Bless Playlist 30/8/2004


Maritime. Punch drunk love?

Tonight’s top tune came courtesy of recommendations by both Dan Bennett and Malcy Reveal. It was ‘Some One Has To Die’ by Maritime. This popular beat combo comprises former members of The Promise Ring and The Dismemberment Plan but sounds nothing like either of those bands. Well… a wee bit like TPR in terms of poppiness. Their debut album, Glass Floor, is yet another pure pop gem in what’s turning out to be a great year for it. Go and check it out if you like poppy songs chocker with snappy choruses.

Eagle-eyed readers may think I’ve committed the cardinal DJing sin of playing more than one track by the same band. But Locust is/are an electronic group, quite sonically removed from the shouty bastards known as The Locust.

Top old tune tonight was John Barry’s ‘Hit And Miss.’ I don’t think there was anyone in the Bless old enough to remember the TV show it introduced but then neither do I since it finished when I was only one. But which prog had point scoring on it, eh?

Oi’ll give it foive… :

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Better Dead Than Lead
OOO – Group Heartbeat
Outerspace Ft. Sadat X – Top Shelf
Refused – Summerholidays Vs. Punkroutine
Phoenix – Run Run Run
Black Flag – Louie Louie
Rilo Kiley – It’s A Hit
Huoratron – Male Bonding
Sweatshop Union – Us (Prod. By Mr. Marmalade)
Pantera – Cowboys From Hell
Shins – Fighting In A Sack
Stephen Malkmus – The Hook
Locust – Saturated Love
The GC5 – White Flag
Nas – Get Down
From Autumn To Ashes – The After Dinner Payback
The Velvet Underground & Nico – Sunday Morning
Wauvenfold – Clip (Clopt)
Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene
Baba Brooks & His Band – Independence Ska
The Specials – Little Bitch
Sonic Youth – Ca Plane Pour Moi
Le Tigre – Deceptacon
The Roots – Don’t Say Nuthin’
Chimaira – Power Trip
The Average White Band – Pick Up The Pieces
Tigrics – Public Gameover
The Thermals – How We Know
Loose Notes – Too Late
AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
Belle And Sebastian – Mayfly
Rogue Wave – Every Moment
Murs – What Do You Know?
Dropkick Murphys – Bar Room Hero
The Pogues – Sally Maclennane
RJD2 – 1976
Slayer – Raining Blood
John Barry – Hit And Miss
Maritime – Some One Has To Die
Kings Of Convenience / Royksopp – I Don’t Know What I Can Save..
Beep Beep – Executive Foliage
Mr. Lif – The Unorthodox
Matthew Mercer – Likelike
The Locust – Live From The Russian Compound
The Good Life – [November] Lovers Need Lawyers
The Earlies – Bring It Back Again

Bush Bashed

Bush = war criminal

Thousands of opponents of US President George W Bush have taken to the streets of New York to demonstrate against his foreign and domestic policies.

The protest, which organisers say drew an estimated 250,000 marchers, comes a day before New York hosts the Republican Party convention.
(Source: BBC News)

For those of us who don’t like being ruled by war criminals, the above is great news. It shows Americans will only take so much bullshit before getting out on the streets. Remember, this was a nation founded by revolutionaries.

Of course, the protestors faced a barrage of counter-protests from pro-war nutters. I saw one bloke on the telly saying that no-one should pay any attention to the anti-Bush protestors because “they’re all insane.” Nice ad-hominem attack there, backed up by zero factual content, as is usual from the right-wing.

Who’s insane? I’d say it’s the people who support a president that is either stupid or evil. He said there were WMDs, he said there were bioweapons. There weren’t. So… he was either lying about it (which means he’s evil) or he actually believed such erroneous data in which case he’s an incompetent fool. Which is it, Republicans?

Here’s the basic thing: I don’t cheer when Americans die. I don’t cheer when any human being dies. I don’t want any US soldiers to die, even if they have been torturing innocent civilians and carrying out war crimes in a non-aggressor country. If they’re guilty, I want them brought to justice and properly tried.

