Thursday, February 11, 2016

Scope, scapes and shape - a 2016 mix

KlikB8 101 - Scope, scapes and shape is the first Sonic Truth mix that is purely online only. I was working on the basis of it going on Mixcloud so didn't restrict myself to the 80-minute CD limit - therefore if I burn copies I will have had to do an edit that doesn't reflect the desired progression. No longer using a cracked copy of Sound Studio, my partner's new Mac didn't have anything comparable (Logic or Garageband are too fussy for these purposes) so i downloaded a trial copy of Twisted Wave; worked pretty well. Likewise, although the odd track was taken off a legacy CD and transferred between computers, much of the music is now coming straight off Bandcamp releases, reflecting the dominance and ease of use of that platform

Though there's the usual attempt at spanning the genres - although I am now almost completely unshackled from indie rock - but also an unapologetic doubling up of material from a few releases, whether an artist album or compilation. This just reflects the fact that I'm finding things I really like and sticking to them - the Boxed Ldn instru-grime compilation (Glot and JT the Goon), Talbot Fade (the bridge between Selected Ambient Works and Burial), Gerd Janson's very tidy Music for Autobahns II (Shan and Disco Nihilist). The same goes for Julie Holter on her now quite old Live Recordings - an artist i took a while to tune into even though there is never any doubt i would like her style (and seeing her at Oval this Monday!).

I make it at least eight 'old' (a year-plus) tracks but there's hot new stuff too - Egyptian Bionic Ahmed on Lee Gamble's label and Oliver Coates' finely quirky cover on the fine Front & Follow remix compilation of Laura Cannell. The mix also spans the decades as Talbot Fade's Weathered Sunrise sneaks out of its inspiration, the Prodigy's Weather Experience. Hope it works.

There's the usual curios (Manchester's infamous Beetham Tower winterval hum kicking us off; speak and spell Satie); 'comic' moments like Palin's landmark endorsement of Trump and Cameron sampled by Alias Djekyll tune; and mates' contributions - Opium Harlot. So as ever it'll sound odd and no doubt incomprehensible to many an ear, but it works for me.

TRACKLISTING the beetham tower hum
laura cannell - deers bark (oliver coates rmx)
eric satie - bonjour biqui bonjour
julia holter - with loue to toune
tropic of cancer - when the dog bites
the prodigy - weather experience
talbot fade - weathered sunrise
dva - ganja (french fries remix)
glot - purp drip (mike midnight rmx)
semitic djekyll - moveXcam
sir spyro - side by side
jt the goon - broken floor
opium harlot - chicken of the sea
bionic ahmed - 131001G
savages - t.i.w.y.g
clark - so malleable
boardgame james - ocean bluetooth (talbot fade rmx)
shan - awakening
julia holter - hello stranger
bugge wesseltoft - (all i wanted was to make you) feel good
brtsh knights - outta your mind
nozinja - n’wanga i jesu
beta librae - bangs dub
disco nihilist - melancholy
governor palin - proud clingers of our guns and daughters
new order - tutti frutti
roberto roena - que se sepa

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Clickbait corner

Usually i have five or six printouts on the go in my work bag, printouts of web articles long enough to not want to be dead-eye scrolling down the piece online for 10 minutes, interesting enough that I'll want to return to them on a regular basis outside the bookmarking format on a browser.

What the list below is a recreation of the contents of that scuzzy workbag - a kind of standalone Delicious page of some of the most impressive writing that has stayed with me over the past year. Usual subjects covered: music, football, British culture, Islamism and terror etc. Read and enjoy.

Alain Badiou - The Red Flag and the Tricolore (via Verso)

French main man's expert reading of - and the reaction to - the attacks on the ruck-making Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Jewish supermarket in Paris in February. Hebdo had been hitherto excused its worst racist excesses because it was seen as a core part of French cultural life (such "intellectual conformism" all part of France's grand "Republican pact"). "Does freedom in general, today consist of us all helping the police hunt down a few dozen fascist brigands; universalised grassing on dodgy types with their beards and veils; and constantly casting a suspicious gaze toward the banlieues, heirs to the faubourgs where the Communards were slaughtered." Keeping my eyes out for a similar analysis of the latest Paris attacks.

Agata Pyzik - In Praise of Vulgar Feminism

Poor But Sexy author Agata Pyzik assesses Courtney Love and Kim Gordon (the former often disparaged in the latter's recent memoir) and offers a well judged takedown of prescriptive forms of 'acceptable' (indeed, bourgeois) feminist modes (Gordon's) in favour of Love's exhibitionistic but vulnerable dualism: "Problematic, unstable, what she did for her disenfranchised fans to help them accept themselves, matters more." That shouldnt have led us to Lana del Ray's cartoonish projections but the times are what they are.

Joe Kennedy - 'Romantic and Earnest, Laced with Irony' (via A Drawing Sympathy)

In our current culture of disavowal (well that is one thread), where no one claims to be a hipster but actually might tick many of the signifiers, Joe gets closer than most to nailing what our modern hipster is - and isn't - and the maddening portrayal of said archtype in the 'cultural arms of neoliberalism' such as Time Out: "The trick is to give these visual signifiers some behavioural characteristics which don't really match, to overlay them with Nathan Barley-style flippancy and 'postmodern irony' and all of that stuff, which only exists in the vaguest of ways." The UK's prized entrepreneurial culture has certainly got better at selling cool. The 'hipster' entered play when things that did not use to be regarded as to die for - food, coffee (all the fucking coffee), the provenance of the hops in your beer, vintarge clothing, 'urban' living - came to seem more important than nailing your colours to the mast of the latest to-die youth culture. To be up with all these things (no matter how ambivalently you present your attitude to it) is enough to make you a 'hipster'. A useful primer when your mates are deriding your visit to Champion Hill to see the Hamlet.

Hatful of History - the Battle of Lewisham

Shortish analysis of the infamous anti-fascist/NF/police contretemps from the point of view of leftwing political organisation, where the CPGB was seen to demur from taking on fascism and racism even as the NF was taking to the streets, leaving the SWP - as well as Asian youth movements - to lead operations in the late 70s and early 80s.

Carl Neville - English Fields via Up Close and Personal

Carl gets to grips with Ben Wheatley's Kill List, the 'first great film of Austerity Britain' showing us that the English have taken a 'blood oath' to 'uncertain forces' (capitalism), and the 'long struggle for {personal} liberation" in A Field in England. After a process of 'comradisation', the true treasure is a masterless personal freedom. But then how will that intersect with the land and property?

Annie Goh/Alexander G Weheliye - 'White Brothers with No Soul' via CTM Festival

AN important look at the racial politics of Berlin techno and how in the aftermath of reunification the black cultures that fed into the genre (some physically such as discos for GIs in the 80s, some sonically such as the way the funkier Underground Resistance records were ditched for the stompers) were progressively whited out. All this took place in an environment where racial attacks were on the rise but swept under the carpet of the reunification narrative. Prof Weheliye says this process was so effectively carried out that many of his white American students are surprised to learn that techno originated in Detroit.

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Fucking amateurs

Patrick Marber’s The Red Lion ably shows how we can fuck things up we hold dearest, even football. Daniel Mays ‘plays a blinder’ as Tim Sherwood-esque manager Jimmy Kidd, a ducker and diver, a force of nature with a theory or five about the game and a man with little self-deprecation and no good way of maintaining his life outside of it. Kidd uses football to cook up schemes to keep his head above water. The other two do good turns too – Calvin Demba as the talented but fatally dissembling young player Jordan, and Peter Wright the loyal clubman and former pro Johnny Yates who just wants to stay involved in the game. It’s an expert evocation of the non-league milieu.

The amateur club is at various stages seen as a subversive force (‘it’s a pirate ship here’), the means of escape for a working class lad (‘the state isn’t your mate’), or a typically English idyll that sometimes takes Mays and Wright's lines off into Rylance-like Jerusalem territory. A slice of This Is England – if you must. More than once is the team bearing the red lion’s badge described as playing on that ‘beautiful green meadow’. Once you’re inside, anything is possible – ‘A collusion of people wanting to make it happen, makes it happen’ – or you can just use it as your local.

