Category: Opinions and Rants

Albums of the Year 2013

Since 2013 has finally drawn to a close (and since so many people asked me to), I’ve compiled the now-traditional end-of-year list of my favourite albums. As far as I’m concerned, 2013 has been a very interesting year for music. I’ve certainly been listening to more new albums over the last twelve months than I have done for a very long time – particular thanks must go to the #twitterindiecrew for all their excellent suggestions and recommendations (you know who you are!) – although this has also been a year for (re)discovering many old favourites too, which is perhaps reflected in the choice of artists and albums below…

10) MARK LANEGAN – IMITATIONS:

I confess that I find it pretty difficult to resist almost anything Lanegan does; I could listen that wonderful, world-weary voice of his sing the phone book and still love it. One of the joys of his voice is the sheer range of styles he can sing – everything from the blistering rock roar of his work with Screaming Trees to his delicate take on some of the well-known standards and more obscure tracks that appear here. Highlights include a lovely version of Nick Cave’s ‘Brompton Oratory’ (and I am not a Nick Cave fan), an astonishing reworking of the Bond theme ‘You Only Live Twice’, a gorgeous, heartbreaking take on Neil Sedaka’s ‘Solitaire’ and, to my delight, a deliciously melancholy version of Brecht and Weill’s classic ‘Mack The Knife’. This album is a fascinating treat for the music lover.

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Review: Pearl Jam – ‘Lightning Bolt’ (2013)

Lots of people on Twitter last night were asking for my views on this album, so I thought I’d scribble a quick review for all interested parties…

I fell in love with Pearl Jam twenty-two years ago with the release of the now classic Ten album. I was a messed-up fifteen year old back then, and it was probably inevitable, I guess! Since then, they’ve released a series of good and occasionally brilliant albums and I have continued to be a fan – but none of their last few albums have really captured and held my interest. Until this one.

The excellent punky lead-off single ‘Mind Your Manners’ (video below) had already piqued my curiosity in a big way, making me more excited about a new Pearl Jam album than I had been since sometime in the 1990s. And they didn’t let me down – even on the strength of a few early listens, it’s already obvious that Lightning Bolt is easily one of the best albums they have released in years.

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Quote of the Day: Julia Tomlinson on justice for Ian

The last four years have been a really hard uphill battle. We have had to deal with many obstacles and setbacks. After the ‘unlawful killing’ verdict at the inquest it was unimaginable to us that PC Harwood could be acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter. We will never understand that verdict, but at least today’s public admission of unlawful killing by the Metropolitan police is the final verdict, and it is as close as we are going to get to justice.

After everything they have been through in the last four years, I am glad that Ian Tomlinson’s family now finally have an apology from the Metropolitan Police Service, although the fact that it has taken four years for the police to fully acknowledge the events of April 1st 2009 and after says a great deal about how this case has been handled and the attitudes of some of the individuals and institutions involved.

Like many others who were at that ill-fated G20 demo in April 2009 (and who witnessed the behaviour of the TSG first hand), I have been following the progress of this case with much interest and I have been impressed with the quiet determination of Ian’s family in their search for the truth. In an ideal world, many of us would very much have liked to have seen Simon Harwood found guilty in last year’s manslaughter trial, but, as Ian’s widow Julia put it, this apology “is as close as we are going to get to justice”.

They may not have got the kind of justice many of us were hoping for, however, but I wish the Tomlinson family all the best for the future, whatever that brings, and I hope this apology (and the out of court settlement that accompanied it) can go at least some way towards helping them all move on from such a terrible and traumatic experience. I am sure that Ian would be proud of their tenacity, strength and bravery in standing up to the institutionalised violence, incompetence and cover-ups that surrounded his death with such dignity.

Richard III and reading history

Kings and queens don’t usually feature that highly among my regular historical interests, but even I was fascinated to learn last month that the skeletal remains found during a recent archaeological dig in a Leicester car park (of all places…) have been identified as those of Richard III, the last Yorkist king of England - whose body had been considered all but lost for centuries. And the twists and turns of this complex historical detective story got me thinking about history and about how we portray and interpret it.

Richard has long been a controversial figure historically. Not initially ‘born to be king’, he is believed by many to have been a severely physically disabled and emotionally embittered man who connived his way to the throne, murdering his young nephews in the process (these nephews being the sad little figures known to history as ‘The Princes in the Tower’); a dark image both reinforced and exacerbated by the works of some near-contemporary chroniclers, later plays such as that by William Shakespeare, and countless portraits and engravings produced long after Richard’s death.

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My Bloody Valentine: Only two decades late then…

It’s really not uncommon these days to find social media sites up in arms about something or other on a regular basis – and last night’s overexcited Twitter storm was no exception to that. But this time, surprisingly, Twitter wasn’t getting its collective knickers in a twist about the latest political outrage, celebrity foot-in-mouth comment, Daily Mail screed of hate or exploitative reality TV show.

Instead, and to the astonishment of music fans (of a certain age, mostly) everywhere, the mysterious and now almost mythical shoegazer band My Bloody Valentine finally released the very belated follow-up to their classic 1991 album Loveless onto their website in the early hours of this morning, to a response on Twitter that can only be described as mass indie hysteria.

Unsurprisingly, the demand for mbv (as the album is inventively titled) almost instantaneously crashed the band’s website, and it remained down for several hours – leading to frustrated jokes aplenty about MBV frontman Kevin Shields breaking the internet or spending 22 years creating a beautifully crafted error message instead of an album.

