ONE MOGWAI GO ATOMIC
Kindly gifted tickets – thanks, R! – to Mogwai playing a live soundtrack to Mark Cousins’ documentary Atomic (which is edited together from “Duck and Cover”-type films and documentaries on the Cold War, Chernobyl and Faslane) at the Barbican, I was looking forward to some crepuscular soundscapes filled with creeping dread. Their music for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, bleeding into the frames of the film between the crowd noises and the shouts of the players was beautifully atmospheric. Hunting for someone who’d like the other ticket revealed that Mogwai like volume – one person said that he and his daughter, both fans, had left a gig earlier this year as the eardrum-shredding levels of sound had made it too uncomfortable to stay. I like noise and volume, and it was at the rather restrained Barbican – how loud could it get? Answer, very.
My problem wasn’t the volume, but rather the ordinariness of both the film and music. Atomic was put together with little visual panache, poor graphics and illiterate subtitles. Nuclear Power, it told us, seemed to be one of two things – Good in Medical Hands (possibly)! Bad in Government Hands (definitely)! The score consisted of way too much use of the “Cathedral Organ” setting on the synth, and a general “It’s about Atom bombs and reactors blowing up, so we’d better play lots of loud bombastic rock” approach. This feeling was not helped by the guitarist stage left. His rail-thin legs in authentic rock posture, he leaned back and violently thrummed his guitar, creating a wall of sound that was impressive at points, but unrelenting to the point of boredom. I was very much in a minority when they ended with the guitars left on the stage feeding back until a roadie walked around turning amps off one by one. The audience leapt to their feet cheering and clapping. I was sorry that I didn’t feel the same…
TWO FOUND IN FRANCE
A bench in Cognac, celebrating the bare feet of Levester “Big Lucky” Carter, a Memphis-based blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, who recorded for the Sun, Savoy and Hi labels in the 50’s; the soles of Ray Charles’ shoes, in 2000; and the feet of Dana Gillespie, big-voiced blues diva. Then, from nearby Angoulême, home of the Bande Dessinee Festival, this wall-sized Robert Crumb at the very chic International Cartoon Museum.
Apparently, Dana Gillespie organises an annual Blues festival at Basil’s Bar on Mustique in the Caribbean. Wikipedia tells me that many blues artists have appeared there through the years. Among the list: Ronnie Wood, Donald Fagen and Rolf Harris.
THREE GROWIN’ UP
From the interesting but poorly written cover story in Vanity Fair it looks like Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography will be the real deal, although the writer of the profile, David Kamp, seems a little presumptuous (and way too pleased with himself) when he tells Bruce what “Born to Run” is really all about…
FOUR MAYBE THE WHOLE CRAFT BEER/ROCK ’N’ ROLL INTERFACE HAS RUN ITS COURSE…
Quite why a grapefruit infused IPA is called Elvis Juice is not explained, although it contains some nicely named hops – Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra and Mosaic.
FIVE A COUPLE OF RANDOM TV RECOMMENDATIONS
People Just Do Nothing is wonderful, reinvigorating the tired mocumentary format by being painfully accurate about the level of the music business that’s three degrees below success. The world of Garage and Grime is played out in lockups and recording studios, where time is money and money is short, but the lure of Jean-Claude Van Damme YouTube clips proves too distracting… Also on the iPlayer (and BBC2, late at night) is Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s fearless, filthy and ultimately tragic Fleabag. It’s like the first time you watched Green Wing or Peep Show or Flowers – the cobwebs of the sitcom are blown away by strange, often melancholy stories that actually reflect a more accurate view of the lives people live than in the marquee dramas that win the Baftas.
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