Future Of The Left: ‘The Peace And Truce Of Future Of The Left’
September 29, 2016, 10:37 am
Filed under: Album Reviews, Uncategorized


First impressions of ‘The Peace And Truce…’ is that FOTL’s fifth studio record is business as usual for the Welsh rock unit  – now a trio once more after guitarist Jimmy Watkins’ recent departure. 

Steve Albini’s influence continues to dominate – in particular that of the bespectacled bastard’s ‘minimalist rock’ act Shellac (see ‘The Limits Of Battle Ships’) – as does the tone of camp wrath and general piss-taking, while yet again “The Peace And The Truce…” is another stonking album from a band who in a perfect world would be bigger than Jesus. But listen closely and you’ll detect, beneath the crunch, a new flavour: the genetics of early post-punk, albeit smothered in disgustingly corrosive rage-music. 

While much of their previous album ‘How To Stop…’ was all binary broad-strokes – kind of like a noise-rock spin on Pixies’ loud-soft dynamics – here we have a less ideologically sure template, in the true spirit of post-punk and the confused, paradoxical world the genre painted; a less simplistic, more ambiguous sound, closer in construction to the tangled moral mires of post-punk greats The Pop Group, or a more scream-y The Raincoats, or even post-punk’s mavericks This Heat but with added heavy low-end (see ‘In A Former Life’), better able to articulate Falko’s complicated outlook on life. 

The lead man, whose sense of bitter British-made irony and absurdist comedy (belying, of course, the fury of a moralist) is pure post-punk, now has a more sophisticated and expressive musical backdrop to work with, in which he can better explore this complex culture of ours via his favourite subject matters…namely hypocrisy, the sins of the British alpha male and modern life’s increasing pointlessness – and on ‘Back When I Was Brilliant’, where best to eat Thai food when in Hamburg. 

Essentially it’s post-punk with a comedian for a spokesman, only with every idea delivered in the form of a hard, unpretentious gut-punch and with the utmost degree of irreverence. The rhythmic funk, the prominence of the bass guitar in the newly spare arrangements of a three piece act – all very post-punk. ‘No Son Will Ease Your Solitude’ could be a hard-rock Magazine, while ‘50 Days Before The Hun’, whose combination of horror synths and raspberry-blowing kazoo tells you all you need to know about FOTL’s jaundiced view of society, takes its cues from post-punk progenitors Bauhaus and the goths’ proto post-punk howl. 

More macabre still, on ‘Reference Point Zero’ Falko’s demonic refrain of “Shake Rattle and Rolllllllll” gets right to the heart of darkness in the lead man’s cynical soul.

“The Peace and Truce…” doesn’t boast ‘How To Stop…’s wealth of tunes – sometimes a necessary sacrifice when forging a sound as opposed to songs – but by the same token, little of the material is what you’d call ‘art-music’. ‘Grass Parade’ and the aptly named ‘Running All Over the Wicket’ are sped-up punk barnstormers conceived with only one purpose in mind – pleasing live audiences, while the album’s best track, ‘Back When I Was Brilliant’, resembles an austere, deathly take on Zeppelin’s mega-blues. Hard as fuck, smart as fuck, as much brains as brawn, is there a more essential British guitar band around than Future Of The Left? 


The Lethal Dancehall Track Tearing Up Jamaica This Year
April 21, 2016, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


This February I finally made it Jamaica. For some music fans, to visit Jamaica is like pilgrimage to Mecca.

This little island changed everything, to the point where it’s frightening to think what the last forty years of London culture would look like had the 60s emigration never happened. More so than any other world city that received the diaspora, West Indian culture changed London.

You can imagine an alternate reality where we’re still listening to Status Quo albums and hammering peak-era eurotrance. There’d be no jungle, dubstep, grime or garage, while post-punk would have been half the future-shocking art-form it was. Even British house music in the present day would be unrecognisable. And even though we could really have done without UB40, and even though my holiday was less Trenchtown and more Thompsons all-inclusive, to be sat on the beach in Montego Bay surrounded by the ever-resonating juju that made modern-day Britain was nothing short of dreamy.

On the second day we hit it off with one of the bar men, Shane, a big grime fan as a result of his cousins in Hackney who had turned him on to Lethal and Dizzy. I asked him about the local music scene, and the first thing he tells me to look out is Alkaline and the “biggest track of the year” – ‘Champion Boy’.

Listen To ‘Champion Boy’ here

Alkaline, stage name of 21-year-old Kingston MC Earlan Bartley, has been on the radar for a couple of years now (check out the ‘Noisey: Jamaica’ feature from last year), but the runaway success of ‘Champion Boy’ has left Bartley on the cusp of becoming Jamaican dancehall’s next global export. Using the very fierce ‘Fire Starta Riddum’ written by Jamaican riddim queen, DJ Sunshine, whose ‘Wul Dem’ riddum swept through dancehall in 2014, ‘Champion Boy’ is all over the island, blasting from out of crowded city streets, from car stereos, from Jamaica’s homespun music channels and adverts for Premiership football matches, energy drinks and used cars. It’s nothing less than a phenomenon.

February is black history month in Jamaica, as well as both official ‘reggae month’ and anniversary, on the 6th, of Bob Marley’s birthday. So it was a great time to be in Jamaica if you wanted to get a sense of island culture. In addition, the third week of February is the unofficial start to the holiday season, just in time for incoming tourists to meet headlong with the ‘Champion Boy’ craze, and perhaps spread the word internationally.

But this February also sees Jamaica’s national elections, to be held on the 25th.  Everywhere we drove were crowds of supporters klaxon-beating on the roadside or dancing and singing at rallies. On reggae island, of course, politics and music are almost interchangeable, and even politicians are jumping on the Alkaline bandwagon. For example, former prime minister and leader of the Jamaican Labour Party, Andrew Holness, takes to the stage at rallies to the strains of ‘Champion Boy’s chorus. It’s of course not the first time Jamaican politicians have co-opted the local charts. In the mid 70s, the JLP and the opposing PNP (People’s National Party) fought for the public endorsement of Jamaica’s first global superstar, Marley. After agreeing to headline the ‘Smile Jamaica’ concert – organised by JLP leader and then prime minister Michael Manley – Marley, his wife and manager were injured in an assassination attempt at Marley’s home.

