JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation


Well with Christmas only a few days away and just over a week until the end of the year it was inevitable that after the tumultuous events of 2016 that this year was never going to be a settled one.
In many ways the impact of 2016 has only really hit home this year as Brexit negotiations remain in deadlock moving backwards and sideways rather than forward- basically this is all Brexit can ever be- and Trump edges us closer to the next World War seemingly on a daily basis.
Nothing and no-one is secure.
Not that 2017 hasn’t had its own trials and tribulations and everything from the Weinstein sex scandals in Hollywood, Catalonia’s bid for independence-a snap election there only yesterday indicates this is still far from resolved-, Theresa May’s ever imploding government and Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the recognized capital of Israel are only several festering wounds sure to erupt come 2018.
Meanwhile homelessness and poverty increase while the nation ‘celebrates’ and pays for a royal wedding and makeover for Buckingham Palace to the tune of £350 million when mere months ago seventy-one people died in the Grenfell Tower tragedy because the local Borough of Kensington Council couldn’t ‘afford’ the five grand for cladding which could have saved many of those lives.
There is something very rotten at the core of our existence and it needs rooted out.
Unfortunately despite all this and the fact that the cost of living grows noticeably daily people will still vote for those who are implementing these decisions. It is almost as if people have forgotten that the Tory Party is one long vanity project after another; first the EU Referendum then May’s snap election in June where she lost her majority but found £1Billion to prop up her loss by slipping into bed with the DUP in a desperate bid to cling onto power. Party before country seems to be the Tory mantra. It always was though.
Away from politics and doom and gloom though and 2017 has been a more satisfying year in other quarters.
Although the Edinburgh Fringe was as tired and unimpressive as it has been over the last few years other areas of art, music and literature have all had a good year.
At the cinema Call Me By Your Name, T2 Trainspotting and Bladerunner 2049 were all impressive contenders, even if two of those mentioned were sequels to established classics.
The music front has been even more impressive with great albums from LCD Soundsystem, Lorde, –Bowie was right to proclaim her the future of music- Mark Lanegan, Chrysta Bell, Blondie, Fever Ray, Gorillaz and Moonlandingz just to name a few.
On the local Edinburgh scene too things are hotting up in a way I haven’t seen for years. Loving the new sounds emanating from Voicex the band led by ex-Scar Paul Mackie alongside several other legends of the local scene and their debut single Never is already out and available to buy on iTunes.
Boots for Dancing meanwhile keep the funk flag flying high while The Trama Dolls having augmented a couple of great new members are looking and sounding better than ever; better than they could ever have imagined previously to be honest. More on this early next year.
So things are looking up on Edinburgh music front for the first time in a long time so at least that is one thing to look forward to in 2018.
On the live music subject tonight –Dec 22nd-is the last Syrian Refugee benefit of the year at great venue Leith Depot. Not only does it feature the great Fay Fife’s Countess of Fife project but it also has the added bonus of a raffle featuring amazing prizes from several impressive local businesses. Other bands on the line up are Temple of the Dead Moth and Irresistible Urges. Doors open at 7.30 and it is advisable to get there early as Countess of Fife is on at 8pm as she has then to hot-foot it to Dundee for a gig with The Rezillos; what a super trouper!
So that is it for 2017 and it has been yet another year of change, indecision and good times mixed with bad. Christmas is a time to reflect and although I am not its biggest fan I must admit to feeling certain warmth, comfort and inner resolve at this time of year. For that I am always grateful as I realise I am one of the lucky ones!
The Trama Dolls artwork by Bernie Reid.

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THE FILTHY TONGUES: LIQUID ROOMS, EDINBURGH

The Filthy Tongues: Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh December 2nd 2017

