Sunday, 18 December 2011


10. Wild Beasts - Burning


One very positive thing about 2011 was an absence of guitars right across the board. Until some profound structural upheaval changes pop music in ways we can’t now apprehend, there is nothing interesting to be done with the guitar whatsoever. We’ve gone way, way beyond that point.

Encouragingly, the pop world seems to have finally reached a broad-based consensus about this, after a dystopian phase in the mid-to-late noughties, which now, with the benefit of hindsight, seems like the final Wagnerian climacteric of a horrible dying animal.

That said, I do quite like Wild Beasts (a guitar band), partly for reasons outlined here. I spent most of this year revisiting their peerless debut album, but Smother had a handful of magic moments on it, notably this gorgeous, guitar-free microcosm, which was also a nice showcase for the peppery vocal tones of my fave Beast, bassist Tom Fleming.


9. Gang Gang Dance - Glass Jar

Okay okay, this is all getting a bit Pitchfork, I know. But the whole point of these things is to try to delineate the obvious/canonical, right? Better that than some narcissistic, point-scoring litany of obscurities.

Glass Jar is eleven and a half minutes of exciting, dramatic, variegated music. It’s innovative in an organic, unassuming way. There are continual surprises in the arrangement as it builds towards a rainbow-burst climax.

It’s hipster-tastic but who gives a shit? Hipsters are people too! Glass Jar is beautiful and yearning and puts you in mind of what the spirit-level mainstream of independent music might’ve sounded like if Britpop and nu-rock had never happened. I suppose, actually, that’s what I’m trying get at with all of this carping shite.


8. P.J. Harvey - On Battleship Hill

As Linton Kwesi Johnson once put it, “Inglan is a bitch, dere’s no escapin it”. Yet ironically, in a terrible year of revived jingoism and pernicious Tory cultural ascendancy, I was finally able to admit to myself that I am, if not English, then at least some kind of British.

Spending a bit of time in the States, the good aspects of the UK finally became blindingly apparent: The North. Football. The Beeb. Dickens. The thousands of churches. History. The Socialist heritage. Cities where the buildings are in close proximity to each other and feel like they’ve been collectively organised. The NHS. A basic atmosphere of interconnectedness. Full measure pints. Blake. Shane Meadows. Carl Neville. Activism. The Beatles. Immigrants. Accents. Moors. Stones. Mountains. The Sea.

Let England Shake seemed to fit with this personal context. But more importantly it also seemed widely resonant and of-the-moment in a way that few popular artworks manage to be. The “Englishness” trend reached an apogee this year, so it was good that one of its chief mainstream representatives was an album that used eloquent poetry and killer tunes to speak of English insurrection and unrest rather than pastoral cliché. Even Geoffrey Hill was “not entirely displeased”.


7. SBTRKT - Heatwave

My disappointment in the James Blake album was and is unrelenting. I know there are some astonishing sonic moments on it, but I just cannot countenance THAT FUCKING YELPY FUCKING FAUX-COLLOQUIAL EMO VOICE. 

Lots of the tunes on the SBTRKT album suffer from the same blight: hackneyed melodramatic vocal lines slapped on top of otherwise superlative post-dubstep pop. Fortunately the female vocalists just about save the day (cf. Pharoahs, Wildfire).

Then there’s the scintillating (instrumental) opening track. It’s difficult to feel too sceptical about the future of British music after hearing tunes like this. The beating heart of a popular avant-garde is still there, it just needs a bit of massaging.


6. Rustie - Hover Traps

I’m not sure about this “maximalism”. Clearly it has some application as a way of describing a broad shift away from the minimal, but the idea that arrangements have become progressively denser because of home recording techniques doesn’t really fit with the actual texture of the music. That argument would be much better applied to, say, Animal Collective, wouldn’t it?

Take this Rustie tune. There are only about 4 or 5 main instrumental parts playing at any one time, and there’s a good deal of negative space in the rhythmic arrangement (note the remarkably funky syncopation of the hook, which relies on multiple tiny rhythmic silences for its effect).

