY 31-JUNE 6: Benzos/The Hong Kong/Home Video live, Tribute Bands, Lester Bangs, Glad All Over
MAY 24-30: The Clash, Fear Of A Black Planet, Marvin Gaye, Sandy Bull, Richard Pryor, Stoop Sale LPs, Michael Moore, Nat Hentoff
MAY 17-23: 5th Ave Street Fair, James, Surefire/The Go Station live, Crystal Palace
MAY 10-16: Radio 4 live, John Entwistle, Jeff Mills, Wine notes, Joy Division covers
APR 26-MAY 9: Twenty Twos, Morningwood, French Kicks, Ambulance Ltd all live, More Than Nets, Mod, Turning 40
APR 19-25: 5 Boroughs Rock, The Number 3 Bus, Orbital split, MC5 reform
APR 6-19: British Press Cuttings, More Than Nets, Art Rockers and Brit Packers
MAR 29-APRIL 5: The Rapture/BRMC/Stellastarr* live, The Chinese Beatles, Freddie Adu
MAR 22-28: Singapore Sling live, Kerry on a Snowboard, Pricks on Clits, Eddie Izzard, Who's Two
MAR 15-21: TV On The Radio live, Tracking Terror, Bloomberg's Education Bloc, The Homosexuals,
MAR 8-14: The Undertones live, Winemakers Week, Madrid Bombings, Just In Jest
MAR 1-7: Rhone-gazing, Pop Culture Quiz answers, Who's Hindsight, March Hitlist
FEB 16-29: Lad Lit, American Primaries, New York novels, Candi Staton, the Pop Culture Quiz, World Musics In Context
FEB 9-15: Grammy gripes, Spacemen 3, Replacements, Touching The Void, Moon myths, Voice Jazz & Pop Poll
FEB 2-FEB 8: Suicide Girls in the flesh, Johnny Rotten's a Celebrity...So's Jodie Marsh
JAN 26-FEB 1: Starsailor/Stellastarr*/Ambulance live, Tiswas, Wine Watch, Politics Watch
JAN 19-25: Brooklyn Nets? LCD Soundsystem, Iowa Primary, The Melody, TV On The Radio
JAN 12-18: The Unicorns live, New York w(h)ines, Sex In The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, S.U.V. Safety, Bands Reunited
JAN 5-11: Tony's Top 10s of 2003, Howard Dean and his credits, Mick Middles and Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones and Don Letts,
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE: