Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

It feels this morning as if spring has truly arrived after winter made a late comeback earlier in the week with icy winds, sleet, snow and general misery. It is Scotland however so make the most of it whilst it lasts as who knows what lies around the corner in April. At least with the clocks going forward one thing that is guaranteed is lighter nights and longer days.
This week the news has been focussed on the terrible situation in London and the attacks in Westminster. Horrific times and the loss of four lives is such a tragic waste however what has shocked me most in the aftermath is the reaction on Social Media with many using this tragedy to spout bile, hatred and misconceptions not only about the attacks but also about the political ramifications.
This is not the time for such debates and cheap mudslinging never solves anything and although many of us are on completely different political sides and have different beliefs it is most certainly not the right time to be turning the unnecessary loss of life into some slanging match while trying to prove a point. Ultimately the only point that needs made is that there has been an unnecessary loss of life and how can we help in preventing it from happening again.
Elsewhere the Indy2 debate rages on with a groundswell of support in Scotland where hopefully the inevitable and sadly predictable appearance of Gordon Brown-why does he even bother after his failure to deliver on his ‘promises’ the last time?- can’t stop it. Certainly Theresa May is doing her damnedest to block it but this may be a miscalculation on her part; one of several it would seem.
Again however it is social media and the constant barrage of posts about the referendum- before it has even been officially announced- which is irritating me somewhat. Yes, I am aware it is important but the constant didactic tone of so many people eating up my timelines becomes tiresome to say the least. Does anyone actually believe they are changing anyone else’s opinion with their constant posts on Facebook? If so they are delusional.
Surely a more effective means of having a positive effect- whatever way you intend on voting- is to actually communicate with people face to face and preferably with those who don’t already share the same views already. That might make more of a difference.
Out at the cinema Personal Shopper starring Kristen Stewart is worth catching if only for her stand out performance showcasing her immense talents as an actress. A full review can be found here.
Today also sees the release of the first Jesus and Mary Chain album ‘Damage and Joy’ in quite a few years and although I was quite a fan back in the day I must admit to being slightly underwhelmed by this latest offering with its lame, predictable lyrics and lack of musical inventiveness. Much more impressed by the new Gorillaz single Saturnz Barz also out today and the series of tracks from their upcoming album streaming on Youtube.
I must confess I am genuinely excited by the return of Line of Duty for its 4th series on BBC1 this Sunday at 9pm. Seriously one of the best British dramas in years I am hoping that its shift from BBC2 to BBC1 and from a weekday night to a family friendly ratings winner Sunday 9pm slot will not dilute what has always been a programme of detailed intensity and integrity. The loss of two of its most compelling characters –Lindsay Denton and Matthew ‘The Caddy’ Cotton- will hopefully not have an adverse effect either although in its favour Martin Compston, Vicky McClure and Adrian Dunbar are still on board so I think we are guaranteed another full on intense ride with enough distractions and plot twists to keep us enthralled. Definitely one to watch!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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As 2016 draws towards its final months it would be unwise to assume that the tumultuous, sad and turbulent happenings of this ever eventful year are quite over. If anything this past year has taught us to expect the unexpected and never underestimate anyone or anything.
A year ago the thought that Donald Trump would be President Elect of the United States would have met with a scornful and disdainful scoff followed by a sarcy ‘As if’ then a dismissive laugh. However as 2017 looms ahead of us and Trump’s entry into the White House a scary eventuality it seems the punch line to what initially felt like a joke has delivered instead a knock out blow.
Mind you things aren’t faring much better this side of the Atlantic with the promise of our most right wing government in living memory and while at least the Americans voted for their absurdist President Elect-therefore having no-one to blame but themselves- us Brits have somehow managed to wangle ourselves a Prime Minister no-one actually voted for. Not even her own party!
It would seem that Theresa May –the name itself reeks of indecision- has earned herself the most important job in the country simply as no-one else was prepared to take it, or at least put up a fight for it.
Let us not even think about the disaster of Brexit and what lies ahead following the shock result in June which saw a rise in blatant xenophobia and discrimination which can only get worse.
How and when did things get this bad?
