Alive



The most disappointed i've ever been at a gig was when i saw Tracey Chapman one night in Edinburgh, 2002, back when i was keeping shit debatably real at university. Her voice was incredible, completely pitch-perfect, but the reason it wasn't good at all, was because it was too good. It literally sounded like she'd hit play on some cd-deck and rolled metronomically through the whole album. There was no diversion from any of the recorded tracks whatsoever.







And that's what's phat about seeing live acts, when they do off-the-cuff unique shit that only the people at that particular gig ever get to see. So you can get all music-snob about it and be like... fam talk to the hand, not like you were at Brixton in '13 when Young Fathers got meta and came back for that 28-minute encore and shit got weird.



My favourite 3 live performances are:




Kimbra - Withdraw




Just watch it, she is a weirdo and ridiculous.








*



Al Green - Simply Beautiful



Funny thing about this is, after multiple viewings, one still can't be sure if The Reverend is singing about chicks or proclaiming his enthusiasm for the Good Lord. Notwithstanding i defy you to watch this video and not feel slightly aroused. One thing for certain, following acute forensic analysis, that sound on 3:28 has been affirmed to be the sound of 63 virgins being simultaneously deflowered.


ps notice, when he gets especially excited, how far away he has to get from his guitar (3:35)




And just generally, his eyebrows.



nb Don Julio el Putacelli who first introduced me to this tune, also informed me of the caveat that there is no melody on the face of this earth, more capable of coaxing fair damsels into the confines of the bedchamber. Check him out. Motherfucker knows what the diablo he's talking about.



video




Voilà.









K'Naan & Mos Def - My God



K'Naan is a Somalian rapper who used to be proper ghetto. He still is, he just does much cheesier shit now. Watch it cos it's phat, Mos Def's freestyle on 2:11 is so heavy. But the best bit is from 3:20. K'Naan stops the beat and goes a cappella and talks about growing up as a child soldier in Mogadishu and it's spine-tingling.






*



Bonus:



Camille, on french tv, she's nuts and incredible and uses that machine that copies shit and sounds great.








In Profile







There is this coffee shop. And a girl. She is sat directly in my line of sight, a few steps ahead of me. From my table to hers would be six steps. I have positioned myself here so I can look at her. She is in profile. And now she is obscured behind a pillar, sitting back against the wall. She is writing. I can tell. I’m perceptive like that. She glances intermittently up towards the window.


Her glances pull no weight. They don't even make it halfway across the room, before running out of juice and dropping back down to the screen. She is seeing without looking. Up in there she is conjuring worlds. Her notebook is open on the desk, red pen scrawled on top of black pen. A coffee mug is vying with the keyboard for her finger’s affections, but isn't doing very well. 


She can’t see me. She could if she turned i suppose but she isn't. She has on no makeup. The kind of face you'd have no trouble imagining old. Her nose is curved a little at the bridge, her eyes burn lazily. No laughter lines. Sweet little shadows under her eyes. Her hair is blonde with streaks of brown and is lapping on her left shoulder like the folds of a renaissance robe.


Her left leg is crossed over her right but still touches the floor easily. Undistracted she types, and deletes, and types, and pauses, and glances, and types, and deletes. Going backwards to go forwards like a rugby ball. Her laptop is now resting on her knee, stuttering arrhythmically under the pressure from her fingers on the keys. Making the light skit off the screen towards me in some blinking Morse code. Tap, tap.


I wonder if I sat here long enough, years perhaps, if i could work out what she was writing just from studying her. 


I can make anybody like me. Except clever people. I wonder what we'd say to each other. Thoughts would do more work than words. They always do dickhead. Yeah but even more so with her. We'd give our tuppence worth on long walks on Wimbledon Common. We'd gas about the manner in which things show themselves to us. I'd take no pleasure in agreeing with her. Our sameness wouldn't interest me.


She smiles at her own internal monologue. She'd be close to her mother. She'd take ages to give of herself. She lets silence speak. She lost big once. Tap, space, tap, tap, tap, tap, space, tap, tap, tap.


I’m not sure this girl cares enough about me. She’s been gone behind the pillar for ten minutes. She doesn’t care. Meet me halfway. I'm leaving now. I won't ever see her again. People appear in your life just like that, and just as quickly as they come they're gone again. If i see her again i'll...


I swear i will.


Does anyone ever sit and write about me. What story do they make up, how far does it diverge from what i am, which me would i prefer.


Journey By Moonlight



Eyeing up a stubborn run through the rain? Want to make a video that looks cool enough to share with your family and friends so you can feel like a big man? The kind of cat one looks at and thinks.. if that brey doesn't have the spirit of adventure pulsating through his capillaries then i'll eat my beanie?



?

I'm your man.