How about this: the maximal trend, if it exists, is a question of intensity rather than density. By this I mean that an artist like Rustie is relying on “massive”, impassioned hooks, accelerated time signatures and dynamic contrasts rather than dense wall-of-sound layering. It’s not so much technologically-induced franticity as good old-fashioned Scottish Romanticism (Hegelian hugeness ... Bonkers-meets-Braveheart ...). 


5. M83 - Midnight City

If I was being strictly faithful to the pop gods, this would be my number one. Out of all the tunes here, this is the one with the most exuberant, ecstatic, instantly graspable hook, the tune that most pleases the heart rather than the head, the tune least reducible to discursive analysis. Talk about maximal intensity!

But then, as a cultural phenomenon, M83 has become very fucking annoying hasn’t he? The voice is getting yelpier, the music cokier, the hipster fanbase more and more irksome. And the verses in Midnight City don’t really exist do they?

There’s also the fact that it became a kind of signature tune for Made in Chelsea. Have you ever seen Made in Chelsea? I saw one episode a few weeks ago and haven’t quite recovered enough yet to be able to talk about the experience intelligently. I’m serious. It was really shocking.


4. Nicki Minaj - Super Bass, Moment 4 Life

Geoffrey Hill on Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s painting Dulle Griet (“Mad Meg”), in the third Oxford Professor of Poetry lecture, May 2011:
“The head is thrust forward, the toothless mouth open, and there is a mad stare in the left eye looking straight ahead at nothing.” I would be very much happier about the condition of poetry in English in the first and second decades of this century if I could look at a poem or a book of poems by one or more contemporaries and say [the above] of them …There needs to be, I would hazard, more especially at the present time, a Dulle Griet element in any work that attracts concentrated attention. And I very much regret that the role of Mad Meg seems to have devolved upon me in my thrice-yearly appearances on this platform. Among the current wave of stand-up comedians and rap musicians, there may be someone capable of taking on the role of Mad Meg …

3. Drake - Crew Love 

Drake’s Take Care was the album of the year. Consistently listenable, frequently funny, and disarmingly sad in the best possible sense, this was a record of tragic scope and wondrous sonic variety.

James Skewered Seal Blake was apparently a major influence production-wise, but surely Burial would be a better point of comparison. Listen to the glacial melancholy of the segue from Marvin’s Room into Buried Alive (natch) for an illustration.

Crew Love seemed to irritate some people but for me it’s the keystone of the album. There’s such a fantastically uncanny disconnect between the platitudinous machismo of the lyrics and the profound bleakness of the music. Ostensibly this is a song about male solidarity, but the attempt to avow fellowship and soulfulness is everywhere undermined by the surrounding framework, so that, for example, the line “And really I think I like who I’m becoming” seems to suggest the exact opposite. Desperate pathos drips from every dark aperture of this guy’s lyrical universe:
Smoking weed under star projectors
I guess we’ll never know where Harvard gets us
But seeing my family have it all
Took the place of that desire for diplomas on the wall

2. Destroyer - Kaputt

Okay, so this year Retromania finally exposed The Real of the twenty-first century zeitgeist (namely, that pop long ago ate itself and is now some way into the post-prandial nap, having taken a fistful of valiums before nodding off). All that was required was for someone to actually come out and say it, Khrushchev-style. Now someone has done this definitely, we can all, y’know, move on.

I had planned to write a long pretentious essay about Destroyer and the final dissipated twilight hours of pop, but after the catharsis provided by Mr Reynolds’s book, coupled with all the other encouraging political irruptions of this year, I’m actually feeling a lot more positive about things generally.

In sum, I don’t actually feel like pop music is kaputt any more. There are plenty of embryonic signs of life roundabout, and now it looks there’s a good chance we might imminently have a revived counterculture to give the whole thing some meaning again. Still: “Sounds, Smash Hits, Melody Maker, NME, all sounds like a dream to me”. Dan Bejar you are a very clever man.

1. Rihanna - We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris

We found our love in a hopeless place: the essence of the pop song in eight perfectly chosen words. 