But it’s the pressure of that cliquey club culture and the possibly dubious notion of the club as a site of almost utopian qualities that generates the drama. The mantra of What Goes On In the Dressing Room Stays in the Dressing Room is impossible to maintain as manager and kitman both aim to strike a deal with the young talent in the hope of getting a cut (in Jimmy’s case financial, in Johnny’s reputational) from his inevitable sale, and so maintain the cycle. Even for the loyal kitman, ‘the club’ was not his number one priority despite their protestations to the contrary, while the Sherwoodesque gaffer howls ‘It’s not a bung, it’s football’.

All this comes to naught as they find out what we already knew, that’s he been injecting himself with painkillers just to keep playing (‘the sleeping giant’ club he was having a trial at quickly found this out), an inquiry is launched, the manager is sacked, the coach leaves, the promotion push grinds to a halt and the good times come to a cataclysmic end – just like they do at many a club up and down the land. But nowhere else to go, still we/they turn up.

As excessive ticket prices, FIFA bribe culture and the increasingly banal spectacle of Bayern Madridalona turn people away from the game’s top tiers, this is a timely reminder that even in the non league game there is still corruption, still people on the make, still people who won’t pay wages the right way when an off balance sheet shifty transaction will do. Marber, 90s Morris collaborator and creator of hit plays Dealer’s Choice and Closer, is on the board at Lewes and has maybe uncovered more about the workings of the game near the top end of the amateur pyramid than he wanted to see.

So a very decent production that should get a west end or regional revival in the not too distant future. A final world for the crowd – I was chuffed to have finally made it to the National’s Dorfman Theatre on its penultimate night, but no 'football people' could be found in the audience. This is not surprising in itself, it’s a play at a bourgeois institution, but if they wanted a football fix these bankers, high rollers and cultural cognoscenti would ironically have been more at home at a hospitality box in the Emirates than here.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A fierce experience at the factory-cathedral

My father-in-law took us to Essex University in the summer. We had dinner in the extended Wivenhouse House but then took time to wander past the lakes and onto the campus, just a little over 50 years old. I am glad we did as my cameraphone was immediately out and my mind thrown back to my days (now more than 20 years back) at Leeds - not a campus university itself but an institution whose geography was transformed by the Brutalist experiments of Chamberlin Powell and Bon. Even with only the odd out-of-season overseas student passing by, you could feel the energy such a place could have generated among the student tumult of the 60s and 70s. Indeed, Essex University acknowledged this with their 'Something Fierce' exhibition last year on the vision of Albert Sloman and the work of Kenneth Capon at the Architects’ Co-Partnership. Many students turning up at their various institutions of higher education these last few weeks will face far less confrontational and much more consumerist styles of architecture than these; more's the pity.

Like any of these developments, creeping commerce and HSE notices blight many a sightline and there's now a bland sub-Guggenheim Bilbao lecture theatre in the mix (the Ivor Crewe) but it was still a joy to be thrown back to this kind of complete concrete environment, having spent long months wondering in Leeds' Edward Boyle library and Roger Stevens lecture theatre and wandering the staircases of the EC Stoner building (luckily I missed this terrible tack-on).

A few campus pics of my own plus a few stolen ones of the choice Leeds ones follow, including the demolished Brunswick building down the road at the Poly. Just like something off a 90s Warp compilation.

Sloman Library x 3

Student upheaval: 'Danger - Falling ideologies'
I hate it when they try to pastoralise this stuff.
The new Siberrad building seems more sympathetic to the 60s campus style, and its front columns have been built to generate superb echoes.
Back to Leeds, here's their Brutalist big four.
Further reading: Owen Hatherley in Dezeen

The Particulations on Leeds University's Brutalist spaces (scroll down for further articles)

