Something about the way the harmonies work around the melody lodges this into my brain every December, without fail. Long live The Handsome Family.
For better and/or worse my work has just moved to Canary Wharf. It’s an easier commute, a much-need change of routine, and a nicer office; on the other hand, it’s Canary Wharf. Next year’s challenge is to find ways of photographing the area that don’t look like tedious stock photos or illustrations in magazine articles about the evil or brilliance of bankers. A tough ask, I suspect.
The Basement Tapes Complete – not sure I’ve changed my mind much from my initial impressions, but it is an amazing piece of work; I expect to be digging into for years to come.
I saw the Jesus and Mary Chain play the whole of ‘Psychocandy’ (plus a short Greatest Hits set) at the wonderful Troxy in Limehouse, and it was brain-janglingly fantastic.
Don’t Make A Scene ‘zine turned up in the post – a really inspiring guide to promoting DIY gigs. It’s got me thinking about some of the musical things I want to do next year.
The former Mersey Ferry MV Royal Iris, moored on the Thames next to Second Floor Studios & Arts on the Woolwich/Charlton borders. There’s a group hoping to ‘Save the Royal Iris‘ and return her to the Mersey; I wish them luck, but it’s difficult to be optimistic looking at her current state.
A quiet-ish October, settling into a new routine with daughter at school; the weather first autumnal with a late freakish twist for a Halloween that could have been in June.
A half term trip to the North Kent coast, notable for a walk along the beach at Seasalter, the consumption of – at various times – beer, coffee, fish’n’chips and doughnuts on the beach in Whitstable, and a visit to the Turner Contemporary in Margate for Jeremy Deller’s excellent English Magic.
Went to a PhotoForum event held at Calumet, featuring talks by Homer Sykes and Brian David Stevens, whose They That Are Left series is particularly worth looking at. It was great to hear photographers talking about the process of making their photos in a straightforward fashion, with a seeming deliberate de-emphasis on the technical side; it’s given me a nudge to think about taking more care in my photography – hopefully 2015 might afford more time to go out with a camera that isn’t my iPhone.
47 years after they were recorded, the most complete set of Bob Dylan and The Band’s Basement Tapes to date have just been released, and I’m immersed in them. By the end of the year an estimated eleventy billion words will have been written on the subject, by people who’ve done a lot more research than me; here are my first impressions, anyway.
- They sound really good in stereo compared to the last official release, particularly with the extra clarity in the backing vocals (and it’s amazing to hear the Band harmonising so easily and songs that are being learnt – or written – on the spot).
- Dylan’s singing sounds incredibly confident (for a man who, so the legend goes, needed a break and wasn’t sure what he was doing any more).
- I’m not sure the fragments of tracks add too much; similarly the multiple takes. 139 tracks is a lot; as interesting as the first takes and throwaways are, I’m not sure how many times I’ll want to hear them.
- The pastiche songs are better than I expected, except for the ‘funny’ backing vocals. Does musical comedy every age well?
- There’s something magical about hearing the band feel their way into a song, as on The Auld Triangle where at the start it sounds like only Dylan knows what they’re playing, and by the end they’re playing it with style and confidence. That, along with the sound of a band playing all together in one room, is – I think – the magic of these recordings.
I’ll probably have completely changed my mind by track 139/139, though.
There’s a strong argument, I think, for September being the best month of the year: still warm without boiling on the train home from work; a hint of autumn-to-come in the air; a better quality of light; the best song with a month in its title; and people back from their holidays and actually doing stuff. The start of the month was dominated by the build up to my daughter starting school – a momentous milestone somewhat punctured by her getting chickenpox on her first day… Apart from the adjustment to a new routine, and the relative grindstone of work, I saw and heard a few things that gladdened the heart:
Gruff Rhys at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
Gruff Rhys doing his one man (and one stuffed doll) American Interior show (this Quietus piece explains the story of John Evans much better than I can), with the assistance of overhead projector, dub plates, harmonising effects, and an acoustic guitar. Deadpan hilarity, topped off with some incredibly sweet singing (the looped a capella harmonised refrain from Honey All Over at the end was particularly spine-tingling), and a reminder that he has a really strong body of work behind him now.
King Creosote at the Barbican
Kenny Anderson and band performing the live soundtrack to From Scotland With Love: impossible not to compare this with From The Sea To The Land Beyond (indeed, the programme notes were quite clear the that the director had been inspired by that film), and in many ways it fell short (too broad a subject for the film to build up a real narrative; arguably too Glasgow/West Coast-focused; not King Creosote’s strongest set of songs); it was, though, a lovely evening. The band played well, Anderson sang beautifully and reminded us that, though he may recycle his melodies from time to time (and he’s hardly alone there…), they are lovely tunes. And the venue was a bonus; I’d not been in the Milton Court theatre/concert hall before (and my heart sank a little when the Barbican staff directed us to go out of the Barbican building – would we get lost and miss the beginning of the show again?), but it’s a beautiful space: comfortable seats, and a smell of fresh wood (can it really be new enough that the wood still smells freshly-cut? Whatever, it was the nicest smelling concert venue I can remember). Best of all, it was all over before 9.30, giving ample time to get down to the excellent Gladstone in Borough to catch a psych-folk band (never worked out which one of the acts on the bill they were) and drink some Tribute.
Chris Killip at Tate Britain
I’m never sure that mid-morning is a great time to visit art galleries: on the plus side it’s usually nice and quiet, but I find it hard to avoid thinking about whatever else I have to do that day and end up rushing round too quickly. Still, a Friday off work gave an opportunity for a quick dash around the Late Turner exhibition – packed with people, and definitely worth a proper look before it closes – then the joy of being one of two people in the Chris Killip temporary exhibition. I’d seen – and enjoyed -a few of these prints before, but put together, they made an incredibly powerful collection. Thanks to Brian David Stevens for the recommendation.
J Mascis – Tied To A Star
I can’t see it being remembered in the Top 200-album-ever lists in years to come, but the new not-Dinosaur Jr album from J Mascis is a nice thing: wistful, tuneful, and a bit autumnal.
I have a photo of a particular architectural detail of Charlton Lido in this new book, published this week. It’s an incredibly comprehensive look at the history of sports venues across London, written by Simon Inglis and published by English Heritage. The entry for Charlton Lido also includes a reference to Greenwich council’s failed attempt to rebrand the lido as ‘Royal Greenwich Lido’ – a timely reminder of last summer’s fun as the outdoor swimming conditions start to turn autumnal.
More info – and online ordering – can be found on the Played In Britain website.