Monday, 5 December 2011


Look, I know the Stone Roses reunion still has embarrassing farce written all over it. But ... I'm increasingly tempted to say fuck the scepticism. And a wonderful thought dawns: what would happen if we actually started taking this seriously? Mightn't this have the potential to be part of a wider sea-change in 2012?

Surely we haven't completely lost the ability to look beyond irony and amusement and see something meaningful in a cultural event. Okay, the reunion isn't helped by the fact that it slots into the nostalgia circuit/retromania zeitgeist. But this shouldn't necessarily rule out its significance.

Try reading the following extracts from John Robb's account of last night's Brown-Squire Hillsborough benefit performance with something other than urbane cynicism:
As the band lurch from ‘Bankrobber’ to ‘Armageddon Time’ and Ian takes the vocal again that sense of camaraderie and of the real idea of ‘we’re all in it together’ extends from the stage to the audience...

The night winds on, Ian Brown is talking about the north and the power of Liverpool and Manchester being together and how the two cities can take on the world, some drunk in the bar tries to get Ian to slag off Oasis but he wont have any of it pointing out that ‘in Manchester we stick together’...  

I stand there and think about punk rock and the way that it must have been there in medieval times and before and how that we are all in our own little ways just carrying the flame from one generation to the next...

There’s something quite moving and important about a big Manchester United fan like Ian Brown making this statement of solidarity with the Liverpool fans over this call for justice but then Ian knows that this is a bigger story than of rival clubs. He knows that this is a story of the contempt the authorities have for people and that the demand for justice on this tour is universal and not just about one team. Like Mick Jones- who’s a big QPR fan- this is about the bigger picture, this is about the way that people died that horrible afternoon and that way that football and rock n roll integrate in our culture and resound so strongly with us. It’s about the way that the people’s music is the perfect match for the people’s game and it’s about that ancient cry of justice that is so part and parcel of all the great rock n rolls...

I'm increasingly getting the sense that, if this sort of thing manages to rise above the likely blandishments of the media coverage, the reunion might have the potential next summer to be a vociferous radical statement with genuinely populist resonance.

Why don't we see what happens when we start believing it will be?

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Some thoughts on heaven as other people in the latest issue of the Oxford Left Review.

Great stuff from the other contributors, especially Cailean Gallagher's piece on Scottish independence.

Monday, 14 November 2011


The division will not be over whether or not they are seen ... but over how they are seen; as the gilded-cage justifiers of petty-minded conservatism and fear, or as the developers (even if not the actual originators) of all that is open and challenging and outward-looking in mass culture, as the voice of the working class speaking out against elite abuses of power and in favour of the global unity of the proletariat. Let us hope that the passing of time eventually allows the latter view of the Beatles to decisively win. If the former view wins, Cameron and Welch and Adkins and the BRIT School will also have won, and we will all be infinitely poorer for it. If the latter view wins, grime and dubstep and the unacknowledged, still unkillable radical lineage in British society will also have won, if only by proxy, and we will all be - in all the senses that matter - immeasurably richer.

Robin Carmody offers a nicely Ruskinian summary of the Beatles.

While we're on the subject, that Scorcese George Harrison documentary is very watchable isn't it? Although it does lack the narrative richness - and, I'm afraid to say, the good tunes - of No Direction Home. The thing that strikes me about The Beatles increasingly is their historically unique embodiment of solidarity and team spirit. In the docu Eric Clapton says something like: "they were like one person"; it does seem that a large amount of The Beatles' elan and brilliance inhered in the communication of this quality of unity and anti-egotism to the world at a moment when egalitarianism was briefly prevailing, doesn't it?

I know it's a truism of "Fab crit" to say this, but all the best Beatles moments came when they helped each other out, when they managed to transcend their egos by way of the group. A good example of this from the Scorcese documentary is the performance of "If I Needed Someone". It's a pretty mediocre song, but when John and Paul come in with the harmonies the second time around it suddenly lifts into the magic place:

The Beatles presented a very basic foregrounding of co-operation and friendship, so basic in fact that it was probably destined to be travestied in the ensuing years, to the point that it now seems like a sort of lobotomised, Friends-style message of slumber-party chumminess. It takes an effort of imagination to recover the profound, radical singularity of The Beatles' ethos of fellowship, anti-individualism, and love.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Just read Stewart Lee's splendidly baroque piece about Ricky Gervais's almost unbelievable new venture.

