Tuesday, 14 November 2017

No Maps For What We Know exhibition reviewed by Harry Pye

The Urban Photo Fest 2017 featured a variety of exhibitions, events and activities across Deptford, New Cross and Greenwich as well as a talk by Roger Ballen and conference at Tate Britain. One of the highlights of the festival for me was No Maps For What We Know which is on at 310 NXRD Galley, New Cross Road SE14 6AF (12pm-8pm) until the 17th of November.
This exhibition was curated by Sarah Ainsle and features artists from The Gate Room Members. "Who are the Gate Room Members?" you ask. Well...The Gate Darkroom are a a group of emerging artists who, for the last 6 years, have been running a not-for-profit photographic darkroom as a community interest company. They hang their hats at Thames-Side Studios, Harrington Way, Warspite Road, SE18, 5NR.
The photo above is by Henry Palmer entitled Part-Time Geography (2013) it's a silver Gelatin print. It's one of a series of photographs on temporary landscapes and topography along the South bank of the Thames, tracking the physical apparition of redevelopment. To be honest I liked all the artists in the show and wish I had j-pegs of everyone's work. Ioana Marinca's Map of pain and recovery was made in response to the recent attack in London Bridge. David Whiting's "You Are Here" series of photos of Park Maps was impressive. I also liked the work inspired by the Thames such as Pathways by Tony Jacobs and a series of collaged images called Low Tide by Molly Behagg
The press release features the following quote:
"When does one need a map, if not when in unfamiliar territory or a foreign land? The photographers of the Gate Darkroom are going through a buoyant transition, having recently moved into their new home by the river, in Woolwich. Between the Iris shipwreck and the plastic moulding factory they are navigating a new territory, listening to the river, and searching for light. Memories will help them remember where they came from, and clues found on the way will lead them into an unknown landscape. Elements of information appear and disappear; names are edited out, new lines are marked and realities shift They will explore processes of mapping, shared experience, contours, boundaries, pathways, and inhabiting the urban edgelands."
For more info visit:

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Ten Things We Learnt Watching Morrissey’s Berlin ARTE concert…

To buy or not to buy.  That is the question facing Morrissey fans as tickets go on sale for his next UK dates in March, despite the fact that at the end of his last British jaunt he said it was unlikely he’d ever tour this country ever again.  Would you expect anything less from the man who once sang, in the song ‘Disappointed’, “this is the last song I will ever sing / I changed my mind again.”

There are arguments on both sides, of course.  The Moz has been making some fairly questionable statements of late about UKIP, Jean Marie Le Penn and other dangerous undesirables, not to mention his seeing obsession with attacking London mayor Sadiq Khan.  But on the upside, his last long player ‘World Peace Is None of Your Business’ is probably his most interesting, varied and lyrically gifted album since ‘Vauxhall and I’, his current band has added a touch of South American gringo attitude that has pepped up his sound and the recent single ‘Spent The Day In Bed’ was a corker.

So, to help you at least make an educated guess before parting with not inconsiderable sums of cash required to get in, here are ten clues from the televised Berlin concert on German TV last week to help you make up your mind.

  1. It might take his band a little while to warm up
It’s early days of course, but the band sound a bit rusty and rough around the edges in this gig, before they suddenly burst into life on ‘My Love I’d Do Anything For You’ and maintaining a higher intensity until the end.

  1. The Smiths songs are taking a bit of a back seat again
There’s only one included in the whole of this hour-plus set, the seemingly here-to-stay and really very powerful rendition of ‘Meat Is Murder’ that regular fans will already know.  His normal sets are considerably longer, but you’re probably wise to assume there won’t be a deluge of previously unaired Smiths classics in the setlist.

  1. ‘Low In High School’ has some corking tracks on it…
As well as the inspirational ‘Spent The Day’ in bed, with its Stevie Wonder-esque keyboard plonking, there are a couple of great new songs in the set.  ‘My Love I’d Do Anything For You’ is an apocalyptic sounding revelation, and ‘All The Young People Must Fall In Love’ taps into the rich vein of glam rock that informed ‘Panic’, ‘Glamorous Glue’ and ‘Certain People I Know’. ‘When You Open Your Legs’ isn’t half bad either.

  1. …and a few also-rans too.
The current single ‘I Wish You Lonely’ doesn’t have much going for it – he’s always been terrible at choosing the right tracks for singles – and neither does ‘Home Is A Question Mark’.

  1. There’s a new song in the obligatory cover version spot
He’s done Sparks, Buzzcocks and Ramones in this traditionally near-the-end slot in the set recent years, but this time it’s ‘Back on the Chain Gang’ by The Pretenders, which is no surprise in one sense, namely that Chrissie Hynde is a friend and fellow animal rights campaigner.  But it’s certainly the first time he’s covered a song by an act that Johnny Marr played with post-Smiths, which might suggest a bit of a thawing of the icy relations between the pair.

  1. He’s still playing a few solo tracks he should have dropped ages ago?
‘Alma Matters’ and ‘Speedway’?  What, again?!! Really? Why?!!

  1. He can’t resist a swipe at Trump
“Presidents come, and presidents go,” he sings in ‘All The Young People…’, clearly a subtle swipe at Donald Trump, without mentioning names.  The song, which at times bears an uncanny resemblance to ‘All The Young Dudes’ by Mott The Hoople, also contains the fantastic opening lines “Spend more on nuclear war if that’s your chosen illusion / Incinerate innocent men and women and children…”

  1. He’s still obsessed with chart positions
Anyone who’s read his ‘Autobiography’ will know that a disproportionate amount of time was spent moaning about how certain tracks only made certain positions in the UK chart.  Which continues here, we’re sorry to report.  It doesn’t matter – you’re Morrissey, FFS!

  1. Some of the best songs from ‘World Peace…’ may have been dropped (but hopefully not)
No sign in this set list of ‘Kick The Bride Down The Aisle’, ‘Smiler With Knife’, ‘I’m Not A Man’ or ‘Staircase At The University’, all of which were highlights of the previous tour although tended to come in and out of the set rather than making themselves permanently at home. We’d take them over ‘Istanbul’ and ‘The Bullfighter Dies’ any time.

  1. Moz has learnt to say ‘thank you’ in quite a few languages.

German, Spanish and French by our reckoning!  He also does a bit of a ‘Brit abroad speaking English in an unspecific foreign accent’ -  which will go down a treat at the UKIP conference.

Watch the Berlin concert here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ITe_TAXAbo:

Text by Ben Willmott 2017

Sean Hughes: The Right Side of Wrong Live reviewed by Simone Hoffs

When Sean Hughes was 13 he saw Richard Pryor Live at The Sunset Strip and he knew there and then what he wanted to do with his life. He dreamt that one fine day he would be able to go on stage and be free to tell the truth and say whatever he wanted. At the age of 19 he left Dublin and came to London to try his luck in comedy clubs such as Jongleurs. In 1990, when Hughes was 24, he went to the Edinburgh Festival with low expectations but to his surprise he won the Perrier award and was offered a TV Series (which resulted in Sean’s Show) and a publishing deal (which resulted in Sean’s Book.)
Some might feel that success made a failure of Sean Hughes because although being a TV presenter and radio host earned him fame and fortune, he stopped being thought of as a comedian. At the age of age of 40 Hughes landed the role of “Pat the love rat” in Coronation Street . When this acting stint came to an end he decided to return to the stage. However by now Sean Hughes had changed his outlook.  “I know my job is to make people laugh” he told one journalist, “but my agenda is to tell the truth not to tell jokes.”
When The Right Side of Wrong Live DVD was released in 2007, fans of Sean’s Show and Sean’s Book may well have felt saddened or concerned that the Sean Hughes on stage at The Journal Tyne Theatre in Newcastle was rather different from the 90’s Sean they’d fell in love with. The 41 year old Sean is less romantic, less innocent, less kind and less sensitive. The good news is that he is more honest and he is still funny. Maybe 75% of what Hughes says in this show is about how he’s grown old without growing up...

“I thought when I was 41, I would be married with kids. Well, to be honest I thought I would be married with weekend access.” He claims the reason he’s back on stage for the first time in a decade is partly because stand-up is his first love and partly because his next door neighbours have got a kid whose learning to play the trumpet.

He had reached a level of fame where people didn’t know whether they’ve seen on TV him on if he was a neighbour that lived 4 doors down from them. He talks of having one night stands with 25 year-old women who don’t seem to care that he’s now dependent on ear and nose clippers, pills, supplements and afternoon naps. He says he refuses to go down on them, it’s not because he’s selfish, he’s just worried his back could go at any minute. For Sean the idea of having a threesome is unappealing as it would mean he had two people he’d have to ignore in the morning.
The show is one hour and 40 minutes long. There is odd material about speed dating women in hijabs – ("Hey great eyes! Hey great eyes!") and a surprising section about how Disneyland should employ people with Downs to dress up as Mickey Mouse and hug people. Sean talks to an 18 year old in the audience whose name is Mark. When Sean discovers Mark works in a Morrison’s Supermarket and doesn’t have a girlfriend, he hands him a plate of biscuits. The weirdest routine is about taking ecstasy and going to a Holocaust museum.

