Category Archives: Manchester

NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL||ALBERT HALL||17/5/14

Saturday’s sunshine has seen a mower Holocaust wrought on many a lawn. These outdoor carpet-barbers spent the good weather making their immediate outdoors looking good for the inevitable deluge next weekend, and I suppose the bees still made honey in 1945. On the top deck of this bus there’s a several-headed Cerberean man-boy in Jacamo clothing, his alcohol deafened heads vocally overcompensate, amplifying their laughter to an inner-ear blasting level for the rest of us, making this comparatively brisk trip through the Curry Mile feel like a marathon.

“FUCK OFF!”

One of the heads pokes out of the window slit and shouts at what he believes to be Iranian and Iraqi flags.

“SLING IT…FREE DENMARK!”

“…and you can stick your oil up your arse, an’ all!”

“Indians are okay, it’s their neighbours that are the knobheads, innit, eh?”

(Reticence from the rest of his heads.)

‘Look at it, I just hate that they’ve made it their gaff.’ it says, before making plans to come back. Yes, the racists are returning to Rusholme later on for “a Ruby Murray”.

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(Chief UKIPPER: Nigel Farage)

Nigel Farage’s bulbous eyes watch all this on his underwater crystal ball as he re-hydrates in an attempt to counter this midsummer in May, and in readiness for his upcoming assault on Europe. His fish lipped, upside-down clown mouth tautens into that delighted/gag-reflex combination of a laugh he has.

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(A young Russell is schooled by a man doing anything it takes to inherit a fortune)

Meanwhile, Revolutionary-Jester Russell Brand feels a tingling sensation in his winkle, something markedly different from the chlamydial tickle to which he’s become accustomed. No, this urethral twinge seems to herald something of colossal import as the political philosophy he was schooled in by Richard Pryor in ‘Brewster’sMillions’, later spouted-out of his well-practised mouth looks to be yielding unexpected results as credulous good men prepare to do nothing.

“It Can’t Happen Here.”

“…But then they buried her alive on evening, 1945…”

I’m thinking about Godwin’s Law in the Albert Hall. You know, that old “internet adage that is derived from one of the earliest bits of Usenet wisdoms, which goes “if you mention Adolf Hitler or Nazis you’ve automatically ended whatever discussion you were taking part in.” I’m thinking about how, ironically, God-win will see Devil-Prevail, and possibly be responsible for the next rise of fascism, or at least result in everyone being too cool to object or protest. The atmosphere inside isn’t quite as I had anticipated; rather than the clamour that surrounded the announcement of the tour there’s a sense of expectance and entitlement rather than jittery disbelief of what is about to transpire, which admittedly flakes away somewhat for unbridled adulation as the band take the stage.

Jeff Mangum looks like he just this morning crawled out of the self-imposed-exile-from-the-public-eye that characterised him in the early 2000s, his lengthy grey facial hair far out-stripping the many checked-shirted competitors in attendance. Mangum slowly walks across the stage strumming the introduction to ‘King of Carrot Flowers Part 1’, and the band file-in behind.

‘…Part 2’ comes banjo-crawling over an impression of a cornfield, the audience break into a communal declaration of love for the undiluted idea of Christ, and two-dimensional hand-painted cardboard cut-out plants and flowers rise behind the band and out the pipes of the now ornamental wall-organ that makes up the back of the stage their inseminating stamens also sprouting out of the bells of the muted trumpet and French Horn, snaking their way up toward the sunlight dying behind the stained glass, and the Singing Saw’s ascending, whistling pitch of the impending ‘…Part 3’ propels us “Up and Over…” into the stratosphere. When it ends, burning up on re-entry they launch straight into the galloping ‘Holland 1945’.

Mangum presses his hands together as though to pray, bouncing them off his heart and out towards the audience with a humble shake of his grateful head, and gets respite from the ‘Aeroplane…’ by landing ‘On Avery Island’ for ’A Baby For Pree’ and ‘Gardenhead’, hushing the majority of us up for a few minutes. Julian Koster acts as the band’s mouthpiece, and speaks, dresses and behaves like a 15 year old, beautifully so, and after Mangum has sung himself into a potential heart attack during ‘Two Headed Boy’ and excused himself from the stage to exorcise the tightness in his chest, Koster regales us with half a joke about a man who has half an orange for a head. When Mangum abruptly returns Koster promises us “the other half later on”, which we never get, making this unforthcoming “other half” of a Two Headed joke a sort of a punchline in itself.