One of the more encouraging developments of the past year or so has been a gradually dawning, what-were-we-thinking realisation that noughties Brit comedy was an utterly morally bankrupt final travesty of the notion of "alternative comedy". If anyone still doubted that Little Britain was a sinisterly bigoted attack on the weak, after Come Fly With Me this view was no longer tenable. Similarly, the bizarre disability sadism of this "Derek Noakes" thing will probably make people look much less fondly on The Office and its oh-so-ironic wheelchair/midget/sexism gags.

The Gervais project that really riled me though, the point at which the whole edifice came tumbling down and I began to feel profoundly guilty for ever finding The Office funny, was this:

It's quite a short step from this squinting, buffoonish northerner to Down Syndrome sufferer Derek Noakes isn't it? Sometimes I think I get carried away with the north-south divide thing, but when I look at stuff like this, all doubts vanish. Comedy is supposed to dismantle hierarchy and suggest alternative worlds by targeting and undermining power. So what on earth is going on when supposedly alternative - but actually extremely wealthy and influential - comics choose the working class north as a primary target of satire? Oh yeah, what is required of satirists in an age of spiralling inequality, unimaginable elitism and barbarous wars is a lampooning of ethnic minorities, the disabled, and minimum wage workers in depressed former manufacturing towns. What kind of insane bourgeois fetish is this? And what does this cultural stuff say about the distribution of power in the UK more generally?

Even 15 years ago Gervais's shtick would never have flown. For all its flaws, something like The Fast Show is a record of the notably less mean-spirited, more establishment-ridiculing, stereotype-inverting culture of pre-noughties alt-comedy:

Friday, 11 November 2011


Was Thatcherism very marginally more compassionate than Blairism-Cameronism? Just saying like.

I was getting a bit worried for a while back there. It would be just like NUF-fucking-C to go and start playing really well, right when I've got this book coming out that uses them as a pop cultural paradigm for the failure of neoliberalism and why big-business is recklessly hell-bent on self-destruction.

Thankfully, Ashley has come through again.

Take away the profound underlying seriousness of the whole thing, and it's a sort of folk-opera isn't it? I wonder if we'll look back on these episodes after the revolution with misty-eyed fondness (eg. "Do you remember that Mike Ashley?" "Ah yes, he was a complete fucking prick wasn't he?" "True, but he knew how to make PR decisions that looked like bizarre situationist pranks intended to gradually radicalise the populace, didn't he?" "Yes indeed, a worthy adversary and a born entertainer! A shame, in a way, that he was decapitated and hung by his own entrails from the Sports Direct sign on the Gallowgate End during the 2018 rising." "A shame indeed Comrade Keegan, a shame indeed. Those were the days").

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Extract from a letter Basil Bunting wrote to Ezra Pound, February 1931:

ENGLAND. If Wales and the North don’t rise this autumn, there’s little hope of anything but extinction. The new program of the T.U.C. should be drawn up quite simply, thus:
 1.     Hang Rothschild and a select retinue of “merchant bankers”.
2.     Confine Rothermere in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum with public warning to Beaverbrook and the Berries.
3.     Warn Australia Canada S Africa that if they dont both pay up their proportionate share of the cost of the fleet and loosen up a bit on the immigration restrictions, they will be put up for public auction to any buyer who cares to undertake the job of reconquering them, such as Germany or the U.S.A.
4.     No import dues, and a bloody big supertax.
5.     Abolish the game laws.
6.     Abolish the Home Office.
7.     Confiscate the church lands and royalties After that elect a new house of Commons and omit to summon any of the hereditary peers to parliament.

Monday, 7 November 2011


Interesting avant-garde response to recent events from an American poet.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


Guardian article, on the let-them-eat-cupcakes zeitgeist.