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ride the wave

Some nice pictures here by my mate Tommy Miller from Ride's Camden Roundhouse gig on 24 May. Unfairly lumped in with the shoegazers that came after them but a band I held in high esteem up to and including the first album (beyond which they were always going to struggle to maintain the quality while forcing themselves to diversify the sound). It was great seeing so many people who had clearly carried on listening to and loving them for years after their demise letting go and losing it to those perfectly constructed bursts of noise. Don't think you'd get that sheer ecstatic release for Chapterhouse, or Moose, or Revolver (Tommy was off to Thousand Yard Stare the following week so there is no accounting for nostalgic taste). Truly a last burst of 'indie' where that meant a reverence for 60s patterns and harmonies but also an acute artistic sensibility that would limit its populist reach (the form outweighed the substance). It was good to see Gardner, Bell, Queralt and Colbert revel in the love shown them too (the BDS protester at Field Day notwithstanding; Gardener had recently played in Israel)
The hat's getting annoying Mark lad.
Yes, most of them are 40 plus, and look the same. Must be the only time I have been at a gig and middle aged men have elbowed me out of the way in their rush to the moshpit.
And one crappy one from me.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Not awesome, better off staying on tape

Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes from Africa blog has done crate diggers around the world a great service by posting and promoting rare African sounds on his blog. Yaw Atta-Owusu aka Ata Kak’s Obaa Sima was the subject of his first blog in April 2006 – a stripped down but mercurial blend of late 80s drum machine groove, bright and bubbly synth and guitar lines and vocals from Ata Kak himself and Lucy Quansah. Shimkovitz has talked about how fresh African music can’t be shielded from ‘globalisation’ and the wider challenges of digitising (so you can download for free) and distributing (to give the artists ‘career enhancing’ opportunities) his favourite music. However genuine his reasons, in trying to monetise this curio ATFA got a few things wrong, as did I in paying scant attention to the blurb and reaching for the vinyl version.

‘You may never hear anything like this elsewhere’

It may have wowed ATFA’s fast growing community (among them respected global south tastemakers such as DJ Rupture), but making it work as a reissue proved trickier, to the extent that it barely matched the description of an awesome tape from Africa (this is somewhat churlish a point but read on for the reasoning). Ata got the tapes made up in Kumasi in 1994, but the whole project was recorded in Toronto. The liner notes suggest this never flew off the market stalls of Accra and Kumasi (as the blog acknowledged at the time); its muted reaction in Ghana matching the reception back in Canada. Ata Kak, who had been in a few bands around Toronto and Germany, but who had been working to get his own project out there, may have been somewhat chastened by the experience and, back in Ghana, only now writes songs for his own pleasure.

Twenty years later, when considering what to do with their ‘frenetic leftfield rap madness’, ATFA finally made contract with Ata Kak, but with the dat master tape far too degraded they recorded digital files from a normal tape that had possibly been pirated and sped up. They made the decision to go with the sped up version for the official rerelease. There is no hint that Ata Kak himself preferred the pitched up version. For my money, it makes more sense at the intended speed – the vocal delivery markedly less rushed and the whole ensemble sounding more crafted (in fairness vinyl buyers were given codes for digital files of the tracks at both speeds). To truly help it realise its potential and promote the artist as Shimkovitz intended, one solution would have been to pay Ata Kak to re-record everything on a decent set-up; the lack of a digitisable master ruling out simply putting a completely new vocal on it. It’s a shame, as what was clearly a thing of rare beauty for ATFA has not quite had the loving curation it needed, or, when the particular circumstances of this product became apparent, a more measured, less hyped reissue.

Make no mistake, Obaa Sima has a charm and Ata Kak himself a good groove and unique sonic vision going on, especially in the vocal style full of Twi and English bars making as much or as little sense as you want it to make. This is an AfPop find, an unpolished gem. But the vocal’s frequently muffled delivery and the sound’s overall underproduction will continue to deprive it of the wider audience the project could have merited if it had been revived in some way (certainly when I roadtested it with my music-teacher partner the reaction was not too positive). Without this it could remain restricted to smaller-scale appreciation from the fanboy coterie. But even these should save a few quid and steer clear of the vinyl lp or 12s (not to mention the t-shirts costing $41), and reach for the CD or MP3 only.

