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What's new in iJamming!...
Tue, Jan 7, 2003
30 Albums, 10 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies.
Eight Days in A Week's Music:
Ed Harcourt, Vines, Candy Butchers, Timo Maas, Ashley Casselle & Adam Freeland, Aerial Love Feed, and enough little club nights to shake several sticks at.
Tony's (lengthy) trip down nostalgia lane from his visit home at the end of April. Stop-offs include Death Disco, old Jamming! Magazines, life-long friendships, road trips to Brighton, Damilola Taylor and political frustration, Morrissey-Marr, Zeitgeist, Oasis, Dexys, Primal Scream, the current British music scene and more.
Jack magazine comes out of the starting gate with the banner headline "best new men's mag in years."
Why I re-wrote the book: The introduction to the new edition of my R.E.M. biography, due out this summer through Omnibus.
Chemical Brothers, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Paul Westerberg, Skywalking, Joe Strummer, Radio 4, and Aquatulle.
A weekend with John Mayer, Sugarcult - and Elvis
Michael Greene's Grammy Speech: An Invitation to Download?
Plus: 10 things they forgot to tell you at the Grammys.
What the Hell Is Going On Here?
From the Jamming! Archives:
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
The iJamming! interview:
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
The Best Of 2001
Tony Fletcher's Top Albums, Concerts, Singles and Books - and comments on the Village Voice Poll
MUSING on The Manhattan 'Edge':
Will the Island Ever Again Be A 'Cultural Ground Zero?'
hostess 'Lee Patrick' recalls her time as Keith Moon's amour
ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN: "Flowers is Echo & The Bunnymen's finest hour since Ocean Rain."
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
Featured wine region 3:
Featured wine region 4:
iJamming! interview:
Jesse Hartman, aka LAPTOP
"Every New York band knows the meaning of failure"
MIX Albums:
Who, what and why you should bother
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
Featured vine:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
Featured wine region 1:
The full iJamming! Contents
Musing through early April:
from Part 1
Saturday April 13

Record release party for Radio 4's new album Gotham! hosted by Britpop night Tiswas at Don Hill's. I've tipped Radio 4 a couple of times already here. Band leader Anthony Roman owns the Something Else Record Store on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, and we've bonded over the "post-punk era" in the UK which I witnessed first hand and he wishes he had. (The first time we struck up conversation was when I walked in the store and heard him playing Delta 5; by one of those totally weird 'there must be a God' coincidences, I'd had a dream about Delta 5 the night before!) Radio 4 have taken the whole post-punk DIY scratchy-guitar funk of 1980-1983, dubbed it up via the legacy of Studio 1 and then filtered it through a Screamadelica/Xterminator modern day club haze. As anyone who's heard them remarks, the most obvious of all these influences is the Gang of Four, and while that's a good starting point for any 21st Century Band, you can't help but wish that Radio 4 had chosen a different name to avoid obvious comparisons.

That said, they're very much their own group in the flesh, having recently augmented their punk roots trio with a percussionist and a keyboard player, which takes them closer to the modern day dance formula to which they aspire. Roman's a commanding presence as he sweats buckets onstage while plucking bass furiously, though he's fortunate to have a second front man in guitarist/second vocalist Tommy Williams alongside him. Like all those up-and-coming bands you feel could go places, Radio 4 exude the confidence that comes with constant gigging: they visited the UK recently, and were one of the featured local acts opening for Joe Strummer at St. Ann's Warehouse just ten days ago. Most importantly, they've commanded a following, far harder than you might think in a New York where it seems like there are more bands than punters, and the Tiswas night was packed by a raucous crowd of well-wishers as the five-piece ran through a set that was as noisy as it was funky. High points, as on the new album, were the ready-made anthems 'Struggle' ("the ideas of the ruling class should not be the ruling ideas"), 'Start A Fire' and the floor-stomper 'Eyes Wide Open'. When Williams broke a string near the end, Roman and the others dived straight into the white-boy dub-skank of 'Pipe Bombs'; it's rare to hear young white New Yorkers demonstrating such an innate understanding of the Jamaican influence on the post-punk scene.The night ended, as it often does, with 'Calling All Enthusiasts' and the rallying cry of 'New Disco'.

I hesitate to predict too much of Radio 4. They've been around longer than people realise; they need to shed the Gang of Four mantle; they don't have the dripping coolness of the Strokes, the madness of Moldy Peaches, the raw simplicity of White Stripes, or the self-inflicted chaos of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, all of which may stall their own hipness quota. But they've got just about everything else. I particularly love how their lyrics are so obsessed with the New York City of now. On </I>Gotham!</i> I hear references to the 1 and 9 train, to Myrtle Avenue, but my fave lyric is from 'New Disco': "feeling fine dancing at Don Hill's, drinking expensive drinks to wash down cheap pills."

From Don Hill's, it's off to DJ the annual Mindswerve studio birthday party for producer Yab Yum member/fetishist Chris Flam, my occasional Kingston Project partner Kevin Wilson, and aspiring film maker William Scalia. Dj Spooky has played just before I get there; Daryll Hell is on the decks when I show up; a friend of Kevin's plays a hip-hop set before I squeeze into the vocal booth, where Flam has setup the decks up, and play a funky, bass-heavy set that has plenty that's new (Timo Maas 'To Get Down,' Felix da Housecat's 'Silver Screen Shower Scene,' Chemical Brothers 'Star Guitar') and plenty that will never go out of date (Renegade Soundwave, Lionrock, Underworld and co.). This is the music I really get off on playing when on the turntables, and soon enough the crowded studio is bopping. I've brought along a bottle of Cline's 1997 Syrah from Los Carneros as a birthday present for the gang and it's drinking beautifully - I got a lot of mint off it, and some of the zinfandel zing that seems to permeate all Cline's wines. The rest of the drinking options are the usual 'bring your own' dregs - which doesn't stop the whole studio getting uproariously drunk. These are the nights that make the following days worth getting up late for.
Monday April 15

Out of hibernation, and by now thoroughly in the groove, I make it up to (former Dictators' Dirty Dick) Manitoba's bar on Avenue B for the Garageland night that's been going on these past two months and which I finally now have chance to attend. It's a beautiful spring (make that summer's) night and the east village public seems more attuned to hanging at open air cafes than getting sweated up inside pubs. Like Jack Rabid cares: The Big Takeover editor/publisher seems as happy spinning his soul, punk and new wave CDs to 10 people as he would be to 100. Of the five people propping up the bar, one's an old New York acquaintance I haven't seen for a long time, and with his similarly long-term Eaast Village friend, we end up in a fascinating conversation about New York's social-political history, working our way unintentionally back from the current economic climate through 9/11, the Guiliani years, the Lindsay years, Robert Moses and La Guardia, and then leap all the way back to the Battle of Brooklyn and how, were it not for a foggy night back in August 1776, the Americans would still be paying taxes to the British. We struggle to remember the name of the British brothers who prosecuted the war on the revolutionaries that summer and who should ,by rights, have had Washington's blood on the first day. On my way out, I mention our dilemma to Jack, and he's right there with the answer. "Howe." That's right, Admiral Howe, commander of the biggest fleet ever assembled, which somehow let Washington to escape across the east river right under cover of fog. Turns out Jack was down at the same re-enactment of history's neglected but vital Battle of Brooklyn as me and my family last August, just three weeks before New York was attacked once more - only this time with the British coming to America's defence.

Kingston project's Kevbin Wilson flanked by promoters Alan Sancturary And Carlos Santamaria at the Mondaze night at Sapphire, April 15

Unwilling to call it a night though clearly Garageland is not living up to promise, I make it down to the Mondaze shindig at Sapphire. Lots of history in this darkened (but 'cabaret licensed') dance hole just south of Houston: it was erected by two of the old Nag's Head British expats football team, whose names (Lincoln and Lochlan) are still scrolled on one of the pillars. For a while it was us Brits' Friday night prop up bar, but it's been sold on a couple of times since and now caters to a gorgeously diverse dancing crowd. Several old friends were down there as always - including Mondaze promoter Carlos Santamaria, and Urban Groove Project promoter Alan Sanctuary, who once ran the door for us at Communion; Kevin too. Having brought the digital camera along for the night, I snapped that trio looking suitably sinister before having a little jig to a new dance cut everyone knew but me and heading home happy with my stamina. Mondaze is the sort of hip tech-house party that doesn't exclude 60-year old tap dancers who wish to demonstrate their moves and hit on the girls. (Believe me, it's a sight.) It's t-shirt weather as I head home. It was snowing just ten days ago. What's going on?
Tuesday April 16

The ritual that has become Chemical Brothers at the Hammerstein Ballroom is not one to be missed. Like Orbital before them, Tom and Ed have been making and touring their music for long enough now that the novelty has worn off, which means that bar the occasional cross over hit, they're never going to have quite the same impact as when they first broke through, but like Orbital before them, the duo keeps delivering excellent albums that are establishing a long-term legacy. As much as anything - and again, this is just like the pioneering Hartnoll brothers before them - the Chemicals have perfected the live show. They understand that their audience doesn't need to see them as much as it needs to feel them, to which the Chemicals oblige with an ear-shattering surround-sound system, and wall to wall projections. Having started out as DJs, the Chemical brothers have the additional ability of knowing how to tailor their beats for a dancing crowd, how to twist and mutate the sounds that comprise their recorded works and spit them back out in a fresh form for the live experience. And though I don't know to what extent Ed and Tom improvise from show to show, they certainly mix it up from tour to tour: the thrill of the live show is in hearing their new music completely reconstructed.

Warm-up at Hammerstein was Pete Tong, working hard this past couple of years to establish himself on the international circuit after all those years at Radio 1 and ffrr. To the extent that he doesn't mind playing the hits, Tong's a man after my own ears: his pre-Chemicals set was fucked up by bouncing needles (always a dilemma when a concert venue brings in decks for just one night) but ended with a curious minimal techno remix of the Pistols' 'God Save The Queen.' While Queen Elizabeth is enjoying (or is that enduring?) her Golden Jubilee, that Pistols anthem - and punk with it - is undergoing its own silver anniversary. Who would have thought we'd still be playing it 25 years later? Actually, I think we all did.

As for the Chemicals, they started with what a high-octane medley of 'Come With Us', 'Music: Response' and 'Block Rockin' Beats' - the opening tracks of their last three albums - after which there was no looking back. The crowd, as always in New York for this kind of show, was full of adrenalin - 3,000 people really giving it up very late on a Tuesday night. Highlights included 'Star Guitar,' 'It Began In Afrika' and 'Hey Boy Hey Girl' (the majority of music was from the last two albums) but I always look forward to hearing how they utilise the guest vocals from their latest records. As the Chemical Brothers know by refusing to sink to this, there's nothing more daft than presenting an entire vocal performance from a tape, yet when such songs are your singles, you have to do something with them. Last time around, I remember being mesmerized by the way Noel Gallagher's voice on 'Let Forever Be' was filtered and edited to the extent that it became another instrument; it was a repeat performance for that song tonight and a fresh take with Richard Ashcroft's vocals on 'the Test,' the closing song for both the new album <i>Come With Us</I> and tonight's show - and Posie's top cut off the album to boot.

We had to leave at that point - it was 12.30 am and we'd promised the sitters we'd be home by 1 (rock'n'roll, eh!) - which means I didn't get to hear 'Denmark,' which should have been called 'Chemicals Got A Brand New Pigbag' for its similarity to the Bristol-based collective's dancefloor anthem of 1981, nor 'Private Psychedelic Reel,' the closing track from Dig Your Own Hole and still one of my favourite cuts from the entire 'electronica' era. Then again, I don't even know if they played them. What I do know for certain is that by this point down the line, there's no need to comment on how whether such music works in a live format; the only question is how often so-called rock'n'roll bands can match the likes of the Chemical Brothers for intensity of sound and presentation, let alone for the amount of improvisation.
Wednesday April 17

The mercury's hitting ninety by 11 o'clock and after a few weeks locked indoors doing intensive writing, I opt for some reading, catching up via today's Times, hot off the press weeklies the Village Voice and New York Press, and the city's new daily, the New York Sun - not to be confused with tabloid papers of the same name. In fact, the New York Sun has been hyped as a conservative voice of reason, though it seems mainly on this, my first inspection, to be a reprinting of Associated Press reports from around the world. While I'm scouring the pages for a new take on the news, I come across an interview with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy upon overdue release of their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Last year, the band was controversially rejected dropped by its label Reprise after delivering this album, despite critical acclaim, a loyal following and recent success partnering up with Billy Bragg. Wilco got the album back, released it for free on its web site, toured as planned, got great press out of the whole sorry affair, signed with Nonesuch and promptly found themselves back in the AOL Time Warner fold, albeit it on a more select, niche-oriented label. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is finally out in plastic this week.

Every word uttered by singer Jeff Tweedy in this brief interview seems to make so much sense he should be writing editorials for Billboard. But try this for a quick sound-bite, explaining why they'd given the album away and toured regardless. "What's the main objective for us being a band.? Is it about us making music and sharing it and hopefully putting the people who care about it with us in a position of acknowledgement? Maybe treating them a little bit more as patrons of the arts than as consumer?" You'd hope so, wouldn't you?

Reading the news pages is a depressing affair right now, though that's no less reason to pay attention. The Middle East dominates American conversations as I know it does in Europe, and while I live in a city where Muslims and Jews live cheek by jowl, a matter in which I take great pride, the frustration level on both sides is obvious even in our more peaceable communities. I absolutely abhor the killing of civilians for political or military gain, to which end I've found it increasingly upsetting in recent months that there are people who see a precise moral equivalence between suicide bombers flying hi-jacked jet liners into tall buildings/blowing themselves up in crowded market places, and then the armed forces of those countries who retaliate with precise military operations fully intended to minimize civilian casualties, catch the terrorists behind the ongoing attacks and prevent such atrocities taking place again. Certainly, if I support America's right to go into Afghanistan and root out the Al-Qaeda leaders with the understanding that there will almost inevitably be civilian casualties - and I do - then I have to support Israel's right to do the same. Like almost everyone else, I wish Israel could conduct these operations without antagonizing the rest of the world, and I don't believe Ariel Sharon is the person who's going to find a peaceable solution, but it seems that everything Israel does only antagonises the world anyway. And I remain entirely, completely convinced that Arafat's terrorists have any interest in gaining a Palestinian state in a peaceable manner. Terrorists gain their power through violence; in peaceful times, they are rendered redundant. Hence the regular return to the tactics of terrorism, even if - especially if - a peace plan is put on the table.

But of course, I'm not an editorialist, so let me quote instead from a couple of people who are. Both comments are from papers I read today while soaking up the New York heat. The first comes from Carol Iannone in the New York Press, a free weekly that rotates so rapidly from left to right in its free-for-all pages that you can usually find something to support your view. (And if not, you can get off on a story like last week's cover feature in which author Jonathan Ames visited a porno set with his geriatric dad.) She writes, in reference to the Holocaust and the ongoing suicide attacks,"The last time the world would not defend the Jews; this time the world will not not let the Jews defend themselves. There are no gas chambers today, but there is the carnage of repeated suicide bombings, and there are people who feel the Jews should continue to walk defenselessly among the bombers and treat for 'peace" with those who send them. There are no Nazis, but there is a terrorist Palestinian leadership supported by great numbers of Palestinians and Muslims who wish only death to Jews and the Jewish state. And, like then, the Jews are once again alone, enduring the condemnation of Europe and - unbelievably - of the Vatican as well."

My second selected comment is by Thomas Friedman in the Times, whose column, aside from the paper's weekly wine reports, is my reason for reading the paper on a Wednesday. Friedman fully deserves his Pulitzer; he walks a strong line down the middle, speaks with impassioned common sense, and was almost single-handedly responsible for getting the Saudi Peace Plan on the table - not that it garnered any results. And yes, he is Jewish - though he's yet to be kidnapped by Pakistani terrorists and executed on video for that fact of birth, unlike the hapless Daniel Pearl of the Washington Post. (And isn't it curious how when the European media talk about Pearl's execution, they fail to mention that his final words on this planet were "I am Jewish, my mother is Jewish" before having his throat slit.) Anyway, Friedman writes of the latest trend among those who send in the suicide bombers - that is, to attract good looking teenage women who can become pin-ups for murder - that "I have a teenage daughter. There is no teenager capable of making the political decision to commit suicide. You can bet it was older men who encouraged her to do this and who wrapped her in dynamite. That is not martyrdom, that is ritual sacrifice." Amen.
Thursday April 18

The mini-heatwave is still in full effect and the result is that people are hanging on the streets. There's an entirely vibe in the city once the evenings extend and the kids take to playing outside again and people sit on their stoops and start conversing with passers-by. One of my neighbors is out with a friend who deals second-hand records; as soon as we're introduced, he flips open the back of his trunk and suggests I help myself to any of the two dozen or so late sixties vinyl albums in there. Naturally, I don't need more music than I already have, but there are always holes in my collection, so when I see Neil Young's first album with Buffalo Springfield album and his On The Beach too, I seize them.

I'm also told to take Steppenwolf's Monster , and having now heard it, I'm glad I was persuaded. The 1969 release, at the peak of the Canadian hard rock band's success, opens with a 10-minute trilogy, the tracks 'Monster,' 'Suicide' and 'America' effectively telling the story of the rise of the USA up to the point of its late sixties turmoil. The lyrics are printed in the gatefold sleeve, and considering how much bad poetry has been excused over the years for the fact that it had some revolutionary zeal, I was swept away by the poignancy of these particular lyrics some thirty years later - especially given what's going on right now. The opening verse of 'Monster' reads "Once the religious, the hunted and weary, chasing the promise of freedom and hope, came to this country to build a new vision, far from the reaches of Kingdom and Pope'; the closing verse of 'America' reads "American (sic) where are you now, don't you care about your sons and daughters, don't you know we need you know, we can't fight alone against the monster'. With classic psychedelic era backing vocals, it's the kind of rousing finale I always associated with musicals like 'Godspell' and 'Hair,' but as I discover more groups from that era - Rotary Connection, starring Minnie Ripperton, being another - I'm realising just what a bum deal history has these acts.

With other songs bearing titles like 'Draft Resister' and 'Fag', you can hardly accuse Steppenwolf of holding back; for my part, I'm just glad to have made their acquaintance in album form. Like I said, there's always holes in the collection to fill, and just because you've got 20,000 albums doesn't mean there aren't some out there you really need to hear. I'm talking for myself of course.
Monday April 22

There's a lot more I want to add, but I'm off to England for ten days and struggling to get this online before catching my flight. Wake up to hear that the National Front candidate in France, Le Pen, won sufficient votes in a Presidential Primary to go into a run-off against Jacques Chirac. I've been thinking back to 1977 a lot as I've been getting records ready for my gig at Death Disco this Thursday and it seems like history insists on repeating itself. Back in that year of turmoil, the National Front were becoming a genuine threat in the UK. I was never quite sure whether their decline in the UK was due to the street movements against them or the fact that Margaret Thatcher was so far to the right that she stole their thunder, but it pains me to think we're having to fight the rise of the fascists yet again. And on the grounds of the same continent that was swept by them only two generations ago. Do we never learn? I guess not. At least we have music to - try and - make sense of it all.
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