Books: We’re continuing our nightly ritual for 2021 of doing 20-30 minutes of an audio book before bed. A large chunk of our February was taken up with Gone Fishing, the audio version of the book of the TV show of Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse’s fishing trips. Obviously, it’s a very different beast from what we’ve seen on telly – Gone Fishing is one of the best-looking things on the small screen this decade – but I suspect it’s very different from the printed book as well. We get solo sections written by Bob or Paul about their particular connection to fishing: and we get two-way banter sections that feel like they were transcribed from an earlier conversation and are being re-enacted in a slightly stiff way. On top of that, the audiobook offers sequences where they’re obviously going off-script and just mucking about for a laugh: plus there’s a chapter where they throw all convention out the window and leave the studio for a bit. You could imagine all these tones sitting uncomfortably alongside each other, but it’s still Mortimer and Whitehouse, and the daft charm of their relationship carries you over the awkward transitions.
Music: In more normal times, January and February would be when bands would release their big singles, as a tease for all the new material they had coming later in the year. But these aren’t more normal times. As a result, my first Audio Lair playlist of 2021 is a little too heavy on old and reissued material for my liking. Still, it is what it is, and as usual there are links to YouTube videos for people who don't do audio streaming.
- King Rocker, the recently televised documentary about The Nightingales, is as much of a delight as people say it is. The end titles sequence – played over this particular video – is my favourite bit.
- There are plenty of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu videos featuring her with monsters, though I believe that this is the first one that depicts her getting all Tony Jaa on their asses.
- I don't really know Black Country, New Road - all I can tell you is that this song’s been turning up a lot during the 45 minutes I spend each day listening to the radio, and I still get wrongfooted by its wonky rhythms for its first minute or so.
- The Kunts’ attempt at a Christmas number one was doomed to failure, because everyone – including us – was streaming the usual festive nonsense all day on December 25th. Asian Dub Foundation’s push for a New Year’s Day number one was much more successful, as it didn’t have to compete with people’s nostalgia for George Michael.
- Binker & Moses are saxophonist Binker Golding (who I don’t know) and drummer Moses Boyd (who I’ve been following with interest since I saw him support Kamasi Washington a couple of years ago), and this is the filthy racket that they make.
- The BBG reports that Cathal Coughlan's new stuff sounds a lot like he used to in Microdisney, and that this is A Good Thing. I concur.
- The latest round in The KLF’s unexpected re-release of their long-deleted back catalogue, Come Down Dawn is their 1990 ambient album Chill Out with all the uncleared samples removed (except for the huge Pink Floyd one I can hear, or is that just me?).
- Bloody hell, Gary Numan appears to still have it, doesn't he?
- And he'd be the first to admit that Ultravox are the people he originally got it from. For some reason, it’s been decided that now would finally be a good time to release a live album and video of theirs that’s been on the shelf for 44 years, from an era when they hadn’t quite decided yet what sort of band they were.
- A last-minute addition to this playlist, taken from the surprise album that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis suddenly pulled out of their arses last Thursday.
- Bonus track! It would have been more useful if Lego had come up with this nine months ago, though, when people were prepared to listen to any old shit while they were working from home.
Telly: There’s no denying that right now, world-class telly is still being made. Some days, though, only garbage will do, which is why I’m talking about History Of Swear Words here. Netflix are selling it as a comedy programme (it’s made by the Funny Or Die people), but it’s a bit short on proper laughs: it’s a mixture of serious analysis by experts in linguistics and social history, and riffs by comedians on why these particular words are funny to say. And it’s all held together by host Nicolas Cage overacting in the style he’s made entirely his own. It’s a mess, but entertaining enough in twenty minute chunks, and has the odd moment of surprising insight. For me, the most interesting episode was the one dedicated to the word ‘damn’, a case study of a word that once was offensive but isn’t any more. Religious taboos don’t mean much these days: and in our lifetimes, the show suggests, our current swears involving sex and excretion will probably go the same way, as these days the most taboo words available are slurs. Nicolas Cage isn’t going to be narrating a light-hearted seminar on the N-word in season two, or any time this decade. In the meantime, we can wait and see if they’ve got any words left to analyse in a second season. I’ve already put a bet on the C-word for the series finale.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for March 2021 is RZSS Snow Monkey Cam. Highland Wildlife Park is in the middle of the Cairngorms in Scotland, and if the world wasn’t in such a state right now you could go there and watch their snow monkeys do their thing. But the park’s closed right now, and the snow monkeys are having to make do with video conferencing like the rest of us. They seem to be a little reluctant to get close to the camera, but keep your eyes open during daylight hours and you should be able to get to see them.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Scotland, Glasgow is in the middle of its annual film festival, which is being held online this year like so many others. Inevitably, that’s what we’re doing at the moment. And yes, we’re also continuing to do the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme at the same time. So you can expect lots of film reviews this month if you’re lucky, or a prolonged silence broken up with faint whimpers if you’re not. Place your bets in the comment box below.