Our alternative Albert Hall repetitively combusts with imaginary confetti like the Last Night of the Indie Rock Proms, climaxing with the ineffable majestygasm of ‘(Untitled)’ and shudders and sighs through the laconic crescendo of ‘Two Headed Boy Part 2’ and ‘Engine’. Unlike their contemporaries’ re-treads of former glories, Neutral Milk Hotel in 2014 are still as incandescent a conduit for beauty as they were when they called it a day. They visibly and audibly enthuse at this music that has transcends adulation, criticism and even its creators, almost as much as we do.

I walk toward home through the Tuxedoed Lizards smoking E-Cigs outside the Midland and wonder if I’ll be unlucky enough to get on the bus ferrying the Curry Mile Hydra, my synapses still crackling with a Louisianan crackpot’s Anne Frank wank fantasy.

Please take a vote away from a racist today.

Setlist

The King of Carrot Flowers, Part One

The King of Carrot Flowers, Parts Two & Three

Holland, 1945

A Baby for Pree

Gardenhead

Everything Is

Two-Headed Boy

The Fool

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

Naomi

Ferris Wheel on Fire

Oh Comely

Song Against Sex

Ruby Bulbs

Snow Song, Part One

(Encore)

Ghost

[untitled]

Two-Headed Boy, Part Two

Engine

Bob Log III, The Ruby Lounge, 24/4/2014

“N. Senada’s (Bavarian Composer -1907-1993) “Theory of Obscurity” states that an artist can only produce pure art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration.”

I shouldn’t have to be writing this because you should have been there yourself. Luckily for you, Bob is a natural phenomenon that, like some integral celestial body circles the Planet Earth every year, so you can ensure you don’t miss him next time. Though maybe it’s us that orbits him. Anyway until next year…

Bob Log III isn’t that lanky guy that soundchecked. Bob was shot from an Arizona flag emblazoned cannon out of a Jack White nightmare or Evel Knievel wet dream into being. Bob knows he’s the finest thing in all Creation and has deigned to share his preordained greatness with you; so clap your tits, sit on his knee, put shit on his leg and your boob in his scotch – walking through the audience, balloons tethered to headstock and bridge, Bob plays his way to the stage…

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“He’s looking right at me!” Balloons, purty ladies, hard liquor. He’s a professional. He lives in a car.

Despite an appeal via Twitter, no one brought along a rubber dinghy tonight for Bob to surf the tide of bodies, so instead he’s offering to hand out balloons to those who sufficiently lose their shit during each number. It’s shit-kicking, boot stomping Rock N’ Roll via an amphetamine addled spectre of the Delta Blues. While there’s undeniably a tongue lodged firmly into a chewing tobacco-browned cheek beneath that visor, he’s in no way defamatory about the tradition he’s entered into and expanded upon. The Dadaesque shroud of anonymity might be a concession to initially wrong-foot and ultimately win over any cynics who think they’ve heard this all before, but it’s better not to over-think things in such terms – there’s a gathering as diverse in age and cultural affiliation as I’ve seen at any gig in recent memory, all involuntarily entering into a rhythmic conniption fit for a guy with a telephone receiver jammed through the visor of a glittery crash helmet playing a style of music over a Century old.

Head jerking upward, side to side on the offbeat while his fingers molest the fretboard of his Silvertone archtop or electric Banjo at warp speed, Bob cuts an awesome if uncanny figure. There’s something about the inhuman helmet in juxtaposition with the skin of the plunging neckline created by the open zipped jumpsuit. He’s like an action figure or cartoon character – nothing should be inferred as being moulded or pencilled-in beneath that mask other than a fully formed, Universally understandable persona; this redneck overstuffed with a bravado that he unwaveringly, conceitedly believes you’re in complete agreement with. This assumption makes him hilarious, but also honest, as his proficiency with his instrument turns out to be undeniably awe inspiring.

Bob takes us on a travelogue of his back catalogue, interspersed with the standards (‘Boob Scotch’, Clap Your Tits’, ‘LogBomb’) and self aggrandising between-song banter that never fails to land a gut-punch guffaw, before languidly swaggering off through the crowd the way he entered, playing complex riffs with ease before disappearing through a backroom door. The music continues unabated, before Bob reappears stage left from having presumably passed throgh a backstage corridor without breaking his stride to complete this Kaufmanesque encore or ‘nonecore’, if you will.

