Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Danzig - 30 years - Live at the Glasgow Barrowlands

Danzig wrote some of the first punk music I heard.  As an 11 or 12 year old primary school kid in the late '80s I heard the metallica version of last caress and I loved it.  I didn't understand the words but I loved the tune.  A year or so later I got a tape with Bullet on it and again I loved it. I then obtained a copy of the misfits album (collection 1) and heard some of their other stuff (earth ad/the album with rollins singing we are 138).

I became aware of samhain and Danzig (the band).  Danzig were actively making music and thankfully, due to a lack of MTV, I never saw the videos.  I only heard the tunes on the first couple of albums and again I loved it.

Danzig stopped writing good music in 1995 when he went industrial but the first 4 albums were good.  I essentially gave up on his new music at that point.  There may be some good stuff in there but I haven't heard it.  Glenn Danzig is probably the last of the classic punk singers that I hadn't seen live (apart from HR who wasn't with the Bad Brains when I saw them).  I couldn't wait to see him live.

It was what I expected.  The live mix wasn't great with the vocals a bit too quiet but for a 63 year old man Danzig still has some moves.  He ran about the stage and interacted with the crowd.  He had a rant about how he was actually singing and how the band were really playing.  He played some hits.

The band came on at about 9:40 PM and we got the set that has been punted around Europe a lot recently.  Sadly he only did a two song encore suggesting that he wasn't too into it himself.  The set included Twist of Cain, Not of this world, Am I Demon, Tired of being alive and Mother as well as She Rides in the encore.

I don't think he'll play Scotland again but I'm glad I saw him.  Childhood dream fulfilled.  Just a shame there wasn't a decent sound engineer

Friday, August 03, 2018

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics by Tim Marshall

This book is fascinating.  We often arrogantly think that human beings shape the history of the world but this book argues that geography shapes human history.  Throughout (and before) recorded history people have been shaped by the land they live in.  Nations have been separated by mountains, trade has developed in flat lands with deep rivers, wars have been fought to protect key approaches to nations.

Geography and geology have guided human behaviour.  When people have tried to create nations by drawing lines on maps they have caused problems by forcing together groups who would prefer separate lives.

After reading this book I felt I had a better understanding of geopolitics and why some countries make some decisions.  I feel I understand the world a wee bit better.  Interesting and an easy read.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Migraine Aura

A visual migraine aura can be an intense experience.  Last night I was using my laptop and watching channel 4 news when my vision began to change on the left side.  Things started to blur and then an irregular oval shape appeared in the left side of my vision.  The rim of this shape was made up of small flashing triangles that were silver and multi-coloured.  This was clearly a migraine aura but much more intense than normal.

It had been a hot day and a thunder storm was forecast.  I tend to get headaches when atmospheric pressure changes and this was a big change.  I realised that half my vision was blurred behind the scintillating scotoma as I looked at myself in the mirror.  I tried to check my physiological blind spot but I couldn't find it.  I took some aspirin and some paracetamol and I put on my sunglasses which helped.

The aura peaked for about 10 to 15 minutes then gradually faded.  I only developed a mild headache, probably because of my early use of aspirin.  I was tired and I went to my bed early.  In my bed, the lightening storm intermittently illuminated the room.  With the overlay of the residual migraine everything felt a bit otherworldly, a bit like an episode of Twin Peaks.  Eventually I fell asleep and I felt a lot better when I woke up this morning.

Most migraines are boring, painful and annoying but this one was fascinating.  I can see how someone experiencing that, not knowing what it was, would be freaked out.  I enjoyed it although I did feel a bit 'disconnected'.  I'm glad I was in my own house and not travelling or working.

Recently, geneticists have suggested that the tendency to migraine may be associated with an ability to sense when the weather is becoming stronger.  That certainly could explain the trigger of some of my headaches.

Lying in bed afterwards I felt like my hearing was heightened and that I could hear all of the individual drops of rain falling.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Paul Simon - Live at the Glasgow Hydro

On Radio 4 on Saturday morning they have a section called 'Inheritance tracks' where people talk about music they have been given by their parents.  When I was a kid I didn't think my parents listened to much music but they had Johnny Cash albums, Bob Dylan stuff, the Beatles and Paul Simon.  When Graceland came out, my dad had the cassette and I essentially stole it.  I just listened to it constantly and I loved the words.  I would have been 9.  It's still a favourite.

Later on I went for the Simon & Garfunkel stuff.  As a teenager I got into them as I was listening to Dylan.  I liked the melodies and the words.  I taught myself how to play the Sound of Silence.