Alkaline is part of a new generation of ‘post-Vybz’ MCs, who came of age subsequent to Jamaica’s infamous late-noughties ‘reggae wars’ – accompanied by a drastic increase in levels of gang violence across the island as locals chose sides. Staged between Vybz Kartel’s ‘Gaza’ crew from the Jamaican town of Portmore and Kingston’s ‘Gully’ crew – led by dancehall star Mavado – the feud came to an end in 2011 with the arrest and eventual sentencing of Kartel, for the murder of Clive ‘Lizard’ Williams. Kartel’s sentencing in 2014, meanwhile, came shortly after an American-backed operation to arrest and extradite drug lord (and ‘Gaza’-benefactor) Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke in 2013 went awry, resulting in the massacre of 73 civilians in Kingston’s notorious ‘garrison-hood’ Tivoli Gardens, effectively breaking the back of the city’s organised crime culture.

You wonder what Jamaica’s reggae forefathers have to say about the likes of Alkaline. With the MC’s famed ‘demon’ lenses and (allegedly) ‘whitened’ face, his iced auto-tune settings and snarled, triumphalist delivery – speaking of the very coldest states of advanced materialism – ‘Champion Boy’ feels about as far as dancehall has ever travelled from roots reggae’s Christian beginnings. Glamorous toy-town gangsters like Alkaline lined the walls of every club I visited, dripping in bling, walking the room like a train of reflective surfaces and sexual intent. On the other side of the club were their preening female counterparts, cold and imperious and dressed like sci-fi royalty. It’s owing to Jamaican revellers like these that some locals I spoke with predict a coming backlash against club culture and a resurgence in the popularity of street-level sound system parties, where posing and conspicuous consumption isn’t tolerated. In one of Montego Bay’s big local haunts, Margaritaville, I spoke to one teenager, Avion, who wasn’t so keen on the this new strain of dancehall: “I am a Christian. I like Toshe, Congos, Ken Boothe…but I can’t hear no heart to this music.

But while Jamaican dancehall is currently in peacetime, the actions of one unlikely provocateur perhaps threatens to de-stabilize the scene, in this incidence fuelling tensions between diehard Gaza disciples and Alkaline’s own Kingston crew, the Vendetta clan.

Back in 2010, returning Olympic hero Usain Bolt took to the DJ Booth during his victory party and declared that only ‘Gaza’ tunes were to be spun. “And anybody nuh like dat” Bolt added, according to The Village Voice “can jump inna gully”. In October of last year, during Kingston’s premier track showcase night ‘Uptown Mondays’, the Gold medallist again took to the stage, to diss Alkaline directly. “One likkle youth a try imitate the Gaza youth, mi nah call nuh name … three blind mice, three blind mice [a reference to Alkaline’s lenses]” Bolt hollered, “All when him incarcerate and a easy himself. When the boss come a road, hear mi a seh? I will be downtown for the Gaza Boss, hear mi seh,”

Bolt’s comments caused a furore in Kingston. In response, a month later Alkaline released ‘Champion Boy’, taking not-so-subtle aim at Bolt and by extension Vybz, who Alkaline and co. perhaps feel cannot sustain his dominance from behind prison walls for much longer:

“Champion mi a di Champion Boy

One bagga gold medal pan mi eno

Champion Boy yuh kno di damn thing guh

Pan a podium a sing di anthem tuh

Dem yah story yah cyaa guh pan ER

it affi guh pan profile”

According to Jamaica TakeOut, Alkaline has teamed up with ‘Gully’ kingpin Mavado to record a medley of their ‘Fire Starta’ tracks.

Sources close to the recently MC had this to say: Alkaline been working overtime in studios, recording several tracks per day and lowkey shooting multiple music videos. The plan is to outrank Worl Boss [Kartel] during the year 2016.”

Though seminal-feeling for its sheer anthem-ness, if you factor in as well the single’s success you can easily imagine ‘Champion Boy’ coming to represent a changing of the guard moment for Jamaican dancehall – the new wave declaring that the King is dead, long live the Champion Boy.

Looking Ahead, The Day You Die: Growing Up With Trainspotting
April 21, 2016, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized


Much like all massive cockheads, the only thing i’ve ever really wanted out of life was to be cool. Never quite got there, though. Nope. And given that unless your Gianni Agnelli, Bill Murray or in Swans, no man aged 34 year or older can ever truly be cool, it’s clear that ship has sailed.

I tried cool dancing, but the end product was too camp for the purposes of heterosexual union (two bars into The Sunshine Band’s “I’m Your Boogie Man” and my ass grows a mind of its own), or doing cool things like a ski season in France when I was 22, until I developed a lower back skin infection my unnervingly glib Alpine doctor explained was essentially medieval in nature. I flirted with hip hop culture but was too quarter-Jewish (my mum’s side), and being a rave-geezer, but ecstasy gave me depression, and Manc monkey, but bucket hats made my massive head looked positively Merrick-like.

Yes I even tried fashion, until it quickly became apparent I’d inherited my Dad’s sense of style, a dyed-in-the-wool Ulster Presbyterian who for some reason when in jeans simply cannot look like anything other than a Weeble in dungarees. We can never get it quite right, me and my dad. The man has a red Christmas shirt like the Piper Alpha disaster while for a short period in the early Noughts in an effort to get in on the 80s revival thing I took to sporting a white headband. I looked like a slightly rotund man sporting a white headband. All told, when it comes to fashion I’m Don Cheadle’s character in “Boogie Nights”, sitting alone at a party dejected, garbed in Rik James soul-beads. Even as I write this, my new white jeans are riding a bit at the crotch. It’s my belief that all so-called “creative” types are basically psycho chameleons shuttling from skin to skin without a true self to call their own and when during one of my many dark nights of the soul I ask the darkness “Who am I, darkness. Who is John Calvert?” one thing that always comes to mind is, believe it or not, Hannibal Lector’s description of serial mischief maker Wild Bill: “Billy is not a real trans-sexual, but he thinks he is. He tries to be. He’s tried to be a lot of things, I expect.”

