“Women are the only future in rock and roll” part #2

Ex Hex – Rips // Live at Broadcast, Glasgow, 13/02/2015

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Mary Timony seemed half cut from the moment she hit the stage.  It took her longer than it should have to work out that she didn’t have a microphone while the band were setting up, and when this problem had been sorted, you could see her scoping out the low beam of the ceiling in Broadcast as if to say, “You could be trouble!”

Having identified this potential barrier to achieving rock godhead, Timony proceeded to accidentally clatter the neck of her guitar off it three, maybe four times.  She wobbled back from this each time, played bum notes, flubbed solos, stomped on her peddles a few seconds too late, but it didn’t matter because she was kicking out the jams, leaning in on bassist Betsy Wright, making bedroom rock fantasy vivid, drawing energy from Laura Harris’ drums. There’s a particular pleasure in hearing a tight, worried player like Timony cut loose, and Wright knows how to keep heads bobbing, but those drums were the biggest revelation of the night, so much more powerful than the muffled storm of the album, to the extent that I now suspect that the producer of Rips, Mitch Easter, was trying to save us all from having to buy replacement speakers!

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Listening to the album, I keep coming back to the Borges story ‘Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote’ (excerpted above), in which the titular character makes it his life’s work to write not a pastiche of Don Quixiote but Don Quixote itself. As Borges’ narrator tells us, the most radical challenge Menard faced was arriving at the writing of the Quxote while remaining himself: Ex Hex seem to have set themselves a similar set of goals.

The possible iterations of the bad-ass male rock band have been thoroughly tested, and various models have been allowed to age in front of our eyes, but there’s still a wild frontier there for women.   Like your man Pierre Menard, Ex Hex are committed to exploring it, and so when they arrive at ‘Crimson and Clover’ or ‘Hold On Loosely’ these songs are rendered new, different, by virtue of the fact that they are now songs about having hot times with deadbeat guys written and performed by grown women who seem to be having more fun than a whole generation of Wyld Stallyns.

Put it this way: Betsy Wright busts out a ‘Heroes’ bass flourish on no less than three tracks on this album, and every time I find myself thinking that maybe we can! for the first time in forever…

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The Weegie Board Presents – When a Temp Came Crashing Through My Window…

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Previously on The Weegie Board: we accidentally invented The Artist Taxi Driver, and invoked 50 Shades of Grey without meaning to.

These strips were initially composed and published in early 2014 as part of an attempt to keep Scott and I working after Thought Bubble 2013.  We’d both taken huge piles of two freshly printed comics to that convention, and while we managed approximately three sales between us there was still a determination to KEEP GOING in the aftermath.

Obviously, it didn’t last…

Independent Rhetoric #4: Solero Arms Race

If it’s been a while since my last Independent Rhetoric piece, maybe that’s because I’ve been waiting to wake up from the daffy nightmare that is UK politics right now.

In the past couple of weeks of feverish campaigning we’ve been told that Alex Salmond is a giant Tory with a massive face mask and frankly phenomenal Solero, and that Ed Miliband lives in his pocket…

The argument here seems to be that it would be bad to vote for the SNP because (1) giants are scary, (2) Tories in face-masks are scary, and (3) Ed Miliband eats pocket fluff.

That last one’s a bit of a guess but I’m looking at Ed’s happy, lint-eating face right now and I’m pretty sure I’m right:

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Leaving such quaint satisfaction aside for a minute, the messaging here is confusing.  Isn’t the suggestion here that the SNP (or at least their former apparently eternal leader Alex Salmond) are actually massive Tories, and that they’re definitely not rampant Maoist Nicola Sturgeon, who apparently exists only in the imagination of journalists and Question Time audience members?  So if you like the Tories – and who could possibly fail to like the one party with the courage to be honest about their commitment to obliterating every last trace of “society” and building a supermarket nation in which everything comes at a low-low price, especially your labour! – shouldn’t that make the SNP more appealing?

Or is this all a veiled and frankly insane threat: “If you fuck with us, be prepared to risk the fury of an army of Scottish Tory giants who just pretend to like Alasdair Gray when they’re really just a load of scary chancers with massive fuck-off banners and a terrifying carelessness that allows them to eat ice lollies on a cold winter day!”

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Hmmm. Perhaps that’s not quite as out there as I thought: “Our secret army awaits in the North! The leader of the opposition is their captor! All hope is lost!”

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TrumpTalk(™): A Tragedy of Our Times

TrumpTalk(™) – A dynamic new form of public rhetoric that transforms the traditional arsehole’s pastime of making loud noises about how everyone else is an idiot into a brutal art; weaponised bullshit; a parping emanation; an arse-Trump.

Excerpt from “A beginner’s guide to TrumpTalk(™)”  When deploying TrumpTalk(™), it is important to forget any attachment you may once have had to reality and to focus instead on achieving an authoritative tone. If backed against a wall, flinging partially chewed bones and fresh faeces at the enemy is acceptable. If pushed on a point of honour, spraying piss into the eyes of your enemy is fine so long as you remain committed enough to call them a “little crybaby” when they try to clear your water from their eyes.