A swirling cape alternating blue and red light bathes the stage while the audience in encircled by a heavy fog of dry ice- the Edinburgh outdoors is one of the few cities which appears just as beautiful in a swirling mist although I am not sure that this atmospheric translates itself so readily to the already darkened Liquid Rooms- as The Filthy Tongues languidly take their places in preparation for a show which takes its audience on a deep and mystical journey.
Paving the way for a very lyrical set the band launched into a rousing instrumental before drawing heavily on last year’s dynamic Jacob’s Ladder opus.
First out the traps is Children of the Filthy rapidly followed by Crew Cut, Long Time Dead and the aforementioned album’s title track before they are joined onstage by the glamorous Stacey Chavis aka Isa Tongue for a brief interlude wherein the band change dynamic and take on a more Velvet Underground vibe as they run through Jim’s Killer and Normal Boy. Just as quickly they shift tack again and are straight into Holy Brothers.
Being able to diversify as seemingly as effortlessly as this simply shows the musical chops this band has at their disposal without ever losing their identity as a band.
Next up is Green Turns Red before finishing the set proper with the much loved Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie number ‘The Rattler.
The encore numbers were the brooding Bowhead Saint before the show concluded with the perennial crowd favourite Goodwill City.
Definitely a powerful gig the Filthy Tongues are still going from strength to strength and although their sound is very much informed by Nick Cave they are no mere copyists or imitators; there is enough originality and musical strength for them to carve out a niche territory of their own.
Dark, brooding, mystical and uplifting the Filthy Tongues are definitely one of the hottest bands in Scotland at the moment!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

So this week the news was announced that there is a Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle next spring which will distract us from the sheer shambolic state of the country, the abject poverty, the ever increasing problem of homelessness or even the fact that the country is perilously close to driving itself over a cliff with the ongoing Brexit catastrophe.
Or not!
I really think the last thing this country needs at the moment is a Royal Wedding as a means of distraction and an extra expense. I have nothing personally against either Harry –both he and his brother William seem relatively grounded and aware that they are privileged and do seem like a new generation of royals even if William has somehow morphed into his grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh in recent sightings- or Meghan but the truth is they both have enough money at their disposal to pay for their own wedding.
It just isn’t appropriate that with the state of this country at the moment that it should be expected to pick up the bill especially as they are already funding the renovation of Buckingham Palace to the tune of £350 million.
Also you would have thought there was no other news on Tuesday the day it was announced with it taking up sixty-five percent of news coverage-conservative estimate- whilst the Government’s benefit freeze didn’t warrant a solitary mention. Instead there was a five minute analysis of how relaxed Meghan Markle was in her interview with the media and how natural she seemed in front of the cameras; meanwhile I was screaming at my television ‘She’s a fucking actress it’s her job!’
Moving onto the other impending disaster, Brexit, it would seem that there has been an amazing breakthrough this week with the Government confirming that it has struck a deal and reached a financial agreement for the ‘divorce’ settlement.
Yes, it seems that paying £50 Billion for a lesser deal than the one we already have is what the last eighteen months of negotiations have been all about and now we can move forward. Or backwards whichever way you look at it. In fact it is backwards every way you look at it. When is someone going to actually pull the brakes on this charade before we crash land with little chance of recovery?
By this point Donald Trump will probably have ignited even more racial hatred as he is allowed to incite xenophobia and support the far right hate group Britain First unchecked on Twitter.
I would like to think this is as low as he can get but every week he debunks that myth by slipping even further into his very own snake pit. Wonder if he will get an invite to the Royal Wedding as it looks like the State Visit may be on hold for the foreseeable future.
It may be an idea to make as much as you can of this Christmas as who knows what will have happened by this time next year. That is if you can afford the Christmas dinner of course as even the price of that has increased significantly since last year.
At least we have music.
There are a couple of unmissable gigs in Edinburgh coming up over the next week.
First up is the excellent Filthy Tongues at the Liquid Rooms on Saturday 2nd December. If last years show was anything to go by you really wouldn’t want to miss this one.
Also on Wednesday the 6th December Kid Congo Powers- ex Gun Club. The Cramps and Bad Seed- and the Pink Monkey Birds are at Opium in the Cowgate, This too looks like being a gig not to be missed as this band never fails to deliver.
Think of it as Christmas come early as two gigs of this calibre in a week is a very beautiful thing.
There have been quite few musical stirrings in the capital of late and it feels as if a few musical projects bubbling away in the background are about to rise up to the surface. More details on this to follow but 2018 looks like being quite an interesting year for Edinburgh musically and it is not before time.
Let us also not forget that today is also World Aids Day and spare a thought for so many people lost along the way. It is refreshing that so much of the stigma surrounding this disease has dissipated over the years along with the ignorance and misinformation; this week even saw First Minister Nicola Sturgeon take a very public HIV test as a means of removing the stigma even further.
Whilst it still remains a problem at least things have moved on from the early horror stories we were fed by the media in the nascent stages of the disease where confusion was outranked by fuelled terror. So glad we have moved on from that initial situation and would like to think that some of the positivity,empathy and kindness which removed the stigma can be applied to the mess we find ourselves in today.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

