One fine day in the year of the bush

Good god, the Guardian’s back to its old, reactionary, hairy old ways. Emer O’Toole is making money for old (if short) rope in today’s piece about bloody pubic hair. I thought this hoary old crap had been dealt with after Bidisha’s appalling piece on the same subject (with the same metaphor) back in whenever (see To shave or not to shave) but no. it’s back. And it’s stupider than ever. Continue reading

The Turing Test

So. Finally a decision is made about Alan Turing. It’s such a pity it’s the wrong one: divisive, insulting and, though few seem to notice, homophobic.

He should not have been pardoned. Now, before you get all shouty, ranty and insulting on my ass, let’s get one thing straight: I am in no way homophobic. I shouldn’t have to point this out but so many seem to think this action a good thing that I fear the emotive muscle has been overstretched. We saw this when bin Laden was murdered. Let’s consider how laws, ultimately, operate. Continue reading


There comes a time in the careers of certain people when they hold the whole world in the palm of their hand – or, at least, it must seem like the whole world. Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, has just arrived at that point following the massive success of his song Let Her Go. This tune, while being nowhere near his best (as anyone who knows the 2007 album Wicked Man’s Rest will attest), has that elusive quality shared by Mr Blaunt’s You’re Beautiful: it’s a song that gets to the heart of what women want to hear. Continue reading

Brighton Acoustic Guitar Festival – The Brunswick, Hove

If we ignore the fact that it’s in Hove, and it’s arguable whether eleven acts makes a festival, we’re left with the relentless march of the ‘percussive acoustic guitar’ style, an affectation shared by each act, for better or for worse. The problem I have with players like these has been well-documented, by me, and it ought to be pointed out that two of the very best exponents of this style, the late Eric Roche and the very much alive-and-gigging Thomas Leeb were, at one point, both students of mine. I didn’t teach them anything about the acoustic guitar, but that’s another matter. But I heard them develop, and I jammed with Eric on occasion, so I do know how this stuff works, and my standards are high – impressing me ain’t easy. To be fair, I doubt many of the players here give a rat’s arse what I think but that’s another thing entirely. Continue reading

Loss leader? Loss, just loss

Huzzah for Philip Hensher. In yesterday’s Graun it was noted that he’d refused to write the introduction to an introduction to Berlin literature for free, on the spurious grounds that writing was what he did for a living. The book’s author, Andrew Webber, apparently called him ‘priggish and ungracious’ for his stance, with the publisher, CUP, stating the following: Continue reading

The Wasp Factory – Linbury Studio Theatre, ROH, Covent Garden

If there was one thing held in common by the throngs awaiting last night’s performance of the operatic expression of Iain Banks’ rather odd but brilliant debut The Wasp Factory, it was surely a question: what the fuck? The simple fact of the matter is that not one consciousness in that ante-chamber really had a clue about what they were about to see – even had they read a review (we hadn’t, purposely), it still wouldn’t have done much more than increase the feeling that the turning of this book into opera was, well, unlikely. Perhaps it’s as well. Continue reading

Joe Bonamassa

There’s a fundamental problem with some kinds of music. It’s to do with environment. Pop music suits clean, medium-to-large venues, classical music needs classical venues, from country house to church to concert hall, modern jazz sounds best a long way from me. Blues/rock flourishes in sweaty, smoky clubs where you can feel the music as well as hear it. What it doesn’t want is a seated audience, a big light show, drum and keyboard risers, an amp just for feedback, a different guitar for every song. Continue reading

The Duckworth Lewis Method

St George’s in Kemp Town is a funny venue – the toilets are not only outside, but down in the basement – especially for a blasphemous Irishman, but the sound isn’t as bad as it could have been, the sightlines reasonable.

The support was, er … well, let’s just say when he crossed the stage after he was done I was glad he was only going to get his drink, and not play another song.

Then, with the opening bars of Soul Limbo, it began. Continue reading