You can take these tips as literally as you want; the only unconscionable action for a TrumpTalker is to admit defeat or uncertainty. Volume is everything, because in this life, you will be heard or you are no one.

Remember: you have nothing to fear except openness and doubt. 

Footnotes on housing

Once you get past the discussion of Natalie Bennett’s media performance, one of the most common responses I’ve heard to the Green Party of England and Wales’ housing proposals is, “But why do we need to built new houses when there are so many sitting empty right now?”

Thankfully, there are signs that the Greens are already thinking about this in the policy briefing in question:

We will also reform property and land taxes to curb speculation and excessive demand, bring more empty homes back into use and convert empty municipal buildings where appropriate, provide tenants with much greater security of tenure and stabilising rent controls, diversify the building industry, insist that landlords improve the energy efficiency of their homes, and begin to rebalance economic prosperity in the UK to reduce demand in London and the south east. Details of these policies will be in our full manifesto.

That’s not an information-heavy paragraph, granted, but it ends with the suggestion that there’s more to come on this subject.

As always, it’s important to remember that there’s no one policy that will sort everything out for good.  The refusal to seek “magic bullet” solutions is one of the things that made Common Weal so appealing to me during the referendum campaign, and the Green parties’ commitment to, for example, both a £10 living wage and Citizen’s Income is evidence that they are equally aware of quite how hard it is to implement real change.

Too often we allow the conversation of these issues to be limited to a confrontation between the way things are and one big idea that will change everything.

Instead of doing that, let’s talk about a couple of other issues related to housing that maybe aren’t getting the attention they deserve…

EGOMANIA

George Eliot – Silas Marner

Despite its sentimental, Dickensian cover and premise – an outcast weaver is drawn back into society by the arrival of an orphaned child in his life – this short novel is yet more evidence of Eliot’s ability to create the impression of distance in her fictions. Eliot’s mastery of the bourgeois novel is of a similar kind and order to Milton’s mastery of the epic poem; the devil, as always, is in the details and how they’re relayed.

It’s worth comparing Marner’s transition over the first part of this novel with Scrooge’s in A Christmas Carol in order to better understand Eliot’s method.  Dickens is one of the all time great narrators, and he trusts that the effects he has conveyed so spectacularly throughout his ghost story will linger with both his notorious outcast and miser and the reader even after he’s allowed the illusion to collapse in on itself:

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”

The kind hand trembled.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the  year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

Compare the drama of Dickens’s line to the ever-shifting emphasis of this paragraph from the final bloom of Silas Marner‘s first volume:

Silas began now to think of Raveloe life entirely in relation to Eppie: she must have everything that was a good in Raveloe; and he listened docilely, that he might come to understand better what this life was, from which, for fifteen years, he had stood aloof as from a strange thing, with which he could have no communion: as some man who has a precious plant to which he would give a nurturing home in a new soil, thinks of the rain, and the sunshine, and all influences, in relation to his nursling, and asks industriously for all knowledge that will help him to satisfy the wants of the searching roots, or to guard leaf and bud from invading harm. The disposition to hoard had been utterly crushed at the very first by the loss of his long-stored gold: the coins he earned afterwards seemed as irrelevant as stones brought to complete a house suddenly buried by an earthquake; the sense of bereavement was too heavy upon him for the old thrill of satisfaction to arise again at the touch of the newly-earned coin. And now something had come to replace his hoard which gave a growing purpose to the earnings, drawing his hope and joy continually onward beyond the money.

In Eliot’s hands a seemingly romantic conceit – a child’s improving effect on an alienated adult – is nevertheless established to be effective only inasmuch as Marner’s continued obligations to the child necessitate a continued interaction with society as a whole.  This is typical of Eliot’s approach, which emphasises connection and consequence over the triumph of kind hearts and stirring rhetoric.

This comparison is, however, not offered in order to disparage Dickens, whose busy narration looks simultaneously backward to the jarring shifts of the best English poetry and forward to the juddering machinery of modern comedy.  And if it’s true that those same novels are premised on a call to individual kindness that overlooks the necessity for any broader or more systematic change, then that does not diminish their effectiveness in making the muck and dirt of unreformed reality vivid.

The simple truth is that Eliot’s talents are slightly different in nature, and that their magnitude does not need to be exaggerated by the disparagement of other novelists even if they may be better understood in light of the comparison.

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“Women are the only future in rock and roll” part #1

Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love

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Noise as expression, sure, but it’s at least as much of a defence as all that. Think of the howling that drowned out most every note of ‘Upside Down’: was that a projection of the rock and roll fantasy all around it or a pre-emptive attack against anyone who would deem it a failure? Is there any difference there?

It’s gendered here, for sure, and that makes sense. Bound to be flayed for whatever you do share. Bound to be flayed for whatever you don’t.  Might as well flay yourself and flay the crowd and try to push to the point where neither party can tell the difference.