Archive for April, 2014

Neu Reekie 46

Neu Reekie 46

A return to Summerhall after last month’s sojourn in New York for the Neu Reekie team and a bit of a racy one at that thanks, in the main, to Salena Godden whose brilliant tirades about an air stewardess and male genitalia were definitely a highlight of the night alongside the evening’s headliners The Merrylees. Not that any of the other acts on the bill were any slouches but those two were definitely the evening’s high points.
Opening with the usual animation sequence the night’s offerings included Oscar Fischinger’s ‘Komposition in Blau’ which resembled a chocolate ad which Cadbury would have been glad to have dreamt up and this was followed by a controversial film ‘Trusts and Estates’ wherein a group of businessmen sat around making profane remarks including sexual references to each other’s daughters. If the intention of the latter film was to shock and raise controversy then it was more than successful as my companion tut tutted and harrumphed her way through it. It certainly raised the bar for the night but the bar was about to get dramatically higher.
Salena Godden then took to the stage and from the off it was clear that this was going to be no ordinary poetry reading. Her first piece was directed at an air stewardess- a female jobsworth- who had refused to lend the speaker a pen although it was blatantly obvious she had one to lend. The tirade was hilarious, sharply observed and vocalised the frustrations so many of us have met with when trying to deal with simple situations which become problematic due to the sheer stubbornness and awkwardness of those who wish to wield what little power they possess simply to make a point.
This however was just a warm up for ‘The Good Cock’ which was a hilarious insight into a sexual encounter in a car at a railway station and a females observance of, well, a good cock. It was in fact- and this is the most suitable word to describe it-cocktastic! Godden’s delivery was outstanding and the work was a clever re-invention of poetry and how it can be both perceived and delivered. She certainly managed to grasp the audience’s attention, by the balls as it were, and she never let go throughout. It was also good to hear female poetry that whilst still addressing ‘love’ was far from insipid but instead in another time zone completely.
Godden provided a hard act-no pun intended,honest!- to follow so on the same theme Norman McLaren’s ‘Achilles’ animation could also be described as being cocktastic! It was certainly an impressive piece of film and one which fitted the seemingly recurring theme of the evening.
Up next was a series of tributes to Tom McGrath from Cora Bissett, Ron Butlin and Calum Rodger which dwelt with less salubrious subjects such as ‘A Wee Dug’ and a fish supper; a bit of a respite after such high octane subject matter and a chance to gather breath.
Next up was the first of the evening’s musical acts, Bird. Highly proficient, expertly nuanced and on a Cocteau Twins/ Florence and the Machine tip their stage presence and capabilities were undeniable if, on occasion, a little generic. They are young though and there is more than enough talent available within their ranks for them to develop into something much more individualistic.
The Merrylees were up next and first things first let’s discuss the important matter of hair. When it comes to barnets these bands has it sewn up with an impressive array of superbly coiffed styles and, let’s face it, this is the most important thing, although their blend of sunshine harmonies, baritone lead vocals and musicianship run their haircuts a very close second. Their second single is due out at the end of next month and definitely one to look out for.
The seemingly nomadic Neu Reekie is on the move again next month a with a show at Pilrig Church. I don’t know whether it will be as racy or cocktastic as this one but it will certainly not be one you want to miss1


Just an Observation
Rammed 4

The fog which seems to have been hanging round most of this week seems to be settling in for the weekend which is quite fitting as after this weekends round of activities I expect/hope my head will be a foggy mess. To counteract this I am hoping for some of the sunshine which has made an intermittent but welcome appearance will return to alleviate this, hopefully assuaging my aching head and tired feet.
First up on the weekends round of events is Neu Reekie which makes a welcome return, getting back into the saddle at Summerhall, after a successful sabbatical in New York last month where they wowed the Big Apple with their insouciant charms. Tonight’s outing features a celebration of Tom Mc Grath- including readings by Cora Bissett, Ron Butlin and Calum Roger- Bird and Salena Godden. Headlining tonight’s show are the wonderful Merrylees who also have their second single released on the Neu Reekie record label-that pesky duo get in everywhere these days it would seem- at the end of next month. More details about the single launch at the Liquid Rooms will be announced nearer the time.
Tomorrow night sees the return of club night Rammed at the Voodoo Rooms and after a riotous, debauched outing in February –there is substantial photo evidence revealing as much- with outstanding sets from residents The Baron and Oli Findlay augmented by the Fini Tribe Sound System for a night many there agreed was the best clubbing night in Edinburgh for years.
Hoping to replicate this atmosphere –though I hasten to add not merely repeat it- the Rammed DJ’S guarantee just as good a night this time round and there is also the matter of a secret private part for regulars in May. Doors open at 8 and at only a fiver to get in this makes Rammed good value as well as a great night out. Get yourselves there!
There is also a prefect comedown recovery session, Heavy Nova, hosted by the Baron and his glamorous assistant the luscious Rachel on Sunday in Wooodland Creatures from 3pm onwards.
It would seem that elsewhere on the clubbing scene reunions are the big business of the day. With both Mingin’ and Taste announcing dates in May and July respectively-Joys one off reunion last year seems to have manifested itself into another this September although I am sure this is not financially motivated at all- it makes me wonder just how bad the clubbing scene has got if a trip down memory lane is what it seems to take to tempt people out these days. Living in the past is anathema to me personally but I do understand it needs to be acknowledged.
Surely this way of thinking is the antithesis of what clubbing is all about i.e. meeting new people and exchanging new ideas, concepts and forming new relationships where these things all co-exist. I admit I am tempted by the Taste night- I never went to Mingin’ so it is of no interest to me- as I was actually one of the few who was there on its opening night. In fact if I remember rightly the first three were relatively quiet affairs before it exploded into the phenomena it became. It was also one of the few clubs I could put aside for a year at a time and then return to like an old friend.
My main worry is however that it will be so busy I will merely spend the whole night being herded about having to exchange and endure sweaty greetings with people I barely recognise. One thing is for sure the atmosphere will be amazing as this is one thing that Taste always managed to elicit. One more thing however; has it really been twenty years?
Live music is also on the up in Edinburgh and May 27th sees the legendary Kid Congo Powers and his Pink Monkey Birds at the Voodoo Rooms. A member of both the Cramps and the Gun Club –two bands who were among the handful making the eighties bearable whilst the rest wallowed in a quagmire of sterility and pomp- his credentials are impeccable and this new band are apparently no slouches in their own right. Support is by The Phlegm and an interesting new band, The Trama Dolls, who will be making their much talked about debut at this gig but at the moment are sequestered in a bunker making sure their set is as ‘tight as gnat’s twat’! More details to follow about this night nearer the time. Until then have a good weekend and here’s hoping the fog clears soon; it makes hair care a nightmare!



