It's spring time and a wine drinker's fancy turns white overnight. And for most of us that means chasing Italians. Now, I've long loved the fact that Italian blondes are easy-going on both palate and wallet, but their lack of intellectual depth eventually renders them overly similar and somewhat forgettable. So of late I've been looking for that someone special: an Italian that will satisfy all my senses, that will fight for my attention over dinner, that I'll still be savoring after we've said goodnight and gone our separate ways and to whom, as a result, I'll promise to treat as more than just a one night stand.
Enter, at the perfect moment, Ribolla Gialla. A friend of mine brought her to a spring time wine dinner where, true to my opening sentence, whites outnumbered reds four to one. He sat her next to me and suggested we'd get on well together. Clearly he knows my taste.
Ribolla Gialla is not well known outside her home region the hillsides that cross the Italian border from Friuli into neighboring Slovenia. But thanks to her skillful upbringing in the hands of Girolamo Dorigo and his family, this Ribolla offered so much more than just the racy freshness and nutty texture of most Italian whites. Lightly bronzed to look at, she smelled and tasted of spring-time flowers in opulent bloom, and of both tangy (lemon, orange) and tropical (peach, apricot) fruits. Anything but shy, she quickly gave up more than just a quick kiss on the lips, filling my mouth with a promise of permanent passion, and leaving behind a well-rounded, perfectly balanced taste of honey. My friend said that in the right circumstances like the heatwave vintage of 2003 Ribolla could be "unctuous." I don't know if that means that in cooler years she'd be plainly anonymous. But I noted that Dorigo had treated her right: using carbon dioxide snow to preserve her aromas before the crush, and allowing her brief maturation in stainless steel, all while keeping her well away from oak and malolactic fermentation. The result? Ribolla is busty and bronzed, but her beauty is entirely nature's work.
I invited Ribolla home for the night and she accepted: turns out the man who brought her to dinner has more where she came from, anyway. The next evening found her almost every bit as enticing: even the wife could understand the attraction. Who knows? This may just be a spring time fling. But for now, I'm intoxicated.
An all-natural beauty, full of character, steeped in tradition and yet nobody's fool, Dorigo's Ribolla makes a perfect accompaniment to Ben Watt's latest mix CD, Buzzin' Fly Vol. 2
- After the famine, the feast
- Going, with Hub Moore, to see his old 3 Colors band mate Chris Harford play live. They were part of the reason I ended up in the States. Almost twenty years later, we're still all great friends.
- Hull City get promoted: My childhood Crystal Palace idol Peter Taylor is one step closer to the Premiership as a manager
- Watching good musicians jam live from just a few feet away.
- Fender Junior amps. Who knew you could pack so much into 15 watts?
- Dine In Brooklyn: three-course meals at great restaurants for under $20
- Running my fastest marathon and it's no big deal.
- Wine offlines. What a fine way to get back off the wagon.
- Bike shops: the new guitar shops. (So says Eric Ambel.)
- People looking out for me.
- Noel thinks that laughter is the funniest thing in the world
- The Lakeside Lounge: designed by musicians, for musicians. Plus, it's free.
- People coming to me with great ideas.
- Three desserts in one Tuesday. It's the post-Marathon pig out.
- There's a wine store opening at the top of my street.
- Apocalypse memories nostalgia can be fun.
- Great new albums by The Kills and Heartless Bastards prove that young people still got the blues
- Nobody's accused the Pope of stealing the election. Democracy rules!
- Mark Mulcahy sends me his brilliant new album In Pursuit of Your Happiness and asks for wine recommendations.
- I've know Mark for almost twenty years, too.
- Campbell eats spinach
- The tape rewind sound on 'The Dark Side Of Town.'
- Noel's delighted expression when he gets a face full of breast.
- Receiving four more Brian Eno re-issues on the same day. That's twelve in all.
- I'm in the Masters.
- Before the feast, the famine
- Hub Moore has given up making music
- Crystal Palace are one step closer to playing Hull City next year
- Unrehearsed live bands.
- What our credit card bills will look like with all this eating out
- Running my fastest marathon and no one gives a damn.
- Watches: the new guitars. (So says Eric Ambel.)
- You can't always get what you want.
- Noel can't put his happiness into words. (Yet.)
- Belly: staffed by musicians, designed by deaf DJs.
- The ratio of great ideas that ever get put into practice is not high.
- I'm still hungry.
- There's a wine store opening at the top of my street.
- Apocalypse memories nostalgia can be sad, too.
- Crap new albums by The Bravery and Elkland prove that unoriginality and a lack of imagination is never an impedence to a major label deal and/or stardom.
- The Catholic Church outdoes the Republican Party for choosing a radical Conservative as their leader.
- Mark Mulcahy is not a superstar.
