[Book And Album Reviews] Week 5

This week’s book: Wall and Piece by Banksy

I keep meaning to write something about Banksy for Black Ink, but I haven’t got around to it yet. So, this is his book. Well, you know what to expect. A load of photos of graffiti and other acts of “vandalism”. Some of it is quite witty. Look you know who he is. You either like him, or you don’t. If you like his work, this is a nice book.

This week’s music: Memento Mori by The Bastard Faries
A friend recommended this at the start of the week. It is available in it’s entirety for free at the link above. They sort of feel like what you’d get if you crossed The Paradise Motel with The Dresden Dolls. Yes, I know that almost all of you are saying “who?” to one, if not both of those bands. The deficiency is in you, not me, that’s all I’m saying.

Look, you can get the whole album for free. I think it’s quite good, especially for a free thing. Download it yourself, and make you own mind up.

[Book And Album Reviews] Week 4

Running a little late here, so a couple of very short reviews for last week’s stuff.

This week’s book(s): Still Life / Havock Junction / Shrike all by Joe Donelly

Donelly does a sort of celtic horror – the stories are generally set in Scotland, and rooted in (heavily fictionalised) myths and legends about ancient Druids and witchcraft. I still think his first book, Bane, that I read many years ago, is his best, but these three did manage to keep me nicely entertained for a week or so. While his books have common elements – he’s particularly fond of slapping a love story into them, and his works do tend to be written from a default position of of Decent Man looking after Capable-But-Still-In-Need-Of-Rescuing Woman – the books are different enough not not feel entirely like you’ve read the same thing from him before.

I would heartily recommend Bane to anyone, and of these three, I think Still Life was the strongest.

This week’s music: A to Z of Classical Music by Various Artists

Nope, still can’t do it. I do like this stuff, but it completely fails to command even a fraction of my attention. Were I buy classical music in a serious manner, I’d need to buy it, and sit doing nothing but listening to it. Which isn’t unreasonable, except that that’s not how I listen to music – I’m almost always doing something else with music playing, but I do like to be aware of the music, and with this, I’m just not – I might as well be sitting silence. Once in a blue moon, I’ll lie in bed and just listen, but even then, I want something that’s not going to let me drift into thinking about other stuff. I feel like a bit of a philistine, but there you go. Anyway, I’ve always got the jazz collection to prove that I do in fact listen to music for grown ups when the mood takes me.

[Book And Album Reviews] Week 3

Getting these in early this week.

This Week’s Book: The Penguin of Death by Edward Monkton

Things you need to know about The Penguin of Death:

  • He is strangely attractive because of his enigmatic smile.
  • He can kill you in any 1 of 412 different ways.

Someone (and I apologise for forgetting exactly who) gave me a birthday card with this on it a year or two back. It’s one of the few birthday cards I have kept, because really, what’s not to love about a card with an enigmatic penguin of death on it?

And then the other day while risking life and wallet in a bookstore in January (Fatal. Fatal, I tell you.), I ran across this book, which is an illustrated short poem about said Antarctic bird, beauty and death.

I’m not really sure how to describe it, except to say that I loved it.

(I feel a bit like I’m cheating talking about a short book like this. I’m also reading “Still Life” by Joe Donnelly, but since I just got a jbo lot of his books second hand the other day, I think the odds are reasonable that I’ll be talking about one of them next week, hence the penguin this week.)

This Week’s Album: Gutters and Pews by Preacher Boy

I can feel this one growing on me. I picked this up via Emusic’s recommendations engine, where it drew comparisons to Tom Waits and Louis Armstrong. And on first listen, it’s perfectly acceptable middle-of-the-road blues rock, that I wouldn’t be sorry to hear when it comes up on the random shuffle, but I didn’t see myself seeking it out a lot, either. But I’ve listened to it a couple more times, and I find it a little more appealing now – while the musical arrangements are, like I say, a bit straightforward, there’s a bit more to the lyrics. On the strength of this, I might give one of his more recent albums a try.

[Book And Album Reviews] Week 2

The week’s book: In Search of Perfection by Heston Blumenthal

“What’s this, Alasdair?” you cry, “A cookbook? Are you changing your ways? Surely if you want to try learning to cook again, you could try something simpler than dishes created by one of the most finicky chefs in the world?”

No. I still can’t cook, and this isn’t a cookbook. It’s a 320 page book that happens to contain 8 recipes and some general tips about making food.

If you saw the BBC series, well, you probably know most of it, but it’s quite nice to have it flip through. If you didn’t, but you’ve heard of Blumenthal and are thinking “why the hell would anyone want his cookbook? Who needs to cook snail porridge, for god’s sake?” I should point out that the recipes are for traditional ordinary dishes. Roast Chicken. Spag Bol. Steak and Salad. The book is about how to produce the absolute best version of them that’s possible. This is a book about farming, about the role of food in society, about the ways in which science and technology are changing the way we do things. It’s entertaining and informative, and is very, very clearly the work of a man of passion.

