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INAPPROPRIATEPLANK

Art, Life & Earth. THROUGH THE EYES OF A DEAF SNOWBOARDING MUSIC NUT.

It’s far from perfect but I’ve always been immensely proud of what we, as a nation, have tried to create in the British Broadcasting Corporation. A bastion of, sometimes flawed, but generally reliable truth amidst a sea of heavily distorted news sources. A concept which becomes increasingly more important as our news sources become controlled more by click throughs than by any form of moral editorial duty.

That said, I’ve been a hater of the BBC’s Top Gear programme for some time now. I find it’s crass, sensationalist, offensive and base level “humour” appals me and is the TV equivalent of internet service’s “click through chasing”. Article’s within it are made with an eye on “you have to see that piece!” mentality from BOTH sides of the argument. It’s a Richard Littlejohn on the television. A show designed purely to be “spoken about”, good OR bad, which fuels it’s own fire of fuckwittery. It has less and less to do with either cars or with motoring every series. In fact, it seems to exist purely to rile good people and to add fuel to the fire of morons. It is heavily immoral in my eyes and goes against much of what the BBC was built to represent.

I have friends who have appeared on the show in one of their “skin of his teeth” races between the mighty motorcar in a strange terrain and some “experts” of the odd terrain. I won’t say which particular “race” on here, but they both told me that the presenter involved wasn’t there for the first two days. It was during those 2 days that ALL of the exterior shots of the race were filmed. The shots where the mighty motorcar battled gallantly against the elements supposedly driven by the “expert” presenter. Then, on the 3rd day, the “star” arrived, filmed a few hours of internal shots and was promptly helicoptered away, presumably to film a ‘science documentary’ for the hard of learning wearing more hairspray than Joan Collins c1986.

The race was then presented on the show as a noble battle in which the car won, or lost, by a nose after it looked like all was lost then like the car was miles ahead only to find out it was level pegging as they approached the line. Ooh! The tension….. Did their scriptwriter used to write those Tony The Tiger Frostie’s ads?

In all fairness, this was made to entertain idiots. And it succeeded. Most viewers were probably thrilled by the pseudo-seat-of-the-pants spectacle and were none the wiser. In fact, some probably knew it didn’t happen exactly as it was presented to them on film but didn’t care. No harm done really. It was just a silly fake race between an expert and an idiot.

BUT… if you take this engineered and pre-scripted approach to “entertaining” and then use it to enforce a political agenda then it takes on a far more sinister angle. As George Monbiot reported in today’s Guardian the show has seen fit to take this formula of “entertaining” films and use it to make a bullshit propaganda film to promote the show’s Climate Change Denial agenda and attack, directly, manufacturers of electric cars. They purposely ran down most of the car’s battery prior to starting the film, a fact proven by the car’s onboard records, JUST to insinuate in their film that electric cars are unreliable and a waste of time.

Last Sunday, an episode of Top Gear showed Jeremy Clarkson and James May setting off for Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire, 60 miles away. The car unexpectedly ran out of charge when they got to Lincoln, and had to be pushed. They concluded that “electric cars are not the future”.

But it wasn’t unexpected: Nissan has a monitoring device in the car which transmits information on the state of the battery. This shows that, while the company delivered the car to Top Gear fully charged, the programme-makers ran the battery down before Clarkson and May set off, until only 40% of the charge was left. Moreover, they must have known this, as the electronic display tells the driver how many miles’ worth of electricity they have, and the sat-nav tells them if they don’t have enough charge to reach their destination. In this case it told them – before they set out on their 60-mile journey – that they had 30 miles’ worth of electricity. But, as Ben Webster of the Times reported earlier this week, “at no point were viewers told that the battery had been more than half empty at the start of the trip.”

It gets worse. As Webster points out, in order to stage a breakdown in Lincoln, “it appeared that the Leaf was driven in loops for more than 10 miles in Lincoln until the battery was flat.”