So I’m not cool. I’m just not, especially on paper. There’s the eczema, a pretty bad nut allergy and the permanently wheezy chest (my flatmate recently claimed she can hear me breathing from the next room), a bottom shape that some have described as womanly and features too bulbous to be considered classically handsome (imagine Bobcat Goldthwaite with a low white blood cell count). Too teary for aloofness, too itchy for wit, too silly for insouciance, my track record with the opposite sex reads like a history of mental illness in Soviet Hungary. I once dribbled on a first date. Not like a teardrop type dribble – a massive stringy phlegm which, after hanging momentarily from my chin, landed on the table with an audible drip like a bad joke. There I sat, an idiot Rudi Völler with a dreggy pint and fuck all to live for.


On occasion, however, against my better judgement, I have felt cool. Like when I was in a punk band for a bit, or when I got better at smoking inn 1997. Invariably though, down the years I have felt at my most cool when confusing hipness with watching hip films or listening to hip music. As an 11 year old in 1991 I had been cognisant of the fact that hip hop and hardcore were in fashion. But to the 11-year-old me, grunge, alt rock and the pains of Generation X – for all intents and purposes American counterculture’s last hurrah – was cool; the slouching, the fatalism, the soul-vomiting, the self loathing…mind blowing to a child of the 80s where cool had meant Tom Cruise in a letter jacket, wet look Rob Lowe, yuppie self-actualisation, 50s nostalgia. To this day it’s still my opinion that iconoclasm is never as righteous as when delivered in the form of complete and utter give-a-fuckness. That Cobain could be famous and cool and talented yet not give a fuck about any of it was staggering to me, and when the blonde one did finally check out in April 1994 to me it wasn’t a tragedy so much as the ultimate act of non-conformity, the ultimate shrug, a bored sigh, in the face of Reaganite self-improvement. As a statement it was the opposite of self-improvement: total and final self-destruction.

I so wanted to be sensitive 90s man, or one of Gus Van Sant’s beautiful boys: the pretty freaks lost in the American heartland in some dream of themselves, or Billy Corgan in the ‘Today’ video, Kiedis singing about heroin on the streets of L.A, Kurt Cobain, whatever, never mind. So sad, so weird, so deep, to my teenage self. Somewhat problematically, however, I was never really a very sad teenager, or particularly weird. My parents weren’t divorced, I had no drug problem to speak of and I was never bullied, unless you count the time my mates and I had a falling out and I spend a whole summer with a 1st year from next door called Brian McFerran. He taught me ping pong that summer, and oh how we laughed. And the only time I ever remember being sad was when my older brothers had a fight on the kitchen floor and my mum wept screaming “You’re a beast you’re a beast!” at my eldest brother and swatted them with a rolled up Women’s Weekly as if they were a couple of horny dogs.

Nonetheless it never stopped me trying to act sad, which I did by wearing a black heavy hooded raincoat around the house until my mum explained to me that it had once belonged to my Jewish Grandma, or pushing my too-frizzy curtains away from my face like a slo-mo River Phoenix. In the end though I was shit at depression in the 90s, but I really thought it was so glamorous to be fucked up. Of course, the real thing would arrive in good time, which was a bout as glamorous as chasing a pig.

But I never felt cool the way I did when, aged 16, the holy trinity of Danny Boyle, producer Kevin McDonald and screen writer John Hodge introduced me and probably a large chunk of the British teen populace to the idea of British cool: squalid, self-destructing, self-serving, filthy, cold, severe, cruel, pitiful and vulgar British cool.

Where I grew up, in Northern Ireland, British (or “mainland”) popular culture is in fact broadly speaking something the Northern Irish don’t relate to very easily. Rather our affinity has traditionally been with American culture. We like are dancing in lines, our politics Christian Right, our rock Southern-fried, our alt-rock sylvan Seattle-bred and our pop stars strictly Elvis and/or Bruce-shaped. Gentlemen soldiers, withering cads, irony, English dandyism, sartorial sophistication, literary erudition, afternoon tea, kinky aristocrats, androgynous synth pop boys, art-school posers, bands named after Italian Futurist manifestos, Suede: theses thing don’t fly in Puritan Ulster; too posh, too mince-y, too conceited for a country where tallest poppy syndrome is epidemic and where being a funny person and one of the gang is the only yardstick that matters, and too precious and too decadent for a nation of shipbuilders and farm boys where the acoustic guitar is king, where there is only family, work and death, and where art is humble, hard, heavy, honest, substantive, worthy, blue, real, raw and always literal. Flyover America in six counties or less.

But Trainspotting changed everything, for me anyway. Almost immediately anything American, including American underground music, was about as cool as Noel Edmunds in hell. Which incidentally is probably where the bastard belongs. Firstly, by 1996 the American underground wasn’t what is used to be. The slacker culture part of the movement began life as both an exciting new voice in American counterculture and an authentic freak scene (see the life as lived by the cast of proto-Harmony Korine weirdos in Linklater’s quite bizarre eponymous debut), but by the around 1993, which was just around the same time as post-grunge first reared its ugly head (second only to acid jazz as the least cool and most irritating sub genre of all time; Matchbox 20 rot in hell) and the Fade To Black-inspired, nihilistic Melvins-through-Mudhoney punk element disappeared from grunge, slacker-ism had in actual fact begun to smack a little too much of 60s revivalism.

There’s a reason why it’s Iggy, Reed and the doomed, dangerous flip side to the hippy dream and not Simon & Garfunkel that features on “Trainspotting” (aside from the heroin connection of course). Because, the 60s and the hippy movement were a lot of things, but cool they were not. All those notions of egalitarianism, humility, mutual respect, aspiration, nature worship, happiness and altruism were too noble to be cool. Vanity, anxiety, greed, desire, boredom, violence, meaninglessness…this is the stuff of cool. As Burroughs once wrote on “Would you rather be a snake or a poisoned snake?”