Meanwhile a whole load of people are getting their tartan bum-flaps in a twist over Joe Corre-the son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood- burning £5million worth of punk memorabilia as a reaction to punk becoming part of the establishment. I am not entirely sure what his protest is however as the minute The Sex Pistols signed a deal with EMI- and later very briefly A&M- then punk had become part of the establishment.
McLaren had always had his eye on mainstream success anyway seeing the Pistols as some sort of boyband-let us not forget that Midge Ure, at the time singer with boyband Slik, was his original choice for a lead singer- so for his son to complain about the life of privilege his heritage afforded him seems more than a little whiny especially with those people punk originally appealed to, such as the disaffected and impoverished, have probably never felt as disaffected and abandoned as they do by the recent shift to the far right in Britain and America.
Perhaps the money could have been used to help those people and donated to charity or at least a good cause. Then again by Corre’s thinking even charities are part of the establishment and filled with the establishment elites that rankle him so. The establishment elites who are the only ones who can realistically afford his over priced knickers from his underwear brand Agent Provocateur!
It has been a year of sad loss as well. Starting with David Bowie-didn’t everything though- at the year’s beginning, the reaper has since swung his scythe far and wide taking in the likes of Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen, Pete Burns, Caroline Aherne and Victoria Wood to name but a few. With so many important and influential figures passing away in such a short time it really has felt like the passing of an era, the end of one particular golden age.
I suppose at least we still have the music to carry us through and this weekend sees a couple of very worthwhile gigs in the capital.
Friday night sees the wonderful The Trama Dolls support The Valves at the Wee Red Bar at 7pm for an evening unparalleled entertainment which should kick the festive month into gear with a riot of sound and an explosion of glamour.
Saturday sees The Filthy Tongues show at the Liquid Rooms and their album Jacob’s Ladder can hold its head high among the very best of the year- and it has been an exceptionally good year for music if nothing else- supported by the brilliant Boots For Dancing and Birdhead.
As we approach the final month of the year I think that we are all now prepared for whatever is thrown at us. If nothing else that should be the great lesson learnt from 2016!
Photo of The Trama Dolls courtesy of Gavin Fraser.

MY LEONARD COHEN

My Leonard Cohen
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My Leonard Cohen is exactly what it says in its title; a collection of Cohen favourites delivered in interesting new musical settings. Much as I love the stripped back simplicity of Cohen’s original versions it would be pointless to try to replicate the hushed intimacy of his recordings as much as it would have been pointless for Jimi Hendrix to cover Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’ with acoustic guitars and harmonicas.
Different interpretations are necessary otherwise the whole project could descend very quickly into cheap karaoke or more correctly, considering the price of a Fringe ticket these days, expensive karaoke.
To this end Stewart D’Arrietta and his band provide drastically different re-imaginings of some of the great man’s greatest songs. Gruffer and more impassioned than Cohen’s languid deep tones D’Arrietta’s vocals , at times reminiscent of Joe Cocker, are well suited to the more expansive arrangements.
Starting with an upbeat Everybody Knows followed in swift succession by Famous Blue Raincoat, Tower of Song, Bird on a Wire- prefaced with a touching acknowledgment to the song’s subject matter and muse of several Cohen songs Marianne Ihlen who passed away only last week- Suzanne, Dance me to the End of Love, Chelsea Hotel No.2 which regurgitated the old tale of the infamous blowjob as performed by Janis Joplin before an up beat and sing-along to one of Cohen’s greatest songs- probably my personal favourite- and yet another inspired by Ilhen , So Long Marianne which actually made me want to ‘Laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again’.
For me this was the highlight and anything after was never going to live up to this but Ain’t No Cure for Love made a valiant attempt as did everything else that followed.
One thing that became clear to anyone who hadn’t already realised was that Cohen was and remains one of the greatest lyricists in modern music but also that his songs which seem to be quite simple actually are big enough to take on bigger arrangements with added parts for emphasis without losing any of their simplicity.
Although this show is in no way groundbreaking it is still thoroughly impressive. Great performances and great songs and of course that version of So Long Marianne!