Every now and then I reach for some Paul Simon but I'd never seen him.  When I saw that he was playing a farewell tour I bought tickets with some trepidation.  However it's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done.

We had good seats near the front and we got in about 15 minutes before he came on.  He does look like he has had some botox at some point.  He opened with America and played about 26 songs over two and a half hours.  He had rearranged a few songs and he did a fairly unique version of Bridge Over Troubled Water, in a key more suited to his voice.  Even though it was a big venue he managed to make it seem intimate.  He did a great version of Rene and Georgette Magritte with their dog after the war.  I think he may have played a couple of new songs and some of the arrangements sounded a bit like Lazarus era Bowie.

All of the Graceland era hits were aired as well as some stuff from Rhythm of the Saints.He spoke about E.O. Wilson, his favourite scientist and his book Half Earth.  He spoke a bit about retiring to do other stuff.

We played The Sounds of Silence at my dads funeral so I was happy that Simon closed the night with this song, by himself, with his acoustic guitar.  My dad wasn't a man for concerts but he may have enjoyed the music tonight.  I'm glad I went.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

RIP Steve Ditko

Spiderman always existed in my life.  The cartoons were on the TV when I was a kid.  The dodgy live action TV series from the seventies was still on rotation.  The comic books were about.  It's hard to believe that anyone actually designed and created Spiderman.  But Steve Ditko did create Spiderman.

I think I first read some the early Ditko comics reprinted in UK hardcover Spiderman annuals and the piles of old paper Marvel UK comics that they had in the cupboards at my primary school. The drawings were primitive and nervy.  The character did not look too heroic or cool.  He looked like a misfit teenager, a proper target for bullies.

Ditko also created the weird psychedelic visuals of Dr Strange.  This was a bit at odds with what I understand about his personality.  Ditko was the anti-hippy, a devotee of Ayn Rand.  Eventually he fell out with Stan Lee and moved onto new work.

He did work for DC but he also created the remarkable Mr A, a judge, jury and executioner type who took a hard line on crime.  Alan Moore borrowed heavily from Mr A for Rorschach and even wrote a song about the character with the Emperors of Ice Cream.

I've picked up a few Mr A books over the years and I'd love to see a proper collection.  Ditko kept himself to himself and avoided fame and publicity.  He was probably ripped off by Marvel and never got the money he deserved.

He was an interesting man and we will probably never know much about him.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Glasgow ABC - a great venue

I love the ABC as a music venue.  I, perhaps against mainstream opinion, think it's the best music venue in Glasgow.  I actually like the ABC more than the Barrowlands.  I'm heartbroken that it has been damaged in the fire that has affected the Glasgow School of Art.

Looking through this blog I've seen a lot of bands there.

The Butthole Surfers
Modest Mouse with Johnny Marr
Conor Oberst
TV on the radio in 2011 and 2008 and downstairs in ABC2 in 2006
Crystal Castles
The Vaselines
Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Bonne Prince Billy
Bob Mould
Belle and Sebastian
Supergrass (which I had totally forgotten)
My teenage idol - Jello Biafra

I've seen many other great gigs there too - Ministry, Dag Nasty, Television, Afghan Whigs, Teenage Fanclub, Dinosaur Jr (who were very loud), sleater kinney and many many more.  The sound was good, the views were great.  When I was younger I even went to the nightclub.  The staff were really nice.

I hope that the venue can be salvaged and that they get it repaired.  Glasgow needs the ABC.  Hell, I even remember seeing all the Police Academy films there with my dad when I was a kid and the first Batman film back in 1989.  The though of the building being damaged in a fire like this is just sickening.

My respect goes to all the firemen trying to put out the fire.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Morrissey, where did it go wrong?

I first became aware of Morrissey when I was about ten.  I saw album covers by the Smiths (specifically Meat is Murder).  I liked the cover of Meat is Murder as it had a man wearing an army helmet which I thought was cool.  At the time I was only starting to listen to music and I liked Metallica and Anthrax.  If I heard the Smiths then I was not immediately stricken.  I remember an aunt asking me if 'I liked that Morrissey' because 'he was miserable'.  Obviously I said no.
I guess I started to like the Smiths a few years later when I heard This Charming Man and How Soon is Now?  The music was good, the lyrics were funny, Morrissey seemed like a troubled young man, a bit of a social reject.  You could feel sorry for Morrissey.  He was misunderstood.

But, around 1992, he started to do odd things with flags.  He seemed to be a bit too keen on sidewalks.  He was disco-phobic.  It got worse.  National Front Disco.  What the fuck? It progressed. More and more stupid comments.  A slightly odd autobiography that should have been edited.  Views that became more jingoistic, more English nationalist, more stuck in the past, more gammon, more racist.

