BrewDogging #76: Bath

Got to confess here, this guy was drinking with his partner virtually the whole time we were there, but I waited until she went to the loo so I could get a picture with this whole Hopperesque lone drinker vibe.The pandemic has, among other things, made it clear how rigid a calendar this site works to: there are certain milestones that take place at the same time every year, except for the years when we’re not allowed to do that. Edinburgh in August and London Film Festival in October are the big dates: the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme in February too, to a lesser extent. And then there’s Easter, when The Belated Birthday Girl and I have made it a thing that we spend part of Easter Sunday watching a film made in whichever part of the world we find ourselves in at the time. In recent years, that’s tended to overlap conveniently with our ongoing quest to visit as many BrewDog bars worldwide as we can.

Except, again, for the years when we’re not allowed to do that. So Easter 2020 was spent in London watching 28 Days Later for grim infection-centric yoks, while Easter 2021 – and I don’t think I mentioned this at the time – was also spent in London, this time watching Rocks. (It's alright. End of review.)

Easter 2022? Well, we’re on the move again. We have a trip out of town, a relevant film, a BrewDog bar, and even a bonus city thrown in on top.

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Simian Substitute Site for May 2022: Chiki Monkey

Chiki MonkeyMONTH END PROCESSING FOR APRIL 2022

Books: Well, maybe not. The audiobook project took a slightly odd turn this month, as we listened to two things that advertised themselves as audiobooks, but were actually both Radio 4 programmes originally broadcast over 40 years ago. And Patrick Magee (who would have been 100 years old on March 31st this year if he wasn't dead) was the star of both! I have fond memories of the comedy show Hordes Of The Things from its original 1980 broadcast, although even at the time it seemed like a blatant attempt at taking the formula of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy and applying it to Tolkienesque fantasy. It's still got its moments (after all, Andrew Marshall and John Lloyd both have decent form as comedy writers), but these days it feels a lot more like a series of sketches linked together by Patrick Magee's fruity narration, and what seemed to me in 1980 like an incredibly bleak ending has all sorts of back doors sewn into it for a second series (which never happened). One year earlier in 1979, Magee read Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman for A Book At Bedtime, and his version has obtained a new lease of life thanks to my internet pal Paul Duane bunging it up on Soundcloud. It's massively abridged - the commercially available audiobook, read by no less an authority than Bishop Len Brennan, is three times as long as this one. As a result, you can't tell how many of the lurches in the plotting are down to O'Brien's wickedly surreal wit, and how many are down to shoddy editing. But there's enough brilliance here to lure me into reading the whole thing, which I suspect was always the point of A Book At Bedtime. I won't be able to do all the voices as well as Magee does here, though.

Music: I know I did one of these last month, but I've already got another batch of ten tunes going through my head. Some are new releases: some are older ones that have come onto my radar because of things that have happened over the past month. As ever, YouTube links in the text, Spotify playlist below it.

  1. Thanks to my self-imposed one-link-per-playlist-entry limitation, you'll have to search this site for yourself to find where I reviewed the 2000 comeback gig by The Art Of Noise. This was the opening number of their set, It hadn't been released on record at the time. It finally came out this month.
  2. A less dramatic delay here: I saw Simon Love play a short acoustic set back in 2019, where he premiered this new song and promised it'd be on his next album. That album finally came out this month too. 
  3. I've already linked to the video of this old Mondo Grosso tune as part of this year's Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme reviews, as it shares a director (Takeshi Maruyama) with the film Spaghetti Code Love. Worth watching if you haven't seen it yet, anyway. Or even if you have.
  4. It appears to have taken the prospect of World War 3 to bring Pink Floyd out of retirement and make a record with their Ukrainian chum Andriy Khlyvnyuk of the band Boombox.
  5. I saw my first Pitchblack Playback event this month, in which the classic David Byrne and Brian Eno album My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts was played over a cinema sound system with all the lights turned off and the audience wearing eyemasks. This is one of the bonus tracks from the special edition, which has been in my collection for well over a decade but hadn't really registered with me till I heard it blind, as it were.
  6. It's generally accepted that Ukraine will get a sympathy win at Eurovision this year, which is a shame because Norway's entry from Subwoolfer - a masked duo who may or may not be Ylvis in disguise - deserve a shout. We'll see how they get on on May 14th.
  7. What's that American candy that advertises itself as 'two great tastes that taste great together'? Well, it's Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, obviously, because asking rhetorical questions on the internet that have factual answers doesn't work. But you can see why it came to mind with this benefit record by Jah Wobble and The Ukrainians.
  8. Coming in a couple of weeks - a report on what we did during our Easter holidays. Part of it involves the discovery of Manchester outfit Riot Jazz Brass Band, whose live show is a thing of beauty and includes this excellently daft thing.
  9. Is it a bad idea for Roxy Music to be going back on tour after all this time? I have a horrible feeling it might be, though I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Still, it reminds me of how shocked teenage me was to discover they'd written a song about blow-up dolls.
  10. Finishing up with another video that I've already linked to here, in the context of my review of Alex Winter's film about Frank Zappa. Lovely, though, innit?


Theatre: I've been waiting 13 years to see Jerusalem, ever since its debut at the Royal Court back in 2009 and all those reviews saying it was the best play of modern times. Nothing could quite live up to that level of hype, really. Sure, the performance of Mark Rylance as Johnny Byron - caravan dweller, bullshit artist, and unofficial leader of an entire community of misfits - is as glorious as everyone has always said it is, and all the more notable for Rylance (for the most part) eschewing his usual ultra-naturalism for a huge larger-than-life swagger. It also helps that even though it's the sort of massive lead performance that has the potential to reduce the rest of the cast to mere background scenery, Rylance uses his star power generously to elevate the contributions of everyone else involved, from second-billed Mackenzie Crook to the lowest urinating tortoise. But Jez Butterworth's script - like the one for Jerusalem's follow-up, The Ferryman - tries that bit too hard to do absolutely everything in a three-hour timeslot, and its pacing falls apart in the third act. I spent far too long admiring the ambition of what Butterworth was doing, and not enough getting emotionally involved with it. Still, if you can find some way of getting hold of a ticket before the run ends on August 7th, your opinion may differ. 

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Winter Is Coming

Alex And Paul's Quite Reasonable AdventureIt was a very Prince Charles thing to do, and I don’t mean having your wife bumped off once she’s furnished you with a couple of heirs. I'm talking of course about the Prince Charles Cinema, described by people in the know as "the most depraved and beautiful movie theatre in London." They have a reputation for supporting cult cinema, and for putting on extraordinary events, and this counted as both - at the beginning of April 2022, they staged an entire weekend of films featuring Alex Winter, a man best known for playing William S. Preston Esq. in the Bill and Ted series. And they had him fly over to give talks before or after every single one.

The Belated Birthday Girl and I aren't particularly rabid fans of the actor, but we know a good film binge when we see one. So we picked one film from each day of the weekend to see - one was my choice, one was hers, and the third we hadn't seen before. It wasn't until a day or so before the event that we realised that we'd effectively committed ourselves to spending the weekend in the company of one guy, and, well...

...what if he turned out to be a dick?

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Simian Substitute Site for April 2022: A Boy Lighting A Candle In Company Of A Monkey And A Fool

A Boy Lighting A Candle In Company Of A Monkey And A FoolMONTH END PROCESSING FOR MARCH 2022

Books: We barely knew who James Acaster was before our year-long Taskmaster bingewatch: now he’s a fixed part of our aural landscape. We’re regular listeners to Off Menu, his foodie podcast with Ed Gamble, and this month we also caught up with the audio version of his book Classic Scrapes. The introduction explains how this book has effectively gone full circle. It started as a feature on Josh Widdecombe’s radio show, where Acaster told stories about the scrapes he'd got into throughout his life: those stories were adapted into book form: and then Acaster was recorded reading them out loud again. It works perfectly for the pre-bedtime slot we use for audiobooks - the chapters are short and punchy, and Acaster balances his conversational delivery style carefully so it's not too stand-uppy and not too much of a dry reading. The first chapter in particular is a perfectly constructed short story rather than a routine: some deep thoughts on what it's like to get into trouble for the first time in your life, mixed in with several amusing digressions from the point, and capped off with a terrifically concise punchline. Not all of the stories match up to that early peak, but enough of them do. I suppose the next thing to do at some point is see what his stand-up's like.