Being weird and fucked up like Cobain was cool, but after Trainspotting, being a bad person was cooler; especially when unapologetically, when the final outcome is your own complete self-annihilation, and when framed in Trainspotting’s sense of the absurd and the film’s cunty pitch-black humour that could only be British: too petty and self-defeating to be Scandi in origin, too nervous and bleak to be Southern European, too, well, funny to be French, and basically not fucking bonkers enough to be Balkan.

Suddenly Cobain was a mumbling Emo complainer compared to the puckish laughing boys crashing out of Trainspotting extremely savvy, pretty fucking cool marketing campaign. It was love at first sight. There must be a clean score of Kodaks from the late 90s in which I’m giving it the full on Macgregor two-fingers-to-the-camera thing, regardless of the occasion. Quite embarrassing, really, though decidedly not as embarrassing as my “Fight Club” stage when I wore a Hawaiian polo shirt two sizes short for me like a palm tree-printed Honey Boo Boo and got beaten up by my flatmate.


Far cooler, you see, was the music of post-ideological, post-morality hedonism: British electronica and dance music, which Boyle was the first director in cinema to have the good sense to harvest, for massive cinematic returns. Anything new is automatically cooler than what came before it, especially when you consider that alt rock had by 1996 resorted to reactionary Baby Boomer nostalgia (stand up, Evan Dando).

But British dance music was fucking cool: stylishly sheer, thrillingly cold, impossibly vital, illicitly crepuscular, chicly avant but brutally hooligan with it, and most importantly modernist, both in its technological nature and its amorality, More than that, it was NOW, back when ‘now’ in music meant exactly that. Moreover, there’s nothing teens love to do more that call bullshit on bullshit. It’s the essence of hipness. And saving the world, Cobain-style, was now bullshit, of the cheesy American variety.

Dance music was truer to the realities of life (like, REAL, man), more honest in its unashamed dedication to the pursuit of pleasure and in its anonymity, which prohibited the creation of false idols and grand myths. It was also a drug culture, and as every teenager knows, drugs are cool.

Above all else, the establishment hated it. For the 90s teen, what was not to love? For all the self-loathing on show there was always a decidedly rockist idea underpinning American alt-rock that Cobain were the good guys and their enemies in the mainstream the baddies, making the world a better place; the implication being that ‘they’ on the margins were better than the squares, with their M Bolton records and G’n’R T-shirts. All told, it was too much like heroism, or triumphalism masquerading as humility, and essentially narcissistic. In Britain though, and in the great tradition of British miserabalist art, there are no goodies and baddies, only cunts. Cunts having a fucking great time. Or as Renton puts it, our boy peering out onto a strobing dancefloor scene of futuristic revelry sound tracked by Bedrock’s “From What You Dream Off” in one of Trainspotting’s most iconic lines: “The world is changing, music is changing, drugs are changing, even men and women are changing. One thousand years from, now there’ll be no guys and no girls, just wankers.” As Richard Corliss said of the film at the time is his review for Time Out, “[Trainspotting] is a film about joy, in conniving and surviving it.” By the 90s, joy was the new and self-serving religion of Britain’s first post-political, post-modern generation: the chemical generation.

Underworld’s “Dark And Long” fires the cold turkey sequence. A very British kind of dance track, or certainly European, it’s the type of feel-bad, highly-strung, frigid aesthetic that American house producers see as futile and self-defeating but which contains the right measure of amphetamine thrust us pasty Brits need in our dance music in order to expel our dense frustrations through the medium of slightly angry body movement. Suffice to say, voyaging and hallucinatory the track also provides a perfect backdrop for Renton’s fractured terror-ride through junky limbo.


Sleeper’s cover of Blondie’s “Atomic”, sound tracking Trainspotting’s brilliant shagging sequence, though neither British in origin nor technically a dance song seems in the context of the film somehow cut from the same cloth. There’s something very ‘dance music’ about “Atomic”s flat new wave structures, it’s square 4/4 rhythms, its stiff white funk and its overt synthetic-ness – a sound formulated in what is essentially America’s European satellite state and homaging the Europhile wonder-producers of disco – and something decidedly British about the song’s weary doom, its refinement, its tacky glitz, Harry’s suburban Saturday girl dreams (“Tonight, make me magnificent”) and the way the singer’s dispassionate vocals undercut her band’s gleaming pop, to speak of so much joyless decadence and pleasure-fatigue. It’s basically the dirty, nervous neon oblivion of last orders provincial Britain made sonic, and so therefore played beautifully with the scene; a scene which in turn came to enjoy a symmetry with Pulp’s epochal “Common People” released the year before Trainspotting, and its most brilliant of lyrics: “And then dance and drink and screw / because there’s nothing else to do.”

But of course it’s Underworld’s other contribution that will be always be best remembered. Reportedly named after a greyhound the Barking duo once bet on, “Born Slippy” traced a lineage between the punk experience and rave’s lumpen heart; the eight minute apotheosis of what began in baggy, its lairy but beatific, rabid but rapturous wave of unstoppable freeform evoking spidery casuals raging through Balearic beauty, shouting LAGER, LAGER LAGER.

And no one it coming. Who could have predicted that a relatively formless, overlong B-side studio-jam could go on to bottle both lightning and the Brit zeitgeist in one fell swoop, while sneakily subverting the same 90s lad culture it aggrandised. If Britpop alienated you, with “Born Slippy” you felt proud to be British. It was a national anthem in the dictionary definition of the word: a rousing patriotic song adopted by a country in expression of national identity. The dance anthem was born.

We were too late for rock and roll, rave, glam, disco, synthpop, and the best part of grunge, but those who would dub us 90s teens as generation too-late were never sixteen the summer “Born Slippy” came out; the type of song that brings your whole life into sharp focus.

Every time I hear those iconic opening notes it’s 1996 all over again. I’m sat in my backyard in the glorious late afternoon sunshine of that hot June, pretending to revise. Just a perfect day. England Euro ’96 is turning London into the biggest, happiest party in the world, Oasis are about to play Knebworth and finally I’m leaving boyhood behind me, indicated by the sudden meteoric growth in the size of my neb. I feel like a man. A very cool, albeit very little, man, because that’s how listening to the exotic, mysterious sounds of adulthood can make a teen feel. And I’m watching as my big sister’s mates, tanning themselves beside the birdbath, their school shirts rolled up to expose vanilla forearms, flirt outrageously with my older brother, who at this point is beautiful, crowned with a shock of black-brown hair, and who incidentally had four months prior at the exact moment the needle perforates the smooth skin of Renton’s forearm passed out in a cinema in Dundee.


