This six-handed farcical Middle England ‘romp-com’ by David Spicer centres round the disinterred and disassembled skeleton of Martha ‘Mother’ Duffy. Her exhumation by animal rights (psycho)activists and comical bone dispersal leads to a series of (un)orchestrated calamitous events with territorial greed, weed and ultimately chicken feed in the mix. Hereditary, animal (‘the third emancipation: ‘slaves, women, frogs’) and human rights are all dissected in a familiar tale of familial feuding and fowl play.
Martha’s remains are dug up, reburied, then re-dug up by dogs; the bones are the clues, the trail followed by clownish Inspector Clout, a verbally dextrous Herculean Pierrot desperate for that big case who delivers the best lines: ‘civil liberties? We gave them up to protect them’ to bemoaning the state of ‘sandwiches today? Avocado, grape and rocket are just words between bread’ a dig at faddish vegetarianism, arguably how the meat industry wants it to be perceived.
Laird of this Toad Hall is Gerry, whose frog farming for vivisectionists acts as a smokescreen for his potent hybrid of cane toad gland-spittle marijuana which upon ingestion sees him receive numerous visitations from six-foot amphibians’ intent on cutting him open, repaying the barbarism.
In opposition with Gerry is financially strapped brother Roger, who eyes the prize/price of land so a psychological battle of wits ensues between them uncovering a mutual antipathy towards their exhumed Mother and revealing admissions of culpability.
At the heart of the grave-robbing is scheming Caro, granddaughter of Martha and the brains behind the plot to seize the land for a chicken farm, playing the bumbling ‘activists’ Jago (a.k.a. the less-radical sounding ‘Graham’) and Mark like a fiddle. This is expertly summarised when Roger threatens to boil the frogs, a metaphor for how often realisation comes too late (‘at boiling point’); oblivious to the obvious.
The cartoonish climax sees one character with all their eggs in one basket, the coup now a coop, all chickens coming home to roost, new income now poultry not paltry.
This is a sharp satire on meat abstention, recreational drug use and extremism, especially how the term is knowingly deployed as articulated by Clout: ‘when protest turns into terrorism it becomes police budgetary policy’; it’s how you frame the blame.
Reading (and only being able to endorse) all the obituaries, tributes and memories of Mark Fisher got me thinking about my own relationship with his ideas, prophecies, notions, arguments, all at once random and linked, disparate and dissonant, pointing out connectivity where ties seemed absurd, nothing was beyond critical dissembling/reassembling and destruction/reconstruction.
Scratch the surface then keep digging, nothing is ever as it seems, nothing is impenetrable, depth exists in anything and everything, make it what you want it to be. Who’s to say otherwise?
Like many others I discovered his K-Punk blog via Simon Reynolds’s Blissblog (http://blissout.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/rip-mark-fisher_14.html another important avenue for me for abstract thinking and a profound desire to constantly dig and probe) and always found it (in no particular order):
challenging, confronting, opaque, oblique, dense, enlightening, informative, provocative, educational, inspiring, conspiring, connected, disconnected, amusing, emotional, prescient, foreboding, interesting, arresting. And more.
As David Stubbs says http://thequietus.com/articles/21572-mark-fisher-rip-obituary-interview
‘Mark’s own music journalism, which ventured further into the depths of theory and perception than I could ever hope to reach. I can’t be the only fellow writer who emerged from his essays feeling educated and energised but also like a bit of a banal lunk by comparison.’
For me reading Mark’s work most of the time left me feeling dazed and confused, in a state of shock that took ages to abide and even longer for his musings to be processed (if ever at all), but thinking about it deeply the past week I have concluded that it isn’t about understanding and being able to recite or repeat or regurgitate it is more that the actual digesting and absorption alters me on levels I never knew existed and in ways I will never fathom, feel it don’t fight it, always for the positive.
It is this positivity (in spite of his own struggles and the overall ‘state of things’) I will miss from his writing.
‘You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone’ seems apt.
How (do you think you) would you react, respond, replay, remember, re-enact and recover following the aftermath of a terrorist attack?
Stuart Slade’s incisive, immersive, intimate and intelligent play charts the lives of six victims affected in myriad ways (there are physical, emotional, psychological scars) following the shooting down of flight BU21. The event changes, shapes and alters their fate with the past and present colliding: circumstance, happenstance and chance all lead to entwined, conjoined lives that create a hitherto unheralded future.