- Campbell does not eat spinach risotto.
- The tape rewind sound on 'The Dark Side Of Town.'
- Noel's hogging all the breasts.
- We will none of us ever be as smart as Brian Eno.
- Being in the Masters is a polite way of being told I'm officially old.
It's not like me to be mute about a live show, but it's a week today since I went to see M83 and Ulrich Schnauss at the Bowery Ballroom, and I'm f***ed if I can think of anything interesting to say about it. The night was not a disaster, but neither was it the divine experience we all want from all our live gigs. It was instead, that most annoying of events: thoroughly mediocre.
Ulrich's opening slot was much as I had expected: take one German boffin, sit him in front of his laptop computer - along with a keyboard of the musical kind - and have him play a set that progresses, as per his two albums, from ambient classical electronic music (2001's Far Away Trains Passing By) to shoegazing-psychedelic trippy electronic music (2003's A Strangely Isolated Place).
Schnauss's performance, as I'll deign to describe something that involved about as much physical movement and interaction with his audience as Pope John Paul II showed the Vatican Square faithful in his dying days, was the kind that I've often enjoyed at small venues across New York: I'm among the many electronic music fans happy to sit back and listen to the composer do his thing, without getting into boring debates about whether it constitutes a 'live' show by prehistoric rock rules. And by the fourth or fifth song, Ulrich was finally and thoroughly in full-on soundtrack mode, with hazy repetitive four-chord sequences of the kind that made 'Loaded' a classic of our time.
Still, standing around at a gently buzzing Bowery did not make for a positive sonic experience. In addition, Ulrich's keyboard was so far back in the mix that while he was evidently playing something live, I could never quite determine what it was. The one time I made a note about his splendid piano lines, he promptly took his hand off the keyboard and the piano part continued without him
Schnauss should be savored on record rather than in concert.
Ulrich Schnauss checks his e-mail onstage....
Anthony Gonzales leaves M83's light show at home.
The same, sadly, appears to hold true of M83. I've been enthralled by the French act's two albums, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and Before The Dawn Heals Us (reviewed here), and had heard similarly glorious reports of the live show. New York's own Secret Machines and Interpol each recently hand-picked M83 as a European support act, and no less a voice of authority than The New York Times wrote of their last Bowery Ballroom show, "The pieces were awakened from an ethereal dream state to a realm of sweat and gravity." You can understand why I fully anticipated something along the lines of a Spiritualized concert, an event that pulls the audience in through psychedelic music and hallucinogenic lights, and only lets them back out, thoroughly exhausted but fully elated, when the music finally stops.
Instead, Anthony Gonzales led his straight-forward line-up (bass/drums rhythm section, with Gonzales and Philippe Thiphaine playing guitars and front-of-stage synths, and Gonzales offering occasional vocals) through a show that was far closer to prog-rock self-indulgence than space rock psych(e)-out. The lack of interaction with the audience need not have been a problem, but Gonzales offered nothing as compensation: no imaginative lighting, no visual backdrops, and apart from bassist Stephane Bouvier's evident enthusiasm, no humor such as we love from our French acts (I'm not joking!). The band fully failed to project album highlights like 'Don't Save Us From The Flames' and 'Teen Angst' onto an audience that, having started out giving great love, soon thinned out. I was among the many that called it a night before the band did. Let's see the Times wax lyrical about this one.
The Icicles sound great: Honestly!
I do love seeing live gigs. I'm perfectly happy to spend an hour or two, once a week or so, in a (non-smoky) club, preferably with friends, catching a new act that, twenty years down the line, I can look back on fondly at seeing in such a small venue so early on in their hopefully illustrious career. But the M83 gig reminded me that it's a hit-or-miss process. Tonight, Wednesday, The Icicles play Southpaw. The Icicles are on my Spring histlist: 'I Wanna Know,' is, really, one of the best girl group pop songs I've heard in a long time: I can't get it out of my head. And Southpaw is only at the top of my street. But after checking the group's bio and pictures yesterday online (at both label and artist sites that weren't fully functioning), I know I can't commit to the live gig. I can only too well imagine a group of sunnily-dressed thirty and forty-somethings from the mid-west dressed playing to a half-full room of largely disinterested and mostly unaware punters, struggling in vain to capture the spring-time spirit that they've successfully mastered on tape. Am I being unkind? Is image everything? Yes, and no, respectively. But I'll still leave it up to someone else to tell me if I missed out big time, or whether I'm better off just burning their single to a Spring CD and walking round with them firmly entrenched in my head while getting on with the things I know I do love.