Now he defends the leader of the EDL and comes across as a racist Brexiteer.

The Smiths were good but Morrissey, where did it go wrong?  What scared you?  What changed you?   Why are you afraid of the other?  Are we not all the same?  What would the New York Dolls think?

Morrissey, where did it all go wrong?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Solo - film review

I wasn't expecting too much from Solo. The history of the production of this latest Star Wars film, with the half time substitution of Ron Howard for the original directors would normal indicate a bad film.  So far, initial box office for the film has not been record breaking.  Initial reviews have not been glowing.  It's an amazingly warm weekend in Scotland (and an amazingly wet weekend in England) so people have not been flocking to the cinema.

We decided to see Solo at fairly short notice so we didn't get our fancy IMAX seats.  Instead we just popped into the local cinema.  I just wanted to get through the film but I am pleased to report that it is very entertaining and I will certainly look forward to seeing it again.

We meet a teenage Han Solo on his home planet of Corellia trying to escape from oppression with his girlfriend Qi'ra.  Problems occur and they are separated.  Han has adventures and makes a good friend in Chewbacca before encountering Lando and obtaining a famous space ship.  The film, as one would expect, is full of easter eggs for Star Wars nerds and satisfaction is almost guaranteed.

In Solo the baddies are bad and the goodies are good.  It's fun and a good balance for the darkness of Rogue One or The Last Jedi.  It's written by Lawrence Kasdan who gave us both the Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark so the script is a dream.  I went in with low exceptions and I saw a very enjoyable movie.  Looking forward to the next instalment.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

In on the kill taker by Joe Gross

In on the kill taker by Fugazi is my favourite album. I bought it on cassette on the day of its' release. I can't even imagine the number of times I've listened to it in the quarter of a century since then.  Fugazi were a unique band and this is a great record.

Gross has written about it as part of the long running 33 1/3 series. This volume is thicker than many of the other entries in the series and takes material from new interviews with the band members.  We get insight into the genesis of many of the songs and lyrics and great detail about the recording process. I've heard the Steve Albini demo session but I was unaware of the existence of earlier studio recordings of both Instrument and Rend It.

Reading this book made me want to investigate the online Fugazi live series archive further. I have several shows from the archive but it would be interesting to follow the evolution of a few of these tracks.  The personalities and philosophy of the band members shine through as well. These guys tried to live their lives in an honest way and treat people fairly. There is an interesting anecdote about the difference in opinion on ticket pricing between MacKaye and Jeff Nelson which was one of the many factors that led to the demise of Minor Threat.

I was lucky enough to see Fugazi on this tour and two more times and also to see the Evens once. I'm lucky to have experienced so much amazing music in the last 4 decades, Fugazi were massive and a major success on their own terms.

If you are already a fan of the band this book is worth a read. If you haven't heard Fugazi this record is where to start.

Belle and Sebastian at the SWG3 Galvanisers Yard

The SWG3 complex is expanding.  Tucked away in a former industrial site behind the Yorkhill Hospital campus the complex has now taken over an old yard that is perfect for outside concerts.  Charitably it backs onto student flats which allows them to watch acts like Belle and Sebastian or LCD Soundsystem for free.  I've only been to inside shows to see Shellac, Godflesh and Loop so an outdoor show was a new experience for me today.

We arrived to find that most of the street outside the venue had been closed off for the show and a herd of Portaloos had been planted outside the yard.  There is also a larger indoor venue on the site that can host bigger shows that the small upstairs room.  A couple of food vans and a beer tent helped turn the outdoor area into a festival site.

We tried some food from the burger van.  The burger was better than the hotdog.  The first support band sounded a bit Morrissey-Like and the second group were more in the CHVRCHES pattern.  It was a pleasant May evening which is unusual in Glasgow.

B&S opened with Dog on Wheels and dribbled a few classics throughout the set. We were beautiful, She's Losing It, The Wrong Girl, Get me away from here I'm dying.  All West End Glasgow anthems.  There were newer songs that I am less familiar with that were pleasant.  As always, Boy with the Arab Strap was an anthem and the stage filled with dancing fans.  My partner had only ever seen B&S in a small venue before and she enjoyed the stadium show.

Belle and Sebastian accept all shapes and sizes.  They aim to entertain.  They want us to learn their new songs and they are happy to bring out the classics.  They don't have the live power of their local contemporaries like Mogwai but that's not really the point.  That's not what they want to do.

It's nice to see a Glasgow band on a sunny day in Glasgow.  Ned free.