****
My Leonard Cohen is on at Assembly Hall at 18.15 until August 28th (not 16th)

CONFESSIONS OF A RED HEADED COFFEE SHOP GIRL

Confessions of a Red Headed Coffee Shop Girl
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Back at The Gilded Balloon again after last year’s successful run of the show- I unfortunately missed it due to time constraints so was glad to hear it was back in an updated version this year- is Confessions of a Red Headed Coffee Shop Girl written and directed by Rebecca Perry.
However unfortunately my enthusiasm was dampened within the first five minutes when I realised that the show was going to be on the ‘zany’ side. This is just personal taste but it is a form of theatre which palls very quickly for me and no amount of enthusiasm emanating from the stage ever manages to grip me quite as much as maybe it should.
This is not to decry the production outright though as Perry is obviously an extremely talented young lady who puts her all into her performance and the musical numbers are all brilliantly executed and stunningly delivered. However these stray into musical theatre territory and again this is something I am not to partial to although versions of Joni Mitchell’s ‘California’ –adapted as Caledonia for a Scottish theme- and Judy’s ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ were faultless.
The storyline revolves around the recently graduated anthropology student Joanie Little leaving her dead-end job at a coffee shop intending to follow her dreams by travelling to Tanzania to work with her anthropological heroine Jane Goodall at her renowned institute. The adventures which follow are all delivered at a quite relentless pace which allow little time for contemplation but are all well crafted.
Obviously a lot of work has gone into this show and Perry is an accomplished performer but the show just didn’t gel with me and often it lapsed into Gang Show Territory although no-one can deny Perry’s determined enthusiasm but I would prefer to see her in something a little less forced and frantic.
***
Adventures of a Red Headed Coffee Shop Girl is showing at The Gilded Balloon Aug 3-29 ( not 10th , 17th 20th) at 16.15

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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In a rare instance of synchronicity the sun seems to be shining as festival season gets underway. The lack of rain, gusting winds and even flooding-The Meadows four years ago- means that some pleasure may actually be derived from these yearly occurrences which generally become some sort of endurance test.
So with the Hidden Door Festival in King Stables Road already underway-it actually finishes tomorrow June 4th- and the outlook seemingly favourable for The Meadows Festival over the weekend we can only hope that the weather holds up for The Leith Festival next weekend which will take us neatly into the Film Festival which doesn’t necessarily require sunshine to make it successful but, believe me, it makes the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.
Of course the usual grey skies, rain, wind and general dullness will no doubt be in place for the Fringe in August but for the moment let’s just be thankful for the pleasant weather which after a particularly long and dark winter is most welcome.
In fact I am surprised there hasn’t been any scaremongering over the weather in the run up to the EU referendum in a few weeks. Every other dirty trick has been pulled out of the bag and I am sad to say by both the Brexit and Stay campaigns. Unfortunately rather than clarifying for those who are still undecided this has merely served to cause more confusion.
Personally I can’t imagine anything worse than being an isolated island at the mercy of Tory rule with little opposition- which at the moment is exactly how things stand- and any party which wants to do away with the Human Rights Bill is a scary proposition indeed ; it certainly is not much of a step forward.
With the referendum now a mere three weeks away it would seem many are still unclear how they should vote due to all the aforementioned scaremongering and political rhetoric. it is little co-incidence therefore that I have almost abandoned watching the news due to the disbelief combined with annoyance that it registers in me. Perhaps this is the desired effect though, as discouraging people from voting seems to gain as many votes as encouraging them to do so. An extremely frustrating situation which reveals our political system to be totally manipulative and corrupt!
Tragically a twelve-year-old Gorilla had to be shot at a zoo in Cincinatti this week after a three-year old child escaped his parents care and found his way into the Gorilla’s enclosure. Typically, as is symptomatic of our times, the child’s parents and the zoo have both undergone the expected trial by social media that now accompanies every newsworthy event. It would seem that being allowed to vocalise opinions has now led to so many more opinionated people having a very public platform to vocalise them.
The child’s parents have undergone the most criticism so far with people maintaining they did not have their child under stringent enough care.
However I know from personal experiences that a child of two to three years old usually has a sense of adventure, daring, newly found confidence and lightning speed that would perplex and tire even the most protective and ardently attentive parent or guardian.
