Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Saturday night at Manchester’s Pronk! run by Matt aka Rod Hotly who’s in the ‘beat-heavy’ (but song-centred) Real Dolls. They take over the upstairs at the Deaf Institute and bring in their own clear and crisp system rather than using the club’s, and there’s projections and the club logo in evidence. I heard dubstep, some wobble, hard new percussive/digital tunes, bit of older hip-hop, funk and breaksy stuff later on; a really good mix. Still like the way nominally ‘trance’ sounds can meld with in the global beatmix these days (and it needn’t have Taio Cruz on it). Marc was a bit nonplussed by some of the abrasive stuff and crunching synths, but it tweaked my desperate node for novelty.

We bitch about the night’s contingent of ‘normals’ with their shirts, over-assertive dancing, wraps for their birds (probably) and Ernst & Young contracts, and the bitching hits a peak when a few do the big show-off dancing please-get-in-a-circle-and-look-at-me-spazz-off routine. But you do need a few of every type of crowd to get a party going, not just scenesters and those just there for the music, man. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough of any type there, although they broke even. Upstairs can be a hard place to fill with everybody nipping out for fags, the old theatre-style seating at the back and the temptations for some of populism and pulling downstairs (where they eventually play not one but two Roses tunes in succession – howl). Matt, whose been on some good hip-hop tunes to come out of MC/r over the years, acknowledges a different venue may help. Check the Dolls’‘para para’ J-Pop latest, Electro Tsunami, below, and a Dolls mix by Peter Parker of the band.

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Submission to earth

Marc was in Hull on a job the other day and stumbled across Boothferry Park, Hull’s former football ground (they moved to the KC stadium in 2002). Long a mess even before it got decommissioned it seems what’s left after the demolition (including floodlights) is being allowed to be swallowed up (something that would not surprise Sean O’Brien). Said Starrzinho: “They still had the floodlight pylons standing and there were six of them – I will admit I even got quite emotional at just seeing them and imagining the light aura in the sky on a night game, and there is always something about an empty ground and something even more poignant about a decaying ground, even if it isn’t our own team.’

It would be interesting to see how much this means to the new contingent following the Tigers’ shiny new premiership era as directed by the solarium man with the nazi coats.
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Friday, February 19, 2010

‘We are the cyclists – the intermediate state between humans and energy’

In our eco-barely conscious times cycling is, ahem, riding a cyclical high. Sales of those ugly but practical Bromptons to those that can afford £600 soar, participation in subsidised work bike purchase schemes is on the increase, most broadsheets have worthy columns like this extolling the social and personal benefits of two wheels. Go green and get on your bike, replace carbon footprint guilt with meretricious right.

I’ve always been a bike evangelist; that I regularly use pedal power is one of the few continuous features from childhood. Ruined so many bikes or had them nicked (or my mate’s). Cried when a friend built me this fast-as-fuck mountain hybrid from scratch and I had it nicked from the ‘gated community’ I was in at the time within weeks. Facially scarred when tommy cycled into me on a south circular return home. There is something about the pace of cycling, faster than walking, but not an automated blur, that I synch into, though mates and my partner say I am too fast when I ride with them. It’s true that it’s one of the few areas of physical activity where I do like to push myself. In London, using it mostly to get from zones 2 or 3 to a central London workplace and back, that drive is motivated by a desire to do it in half an hour rather than an hour, but it is not pre-programmed; once you’re out there you buzz of the competition with the drivers at the same time as recoiling from it. At the moment, it’s Crofton into Brockley Way, Peckham Rye, round the back of Walworth and up Southwark, a varied and challenging route. Then repeat at the dead of night.

