Sunday, 4 July 2010

Picture of a Go-Between

Grant McLennan photo by John Nixon, Brisbane, 1981

"When the rain hit the roof/With the sound of a finished kiss/like when a lip lifts from a lip/I took the Wrong Road round"

Monday, 28 June 2010

Aicher Rumba!

Today's title is either my best pun or my worst depending on your love of the pun...
Either way, this is one of the less iconic (I feel we can use that term here) pieces of graphic design that Otl Aicher came up with, but I love the paleness of the green and the simplicity with which he blocks out the text.

Whereas, this one is a bit of razzle dazzle.

Thursday, 24 June 2010


In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot tried to make a film called L'enfer, which would have been a radical departure from his previous films (including The Wages Of Fear). For various reasons, such as going a bit barmy and having a heart attack, he was forced to pull out of the production, which was running seriously over-budget, partly due to the spectacular dream-like sequences that depicted the diminishing mental state of the lead character. In these sequences, the actress Romy Schneider was glazed with various artificial substances and shot under coloured light, in order to represent the way in which she was seen by her jealous husband. There's an excellent documentary about it, and the obsession that gripped Clouzot, but I've just posted one little picture showing Schneider in blue lipstick.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Happy Talk

Too beautiful for words...


Saturday, 19 June 2010

Cover Me

Found, found found.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Love Me Fender

I can't even swim, but this is the way that I feel...

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Horsing Around

Today, I watched Andrei Rublev, the Tarkovsky film about a 13th Century Russian icon painter's life (and so much more besides).
It was striking and simple in its execution, though, as with all of his output, the complex philosophical questions rumble on long after the end. One scene showed a horse writhing about, managing to breakdance its way through 360 degrees. It somehow combined grace and turmoil in a single moment.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Women Of The World Take Over

I met Women at a show in Italy and they were kind enough to say they liked my band.
I understand that this sentence can be read in a couple of different ways...
I'm excited about their new album, which will come out in August. It has a pretty sleeve, like the last one.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Raincoats Weather

I'm in love with this song today. It feels like a woozy magic spell.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Belgian Kerfuffle

I've just completed a short story by the Chilean writer Roberto Bolano, called Vagabond in France And Belgium. In the story, the central character discovers a Belgian literary magazine called Luna Park in a Parisian second-hand bookstore. I decided to search for it and it turns out that it has a beautiful cover, as you can see.
I was unsure whether it was a real publication or not, even though that's irrelevant. However, had I not bothered to follow it up, I would never have found this little picture.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Wild Colour Combination

I went to the sea today and bought this pair of shoes to go with my turn-ups. Very bohemian.
When you purchase a pair, the company that makes them (TOMS) give a pair of shoes to kids in countries such as Argentina, where shoes aren't as plentiful. One for One, they say. Good company, I say.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Pun Starts Here

So, Roy Orbison (AKA The Big O) is already a legend. Then you have some danceable music that is truly uplifting and joyful. Thus, Joy Orbison makes complete sense. This track is 'rushing'. All the hipsters already know this tune and I mentioned it last year in some interviews, but I just heard it and it blows me away.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Going Solo

Alone, in the spotlight, gently strumming a quiet, clean electric guitar, Laetitia from Stereolab cuts an exposed figure. Her songs are lilting and go through subtle changes rather than demanding attention, but she seems comfortable, even as a ripple of chatter goes on as she makes an introduction. I hope I can be this confident. In some ways, it's much easier to get in people's faces.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Death of The Bourgeois

The sculptor Louise Bourgeois has died. Here's a tourist photo I took in Brazil of one of her monumental spiders.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Noodle Rock

This is my absolute favourite sound right now. Real Estate and Alex Bleeker & The Freaks are tapping into my very marrow and unearthing guitar sounds that almost make me sound like a hippy. Check out this loose groove and allow the guitar-playing to unravel. These axes make me salivate! Oops... that was too far.

Alex Bleeker & The Freaks - Summer > Epilogue from Chocolate Bobka on Vimeo.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Stills From Moving Images

Paul Sharits, T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G, (1968)

Sharits was a member of the Fluxus movement. I prefer this still to the actual film, which is also good, but doesn't survive well in its YouTube incarnation, hence its absence. It appears ancient and mystical, like a cave-painting, where limbs become elongated and coloured in bizarre, necessitated approximations.

Whereas, I know nothing of the film from which this next still is taken, I just thought my friend Susie might like it, since it contains a 70s leotard and an overall video-matic grain that appeals to nostalgic VHS-lovers.

Nam June Paik, Global Groove (1973)

Men Possessed

What a mesmeriser! A performance that incorporates Bela Lugosi, Orson Welles and a loony guy you might see down the local supermarket; only fitting, considering the power of the electronic, snake-charming sound that hums behind the shrieks.