Spent five hours on saturday following a bunch of hardened souls 28 miles through the streets and parks of rain drenched London, armed with a GoPro and a whole bunch of Tribe bars i was supposed to be handing out to the runners but kept on eating on the sly cos they're motherfucking delicious.







Eleventh Hour



Flat-lining on the sofa one sunday afternoon in the grip of a cheese coma, tap-tapping through the buttons on the Sky remote i arrived at the History Channel and a documentary about the rise of Nazi Germany. I looked over at my old man with a raised eye-brow to see if he was in. Staring back at the screen with a glazed look that said he was faring little better himself from a reblochon overdose, he grunted a noise my way which i took as clear encouragement to change the channel.



I think it's important to watch this though i asserted pretty self-importantly.







What happened next has stayed with me. He snapped out of his cheese coma with a seamlessness only a man with half a century of sunday lunches under his belt could possible have had the opportunity to master, and sat up. He then looked me in the eye very seriously and said...



I think it's the most important thing people of your generation need to know about, and make sure they remember. The most. Without any doubt. I just don't feel like watching it right now.



Perhaps this has more resonance given that my father is Argentine, and in 1945 when the second world war ended he was three years old and living in Buenos Aires, 8,000 miles away from the dust-cloud settling across Europe. None of his family were involved in the war. He came over here in the 70s and finds the patriotism of his adopted country often blind and difficult to stomach. So for him to tell me the war is something our generation has an absolute duty to be aware of and to remember hit home.



*







The Japanese have a word  被爆者 Hibakusha which is the name given to the survivors of the A-bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. It literally means radiation-affected people. Recently in Hiroshima there has been a collective sadness that with time fewer and fewer Hibakusha remain alive, and with that the last direct living tie with what happened will disappear. As the new generation comes up, there is a fear that people will begin to forget.



*


The ceremony of Armistice Day is handsdown one of the coolest things about the British. When the whole of Whitehall falls silent and the guy gets out the bugle and plays the Last Post, it's pretty fucking hardcore. In light of this making sure to remember, and the difficulty our generation has in getting our heads around the horror of war, something we have been blessed to avoid and yet also cursed by our ignorance of, something happened to me last year that gave me a new understanding of the whole thing.



On a cycle ride up through the middle of Germany on my way to Berlin, one summer's afternoon i came into a town in the north of Bavaria called Brunn. It was tiny. I free-wheeled through it, and on my way out i passed a war memorial, recognising it at half-glance as one does with the familiar. A minute or so later as the town was disappearing over my right shoulder, i semi-froze. And cycled back.






It was exactly like so many of the war memorials that stand on village greens throughout England, even in rural Scottish villages they are there, tributes to the Glorious Dead. My cycle ride had taken me through the whole of France, which again is absolutely littered, every single town or hamlet has a memorial to soldiers killed in the wars. So i didn't really think twice when i saw this one.



But what smashed me clean across the temple was my realisation that this was the other side's.







As self-evident as that sounds, what i found nuts was that it was the first time i'd understood the other side's perspective. Here was a tiny town with name upon name of soldiers, from that town, that had died in the first world war, mourned by surviving relatives of that town, suffering the confusion and tragedy brought on them by the Powers That Be embarking on a war of such aggression, that our generation is literally incapable of imagining it. 


The inhabitants of Brunn, up on that hill in northern Bavaria, what possible say could they have had in a war that announced itself one morning, and went on to steal their sons and change their lives forever. How helpless must they have felt.


It was the first time that what we learnt in school to call the enemy now existed in my head as real people. Soldiers just as young and innocent as the names inscribed on the walls of memorials all over Britain. And the thought that the mothers and daughters of Brunn must have thought about the Allies exactly as we thought about the Bosch, just as much the enemy, figures of hatred responsible for all the death and destruction and pain they were feeling. For that afternoon i was on the German side, and it all simultaneously made more sense and became even more confusing.




Whole thing hit me for six.







For us it is 'history'. For our great-grandparents it was a worst nightmare that begun one day, and from that moment on this nightmare morphed day by day into a horrifying reality. It was waking up one morning to a radio broadcast, that turned into a month, that turned into six years, that turned into a dark shadow over their minds that lived with them for the rest of their lives.



*



That's my Simon Schama act done for the day.


Pool Fulla Liquor Pt 1



When my brother was born my father poured champagne all over him in the maternity ward. At the age of 63, Hemingway sat down on his porch in the early hours of the morning, poured out a glass of rum, and shot himself. ‘Holy Intoxication’ was encouraged in Ancient Egypt as an alternative state of being, a link to the world of the Gods. When Harold took an arrow to the eye in the corner of a field near Hastings in 1066, his first words were ‘bring me my wine’.






