Monthly Archives: June 2014

I prefer Orange Juice

Around thirty years ago, I was somehow watching Young Musician Of The Year, or something similar. The middle-aged presenter was interviewing a late-teenage violinist and he was marvelling at the fact that she liked “pop music” as well as classical, the former being exemplified by Orange Juice.

“Which one do you like best?”,

he asked. She replied, to his disappointment:

“I prefer Orange Juice”.

When I myself was a teenager, my musical development was a little slow. I didn’t really engage properly until 15 or so, and took a path from the more to the less obvious. This didn’t include anything like Orange Juice, though of course as I sucked the Indie Knowledge Canon, I came to know of them, though I felt Josef K cast a very long shadow over all the other Scottish stuff. My second memory of them was from a visit to Platt Fields for a free gig with Dub Sex, The Man From Del Monte and (the band I’d come to see) Happy Mondays, in 1986 or so. Possibly this one, or this one. The DJ played Rip It Up followed by Blue Monday, in the rain. (I think that was also when I bought my first fanzine – Whip Me and Go Moo).

Now, as a middle-aged person myself, I decided I wanted to see Edwyn Collins at this year’s Meltdown at the South Bank. It would be yet another gig where I wouldn’t know most of the songs, and I wondered about the audience composition. In the end, most of them were 5-10 years older than me, the prime age for the Postcard Records heyday in the early eighties. In the row behind me, a couple were fondling something they’d received from Jeff Bezos, before things started. The support act was Colorama, who all seemed like such well brought up young men. All but one perhaps, because a band member was at a loose end during one song and wandered over to the other side of the stage, playing horribly discordant notes on the keyboard, next to the singer, who couldn’t do anything about it. He clapped his hands and shook a tambourine, too. A dangerous character.

One of the group next to me asked the name of that band and (at the time) I had to say I didn’t know. She was determined, and discovered it from a mixing desk person. Apparently one of them was in “agony” because of a tennis injury, which was a shame because it was a

“really good rally as well”.

My neighbour on the other side, who only had a seat because I’d taken one of my original two back for a refund, wandered back during the interval, having ignored Colorama. He was tweeting away, to Edwyn Collins and others, Instagramming and – who knows – maybe Tindering as well.

It turned out that two of Colorama were part of Edwyn Collins’ band, who came on first. Collins had to be assisted across the stage and sat rather decorously on a monitor, with what looked like a small bottle of water at his side. There was a lectern at his side, in case he had trouble with the lyrics. His voice still has the fragile, resounding quality of old and as the gig progressed it seemed as though he was really enjoying it, particularly as he burst into fits of chuckles between songs. He gave us some insights, including that

“This one I stole from the Velvet Underground. Imagine that?”

and some reflections on the lyrics he wrote many years ago:

“Gets a bit dark at the end there, doesn’t it? Before the stroke I was mad”,

to which the singer from Colorama added:

“After it, you were really mental”.

The songs I did recognise included Rip It Up – an excellent version, even without the squelchy synth bass of the original – Felicity, Blue Boy and Falling and Laughing. My neighbour, while clearly a very keen fan, spent a lot of time taking photos and writing down his own set list and sending out posts. At various points people stood up and danced, which of course means the people behind them can’t see, causing a rippling of elevation. The first time this happened, the man on other side (part of the Tennis Group) was forced to stand up, which then blocked the view of his wife, who had for some reason joined her friend on the row behind, after trips to the toilet. When she stood up herself later on, she indicated her wishes to him, saying:

“Please don’t stand up.”

which felt pretty unpleasant to me.

Still, the remarkable thing was the warmth and joy of the evening, which even carried me along, when I wouldn’t call myself a proper Orange Juice fan. It felt like a celebration as much as a gig.

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Waltzing with the Vikings

A week before the last day, I went to see the Vikings at the British Museum, expecting to be a little whelmed. There were queues all along the street, which was dispiriting, until I overheard the advice to go around and come in via the North entrance, where there was no queue at all. I realised that like a dolt I’d forgotten my new membership card, meaning that I had to obtain a flimsy paper temporary replacement.

The show itself was fantastically crowded. If I’d taken a conventional shuffling snake approach, it would have taken ages to complete, so I peered at the objects from a few people back, taking advantage of the repeated blurbs on some of the display cases, higher up, the better to be seen. The various coins and artefacts were interesting, though rather dowdy and literal (even when dealing with Norse Gods) in comparison with the recent Aztec show at the same venue.

