It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’ve been feeling thoughtful…
Round about one hundred years ago, this cheerful bunch of Scotsmen (above – note the kilts!) would have been celebrating what was probably the last Hogmanay of World War One. They seem to have found what looks like a fairly comfortable billet, and, judging from the bottles at their feet, have undoubtedly indulged in a few beers and a chorus or two of Auld Lang Syne.
A century later, and the world is still fighting. And as this year finally draws to a close, I hope more than ever that we can eventually come to terms with the increasingly glaring truth that monetized hatred, bigotry and violence are slowly destroying us and our planet.
But it is also important to remember that kindness costs nothing. Thoughtfulness costs nothing. We need more of both in 2019, all over the world. We’re not broken – not yet – but we have to take all the chances we can still get as individuals, communities, governments to help rather than hinder peace.
There are lessons to be learned from World War One and its aftermath, as well as from the rise of fascism during the interwar years. We still haven’t learned them, and that needs to change. Going down that road should never be a feasible option again, anywhere.
For me, 2018 can do one, it’s been a particularly brutal year on a personal level all round. However, I hope your New Year is happy, bright and peaceful – and, as ever, I send a huge thank you to you all. I say this every year, but it remains true. I couldn’t do this without my readers.
Politics has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I studied the subject at A-Level and as an undergraduate back in the 1990s, and participation in the democratic process has always been and still is of great importance to my family. I have voted in every single election (both local and national) since I was of an age to be included on the electoral register.
I am old enough to remember the viciousness of the Thatcher years, and the dramatic change of government in 1997 (with all that later entailed). But I cannot recall any political campaign as ugly, bigoted and as downright unpleasant as this one. The decision whether or not to leave the EU has brought out the absolute worst in a large number of British people, particularly those supporting Brexit. And I’m sick of it.
The horrible murder last week of the MP Jo Cox (by a man with the kind of disturbing far-right views that have basically hijacked the issue) is the latest – and worst – event in a campaign where racism, lies, bullying and aggression have been rife, becoming part of the political discourse of the UK in a way that has brought it all home to us in a terrifying fashion.
This violence has to stop. This racism has to stop. This lying for political gain has to stop (yeah, I know. It won’t). If many of those who are campaigning for Brexit get their way and we leave the EU, these issues will only get worse. I don’t want to see that. Most British people don’t want to see that, it’s not what this country is all about. We need to dial back the fiery rhetoric and start looking at the real questions that affect real people, because that’s what matters. People matter, wherever they’re from and wherever they’re going.
So yes, I will be voting tomorrow.
And I will be voting REMAIN.
After all those Christmas blog posts, it’s time for another seasonal tradition on Another Kind Of Mind – my albums of the year list. As usual, I’ve ignored all the end of year ‘best of’ lists in every newspaper and music publication: these are the albums that I’ve personally loved most or found particularly interesting in 2015 (and yes, it’s been a good year for metal!). They’re listed alphabetically, since we’d all be waiting here until next Christmas if I tried to put them in any sort of order…
- Deafheaven – New Bermuda
- Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi
- Faith No More – Sol Invictus
- FFS – FFS
- Four Tet – Morning/Evening
- Iron Maiden – Book of Souls
- Kylesa – Exhausting Fire
- Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
- Lianne La Havas – Blood
- Little Boots – Working Girl
- Napalm Death – Apex Predator-Easy Meat
- Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
- PiL – What The World Needs Now…
- Run The Jewels – Meow The Jewels
- Slayer – Repentless
- Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
- The Charlatans – Modern Nature
- The Chemical Brothers – Born In The Echoes
- The Selecter – Subculture
- Teeth of the Sea – Highly Deadly Black Tarantula
- Therapy? – Disquiet
I did, however, manage to put my Top 5 songs of the year in some kind of order for the Festive 50, and you can find them here.
Update 14/12/15: VOTING IS NOW CLOSED! Watch out for a link to the Top 50 soon…
Update 18/12/15: Sadly, none of my choices made the final list, but you can check out the full Festive 50 for 2015 here!
You know me, I love my lists! Over on Twitter, @TheFestive50 is busy compiling a chart of this year’s favourite songs (voting on Twitter closes next weekend, and the 2015 Top 50 will be available on the Festive 50 Mixcloud soon – you can find the final lists for the last two years at that link too). Obviously, this was a challenge I couldn’t resist. In reverse order, here are my top five choices….