Well, it's not like the New York marathon, that's for sure. Or London. Or Boston. Only about 1800 runners competed in the New Jersey Marathon yesterday, and I was one of them. (That's me at the finish line, in the background, top left.) I managed to shave another 12 minutes off my PR, coming in at 3:37:20 by my watch. I had had vague hopes of running fast enough to qualify for Boston a year from today, but though I failed on that score, it was a highly pleasurable experience. Pleasurable? Well, that depends on your fondness for pain, I suppose. Miles 17-21, during which I discovered the hard way that I wasn't going to make my Boston qualifying time, were a bitch. Having realized as much, I eased up and quite enjoyed the last few miles.
After doing New York three years in a row, I'd become keen to do a smaller marathon, one with a faster course, less runners, less spectators, less anticipation and less pressure all round. (Which is one reason I didn't tell anyone I was doing it: even the wife only sussed out a few weeks back.) I'd strongly recommend a smaller event to anyone who's more interested in running a Marathon than participating in a circus - though there's obviously nothing to match the experience of a mega-Marathon either.
It could be worse....
The whole process in NJ was refreshingly low-key. It was extraordinarily well organized, with ample fluid stations, and volunteers seeming to outnumb competitors. The small field also meant that they could lay on free massages and a full buffet at the finish with the added bonus that the fees went to childrens' charities. In addition, that sporting intangible the weather co-operated. It was sunny throughout but never got too warm, and the wind, which those who know the Jersey shore will be fully familiar with, stayed calm all morning. And while you don't get much chance to admire the scenery if you're taking your run even half-way seriously, it was an attractive course, beginning at Sandy Hook, hugging the coast, passing the mansions of Deal and ending up on the boardwalk at Long Branch. Special thanks to the Jersey-ites who blasted 'Born To Run' full volume from their house. Painfully obvious, I know, but considering we were only five miles or so from Asbury Park, you can hardly blame them.
Anyone thinks I'm mad ought to have met some of the other runners yesterday. On the bus to the start line I sat with someone who was running his fifth marathon of the year already! And there were several people on the course who'd collected all fifty States (plus DC) including one old man whose t-shirt boasted that he'd done them four times over. I should point out that he was hobbling, and this only a few miles in just in case any of us (myself included) are tempted to imitate him.
PR of a different kind: the Apocalypse album is released today. And the corrected Clash books are back from the printers too. Hopefully, by tomorrow morning, I'll have a whole load of new pages up for both projects, including Apocalypse audio and video, and a Mick Jones interview too. See you then.
(PS: I don't know why The Pub suddenly went so quiet. Winter's over and you're no longer huddled round the computer at night? Fair enough but still, let's see some new topics. Did you disagree with my reviews in the Spring Hitlist? Got some new music of your own you want to recommend? A good book? A good wine? Or even a good whine? Come on, let's be having you...)
April 11-17: The Spring Hitlist, Springtime In Brooklyn, Restaurant Reviews, Supermom!
April 4-10: Twenty wine reviews, FischerSpooner, KEXP, Loveless, Rockin' & Shockin'
Mar 28-April 3: Loathsome! Daft! Human! Overload! Rockin' & Shockin'
Mar 21-27: The Go! Team live, Ian Brown dead, Pont Neuf wine, Hall Of Fame rules, Cocotte restaurant, Marilyn Monroe/Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibitions
Mar 14-20: The March Hitlist, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Dinner report,
Mar 7-13: Bouillabaisse 126 restaurant review; Going Up In The World; Dandy Mama; Tim Booth
Feb 21-Mar 6: Live reviews: Ian Brown, Schizo Fun Addict, Soft Explosions, The Stands. Wine review: Langhorne Creek Selkirk Shiraz.
Feb 14-20: Ten Words Of Wisdom, Weblinks, Stone Roses demos, Lyceum revisited, Bandol wine review
Feb 7-13: Fanzines, Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll, Chord & Tabs, The Plug Awards, Tear Down The Discos, Jean Lallement Champagne review
Jan 31-Feb 6: Erasure/Tim Booth/M83/T.H. White album reviews. WebFriends Day. The Jam vs. The Smiths vs. The USA, Iraq elections
Jan 24-30: Chemical Brothers/Lemon Jelly/Slits album reviews. Ted Leo/Benzos live reviews. Gang of Four/Specials/Happy Mondays/Farm/Bureau reunions. Tempranillo wine reviews.
Jan 17-23: The January Hitlist: Those That Almost Got Away, Revolutions, Remixes, Remisses, Justin Timberlake, Fiery Furnaces, Jimmy Edgar live
Jan 10-16: Tsunami observations/relief efforts/fund-raisers, Best Wines of 2004, British vs. American charts, Alba Chambourcin wine review
Jan 3-9: The Best Of 2004 - Albums and Singles; Biggest Disappointments of 2004; Minutes of A Miracle: Our Son Noel; New York Club Nights
2004 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2003 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE
2002 MUSINGS ARE LISTED HERE: