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Vision On

Some time ago I recall having a conversation on Farcebook about music shows on telly (or the lack of them). The general conclusion was that although we might be keen on a TV show that gave actual bands (and not megastar bands, either) a chance to play in front of the cameras, the idea was pretty much dead these days.

Overheads too high, audiences too low, basically.

But now, BBC 6 Music have taken a tentative step in the music telly direction, with this pilot show: All Shook Up.

Weirdly, the website states that it's a 'series' with 'no upcoming broadcasts', which apparently is as close as the web team can get to telling us it's a pilot (although they do mention the P-word if you click on 'Full Description' - and there are apparently more episodes planned, although when they'll appear is a slight mystery).

Basically it's an economy version of The Old Grey Whistle Test, based around bands that have featured on the Marc Riley BBC 6 music radio show. As such it's rather biased towards the acceptable end of indie.

Mark Riley's show isn't bad, you understand, but for a non-playlist, new-music evening show presented by an ex-member of The Fall you'd think it would push the boat out, musically, a little further than it actually does. So the TV version probably isn't going to get too loud or weird. But hey. At least it's not Later With Jools Holland.

Whether the BBC continues with the idea probably depends on how many people watch the pilot. So click and watch, and we'll see where it goes from here...

Thumbnail review of the bands in the pilot episode now follow...

Slug - proggy pop. Interestingly quirky, as if they'd grown up listening to XTC and King Crimson. Bloody annoying bow ties, though.

LoneLady - every so often, BBC 6 Music goes from zero interest to heavy rotation over an artist, for no apparent reason (recent example: Sleater-Kinney.)

LoneLady is the latest to get 6 Music blanket coverage. She's done live sessions for Marc Riley and Lauren Laverne, appeared at the 6 Music Festival - she's all over the station like a spilled pint at the moment.

Strange, because her earlier stuff (and certainly the great album she did with Jah Wobble) were never covered, never mentioned. In the TV pilot Marc Riley dimly gropes towards acknowledging her past work - he says she's collaborated with Public Image Limited, which is, erm, wrong, but you know what he's trying to say.

Still, it's nice that 6 Music has belatedly caught up with her, and I do like her economical, A Certain Ratio/Talking Heads-y post-punk funk. Jah Wobble's groovy bottom is much missed, mind. I can't help wishing they'd done more of this stuff...

The Wave Pictures - three blokes, almost surreal in their uber-ordinary lads image, make neat, careful, fuzzy-round-the-edges indie. Their Wild Billy Childish collaboration has nudged them towards a more garagey sound, but even Wild Billy - a maverick if ever there was one - can't overturn the band's all-pervasive ordinariness. C'mon, lads, you're on telly (sort of). You could at least try to look like you mean it!
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Balls to Birmingham

Adventures in Birmingham, continued. (Yes, it is possible to have adventures in Birmingham, I tell you. A bit, anyway.)

In Birmingham, you can buy animals as a kit of parts. Glue them together in the comfort of your own home!

Some of my readers might recall Andi Sex Gang reciting a poem to a pig's head at the Whitby Goth Weekend a few years back. I remember the fuss that caused - the way people carried on, you'd think that Andi had broken into a pig sanctuary and killed the pig himself. Some seemed to assume he'd done something illegal.

In fact, you can buy pig's heads from specialist big-chunk-of-dead-animal butchers like those in Birmingham. They're not even expensive - just a few quid. There's not much actual meat on a pig's head, after all. But if you leave the eyes in, it'll see you through the week.

I'll get me coat.

Another delicacy from Birmingham - chicken feet. I have no idea how you'd cook them. But a great bulk buy option for all you voodoo practitioners out there.

Disconcerting though it may seem at first glance, I do rather like the way Birmingham's butchers put it all up front (and I speak as a vegetarian here). It's a very honest way of selling meat. All those people who freaked out at Andi Sex Gang had probably never seen meat that wasn't shrink-wrapped.

And now we come - with a certain relief - to the veg section. Here's a stall selling veg in the now almost universal 'paaaahnd a bowl' manner.

But I reckon you get a lot more for your paaaahnd in Birmingham than you do in London. Look at that veg - heaped up in great piles! In London you're lucky if it peeks over the rim.

More Brum nosh this way...

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Birmingham untourist trail

Scenes around Birmingham, jewel of the British midlands...

Everyone who goes to Birmingham takes a photo of the Selfridges building. It's the law. Here's mine.

What is this colonnaded cube, sitting on a post-industrial wasteland? A stately home that's fallen on hard times? Nope. It's Curzon Street station - Birmingham's first railway station. It's been disused for years, but in the near-ish future it will become the terminus of the new Hi-speed line to London.

There is, inevitably, a Masterplan. Be afraid, Birmingham. This is your future!

Just along the road from Curzon Street station, we find this pub. Last orders were called some time ago, it seems.

Every time I see buildings like this I can't help thinking how they might work as a gig venue. This one would be pretty good, I think. Near the city centre, close to the universities (students do still go to gigs, right?) - and no neighbours to worry about.

In the end I suppose this pub will be swallowed up in the new redevelopment Masterplan (see link above), but a short lease until then would be fairly cheap, surely. A few years' worth of rock 'n' roll is just waiting to happen here...

Down the road a bit, the Birmingham cityscape starts looking like the Lower East Side of NYC, circa 1982. Here's a massive, empty warehouse, which is for sale and/or to let. How come it's not being squatted by No Wave bands?

Again, the opportunity might not last forever, because the redevelopment steamroller is a-comin' through - but for a few years there's a chance for ART to happen, surely?

And finally, in our Birmingham architecture selection, here's a house - near the warehouse pictured above. It's just a house. But I like it.

Some nice brick detailing, and those splendid sash windows in authentic green (the notion that window frames should always be white is very recent - up to about 40 years ago you'd paint your window frames any colour you like).

It should really have a beaten-up Morris Minor parked outside, and some kids playing hopscotch in the road. Sorry about that ghastly great BMW. But you can't win 'em all!
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Chrome vs. rust

Not for the first time, I've been to Birmingham to look at cars.

These were two of them.

The great thing about the Practical Classics Restoration Show is that it features a fine selection of clapped-out old rust buckets, which makes me feel better about my own clapped-out old rust buckets. Compared to this one (which is a Riley RME - just about) mine are in fine fettle...

You know when it all went wrong for the British motor industry? When they stopped putting bearded blokes in winged helmets on the front of the cars, that's when.

This is a Rover P3, showing all those Scandinavian metal bands how it's done...

More chrome (and rust) beyond the cut...

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The day the world turned dayglo

This photo has not been tweaked in Photoshop. The world really did go pink last Sunday.

I took this picture around 6pm at Widford, Hertfordshire.

I went there to pick up some vintage Land Rover parts I'd won on eBay (for a SONG, I tellya. A SONG. Those panels often go for over £200).

On the way home a sudden rainstorm coincided with the sunset - and the world took on this pink colour. I stopped (rather illegally, I must admit) to take a pic.

It all looks a bit alien, doesn't it? I also like the lights of an approaching car lighting up my Land Rover's cab. Rather Repo Man, I reckon.

Here is a close-up of my nice new back panel. Very good condition - some of the others you see on eBay (even the top-dollar ones) are drastically bashed about. This one looks like it's hardly used - admittedly for the Land Rover value of 'hardly used'. (By the way, note my Mini Clubman wheel hose dispenser. No part of the buffalo is wasted!)

And - bonus upon bonus - it's not a Series 3 (1971 - 1985) panel, as advertised. It's actually a Series 2 (1959 - 1971) panel, which means it's the correct period for my Land Rover, and actually rather rare.

Having said that, there's only one small point of difference...

The Series 2 panel was assembled with a slightly different type of rivet.

I'll get me anorak.
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Jean genie

Scientists agree that you can't have too much Shriekback in your life. So here's another tune from the band's new album, which is about to drop upon us from a great height any minute now.

A trademark Shriek-collision of groove 'n' noise here, I think. And you can't beat those machine gun-burst snare drum flourishes, which Martyn Barker chucks in as casually as if he's drumming his fingers on a desk. That's the way to do it, kids.

There are some notes on the song by Carl Marsh on the Shriekback blog, if you'd care to look. He mentions that 'Recessive Jean' is somewhat, somehow, related to 'Feelers', an old-school Shrieks song which was recorded in several different versions, with seceral different line-ups, but never actually turned up on an album. Now, all we need is for an enterprising DJ to try a mash-up...

...and the words "Here is a face plumber bearing improvised food" really should go on a T-shirt.
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Four play

A swift snapshot of the Gang Of Four in Oslo, last night. Andy Gill on guitar. Someone who's not Jon King on vocals.

The lads slammed the songs down very effectively, but with only one original member on stage (and he obviously significantly older than the rest of 'em) I have to say it was ever so slightly like watching a covers band.

The Gang Of Four has had umpteen line-ups over the years (I've seen a good few of them myself) but they've always had that essential to-and-fro between Andy Gill and Jon King. Without that, the band can't help but look a bit like the Gang-Of-One-Plus-Three.

It occurred to me that the last time I saw the Gang Of Four, it was in Heaven (capacity 1,850). The time before that, on the main stage of the Offset Festival (capacity - oh, about 20,000 - it was a big field, anyway). The time before that, the original line-up at the Brixton Academy (capacity 4,921).

Last night - Oslo (capacity 375).

I'm a fan of small gigs, and it was certainly good to hear Gang Of Four songs being blasted out in such a small space. But the scores on the doors do seem to head downwards every time someone leaves the band…

By the way, Oslo isn't a bad venue. It's another of those new London rock 'n' roll holes that opened up recently to a deafening silence from all those people who are so quick to make a fuss every time a venue closes down.

As I've remarked before, I reckon the number of live music venues in London stays pretty constant over time - they just come and go. In the past, this was generally regarded as the natural order of things. It's only recently that the closure of a venue is accompanied by a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and hand-staple-forehead assertions that rock 'n' roll in London is dead, d'you hear me, DEAD!

Then a new venue opens up. Everybody studiously looks the other way and pretends it isn't happening. What's that all about?

Anyway. Oslo. Not bad, a bit neat and clean at present, but I'm sure it'll acquire the traditional London venue scruffiness in time. Handy for Hackney Central station (or, last night, the rail replacement bus stop over the road, blast 'em). Absurdly early curfew (9.30, for fuck's sake, for no apparent reason - I'm sure Las Kellies didn't finish so early when I saw them at the venue a while back.)

The early doors, and the closure of the S-Bahn to Hackney, meant that I missed the opening band, which was a shame because it was LoneLady, who I've been trying to see live for ages. I think she must've come on stage at about tea time.

But there will be other gigs…possibly even other Gang Of Four gigs, although I can't help wondering if Andy Gill's next move will be to franchise the brand name out to a completely new bunch of musos.

While we're at it… this was my previous Gang Of Four experience - in Heaven, with John And Jehn supporting. Whatever happened to those guys, eh? They could've gone places if they'd just made the band a bit darker, a bit more post-punky, perhaps got an all-female line-up...

And here's my 2005 review of the original Go4 line-up at Brixton Academy, starring Hugo Burnham on drums and Dave Allen on bass. Shriekback connections a-go-go in there too, of course.

Scroll down to the third review - past the The Dresden Dolls and Noblesse Oblige and Devilish Presley. Crumbs, weren't my reviews long in those days!
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Psycho drift

Here's a nice slice of post-witch wave-gaze spook-psych, from the forthcoming album by Shriekback.

It's a fine example of a classic Shriekback drifting-in-a-warm-lagoon number, like the soundtrack to a pool party down at SpaceTime Tanks. But keep your tin hat handy - the heavy artillery will be winched into position elsewhere on the album. 'Tis the calm before the storm, I tell ye.

Shriek-geeks: did you can spot the traditional line from another Shriekback song? "The air is full of our cries" also appears in the lyric to 'Nighttown' on the Go Bang album of 1988.

I'll get me cagoule.
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Nathan's Barley water

Here's an alarming thing. Proto-hipster Nathan Barley is ten years old.

Although he was conceived as a one-man encapsulation of uber-trendy ghastliness, with hindsight Nathan Barley seems like an almost endearing character - and it's hard not to wish the world depicted in the series really was like that.

On the one hand the show is a bit like watching terrible people in the middle of a comedy car crash, but it also documents a time when any random chancer with a daft idea could actually make it in the world of media.

Now, alas, it's different - as Andrew Harrison notes in The Guardian:

"You can laugh at the Sugar Ape team, and they are moronic," says Steve Beale, founding editor of the late style magazine Sleazenation and subsequently business director at Lazarides Galleries. "But at least they were doing it for the sake of expressing themselves. Back then, the style media was a way into journalism for young talent from outside London. It was feasible then, but that door has totally closed now. Who can just move into Hoxton Square on spec now? Today the media is just a career option for Head Boy and Head Girl types. Talent without connections and money just can’t get a look in."

Still, the website is still up. A glimpse of a simpler time, when smartphones weren't even all that smart. for ever!