widg‧et /ˈwɪdʒɪt/ [wij-it] -noun: Pointless ramblings from the New Forest. Obviously complete & utter Rubbish. Why must I contibute to all this endless talk about me? My self-indulgent knees, spilling themselves all over the internet. Obviously i am Jon and his hair, I AM HIM!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pooky Night

Yes, it's time to worship at the altar of the stuffed corpse of Garfield's mute teddy bear. The gates have opened, gosh darn it, and goblin freedom awaits. "Oíche Shamhna!", they shout, or something equally as unintelligible and chavy. Stupid, clammy eyes watch the multitude of masks and cloaks flood the countryside. Their dirty hands feel along the walls, listening for the hurried footsteps further up the steep incline. They follow closely behind. Frightwigs on eager chins are placated by treaty shapes. No need for photos. Small ones drown happily as the unhelpful apples escape the clutches of their teeth. The roaring floods give chase. Don't forget to wave or you will be as dead as the spotted ivy leaf tells you. No chance of escape.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dance to the Music (Part Six)

Welcome back to my shamelessly self-promotingly autobiographical trek through the unquestionably best music of the last few years. We've nearly reached the home straight.

2001Miss Kittin & the Hacker - The First Album
Bis - Music For a Stranger World
Ash - Free All Angels
Kate Rusby - Little Lights
Anu Malik - Aśoka OST
(The Shins - Oh Inverted World)

Miss Kittin & the Hacker are a Franco-Swiss potty mouthed twosome, who express themselves via bleepy synth squelches and naughty words. Simultaneously funny, filthy, sexy & strangely affecting, they declared Frank Sinatra to be dead when he wasn't, but he is now. They must be prophets.

I'd been a fan of Bis' exuberant pop stylings since their first 'unsigned' Top of the Pops appearance. I heard the lead track from this mini album on the John Peel show at work one night, along with the peerless, but unaccountably unknown, Cowcube. This is where they started getting interesting, less shouty more Human Leaguey.

I spent much of 2001 chasing Ash around the country after a half-sleepy chance viewing of the Big Breakfast informed me that an instore set in London coincided with a fortuitously pre-planned daytrip to the capital. Despite being impressed by their first two albums (less so by the third) I'd never seen Ash live until then. I must have seen them seven times during the year, counting festivals & the like, which may have been a little excessive considering their latest album turned out to be a bit pants. Anyway this record is a warm blast of summery wind & sea air to the ears, but less painful than that would actually be.

Here comes Kate Rusby with some good old Yorkshire folky fun, before she was soiled by Ronan sodding Keating. I have a soft spot for the plaintive, brass tinged final track (My Young Man), having a Leodensian mother and spending most of my youth playing euphonium in brass bands. A fine mix of the traditional and new, fiddles, flutes, guitars, the aforementioned brass and sung in a broad Sheffield accent.

Aśoka - I surprised myself by choosing this Bollywood soundtrack over any others. I've never been much of a fan of Anu Malik's songs, generally preferring the works of AR Rahman, Jatin-Lalit or Ismail Darbar, but most of their scores have one or two tracks that are a little dodgy or overly twee for my tastes. Here, not a duff track, considering the film is a period piece the music is oddly contemporary, but using mostly old, acoustic instruments it keeps one foot in the past. I remember going to see Aśoka at the Genesis on Whitechapel High Street and walking the wrong way up Mile End Road, after getting off the tube and becoming confused by the shop numbers. I eventually got there in time to annoy the other punters by singing along with the catchy tunes, altogether now, "San sanana nana, san sanana nan. Jaa jaa re jaa re jaa re, jaa re pawan..."

Honorary mention: The Shins.
I can't consign 2001 to the past without mentioning this album. I didn't get into it until fairly recently, after my mate Bo won me over by constantly playing the Garden State soundtrack (which contains a couple of tracks from this record) on endless repeat.

2002David Bowie - Heathen
Cornelius - Point
Angelique Kidjo - Black Ivory Soul
Sleater Kinney - One Beat
Beth Gibbons & Rustin' Man - Out of Season

I tried to get a non blog writing, David Bowie obsessed friend to compose a review of this album, but she declined, so you're stuck with my lowly observations. Though she did want me to point out that the best song is 'Cactus'. A strange choice, I feel, despite its greatness, as it's a Pixies cover and thus not penned by the veteran chameleon himself. This is a stunning return to form, not that his 90s albums were shabby by any means, but not on a par with his extraordinary run of 70s ones. It's an edgy, atmospheric listening experience, and he's wearing a snazzy suit on the cover, bonus.

More Japanese weirdness, courtesy of Cornelius, complete with the sound of dripping taps, coughs & splutters and named after a Planet of the Apes ape. I was privy to the Cornelius live experience at the Shepherd's Bush Empire (home of Wogan) in 2002. Mind bending images flashed across the back of the stage as strobing lights induced a kind of hypnotic trance and feet shuffled along to the jittery beat.

See, I told you we'd come back to Ms Kidjo, so here we are. The live performance of some of these tracks was my highlight of last year's Live8, from the Africa Calling concert, relegated to out-in-the-sticks Cornwall. The Eden Project was a much better setting than dingy old Hyde Park. A mixture of rhythms from Benin & Brazil, with lyrics in a combination of Fon (Fɔngbe) & French. It has a much more varied pallet of sounds than her previous records, with some excellent stomping music & tender ballads (not that I have a clue what she's on about without consulting the translations in the booklet).

Sleater-Kinney is the best band named after a road that my mate Hockey has driven down. Sadly now kaput, I managed to see them live last year on their 'The Woods' tour at Koko (formerly the Camden Palace) and was most impressed by their t-shirts. Even though their last album acquired rave reviews from a music press that largely ignored them in the past, I still prefer the upbeat shoutiness & catchy choruses of this one, oh oh oh!

Beth Gibbons, the lead vocalist of the not very prolific Portishead gets a chance to shine on this collection of dreamy, country-tinged ditties. Along with collaborator Rustin' Man (Paul Webb) she conjures a dark & brooding landscape of longing & regret. As autumn kicks down the door to give summer a damn good throttling, this is a perfect companion to have during those long, lonely winter nights.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Pharaoh's Revenge

Current mood: grumpy & drowsy

My body is officially falling apart. Every one of my thirty one and a bit years has caught up with me. There is no chance of me getting a suntan and popping off to Malawi in the hope of being adopted by a celebrity now. I can't pass for a toddler anymore.

After successfully avoiding exercise all these years, so as to avoid contracting tennis-elbow, cricketer's knee, athlete's foot, jogger's earlobe, marathon runner's bladder, fußballer's wrist or triple-jumper's inner thigh. I have instead acquired darts player's stomach and fat bastard's back.

So it was off for a rare trip to the doctors on monday, though I assume I will be seeing the gorgeous wood panelling of the new Ringwood Health Centre a lot more regularly as my body disintegrates. A slipped disc was ruled out in favour of the usual muscle spasms. My aromatic feet were unsheathed for a reflex test and I was sent on my hobbling way.

As my stocks of spine-u-leve & vertebrofenol are now running low it's time for a slice of tea, a cup of self-pity & a sticky bun with a nurofen cherry, care to join me?

Currently listening: my agonising screams & The Information by Beck

Friday, October 20, 2006

Like a Virgin Birth

Current Mood: Cross

According to the Independent, and their survey on visible expressions of religious belief, 23 year old Kerlisha Allan tells us that she has been "wearing this cross long before Madonna made them fashionable." As far as I can recall this would be 'long before' 1984, 22 years ago. So even if Miss Allan was proudly wearing her crucifix in the womb she can't have had more than a two year head start on Madonna.

This all reminds me of the latest holy moley Madonna and child saga. That particular Immaculate Conception* seems shrouded in mystery, half-truths & rumours, much like the previous one. Did she, didn't she, will she, won't she? Yes she did, or will, or won't, depending on politics/money/emotions/fame/take your pick. Surely it would have been easier to just sponsor an African child, rather than adopt it. It's cheaper and you don't end up with a bloody poo machine screaming in your face at the end of it.

*I just did a bit of research and found out that in Catholic dogma the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception, not Jesus'. What I obviously mean is the Annunciation and Virgin Birth, but I don't because that's not what happened here, unless it did and we are all witnessing the second coming, ooh.