Bob Log III must stoke doubt and embarrassment in innumerable affectation laden, self important, pouting musicians with the conceptual realisation, technical prodigiousness and unfettered joy of his act. At least he would, had he not simply been shot from an Arizona flag emblazoned cannon out of a Jack White nightmare or Evel Knievel wet dream into being. You aren’t even on his radar, chump.

Next time I’m taking everyone I know, and cajoling those I don’t, starting with you.

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Inertia/Modernity: A Mancunian Missive

Market Street: Where once leant ramshackle stalls now parades homogenised malls, but the varying competing degrees of Mancunian humanity are thronged on its cobbles just the same. The greasy black-clad weasel of doom in his dandruff dappled black jacket, paces up and down, his pants half-mast, hee-hawing out his damnation lambast at you all. The ‘mature student’-looking lefty protesters are all bench-prepared vying for the leftovers of your soul: a scribble or quid. Some dreadlocked honky tosspot whose Gap Year fell short of what their parental ordained shortfall could afford, tries Gameshow-hosting their way into your affections in order to lighten-you of what you can ill-afford for a cause theoretically simpatico with their newly expanded moral horizons. As his bean-methane-laden-spiel bleeds over the Lilliputian hillsides of his wooden necklace beads, you scan frantically for an ‘out’…
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The façade of The Turnpike on Wilmslow Road in Withington is positively throbbing with animosity. Look at it: it’s nullifying your existence with a stony-faced obliviousness to your ant-like insignificance. Behind the mottled glass of its door’s panes dances light, but you’d still be forgiven for tricking yourself into thinking there was no one home. It’d be so much easier to ponce-on down the road and pass under the hanging baskets, through the Hobbiton portal of the Red Lion and carouse among the recreational Rugger Buggers and affably mannered menopausal…But no – boldly go, I beseech thee: for those hair and blood-encrusted glass shards peppered on the threshold are but a mirage.

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Like warm, all-encompassing amber, untouched since The Beatles broke in 1963: The Turnpike, Wilmslow Rd.

Those wishing for a true taste of unfettered Mancunia would be better placed reclining on the cigarette-burn peppered upholstered leather benches of the Turnpike on a weekday afternoon, than mouth-agog, tongue lolling and tumbling their clenched fist in the air to the unexpurgated version of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ at 42nd Street at 01:36am on a Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, or getting their instagram snapped outside Salford Lad’s Club.

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above: Kurt R.I.P. Graffiti on London Road Fire Station, Whitworth street appeared the night Kurt Cobain’s death was announced: Fri 8th/Sat 9th April 1994. Oasis’ ‘Supersonic’ was released the ensuing Monday, 11th April 1994

 

Manchester’s modern musical ascendancy can be tracked back to Oasis occupying the fertile cultural chasm left by the hole in Kurt Cobain’s head. Britpop itself was only ever viable as a pseudo-movement once Oasis offered up their “rum cunt” juxtaposition to Blur’s cheeky-chappery. While Blur proffered well thought-out and executed pantomimes of British culture, Oasis were too busy actually living the Northern equivalent; the authenticity of which turned out to be something that many in this country, irrespective of the North/South divide could identify-with and clamoured for a piece of.

Oasis it turned-out were, for a brief moment in time – too good for any one of their members to actually get a handle on, and so unfortunately sometime in 1996 or 97, disappeared up the nearest rolled-up note, or Gallagher backside (lets not split nasal/anal hairs: its the same thing). These Beatle-wannabes could manage nothing more than the odd string arrangement or Helicopter populated promo in progression’s stead. But thanks to these much needed testosterone envoys, Manchester managed to wrest the baton from, and circumnavigate the overblown and preposterous ‘Second Coming’ of The Stone Roses. Though ultimately both these cases in point; some of Manchester’s ballsiest, most celebrated sons – were seen to inexplicably suffer an embarrassing drubbing in public.

In the absence of anything left to actually get excited about, the luke-warm corpse of ‘Madchester’ was duly exhumed, melon well and truly twisted to clear the airways, porridgey narcotic vomit brushed from the spongey circumference of it’s cracked mouth and set-upon zombily and frantically CPR’d by the young, menial-job working men-folk of the City and it’s scattered outposts, hoping to carve-out an identity for themselves – one last perfunctory couplet worthy of shyster-messiah Shaun Ryder by which to live their dead-end lives.

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Adopting the simian haircut and gait (maybe at the same ‘finishing’ school the scallies learn their intimidating limp?), this new breed of common-man music fan could, for the week’s swansong, feel like a Rock N’ Roll Star by blowing all their hard-earned minimum wage on cigarettes and alcohol chased by the occasional white line – and scattershot themselves across the length and breadth of the City centre, dragging their B&H stained knuckles along the hallowed, piss-stained ground where once trod the 18-hole Doc Martens of the survivors of the original Punk community, seemingly (fittingly) blown away by the bomb of 15/6/96…or maybe purged by Councillor Pat Karney?