As for the electronica, we were offered up two absolute gems. Primal Scream, taking a break from peddling massively overrated “dance rock fusion” and/or ripping off The Stones, lent the film the eponymous “Trainspotting”, from what in my opinion is really Bobby and co’s only good album – “Vanishing Point’. Playing over the park scene, where Renton and Sick-Boy talk shit and shoot a dog with a high powered air rifle for their mild amusement, with its trip-hop rhythms, woozily surreal FX and the sense of inertia conjured by its Morricone-esque percussion and flat, droning trajectory the track captures perfectly the daytime ennui particular to British summertime, when the lingering fug of dark activities dulls the sunlight. I’ve always thought the photography is fascinating in that scene, those summer colours muted to the oranges and greys of sick psychology by some invisible filter.

“One Last Hit” meanwhile, from Leftfield, which was released as a split single with “Trainspotting” is just pure inner city Britain: subterranean, dank, oppressive, dread filled dubtronica shot through with bad intentions. Written for the film, the track chimes beautifully with the sense of impending doom Boyle’s clipped, heightened direction creates (see, for example, the ever so slightly sped up establishing shot of the coffin like coach), as the friends make their way to London down a Stygian motorway and Renton presses the self-destruct button once again. “There’s final hits and final hits. What kind was this to be?”

But arguably the film’s coolest moment arrives comes in an unlikely form in the soundtrack’s very least cool dance track: eurodance rapper Ice MC’s ‘Think About The Way’ deployed to ironic effect over the tonally jarring tourist vid of booming 90s London, all bright eyed euro teens, scampish Pearlies and 90s optimism as Renton arrives in the capital to get him some of that neo-Thatcherite action. Forget the Iggy tunes, this is Trainspotting at its most punk, in the most mean-spirited sense of the word, with Boyle sneering at the happy idiots and their ignorance to the truth: that the 90s was just the 80s with better PR. Fucking each other over to get ahead is as British as red busses and queues. So why indeed would you ever ‘choose life’, the rat race, when it is no more or less worthy a life to be a junky?

Trainspotting was a morally ambivalent film; full to the brim with smart arse cynicism every bit as chic, acidic, sickly and angular as its smart-arse protagonist. The Britpop movement some say was a bit cunty; espousing of a reactionary, fundamentally middle class, all too white concept of painfully retro Britishness right at a time when rave, 80s synth, trip hop and a nascent jungle scene where moving Britain and British music into the future, while at the same time uniting class, sexuality and race (See the Libertines and their Albion, ten years later; indie’s inevitable backlash to UKG perhaps?).

Professional crybaby but good writer, and leader of eminently average Britpop also-rans The Auteurs, Luke Haines famously described Britpop as something like a bunch of art school pricks feigning working class laddishness because they felt emasculated by Thatcher. In my opinion, however, the Britpop bands were right to hit back at the so-called American cultural imperialism of grunge. Even if their version of Britishness was bogus, British it remained – restoring a much-needed sense of campness, sex, wit, irony, glamour and humour to guitar music. And neither do I begrudge Boyle for including the Britpop bands in his film. The director rightly recognised that, for better or worse, these bands defined the era, and so were an essential inclusion for any film about Britain in the mid-90s.

However, Boyle does overplay his co-option of trendy Britpop on a few occasions, most notably in the inclusion of Elastica (“2.11”) led by the deeply unpleasant Justine Frischman, who represented all the worst aspects of Britpop. A self-regarding dour pseud who thought that making self-regarding dour post-punk put her on a par with her hip, eminently less self-serious post-punk heroes while elevating her above Supergrass because her 2-d retro-ism was built from the work of more obscure bands, Justine was the poster girl for the drearily mediocre London art-rock side of Britpop. These days, whenever it feels to me like the capital’s music scene is full of wankers, I remind myself that the Britpop era must have far worse with narcissist frauds like Frishmann in power.

“This looks easy” narrates Renton “But it isn’t”. For all its edgy nihilism, Trainspotting was a sad film. One thing Welsh understood implicitly is that while dropping-out is rebellion, the marginal life is also one of melancholy; the melancholy of alienation, purposelessness, of dislocation, and oblivion – the oblivion into which Renton dives headfirst from the wall behind the pub (my very favourite sequence in the film and Boyle’s finest ever slice of visual poetry; lacking in the directors work of late), to the stylings of Blur’s sighing ‘Sing’ and eventually “Trainspotting”s saddest sonic cue, ‘Perfect Day”, as Renton is swallowed whole by his poison, only to be returned to his childhood bedroom in the arms of his father. The end of the tracks. Did Boyle’s film glamorise heroin? Of course it did. This was a cool film set to cool music, populated by dangerous punks and chic wastoids. Even the cold Turkey scene, what should be a sombre cautionary moment in the film, was played out to the stylings of killer techno. Only, in Trainspotting the real tragedy of junkiedom isn’t death, but the misery of the living ghost, who is neither dead nor truly alive.

The book’s title, Welsh drawing a parallel between the existential stagnancy of the junkie and that of the forever waiting metrophile, also derives from a chapter towards the end of the novel. In the chapter, Renton and Begbie are approached by a frail wino while pissing up against Leith Central station, who asks the pair if they are trainspotting and is duly set upon by Begbie. In a truly poignant bit of writing, the man, it transpires, is Begbie’s father. It’s a rare moment of pathos in Welsh’s otherwise stony oeuvre. Boyle picked up on this vein of melancholy running through Welsh’s novel and ran with it. Gus Van Sant’s comparable “Drugstore Cowboy” is imbued with this same sense of anomic deflation, as is the film adaptation of Luke Davies’ heroin memoir’ “Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction”, another great entry in the drug-movie canon which, like Boyle’s film, conveys the surreal, amnesiac nature of junkiedom when you’re out of time with the world, with reality, and no longer care either way. Camus’ line from “The Stranger” – “Today mother died. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know” – could easily be the words of Renton were it delivered in a strong Scottish accent. Note the similarities in Renton’s “I think Allison had been screaming all day, but it hadn’t really registered before. She might have been screaming for a week for all I knew.” Like the trainspotter, recalled Davies, the junkie orders his life in units of longueur: “They say that for every ten years you’ve been a junkie, you’ll have spent seven of them waiting.”