Which reminds me... this looks fun (if less confrontational than Alan Vega)...


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Last Time I Saw Richard

Untitled; circa 1950

The title of this post comes from one of my favourite Joni Mitchell songs. I was prompted to use it by this painting from another artist that helped define California in my mind, Richard Diebenkorn.
I love the looseness of this splodgy gouache sketch.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Mamma, you been on my mind

Sink, 2008

Mamma Anderson's paintings remind me of Peter Doig and Luc Tuymans in the way they heighten a sense of reality into an uncanny state. The colours are plain but startling, and this splodgy picture of a kitchen reminds me of my Nana.

Here's a version of the song that inspired this post's title, by the way...


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The names Bonding. Male Bonding.

Sometimes, what I need in the morning is a short blast of guitar/noise/pop. Not every morning, I grant you, but today Male Bonding provided the spark. Good look, too. Reminds me of my days off.

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Liver Is The Cock's Comb

When I was at university I read a fair bit about Arshile Gorky and it seems he was as much a shape-shifter in his life as he was in his biomorphic art. No-one really knows when he was born and his personal life was mired in tragedy until his early death. I've never obsessed over Gorky like I have with other artists, but I definitely find his imagery alluring and therein lies his appeal to me, rather than personal facts.

The title of this painting is amazing - a real breath of fresh air compared to the blankness of 'Untitled' (which has its own merits in allowing an artwork to speak for itself). It's a vivid title, just like the painting, which creates a world for you to explore and mull over.

I really relish the task of naming songs or albums, as it happens (my friends and I have spent hours laughing at fictional band names, but actual band names are a pain in the bum...).


Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Light Of The Blade

"I walk in the gleams of dust/that mirror us."

From 'The Light of the Blade' by André du Bouchet.

I look for places where language has been used wisely.

Amazing Grace

I saw Grace Jones last year at the Sage in Gateshead and she changed her outfit after each song, chuntering to the audience offstage through her microphone. She had a different hat for each song, including one designed by Chris Levine that created a mirrorball effect when lasers were zapped towards it. At that moment the room exploded with blinding light. It was an extraordinary show.

Andy Warhol created the above image in his typical manner, which, despite its ubiquity, remains a startling and uplifting style.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Anger Is An Energy

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing counter-culture film-maker Kenneth Anger introduce a selection of his colour-saturated films at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle.
He was less weird than his legend suggests and was wearing a fantastic red sweater with 'ANGER' knitted in relief across its chest.

The offbeat imagery in his films has been massively influential on all sorts of artists and I thought I'd share a slice here.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Another Day (Spot the difference)

All beautiful (principally because the song's beautiful); one haunting, one dramatic, one wistful.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Top Of The Pops

I love the sound of Pops' guitar. When you take it out of the context of The Staple Singers band, it shines real bright. Added to that, an internal rhythm that he plays along to guarantees a unique performance. If you like this (and Talking Heads) check Pops out in David Byrne's movie True Stories - an odd slice of pop culture entertainment.

A quivering voice to match the guitar - "Did you hear what I said? Yeah."

Warning: This video features explicitly big hair and awkward banter courtesy of the host.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Queen Nina

Despite the truth of the last post, I feel the need to share things I love with people, which makes it impossible to refrain from embedding this next short video. Nina Simone is a masterful singer and here she seems distracted, constantly probing for the emotion of the song. Such simplicity in the lyric, such adventure in the voice.


Cave, man.

"Anything that anyone has to say outside making a record isn't that important." - Nick Cave

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

New Gravity

I've just got hold of a copy of Swithering by the poet Robin Robertson. Here's something pertinent he said in 2008:

"Art is difficult and I don't see why we should shy away from it. We live in such a disposable age that anything that needs a second thought is ignored. We are missing out on the real sustenance."

And here's a touching poem by Robertson:

New Gravity

Treading through the half-light of ivy

and headstone, I see you in the distance

as I'm telling our daughter

about this place, this whole business:

a sister about to be born,

how a life's new gravity suspends in water.

Under the oak, the fallen leaves

are pieces of the tree's jigsaw;

by your father's grave you are pressing acorns

into the shadows to seed.

This poem is from the collection, A Painted Field.


What a load of old pony.

I must stop just rifling through YouTube... but until I do here's some more videos that caught my eye (but mostly my ear(s)).
Two of a perfect pair. Both sadly departed.

First up, the widescreen groan of Australian poet David McComb and his band The Triffids, accompanied by one of the naffest videos out there, but bear with it for a glimpse of McComb lip-synching in a field, looking like a lost soul. What a grand song.

Secondly, an example of great musicianship and an inventive, questing spirit from John Fahey, one of my favourite guitarists. An errant yet gifted man, by most accounts.