The part everyone has heard about is the longship in the second half, but this felt like a bit of a swizz, because the vast majority of the hull was metal recreation, with wood mainly at the bottom. There was a man seeking to impress his female companion with his Viking knowledge and tales of his bus journey to the circular fort in Denmark at Terreborg. It’s good that the British Museum now has more space to make its collection available. However, they really should consider letting people in more slowly.

Thence to the Wellington Arch for an exhibition Carscapes: How The Motor Car Reshaped England. As usual they had good items in the display cases, including a parking game based on a magnetic car driven by a large dipstick that seemed very similar to one I had as a child.

Carscapes: How The Motor Car Reshaped England

You could see a resemblance in tone between the Shell promotional poster (“Have a nice time in the countryside thanks to our petrol”) reminiscent of Tube promotional posters from the same period (1920s-1930s). The pride that existed in motoring paraphernalia architecture – car parks, garages, filling stations – contrasted strongly with the dreary utilitarianism we see today. A tablet was showing a live feed of Abbey Road, with tourists waiting for a long enough gap in the traffic to recreate the Beatles album cover.

Flickr album for Carscapes

Just a few Piccadilly Line stops to the Victoria & Albert Museum, dangerously near my workplace, for Empire Builders 1750-1950, which was (mostly) a single, long, thin room off the main architecture gallery. What was surprising (to me) here was the number of imposing Gothic revival buildings – train stations, court houses, post offices, along with the attempted mixtures of the Neo-Gothic with local styles, notably in India.

Empire Builders: 1750 - 1950

 

Flickr album for Empire Builders

On the way from there to the Southbank, I saw several people clutching programmes for Romeo and juliet and I wondered where they’d seen it. At the Albert Hall? I was there for James Lavelle’s Meltdown and there was a small exhibition “Urban Archaeology” in the Royal Festival Hall foyer about his label Mo’Wax. Do such people employ personal archivists? In this sort of show they all seem to have their tickets from 20 years ago and obscure letters. A man took a photo of a single record sleeve, so I came back with my camera to do the same for an U.N.K.L.E. release I used to have, which has two wonderful Plaid remixes.

Waltz with Bashir with live soundtrack by Max Richter from the Philharmonic Orchestra was the main thing I’d come to see. A man on the row in front of me was fingering the cling film cover of his Underground journals for a long time, before finally unwrapping them, with some reverence. I found the film very unusual and rather extraordinary, the animation adding to the poignant effect. Notable was the very fractured timeline of the various stories, as the protagonist nears his own memories. The presence of the orchestra made the effect even stronger, particularly with the solo piano at the end.

Afterwards there was a brief Q&A with Max Richter the composer and the director Ari Folman. The latter said he found it overwhelming, not having seen it for four years, that he’d made a massive mistake not inviting his 91-year-old mother. Apparently it took him 4 days to write the script, while Max Richter composed the score in 2 weeks. Folman’s intention was (unusually) to have the score ready in advance so that the animators could listen to it while they worked, instead of adding it at the end. When asked why he’d chosen Richter, he cited a quote from Pete Doherty that just when you don’t think you can go any lower, you listen to him and then you succeed. The moderator asked about the brief section of documentary footage from the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps at the end and Folman said that this was a matter of ideology for him, pursued against strong resistance from the rest of the production team. There was some contemporary music, as listened to by civilians back in Tel Aviv, and the younger people on the crew chose that because they said Folman’s tastes had stopped evolving in 1976, while the extracts of Schubert were chosen by Richter, who said he “had a madness for him”.

Walking to Waterloo afterwards I heard someone say

“It’s quite an onslaught”

while someone else was

“Decimated”

and another thought it was

“Too much”

One wrong-headed dullard said that

“Having the orchestra there didn’t add anything”

Tsk.

Projecting the Masons

At the Rook and Raven gallery, a new venue for me, I saw the last day of Stephen Wilkes: Day to Night. The first impression was rather shallow, perhaps because of the glossiness of the prints. When other people came in, I looked more closely and re-examined the earlier ones. It was only then that I really saw the care with which the shots taken across 15 hours had been blended and the startling change in weather and light across the view. A form of panorama in time rather than space. In the Paris-set one, you could see a fresh bride scurrying across the bank of the Seine, while the 9/11 memorial lights were striking in one of the New York images. The handout referred to an image from an entirely separate series, set in a Chinese factory, which didn’t seem to be around. I asked one of the gallery staff, and she said that it had been put into storage because it was (of course…) the last day. She did kindly show me the whole series on her laptop.

