The Virtues: Channel 4.


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This is Stephen Graham, Channel 4, Shane Meadows and just British TV overall at its very best.  The Russians and the Poles can make movies this depressing but the Brits excel at it.

Occassionaly.

And this is one of those occasions.

I thought Stephen Graham was decent in Line of Duty, but that was a mere warm-up outing for this career-defining hour of TV.  He is simply breathtaking.

The second act, in which he gets smashed to drown the sorrows of the loss of his son who has emigrated with his new ‘dad’ to Australia, is indescribably brilliant.

Doing a drunk is tricky.  (Even Gillian Anderson struggled in All About Eve) but this captures it astonishingly, in no small part because of the direction of Shane Meadows and genre-bending camera work.

It was deeply disturbing TV from start to finish with a constant barrage of depression. But that’s what makes Meadows such a unique talent.  What lies ahead one can only guess but you can be sure of one thing.  It ain’t gonna be comedy.

Wonderful, wonderful TV.  Thanks guys.

The Unthanks: Live at The Pleasance Theatre, Edinburgh 11/5/2019: Review


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Tonight’s gig saw glowing and proud new mothers, Rachel and Becky Unthank, joined on stage by Niopha Keegan.

This is the nucleus of the Unthanks and the point of them really.

Yes, we missed the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, but that was OK because we knew in advance that they wouldn’t be there, and neither would the Unthanks band.

Instead, what we savoured was the most stripped of performances.

Pure, naked vocals.  Perfect harmony. No instruments other than their incredible voices.

If you don’t know the Unthanks, do yourself a favour and find out.

But here’s the pitch…”North East of England at its preternatural core”.

This IS the North East.

Most of the set is grounded there.  Folklore, ghost stories, industrial past – the Tyne features heavily.

My friends and I are essentially rock and roll guys, we do techno and electronica and dance, but mainly we do guitar based stuff.  Nevertheless, we unanimously agreed that this was music at its purest, its most spiritual, its most lovely.

A true gem of musical performance, thoroughly enjoyed by an appreciative and largely knowledgeable audience.

It was nice not to feel like the oldest people in the room for once.

 

 

 

Sir Vince Cable’s valedictory virtuosity.


It may have sported on T shirts for months so it’s not exactly original, but to make it your campaign slogan for a major election is, to my mind, quite the thing.

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Sir Vince has had a relatively short career in the spotlight, despite his years, but this has the campaigning chutzpah of a rebel, a challenger brand – which should be exactly what the Liberal Democrats always should have been.

Anyway Sir Vince I doff my cap to you for this.

I think you will be pleased with the outcome, come May 24th.

The ethics of art. Venice Biennale


I suspect this piece may cause some controversy.

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It’s the wreck of the boat that carried between 700 and 1,100 refugees (not migrants) from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa.  But it collided with a vessel that had responding to its distress call and all but 28 died.

The boat as artwork statement was conceived by the Swiss-Icelandic artist Christoph Büchel.

Organisers of the Biennale – the art world’s most prominent international gathering that opens to the public on Saturday hope it will prompt visitors to stand for two minutes in respect.

Jeana and I went to the Biennale two years ago and it is simply awesome.  Amazingly it is also very affordable, not something you’d expect of Venice – from memory about €20 a day.

I think it could be a profoundly moving piece of work and I applaud it – especially in Italy, a country that can ill afford to take the brunt of the refugee crisis and so I applaud the Italian government and the Biennale team for this.

But I am sure it will have its critics.

What do you think?

To Throw Away Unopened by Viv Albertine: Book review


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Viv is about 60 but she retains the spirit of her 20-something Slits guitarist days.  She wrote about that eloquently in Clothes. Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys Boys, Boys.

The title of that autobiography was drawn from her mother’s criticism that that was all she thought about as a late teenager.

It’s an absolute belter.

But now we’re considering her SECOND autobiography and it raises the bar even further.

What a thing this is.

It’s not a laugh, I have to say, but there are humorous moments.

Essentially, it takes the form of a description of the day her 95 year old mother died, told in short snippets interspersed with Albertine’s memoire of her family, and love, life.

It’s grim, abusive stuff.

Midway into the book she finds her estranged father’s diaries and later her mother’s.  Both forensically detail a period in the young Albertine’s life where they are preparing to divorce and it ain’t ‘Little House on the Prairie’ that’s for sure.

But what Albertine does most in this history of her life is reveal her inner thinkings in a way that is uncommon on autobiographies.  She was a punk, a rebel, a man-hater – that loved sex with men – OK, maybe not a man-hater, quite, but a fierce feminist for sure – and with reason.  And underpinning that personality trait is self doubt, insecurity, self loathing at times.  All explained, all considered, all consuming.

It’s gripping, utterly compelling stuff and as the death of her mother plays out we are treated to, shall we say, an unusual farewell.

It’s also beautifully crafted.  Viv Albertine can wield a pen even more successfully than she wielded guitar in her Slits days.

Highly recommended and only £3 at Fopp.