John Robb, perhaps fearing for his own pompadour could not be reached for comment.

THE CLASSICAL

There have been a lot of great bands emerge from Manchester over the last 30 years…

…all of them have been The Fall.

Insouciance personified: Mark E. Smith nullifying your existence with a stony-faced obliviousness to your ant-like insignificance…sporting the hackneyed skin and description of an intellectual Gecko, haranguing a slew of personnel to play the part of burnt-out sparks along his comet’s tail, gluttons for the inevitable punishment of his revolving door policy: All are pushed, none Fall…that is of course unless you’re the sassy young lass behind the Keyboard Elena Poulou a.k.a. Mrs Mark E. Smith…immovable for as long as she can put up with him.

Check the record, check the record check the guy’s track record.

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(Photo courtesy of Dullhunk)

While perhaps not transcending divides of musical taste in the same sense as the genre-straddling, populace pleasing Roses or Mondays – the decades have succumbed to his constant onslaught. Plaudits of the highest caliber abound, they’re just relatively thin on the ground. A Market Street Poll would probably garner only the odd spot of praise based on the vague knowledge that they originate from Manchester – the same endemic bollocks-logic that sees certain Mancunians adopt anyone of note to have farted within the City limits before making it big.

“Always different, always the same…” is how the oft-paraphrased John Peel quote goes.

Like a City, whose citizens blister in and out of existence.

A terrifying specimen of a Mancunian – The bile simmering in his distended belly is prophesied in his chewing away at the inside of his face as he readies to spew his next torrent of vitriolic lyrics, chunky gold wrist bracelet tapping across a beer-soaked bar top, inadvertently gathering soggy crisp bits…

…like this guy in the vault of The Turnpike with a bandage crowning his completely bald head. I set myself-to ‘eye contact avoidance’ until he welcomes us outsiders to his second home, before rejoining his table to play some archaic card game. Its possible I’m guilty of expanding my accent a little when reciprocating his salutation, but I needn’t have bothered, as when 9 O’clock rolls round, The Turnpike is suddenly deluged with students while the regulars bob along as obliviously as they have since the 60s…

Market Stead Lane, 1640: Turgid little Serfs hobble hither and thither gingerly on Trench Foote. A gaggle of mud-encrusted street urchins play ‘footeball’ with a decomposing nobleman’s head. There’s a two-for one-deal on Women and Negroids in the shadow of the Chapel. A religious zealot pogos around on one pathetic leg, yelling at anyone within earshot to repent: for there’s not a Badger in ASDA’s chance that any of this will remain beyond Micklemas…

…okay, I didn’t read THAT far back.

Arndale Office Tower: completed in 1976 – the year the BBC occupied their Oxford Road home and the  Sex Pistols played The Free Trade Hall, inadvertently forming Warsaw in the process.

Arndale Office Tower is stabbed like a betrayal into the shoulder of Market Street, like some tobacco-stained Lego-headstone for Manchester past. Looming with its dull red epitaph, it looks down on its shelled-brethren now re-covered with crystalline fly-wings, seeming increasingly bothered by the knowledge its number is surely up. It was assembled on the labyrinthine site of what had previously served as Manchester’s Boho heart, before of course Oldham Street’s voice eventually broke and spoke-up. Shudehill is the last surviving tentacle of the City’s mid 20th century den of inequity, where until the 70s (*gasp*) “men of colour”, musicians and artists had quaffed coffee and shared London newspapers, incendiary opinion and original ideas. Today if you want to buy a safe in which to keep the vintage nudie books you bought from a one-armed man, you’re in the right place.

The jaundiced monolith whose remaining old-man yellow toenails poke out from the palatial glass slipper of the Neo-Arndale by whom its been disowned, bears all the hallmarks of a well-intentioned modernist gesture sanctioned by some Geometrically-obsessed, sub-mental City official, but was at its inception intended as a much needed…yadda yadda…for the city, and has eventually…whoop-dee-fucking-shit…Europe’s biggest City Centre Shopping…blah, blah, blah…

Lets face it, however ugly it was, or intermittently continues to be – it’s nowhere near as repugnant as the Unmitigated Palace of Faggotry that is ‘The Trafford Centre’, no hindsight required.