But the right-wing US mindset is a truly devilish thing to behold. I’ve seen news reports where people are laughing about Iraq getting bombed flat, where they patently don’t think that anyone with a slightly darker skin than them is a human being. These people truly believe that the US is justified in going anywhere it wants, killing whoever it wants and getting away with it. It’s that fascistic personality type that drowns out any criticism by shouting “USA! USA! USA!” Four legs good, two legs bad…

I wouldn’t call myself a pacifist. If my homeland was attacked by foreign invaders, I’d do my best to fight them, in whatever way I could. I would have fought against the fascists in WWII if I’d been alive then. But the invasion of Iraq was totally unprovoked and had nothing to do with the WTC attack. The PNAC cabal seized on the attack to push through its fascist agenda of US military imperialism. Anyone who’s not totally brainwashed by Fox News will see that.

The pictures from New York today have been a beacon to all of us who want the US people to rise up and throw out their idiot president. For me, they show the real moral core of America, a proud, strong, peace-loving people who don’t want evil done in their name. Their basic point is ‘it’s wrong to kill people who haven’t attacked you.’

Only a moron or a Nazi would disagree with that.

Screamadelica 24/8/2004


Robert Capa

This week’s pics are dedicated to Robert Capa, who was a self-made man and a brilliant photographer. He was an anti-fascist and leftist, though he rejected recruitment by the Stalinist Communist party in his native Hungary at an early age.

Capa is most famous for his coverage of wars. Even if you don’t think you know of his work, you’ve probably seen it somewhere in history books or TV documentaries. I first came across it around 21 years ago since his first published pics were of Leon Trotsky. As a teenage Trot, I was moved by the way Capa caught the passion and commitment of my hero, even as Trotsky was in flight from Stalin’s assassins.

His photos of the Spanish Civil War remain some of the most heartbreaking and stark pictures of war ever taken and Capa was fearless getting them. In fact, more than one person who accompanied Capa on wartime shoots has said that he’d go anywhere to get the shot, throwing himself into exactly the same danger as the soliders around him. His dedication to his work in World War Two earned him the Medal of Freedom Citation, which he received from General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Capa also helped change commercial photography:

In 1947, with his friends, David Seymour"Chim", Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and Bill Vandivert, he began a picture agency named Magnum.
He spent the next few years making Magnum into a successful cooperative, and photographing the good times with his artist friends, including Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck.
(Source: International Center of Photography)

If all you know of Capa is his war work, you really have to see the amazing portraits of Picasso and his family. Capa captured the emotional byplay between parents and small child with a a deft touch, delicate and involved without being cheesy.

Sadly, Capa had a tough time of it when the US was seized by the crypto-fascist movement known formally as McCarthyism. His early leftist past and photojournalism in the Soviet Union were more than enough for the witchhunters and in 1953, he had to fight to retain his US passport. This despite his honouring by Eisenhower.

Capa died in 1954. He was covering the war in what was then known as French Indochina and left the safety of a transport to get a particular angle. He stepped on a landmine. He was forty.

In such a short life, Robert Capa crammed in a whole lot. From his early political activity in Hungary, his flight from the Nazis, so many wars… And yet, he still managed find the time to form and lead Magnum, helping to establish the idea of photographers retaining copyright in their work. He also mentored many young photographers, helping them get on the first rungs of the career ladder. He was a man about town, regarded as extremely handsome by many of the most beautiful women of the age. Personally, I’m envious of anyone who had a love affair with Ingrid Bergman.

Steven Spielberg appears in the documentary about Capa, he’s undoubtedly a fan. I just hope that either he or someone else makes a film of Capa’s amazing life, so that it becomes more widely known. It may have ended far too soon but it remains a vivid, inspirational story.

How To Become King Of The Universe

I watched an excellent documentary about Robert Capa last night. I’ll write more about Capa when I do tonight’s Scream photos but there’s one point that stuck out from the story, recapped here:

In Paris he participated in the beginnings of the agency Alliance Photo and met the journalist and photographer, Gerda Taro. Together they invented the “famous” American photographer Robert Capa and sold his prints under that name. He met many artists, among them Picasso and Hemingway, and began friendships with colleagues that would be essential in the creation of Magnum, such as David “Chim” Seymour and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
(Source: Magnum)

So, Capa was an invention, that the real man adopted eventually. He became a fictional character and became as successful as that invented character.