In a way, all this was typical of My Bloody Valentine – they’ve never been a band to do anything the conventional (or even easy) way. The recording sessions for Loveless, for example, comprehensively demonstrated Shields’ notorious sonic perfectionism at its peak, plus the completed album ended up almost bankrupting Creation Records in the process.

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‘Gategate’: Nothing ever changes…

Not a week appears to go by without a new scandal of some kind emanating from our jawdroppingly incompetent and greedy government. The latest, as I am sure you will have noticed, involves the chief whip, Andrew Mitchell, who decided one evening last week that the rules of the road around Downing Street didn’t actually apply to him (well, obviously. He is chief whip after all. *sarcasm*).

Having had his collar felt by the Downing Street cops for cycling where he didn’t ought to cycle, Mitchell apparently let fly with a mouthful of abuse at the police, an altercation that was seemingly witnessed by members of the public too. Ironically, the incident was picked up by The Sun (regular readers will know how I feel about that rag), whose reporting of the story last Friday broke the scandal and forced a response from Mitchell.

Claiming that he was “very clear about what I said and what I didn’t say. And I want to make it absolutely clear that I did not use the words that have been attributed to me”, Mitchell issued an ‘apology’ on Monday which provoked a media debate as to who was actually telling the truth about the incident. In response to that, the Met police released the full log of the altercation, part of which I reproduce here:

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The Stupid Awards – July 2012

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the July 2012 edition of the Another Kind Of Mind Stupid Awards. All those nominated for a Stupid Award tonight have been chosen for their spectacular demonstrations of pure, unadulterated idiocy and their inability to function with any sense even in the glaring face of reality. July has been a vintage month for such complete and utter fuckwittery, what with all of tonight’s candidates showing off their not inconsiderable skills over the last week – so, without further ado, here are the nominees…

Aidan Burley MP:

Nominated for: Being a racist Tory bigot in charge of a computer.

Oh look. Yet another Tory MP has opened his mouth and stuffed his foot firmly inside it in a very public fashion. There is something to be said for politicians being on Twitter – I follow several who are actually very interesting and very human tweeters. I may not always agree with them but they mostly understand the concept of when to shut up – unlike Mr Burley, who is (for the time being, anyway) still somehow MP for the marginal constituency Cannock Chase after some really nasty comments.

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Election Propaganda: The Mayoral Edition

I have to admit that I’ve not really been paying much attention to the London Mayoral campaign this time around, unless you count the concentration required every time I’ve had to run the gauntlet of various campaign volunteers, all determined to get in my way and stick a leaflet in my ear as I speed past their smug little stalls and dodge and weave down the High Street between them and all those omnipresent chuggers.

This time round, it’s more like a bad B-Movie sequel than an election. Or something. I can almost hear Voiceover Man declaiming the title like a wrestling match up: ‘Aaaaand now… the Heavyweight Champion of London, Boris ‘The Bruiser’ Johnson takes on the challenger, ‘Red’ Ken ‘The People’s Champion’ Livingstone in a hardcore battle to the political death…’ Well, we’ve had George Galloway pretending to be a cat (once seen can never be unseen, let’s put it that way), so why not Boris and Ken as wrestlers? In leotards, of course. That could suddenly make the Mayoral campaign a whole lot more amusing.

But there’s no getting away from it, this time round it really is the Ken and Boris Show: Part 2 (And This Time It’s Personal) – and there appears to be nothing any of the other candidates can really do to get most of the mainstream media to take the slightest bit of notice of their campaigns (short of taking all their clothes off and dancing naked through City Hall whilst singing the Birdy Song, perhaps? That might get them a few more column inches, although not necessarily in the Right Sort of newspapers).

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Welfare changes aren’t working: CABs and the new benefits system

Yesterday afternoon I spent an interesting couple of hours following the #CABlive hashtag on Twitter. This hashtag aimed to give the reader an insight into the day-to-day workings of Citizens Advice Bureaux across the country and, it must be said, made for fascinating and eye-opening reading.

Having had cause to use the services offered by the CAB myself a few years back, I was already aware of how busy many bureaux are and the wide range of issues they deal with – but I was genuinely taken aback by the large number of tweets referencing clients who were having problems with the new benefits system; particularly with ESA applications or Work Capability Assessment appeals.

There is already a huge amount of anecdotal and more statistical evidence that shows how badly these benefits and the tests for them are failing, and how they are causing great distress (and sometimes physical or mental health problems) for many of those being forced onto them.

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Oh well, whatever: ‘Nevermind’ 20 years on

With the lights out, it’s less dangerous

Here we are now, entertain us

I feel stupid and contagious

Here we are now, entertain us…

It’s one of the greatest album openers of all time – on what is arguably one of the greatest rock albums of all time. And, believe it or not, it’s twenty years old this month

Released in September 1991, Nirvana’s second album, Nevermind, had an immediate and dramatic impact on the music scene (even going so far as to knock Michael Jackson’s Dangerous off the top spot in the US album charts). It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide in the twenty years since its release, making it almost certainly the biggest selling alternative rock album of all time and placing ‘tragic singer’ Kurt Cobain straight into the canon of  rock legends alongside the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

In September 1991, I was a troubled, music-loving 15 year old; just the right impressionable age to be utterly blown away by Nevermind. And blow me away it did. I couldn’t stop listening to it – and I was not the only one. It became one of those albums that was glued to the stereo at every single drunken teenage house party I went to over the next few years. It was on all our personal stereos, it went everywhere with us.

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