Movies: Eight years ago in this very slot here, I wrote about Otway: The Movie, a film about John Otway that was unique for being released as a series of one-night-only screenings, with the film's subject personally in attendance for every one. In March 2022, it suddenly felt less unique, as we saw two new(ish) films in very similar circumstances. Rebel Dread is more or less an authorised biography of Don Letts: the guy who was at all the early punk gigs with a movie camera, and moved on to playing with Big Audio Dynamite, DJing and all manner of other roles. It's an entertaining romp through his life, but you can't help feeling some bits of it are being glossed over, apart from a few references to his regular habit of keeping a couple of girlfriends on the go at the same time. Still, his charm is front and centre throughout the film, and it's also there in the Q&A we got on the day. Letts' presence at cinema screenings is really just a neat way of drumming up interest in a film that's already available to view on demand: by contrast, Michael Cummings has to personally accompany his film Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes because large chunks of it are possibly actionable. As director of the 1997 TV satire Brass Eye, Cumming was responsible for getting the ideas of Chris Morris onto screen in as intact a form as possible. If anyone could be bothered reissuing the show for its 25th anniversary, Oxide Ghosts would be the bonus feature, an hour-long compilation of sketches and scenes deleted from the show for reasons of time, decency or libellousness. If I've made it sound like a collection of cutting-room floor scraps, think again: because this is all top-grade Morris material, and reminds you that the loopholes he used to get unspeakable concepts onto terrestrial TV have all been subsequently closed off. As a result, this film can only ever be shown in screenings like this one: but Cumming insists that he's prepared to keep touring the film as long as people want to see it, so keep an eye out for those 30th anniversary shows.

Music: A batch of ten (or is it eleven?) new things for you to listen to, either via the YouTube links in the text or the Spotify playlist underneath.

  1. Curse you, The Divine Comedy, for releasing a greatest hits album full of songs I already own, and then making me buy it anyway by packaging it with a bonus album of previously unreleased stuff that’s just as good. Like this one.
  2. It’s the first appearance of Kae Tempest in these pages since their big announcement last year. They never really struck me before as one of those artists who were struggling with their gender role, so it’ll be interesting to hear what the impact is on the forthcoming album.
  3. Films with live Q&A sessions after them are all well and good, but the best fun I’ve had in a cinema so far this year has been with the new Indian epic RRR, which grossed more money last weekend than any other film in the world. Yes, it's an Indian film so this is the big song and dance number, but it's also got a bit where the hero picks up a motorcycle with one hand and starts beating English soldiers round the head with it, so there's something for everyone. 
  4. Good to see the Thomas Hardy subtext that’s run through several Half Man Half Biscuit songs finally raised to the level of text in this new one. 
  5. Lykke Li’s back, and still sounding as heartbroken and miserable as she did two albums ago. Given that I never got around to buying her last album, this is apparently how I like her, which is worrying. 
  6. Surprising that it’s taken over three decades for Soft Cell & Pet Shop Boys to team up, but the results are as splendid as you’d hope. Also enjoying the video, where the two bands attempt to portray Four Normal Blokes Down The Pub, and get it 75% right. 
  7. “This can’t be Simon Love, there’s no swearing on it,” said The BBG on hearing this. True, but he does say ‘death to the West' during the middle eight, so at least we’ve got that. 
  8. Still not quite sure yet what I think about Everything Everything's current project of letting artificial intelligence take over the decision making in their lyric writing and video editing. We're seeing them play live in a couple of weeks, maybe they'll have been completely replaced with robots by then. 
  9. Here's something I'd forgotten about: Pick Of The Year veteran Kate Miller Heidke worked with her hubby Keir Nuttall a few years ago on a stage musical adaptation of the film Muriel's Wedding. Her new record - actually, it's a 2020 album that got a bit lost in the pandemic, reissued with bonus tracks - includes her performance of this number from it. Ah, that's where all Simon Love's swearing went to. 
  10. It's a bit cheeky of Arcade Fire to release a single with two distinct halves, and make digital purchasers pay for each half separately - particularly as it's the transition between the two that's the best bit. Also, is it just me or is it frequently on the verge of turning into Somewhere from West Side Story?