Weirdly, pretty much simultaneously with my piece there was another comment feature based on a discussion about the death of the protest song between Billy Bragg and this lad:

Couldn't really have hoped for better empirical illustration of my argument.

Some great morsels from (Bedales alumnus and former Holby City star) Flynn:

It's confusing to know where to put your energies now. I don't have a Twitter account, because I want to ... put my creative energy into writing songs.

My direction, what I'm drawn to, is overcoming cynicism, but in a more abstract form.

... there are a lot of musicians whose songs are all about feeling, and it's almost like that's the only safe place to express yourself.
Where people come from has no relevance.

Monday, 31 October 2011


Note the lingering trace of compassion in Clegg's physiognomy here. He might be a mega-wanker, but he'll never be a Tory.

Friday, 28 October 2011


Football might only be a game, but it's still unquestionably the most symbolically important expression of a collective identity we have.

So this seems like a pretty hopeful symbolic development to me.

And there's some pretty moving symbolism in this, too:

Thursday, 27 October 2011


So the gist of the call was: her boyfriend’s mother was upset by my page, and her dad “risked his life fighting against apartheid in South Africa”. My grandfathers both risked their lives fighting for the Axis, so I guess she has that one up over me.

There's something desperately, hilariously 2010s about this ongoing sub-saga. Blogging, nepotism, Twitter, recorded phone conversations, Lady Gaga, a privileged liberal elite trying to cover it's back with vague gestures at radical credentials, the shocking unacknowledged centrality and importance of private education: this is the spirit of the age laid bare innit?

I don't know this guy from Adam but I'd like to heartily thank him for the description, a "Robin Carmody-style chinstroker". Given that I do actually spend much of my time pondering over bullshit and wishing I was a bit more like Robin Carmody, this is a remarkably fitting epithet for me, one that fills me with pride and makes me think I must be doing at least something right. Cheers for that.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Following the below post and comments on the Stone Roses reunion, I've been thinking a lot about why they were so important. I think at heart it's because they were perhaps the ultimate synthetic band: everything they did seemed to join together apparent antitheses (harsh/soft, simplicity/sophistication, individual expressivity/collectivism, guitar music/electronica, and so on). This is why their message remains so radical. They were truly revolutionary because they didn't conform to any of the stereotypes about Britishness. They were neither middle-class art-school wankers in the manner of Blur nor working-class boors in the manner of Oasis; but then nor were they geeky, proletarian "mis-shapes" in the manner of Pulp (cf. Mr Hatherley's latest). In fact they represented the British Establishment's deepest fear: the organised aggregate and sublimation of these disparate elements, an emboldened team of earthy, arty, funny, political, vociferous, populist, intellectual, macho, sensitive lads.

If this sounds gendered, well, I think gender and sex were integral to the opposition-dismantling tendency. To take just one example, check out the lyrics to "Going Down", an insanely gorgeous B-side from 1989:

Dawn sings in the garden
Phone sings in the hall
This boy's dead from two day's life
Resurrected by the call
Penny here we've got to come
So come on round to me
There's so much penny lying here
To touch, taste and tease
Ring a ding ding ding I'm going down
I'm coming round

Penny's place her crummy room
Dansette crackles to Jimi's tune
I don't care I taste Ambre Solaire
Her neck her thighs her lips her hair
Ring a ding ding ding I'm going down
I'm coming round

I'd better come clean and say that I think this is one of the very best lyrics in the history of popular music, no question. But value judgments aside, it's clear that the charm of this comes from its incredibly gentle, disarming brand of machismo. This is the anti-Inbetweeners, if you like: a cheeky, even "laddish" exploration of adolescent sex that is nevertheless utterly respectful, refined, and humane, redolent of some of the finest passages from the prelapsarian sections of Paradise Lost.

I suppose a certain kind of feminist might object to this sort of thing, but frankly I think this would be a huge shame. This is a woman-worshipping song in the sweetest, most generous, most self-abnegating sense, a song about heavenly intimacy that builds up to a description of a "69" juxtaposed with an allusion to Jackson Pollock's Number 5. There's a unique and divine bathos at work here, a magical evocation of that state of mind - not necessarily sexual - when everything blurs and the high becomes low and two people become one and suddenly everything under the sun seems possible. In short, this is the visceral, sensual experience of equality, the bedrock of everything the Stone Roses ever did.