Bear with me…

The reason you’re reading this now is manifold. There are many pioneers of computing, maths, and electronics that lead to the development of TCP/IP and the internet. But the man who invented the web, the protocol which is now sending you these words over TCP/IP, is Tim Berners-Lee. His book about it all, Weaving The Web is funny, moving and an essential read. But the point is – why did he call it ‘world wide web?’ Yeah, he wanted to create a protocol whereby researchers could access information across different computing platforms and national boundaries. But what a grand title for it! It could just have been ‘page’ and then at the top of your browser it would now be saying ‘http://page.bzangygroink.co.uk’ instead of www.

And yet… it became the thing he called it. It’s now a world wide web of information and it’s changed and is changing history. I’d say it’s now the central hub to which people turn for information. From pub arguments about football to the truth behind the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US and UK, the web has become our modern oracle.

And…?

When me and Ele were sending off copies of my ‘Abort, Retry, Fail?’ EP to Radio One and a few labels, we felt in a silly mood. So I printed up little stickers to put on the Jiffy bag seal. On those stickers was printed: ‘Features the No.1 Hit Song, ‘Your Woman!’

Of course, it was no such thing. It hadn’t been on the radio then, I’d never troubled any chart anywhere with any of my songs. I think it’s fair to say that my recorded output then was as obscure as it is again now. I also never expected any label to like any of my songs as I’d been sending off stuff since 1982 with nothing to show for it but a growing pile of ‘Sorry, but…’ letters.

But one of those EPs ended up being picked up and played by Mark Radcliffe who championed the song until… it became an international hit song. My song had become what I’d pretended it was.

Spooky, eh?

This is basic positive thinking stuff, of course. I’m not really saying there’s anything supernatural going on. But I do believe there’s a psychological aspect to these unlinked successes. Firstly, humans are hypersocial creatures. Just look at how contagious yawning is. Yawn. Yawn. Yawning. Does merely reading the word make you feel like yawning? Y – a – a – w – n. It’s not stretching things to believe that if you cue a human by saying ‘this is a famous American photographer / a world wide web / a hit song’ they might believe it, just a little bit. Surely, that’s behind all advertising?

Maybe we also cue ourselves. Maybe if we invent a successful person who we pretend to be, we become that person in an existential explosion of good faith?

If you agree the above may be true, I’d ask you this? What prophecies are you making about yourself and your life? Are you choosing to get cancer because you feel awkward without a fag in your hand? Are you choosing to die of a heart attack because you can’t manage one night out without getting wasted? Who will you blame for the consequences of your bad faith choices? Your parents? Your lover? Your government?

I know where I’m going wrong: my weight. If I don’t continue to lose weight, I’ll be shortening my life, killing myself slowly. If that happens, the only person to blame will be me. Not my genes, not my family, not Coca Cola or Burger King. Me.

So… the next time you find yourself uttering something like ‘oooh, I’m crap at that’ or ‘no-one ever fancies me’ or similar bullshit, remember Andre Friedman.

Me? I’m the King of the Universe, baby!

Bless Playlist 23/8/2004


The Good Life. Richard Briers is in the suit

Tonight’s top tune was ‘Lovers Need Lawyers’ by The Good Life. Originally a side project of Cursive bloke Tim Kasher, this band seems to have matured into a wholly different and coherent prospect in their own right. Their new album, ‘Album Of The Year’ is a rip-roaring pop album, full of great pop moments. Although they have their own perspective, they seem to be part of the wave of North American power pop that also includes The Shins, Of Montreal, The New Pornographers and Rogue Wave. This Nouvelle Vague du Pop is my kind of wave!

The best old track tonight isn’t that old. It was ‘Secret By Design’ by Plans And Apologies. People think I’m taking the piss when I play this track (since I know the band) but I play it because it’s a damn good pop song. It was written by a great songwriter and played by a band who naturally, organically just work. There’s no laboured image construction, no deadeyed trend-following, just honest (often ramshackle) music. It’s always bitter-sweet playing this song because I know that it deserves to be heard by millions and hasn’t been. Maybe one day it will?