Yet there’s still a few things holding me back from full assimilation into the cyclists’ guild. All that gear for one. In London, it is seldom about you and your bike setting off in minimal breeze, going where the urge takes you, perhaps with a tome of poetry tucked in your clip. It’s about going into work, in a commuting hell, appended with locks, helmets, lights, coats with lights in, luminous strips, etc. As yet I have not found a bike coat that does not deviate from the sartorial hell of multiple stripes and piping that marks you out as a two-wheeled perspirant. Sometimes I recoil at all the requirements, although they boost safety. And that assemblage is just for the part-timers, real pros (usually they work in financial services, natch) add the lycra and the special shoes and more stuff on the bikes too, willingly propping up the opinionated hauteur of the ponces in the bike shops.

And of course real cyclists do stop at the lights; they obey the code, and insulate themselves with a further line of sweat between leg and lycra because of all the stop-starts. I’m with the couriers. It’s common sense to get a start and go when it’s safest for you as long as it doesn’t affect pedestrian or motorist. (Then laugh at the opprobrium of the drivers and smell the fear of the pedestrian - I’m not going to ram this dirty metal and plastic and bones into you, honest!) On my night-time ride from work, I might not stop at all until I realise I’m all out of juice going up Peckham Rye. As Monkey Dust’s cyclists had it in the linked title above, ‘We are above mere traffic regulation’.

But it’s not just the social. Systemic laziness wins out and I might only do this once a week. Winter provides a ready excuse for most part-timers of three or four months. Bikes need a lot of maintenance and it’s only since I had child buggies to mend that I have become competent at mending punctures. The advised ‘annual maintenance’ runs into hundreds of poundingtons. And I admit I still have a fondness for the late-night intoxi-ride back, not enough to make you reckless but enough to supplement the adrenalin, so you can vibe off the neon-lit streets, go on a sped up derivé in the city. Cycling for me then is still about a buzz, and a mark of difference and a bit of nocturnal freedom, and as in any other field that’s difficult to regulate.

(the bike, the cover and the plantlock)
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pleasant pastures scene

Jerusalem, directed by Jez Butterworth and recently transferred from the Royal Court, stars Mark Rylance as the free-living, drug-dealing Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron who lives in a caravan, willingly outside of mainstream south Wiltshire society (apart from its pubs). After an inspired treatment of Hamm in Beckett’s Endgame, Rylance plays Byron with ferocious whimsy, a dedicated commitment to the kind of freedom that only permanent intoxication can bring. It is an exercise in seeing how far notions of an individual’s connection to freedom, to the land and belief in the west country’s spiritual side can go. Are these all romantic but ultimately convenient excuses for opting out and getting high?

Most of the action takes place in the build-up to the annual St George’s Day fair in the (fictional) Flintock but under the shadow of Byron’s looming eviction, ostensibly for tax evasion and other infringements but clearance for the homogenising threat of another development next to the already hated ‘new estate’ is probably the real motive. Over three hours including two breaks, the first section opens riotously with another party back at ‘the Rooster’s’, the metallic funk of Prodge’s Omen blasting out. Cut to beatific spring morning silence, and council workers serve notice of eviction being in a matter of hours, then Mackenzie Crook as Ginger introduces a West Country role far different to his servile Gareth in the Office although cheeky lines suggest there is a bit of fondness for the military life. As the others turn back up and tell Ginger how good the party he missed was (‘Davey’ had been ‘over there dancing with some wicked trees’), the first section paints a benevolent picture of the near-hippy life of all day spliffing and boozing in anticipation of the fair.

All the signifiers of mythical England (not Britain) are here – leylines running under the caravan apparently, talk of a golden stag and, according to Byron, a troupe of giants who told him they built Stonehenge. Byron tests the resolve of the hangers-on by beseeching Ginger to bang the drum that would bring forth the giants, but he is too scared. There is also a moment where Byron asks another to look into his eye as if to do so would summon up some dark spirits. The transfigurative moment is left hanging (the budget didn’t include for giants or disembodied spirits). But just as often there is mundane talk of getting pissed, getting by, doing what the normals do and it is this tension in the ensemble between how far they want to go (Byron is already out there) that is a key driver of the play. Even the pub landlord, doing a turn as a Morris dancer at the fayre, taps up Byron for a narcotic pep-up. But an emblem of real-life responsibility hits Byron when a child (his) turns up with his estranged partner (also keen for a few lines) and naturally he had forgotten all about looking after him.

