Monday, 1 October 2012

Coarse Dreaming

My obsession with this song is running pretty deep at the moment, it gets richer with each listen. I want to focus on the lyrics, although there's much to be said about the performance: the irregular meter means (I think) that Richard Thompson and Martin Carthy aren't quite sure when the changes are coming, there's a hesitant, on-the-fly quality to the accompaniment; the delicacy and coarseness in Mike's voice (as in Lal's, which is even more devastating).

A phrase keeps popping into my head: coarse dreaming. That applies particularly to Lal's lyrics - Mike's songs are good but Lal's are the real mysteries. 'Fine Horseman' starts in a place you think you understand but then roams far and deep. 'Never The Same' I really haven't a clue about from the off.

For 'The Scarecrow', most takes on it that I've found online focus on the pagan/feritility imagery and in particular the disturbing suggestion of child sacrifice. Or suggest that it might just be about a scarecrow, which of course is fine.

I think it was after I read that Lal had written the majority of the words and Mike had finished them off  that I imagined Lal singing it. So then it seemed to be a song of slow, burgeoning love, a love that starts almost in scorn. It's a fairly common experience to meet someone who later becomes a good friend and/or lover but your first reaction was "what on earth are you?" I outlined this interpretation to James and he said "oh, so it's like a romantic comedy." So in this 'romantic comedy' version, 'Lal', through Mike, is singing to the scarecrow, this "thing on the pole" that has troubled her gaze. Gradually, observing it, pity, tenderness, turn to love. "Now you can lay me down and love me."

The fact that Mike sings it, though, abstracts it, takes it away from a strictly male-female set-up. So it's also more generally about the horror and beauty of the other.

In either of these gazes there's also an inquiry into human agency and usefuleness. The lover or friend (or just fellow man) asks "what are  you good for?" The scarecrow does nothing for itself, it's only a "bag of rags in an overall", it only raises its head (and scares the crows) when the wind lifts it up. But just through its being there, "the corn can grow tall".That's all, maybe that's enough.

What of the fertility rituals and child sacrifice? Again, it's literally a depiction of those things but perhaps it's also about 'Lal' again but this time she's not singing to the scarecrow, she's singing to another but watching the scarecrow, waiting for the sign that she's ripe to conceive. "How could you lay me down and love me?" "Now you can lay me down and love me."

There's also a tension between what's natural and unnatural. In 'Electric Eden', Rob Young says the Watersons were always singing about the seasons, and here they're at it again. The natural cycle, natural processes. In a pastoral vision, men are in tune with nature, they are part of the cycle. But they're also trying to influence it, interfere with it, disrupt it - installing a scarecrow, sacrificing their own.

Last night I listened to it and it was 'Mike' singing this time, singing to himself. The Scarecrow in the mirror.

Monday, 24 September 2012


Some things I didn't like about Holy Motors - Carax's 'humour' on some occasions, like the cliche of a cliche that is the fashion photographer, crying "beauty, beauty!" Kylie's song - although viewed as a nearly-song, or a song trying to construct itself, to figure out what it itself means, it's quite interesting. The fact that of course it would get a standing ovation at Cannes because it's cinema about cinema for people who are utterly invested in cinema. I mean I know that sometimes what a painting tells you most about is painting, and so why not have a painting say "I am a painting about painting"... but I think my level of investment in cinema is less than in music, which sometimes means I have a less problematic relationship with it (and also means I can sometimes enjoy it more). So occasionally I caught myself thinking "come on, it's just cinema" (which to be fair, Carax also says, in the death scene).

What I did like about it is those moments where you experience a giddy lightness, "la beauté du geste", as it's referred to in the film. Merde's scenes with Eva Mendes - there I found myself placed in the position of trying too hard "read" Carax, but just Merde on a rampage - yes, I could have watched that for even longer. The motion capture scene - Carax is clearly making a point, perhaps a little too hard by actually showing us the CGI at the end in its almost sublime crapness. But what precedes it is actually wonderful, it absolutely knocks your Hollywood 'visionaries' like James Cameron and Ridley Scott into a cocked hat. And then there's the musical interlude.

Holy Motors is a paradoxical attempt to re-enchant cinema by musing on its death, or its afterlife. As it happens, I'm going through a break-up at the moment, while still living with my partner. The funny thing there is that with the decision taken, our relationship, in its afterlife, has become re-enchanted. With the pressure off, and knowing that our time together like this is limited, we've actually rediscovered the pleasure and even the joy of each other's company. A lightness I thought was lost has crept back in. Almost to the point where you think "are we doing the right thing?" But we wouldn't be here if we hadn't taken the decision, if we hadn't decided it was over.

Obviously I thought about this after watching Holy Motors. Has the film helped my personal situation? Probably as much as my personal situation helped my appreciation of the film. Not much, hardly at all even, but that's still not a bad arrangement.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Love Minus Zero

So here's the plan - write an album that will appeal to all New Left-ers out there using song titles taken directly from Zero Books. How's this for a tracklisting?

i) Lives; Running

ii) Cloud Time

iii) No Local

iv) Imaginary Games

v) The Blue In The Air

vi) Non-Stop Inertia

vii) The Prince and The Wolf

viii)Holes in the Whole

ix) Slime Dynamics

x) The Ringtone and the Drum

(Hidden track: The Irresistible Demise of Michael Jackson)

I've picked ones I haven't read, which means that the titles alone are a lot more suggestive. It seems like it gets more interesting/out-there towards the end.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

London Bawling

There were pieces in the immediate on the reaction from UK grime/rap artists to the riots but Tom has alerted me to another type of musical response - young singer-songwriters picking up their guitars and uploading songs to YouTube expressing their horror at this other Britain, one consisting of these "animals" on the streets. The police do get a chiding but the 'anger' is mostly aimed at the rioters, these motiveless anarchists, destroyers of property.

More of a cheeky Arctic Monkeys vibe on this one. Can't quite tell if this is supposed to be ironic (more likely having its cake and eating it...)

Friday, 9 March 2012


A couple of places you can now order Grazed Red from, as it's out on Monday 12th March.

The Aagoo online store

And Norman Records

Also, we'll be playing a launch gig at Surya - London's "eco-venue" - in Kings Cross on 20th March, and it's free entry.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Hard to Buy

Recently watched Desplechin's 'Un Conte de Noel' - 'A Christmas Tale'.

"It’s hard to buy Ivan’s reaction when his wife spends a night with his cousin – just one of too many character or story moments that jar," Time Out London Review

But in Desplechin generally, the real question is...

Is this heaven or hell? Is this a better or a worse world than the one of 'credible' relations between people, of reactions we can 'buy'.