Derived from the testimonies of real statements the play filters these via monologues to dialogue: the survivors’ support group network providing the thread and platform for the neuroses, patterns of behaviour, habits, idiosyncrasies, prejudices, motives and tellingly the li(v)es lived and conducted that come to the fore revealing more than they knew about themselves.
Memories are confronted, challenged, (mis)remembered and in one case fabricated: an accidental ‘hero’ whose desire to help snowballs into a world of fantasy and exploitation.
Masks and façades adopted eventually crumble and slip, some characters confront their existence and change and progress whilst others lapse back into narcissistic and mendacious behaviour. For some redemption awaits, for others (once a banker always a …) life repeats itself, business as usual. The six actors inhabit and exhibit these (universal) characters and their wrangled foibles with all their being, you ‘feel’ their grief and share their pain and dilemmas.
This is a forensic examination of the human condition provoking age old notions of identity, nationhood and belonging and how fear and paranoia can be manipulated.
Crucially it also addresses the pernicious role of the media and authorities who hijack, co-opt and corrupt testimonies for their nefarious means to effect further control of perception (mis)management (e.g brown face and backpack= terrorist = divide and conquer = job done) and to justify increased surveillance and illegal invasions.
My only (minor) gripes would be the reductive nature of the ‘xenophobic Northerner in an England shirt’ and that terrorism is far from a modern occurrence.
Postscript: Is the shot-down Flight BU21 an allegory for ‘Be you to one’ another, that despite/in spite of what(ever) happens, ‘be’ this?
Head Moloch Lucas Fitzsimons’s mission statement is to ‘take the past apart, not recreate it’.
Accordingly this second long-player (following 2013’s Forgetter Blues) from Los Angeles miscreants The Molochs (with Ryan Foster) (re)examines the hallowed, sanctified and perennially excavated ‘60s to 90s’ epoch in style.
Named for a God of child sacrifice who then proceeds to di/ingest said infants as dessert (he’s (always a he) also suitably cast in Milton’s Paradise Lost and Ginsberg’s Howl) this Super-Cali-Ritualistic-Esoteric-docious pair play for redemption, praying for (radio) time.
Eleven songs detailing romantique woes and lows, outlining affairs of the heart aching/art-making kind that comprise an expert dis/reassembling and de/restructuring: the end product a kaleidoscopic bricolage-homage, a patchwork-panorama of electric-eclecticism.
With (s)influences varying from Richard Hellish ‘blank generation’ apathy on ‘New York’ to the Prefab Four’s Monkeeing about bonhomie (sem)antics which are all over ‘No Control’. The Byrdsian jingle-jangle ‘The one I love’ enlists you for the eight miles high club.
Spiralling organotronics permeate ‘Ten Thousand’ a Dan Sartainesque fable in its ramshackle and reedy hyper-rockin’ and rollin’. The a-Syd (Barrett) whimsury-rhymery of ‘Charlie’s Lips’ is a disaffected drawling death-disc(o), does our man wish to BE Charlie or does he pity him? As the titular Chuck ‘sharks the passers-by …’ the song comes across as a kin-sing-ship with Jonathan Richman’s perma-stoned ‘Hippy Johnny’. Fitzsimons’s mocking delivery leaving us in the dark.
Those Satanic Majesties themselves the Rolling Stones are summonsed doubly on the sneering country-honking ‘That’s the trouble with you’ and the happy-sad ‘You and me (with its nod to ‘I’m free’) both paeans to escape: freedom in both the spiritual and physical realms.
‘Little Stars’ has energy-echoes of den of iniquity anthem ‘House of the rising sun’, a dark undertow underpins this autobiographical(?) narration, his portentous story-selling depicting a hellish day in the strife that doubles as a warning to you and me. Take heed.
‘No more cryin’ oozes woozy-bluesy harmonica, the lyrics deadpan and drawled/doled out with the end-product like Television covering ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’.
This is not simply a case of analogue archive exhuming, these Bohemian Groovers have delivered 11 skull and boneshakers; the City of Angels has some new demons to kneel at the alt-altar for. Proffer your lambs.
As the saying goes: if you can remember the 60s … then you’re in your 60s.
Six years on from the last LP Anti-Gravity, indie-doyens The Blue Aeroplanes return with their inimitable Bristolian ‘swagger’ and increased ‘beatsongs’.