Read full review of Obaa Sima - Ata Kak on ©

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stay up [reading] forever

"Do you need all those magazines?" Well, no. Not most of them. While they offer a nice snapshot of the burgeoning 90s rave scene as it consolidated its role in 'youth culture' (not just in the UK and Ibiza), the quality of writing doesn't merit hoarding them (unlike, say, the 'inkies' in the 80s), and if I see Oakey's/Sasha's/Goldie's/Brandon Block's/Tong's (delete as appropriate) face one more time, the flashbacks will be long and brutal.
Even up to 93/94, the dance press was a relatively po faced business, concentrating mainly on the DJs and the release schedules rather than the scene around them, as this 91 Mixmag and 93 DJ illustrate. Your music was nothing if it had not been picked up by the discaires.
That was even as the style mags were shedding some of their own serious take on fashion and design and plundering rave culture for much of their copy {'Mental: Britain's best 50 clubs'). That's Sneaker Pimp's Kelli on the iD cover there (we loved them, briefly), while Keith was a frequent face on The Face and everywhere else, the press breathing a sigh of relief that rave had generated a prodigy, or at least a genuine frontman.

But it was the arrival of Muzik from IPC in late 1995 that kickstarted the sector, raising the game of the old hands and attracting publishing money and young writers to take it out of the coterie. Muzik offered wide coverage of the main genres (including jungle) without being patronising or exclusive, gave star treatment to those the various scenes already considered icons (Dave Clarke, Fabio, Roger Sanchez) and made dance feel as though it finally had the same treatment as rock and indie. Mixmag responded with ever chunkier issues (here melding the political about club drugs and anti-government protests with pisstake features on modern dancing) and former inky zines such as Jockey Slut upped their game. 'The Slut' became my favourite with its slightly more irreverent and enlightened (ie, not just dance) take on the culture, and we were forever in their debt when it reviewed our rabid and dissonant fanzine Whore Cull. By the end of the decade, all were wrestling with declining ad revenues and how to better project themselves in the rolling news environment of the web, given the rapid turnaround of tastes and trends in this live fast culture.

Quick mention here for the Shoreditch Twat, wherein the soi-disant twats taking over London's east-central areas traded injokes, made light of any derision howled at them and generally paved the way for the hipster craze we so struggle to understand now (t-shirt on this cover says 'Hoxton is dead, long live Hoxton').

But as this final quintet shows, dance mags of fairly indistinguishable hue now proliferated to ever diminishing returns, with the rave scene's problem with objectification of women evident in one. Wax was the grown-up version of Generator, another fairly po-faced techno-leaning imprint in its younger days, this edition shown offering a tidy Grooverider tape (yes, tape. it's 1996); M8 was the happy hardcore tome, produced in Glasgow, which lives on just about as the globally focused Till Late mag and site after jettisoning its lumpen ravetariat base with an earlier switch to fluffier sounds; IDJ tried to rival DJ with a focus on the equipment and the music, man, but I don't think it lasted long; Knowledge was the backpacker's favorite with its focus on the beats - d&b, hip-hop and then dubstep (its site seems to have died at the end of last year); and 7 was enjoyable for a weekly, digestible take on the scene, but DMC did not keep it going for long preferring to return its focus to Mixmag.

To the net! Where we can actually hear DJs' mixes without the bother of pressing up a CD, where social media functions allow us to rate an event (and get the tickets for forthcoming nights) and where yet more hungry writers eager to cover the scene earn even less for their crust. The big two survivors, DJ and Mixmag, have done a decent job carving out a sizeable web community while still producing a hard copy mag. Me, I don't use them - tickets etc at Resident Advisor, music off Boomkat, podcasts off Fact, with The Wire as my only - occasional - old-media music fix. That reminds me to find those smelly A5 Fact mags - don't worry, I will resist digging for the copies of Vice and Sleaze Nation.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mix: futureworlds

here is a mix i did that was kindly posted on a mate's channel (check that channel). From Cut Hands to Ariel Pink, Demdike State to Romare, there is a full range of my faves over past few years plus the usual curios.

Sonic Truth guest mix by Jon Lloyd on Mixcloud

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Monday, December 22, 2014


The world of electronic (dance) music, ever feeding off the old styles to make new lifeforms, suffered the loss of two originators, LFO founder Mark Bell and Kode 9 collaborator Spaceape (Stephen Gordon) in the autumn.

At risk of turning this into an old raver's obituary column (see Frankie Knuckles), I belatedly wanted to mark their passing with a quick comment on their invaluable and distinctive contributions. Spaceape's doom-laden rhymes lit up Kode 9's productions from the first beatless Sign of the Dub (a serendipitous spot in HMV if ever there was one), and bought coherence to the nascent dubstep scene with their Memories of the Future album. Spaceape went on to work with the likes of Burial, Martyn and The Bug.