When Jeremy Clarkson was challenged about this, he admitted that he knew the car had only a small charge before he set out. But, he said: “That’s how TV works”. Not on the BBC it isn’t, or not unless your programme is called Top Gear.

At a time when the fossil fuel crisis is causing panic in Govenments across the world and at a time when wars are waged for these very resources Top Gear has deemed it necessary to undermine the work of manufacturers trying to find a way to circumnavigate the problem in a safe and beneficial way. Whether the car is amazing or not, to purposefully undermine the entire concept purely to fit with their infantile and long running “anyone who drives a Prius is a dickhead” campaign is not only immoral it breaks the BBC code on many levels. Not least this part of the charter:

We will be rigorous in establishing the truth of the story and well informed when explaining it. Our specialist expertise will bring authority and analysis to the complex world in which we live

If they want to pretend that a race across Loch Ness between a Ford Fiesta on waterskis and a Transit with wings is a tight run thing, or that a Range Rover would beat a Sherman Tank in a race across the breeding grounds of rare birds in the name of “providing entertainment” then fine, I won’t watch it personally, but many will. Not a problem. But to abuse their position as “experts” of motoring to push their own political agenda is an appalling misuse of the BBC’s airtime and a massive violation of their code.

None of which even touches on their series of sexist and racist flavoured idiocy about Mexicans, Truck Drivers, women in general and anyone who dares to not agree with their “ooh! Motorcars are ace” infantile drivel.

Overseas sales have been keeping this show dragging along for years now. I’m sure that cash is most welcome in times like this. But personally, I’d rather the BBC put a motoring programme bout motoring on the TV and let Clarkson and his gimp go and spout bile elsewhere. I haven’t watched the show in years, I urge you to do the same.

Moreover, I insist you watch this clip of Stewart Lee discussing the multitude of other reasons why Top Gear is utterly deplorable. Not only briliantly accurate it is one of the best stand up routines of recent years.

 

 

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Banksy? Meh! There are so many better street artists than Banksy. To me he’s just a graphic designer with an eye for marketing. Pseudo-intelligent Sixth-Form sloganeering if you ask me. I’m not ANTI Banksy, he’s an above average graff artist. But the amount of misappropriated depth applied to his work by those who know little more about the form than Banksy’s own work irks.

Artists like Futura, Blu D-Face, Osgemeos, Cisma, Kami, PixelPhil, Plug, Invader and countless more have been making the work Banksy’s is based on for years before he hit the big time. The only difference was that Banksy added a (clumsy) ironic political slant to their pieces and reapplied them as his own.

I’m not accusing him of plagiarism here. The form has always reused it’s components and developed them. Take DLux’s stencil piece (left), same shit, different city.  What I am saying is that if you remove the brutal 6th form politics student slogans from his work, it’s all been done before by people who did it for the love of, not the fame. More pertinently, check french artist Blek Le Rat‘s work below. These pieces are from 1983-84, WAY before Banksy even knew what photoshop was. He stenciled political pieces in Belfast in the height of the troubles. He invented everything Banksy (the nouveau version) is.

For socio-political satire in street art and I’d much rather view the work of Brek Le Rat or  manhattan’s Swoon (http://bit.ly/pcVOXk). For the form iteslf I’d always rather see Futura 2000 or Boris Tellegen (http://bit.ly/n8Nrj7). And for sheer creative lunacy, effort, craft and love I could watch Blu’s work all day. The Blu piece in the video above is INSANE. That shit transcends the form, takes it to whole new place, level and audience. And it uses derelict places, finding beauty in destruction.

Good luck Banksy. But people should realise there’s more to street art than a child with a bomb, rain under an umbrella, a caveman with fastfood or any other postcard juxtaposition he botches together in an oh so ironic way.

For the record, in 1998, some 15 years AFTER Brek Le Rat’s stenciling work began the below is what (Robin) Banksy was painting. Just below that is an interview he gave for Dirty Graphics & Strange Characters book the same year.