Currently Listening: Want One by Rufus Wainwright

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Trick or Treat

Current Mood: Fairly Unhistorical

Sitting by the window in the pub last night, I couldn't help but notice the screams of the local alcoholics and attendant chavs, emanating from behind the tourist information centre. The night air was filled with the sounds of breaking glass, vomiting and incessant howling at the moon.

Working in an off-license, as I do, brings you into contact with the aforementioned dregs of society on a regular basis; however I still find the media's increasing hysteria over the rise of chav culture hard to fathom. Kids have been hanging around on street corners, making a nuisance of themselves for as long as I can remember, and presumably a lot longer. Now we have the useful terms 'Asbo' and 'hoodie' to focus our fears and hatred on.

I always thought there were several hoodies living in my wardrobe, hiding away from the hostile world outside, ready for action when the weather gets a little colder. Now I find that if that were true I would be most likely charged with kidnapping, or at the very least receive an award from the Daily Mail for keeping these tiny evil-doers off the streets.

I am not sure it's entirely helpful to categorise an entire generation in such a negative way based on a fashion choice. All this achieves is the blanket criminalisation of our bored children (ordinarily a good thing since, as we know, all children are evil, what was my point again?), much like the recent public perception of the assortment of Muslim veils. Don't get me started on that overcooked root vegetable.

I know I was supposed to write about my day, but I was stuck at work for 13 hours of it, surrounded by booze that I could not drink and customers that I could not hit. Well, soon this will all be history and I can look back on it with just a small amount of loathing & despair.

Currently Listening: American Whip by Joy Zipper

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Nasal Passage

Current Mood: Happy

A truly momentous event has occurred, at least in my world. It shall remain unspoken due to my irrational fear of everything. Just to put on record that yes, it did indeed happen, as a kind of electronically wordy way of pinching myself.

Anyway, onto the news that's bothering the denizens of middle England this week. The Daily (ugh) Mail's page three stunner today is none other than the lovely Michael Jackson. Yes, it seems that he has taken to wearing high-heels and Strawberry Shortcake floppy hats. Hmm, 'Mr Wackson Jackson wears odd clothes', that's hardly a world shattering event of more importance than the usual immigrant bashing & religious outrage that the Mail tends to favour. It even beats the righteous indignation at Abu Hamza's financial situation, which doesn't merit a mention until page four. I doubt we'll ever see a day when real news, rather than rampant editorialising, will feature in the front pages of this particular paper, but at least celebrity fashion faux pas are more harmless than the hysterical screeching of the usual headlines.

Now Listening: Burlesque by Bellowhead

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dance to the Music (Part Five)

This next episode brings us ever closer to the horrors of now, straddling the millennium like a talented ferret. There's nothing particularly significant about that, I just like the word 'straddle'. Less a set of reviews, more a self-indulgent string of wordy, driveling reminiscences.

1999Supergrass - Supergrass
Lali Puna - Tridecoder
Joy Zipper - Joy Zipper
Fantastic Plastic Machine - Luxury
Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun

Okay, this year you're just going to get three word reviews, to stop this from getting any longer & out of hand, and also to disguise my own repetitiveness & lack of inspiration. The last two are, respectively, another Japanese group & yet another Icelandic band. I'm not sure that making this list was a good idea. I used to think of my taste in music as quite eclectic, but now I see that there are certain patterns cropping up that make me appear more narrow minded than I would like. Oh well, sod the introspection, these records are great, and I am, of course, right!

Supergrass - grubby, hungry & warm.

Lali Puna - a broken, slippery fidget.

Joy Zipper - jean-rippingly mellow.

Fantastic Plastic Machine - a four-eyed flirt.

Sigur Ros - relentless, floaty madness.