As prejudice increasingly reveals itself, the perception crucially shifts that Byron is no hippy, but a gypo (a standard term of abuse from people only just removed from that lifestyle themselves) who can’t get away with it no more, and one by one his crew fade away with barely any assistance (the boys were all tripping anyway). His nemesis turns out not to be the council but Troy, an estate mush, intent on revenge as Byron with his ‘Romany blood’ had been harbouring his daughter (this is last year’s May Queen of the Fayre who had started each scene with renditions of Jerusalem and who crawled out a crevice of the caravan late on). Butterworth is careful to indicate that if anyone it’s the father not Byron that is her inevitable abuser, but nevertheless Troy and his droogs take a blowtorch to Jerusalem’s sole dweller. His Forest of Arden is collapsing around him.

Living the truly free life as portrayed here comes with too many strings attached, it seems, so best to whimsically act it out (like the alky ex-professor here), to never make good on your own fantasy. All idylls are temporary and to abuse too much the ethics of the host society is to run into trouble. Having fun while it laughs is no design for life.
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Friday, February 05, 2010

The name’s JT

+++++update: fabio did indeed sack terry off, putting the leadership baton in the capable hands of renowned clean lifestyle guru Rio Ferdinand. Not only has Johnny Terry let himself down, he's let down the whole of the country, especially Epsom. For that reason alone he needs to be regarded as an isolated case of immoral urges. And sent to play in Dubai instead.

Cull speculated years ago on the off-the-field activities for the modern footballer, but we still just feel sorry for Joan of Terry. The press are out to get him when Inglund need a strong leader with no pace, a suspect temperament and a tendency to showboat in the middle of defence when we go to the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

Our autosexed, highly titillated and ethically confused society want to hold him up as an example because we’re experts in hypocrisy, but JTgate has revealed a palpable tension on our moralmometer. He wasn’t the only Chelsea shagger of a teammate’s bird, the Sun tells us, and there’s mystery adulterers still un-outed. We just want to know the full story for fuck’s sake. No problems, this front-page business won’t distract from the tabloid rearguard against Irongland doing well at the WC with a fo-wren manager, hence all the ‘it's Capello’s decision’, ‘the Inglund manager must make the call on this’, ‘I am a frighteningly overweight sports journalist’ comments on that TV and in those presses.

Ministerial comment was quick to come. Sports sec Gerry Sutcliffe said: “On the field John Terry is a fantastic player and a good England captain, but to be the captain of England you have got to have wider responsibilities for the country. If these allegations are proven it does call into question his role as England captain.

Sutcliffe left these responsibildades vague but with the moral arrow dangerously pointing to extreme bad, we think they should include: spitting at Tevez (and other dangerous foreigns), over-reliance on Riccardo Carvalho, removing the peni from any intercourse with team mates' partners, preservation of foreign perception of the English as ignorant chauvinists obsessed by the second of those world wars, milking all sponsorship contracts, cash-in-hand-no-questions-asked access to Chelsea’s training ground (“the manager Ancelotti was fondling table legs just inches away as his captain demanded cash payment”), keeping footballers on the front page of national newspapers as Blair uses an inquiry into Iraq to threaten war with Iran, and thanking the public for all their hurt.

Joint Smelly has his backers, sure. Lampard's marshalling up close and behind JT of the appropriate type of celebrations from the foreigns for his Burnley goal reached new extremities of cretinanity for Francis Klamp – the perfect post-goal clasphost for his great friend.

In the interests of justice, Wayne Bridge, the curly haired left back wanderer from his position, sorry the victim, should be appointed England captain. It’s the least Joan Tearee can do after what he did to him. No, make it Rooney; he’s just a perfect sportsman.

With additional reporting from Nick Piles
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