Not many bands are like that.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


The estimable Phil Knight now has his very own, very good blog.

Though it's not something I'm overly familiar with, I've been enjoying his recent occult-oriented posts (see here). By way of a tribute, here's a fantastic picture of early-twentieth century occultist composer/songwriter Peter Warlock (a/k/a Philip Heseltine, a/k/a Brian Sewell's dad), who I've been doing a spot of research on recently:

Primarily I just wanted to share what is without a doubt one of the best photographic portraits I've ever seen. Look at that infernally involuted mouth!

I don't really know much of Warlock's oeuvre, other than the carol service staple Bethlehem Down, which is brilliant I think, largely because of the melisma on the word "down" that seems to pre-empt the sixties, Tomorrow Never Knows, eastern mysticism-meeting-folk revival, that sort of thing:

It's very pop-song-esque isn't it? There's a palpable verse-chorus-hook format, and a Beatles-esque formula of basic, folk/primitive melody being subtly tweaked or warped with unexpected chords to haunting effect. Reading up on Warlock it seems that his approach to music writing was actually quite similar to the later pop tunesmiths: he was self-taught, intent on being a songwriter as opposed to a composer (in the way that many late-romantic English writers were at the time of Vaughan Williams, Gurney, Grainger et al), and a "vertical" rather than a "horizontal" writer according to the account that I read (ie. he was interested in chords, in seeing where rich chordal blocks would take the melody, which recalls Ian MacDonald's view that Lennon and McCartney spontaneously rejected traditional harmony when they lighted on an exploratory, "moving chord shapes around the fretboard" methodology.) 

Anyway, well done Phil, and big up the occult.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Monday, 17 October 2011


Just heard Nic Jones's eponymous debut album for the first time this weekend. Particularly struck by the early nineteenth century Bonaparte ballad "Napoleon's Lamentation":

Attend, you sons of high renown
To these few lines which I pen down:
I was born to wear a stately crown
And to rule a wealthy nation.
I am the man that beat Beaulieu,
And Wurmser's hill did then subdue;
That great Archduke I overthrew,
On every plain my men were slain.
Grand travesty, did I obtain
And I got capitulation.

Well, we chased them on the Egyptian shore
Where the Algerians lay all in their gore.
The rights of France for to restore
That had long been confiscated.
We pursued them all through mud and mire
Till in despair my men retired,
And Moscow Town was set on fire.
My men were lost through sleet and frost;
I ne'er before received such a blast
Since the hour I was created.

Well, in Leipzig Town my soldiers fled,
Mount Mark was strewn with the Russian dead.
We marched them forth, in inveterate streams
For to stop a bold invasion.
So it's fare you well, my royal spouse,
And offspring great to my adore,
And may you reinstate that throne
That's torn away this very day.
These kings of me have made a prey
And they've caused my lamentation.

Eat that Zizek.

Also, "We marched them forth, in inveterate streams" is crazy good isn't it? The whole thing is like Sympathy for the Devil crossed with Yeats's Easter 1916; an ideal mixture of hubris and pathos.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


Great post by Wayne over at the nineties blog on the turn-of-the-millenium, Armand Van Helden, and, err, the Glencoe Massacre. Top stuff.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


The unofficial Newcastle United website is running a competition to publicise the re-release of Gazza Agonistes by Ian Hamilton (first published 1993) in the Faber Finds series.

How is this the first I've ever heard of this book? It sounds AMAZING.

Poet friend of Robert Lowell marries Milton and Gazza, the north-east and the nineties, cultural commentary and Jimmy Five Bellies: what's not to like?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


to Carl, for summing up Folk Opposition better than I ever could.

Monday, 3 October 2011



I have a book coming out later this month. Called Folk Opposition, it's a sort of extended rant/jeremiad/screed, at the end of which I try to gesture at some broad ideas for a revival of grassroots collectivism in the UK.