In many ways, nowhere in British popular art is melancholy more keenly felt than in the good old British pop song. For a pop golden era, Britpop was unusually flush with melancholy, whether it was Pulp channelling the faded glamour of post-industrial Sheffield or Blur and their fusion of Kinks-ian blues and sour post-punk tracks about English banality. Both bands were selected for Trainspotting’s soundtrack, but not just for the fact that a soundtrack featuring hip acts would shift units. Contrary to contemporary critical consensus, these were important bands, essential in documenting and defining what it was to be young and British in the afterlife of Thatcherism, and whose rich and textured literariness and knack for social commentary is unimaginable in white British pop today in this our blank Coldplay-wracked lyrical wasteland. Pulp’s “Mile End” with Cocker detailing his squalid working class existence in pre-gentrified East London, is as good an example of the pop song as tragicomedy as any produced in the post-punk era and therefore serves as the perfect soundtrack to the Trainspotting’s most wretchedly hilarious chapter when a fugitive Begbie and a bored Sickboy gate-crash Renton’s new London dream. Is there anything more British than having a bunch of cunts for mates? When, following the drug deal, the friend’s short-lived bonhomie ends inevitably in a terrible act of violence, the tragic side-on shot of Begbie and Renton, bathed in the jaundiced afternoon half-light of a grotty boozer, captures them in their shared and lowly fate, a condemned Renton staring his future, his enslaver, in the face, as slowly Begbie exhales. The shot sags with a heart-breaking resignation.

There was Eno’s synth inversion of cowboy ennui, “Deep Blue Day”, and Heaven 17’s “Temptation”, a glittering 80s melodrama with oodles of Saturday night desperation beneath its shrill grandeur. Like the dying vestiges of more innocent times, or a fading memory of Rent’s childhood, New Order’s sad-pop classic “Temptation” floats around the periphery of the film – an echo of the 80s which indeed is a decade whose shadow looms large over Trainspotting – with Sumner’s girlish, smitten lyrics cooed nursery rhyme-like by Diane in the shower during the ever mysterious ‘girl on a bicycle’ shot and again in the cold turkey sequence. “Ooh you’ve got green eyes / ooh you’ve got blue eyes…”

But it is Pulp’s “Sing” – in my opinion Alburn and co.’s masterpiece – that cuts closest to the film’s sad soul. Baby Dawn has died, Renton cooks a shot for her grieving mother, but not before he gets his; that goes without saying. If there’s any one moment in Trainspotting that conveys heroin’s toll on the soul, on the user’s humanity, it’s this one. And so on and on they go “piling misery on misery” stealing, running, cooking, falling, as alongside the looping piano line and Alburn’s sweetly sorrowful falsetto – the numbest, faintest expression of hope in 90s guitar music – the vicious cycle of addiction turns over once more, returning the film to its opening scene. “Sing”, like “Perfect Day”, is all about the impossibility of redemption when you’re a honest-to-goodness, card-carrying heroin addict. Happiness is for the normal. Even the film’s upbeat ending – an era-defining film closing with an era-defining track, seems infused with the suggestion of imminent catastrophe. Looking ahead, the day you die.

The 10 Best Moments In Music in 2012
January 9, 2013, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Features, Uncategorized


1. Frank Ocean puts pen to paper, changes r’n’b: “4 summer ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too.”
2. Liars go FULL DANCE.
3. “Why they hide their bodies under my garage?” You got me, chief.
4. Luke Temple dances his way out of depression.
5. This drop: (2:21)
6. This beat:  (2:24)
7. This video:
8. Tom Krell admits he’s all fucked up, asks for help, is offered redemption – over a keening coalescence of viola and cello (2:11) like god’s wolf whistle. In the words of Jack, strangers with this kind of honesty make me go a big rubbery one.
9. From No Love’s big hitter, Ride’s voice finally cracks, splintering in hatred (1:44). Madness beckons, but not until he shows us the true meaning of a beat-down.
10. Evian Christ reenters orbit (2:50). One of the tracks of the year from the deconstructive hip-hopper.

Plutonium Blondes: Apocalypse Playlist
May 7, 2011, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Features, The Quietus, Uncategorized

We’re trying to work here, and talk to girls, but all we keep thinking about is World War Three.

To get you up to speed – it’s Friday, it’s Spotify-list time, and not accounting for wind direction, almost everyone east of Marrakesh will be dead by Thursday lunchtime. The good news is – that includes Magaluf.

I’m exaggerating, of course. But every now and then, you get a feeling it’s only a matter of time. “Heaven knows what keeps mankind alive” as David Byrne sang on ‘Home’. There’s India and a smugly nuclear Pakistan at logger-heads after the Mumbai massacre; there’s American reconstruction financiers circling an unstable Iran, while Ahmadinejad enriches uranium like stirring mother’s hot jam. Then there’s Obama’s new NPT provision,which runs roughshod over accepted rules for pre-emptive nuclear war. And to cap it off, Africa is fucked and global world terrorism has increased seven-fold since the invasion of Afghanistan, and then there’s this. North Korea’s first attack on civilians in the South since 1953 certainly pushes Quietus’ doomsday clock a couple of minutes closer to midnight. We’re trying to work here, and talk to girls, but all we keep thinking about is World War Three.

If you haven’t been following the ‘Inter-Korean Crisis’, here’s how the numbers stack up so far. After definitely not torpedoing South Korean warship Cheonan in June, on Tuesday, North Korea – the world’s only officially nuclear dictatorship – raised a couple of dozen buildings on neighbouring South Korean island Yeonpyeong, killing four and injuring scores, with many fleeing the island by, uh, ferry. In response, the goodies, ha, sorry, I mean the South Koreans blew off some rounds too, dropping eighty or so shells onto significant military targets beyond the maritime border. Boys will be boys, eh? North Korean casualties remain unknown, mostly because it’s arguably the most perfectly realised Totalitarian state in history, a ‘hermit kingdom’, which means no one really knows exactly what is going on in the nation’s capital, Pyongyang.

