Monday, March 31, 2008

Kill Your Friends by John Niven

John Niven is a Scottish author and this is his second book. Niven was a music industry employee for about 10 years - I believe he used to hang around with Mogwai. In Kill Your Friends he has written about what he knows. This is summed up in a great quote from Hunter S Thompson -

'The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. These is also a negative side.'

I love Thompson and it is clear that Niven does too. Kill your friends is a Gonzo rush through the music business in 1997. The repuganant anti-hero of the book, Steven Stelfox, is an amalgam of every nasty character trait that you could imagine an A&R man having. He hates music but he likes cocaine and prostitutes. He is only interested in the money and he will fuck anyone over to get what he wants.

The prose is easy to read and funny. The thinly-disguised 'musicians' mixed with famous names raise a wry smile. The characters are familiar. I have met a few 'scensters' over the years who are complete cocks (and some who are cool). Niven might be ripping off Irvine Welsh a bit but this is a good read. I'll look out for his next book.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Good times with old friends

Just had a great day at a wedding with my mates from school. One of my friends was getting married at the Glasgow university chapel and it gave us all an excuse to get together and catch up.

I've known some of these guys for nearly 20 years and we're all a lot fatter and balder now but it just feels so good when we all get into a room together. One guy had to come from Amsterdam and another had to come from Bristol so it really was a special occasion.

So I've had a day of getting pissed, talking shit and gossiping. The food was great and the booze was plentiful. Best night out I've had for a while.

Next one is in September - can't wait.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Liberty Meadows by Frank Cho

Liberty Meadows is a comic strip about an animal sanctuary for creatures with psychiatric issues. The medical staff include the beautiful Brandy, an animal psychologist and geeky Frank, a vet. Frank is often struck dumb by his unrequited love for Brandy.

The animal characters include Ralph, a midget circus bear; Dean, a substance-misusing pig and Leslie, a hypochondriac frog.

The strip was initially syndicated in newspapers until creator Frank Cho got sick of censorship and started publishing it as a comic book. It's entertainging although I like the Boondocks more myself. It has been collected into a series of trade paperbacks and you can find out more at

Brandy may be the most attractive comic strip character ever/

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Music Blogs

20 Jazz Funk Greats is a music blog named after a Throbbing Gristle album (DO NOT LISTEN TO IT) and deals with alternative music. Seems cool.

This is a blog that lists albums you can download legally for free. It features John Fuscante of the Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails and the Charlatans. Cool

The Wire - Season 4

I have said this before but The Wire is one of the best TV programmes ever. Season 4 looks at the Baltimore school system, politics, drug gangs, child abuse and murders. It's never black and white. There are no heroes and villains. It's unpredictable just like real life.

Watch it.

In a freak accident I destroyed my DVD of the first 3 episodes while watching it and I had to fork out £30 to buy a new one. It was worth it. I have too much money.

Comic books I've been reading

I've been reading a few good comic books recently.

Fables is one of them. It's Vertigo title and it's written by a guy called Bill Willingham. For any comic nerds out there I'll tell you that it's a Sandman rip off and that will probably tell you much of what you need to know. However it is a good Sandman rip-off which makes it worth reading.

Fables is set in modern New York where there is a ghetto of fairy tale characters like Snow White and Bigby Wolf (the Big Bad Wolf) who have settled there after their fantasy homelands have been over-run by the shadowy Adversary (who is someone you will recognise but I won't say who). The ghetto is called Fabletown and is full of human looking characters while less human 'fables' such as the 3 little pigs and the Jungle Book characters have to live on a farm in upstate New York, away from mundane human eyes.

I know it sounds pish but if you can suspend your disbelief to watch Star Wars or Aliens you can read this. I bet it really fucked disney off.

Another good Vertigo book is The Exterminators, a story of man against insect. It's about a pest control firm who find themselves battling highly evolved cockroaches. The roaches have been given an evolutionary push by some unusual insect-poison. And there is an unusual scientist with a very dodgy past in Cambodia.....

I've heard that The Exterminators has just been cancelled which is a shame.

Finally I've just read the fist two books of Crossing Midnight (Verigo again) a fantasy style book set in modern Japan. It has great art and features characters inspired by Japanese mythology although it is written by Brian K Vaughn, an American writer. It has some new ideas for westen comics and is probably ripping off Manga big style but I like it and plan to read more.

PS = Get Next Wave by Warren Ellis if you don't already have it. 'Fing Fang Foom put you in his pants!'. Classic

Michael Clayton - DVD review

Just watched this film and I really enjoyed it. George Clooney is the eponymous Michael Clayton, a fixer for a big corporate law firm. One of his friends, a fellow lawyer, is defending a big chemical company that has killed 460 people with a dodgy product. Sadly his friend has a manic episode amd removes all his clothes in a legal meeting before trying to expose the evil chemical company. George Clooney is sent to sort things out and hilarity ensues.

Someone in this film won an Oscar. It is pretty good. Watch it and decide yourself.

9 out of 10


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Another State of Mind - DVD review

Another State of Mind is a DIY punk documentary that follows two Los Angeles hardcore bands (Youth Brigade and Social Distortion) on an ill-fated tour in 1982. They set out with noble intentions but eventually they are overcome by adverse events and the tour stalls in Washington.

The film is pretty well made and I found it interesting for a number of reasons. Minor Threat and Ian MacKaye are featured heavily later on (which as a massive Fugazi fan I really enjoyed). There is a pretty good story in the documentary and it is funny at times. It's good to see a bunch of young guys having an adventure.

Unlike other similar films like The Decline of Western Civilisation or American Hardcore we see the positive side of early '80s punk and we hear from some intelligent people like Shawn Stern, the leader of Youth Brigade. We also get to see a young Mike Ness (the singer in social distortion) which is eye-opening. Green Day should really be paying this man royalties.

This DVD probably appeals to very few people but I liked it. Punk fans should get something from it.

The Mars Volta live at the Carling Academy, Glasgow

Due to my current exile in a shit place I haven't been able to see many bands recently. This concert coincided with a week of annual leave so I picked up a ticket. I've been listening to The Mars Volta for a few years now. I loved their first album Deloused In the Comatorium (hope I got that right) although I found the later albums more difficult to get into. I was keen to see them live because I heard that they put on a good show. They do.

I was trying to describe The Mars Volta to my Dentist today. It's difficult. Their music is non-linear. Traditional song-stucture has gone out of the window. Miles Davis aound the time of Bitches Brew is a good reference point. Led Zepplin amd Santana are in the mix. The Fugazi sound of At the Drive in (their old band) is still present, nut only a little.

The Mars Volta make music you can't dance to. One female drug casualty did try some hippy freak out moves last night but it wasn't convincing. It was more the sort of show where tou stand and watch and think 'wow'. They played for nearly 3 hours with only a few recognisable songs. It was good but it was almost too much. I guess I need to expand my mind a bit more. One pint of beer is not enough.

So an impressive, athletic musical experience. Probably not for everyone but glad I was there.