This week’s music: Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys by Various Artists

Recommended by burge and stu_n among others. Ace. Utterly Ace. I could go on at length about the relationships between chanties, worksongs, folk and blues music, but there’s no point. There’s not a bad track on this, and some of the people you’d expect to be less than exciting are suddenly stellar – I mean, I like U2, but I’ve never enjoyed Bono’s singing like I have on this album. And likewise, suddenly Sting has produced stuff I really enjoy for the first time in years.

And y’know, a lot of it is complete filth, too. Which is always nice.

Highly recommended.

[Book And Album Reviews] Week 1

The week’s book: The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by Bobby Henderson

The Question: Will Bobby Henderson’s ID spoof sustain a whole book?

The Answer: Just about, but it’s a good thing it’s not any longer – the new material is indeed as funny as the site, but it’s essentially just playing on the same theme, rather than anything new. This was a gift, so it’s a little hard to assess if it was worth the money, but honestly, I’ve got enough entertainment out of pastafarianism as a whole to think that Henderson deserves some financial recompense for it. If you like venganza.org, you’ll be entertained by the book.

This week’s music: The Power of Pussy by Bongwater

I got one of the tracks off this from a friend in a compliation CD a year or two back, and loved it, since it sounded like very little else I’d ever heard, so when Emusic recommended them at me, I thought I’d grab an album’s worth. On the strength of it, I’ll be getting more.

I suppose you’d have to call this psychedelia, but I don’t like the term. This is bitter, sleazy, nasty stuff, collaging together spoken word, laid back guitars, samples and more normal singing, as they talk about porn and sexuality and exploitation. You might have heard their classic “Folk Song” before, a long bitter rant about well, almost everything. Like I say, they sound like very little else that I can think of, and they’re fairly clever. This is more than enough recommendation for me.

God Bless The Electric Internet!

Yeah, I know what the rest of you are thinking. “God, he’s off being all starry-eyed about something really basic like having Broadband again, isn’t he?”

Yes, I am. Up Yours.

I have a long fucking last, got a photo from the Sultan’s Elephant that I like. I got the tools to get it right off the internet – some clever bastard’s script achieving exactly the effect I’m not good enough to get with PotatoShop myself. While I was getting them installed, and fiddling with various settings to fine tune the effect, I was also downloading an album called “Beast Moans” by an outfit called Swan Lake off Emusic. warren_ellis bunged an mp3 up, this massive tsunami of reverb and echo, guitars and strange chimes, just made for my mood right now, sitting here.

I love the fact that I can get a whole album of perfect mood music, on a whim, completely legally, in less time than it takes to make a slice of toast, without leaving the house. I can do it while I finally crack a bit of work that’s been bugging me since May. I love the fact that it cost about a quid to do it. Suddenly, music is a disposable consumer experience – a thing to be had for the price of a coffee.

A thought to come back to tomorrow, I think – I know I’ve got a lot more to write on that topic, beyond my “oo, isn’t that neat” reaction, but bed is calling.

And get more “death of internet” stuff piles on…

So, this BBC headline Industry to stop ‘music cheats’ is a bit fucking disingenuous. What is should more properly read is “Industry to ‘cripple internet’, and ‘fuck with consumers’ at whim”.

In short: they’re asking for the right to pull the plug on the internet connection of anyone they suspect is pirating music. Not, you understand, the ability to prove that someone is engaged in illegal activity, and get a court order. Just y’know, the right to get in touch with your ISP and have your account yanked.

Noted copywonk Cory Doctrow explains it rather better than I might.

Yes, this all just a “maybe” in the future. A “might happen”. But still: the strength of the internet is that it’s a level playing field. That anyone with the right equipment can connect to it, from anywhere, and do as they please. It’s device and activity agnostic, and as Doctrow explains, that’s why it has become this fantastic medium. And I feel that any threat to that should be taken very seriously indeed.

Sitting By The Train Tracks Reading Kafka To The Sky

Just in case anyone that was at South London Pacific is interested: Jason’s new limited edition EP “Eleven Saints” is available for pre-order. For under a tenner, including international shipping, you can get a 15 track CD, and limited edition vinyl. One might make some remark about a 15 track CD being more like an album than an EP, but he’s calling it an EP…

Only 1111 of them available, and I’ve already had one, so if you want it, order soon.

London Pop Moment

Reminded by barrysarll‘s post on the same topic, I’ve been meaning to suggest that everyone give Lily Allen’s storming ska-pop single “LDN” a listen.

It’s helpfully available free here: http://hifipopcorn.blogspot.com/2006/05/nun-allen.html

It’ll probably be overplayed and deeply annoying by the end of the summer, but right now, the sun is shining and I’m about to take a walk in Battersea Park, and I can’t think of a better soundtrack.