It was all hands on deck in the ensuing hours, with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-Young squaring up with the sinister “Enormous retaliation should be made to the extent that [North Korea] cannot make provocations again”. And in a slightly more childish statement, North Korean overlord Kim Jong-Li (little guy; think Elton John in video for ‘Sacrifice’) threatened retaliation “If the South violate its sea border, even by 0.001 of a millimeter”. Ha. It’s also worth noting Fox News’ immediate response. On their segment show ‘Fox and Friends’ (sounds like a children’s talk show) a guest ‘expert’ advised the Stiffler-like anchorman (more of a wrestling commentator) that America should ‘take out’ the entire North Korean naval fleet. God bless the BBC, is all I can say.

Both countries have been eyeing each suspiciously since Tuesday, with the rest of the world calling for restraint after Seoul scrambled fighter jets, declaring a state of heightened alert. Britain chided politely, Germany and France tendered their interests and Japan deployed Samsung-owned snipers on their western coast in fear of Korean refugees approaching from the Sea of Japan. America have pledged support for South Korea (the eighth largest exporter in the world – it makes good business sense) whilst China, the primary benefactors to North Korea (handy for buffering a land war) responded with the diplomatic equivalent of “Sorry, what? Nah, missed it mate. Nice lapels, by the way. EVERYBODY RUN. SCARPER LIKE FUCK!”

Of course the North Korean threat has always loomed on the horizon of the South’s unrelenting economic growth. They even wrote a film about it, symbolised by the gun-metal coloured amphibian in Southie Blockbuster The Host. Recently however, North Korea has made a few changes in personnel, and the new management are a cause for concern. Coinciding exactly with the recent unrest, is the ascendency of Kim Jong -Il’s successor and youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, introduced to the world at last month’s ICBMs & Pringles mixer in Pyongyang. Because analysts can only speculate to the political stability of North Korea, the attacks could either be Junior’s way of getting the country’s hard-line military on board, or more worryingly the military have rejected the succession are are challenging his authority. Either way, there’s a bad moon rising, or a bad Un, if you like.

So, cannibalism has broken out in Iceland, marshal law is declared in Dublin, and Sarah Palin has another shot at the presidency in 2012. Here in Northern Ireland conveyance solicitors are washing cars on my street to make rent, our yellow ‘library express’ bus has been converted into a suicide ambulance, and I’m out of coffee. American casualties in Iraq surpass the numbered dead on 9/11 (3,500 as of this October past, though nothing compared to the 1.3 million Iraqis) and Simon Cowell is immortal. What better time, then, to put your feet up and enjoy The Quietus’ very own exit strategy, our apocalypse-themed / Inter-Korean inspired extravaganza of bad puns and bad headed pop. John Calvert

“You can’t fight in here gentlemen. This is the war room!”

L7 ‘Wargasm’
Billy Joel ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’
Can ‘Mushroom’
Future Of The Left ‘Real Men Hunt In Packs’
Delta 5 ‘Mind Your Own Business’
Bauhaus ‘Double Dare’
Salem ‘Asia’
Magazine ‘Shot By Both Sides’
Outkast ‘B.O.B.’
Burial ‘Southern Comfort’
Yoko Ono & Jason Pierce ‘Walking On Thin Ice’
Pere Ubu ’30-Seconds Over Tokyo’
The Jim Carroll Band ‘People Who Died’ Pixies ‘Wave Of Mutilation’ (UK Surf)
OMD ‘Enola Gay’
Portishead ‘Threads’
Vera Lynn ‘We’ll Meet Again’
Minutemen ‘Paranoid Chant’

JGB, Interplay and Ghosts
April 13, 2011, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized, Unpublished

JGB Interplay and Ghosts

_words John Calvert


After kissing goodbye you walk up through the concourse, assessing the local night-crawlers as you travel. You pass through the phantasmagoric bustle into a narrow side-alley. The abrupt disparity of volume precipitates a visceral sensation of sudden solitude. It’s oppressive. You feel embraced but naked. So you’re travelling this energy-pocket, this infinitesimal nook of the greater urban matrix, this something / nothing repurposed by the human traffic. The wonderers impose new imaginations on the concrete that the city planners could never have anticipated; extracting the ‘hidden architectural intentions’. In that way we own it; or our minds too for the duration of our stay. The sound of your footprints are reformed, pitching up, then down, starved and dry, gated thumps on a hollow patio – the city making its impression on you, changing you with dead echo and unnatural contours. As you pass below the obnoxious sodium orange, your shadow emerges from beneath your feet then elongates smoothly to a distance of 10 metres. At its tip is a person. Before it’s too late the faceless creature passes by at an erotic proximity. Another close encounter with another stranger, in a strange land.

This Is Interplay.

Hauntology academic Peter Buse’s description of the ghost as neither of the present or of the past perfectly describes Interplay; as do Foxx’s own ‘sound recording as séance’ ideas or his ruminations on the ‘ghosts of the media age’: specifically the way in which media from the past “haunts the creative acts of our present and future”.

However. Mouth-watering though it may be to imagine a cross between Foxx’s classic Ballardian diagrams and modern-day hauntology, to categorise Interplay as ghostly in the Pink / Salem / Demdike Stare sense is drawing an incorrect parallel. This is a pop album, in the traditional sense, all spiky perspicacity and a brittle magnetism.

The distinction is thus: rather than channel the ghost, Foxx is the ghost, returned to us here to walk that thoroughfare of vintage Ballardian psycho-geography, repeating a flickering transmission in 15-second loops forever, in more or less his past self form c.1980.

On Interplay with the multitude of various treatment distorting his voice, Foxx inhabits his own concept of spectrality, which in interviews he forms around the video records of Marilyn Monroe – elaborated on here in Foxx’s conversation with Stereoklang: “made of light and electricity, she talks dances, sings, smiles, yet she has been dead for forty years, she is dust – yet she lives on”.