It’s not an evening of non-stop laughs. Some sections about him needing a drink at 9am are likely to make you feel rather sad but this show is worth seeking out as there are flashes of brilliance and moments where he is every bit as impressive and honest as his comedy heroes. Fans like me who feel it's a tragedy he died so young can watch this show and feel some consolation by the fact that his dream came true.

Review by Simone Hoffs 2017

Monday, 30 October 2017

House Above The Sun live in Camden reviewed by John Robbins

House Above The Sun live at The Monarch, 40 Chalk Farm Road, Camden.

There are lots of things to like about South London four piece House Above The Sun, but probably the thing that makes them most interesting is the lyrical world that lead singer and guitarist Jim Moreton draws you into. 
Take their track Footsteps, which they drop approximately half way through their set in the party like atmosphere of Camden Folk's birthday celebrations. Over a stripped down almost gospel backing that's reminiscent of Spirituilized's Ladies and Gentleman... album, Jim reveals that he's "just doin' time for bad behaviour." Naturally, he leaves it to our collective imagination to guess what that black mark against his character might be, but that only makes it more intriguing. As does the smouldering intensity he delivers such revelatory, redemptive confessions, rhythmically strumming on his Telecaster as though he were off in a universe of his own.

When they play a track from their first EP entitled Still My Flesh and Blood, we witness Jim is coming to terms with a turbulent family life, and, with a Morrissey-esque flourish that brings a smile among such trauma, he shares with us that it's those conversations about the weather that really do him in.

All of which would be great on it's own but not much use without a bit of musical power to bring it up, and House Above The Sun have that too. The first song of the evening, Tamopah has a swooping quality that moves from a whisper to a growl in a mater of seconds, and it rocks out in no uncertain terms. Where The Eagles Dare has a country feel that - somewhat obviously - bring The Eagles to mind, while at other times it's the interplay between Jim and fellow singer and guitarist Ariel Moreton, in terms of gorgeous harmonies and six string interplay, that takes the breath away. 

Celebrating the release of their debut, self-released album, Five Hours North, tonight the band are clearly going places. Their sound is certainly mainstream enough - see also echoes of Fleetwood Mac and The Stones - but there's something individual and distinctive about the messages beneath the surface. 

Catch now before they make it to the enormodomes of this world would be our advice.

Reviewed by John Robbins 25/10/2017
Photos by Anna Laymond

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

High Windows by Philip Larkin reviewed by Denni Rusking

Kingsley Amis: "Philip Larkin is a poet who can move a large audience — to laughter and to tears — without betraying the highest artistic standards." 

High Windows was the last collection of poetry that Philip Larkin had published while he was alive. The most famous poem in the collection is This Be The Verse which begins "They fuck you up your mum and Dad, they may not mean to but they do." In a book on his favourite poets, Alan Bennett makes the point that although it's a shame Larkin's parents fucked their son up, at least they gave him something to write about. You can watch Bennett's 1990 Poetry in Motion documentary on Larkin here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr0CJ98lIJs

I love Larkin and I love this Springtime poem called The Trees written in 1967 - the year Larkin turned down an OBE. When I first became aware of the poem I was young and green but it still pleases me all these years later. Larkin writes poetry for people like me who didn't know they liked poetry. When Larkin went on Radio 4's Desert Island Discs he was asked how he had come up with one of his poems and he replied: "sheer genius"
The Trees
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

High Windows
When I see a couple of kids
And guess he’s fucking her and she’s   
Taking pills or wearing a diaphragm,   
I know this is paradise

Everyone old has dreamed of all their lives—   
Bonds and gestures pushed to one side
Like an outdated combine harvester,
And everyone young going down the long slide

To happiness, endlessly. I wonder if   
Anyone looked at me, forty years back,   
And thought, That’ll be the life;
No God any more, or sweating in the dark

About hell and that, or having to hide   
What you think of the priest. He
And his lot will all go down the long slide   
Like free bloody birds. And immediately

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:   
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows

Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Daniel Torday: "Larkin was able to ignore any audience but himself.... That crass, stubborn, and yet unavoidably lovable curmudgeon who tends to poke his head out at the most inopportune times." 

Text by Denni Rusking 2017
High Windows is published by Faber & Faber

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Purple Lights at The Camden Monarch reviewed by Ben Willmott

Mark Beaumont Presents The Purple Lights, London

No-one could ever accuse East London twosome The Purple Lights are taking life too seriously. Bleach haired rock god Rob Fincham, guitarist and lead singer, and their enigmatic dreadlocked drummer Akeba saunter up on stage with all the casual manner of someone having a jam in a mate's garage rather than headlining an NME journalist's personally curated showcase. Nerves? If they're experiencing any then they're pretty good at hiding them.