2000Bebel Gilberto - Tanto Tempo
PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain
The White Stripes - De Stijl
Lemon Jelly - KY

Bebel Gilberto first came to my attention as a guest star on Towa Tei's first album after leaving Deee-Lite ('Future Listening', also featuring Maki Nomiya fom Pizzicato Five), and not, as you might imagine, from her rich musical family heritage. Her father is João Gilberto, her mother is the singer Miúcha, her uncle is Chico Buarque de Holanda, and her stepmother is Astrud Gilberto (of 'Girl From Ipanema' fame). I just thought that Gilberto was a common Brazilian surname, which it might still be, I haven't done my research. Produced by the Serbian & dead (I didn't do it) Suba, this a gorgeous collection of soaring tunes with a cheeky little arse-waggle.

I've been a fan of PJ Harvey's for quite a while, since uni days, especially the 'little fish, big fish' one. Annoyingly I will have to agree with the (spit) critics, that this is her best, if least raw, album. Listening to it always brings back memories of her set at Reading (2001?) as she strutted past her Alison Moyet-alike keyboard player, in a pink cowboy hat, whilst the sun slowly set in the distance, bathing the gathered throng, clutching their bottles of piss, in an orange, ready-brek glow.

Ah, Goldfrapp is another in a long line of the two-handed, girl-boy, electronica tradition. The girl singing/breathing over the top of the noises made by the boy, tinkering with his gadgets. In this case the noises made are exceptionally beautiful, to be spoiled only by the on-stage sight of Miss Goldfrapp furiously rubbing a theremin against her naughty bits.

I vividly recall the religious fervour with which the tabloids pleasured themselves over The White Stripes a few years ago, safe in the smug knowledge that I was there first, well not first, but before them. It may not be a popular choice, but I think De Stijl is their masterpiece, stripped down, raw, catchy but not crowd-pleasing. Plus they look so young on the cover, before the army of stylists & industry bigwigs descended.

Lemon Jelly's is an advertising executive's wet dream of an album, which is a shame, as it deserves to be more than background noise to the parade of freaks that populate our commercials. Though I feel that soundtracking the open-throated poo shovelling of telly is not the best use of their talents, I would like to applaud the genius use of 'The Staunton Lick' in the last episode of 'Spaced', over a mainly wordless, bittersweet final montage & scene. Gentle, but not in a grandmother-appeasing way, it's a sample friendly and nearly danceable tranche of goodness.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I Can't Get Up Without My Furry Alarm Clock*

Current mood: wrong

Code red! The engines are in hormonal flux, we cannae take another attack. It's borderline on the gestational simulator, we need to do more tests.

The engine imbalance is what caused the hot flush in the first place. It'll happen again if we don't fix it. The blobbing system is overloaded. We'll need everything you've got.

Aye. Moon flow standing by.

No! You'll flood the whole compartment.

But sir, I cannnae change the laws of biology. The lasse's locked in the matter stream of the perimenopausal transporter, I dinnae want tae chance the cramps. She cannae take much more of this, Captain.

Oh, just beam me up, please.

*Quoted from the Iams pet food telly advert, yes really.

Currently listening: Writer's Block by Peter, Bjorn & John

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Decline of Sue Lawley's Ilk

Current Mood: firmly seated

Why? Why? Why? Why must newsreaders prove they have legs?

People moan about the kids of today, but children have always been inherently evil, it's the adults I despair of nowadays. Back in the sixties there was talk of robots doing all our jobs for us. Well, may I suggest that all scientific research is now channelled into getting them to read the news, because humans are obviously useless at it. I like my newscasters to have as little personality as possible, preferably none.

It was bad enough in the good old days with Angela Rippon showing off her pins on 'Morecambe & Wise', or Jan Leeming singing M people songs with the badger parade on 'Harry Hill'. When they weren't (frank) boffing prostitutes in the papers they were dressing up as aliens on 'The Adventure Game' (stand up Moira Stewart, gronda gronda). You could tell they yearned for something more than sitting on their arses & shuffling their bits of paper, but during the bulletins they suppressed their urges, burying them in a deep, dark corner of their soul.

I blame Kirtsy Young and her incessant perching on the desk, during Channel Five's News. It was a slippery slope from then on. Next we got choreographed turns to camera during ITN (perfected during Strictly Come Dancing sessions, I can only assume), laughing, joking & tea-spluttering orgasms on 'Breakfast News'. Even on the BBC's '10 O'Clock News' they can't sit still, constantly getting up to wander in front of confusing and fast moving graphics.