Unfortunately the split second decision to kill the Gorilla will ultimately be seen as the only option as the child was in grave danger no matter how many protest this. As for his parents none of us are armed with the full facts so hurling accusations is a little unfair and unless neglect can be proven then it is judgment for judgment’s sake. Whatever their position I do not believe that there was not a moment where they were not terrified for their child’s predicament and the guilt they feel and would have felt even more strongly if serious harm had come to him is very real indeed.
Perhaps it is time to question the need for zoos and whether it is fair or even necessary in this day and age to keep animals in captivity to be gawped at.
Also on trial by social media this week are Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and the claims of domestic abuse that have been levelled at Depp by Heard.
Again none of us are armed with all the facts and at the moment it seems to be a case of his fans versus hers- in which he vastly outnumbers her as she doesn’t seem to possess too many. Claims of gold digging and fabricating abuse stories in order to squeeze a bigger divorce settlement are rife and Depp’s former partner and daughter have been extremely quick to rush to his defence. However this ultimately proves nothing as each situation is different but it would prove disappointing if Heard’s claims turn out to be true although at the moment I am not entirely convinced.
Anyway the sun is shining so best get out there while the good weather continues!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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Now that we are well into spring-although it would appear that the person in charge of the weather hasn’t received the memo yet- things seem to be brightening up and after a long and very, very wet and dreich winter which seemed to be clouded in perpetual darkness and miserable faces everywhere it would seem that longer days and more daylight are definitely providing something to smile about.
Mind you some of my smiling is definitely of a smug nature due to the implosion of our current government which seems to garner strength almost on a weekly basis. This week’s revealing of tax dodging offshore accounts set up by David Cameron’s father in Panama is just the latest revelation to rock the foundations of the Tories who seem to be a party very much at war with themselves.
Then again after picking on various sections of society-junior doctors, the disabled, the poor, the vulnerable and, well you get it, the list goes on- at some point they would have to turn their invective on each other. Things really started to unravel when Iain Duncan Smith allegedly acquired a conscience and resigned in a barrage of attacks on George Osborne, who has surely used up all of his nine lives several times over by now, and now the latest revelations of tax scandals which our always reliable and honest PM insists is a private matter.
Perhaps Jimmy Carr should have used this line when the same accusations were levelled at him a few years ago. He is the professional comedian after all and if David Cameron expects us to believe that he has in no way profited from his late father’s investments then he too is seriously having a laugh!
Away from politics however and the amateur dramatics of the Bullingdon Old Boys Club and the excitement being ratcheted up on a weekly basis by Jed Mercurio and the third series of ‘Line of Duty’.
Definitely the best British drama on offer over recent years give or take a ‘Peaky Blinders’ or’ The Fall’. The way this tale unfolds and reveals complex layers you hadn’t previously imagined while characters seem to shift from villain to victim in the blink of an eye and then back again without a moment’s hesitation is constantly gripping.
I am so pleased I watched this from its inception and even the ghosts of series one are still ringing loud and clear.
The new series has taken things to new levels of corruption and it is intriguing to watch DI Cottan , creepily and effectively played by Matthew Parkinson, try to divert all the attention away from himself by abusing all his powers within the anti-corruption squad. Three episodes into the series and it is still unclear who the real villain of the piece is although the look on Cottan’s face and his incessant. ringing burner phones at the denouement of last night’s episode indicate it might be his story which is about to be told. This may all change within the opening minutes of next week’s episode and in all likelihood it will.
Tonight also sees the return of Edinburgh’s glammest darlings The Trama Dolls after a hiatus away from the scene. Opening for Dave Graney and The Mistly and the ever talented Malcolm Ross at The Voodoo Rooms the whole evening looks like being a worthwhile night. Certainly live music looks to be on the up at the moment with gigs by The Nightingales, Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds, Boots For Dancing and more Trama Dolls to be announced all happening in the next few weeks. There is also an intriguing house gig by Natalie Mc Cool and the legendary Brian Wilson doing Pet Sounds to fit into an already bursting diary.
Must admit I was very disappointed not to get tickets to see the Brian Eno lecture in May.However suspicions linger that very few of the 500 tickets on offer were actually available to the public.