I actually spoke to Banksy several times during this period and have to say, he was a thoroughly nice, charming and very likable man. In fact, I gave him his first London showspace (via Daddy G) and had several of his canvases on show for some time in the SoHo area. They were of sharks swimming in shopping centres and other “urban” alienation themed pieces.

I’m far from hating on him. He’s brought the artform into a wider audience’s view. But the (clever) marketing used to so so has put him up as the leader of the pack where in my opinion he’s far from it.

Anyway, good luck to all street artists. Including Banksy. And thanks to @Scaloni for his input.

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8/10 BELGIAN ARTHOUSE WANK

It was early 1994. I’d only recently discovered the mindblowing PJ Harvey album, Rid Of Me and was slowly realising that my obsession with electronica, HipHop and Mo’ Wax of the previous few years was making me miss some genuinely creative new rock music. I was working for a subsidiary of the Polygram group, the guys at Island sent me this knowing I’d fallen in love with the hitherto androgynous & mysterious PJ Harvey. They thought I’d like it. I still do 17 years later. In fact, this is probably my most listened to LP of all time. We’ve been through a lot together. The sticker on the front had 2 reviews on it. One has stuck in my mind as one of my favourite, succinct reviews of all time:

“dEUS’ LP is pretentious arthouse wank. But, as a fan of art and wanking, I love it. 5*”

I’m always a sucker for experimental music, whatever the genre. So a Belgian avant garde rock outfit banging out dissonant violin & double bass lead, distorted, arthouse hardcore rock with a splash of jazz was right up my alley. This LP STILL stands up as a brilliant piece even now. But back in 94 it was insane. It opened my ears up to a whole new world of musical possibilities.

It was fresh. As much as I love Nevermind that was the pinnacle of a pop-hardcore movement, it was almost formulaic, especially once every band tried to be them. That’s not a dig. I love that LP. But the rock landscape was awash with clones of their sound. Bands like Pearl Jam did nothing for me. Bland, generic drivel. Hardcore noisy rock felt like it was going backwards. It was like Daydream Nation had never happened.

But along came dEUS. From fucking Belgium! It’s a curveball of an LP in so many ways. From the opening violin riffs of the brilliant Suds & Soda it grips in a way that The Pixies would be proud of. The following 50 minutes of deconstructed melodies is a must have LP (I say 50 minutes as the last 2 tracks have never existed to me, I deny their existence like I do that of The Phantom Menace and co, they feel like a couple of stabs at singles). This is a masterclass of exploring a form of music and stretching its boundaries. Slipping from in your face distorted power to subtle layers of despairing warmth and smooth melodies that come crashing down around you. The production, structure and ambition still impress me today.

I’m amazed at how few people I know have even heard of dEUS, let alone this LP. In Suds & Soda, Jigsaw You, Morticia’s Chair and the epic WCS (1st Draft) this is the band at their very best. I saw them play it in The Astoria around 96 and Camden’s Electric Ballroom c98,  still two of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.

Apparently there’s now a Deluxe Edition available. I didnt buy it. The original needs no improvement. In short, GO BUY IT!

 

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7/10 STARK DARK & HYPNOTIC

Little Joy is as hard to pin down as it is to put down. The LP spans many genres without really sounding like any of them. It’s like Mogwai, Brian Eno and Battles doing sombre techno structured covers of The Fall songs on traditional rock instruments. Washes of post-punk/postrock mood drift over stripped down repetitive percussive beats and droning bass, guitars chip in with stabbing dissonant riffs. Vocals are used sparingly and effectively, the largely instrumental tracks are a joy and the restrained, sparse vocals manage to take them on to a different level.

Young chugs along like a bare bones Battles track before the drummer has his moment in the spotlight, his impressive solo kicks it up a gear and flows straight into Turn where the vocals tell us “I turn… I turn to see her…. We passed”. Sunbear brings tense intro chords stabbing away like The Fall in their pomp then the bass cuts loose.

Ignore the whimsical and misleading band name. I had this down as some kind of “alternative dance” band ala Caribou etc before I listened to it. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My Disco are no formulaic rehash. Wonderful.

