Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Long to reign over us

English literature, like other literatures, is full of battle-poems, but it is worth noticing that the ones that have won for themselves a kind of popularity are always a tale of disasters and retreats. Sir John Moore’s army at Corunna, fighting a desperate rearguard action before escaping overseas (just like Dunkirk!) has more appeal than a brilliant victory. The most stirring battle-poem in English is about a brigade of cavalry which charged in the wrong direction. 
-George Orwell, ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’
1am last night, and Lulzsec – which no-one above the age of 30 seems able to pronounce, let alone understand – have with casual ease brought down every News International website, mining their databases for passwords, replacing The Sun’s front page with a poorly punctuated story (kids ey?) about the death of Rupert Murdoch.

In the background, you have the full-throttle multi-institutional catastrofuck of our entire, forever-mocked, never-impeached establishment, developing with such breathless pace none of us can begin to keep up, nor look away for a minute without someone being arrested or tumbling from grace, and then, THEN, as the deep, deep sleep of England resumes, BBC Radio 4 wind up the day’s programming by playing what The Home Service have always played at the close of play, in times of war and in times of peace, hurtling headlong, eyes wide shut in total defiance of the inevitable, they punctuate their irrevocable decline with 'God Save The Queen'. It has honestly never sounded more poignant.

Fingers in ears, trumpets blaring louder than ever, as the ridiculous Britain which our ridiculous anthem represents charges half a league, half a league, half a league onwards, Crimean moustaches bobbing proudly as they gallop stoically into the jaws of death. I fuckin LOL'D m8

This is Britain, and everything’s alright. Everything’s alright. It’s okay. It’s fine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lithuania's Soviet nostalgia: back in the USSR

A belated link to this piece, incredibly interesting to research and write, about Lithuania and its somewhat unusual attitude to commemorating its Communist past - via live role-play theatre in former nuclear bunkers, eerily peaceful Soviet 'amusement parks', Stalin impersonators, vicious Alsations, and Nostalgija Borsch. I also ate beaver and mashed potato, though sadly that wasn't relevant enough to merit inclusion. It was delicious though.

This feature landed in The Guardian's g2 section the day Osama Bin Laden died, so I figure a lot of people may have missed it.
Having failed to answer a question correctly in Russian, I get it repeated in broken, angry English. The interrogating KGB officer pushes me against a filing cabinet. "Where are y'fRRROM?" England, I say, cowering. He prods me in the chest, hard. "You are English? English spy! English spy!" In another "scene", a KGB doctor forces me to strip to the waist, in front of the other participants. "Jacket off! Shirt off! Strip to waist! Quick! Quick!"
Here are a few more of my pics...
Soviet Sports Hall, Vilnius. Just spectacular

Lenin mate, you've got something in your eye. The eerie splendour of Grutas Park

The 'Nostalgija' Menu in the restaurant at Grutas Park

Upstairs in the Soviet Bunker. I have never, ever known damp like this

Eating (Soviet-style) dinner in the Soviet Bunker, after our, erm, ordeal

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beyoncé at Glasto and other musical animals, radio programmes, etc

A piece for The National on the head-spinningly perfect pop climax to Glastonbury's emotional rollercoaster, the ONE, the ONLY, BONCEYYYYYYYY.. The key line, sadly cut for propriety, from the teenagers standing next to us:

"Listen, Beyoncé is a fucking GODDESS!" - 14-year-old-girl to her sneery male friend


Three 800-word pieces for The Guardian's History of Music series, on key turning points in UK music:

1999: UK garage goes POP, with Craig David's Re-Rewind.
2003: Grime's 100 Club Moment - Dizzee Vs Crazy Titch.
2011: Katy B and London's ever-changing club scene.


You can listen to the BBC Radio 4 doc on sodcasting, based on my Guardian feature, here.

You can listen to me talking about riot music, grime, dancehall, and Vybz Kartel's 'Ramping Shop', along with the estimable Owen Hatherley on Pulp, on Domino Radio, here.


And here are a few PDFs of recent music review-essays for The National, on Kode9 and viral sonics, the history of emo and other teenage disorders, the controversy of 'world music' and post-colonialism, and Low and slowcore (all online, too; links elsewhere on this blog).