I, along with many others, applied online at exactly 10 o’clock on the morning they were released and was immediately put on a waiting list. I am not alone in thinking that a certain amount of favouritism and nepotism was at work here and that the event organised by Edinburgh College of Art was unfairly ticketed in their favour and the favour of their friends and acquaintances.
I am trying to console myself with the fact I saw him about three years ago in an even more intimate setting and the fact that he is quite boring these days what with his work with Coldplay and that. David Bowie would never have worked with such a boring set of musicians and did indeed turn them down when they approached him to do just that!
Anyway the weekend starts here and after tonight’s gig at the Voodoo Rooms I am off to a reunion party at the aforementioned Edinburgh College of Art and meeting up with a few friends who were major players on the scene at a very important time in the developing club and arts scene which still has relevance today decades after the event!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation
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There has been much outcry over the last few weeks about the Government’s intention to cut disability benefits. Whilst this is shocking news and hard to fathom from a supposed caring society where we are apparently ‘All in it together’ it can surely come as little surprise considering anyone who knows the Tories know that the only thing they really care about is themselves. What is a little more surprising though is just how blatantly they are going about this.
So in the week that they decide to reduce disability benefits by up to £30 a week from the most needy and vulnerable section of society they also introduce tax cuts to wealthier households thus meaning the poorest households will on average be £460 a year worse off whilst the richest are £670 better off. I struggle to see the logic in this and how anyone can find this fair.
Then again it always comes around to the question I always ask; who actually voted for these people? No-one I know it would seem. This is perhaps the only good thing about the sordid debacle but it still worries me that there are people out there who may think this fair and continue to vote for those who implement these policies.
Elsewhere the son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, Joe Corre, has announced this week he is burning his inherited punk memorabilia collection valued at £5 million as a protest at punk being co-opted by the establishment. Am I wrong in thinking that perhaps punk was co-opted by the establishment almost as soon as it began and particularly when the Sex Pistols originally signed to EMI in 1976. Everything gets co-opted by the establishment to some extent eventually as that is the only way things can grow thus expanding themselves in order to make others more aware. There is little point in having a message unless you want it to spread.
Yes, I agree with him that the Queen giving her blessing to punk’s 40th anniversary is a total joke but then again is it really that important? Anyone who was inspired forty years ago to grasp the opportunities the punk umbrella offered them at the time cared little for what the monarch had to say about anything then and I am assuming that very many of them care even less now.
Unfortunately his actions come across as bitter, spiteful and petulant and he has his own fortune from his successful Agent Provocateur business to cushion any financial loss. Obviously spite and bitterness run through the family veins as this is almost as wilful as when shortly before his death Mclaren cut him out of his will despite being his only child.
Surely there are better and more rewarding things he could do with this collection such as donate it to a worthwhile charity. There are plenty out there who would welcome this kind of help and if the establishment is what he is against then what about helping those who are adversely affected by the recent cuts imposed by the establishment he claims to despise so much?
Someone needs to remind Corre of a similar stunt The KLF pulled back in the nineties when they burnt a million pounds as some sort of art statement. Most people had forgotten about it half an hour later and it didn’t even receive anywhere near the level of attention they hoped it would to begin with. Also they both admit to regretting their actions now and believe the money could have been put to some use rather than a futile exercise which benefited no-one.
On the subject of helping those less fortunate than ourselves let me draw your attention to a couple of gigs in aid of helping the Syrian refugees taking place in Edinburgh over the next couple of weeks with possibly more to follow soon. First up is Geek Maggot Bingo, The Fnords and Andy Brown at the great new bar and venue The Leith Depot on Leith Walk this Saturday 19th March at 7.30pm. This is followed by Fanny Pelmet and the Bastard Suits, Temple of the Dead, Moth and Norman Silver and the Gold the following Friday 25th March.
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So instead of burning your punk collections get yourselves along to The Leith Depot this weekend and the next one- making Good Friday a Great Friday- as both nights aim to be brilliant nights with a fabulous crowd. Certainly it will be a worthwhile night for a worthwhile cause so why not salve your conscience whilst at the same time treating yourselves to a night out at the same time thus making everyone a winner in some way. Makes perfect sense to me!