Humans like booze.



There’s that thing which says a drink is the tonic for all occasions. Happiness, misery, sunny days, rain, to celebrate a life coming into being, to mourn a life passing on. We drink to remember, we drink to forget, to commune with others, we toast our own company, we drink to feel different, we drink to prolong going back to feeling the same all over again.


I stopped drinking three months ago, and it has been such a fucking weird trip that i have to write it down and try to give form to it because it has been one of the most confusing things i have ever done. When people are candid and throw their truth in your face without you asking, you stray into the murky waters of the #overshare. Unless you make it interesting, and then with luck it becomes characterised by its interest, rather than the fact someone is dumping the contents of their emotional hold-all over you whilst unloading it from the luggage compartment of their soul.



Dude in the corner's face says it all really.





*



I decided to stop drinking because it had become repetitive. Not in the sense that i was doing it metronomically with no control over it, but in the sense that nothing new was coming from it. There was a gut instinct in me that i wasn’t doing enough to deserve it, while at the same time i found myself drinking in order to mute this voice in my head, drinking to bind the hand whose finger was gently prodding away at the root of this feeling of undeservedness. On top of this, there was the added motivation that at weekends, one too many was leading me to do my best Toni Montana impression more often than i would like, which my sober-self concluded was fundamentally and categorically a waste of time, and i know enough to know a waste of time is the bedfellow of a wasted life.






There was also a feeling that time spent even not having that concrete an idea of what i was doing, was nonetheless time better spent than that filled doing something i understood was fundamentally bad for me. And things weren’t working out like that. Instead these two pastimes were playing a protracted game of musical chairs with each other, making an arrangement behind my back to sit down together on the one remaining chair in the room, linked in a warm embrace.






At the back end of another weekend, i made a decision and the shutters came down, and i stopped. I remember the subsequent first friday afternoon, sitting there with my mate staring deeply into the hues of his pint, watching the condensation form on the outside of the glass. And then going home the following weekend to see my parents, telling them i wasn’t drinking. And my father looking at me as if i’d just tied my shoelaces together, reminding me more than once at lunch how interesting the wine had become since it had begun to breathe, and how not to have a small glass with the main course was 'absurdo'.






The thing is i agreed with him. I’m definitely on the side of the drinkers. When i go out for dinner with someone who announces they aren't drinking there's a voice in my head that immediately lets out an extended groan, and something in me lowers the bar for the potential of the evening. There is an unknown in a glass or two of something. And you sign up to that unknown once you take a first sip. 


There is no unknown in a litre and a half of Highland Spring.


I count myself lucky i'm not one of those people who can’t ever have a drink of something again. In the knowledge that a big part of alcoholism lies in the denial of its existence, i can say with confidence i’m not there. For me this is an experiment that will at some point come to a close, and yet for the moment i can feel the presence of an unmoving 28-stone bouncer manning the door of my willpower that won’t let me reach for another drink again, until i understand exactly why i’m doing it. I have no idea what that understanding will be, but i know one hundred per cent that i'll know.



I haven't yet gone into why and how this whole process of sobriety became so confusing, but it was divided up into three specific stages, all as fucked up and delusional as each other...



*



So tune in for part two where i talk you through the world cup of sparkling water, social alienation, what never being hungover feels like, and the mid-morning urge to fill a swimming pool fulla liquor and to dive in that motherfucker.




And how it all got so fucked up that i almost had to go back to drinking to save myself from sobriety.







Inherently Good People








We all like to think we're inherently good people. But if you put a kid in front of a bowl of sweets with no adults there, they'll steal sweets. If you put a kid in front of a bowl of sweets with a mirror behind it, they'll still steal sweets. But not quite as many. Because they can see themselves. If you're in a situation where you can do pretty much whatever you want without anyone calling you to account for it, it's probably a good idea to compare your view of yourself with other people's now and again.



Mike Skinner 1978-present rap bard



*



Been listening to Mike Skinner's autiobiography on audiobook, The Story Of The Streets. It's phat. Really interesting, about growing up in Birmingham and the start of the garage scene and going from nothing to something and all that entails through the eyes of someone who's glaringly clever but sees it as his aim to write as simply as possible. And if you liked the sound of his voice on all his tunes, then you'll like it even more because he narrates it.







It was on of the hardest things i've ever done. I'm really into audio books. When the writer is reading it, i rate them so highly. It's really hard. It took three days in a studio behind Kilburn. It was so weird, because it was at the end of this very glittery period in my life and it was like being back at my first job. I'd get up at 8 o'clock, head across London to a place i didn't really know, go to an office with people i didn't really know, get a cup of tea, and read this book for eight hours. Have you ever recorded yourself reading a book without making a mistake for eight hours? 




It's not easy.