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October 2013

Tie You Down, Pretend You're Madonna: Pick Of The Year 1989

1989: the last year in which three hours' worth of decent music was released, apparently.[whooshy Lost-style flashback/flashforward noise]

It's the year 2000, and I'm at the imaginatively-titled V2000 festival in Chelmsford with Grizelda. There are plenty of high and low points that spring to mind from those two days, but I'm going to focus on the specific point at which Grizelda and I decided to walk away from Travis' set and find someone less irritating to watch. It was when Fran Healy stopped playing for what felt like several hours to talk about the midlife crisis he was currently experiencing. At age 27. "Piss off, you annoying child," I actually said on the internet at the time. Which is a wee bit embarrassing, really, because I appeared to have forgotten...

[whooshy Lost-style flashback/flashforward noise]

...that in 1989, when I was 25 going on 26, I felt exactly the same way. That January, I started to think that after five years or so in London, I'd swapped the rut I'd got into back in Manchester with an entirely different rut. Something had to be done.

I've mentioned the idea of 1989 being my personal year zero before, around the time when I was trying to flog books to you: among other things, it was the first year I ever attended the Edinburgh Festival and the London Film Festival. Did this rejig of my life have an impact on my Pick Of The Year compilations? Well, looking at the tracks on this one today...

[whooshy Lost-style flashback/flashforward noise]

...the focus seems to have drifted away from indie rock (although that's still the main genre covered) and takes in a few tracks from outside of the usual stamping grounds of the UK and the US. World music was a fairly big thing by '89, and I was willing to experiment within John Peel-defined boundaries. Live, that included going to gigs by people like Real Sounds Of Africa, Epo (a Japanese singer who played the Edinburgh International Festival and then was never heard of again), 3 Mustaphas 3, Les Negresses Vertes and the Gypsy Kings. Okay, that last one was at Wembley Arena and hardly counts as experimentation. But what was I listening to on record? Let's find out.

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MOSTLY FILM: Stockholm Syndrome /vs/ BrewDogging #10: Stockholm

Spoilers for Iron Man 4[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow]

"I'm a man on the move," I quote Sir Les Patterson as saying at the start of my latest piece for Mostly Film. That piece was actually published one week ago. I know I normally let you know about these things a little sooner than that, but I really have been a man on the move for the past couple of weeks, and haven't had time to do much on the site. Followers of my Twatfeed will know what I'm alluding to: the rest of you will hear about it in far too much detail soon enough, I promise you.

In the meantime, that Mostly Film piece is the latest one in the ongoing Monoglot Movie Club series. Stockholm Syndrome is my second roundup of contemporary Swedish cinema this year, after The Guldbagge Variations last winter. This one actually draws on two separate visits I made to Stockholm in August: one on my own for work, and one with The Belated Birthday Girl for some birthday or other that I was having. As is traditional, I'll use this piece on my own site to promote its companion on Mostly Film, and throw in some bonus travel tips for Stockholm along the way.

Regular readers will have already guessed what tip number one is going to be.

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Spank's Edinburgh Diary, Postscript 2013

Edinburgh Playhouse, August 13th 2013, just after the end of The Poet SpeaksBeing the traditional roundup of what we did at Edinburgh Festival 2013, featuring reports from Nick, The Belated Birthday Girl, Charmian and me. We wrote each of our bits independently of each other, so feel free to be lightly amused by the overlaps between the selections of Nick and Charmian, and the different overlaps between me and The BBG.

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Simian Substitute Site For September 2013: Yellow Ape Craft


Art: What did you and your mates get up to at school? The young British artists at Slade School in the run up to the First World War - C.R.W. Nevinson, Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington, David Bomberg and Paul Nash - started an art movement described by their drawing teacher Henry Tonks as A Crisis Of Brilliance. That's also the title of a biography of the artists published by David Boyd Haycock in 2009, as well as an exhibition of their work running at Dulwich Picture Gallery until September 22nd. Their styles were all very different - possibly the one thing uniting them was the sheer bitchiness they initially drew out of art critics - but those differences make for a fascinating exhibition. Spencer is the most familiar artist, Carrington the most frustratingly under-represented: but for me the discovery of this collection is Nevinson, moving over a decade from dynamic Futurism to graphically depicting the horrors of the Great War, and always standing far above his contemporaries.

Books: No, seriously, fuck you cancer. Over a period of just a couple of months this year, the arts world has been struck by musicians Wilko Johnson and Philip Chevron, and author Iain Banks, all announcing that they had received a terminal diagnosis and were in the process of putting their affairs in order. Banks was the first one we lost, and we can at least be thankful that he lived long enough to deliver his final novel to the publishers, if not quite long enough to see it on the shelves. The Quarry features another one of his young protagonists not quite connecting with society: Kit, a lumbering, awkward teenager who's happier inside an MMORPG than in the real world. His dad is, um, a middle-aged man dying of cancer well before his time, and the novel tells the story through Kit's eyes of a weekend reunion of his father's college pals. As blackly humourous as you'd expect given who wrote the book and when he wrote it, The Quarry is also a beautifully drawn character piece, revelling in the flaws and delights of people rather than the unexpected plot twists and grotesque incidents that initially made Banks notorious. If we have to have a final Iain Banks book - and I really wish we didn't - then let it be one as great as this.

Music: Interestingly brassy times in the circular concert halls of London last week, with two fine gigs held on consecutive days. On Tuesday, David Byrne and St Vincent took their Love This Giant tour to the Roundhouse, accompanied by an eight piece brass ensemble. It was pretty much as fabulous as this NPR recording makes it look, except that Annie Clark's had a blonde dye job since it was filmed. The next day at the Royal Albert Hall, Django Bates hosted a late-night Prom paying tribute to the music of Charlie Parker. Some challenging tunes and rhythms (and The Belated Birthday Girl suggests she'd rather have heard more of Parker's original arrangements than Bates' deconstructions of them), but another large brass group - the Norrbotten Big Band - gave a lot of warmth to what could easily have been a night of abstract noodling. And because the BBC is the best broadcaster in the damn world, you can listen to the whole concert on the iPlayer until September 4th.

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