The pomise never broken:

American Analog Set – The Only One
Boards Of Canada – Olson (Version 3)
Chimaira – Power Trip
Stephen Malkmus – The Hook
Sweatshop Union – Us (Prod. By Mr. Marmalade)
Cylob – Cut The Midrange Drop The Bass
Pixies – Dead
De La Soul – Eye Know
Rilo Kiley – It’s A Hit
Atreyu – Bleeding Mascara
The Clovers – Love Potion No. 9
Huoratron – Male Bonding
Some Girls – The Prettiest Girl
Wordsworth – What We Gon’ Do
Converge – Concubine
The Velvelettes – He Was Really Saying Something
Deerhoof – Milkman
Bad Religion – Kyoto Now!
Doormouse – Puddy Tairs
Shabazz The Disciple – Red Hook Day (Prod. By Mista Jam)
Le Tigre – Let’s Run
Dresden Dolls – Girl Anachronism
Tigrics – Public Gameover
From Autumn To Ashes – Lilacs And Lolita
Ben Folds Five – Battle Of Who Could Care Less
Rogue Wave – Nourishment Nation
RJD2 – Through The Walls
Joan Of Arc – This Life Cumulative
Proof – Bring It 2 Me Feat. Killa Khan
Fats Domino – Ain’t That A Shame
Michael Fakesch – We Got A Generator
Spoon – The Fitted Shirt
Pedro The Lion – Foregone Conclusions
Eric B. & Rakim – Know The Ledge
Modest Mouse – Worms Vs. Birds
The Good Life – [November] Lovers Need Lawyers
Good Fight – Driven
America – A Horse With No Name
Plans And Apologies – Secret By Design
XTC – Making Plans For Nigel
Weezer – Island In The Sun
Venetian Snares – Tattoo
Futureheads – Tearing Holes
The Cars – Just What I Needed
Minor Threat – Minor Threat
Belle And Sebastian – The Stars Of Track And Field

The Bludgeoning Of Najaf

For nearly three weeks, a plucky underdog has been fighting a massively more powerful and better equipped enemy.

But you won’t have heard about it like that. Because that enemy is us.

All that time, USK forces have been laying down a barrage on the Iraqi holy city of Najaf. Their opponents? Ordinary Iraqis who reject both US colonialism and the puppet government installed by Bush’s decree.

In Najaf, residents clustered in doorways as tank shelling and sniper fire resounded for much of the morning through the grid of narrow and otherwise empty streets bordering the south-east boundary of the old city. American Abrams tanks took up positions close to intersections and earlier an AC-130 gunship raked insurgent strongholds with cannon and howitzer fire.
(Source: The Independent)

Their crime is to fight for the right to be involved in the rule of their own country. They follow Shiite leader Muqtada Sadr… hold on – Shiite? Weren’t the Shiite Muslims the ones constantly rebelling against Hussein’s rule? Weren’t they the ones trumpeted by the US as oppressed and marginalised by Hussein?

Yep.

The Shiite Muslims were meant to be welcoming the US and UK forces with open arms. Instead, they have consistently demanded autonomy for Iraq and an end to foreign rule. So…when these people rose up against Saddam, they were brave freedom fighters, daring to challenge the tyrant’s rule.

But when those very same people rise up against our rule, then we call them “insurgents” and “militants.”

Funny that, eh?

Imagine living in Najaf. If you’re lucky enough to have survived the “liberation” of your country (and your oil) by USK forces, you’re now living under a constant daily barrage from helicopter gunships and tanks. You watch your city being bombed into tiny bits every day, all because the US must secure Iraq in its bid to control the supply of black gold.

The price of a barrel of oil approached $50 for the first time yesterday following further unrest in Iraq. With confusion surrounding the situation in Najaf, the price of US crude oil hit $49.40 a barrel, before easing in late trading to just below $48.

The markets are being driven by events in Iraq, where last night the interim government and renegade Shia militias appeared to be looking for a way out of the siege at the Imam Ali shrine without a further escalation of violence in one of the country’s holiest sites.
(Source: The Irish Times)

So, despite all the Bush and Blair bullshit about the invasion of Iraq being about WMDs, human rights, democracy etc, we can see that the international markets know what the real target was: control of those oil fields.

Otherwise, if the Iraq war wasn’t about oil, why are oil prices being affected by the course of that war now?