Looking at old news parody programs like 'Brasseye' and 'The Day Today', they're not even funny anymore, just sadly prophetic. You can't tell the bloody difference!

Sit down! Sit down! Sit the arse down!

Currently Listening: Ta-Dah! by Scissor Sisters

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Misery is (a Cigar Called) Ankylosing Spondylitis

Current mood: pained

Okay, so I haven't actually acquired the Pharaoh's curse overnight, but I do now have a loud, spasmodically erupting pain in my lower back (they can be nasty them spasms). This occurred the morning after an evening's unscheduled lifting. In other dreaded words, exercise! Take heed of my warnings, dear reader, aerobics is a virulent disease.

I had never known that back muscles were so utilised in the action of turning over in bed. Or futon, as that is what I sleep on (or try to). Futon's are supposedly good for your back, but only, it seems, if your back is good to begin with, ow.

After spending a couple of days waddling around like a bottom heavy Barbara Windsor my mode of movement has now, apparently, transformed into a kind of sub Liam Gallagher swagger. The pain is currently fading slowly, but I know that come tomorrow the mythical Pharaoh of the morning will have his revenge and I'll be firmly set in my old-lady-hunchback-stance ways once more.

Currently listening: Nashville by Josh Rouse

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dance to the Music (Part Four)

More endless, melody-based outpourings of lyrical drivel from me. I didn't intend to bang on for so long, just a few choice morsels of information to justify some of my selections, if only to myself. Now it feels like I must say something about each & every one, to the bitter end (not long now). A pox on my duty-bound, anal brain.

1997Björk - Homogenic
Gus Gus - Polydistortion
Tarnation - Mirador
Elliott Smith - Either/Or
Air - Moon Safari

We start off with two performers from Iceland, in fact no British artists at all this year. Not a conscious decision, though I do remember feeling a sense of unease about my music buying habits around this time. Not that I was consuming too much (this is not possible, I must have more!), but that most of the records I was getting were by bands I'd been following for years. I put the fact that I was buying very few recordings by new artists down to getting old, but now I am actually old (I even woke up with a bad back this morning, it's all down hill from here) I like to think it was more the manifestation of the cyclical nature of popular musical trends (ooh, get me), and the arse end of that cycle was fast approaching.
Anyway, Björk and Gus Gus, they're both quite dancey in a subdued kind of way. Homogenic has an interesting sound, a juxtaposition of organic strings & synthetic beats. It gets its name from the homogenous use of instrumentation, but far from being dull it creates its own unique sonic world, something I like (as well you know, if you've been reading this far).
Polydistortion (on 4AD records, hoorah) is an altogether odder (yes, I said odder than Björk) prospect. Made by an art collective of about a dozen filmmakers, designers & musicians, it's a slightly schizophrenic listen. Imagine if you had that many voices in your head (go on), this is what it sounds like.
Tarnation's Mirador (also on 4AD) was the subject of a critical debate at the time, was it alt-country (supposedly good) or just country (presumably bad)? It doesn't matter how you categorise it, these are dark tales of the soul set to steely, slidey & twanging guitars, topped off with a treacle-thick, southern (states of America) voice.
Elliott Smith, yes another dead troubador. It's not my fault. I don't want them dead anymore than they do (or perhaps I don't want them dead even more than they do, considering that this was suicide). It always annoys me when someone whose albums I've been meaning to get dies. I don't want to get caught up in the morbid rush to get them to the top of the charts posthumously, so I can never buy them. Then when people look at my records and say, "You don't own this? What's wrong with you?" I tell them what I've just told you and they realise there's more wrong with me than they thought. Suffice to say, I got this one before he died. It's almost moving enough to touch even my hard, shrivelled heart, and make me wish he'd had the consideration to stay alive a little longer, if only so I would be allowed to buy more of his music.
Air, the breezily French, electronically-minded duo. You can dance to some of their tunes, you can relax to the rest. The perfect set of noises for the exercise phobic, like me.