Quicksilver fingers

Sometimes, late at night, I'll put on a record by Mississippi John Hurt in order to soothe me into a restful sleep. As with most blues singers, there's a despair and turmoil being described in many of the songs, but Hurt's voice is so gentle and comforting, and his guitar playing twists and twinkles, until, finally, the predominant feeling is of a softened joy.

This clip has a lovely, hesitant introduction in the days before television sanded off the edges of a performance and became a slicker vehicle. A simple song, yes, but you try playing it!


Friday, 19 February 2010

Read between the lines.

Ladies and gentlemen, Lester Beall

I was looking at some Jan Tschichold (master typographer) layouts and then I saw this chap's work.
It was indicative of its time and although indebted to others, this has no impact on my enjoyment of it.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Teenage Sundays

A friend of mine sent me this rough and ready footage of The Sundays singing My Finest Hour and it brought back a lot of feelings I'd had when I was younger. As a thirteen-year old, I found The Sundays to be the female-fronted version of The Smiths, with Harriet Wheeler's swooping voice also reminding me of a more lucid Elizabeth Fraser. These days, I think what strikes me most is the Englishness of the voice and the ringing guitar. Rhythmically, it's of its time, but there's a real strength in a woman singing "poetry is not for me", ironically, in a quite florid and 'poetic' context.

I was at a woman's house once and I wandered over to her pile of CDs to have a nosy, but she rightly admonished me for my typically-male habit. She said something like, "Don't go sniffing around and judging me by my taste in music - men always do that and make mental notes about my psyche". At least, that was the gist. Ever since, I've reigned in my eagerness to inspect people's belongings the first time I visit their house.

I'm also reminded of Tracyanne Campbell's lyrics on Camera Obscura's Swans: "No surprises in the record collection/You must've thought I was someone else", which is both a sad and withering song. The first time I heard it, it gave me a pang in my chest.


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Green With Envy

Here's some footage of a confident young man in total control of his own ability. The guitar rolls and growls as his smooth voice teases out a sorrowful tale. I will never be able to play the guitar as well as he does, but that's okay because this good stuff already exists. I'll just sit back and look on with wonder.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Radio Days

Whatever happened to the more literal film poster?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Tony Amazes Me

My height ... just average
My weight ... just average
And my IQ is like you'd estimate, just average
But evidently she does not agree

Consequently, if I seem at sea ...
It amazes me, it simply amazes

What she sees in me
Dazzles me, dazes me
That I've learned to clip my wings
And soften my ways
These are ordinary things
Unworthy of praise
Yet she praises me
Just knowing I'd try for her
When so many would,
If they could,
Die for her
I'm the one who's worldly-wise
And nothing much phases me
But to see me in her eyes
It just amazes me.

When I listen to Tony Bennett, I listen to the more mature recordings. Every bump and bobble in his delivery has been earned.
'It Amazes Me' has such an air-tight form that when a master like Bennett gets hold of it, the song is like one long sigh of satisfaction.

LoneLady This Christmas

I really like this picture. It's of a musician from Manchester, who's on Warp Records.
The grain of her suit and the shadows from her collar are both really important to its success. She's expressionless, which makes a change in a photograph meant to be seen by lots of people to 'promote' your music. No pouts, no scowls, no grins, no intensity - just light falling on the upper body of another person.


Saturday, 2 January 2010

Soft and Downey

What to do do on NYD (I assume people are abbreviating the day after, too)?
Pie, mash, peas and Clapton were on the menu for me. I was thumbing through a friend's record collection as vegetarian pie smells wafted through the air when I came across a copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel. For a serious record, it has a funny cover. It looks like Paul Simon's hair is a giant handlebar moustache drooping from Art Garfunkel's upper lip. I also pondered what it would be like to hear this record when it was released; to be part of a different time and to wonder how this now ubiquitous album fitted into its own socio-historical context. You can hear so much space on the key songs; such a gentle merger of voices and sounds. Imagine if it was coming out tomorrow (download only).

This was followed by a walk in the deep snow where my foot became submerged enough for the snow to cover my toes and look like it was wiggling about of its own accord, before crumbling in the silence.

Going to the big pictures was a snap decision, but when the main roads are slushy, the bright lights and shiny fittings are strangely appealing.
Robert Downey Junior's Holmes was unusually tanned for Victorian London, but picking holes in a Guy Ritchie movie is not the done thing when brain candy's on offer. I love the Conan Doyle stories, but the best way to approach the film is to ignore the source and hitch a ride on the blockbuster express, calling at stations known as 'Fightscene' and 'Chase' on the way to your destination. Nobody will match Jeremy Brett's depiction of the detective in the TV series, so Downey sensibly goes for smart instead of brooding; cartoon instead of character.

From the top floor of The Gate complex you can look down on the club next door with its under-lit floor and curvy, futuristic barstools, but it seems permanently sealed off because of the layers of glass that separate the two spaces. It has a faint, indistinct allure.