Archive for February, 2010
Queen Nina
February 28th, 2010

Despite the truth of the last post, I feel the need to share things I love with people, which makes it impossible to refrain from embedding this next short video. Nina Simone is a masterful singer and here she seems distracted, constantly probing for the emotion of the song. Such simplicity in the lyric, such adventure in the voice.


Cave, man.
February 28th, 2010

“Anything that anyone has to say outside making a record isn’t that important.” – Nick Cave

New Gravity
February 23rd, 2010

I’ve just got hold of a copy of Swithering by the poet Robin Robertson. Here’s something pertinent he said in 2008:

“Art is difficult and I don’t see why we should shy away from it. We live in such a disposable age that anything that needs a second thought is ignored. We are missing out on the real sustenance.”

And here’s a touching poem by Robertson:

New Gravity

Treading through the half-light of ivy

and headstone, I see you in the distance

as I’m telling our daughter

about this place, this whole business:

a sister about to be born,

how a life’s new gravity suspends in water.

Under the oak, the fallen leaves

are pieces of the tree’s jigsaw;

by your father’s grave you are pressing acorns

into the shadows to seed.

This poem is from the collection, A Painted Field.


What a load of old pony.
February 23rd, 2010

I must stop just rifling through YouTube… but until I do here’s some more videos that caught my eye (but mostly my ear(s)).
Two of a perfect pair. Both sadly departed.

First up, the widescreen groan of Australian poet David McComb and his band The Triffids, accompanied by one of the naffest videos out there, but bear with it for a glimpse of McComb lip-synching in a field, looking like a lost soul. What a grand song.

Secondly, an example of great musicianship and an inventive, questing spirit from John Fahey, one of my favourite guitarists. An errant yet gifted man, by most accounts.


Quicksilver fingers
February 23rd, 2010

Sometimes, late at night, I’ll put on a record by Mississippi John Hurt in order to soothe me into a restful sleep. As with most blues singers, there’s a despair and turmoil being described in many of the songs, but Hurt’s voice is so gentle and comforting, and his guitar playing twists and twinkles, until, finally, the predominant feeling is of a softened joy.

This clip has a lovely, hesitant introduction in the days before television sanded off the edges of a performance and became a slicker vehicle. A simple song, yes, but you try playing it!


Read between the lines.
February 19th, 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, Lester Beall

I was looking at some Jan Tschichold (master typographer) layouts and then I saw this chap’s work.
It was indicative of its time and although indebted to others, this has no impact on my enjoyment of it.

Teenage Sundays
February 15th, 2010

A friend of mine sent me this rough and ready footage of The Sundays singing My Finest Hour and it brought back a lot of feelings I’d had when I was younger. As a thirteen-year old, I found The Sundays to be the female-fronted version of The Smiths, with Harriet Wheeler’s swooping voice also reminding me of a more lucid Elizabeth Fraser. These days, I think what strikes me most is the Englishness of the voice and the ringing guitar. Rhythmically, it’s of its time, but there’s a real strength in a woman singing “poetry is not for me”, ironically, in a quite florid and ‘poetic’ context.

I was at a woman’s house once and I wandered over to her pile of CDs to have a nosy, but she rightly admonished me for my typically-male habit. She said something like, “Don’t go sniffing around and judging me by my taste in music – men always do that and make mental notes about my psyche”. At least, that was the gist. Ever since, I’ve reigned in my eagerness to inspect people’s belongings the first time I visit their house.

I’m also reminded of Tracyanne Campbell’s lyrics on Camera Obscura’s Swans: “No surprises in the record collection/You must’ve thought I was someone else”, which is both a sad and withering song. The first time I heard it, it gave me a pang in my chest.


Green With Envy
February 11th, 2010

Here’s some footage of a confident young man in total control of his own ability. The guitar rolls and growls as his smooth voice teases out a sorrowful tale. I will never be able to play the guitar as well as he does, but that’s okay because this good stuff already exists. I’ll just sit back and look on with wonder.

Radio Days
February 10th, 2010

Whatever happened to the more literal film poster?