There's probably something in the book for everyone to disagree with, that being the nature of this kind of thing. At bottom, though, I tried to write something informed by an ideal of commonality, unity, and hope, because, frankly -- and I don't care if this sounds corny or trite -- these sentiments are what I felt was in most need of championing at this particular moment in time; I hope this shines through whatever flaws and contentions you have with the subject matter or means of expression.

The book was written about a year ago now. Although most of it remains fairly topical (and props to Zero for bringing publication forward to ensure this), there are a couple of minor addenda. Firstly, the riots in London this summer represent one of the most notable examples of "folk opposition" in years; obviously, not being able to tackle them is a great regret (although, on the other hand, having been out of the country at the time, I'm not sure I would've felt competent to do this anyway). Secondly, Tom Pickard, who very generously read the manuscript, pointed out that he was unsure that the term "beat poet" was an accurate description of himself. This was a failure of eloquence on my part, for which the explanation that the book was written extremely quickly is hardly an excuse. I know full well that Tom's poetry fits much better into a British Black Mountain/post-Objectivist lineage, as well as connecting back to an older northern tradition of balladry (something I probably should have made more of, given my thesis). In fact, I would urge everyone to come to their own conclusions about Tom's nonpareil poetry by reading it for themselves, and thereby bypassing any maladroit summaries I might be able to offer.

I've tried to thank everyone I know in the Acknowledgements. If you're not there it's probably because I didn't know you well enough earlier this year. Probably the major people to have been omitted in this way are the people I've come into contact with this year through writing for the "decade blogs": Wayne Kasper, Phil Knight, Agata Pyzik, and others, many of whom I know only by their first name or avatar: William, Greyhoos, Zone Styx, Oliver et al. I don't actually know any of you personally but I'd just like to say that my life has been made immeasurably better by being a part of a discussion community with you. Thanks for being so clever and sympathetic and just fucking there.

Anyway, if you'd like to buy the book you can do so here

Cheers, Al.

P.S. Here is a short photo essay to, err, whet your appetites ...

Friday, 30 September 2011


Field Music are a very special band. I forgot about them for a while, and didn't really give 2010's Measure much attention for some reason, but when I finally got around to listening to it properly yesterday I remembered just how precious and unique they are: a truly artful proposition in the pseud-filled landscape of contemporary Brit art-rock.

They're quite prolific (perhaps overly so), so I would recommend some selective playlisting. The first four tunes on Measure are a good place to start:


[A rather endearing un-self-conscious anti-fashion stance is one of the hallmarks of the band. For this alone, they deserve a great deal of credit, as it's probably cost them dearly in terms of sales and acclaim in a fashion-oriented market. On the other hand, their anti-visual aesthetic has also arguably been the making of them -- a way of outlasting the "post-punk revival" scene they were originally lumped in with. Meanwhile, their more hyped, more Topman-friendly pals The Futureheads have not been nearly so lucky.]

[Great magic moment around 1:45 into the above.]

Field Music are the closest thing we've got to a US band like Dirty Projectors. It strikes me that this sort of wayward pop from the fringes of academia is one of the most worthwhile ways in which rock//indie/guitar music/white pop/whatever might evolve. You keep your head down, keep away from London, deal with the industry but keep it at arm's length, maintain a meaningful relationship with your city and its local scene, carry on making low budget videos, etc., and you just might make things work in the long-term.

No version on youtube unfortunately of my all-time favourite FM tune, "Alternating Current", so this other tune from Write Your Own History (a fantastic collection of early b-sides) will have to do:

I also love the motif of brothers. When pop gets the Partnership right (Beatles, Smiths, Oasis) it can lend a powerful anti-individualist emphasis to the music. That said, one of things most worth tracking down is 2008's The Week That Was album, the side project of elder brother Peter Brewis. Again, the best stuff on this isn't on youtube so this (still pretty excellent) single will have to suffice:

David Brewis's School of Language record was release around the same time. Though not as focused as TW2, it still had some belting stuff on it:

Anyway, don't say I didn't warn you.