Mark Bell had a leading role in techno, either with Gez Varley or as a lone producer and remixer for the likes of Bjork and !!!, ever since the timeless combination of LFO's sub-bass, bleeps, 909s and synths first hit the airwaves. Yet that #LFOXmas Number 1 plan was a somewhat incongruous scheme to mark the underground don's passing though!

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Match of the Had Its Day?

Take away twats like Alan Sugar and Piers Morgan and Match of the Day at 50 was a decent reminisci-package, good on the its history, development, rivalry with The Big Match, etc. We will all have our favourite moments - not necessarily dictated by our team winning and the match getting a good showing - but as a general pastime there is little I like better than being with a few mates and watching a football highlights package of which MOTD is the most famous. These days, when opportunities to go out are restricted by family life, Match of the Day often is my Saturday night (and the Football League Show, as much as fatigue allows). And having it on late at night is far better than ITV’s experiment with a 7pm showing, which failed venture the programme reminded me about.

We all have our rituals round it whether based on sober analysis (better analysis than the ex-pros), interacting with others on social media about worthy phenomena or boozed up ranting at the teams we hate or the mistakes one of ours made. There is still way too much analysis and not enough highlights, but the programme deserved its half-century appraisal. And Lineker, when avoiding the cheap gags, seems a pretty competent anchor to take the programme forward.

What jarred with me was one of the key features of the show – Aguero and that goal on 93m20s, 13 May 2012 – because in reality it shows the waning cultural influence a programme like Match of the Day has over a major football event. So they showed Kun talking his way through it, and Guy Mowbray’s reflection on his commentary that day. But that is not how we generally remember it – we remember the Sky Sports commentary by Martin Tyler. Such a biased commentator, the strangulated Aguerrrooooo is part anguish because one of his favoured top teams were deprived the title, but it is the key aural component of that moment.

That’s not just because Sky had live coverage of the game, it’s because his voiceover is generally what’s on the clips peppered round YouTube. This may be a reflection of Tyler coming up with the memorable phrases - #drinkitin and #youwillneverseeanythinglikethiseveragain - but is more likely to do with the sway Sky Sports has over the nation; people think of them first. Even an acknowledged cretin like Paul Merson delivered something to stick in the memory with his ‘lovebites and everything’ line. Indeed, SlySpores not only has the live games market locked down, but there are many football watchers who get their highlights kick from Sky’s own highlights package, which is not only broadcast earlier but gives viewers the chance to select their own running order (and from what I can gather does more thorough highlights). To these people, MOTD is an afterthought and Sky’s football branding easily outweighs BBC’s.


After the last-gasp strike, we remember the ephemera around the event, so the role of the game itself – the key cultural affect of a programme like Match of the Day - is watered down by tribute videos. Many of these come not just from the club or major media providers, but by the fans themselves. I can remember the 80-year-old Blue savouring the moment outside the ground, the kids going mad in their house and running into the street, the reactions in pubs from East Manchester to Baltimore and of course the correlate of those United fans and players at Sunderland receiving the news, the Toure song (which in itself became a meme for students to post of their revels up and down the land).

Lastly, for those of us who were there, ‘Typical City’ having reduced us to nervous, gibbering wrecks as per the stereotype, what we remember much less is the incident itself as we saw it in the stadium, sans filters. The sheer derangement that followed would have immediately had some displacing influence, but watching and re-watching all those highlights and tributes all week after induced an uncanny reverie, a nostalgia for being there even though it now felt I really wasn’t and was just another laptop football punter. What I’d give to restore my view from Block 131 of that moment. Desirable, but impossible.

All this makes the influence of a televised highlights programme quite a bit reduced in conveying the effect of those on-pitch incidents we talk about, that sustain us in our love of the game. And Match of the Day could go quite a bit further than the standard iPlayer rerun in peddling its brand – clips to mobiles like the papers are doing, for example.

Nowadays with the content ubiquitous over several platforms despite efforts to crack down, we should not confuse the importance of a medium like Match of the Day as the frame for the event, but know that a frame of some form will play a role.

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