There has been much debate and discussion this week over the implementation of the minimum pricing of alcohol by the Scottish Government in a bid to curb the very serious and growing abuse of alcohol in Scotland.
Certainly I recognise that Scotland has a very serious problem with alcohol and that it is inbred within our culture but targeting the lower end of the class spectrum is only one part of the problem. While the raising pf prices on cheap alcohol is a step forward in combating said problem I am curious as to who will benefit from this the most; the public or the retailers?
Alcohol is a very big problem in Scotland and as already mentioned it is almost inbred. Several factors contribute to this and amongst them are the lack of other activities at affordable prices-something I feel the government should also look into- which combined with exceptionally long, dark and miserable winters only fuel the problem.
The unpredictability of the so-called summer months doesn’t help either and the occasion of a rare sunny day usually results in celebration by having a drink outside. Alcohol seems to be part of every social occasion and has been for as long as I can remember.
This is why I don’t understand why the problem only tackles the lower classes with less money at their disposal to buy alcohol. Let’s be clear, I think that trying to tackle the alcohol issue is a necessary thing and possibly long overdue but it will not affect those who can afford it nor the middle classes and in my view there is as much of a problem there with alcohol as there is out in the more deprived areas.
They just hide it better because they can afford to. Also they are unlikely to purchase anything of such inferior branding as it would reveal them as déclassé therefore this does not solve their problem.
In the last two weeks alone I have been in the company of educated, literate and successful people and on three separate occasions I have witnessed at least one person in my own company become aggressive, argumentative and unreasonable as they became more strident in their behaviour and each and every time it has been fuelled by alcohol and their inability to control either their intake or objectionable stances.
Often the next day they have no recollection of their behaviour- or else they just shrug it off with a ‘Well I was drunk’ statement as if that excuses everything- and it is all forgotten about until the next time. And there will be a next time because the one sure thing about alcohol is that people repeat themselves; again and again and again and again…and every time a little bit louder than the time before.
I cannot think of one solitary person I prefer when they are drunk and I include myself in this1
Therefore whilst I see that minimum pricing of alcohol will be some help in the future-which is a crucial part of this initiative- it doesn’t tackle the current one and it certainly doesn’t cover the whole spectrum. It is a start however and a necessary one but I would be happier if someone other than retailers were to benefit.
On the subject of retailers I surely cannot be the only one who has noticed a very sharp, substantial and almost underhand increase in supermarket prices in the last six months. It began when I noticed an increase of ten or twenty pence on everyday-not luxury- items and then the last time I was buying butter I realised the same block I paid 79 pence for six months ago was now £1.40. That is one hell of an increase on an everyday item with no explanation and certainly no warning and it is not an isolated case; everything has gone up substantially. This is before Brexit has even happened and I am wondering whether those who voted Leave actually realised the consequences to their weakly budget when they made their choice. Again it is those on the lower end of the spectrum who will be most affected and again those who are financially comfortable or well off are able to absorb the extra costs.
It is hard to understand how low paid families are expected to cope with such huge price hikes especially considering their income hasn’t increased to accommodate it.
Hopefully this shambolic Government will implode before Brexit actually happens and judging by the infighting and backstabbing that feels like it could happen very soon. Wishful thinking I know.
At least Peaky Blinders is back though and the opening episode on Wednesday night was a master class on how to make a comeback. The conclusion left me completely dumbfounded and I hope that Michael Gray was merely wounded in the hail of bullets as along with Tommy Shelby and his Mother Polly he is the most compelling and promising character as to where the story can actually go. Then again as it is a show which likes to take risks then it is maybe wise to fear the worst. I only have to wait until next Wednesday to find out!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just an Observation

