Saturday 25 November 2017

Not everyone likes St. Vincent

A negative review of a St Vincent concert in the current issue of Uncut. Will the writer (a woman) be accused of ‘sexism ‘, I wonder?
Pre- recorded backing tracks, with no band, never works in the live context, in my opinion. It's not live music. Lady Gaga: the act St. Vincent could have been.
'The problem is that the smart, flesh-and-blood maxiimalism of the new album is bafflingly at odds with this flat, theatrically brittle and disengaged live staging. Clark's richly expressive voice is on great form, but the songs seem anaesthetised somehow, and there's no evidence of her wicked sense of humour. Despite its gesturing toward flashiness and fun, the show is low on energy and oddly joyless.'
'Clark's heroes, Bowie and Prince, never flew entirely solo at their peaks, and neither have Minnelli, Madonna or Lady Gaga, whose appreciation of high-end razzmatazz Clark shares, even if her interpretation is different. There's an argument to be made that no performer is responsible for their audience's expectations or obliged to satisfy them. But whatever anyone might have presumed this St Vincent show would be, lacklustre was almost certainly not it.'

Sunday 12 November 2017

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer by Yorgos Lanthimos

So I saw the widely ecstatically-reviewed The Killing Of A Sacred Deer during the week. Didn’t like it much. I’d like to know how Martin (the kid) puts his curse on Steven (the surgeon’s) family, and why it works. I’d also like to know why Steven (or his wife Anna) don’t ask Martin how he’s doing it. Or why they just didn’t go to the cops. I know that with Yorgis Lanthimos one is just suppose the interior logic of the world he creates, and take oddities and discrepancies as givens of those worlds, but there is a bit difference between ‘everyone will turn into an animal if they don’t get married within forty-five days’ (The Lobster) and ‘first, every member of your family be paralysed from the waist down, then they will stop eating, then they will start bleeding from the eyes and die' (The Killing Of A Sacred Deer). Something to do with agency. Or with everybody in this world accepting a universal given, as opposed to a given being generated by one person. Like, with Kafka’s The Trial, it really doesn’t matter why K is arrested or what he’s accused of or guilty of, because it’s a metaphor for general guilt (original sin?) in humanity, or a metaphor for a bureaucratic, tyrannical state not needing a particular reason to condemn you (they can always Trump (aha) one up). But it actually matters (at least to me) how Martin is doing this and why Steven doesn’t call him on it. Dogtooth remains Lanthimos’ best flick: that was an enclosed, incestuous world, and the parents made damn sure the outside world wasn’t going to intrude on the fictions they were peddling to their children (even if their reasons for doing so were entirely capricious). My feeling is that Mr. L has been given too much rope, and he’s run out of road.

Telling Tales: The Fabulous Lives of Anita Leslie By Penny Perrick

For shame. A mere ten months after being sacked from taking Denis O’Brien’s shilling at The Sunday Independent for book reviews, I am now back in saddle with a book review in today’s Sunday Times, thus taking Rupert Murdoch’s shilling. I’m still waiting for The Guardian to come knocking.

Telling Tales: The Fabulous Lives of Anita Leslie

By Penny Perrick
(Lilliput Press, €20 p/b)
The Anglo-Irish Leslie clan are nowadays best known as the purveyors of stately pile Castle Leslie, which entered the wider public consciousness when the wedding of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills took place there in 2002. But the Co. Monaghan estate, Glaslough, has been in the family since 1665.
  Anita Leslie (1914-1985) was the eldest child, and only daughter, of Shane Leslie and his American wife, Marjorie Ide. That made her the elder sister of perhaps more well-known figures Jack (1916-2016), Ireland’s most famous octogenarian dance music aficionado, and Desmond (1921-2001), variously Spitfire pilot, electronic music pioneer, novelist, UFO enthusiast and grand-scale womaniser.
  Jonathan Swift, a regular visitor, wrote: Here I am in Castle Leslie/With rows of books upon the shelves/Written by the Leslies/All about themselves, and in this respect Anita followed the family tradition, as a prolific producer of anodyne but not terribly well-researched biographies of her famous relatives, among whom numbered cousins Winston Churchill and sculptress Clare Sheridan. However, her subjects also included Rodin, Francis Chichester and Madame Tussaud, and she authored several volumes of autobiography.
  Penny Perrick, a former fashion editor for Vogue and columnist for The Sun and The Times, does much to generate sympathy for her privileged and somewhat ditzy subject, who, according to her publisher, ‘never quite got the hang of spelling and punctuation’. The Leslie children - and, as a girl, Anita in particular - were woefully neglected by their parents. Shane, an Irish nationalist and Catholic convert (which did nothing to curb his philandering) seems to have had little interest in having children. Anita wrote: ‘I think we realised fairly early that our own father did not exactly dislike us – he would merely have preferred us not to have been born.’ Similarly, Marjorie ‘regarded schools as useful establishments, like kennels, where you could plonk your children when you wanted to travel…and where you could remove them when you thought that their company might be amusing for awhile.’ The worst of these ‘kennels’ was the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton: books other than school books were prohibited, and Anita had to hide a copy of Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield up a chimney.
  There followed a stint at a finishing school in Paris, the horrors of the debutante season, and attempts at acting. But Anita, although tall and attractive, acknowledged: ‘An odd streak in me remained resentful of any attempt to cultivate the art of alluring the opposite sex.’ She subsequently wrote to Shane that she never wanted to marry, ‘although I might make quite an intelligent mistress – I don’t mind sacrificing my body but not my freedom.’ Eventually, in 1937, she made a disastrous first marriage to a penniless Russian aristocrat √©migr√©, Paul Rodzianko – the only explanation for which seems to be that it was done to get back at Marjorie.
  World War 2 was when Anita came into her own, and could be said to be the only time in her life when she knew what to do with herself, or made herself useful to others. Initially, she enlisted in the Mechanised Transport Corps and trained as an ambulance driver to get away from Paul - ‘Only I could invent this way of running away from a husband.’ Although pursued by Paul, who finally granted her a divorce in 1948, she served in Egypt, Syria (where she edited a troops’ newspaper), Italy and France, and became the only woman to win both the Desert Star and the Croix de Guerre.
  The war brought several affairs, which became quite messy, and at one point she declared that she wanted to marry two men: Australian Colonel Philip Parbury, who later jilted her, and Colonel Peter Wilson, who fathered her first child, Tarka. In 1949 she married Commander Bill King, with whom she raised Tarka and their own daughter, Leonie, although Wilson continued to live near Oranmore Castle in Galway, which Marjorie had bought for Anita after the war.
  Much of her later life was preoccupied with the vicissitudes of maintaining the two draughty, leaky, dilapidated castles, and a flat in London, as well as the horses and hunting associated with the Ascendancy classes. She also became the classic ‘mother-in-law from hell’ for Tarka’s wife Jane, micro managing her children’s lives. Indeed, Anita was not without her dark side, and Perrick does not shy away from recounting her virulent pre-war anti-semitism. She regarded Jews, along with intellectuals and the professional classes, as ‘clever’ – not a compliment to someone who insisted that everything should be ‘delightful and amusing’.
  In some ways, the book’s style can mirror that of its subject: it contains no index or footnotes, and will therefore be of little use as an academic biography. However, it is a readable account of a life that, if not exactly well lived, was rarely boring, and a time when, as they say, one half didn’t know how the other half lived.