5) Therapy? – Helpless Still Lost (from the album ‘Disquiet’):
As a long-time fan who always welcomes a new album by this kick-ass Northern Irish punk/metal trio, it was inevitable that I would include one of Therapy?’s excellent 2015 tracks in my top five – but it was really difficult to decide which one, since Disquiet (incredibly, their fourteenth studio album – I feel old) has pretty much been glued to my stereo on repeat since it came out earlier this year. With a sound and production which echoes their earlier material but that still feels fresh, this sludgy, riff-heavy clatter of a track was my eventual choice. This is a real return to form, and, like all of Therapy?’s best moments, this track manages to weave a bleakly twisted melody into the distinctively tangled raw-edged mesh of driving guitars and breakneck drumming that the band have utilised to great effect over the course of their career. More please!
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! Over the years it has become a bit of a tradition on Another Kind Of Mind that, whenever an election rolls round, I take great delight in poking, prodding and generally pulling apart the ‘Election Communication’ leaflets (read: abject propaganda) which the various parties stuff through your letterbox in a vain attempt to win your vote. Most people just chuck these leaflets into the recycling without even bothering to look at them – but I read and analyse (more like laugh at) these political communications so you don’t have to…
So far, I have been bombarded with half a tree’s worth of rubbish from the Labour Party, a rather shouty leaflet from the Tories which made me feel slightly ill, and some vaguely odd (and almost semi-literate) offerings from several tiny and relatively new political parties that I had, I must confess, not previously heard of. I have had nothing at all from the Liberal Democrats (big surprise!) or from the Greens (perhaps they are saving on paper to offset all the leaflets Labour have sent out?).
Of all these glaring omissions, I am most disappointed that I haven’t been favoured with any UKIP propaganda this time round (shame, I always enjoy being rude about them), especially since one of their local election candidates in the ward next door to mine produced some campaign leaflets which were so spectacularly weird that they got him deselected by the local branch of the party* – but despite this sad and sorry loss to my rant, we will carry on regardless with what I do have.
First up, and simply because they sent me so much crap, is Labour. Although they all promise rather desperately to “act to deal with David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis”, these leaflets feature the usual digs at the Tories and UKIP (“Don’t be taken in by the other parties…”), and some of it manages to be both prescriptive and patronising at the same time too – which certainly puts me off (“This is what your ballot will look like. Put a cross in the box next to Labour” Um, thanks but no thanks, Ed).
One point in Labour’s favour is that they are the only party who have actually sent me information about their candidates for the local elections (everything else I’ve had from everyone else has been specifically about the European vote), but that doesn’t let them off the hook, I’m afraid. Sorry, Labour supporters, but I still don’t trust them – taking the word ‘New’ off the front of the party name and pretending your leader wasn’t actually in the Blair cabinet isn’t really enough for me…
It’s quite odd what strikes an emotional chord sometimes. I surprised myself last night by being genuinely upset to hear that there has been a large fire at the Stables Market in Camden, north London. It seems the fire broke out at about 8pm yesterday evening in the roof voids at the Chalk Farm Road end of the market, and the flames and smoke were soon visible for miles around – which resulted in hundreds of people being evacuated from the surrounding area. According to the BBC, ten fire engines and more than 70 firefighters were sent in to tackle it (which suggests it was a pretty big fire), eventually getting the blaze under control several hours later. Considering that yesterday was a beautiful, hot early summer day in London, the area around the market must have been very busy even at that late hour. It is quite amazing that no-one, it seems, was hurt in the incident. However, I suspect that many livelihoods and many memories have been destroyed by this blaze.
Camden is a part of this city that I know very well, and the markets there have long been an essential place to visit if you were ever an alternative kid in London – it certainly was an important and formative place for me. When I was growing up, Camden Market was one of only a few places in London where you could actually get such hard-to-find alternative essentials as black nail polish, extreme metal band t-shirts, bootleg albums of highly dubious origin, proper flared trousers, hair dye in colours never to be found in nature, glow-under-UV-light hoodies, stash tins with wonky-looking cannabis leaves painted on them and the kind of pungent Indian incense that sets smoke alarms off in ten seconds flat – amongst a vast plethora of other random things that you never knew existed, let alone that you wanted!
There was always a definite hippy kind of vibe about the place, almost as soon as you walked out of the tube station. Admittedly though, to actually get from the tube station to the Lock Market and the Stables Market you’d have to run the gauntlet of dodgy-looking geezers offering you something herbal that was allegedly weed, ageing punks with dogs on strings drinking Special Brew and shouting at people (the punks, not the dogs!), and, of course, the odd confused tourist standing in the middle of the pavement intently studying an upside down A-Z – but that was all part of the Camden Experience in the early 1990s.
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.
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.
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.
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.