Nor should they be nervous. They're one of the hardest working underground bands in Britain, both in terms of constant live appearances and new songs. A week before the show they shared the first track from their new EP, the enrapturing Afro-beat infused 'Try So Hard'. There's no room for it in the set tonight though, as they've got another new song on their hands, 'Wake Up', an incitement to rise up and react against the current backsliding political mess of Trump/Brexit we currently find ourselves in.

At least their set opener has remained pretty constant over a summer that's taken them from Glastonbury appearances to the nearby Roundhouse, who have adopted them as resident artists for 2017. 'Rain' fits the bill perfectly, anyway, starting quiet and slowly building to a powerchord-blasting chorus, Fincham's echo-y guitar work no doubt sending shivers down spines across the Monarch. Before long they are locked into a powerful groove, the heavy momentum of Akeba's reggae rhythms finding an unlikely but ultimately very natural sounding counterpoint in Fincham's riffs, flurries and soaring vocals.

They exude the kind of supreme confidence that only constant gigging can provide, but rather than creating arrogance it gives them the space to relax and have fun. Sometimes it even looks like they're playing more to impress each other than the audience, but at the same time they have a strong, serious message wrapped up in all the fun. 'Triggerman' is a great example of this. Yes, it's a passionate plea against the mindlessness of gun crime with a refrain, “triggerman - put that gun down.” But it's also a chance for Akeba to use his drumstick as a pretend gun, shoot Rob to the floor, then emerge from behind his kit to pick him up before they finish off the track in a blizzard of ska skanking.

Undoubtedly the most immediate song in their collection though, is the title track from their forthcoming second EP, 'Not Alone'. It's a sweetly-centred slow reggae workout dripping with the catchiest of hooks, augmented with looped up effects and, as ever, blessed with a chorus to die for.

Is it their best song? It might be. Then again, it's quite possible that they've written an even better one in the time it took you to read this review. It's certainly a good place to start.

Text by Ben Willmott 11/10/2017

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Micko and The Mellotronics live in NW5 reviewed by Humphrey Fordham

Micko and The Mellotronics The Fiddler's Elbow Belsize Park.

A sense of 'full circle' permeates this review both in the musical and biographical sense. In 1997, this writer was an extra in Todd Haynes' celluloid Glam Rock extravaganza, 'Velvet Goldmine'. The eponymous frontman of The Mellotronics - the polymath Micko Westmoreland was also in said film, having the eloquent supporting role of 'Jack Fairy'. A dreamy slender Brian Eno-like figure. But that is another story, and now belongs in reverential Brit Flick history.
Here in this spit 'n' sawdust venue - a stone's throw away from the now generic hubbub of Camden Town. We are distinctly reminded in a 'short sharp shock' sense of what inspired the now 40-something Micko to divert from his electronic music leanings (he has composed film scores) and unashamedly pay homage to the musical heroes that inspired him to pick up a guitar in the first place.
The band in question is a no-frills three piece in the template of The Jam and the early Cure. Micko - looking very dapper in vintage Doctor Who style threads - plays Fender Jaguar and sings. Brian Pistolesi is the bassist and Nick Mackay is on drums.

Starting off in an arresting Stooges-like vein, they immediately invite you into their barre-chorded wind tunnel of excellence. 'Sick and Tired' is a downbeat number which certainly channels the intense '77-style facial contortions of MW. 'The Facts of Life' has a great rhythmic sci-fi sounding break. Well into the set, you do get a strong sense of the darkness closing in amid the 'Paint It, Black' vibe of 'Freaksville' (the video reminds me of The Banshees' 'Happy House'). When Micko sings, "I want to get back to Freaksville", you sense he craves a perennial womb-like existence. Definitely convincing.
'What do You Bring to the Party?' is festooned with excellent spidery guitar pickings, and 'The Finger' takes on an an unexpected twist - an instrumental beak a la The Supremes' 'You Can't Hurry Love'. I am left gobsmacked by such eclecticism.
The gig - which ends with the tongue-in-cheek shoplifting opus' Schmescos' - is barely an hour long. But in the grand scheme of things, that's fine. Long gigs usually leave you clock-watching anyway.
Micko has expressed his admiration for artistes as wide-ranging as Jacques Brel, Syd Barrett, Miles Davis and The Silver Apples. Such appreciation is very admirable within the challenging constraints of a three-piece. Micko told me that, pre-gig.
Long may he continue in his current incarnation.

Text by Humphrey Fordham 2017