Saturday 28 October 2017

The Clash At Trinity

I went with my school friend Rory. The beginning of 5th Year, the ‘77/’78 academic year, post Inter Cert. We were the only punks in the school. He still liked The Rolling Stones, I still liked Bob Dylan. Our classmates were welcome to their Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums, as far as I was concerned. I took their ‘punks can’t play’ sneering and condescending jibes as a badge of honour.  They couldn’t go and see their favourite bands in the Exam Hall or Junior Common Room in Trinity. Interestingly, by the time of The Clash’s ’78 gig the same time the following year in The Top Hat, a few of them were in attendance.

I can’t remember what I wore. I was more interested in the music, the phenomenon, than the fashion – even if fashion was part of the phenomenon. Getting the look right came later. Up until then, most info came from the NME, which I’d been reading religiously every week since Christmas ’76. There was also a great Dublin fanzine called Heat – they had a hagiographic review of The Clash’s first album in an issue before the Trinity gig, and an extensive and even more hagiographic feature/live review it.

I’d been to a few concerts previously (how come my parents let me out at night at that young age, when most of my contemporaries would have been safely at home?): the post Wilko, John Mayo Dr. Feelgood at the National Stadium; Gary Glitter at The Carlton cinema; I seem to recall that a nascent Boomtown Rats had even played at our school hall. I still regard The Clash at the Exam Hall, Trinity College, on October 21st, 1977, as my first real gig. Or rather, the night I discovered what all the fuss was about, what rock’n’roll could do to you. There’ve been great gigs since, but you never forget the first time.

Specific memories of the gig? We went to the first show (clearly, I must still have been required to be home by a certain time). I stood in the front row, stage left. All the songs were short, less than three minutes, guitar solos a rarity, Mick Jones and Paul Simenon as active as front men as Joe Strummer, a three pronged attack spearheaded by the singer. The one song longer than three minutes, which had a guitar solo, was the cover of Junior Murvin’s ‘Police and Thieves’.  During the instrumental break Jones and Simenon stood on either side of the drum riser, and then jumped off together: it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. At the end, I jumped on stage and asked Mick Jones for his plectrum, which he immediately handed to me – before I was unceremoniously pushed back into the crowd by a member of student security.

The thing that struck me most, even much more than the music and the performance, was how there seemed to be no barrier, literal or metaphorical, between band and audience. It seemed to me that there were as many people on stage as in the audience, and the band didn’t mind. No more idols, no more hero-worship. This was the new ethic: we were all in this together. Hence, why so many people in attendance went home and woke up the next morning, thinking about how they could form their own bands.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!

Monday 22 May 2017

What a sad fuck Brian Boyd is

What a sad fuck Brian Boyd is. The kind of smart-arsed idiot who, when asked if he's from the north of Ireland or the south of Ireland, says he's from the East of Ireland. How witty! So he used to go to Labour Party meetings in London in the late '80s? Bit of a fledging Blairite, then? Maybe he should stick to bigging up U2. Like Bono, he sold out long ago - if he ever had anything to sell out of.

Donald Clarke on music? Mr. Boyd on politics? It's like the staff of an old secondary school: a degree in anything allows you to teach anything. The Irish Times must be on its last legs.