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Simian Substitute Site for March 2022: Red Monkey Ramen Shop

Red Monkey Ramen ShopMONTH END PROCESSING FOR FEBRUARY 2022

Books: Normally this would be where I’d tell you about this month’s bedtime audiobook, and include a link so you could get it for yourself. No link this time, though – it’s a book I obtained through a Twitter link that I thought was legit but turned out not to be. The tape hiss on the MP3s should have been a clue, frankly – what I had was all three volumes of Alan Plater’s The Beiderbecke Trilogy, read by James Bolam some time around the date of their mid-to-late eighties publication, and abridged to three hours apiece so that each book fitted on a pair of C90 cassettes. Starting out as the novelisation of a TV show, and gradually mutating into original novels that were then adapted for telly, there’s a definite sense of diminishing returns. The Beiderbecke Affair is easily the best of the three, introducing our lead characters – woodwork teacher Trevor Chaplin and English teacher Jill Swinburne, living in what was still a shocking co-habiting arrangement back in the 80s, and finding themselves embroiled in a light-hearted mystery. They’re so beautifully drawn in the book that on the rare occasion that mild peril arises, you’re genuinely concerned for them. Sequel The Beiderbecke Tapes does the old telly trick of sending the characters on a foreign jolly (although I’d forgotten that when it was made for TV, budget constraints meant Athens had to be replaced by Edinburgh). As for The Beiderbecke Connection, it’s surprising how plot-free it is, even for a show that usually got by mostly on character and jokes. But the characters and jokes are still good enough to keep you listening. So, I dunno, see if someone’s selling the tapes on eBay if you’re interested. (Although it feels like that would be exactly how a 2022 Beiderbecke reboot would start...)

Comedy: If you’re like me, you tend to find out about podcasts long after they’ve started running. So here’s a chance to get in on the ground floor of a new one, assuming it doesn’t implode after a couple of weeks. BTEC Philosophers stars Elliot Steel (let’s see if I can get through this paragraph without mentioning his dad) and Michael Odewale, theoretically discussing the big philosophical problems of our age, but in reality just chuckling about any old bollocks that comes into their heads. The resulting banter teeters on the edge of laddish but never quite goes too far, although some may think otherwise about Steel’s proposed solution to the crisis in Ukraine. They’re still working on distribution, so it might be a tricky one to track down – initially it was only available on Podbean and Apple Podcasts, but the most recent episode made it to Spotify too. If they can sustain this level of invention on a weekly basis, I’ll be there (though it’d help if they could get themselves on Google Podcasts as well).

Theatre: I thought I was a Kate Bush fan. Owned all her records at one time or another, still have a signed copy of Never For Ever, considered getting tickets for the 2014 comeback shows but never managed it. But then I went to An Evening Without Kate Bush and realised I’d barely been trying. Sarah-Louise Young – a musical comedy specialist, and one of the many women who's been The Third One In Fascinating Aida – has put together a show that at first glance looks like your common or garden tribute act, dressing up in costumes and singing the songs to backing tapes. And she’s pretty damn good at doing that, although I’m sure she’d be the first to admit that the octave drop in Wow is out of her range. But this show is about the fans as much as the songs – especially since Young’s chosen to ignore anything Bush has recorded since 1993 (which is only two albums of new material, but still). It’s about the obsession caused by her reclusiveness, the comfort she brings to her admirers worldwide, the delight of realising that you’re in a room full of people who aren’t really capable of singing Wuthering Heights but are prepared to give it a bloody good go. The show's run at London's Soho Theatre has finished now, but I know it has a little life in it yet.

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