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9/10 ALIENATING, TENSE RESTRAINT

One of the most underrated  albums this side of punk rock. Cited by PJ Harvey as one of her all time favourite LPs and by Godspeed! & Mogwai as a massive influence on their conceptions.

This is a bleak, desolate LP of angular dissonance that Gang Of Four would be proud of with occasional, unexpected slabs of savage power piled on top. Abrasive layers of grating geometric guitar drag the tension up, threatening to unleash hell at any point before sinking back into the mist. It’s that constant refusal to fully let rip when you most expect it that makes this album. It ratchets up the tension levels, awkward structural pauses leave you hanging, waiting for the drop that doesn’t come before another layer takes the reins does the same. Then when you think it’s safe to relax they smack you in the earholes with a huge release of noise. A delicate balancing act between alienating restraint and forceful brutality. Of building and releasing.

It’s amazing to think that this is now 20 years old as it still sounds so unique and heavily relevant. It hasn’t aged at all, but then it never sounded like it’s era in the first place. It’s too clean, structured and tight to be grunge yet too repressed to be metal. This “odd” sound is probably why it’s initial sales were poor. Reviewers (and listeners) didn’t get it at first. I know I didn’t. I liked it, but I struggled to fully appreciate it until a fair few listens. Initially I wished they’d just get on with it, let fly with the power sections, it felt muzzled. But as I got to know it I realised just how ingenious and powerful that voltage denial was.

The instrumental tracks were written and rehearsed in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in 1990 and the lyrics and album were produced over just 4 days, at a cost to the band’s health. One member ended up in a psychiatric hospital while singer Brian McMahan was physically sick while recording the screaming chorus of Good Morning Captain over and over again.

The name Slint has become a euphemism for the kind of postcore proggy anti-prog soundscapes that their devotees Mogwai and Godspeed! are now renowned for. For me, at least, this LP almost singlehandedly created that movement. Very highly recommend that you get this LP and stick with it. Hugely rewarding.

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Inspired by watching the minimal film classics Hell In The Pacific and Two Lane Blacktop I made this Hiphop mixtape. Tracks were selected according to the “Less Is More” adage adhered to by both films.

Most of the tracks on here are stripped down Hiphop at it’s best. From Anti Pop Consortium all the way back to Scott La Rock and Boogie Down Productions. Real Hiphop, no gimmicky samples or shouty ranting. Just beats, bass and flows.

If a track can hold it’s own using only those 3 components then it’s real Hiphop in my book. So many “artists” these days rely on over produced, sample led backing tracks (Kanye, P Diddy, Jay Z etc for example). They bore me rigid. Though, sales figures suggest that’s not the consensus of the masses. But mass market figures don’t mean jack shit. After all, if you use figures like that then Xfactor and Britain’s Got Talent are the”best” TV shows ever made. They’re not.

Anyway, listen or download via the Soundcloud link below. Enjoy

1. DJ Babu – Classix

2. Alton Ellis – Rock STeady

3. Nancy Des Rose & Kool Keith – Supreme Sound

4. Anti Pop Consortium – Disorientation

5. Anti Pop Consortium & DJ Vadim – Timeless Void

6. Analog Brothers – Analog Anihilator Vs Silver Surfer

7. Anti Pop Consortium & Dj Vadim – Masters Of The Scratch

8. Earl Sweatshirt – Earl

9. Kool Keith – I Don’t Belive You

10. DJ Babu – Tempreezy

11. DJ Babu – Ebbtide

12. Clipse – Ride Around Shining

13. Kool Keith – Lived In The Projects

14. Eric B & Rakim – Chinese Arithmetic

15. Kool Keith – I’m A Tell U

16. Big L – ’98 Freestyle

17. Boogie Down Productions – Remix For P Is Free

18. Smif N Wessun – Sound Bwoy Burreli (Instrumental)

19. The Cool Kids – Black Mags

20. Big L – Ebonics

21. Kool Keith – I’m Seein’ Robots

22 Heat Sensor ft M Sayyid – Gravy

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9/10 UNIQUE, WARM & BONKERS

Back in the 60’s & 70’s music lost some of it’s brightest lights. Many people who’s work influences music still today tragically passed away in their prime. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Ron McKernan of the Grateful Dead. Each one of them was only 27 years old when they died.