Well intentioned or not, Manchester’s beige Rubik’s zirconia sucked all and sundry into its thrall from every other shopping area, rendering formerly thriving High Streets such as nearby Oldham Street, a wilderness…

Photo courtesy ofDullhunk

TRANSMISSION

Lasting half the time it took to complete the Arndale, Joy Division endure with the sort of legacy that demands their mention in that hushed utterance normally reserved for culture’s uppermost echelon, and will on a spiritual level be sewn into the fabric of this City’s heart far longer than any shopping centre ever will. Unfortunately it is perhaps owed in large part to the fact that Ian Curtis decided to go neck-bungee-jumping off the Sheila Maid clothes airer.

Momentarily stoked by the Sex Pistols’ first shots at the Free Trade Hall, ‘Warsaw’ echoed that frenetic barbed guitar and vehement stage presence, but gradually abandoned it in favour of a new name and more sparse, foreboding sound, shot-through with encroaching electronica, it’s Limbo-soul reverberating beneath Martin Hannett’s Bell Jar production.

Joy Division’s legacy remains brooding and complex – untouchable, despite Peter Hook’s best efforts to butt-fuck it, and that of New Order into oblivion.

And he’s tried…

…oh my, how he’s tried:

0:19: Having emitted his shrill mating-call in the hopes it will lubricate the fundament of his musical legacies, he squats and snakes-out a long hot log to make way for the possibility his legacy wants to reciprocate. Trust me Pete, it’s a one-way street.

The ‘Richard Madeley with-a-way-with-words’ that was Tony Wilson, has thankfully had the ‘twat’ forever erased from his brow in the event of his tragic passing. A Salfordian boy, the Cambridge-educated Wilson was scathingly berated and ostracized as an outsider by rivals and peers alike – his need to simultaneously prove himself & his City to their respective peers arguably the catalyst for his success. Upon seeing how Joy Division had clasped the baton from the starter Pistols and legged-it in an unprecedented direction – he was presented with a vision of how it could outshine it’s bastard past.

NEW DAWN FADES

Factory’s greatest achievements endure not in some laughable rehash of a former site once integral to the ‘Legend’ (I’m glowering at you Hooky, you money-grabbing motherFaçer) but in the form of the music and self-confidence it facilitated, or vicariously embellished. The musical achievements of this city, from the seminal Joy Division to the self-indulgent/destructive drugged-up sub-culture-of-yuppiedom that was ‘Madchester’ – while not representative of us all, did provide every denizen with a sense of pride and identity that had been independently carved-out, with a reverence for – disavowal of – its long-lapsed and outdated tag and stature as ‘The World’s First and Greatest Industrial City’.

After a stint doing a topical programme on Sunday morning BBC TV, (I can’t recall or electrically locate the name of the show, but it might as well have been titled: ‘Skeleton Presents’) Wilson died from complications relating to Renal Cancer in 2007 at The Christie Hospital on Wilmslow Road, Withington.

Ponce-on 100 yards down the road and pass under the hanging baskets, through the Hobbiton portal of the Red Lion and carouse among the recreational Rugger Buggers and affably mannered menopausal? No – boldly go.

While having remained untouched since 1963, 9 O’clock rolls round, and The Turnpike is suddenly deluged with students while the regulars bob along as obliviously as they have since the 60s.

Like a City, whose citizens blister in and out of existence…

Tony Wilson’s Peter Saville-designed headstone in the sprawling ‘Guess Who’ game of Southern Cemetary – Sandwiched between West Didsbury & Chorlton.

Turn-pike

n.

1. Abbr. Tnpk. or Tpk. A toll road, especially an expressway with tollgates.

2. A tollgate.

NEW ORDER

While Tony Wilson’s Factory dream flourished and snuffed-it, The Oldham Street that was abandoned by its consumers, drawn like ‘Dawn of the Dead’ to the Mall on Market Street, was gradually inhabited by the bottom feeders who occupied its abandoned outlets, their creativity and fresh-perspective making it not only cool, but eventually profitable and inhabitable. South Manchester suburbs like Chorlton and West Didsbury have likewise been gentrified, making them desirable hives of City Centre rivalry for it’s well-to-do residents as well as honorarily-naturalised émigrés to the City.

It seems always to have taken an outsider’s perspective, to identify and bring out the best that exists in this City. With Media City’s sprouting on the site of Manchester’s formative glories almost complete, any fears of the selling of the City’s soul can be allayed by the knowledge that whatever it’s impact – its surroundings will respond accordingly.