Sex, sex, sex and more sex seems to be everywhere at the moment.
Or more correctly sexual harassment is.
Hot on the tails of the Harvey Weinstein furore in Hollywood, which I predicted was only the tip of the iceberg, comes news that Westminster- that supposed bastion of upstanding morality and totally non-corrupt individuals or so they would have us believe- is riddled with sexual harassment also; not that this comes as any surprise to anyone with more than a time-share on a brain cell.
To simply add fire to already troubled waters Kevin Spacey has used accusations of predatory behaviour on a minor to eventually come out as gay-again no surprise- to deflect from his despicable behaviour thus forever equating paedophilia and homosexuality as inseparable in the minds of misinformed and ignorant bigots who have never had much trouble in lumping the two together. Believe me that is a lot more people than I can ever be comfortable with especially as being gay is a totally separate thing from paedophilia and one in no way relates to the other; the former is a natural state of being whilst the latter is a perverted deviance that has proven statistics of being more prevalent in heterosexuals but is disgusting in any form as it is a form of manipulation of trust and ultimately abuse.
Whatever Spacey thought he was doing in trying to deflect from his misdemeanours he was seriously misguided and has opened up a can of worms that will be hard to put a lid on no matter how powerful he is in Hollywood. It was an infuriating statement that has probably done more harm to the gay community and set their cause back a good twenty or thirty years; especially in an America which is already in the grip of the most bigoted and hateful backlash for decades.
He did however apologise for his behaviour but that was immediately superseded by claims of drunkenness and not being able to remember the event due to his intoxication, as if that in some way excuses him and strips him of any responsibility
Netflix were quick to cancel his series House of Cards- based on a corrupt and power-hungry President- but that was inevitable but in my opinion it should have been cancelled the minute Trump was elected as there was no way the fiction of drama could match the fiction of reality; a fictionally corrupt President is no match for a real life bigoted, sexually predatory and racist one.
Trump this week however has limited himself to trying to step up his already ‘extreme’ vetting immigration programme following the tragic terror attack in New York which saw eight people killed.
The fact that this attack was committed by a non-white person has escalated his fury in a way the Las Vegas attack-which left 58 dead and 546 injured- didn’t. Supposedly because the Las Vegas attack wasn’t viewed as terrorism as it was committed by a white man, a ‘loner’ as the press referred to him. Also interesting to note that despite the gravity of the Vegas attack there was not one new policy implemented, no gun law restriction introduced, in fact there were no changes whatsoever made to prevent such an atrocity ever happening again.
Closer to home and back to the Westminster which is in disarray and a state of panic-yet again- over sexual harassment claims which I suspect is an issue that is going to run and run. Certainly Michael Fallon resigning as Minister of Defence for allegedly inappropriate behaviour towards a younger woman feels yet again like the mere tip of a very large iceberg. The fact there are rumours that his replacement Gavin Williamson has simply appointed himself to his new role indicates-yet again-that Theresa May has lost control of the situation and is totally unfit for office herself. Then again it was losing a whole load of files naming the Westminster paedophile ring which helped get her elected in the first place so I wouldn’t bet that she will allow a triviality like mere sexual abuse to dislodge her now that she has got this far.
We really have no right to sneer at the state of American politics when British politics are in such a shocking state.
I can’t imagine that anyone is surprised at the sexual harassment claims that are coming to light and the ‘Me Too’ campaign which took flight on social media a few weeks back shows how ingrained this problem is in all walks of our society. I know many will claim that it is not just women that are affected by this but I do feel that they have suffered it longer and far more extensively than men ever have or ever will.
As an example the male actor who accused Kevin Spacey was taken very seriously and immediate action was taken in suspending Spacey’s network show. I wonder how seriously the allegations would be taken and how swiftly they would be acted upon if it had been a female making the accusations against a powerful Hollywood figure and how much her own reputation would be questioned and possibly tarnished in the aftermath.
Certainly until women are taken seriously and afforded equal respect this kind of sexual harassment and inequality is always going to exist and this makes me very sad. Very sad indeed!