It’s important to note how on the money the electro-deity was in the Hauntology respect:

The attendant tune to Foxx’s Monroe fixation – ‘Dust and Light’ from 2003’s Crash And Burn contains prototypes of Mike Powell’s concepts, especially that of ‘the anamorph’ and the peripheral location of ‘the ghost’ in any effective spook story: “Sometimes I’ve seen you walking among the population /Hidden in the margins for a while / Flickering through the faces and the times / Glittering in the corner of my eye’.

Consider too Foxx’s recent comparisons between his avant material and a séance, or his points in a recent interview with Fortean Times: “We still use the term ‘medium’ to describe a modern technological communications process, for instance, when this was previously used as a term for someone who claimed to communicate with spirits”.

cf.K-Punk saw it wise to interrogate Foxx on concepts closely connected to the subject, way back in 2006.

cf. Foxx’s take on the discourse seems closely alignment with the J-horror concept of the ghost – a something which exists in the non-spaces of television static, telephone wires, cctv footage and other virtual dimensions of modern tech.

cf. In Nineties hard sci-fi novel Snow Crash – a study on memetics and archeology – the television static is a gateway into a metaverse.

cf. In Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist the little girl breaks the fourth wall backwards, into the negative expanses the girl is a tv tommy type who’s habits put her closer to the spirit world. She’s a blonde button nosed paragon of americanism; a very hauntological-esque figure. The television is her portal.

cf. Between events at The Red Room, Lynch often cuts away to the TV Snow, so to reimpose the artifice and hyperreality on the viewer.

cf. Applicable to Interplay, Wire magazine have described how James Blake makes music that is a memory of itself.

October 11, 2010, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Art police wanker on patrol: foot notes and brain squiggles from overblown BRH review(pedantry, purple self-indulgence and over-analysation).

Ever tried to watch a film when people are talking – not whispering -talking . You’re thinking ‘can’t they at least whisper?’ and you consider saying something politely, or if the trailers are over and you’re missing vital plot points maybe a loud ‘shut the fuck up’ to triumphant applause from the audience, the girl with the torch, Scarlette Johasson who weirdly is there too and fancies you, and the projector guy. Then again, there’s definitely a man’s voice in there. What if he’s big? So now you’re having sublimely ridiculous fantasies about ducking his punch before propelling him an improbable 25 foot through plate glass, followed with a pay-off quip worthy of Tarantino-esque savoir faire and…. shit your missing the cool motorbike bit and what’s the significance of the ‘totem’, again? Well, that’s what it’s like listening to Penny Sparkle. in the foreground. The songs BRH wrote in isolated New York countryside are pleasing, the industrial fairytale post-punk production in the Bjork/ Fever Ray vein tacked onto Penny Sparkle in Stockholm? That’s those people talking, when all you want to do is appreciate the cinematic beauty. Its just nags at you before you finally have to say something.

They’ve abandoned the retro terrain of gauze and lace on 23 for the open arms of don-of-modern-anguish, producer Alan Moulder and reduction duo Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid, obviously shy of a doomed chanteuse between producing Fever Ray albums and remixes Bat For Lashes. The pillowy synth-pop, recorded between New York and Sweden, attempts to ingest come of Stockholm’s gothic legacy and sterile geometry.

At points Misery compared to tip-toeing the floorboards of a vast victorian jewellery box, with Makino the doomed miniature ballerina spinning at the centre. It felt like standing in the dust and quiet of your dead grandmother’s neatly arranged bedroom, carefully fingering hand-painted ivory broaches, untangling hair from mother of pearl vanity. This time, though, their tendency towards mimicry and wan acquisition has stepped on one artistic pinky-toe too many.

sober and sombre, ‘authenticity’ people say, it gives legitimacy and dignity to the misery of silhouetted misery guts everywhere, passion and glamour to mundane chronic discontent. The paranoiac-insomniac reverie brh aspire to. imprisoning certitude., Scandi primitivism and nature worship, the throat-catching freudian terror of Nordic bedtime stories.

This review, oh shit. I drafted four conclusions and identified 19 variations of the word ‘disquieting’. I’ve watched The Moomins,, listened to Bjork talk about The Moomins, made a moomin out of paper and wrote an analogy for Blonde Redhead’s new album as like having a fight with people in the cinema, but with moomins.

Unfortunately Mikino’s vocal dominates Penny Sparkle, which could just as easily have been her solo outing. It’s telling she spent a portion of her time away from the brothers Pace, in Stockholm with the producers. contributes to a spirit of tastefulness, which in music is the anti-despair. Horror is a hard thing to nail, especially the impish, absurdist kind first rendered by The Residents forties years ago and perfected by The Knife. In different circumstances Kazu Mikono’s vocals are their strong play. Karin Dreijer Andersson’s fascination with voice-changers makes more sense in SHARP relief.

As gorgeous as it can get on there at times, Penny Sparkle is DREARY. Palish grey as opposed to the chiaroscuro purity conjured by their fore-bearers, a stock and sometimes odiously crass approximation of some of the most important music in millennial Europe. The sterile romance amidst atrophic mundanity.

Moomins: creepy little albino Casper the-friendly-ghost-lookin’ hippo incubus.
And to think that for around ten years Eighties kids were subjected to the paper-cut animation, after-school nightmare fodder that is The Moomins, a parable warning against Atomic age self-destruction. Hardly Biker Mice From Mars, is it? That the Danes for you.
Right up there with chocky, rentaghost and the plain fucked-up moondial, to the danes the Moomins its mickey mouse, o everyone else its an open door with two eyes watching from the gloom. (the driving plot to 2010’s 3d film is an impending apocalypse). Sorry mickey, shit just got real. The steamboat is killing her world, the sub prime bubble has burst and god will return to destroy his wayward children, they’re be fewer plants.

the captain..

One thousand stories and there’s always more
We’ve been offered one more lap to go
In my hand I hold a key
It’s dear to me ’cause I know where it leads

Penny Sparkle is a trite and sometimes eye-roll inducing gauche approximation of some of the most important music in millenial Europe.