In my border crossing between Soho and Fitzrovia, I tried GRAD next. The absence of any signage meant that it had in fact disappeared, or is searching for a proper home. Tsk. Nearby is Carroll/Fletcher, which I like because there always seems to be an element of slyness in what they exhibit. Very unusually for me, it was the day after their latest show, Constant Dullaart: Stringendo, Vanishing Interiors, had opened. This may have transpired because I went there for reasons of proximity and previous enjoyment, rather than scheduling. The first room contains a whole set of lenticular implementations of Photoshop filters, applied to a photo famous in Photoshop history – Jennifer in Paradise – which re-arrange, dissolve and resolve as you move around.

Recently I read Dave Eggers’ The Circle and I was reminded of that by the female voice of one work, complete with animated mouth formed by the Google search box, intoning that corporation’s terms of service. He’s taken the circular dots loading symbol as the signifier of YouTube and there’s a clever realisation using alternating lights and polystyrene. There’s usually something good saved for the stairwell and in this case it was a laser projection, redolent of vector-based arcade games, extolling Dullaart’s idea of Balconism. Downstairs, there are more Photoshop-trope homages and a parade of flags representing countries that censor the Internet, amongst which the UK proudly stands. I do intend to go back and take a longer look at all this, especially if there’s an artist talk.

Back on the other side of the wretched Oxford Street, I saw John Deakin’s photos of 1950s and 1960s Soho, at the Photographers’ Gallery. As good as the photos were some of the blurbs and ephemera, including two letters from the same month sadly listing the camera equipment that Deakin has lost, and a quote from someone that Deakin was

the second nastiest person I know

to which others in the same circle wondered, with some incredulity, who was the first. The scorn with which Deakin’s efforts in his preferred medium (painting) were received at the time, was quite poignant. There was time for a quick second look at the Deutsche Börse contenders, reminding me again that the power of Richard Mosse’s installation at the Brewer Street Car Park (which featured in something I was to see the next day, though I didn’t know that yet) was only hinted in the few photos on show here. I suppose it’s a bit like the Turner Prize. There isn’t room to exhibit all the items on which they’re being judged.

Across London to the Andaz Hotel in Liverpool Street, for a double-bill of macabre films in their Masonic Temple, as part of the East End Film Festival. Ticket holders were asked to wait in the lobby, before being taken upstairs to the temple. Animations were being projected as part of the Festival and I started watching a Russian one about an industrious ant committed to Art, that made me rather sad, as the best short animations tend to. In fact, I missed everyone else’s departure as a result and had to ask directions. Unlike everyone else I didn’t take any of the free popcorn. There was something magnificently vulgar about the room, especially the marble, which was garish rather than impressive. For the first film, I sat in the temporary seats in the middle of the room. This was The Last Winter, starring Ron Perlman, who had been billed as providing a Q&A beforehand, but we were told he couldn’t make it. The film was pretty grim (for which effect it was aiming). However, I don’t think it managed to transcend the influence/shadow of John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, though that may say more about me.

After the interval, in which I bought a Strange Attractor Press book, the head of that company and a BFI person introduced the next two films – a Kenneth Anger short (“Invocation of my Demon Brother”) and Night Tide, an early starring role for Dennis Hopper. We were told about the links between the directors and various occult figures, and a revelation about Robert Heinlein’s fling with L. Ron Hubbard. When the Kenneth Anger short started I recognised the music, which was performed by Mick Jagger on a Moog. Apparently, when the synth was delivered, someone said

Mr Jagger, here’s your sanitiser

I think I’d seen it before, though I really couldn’t remember where. Anger tends to stay with you. Dennis Hopper saw Night Tide again late in life and we were told he exclaimed that he couldn’t believe how good looking he was back then. It did have quite an odd atmosphere, with Hopper’s ingenuousness matched by rather grand declamations from a couple of baroque English-sounding actors. The focal point of the merry-go-round for some reason reminded me of that scene in The Sting, when the “girls” want to have a free go, while the punters are away. For this second half, I moved to one of the throne seats at the side, for greater comfort and spiritual easement.

Magic and Macabre at the Masonic Temple

When I did so, people next to me asked to see my Tarot card (we were all given one as a ticket), checking whether we all had the same one or not. As the artiste in the film said, the cards should not be subject to oversimplification.