1998Saint Etienne - Good Humour
Yoshinori Sunahara - Pan Am: The Sound of the 70s
Kristin Hersh - Murder, Misery & Then Goodnight
Massive Attack - Mezzanine
Beta Band - The Three EPs

Now Good Humor, I just love the whole sound of this record. It conjures a feeling of tongue-chasing drops of melted ice-cream, as they trickle down the crisp & brittle wafer, on a hazy summers day in 1970s Jönkoping, whilst spying the exploits of a swedish speaking Starsky & Hutch, out of the corner of your eye, images playing on the wooden-slatted telly, though the unvarnished, shuttered windows. As you may have gathered from the above, this album was recorded in Sweden (with the Cardigans' long term producer), but even if I hadn't been told, I think I would have guessed.
Putting the Kirstin Hersh album here is slightly cheating, as one of my unspoken rules is not to list any artist twice (she's singer & guitarist in Throwing Muses, remember them? See 1995), but it's my party and I'll cry if I want to (I've just realised I already broke the rule with 1997s Björk & 1988s Sugarcubes, so there's no use complaining now, it's too late). A collection of Appalachian folk songs from her childhood, and like all good folk songs there's more nightmare-inducing death & destruction than an episode of University Challenge.
Yoshinori Sunahara, ah, more 70s nostalgia. It captures the essence of the era, without sounding like it could have been recorded back then. Recline with your glass of Cinzano and Spam sandwich, close your eyes and fly through the sky on the orange space hopper of your mind.
The Beta Band's record is, as the title suggests, not a proper album, just a collection of EPs, but still the best thing they ever did. I wholeheartedly agree with whatever nice things I've forgotten that John Cusack said about it in 'High Fidelity'.
Mezzanine contains, yay, an appearance by Liz Frasier, which even my cocteau-hating friends agree is a good thing. Like a good shepherd's pie, all meaty & gooey, a light & fluffy layer of potato topped off with gently grilled crunch.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The (Tubular) Bell Tolls

Current mood: steamy

I just so happen to have an intense & unrelentingly odd love for the London tube map. In my opinion (and many others, judging by the recent BBC Culture Show Design Quest poll) it is the singularly most useful example of information design the 20th century, or indeed any century, has produced. Not that something as abstract as a century physically produced it, foolish child. It was, of course, Mr. Harry Beck. His map (or more correctly, his diagram) is clean, clear & pleasing to the eye, in fact pretty much the opposite of actually travelling on the dirty, sweaty Underground. It has shown itself to be remarkably adaptable, incorporating the expanding network of lines & station's many changes without losing any of its unique and, lets face it, shaggable character.

I saw a good example of the map's changing face in the appendix of a book mainly dedicated to showing all the amendments that Mr. Beck made to the design during his lifetime. This particular version, from the 1990s, was produced for internal London Transport use only, detailing all the proposed extensions, including the millennium Jubilee Line expansion, the lovely putrid green of the non-existent Chelsea-Hackney Line and the groovy, continental style, high speed Crossrail Line. Which brings me to my rant of the day.

It sounds like the plans for Crossrail are finally gathering steam, as Ken the invincible mayor has recently been pushing for the government to agree its funding, so it can be up and running in time for the Olympics (ha, a little optimistic, I fear. "Politicians, meet reality. Reality, meet the politicians. I doubt you'll get on, but at least you are now aware of each other." I can but dream). Much as I am looking forward to the long promised tube improvements, this is one scheme I'm a little ambivalent about. A major part of the proposed line is a large renovation & expansion of Tottenham Court Road station, using the ground floor of the much loved/hideous eyesore Centre Point and demolishing & rebuilding the block around the old station entrance on Oxford Street & Charing Cross Road. This also happens to be the site of my favourite live music venue in London, The Astoria! I thought the whole point of the Underground was that it was underground! Why pull down an overground symbol of my fast fading youth & happiness? Of course, we all know why, apart from any structural considerations, bloody privatisation (or public-private partnerships, whatever they're called these days, you're not fooling anyone). Conglomerates & corporations obliterating history & erecting cold temples to their greed & emptiness, then flogging them off to the highest bidder.

Is it too late to give the Olympics back to Paris? They can keep their high-speed trains while they're at it, we're not used to a fast & punctual public transport system, it just doesn't suit us.

Currently listening: Solace by Xavier Rudd