In December 1985, somewhere between the deaths of those legends and Kurt Cobain (who was also aged 27), a man called Dennes Boon had a fever and was lying down in the back of a battered tour van. His band had just supported REM. At their request. REM like them so much they had gone against their own label’s wishes to book them. They had won a very powerful ally and friend in Michael Stipe. The world was at their feet.

Boon’s girlfriend was driving them back to San Pedro, California when, somewhere along the I-10 Highway in the Arizona Desert, she fell asleep at the wheel. The van careered off the road, rolled and the prostrate “D” Boon was flung from the vehicle’s back doors. The impact broke his neck, killing him instantly. He was twenty seven years old.

To me, his death was every bit as devastating to music as the death of any of those mentioned because it signalled the end of the Minutemen, there and then. At the very point that the band were almost singlehandedly de-constructing the burgeoning US Hardcore & Punk from the frontline. While their (brilliant) contemporaries were going harder, darker, deeper, fuzzier and faster the Minutemen were tearing punk apart and dropping lumps of latin music, classical guitar, funk and free form jazz structure into it. This looks absurd on paper, but it sounds like it was always meant to be that way. They were unique, yet genre defining. And, after that crash, we will never know where they would have taken this new approach to.

The other two members reformed some years later (as Firehose) but they never got close to the magic of anything they did with Minutemen. I’m not suggesting they were passengers on Boon’s ride. Not in the slightest. The basslines of Mike Watt and snapped shut drumming of George Hurley is there for all to hear. It’s as integral to the overall Minutemen sound as anything Boon did himself. But the Minutemen was always a sum of all three parts.

The band formed proper in 1980 when childhood friends Watt & Boon added Hurley to the line up. Their name is derived from the Minutemen Militia (American Revolutionary War) and not from the commonly held belief that it referenced their standard track length (confirmed by Watt in the 2005 documentary We Jam Econo). They released various EPs & LPs before Double Nickels On The Dime came out on SST Records in 1984.

What makes this LP so very special in my eyes is that, although it is clearly a Hardcore/Punk based record it’s so incredibly difficult to pin down. It changes all the time, from one eclectic influence to another, from political satire to straight up humour, from brute force to incredible beauty. And yet, it all sounds like it’s one style. This is a coming together of 3 exceptional musicians, lots of very different approaches and a huge array of influences that together make something very unique.

On top of the band members input this LP was produced by Ethan James, famed for working with Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction and many many more emergent bands. His influence shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Album opens with “D’s car jam” and “Theatre”, a mix of Hardcore and funk pulled together over tight jazz forms before winding it’s way into “Vietnam”‘s Gang Of Four-esque-post-punk-funk territory and onto a sublime piece of classical guitar in “Cohesion”. That clears the air before “It’s Expected I’m Gone” throws a jazz bomb at Credence Clearwater Revival. All that and we’re not even 8 minutes in!

The whole album continues to move effortlessly between sounds and moods for over an hour. This ramshackle collection of songs is a whole so it’s nigh on impossible to pick out singular highlights though everyone in the world will know “Corona” after Jackass used it as their theme. I’m a huge fan of Television so have always had a soft spot for “Jesus & Tequila” and it’s Venus’ tinge. And “West Germany” & “Storm In My House” always catch my ears. But that will change again next listen. All these years later and I’m still finding hidden corners in this collection.

As for the mysterious “27” conspiracy. Load of rubbish in my opinion. But it certainly throws up a worthy list of hugely influential artists that D Boon’s name can comfortably sit among. Add Robert Johnson to that list. A tragic, bizzare anomaly.

RIP D Boon. Sadly missed

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