Contemporaries) of REM-embers Stipe and Mills (1991’s seminal album Swagger a favourite) and glumbient sorrow-foragers Radiohead the past year has seen the group perform at the BBC Radio 6 Festival and play at Stewart Lee’s compered (and ultimate) All Tomorrow’s Parties. The cognoscenti never forget.
Having never split up they have avoided the heritage circuit, those cabaret cavalcades of zombified-monetised-yester-memories for the false-conscious fraternity. Veneration prevails through lasting appreciation not commercial renovation.
The band still orbit round perma-shaded-vox-poet, Gerard Langley and ear-drumsticker John Langley here augmented again by ex-Witness Gerard Starkie, bassist Chris Sharp and fresher recruits Bec Jevons (who assumes singing duties on the Belly-like ‘Skin’)and Mike Youe.
Not many acts can intone their lyrics to effective droll-speeching, however, Langley is one-such (c.f. Dexys’ Kevin Rowland, Half Man Half Biscuit’s Nigel Blackwell). His idiosyncratic and ultra-sardonic delivery is fully evidenced on opener ‘Looking for X’s on a map’ which (in spite of the incongruous and alarming apostrophe) crashes metaphorically onwards/philosophically inwards, a clanging stomper and an erudite indictment of how apps (GPSOS?) have replaced maps, technology ‘guiding’ lost (and unfound) souls instead of psychogeography delivering spiritual nourishment via innate coordinates.
A melodic sermon to arboreal death ‘Dead Tree! Dead Tree!’ is ‘beautiful and familiar, it doesn’t change with the season’ Langley anatomising the eternal allure of decay, time may pass, but, the tree will wither no more. We will. Remember that.
Known knowns and old bones are picked at the ‘Elvis festival’ where nothing ever dies … burger with fries … a fatman walking in the rain in a stained jumpsuit’ presents vivid imagery that provides a collective and selective (mis)rembered past, one (re)evoked and ‘sung badly’ which is all part of the FUN. Isn’t it?
The operatic ‘Nothing will ever happen in the future’ sees our protagonist ‘standing on the cusp of getting it right’ resigned to the 50/50 of it ‘probably won’t work out but it might’ an(other) inept-step into a tomorrow of (un)foreseen consequences. We’ve all been there.
A sense of time and place, rhyme and space, past and present, permeates throughout this documentarian ten-track traipse though coded odes to the HERE and NOW. An ever-intellectual tour de force of nature and ultra-cerebral (mis)fortune telling where ‘two kisses is a double-cross’.
Thirty-five years in the biz, this sextet are still soaring, no ‘altitude’ sickness for these sonic-architects. Repeated listening is required for maximum effect. ADHD-ficient technonanists need not apply and waste everyone’s time.
Caveat: ‘Gerard is also ‘Head of Songwriting’ at BIMM Bristol, where he was responsible for guiding the early steps of George Ezra’. So, YOU’RE to blame …
The Manly P. Hall of Mirrors Horror Show featuring Hollywood’s very own master of NLP and Moscow’s KGB-Movie Dame. These arch enemies both staunchly defending ‘their’ ways, the charade parade rolling on from zone to zone, forbidden and twilight.
VP: ‘I’m booored, when’s dinner?!’
BO: Stick to the script, maaan, or we both won’t get pudding’
BBCNN Speecher: ‘No just desserts for these shambassadors of the planet’
Golden handshakes, secret signs
Walls have ears and telephone lines
Judge and defendant, sacred brothers
Drop the charge and accuse the others
They make history, they make the law
They make money, they make war
Power corrupts and power succeeds
And you take the whip right down on your knees
The butcher, the baker,
the candlestick maker
The whole of the Government
and its caretaker
Doctors and lawyers, priests and crooks
Some unemployed just to cook old books
Their hearts seem cold
and their minds are sick
The things they’ll do just to get their kicks
Spirit has spread right across the nation
In forty-eight percent* of the population
* Those Europhiles, the Remainers, the status quoers, down, down …
Everything eith a blue toffee flavour
Research and reflections by Ben Green
Author, Freelance Journalist, Sub-Editor and Lecturer
Feminist music-making in the UK and Ireland in the 1970s and 80s
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"I haven't heard this song in years, it never fails to start the tears"
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