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Call Me By Your Name

This stunningly tender and visually encapsulating coming of age gay love story, directed by Luca Guadagnino, captures perfectly the complexities, the aching intensity and confusion of passion. Set in Northern Italy in 1983-the Psychedelic Furs’ ‘Love My Way’ offers an aural time guideline here- somewhere in Northern Italy, the scene is set when Elio- Timothee Chalamet- an exceptionally precocious and intelligent seventeen year old is moving out of his bedroom to make way for his academic father’s yearly intern who arrives in the shape of the impossibly handsome Oliver- Armie Hammer- with neither realising that the next few weeks will be life changing for both of them.
In fact their initial meeting is low key with Elio casually offering to show Oliver around the town and its neighbouring country vistas. At first there seems little in the way of natural chemistry but gradually we feel Elio’s interest piqued although it is Oliver who makes the first move when he casually starts to massage Elio’s shoulder during a volleyball game. There follows a series of subtle moves and missed opportunities on both sides until one day on a bike ride they both confess-albeit without saying it in explicit terms- their true feelings for each other and things slowly but eventually explosively unravel until they are able to be honest with each other.
The thing that makes this film stand out from others in this genre is that there are no external pressures on their affair. Instead the problems that arise are down to the two protagonists reading and misreading signs with neither one wanting to be the one to make the first move for fear of offending the other.
The film is also visually stunning and many analogies of succulent fruit ripening and waiting to be devoured are constant throughout the film. Likewise the erotica of classical male statues- the study of which is Oliver’s main purpose for being in Italy-, where everything is in exaggerated by sensual curves, offer further visual sign-postings as to where things are all heading .
As for the scenery it captures perfectly hazy, lazy summer days where everything and nothing happens; when Oliver first arrives he asks Elio what people do there and Elio flippantly replies ‘Wait for the summer to end’. A soundtrack of period music alongside the contemporary Surfjam Stevens contributions also work in perfect sync giving the film a sense of looking back at a simpler time most likely through the mature Elio’s eyes today.
The standout performance in the film is Chalamet as Elio. He is a character you constantly feel for and somehow manages to transfer his emotions over to the audience clearly and consistently. In one particularly poignant scene after the lovers have spent their final couple of days together he is at a remote train station after Oliver has departed for America and phoning his mother to collect him you actually feel his heartache as he struggles to hold it all together. Another great scene comes between him and his father-Michael Stuhlbarg- where his father makes a speech which is so profound and deeply full of morality that it applies to anyone whatever their sexual orientation.
Call Me By Your Name is quite simply an emotional, visceral and visually stunning film that captures not only the complexities of love but also the simplicity of an earlier era. The absence of technology allows real human emotions to raise to the surface-no emojis or smiley faces to express emotions needed here, not when eyes, lips and words articulate so much more- and succeeds on every level.

BLOODLIGHT AND BAMI

Bloodlight and Bami

Grace Jones: icon, diva, untouchable goddess, fearsome adversary and real life, live genuine superstar. A bullet-proof façade or so you might think until you see this Sophie Fiennes documentary on the Grace Jones behind the armour; how much behind the armour is still unclear at the film’s conclusion but this is probably just how the irrepressible Ms. Jones wants it.
Essentially it is a film of two halves, one half the diva and public persona whilst the other focuses on her family life back in her original home of Jamaica.
Hence we witness the typical superstar strops as she bawls someone out over the telephone for not meeting her specific demands, ending with her throwing the phone across the luxurious hotel suite; the next minute however we are ensconced in a shanty town in a sunny and breezy Jamaica where she effortlessly slips into the local patois with childhood acquaintances, smoking a spliff emerging altogether as a much softer character, although the charisma remains firmly intact.
Likewise the glamour alternates between body-con Azzedine Aliah mixed with the structured futurism of Issey Miyake in her role as superstar. This contrasts with the more relaxed diaphanous loose dresses, baggy fatigues topped by the Philip Treacy sunhats and caps of her Jamaican self. Both are constructions however, both she wears impeccably and both are very much Grace Jones.
A new side for many viewing this film however is the reveal that her grandfather –Mas.P- was an extremely religious preacher and violent disciplinarian and that Grace and her siblings endured many beatings and punishments as children. Apparently it is the fearful presence that he used to command to instil terror in them that she distils in the icy, detached and cool demeanour of her stalking, skulking, marauding and intimidating stage presence.
The live shots which inter-cut with backstage shots and the Jamaican home life seem to originate from her 2009 Hurricane tour and one backstage conversation returns to her infamous altercation with Russell Harty, which propelled her to household name status, which she initially dismisses with a flippant ‘He’s dead but I didn’t kill him’ before offering her explanation of what actually happened on that 1980 show.
Of course it wouldn’t be a film about Grace Jones if we didn’t actually witness some true diva style tantrums; the aforementioned phone throwing sequence is typical but another sees her refuse to perform on a stage set miming to La Vie En Rose surrounded by female dancers as it makes her look like a Madame in a brothel. Another sees her try to restrain this side in Jamaica when long-time collaborator Robbie Shakespeare- one half of the legendary rhythm section Sly ‘n’ Robbie- fails to turn up for a recording session and she tries to reason then intimidate him into appearing much to the consternation of the engineer who keeps worriedly insisting ‘don’t piss him off’.
Ultimately this portrait attempts to unravel the mysteries behind the enigma and reveal another side to a very public demeanour and it does so successfully. To an extent. One can’t help feeling that despite the other side of Grace that emerges from the film is in deep contrast to the more recognised one it is still very much what she wants us to see and how she should be seen. It is still a fascinating ideology however and having her in control of how she is observed is just quintessential Grace Jones and frankly we really wouldn’t want it any other way!

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