This black comedy from John Michael McDonagh touches on many moments of greatness in its tale of Father James Lavelle- Brendon Gleeson- who learns of his upcoming murder from an irate parishioner with grievances against the church during confession. What follows is a whodunit-or more correctly a who’s going to do it- which focuses on a community which is disrespectful of the church though still paying it lip service whilst the Church’s representatives are tarnished in the wake of all the scandals, hypocrisy and double standards which have tainted the Catholic church in recent times.
Playing the good priest, Gleeson excels in this film and his Lavelle is the polar opposite of the pill popping politically incorrect policeman, Sergeant Gerry Boyle, he played in 2010’s impressive ‘The Guard’. Not that he is by any means Mary Poppins in a cassock as he likes a drink, uses profane language and even has a daughter from a marriage, previous to discovering his vocation as a priest later in life. It is this understanding of a life beyond the stifling constraints of the church which lend him an insight and compassion which may confuse others still blinded by its beliefs,
His parishioners likewise still pay him common courtesies but even in such a small community their flagrant disregard for a church which represents a bygone era is blatantly obvious. Adultery, domestic abuse and snorting cocaine in public toilets all seem common place and the fact that the church itself has been exposed in recent years means that others feel less need to hide, disguise or deny their own transgressions.
Surrounded by a stellar cast including Chris O’ Dowd, Aidan Gillen and Kelly Reilly amongst others Gleeson may carry the film but he has able support from an equally strong team. Each male member of the community is under suspicion as it is claims of abuse from an early age by a priest-not himself who even his future killer recognises as a good priest- that Lavelle is expected to pay for with his own life. The interaction of the village with their priest details accurately how much in disrepair the reputation of the church actually is in.
The conclusion of the film may be a trifle operatic in its execution but it is also not one that lingers too long on fake sentiment and overblown emotional histrionics. Set on a cold and windy beach, where Lavelle has been told to arrive in order to meet his death, it is cold, stark and emotionally raw. In keeping with the rest of the film it is suitably dark but still manages to retain its sense of dignity and draws the film to an interesting conclusion with plenty of food for thought.


20 Feet from Stardom

This Oscar winning documentary from Morgan Neville charts the historical value of the singers who, as backing vocalists for major stars, shaped the sound of modern music as we know it but never attained the recognition they deserved. Going someway to redress the balance this heartfelt and moving documentary looks at the importance and influence –come on let’s face it often the backing vocal parts are the ones which stick in the mind the most and the ones you find yourself singing along with- these women have had.
It is mainly women that this film focuses on although Luther Vandross is a notable exception but he managed superstar success where his female counterparts failed.
Whilst it is unbelievable that stardom eluded such talented individuals it also becomes apparent that it was not simply their gender which worked against them but also their colour; at the time they were working, misogyny and racism went hand in hand in a white male dominated music industry. Not that bitterness is the driving energy behind this film nor does resentment raise its head too often but there is certainly an air of disappointment and confusion mixed with certain moments of sheer bliss at moments of triumph when eventually one of them receives their deserved accolades.
Of all the singers featured in this film the one whose tale probably stands out the most is Darlene Love. Invited to ghost on several sessions by sixties wunderkind- the more recently disgraced- Phil Spector she was invited to sing on several sessions and her voice appeared as the lead vocal on major classic hits such as ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ and ‘He’s a Rebel’ credited to The Crystals, who appeared lip-synching her vocals on international TV whilst she languished in obscurity with Spector dangling the carrot of fame under her nose but continuing to leave her un-credited. Possibly the most frustrating tale of this whole film as her voice is instantly recognisable even today.
Another frustrating case is that of Claudia Lennear who began as an Ikette alongside Tina Turner and served as the inspiration for The Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’ as well as David Bowie’s ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ but found herself thwarted when she made a bid for solo stardom. Things may be on the up for Lennear though as this film has awakened the interest of a recently energised Mr. Bowie who has insisted he will assist in re-launching her career in any way he can.
It would seem that although these ladies also possessed immense talent this was simply not enough in an industry that thought that one successful black soul singer was enough and that Aretha Franklin would do very nicely, thank you very much
. Thus the word was never to be made aware of the splendid voices of Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Tata Vega, Judith Hill or Jo Lawry as there was simply not a big enough market to house them all during the late sixties and early seventies and therefore remained deprived of hearing about them.
There are many notable stars singing the praises of these unhailed musical heroes not least Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting and although the film ends on a positive note- Love found herself eventually inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011- there is still an air of sadness and missed opportunities surrounding the whole affair. It is a film which whilst pulling at the heartstrings also reveals that although fame may have been only twenty feet away on the same stage, for these women, it was twenty feet which may as well have been a million miles.