Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why I support Johann Hari

This should be enough.

When I was 21...

When I was very young I played in a rock band called backwater. I was only a teenager when the songs were written and 21 when they were released. Some of them made it into the indie charts and our faces could be seen in the NME or melody maker and even on MTV once or twice.
There was an album, angels are cool, and a bunch of singles; these were nearly all released on Che, a label based in East London. There is one surviving picture of backwater on the internet and all copies of the videos have been burnt but some of the songs, despite not dating very well, are still pretty cool.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Picciotto and postmodernism

Teaching postmodernism and Baudrillard to A-level students earlier this week, I was struggling to think of any application of the ideas which might be easier to grasp than "the gulf war did not take place".

I began to think of the current election in Ireland as a form of hyperreality; a reference with no referent. The promises made by each party appear more real than any form of reality itself. The loss of economic sovereignty to global institutions has reduced the act of voting to an entirely symbolic act.

Just as we no longer consume to meet actual needs, the Irish electorate is not voting to effect actual change. Instead, it is producing an image of itself and entering into a conversation with other peoples.

It seems the opening line of this conversation will be, "we're fed up with this lot, we're going to give the other lot a chance".

More importantly, this recording of rites of spring turned up on the internet recently. They truly were a great band. Drink deep.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Country shoegaze

I was in a band called julip. At the end it was Niall and Jonny and me but on this recording we were joined by Keith and Michael who, along with Jonny, were in tracer amc and are now both in not squares.
This was our attempt to create the, potentially earth-shattering, country shoegaze genre.
I don't have any pictures of julip, so here's one of me sitting on the back steps of William Faulkner's house, Rowan Oak. That remains one of the best days of my life.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Radio 4

When my inevitable move to Dublin does take place there are a few things I'll really miss. Without a doubt the greatest of these will be the ability to pick up BBC Radio 4 on the car stereo. Today, simply by chance, I caught two programmes which I don't think would have been broadcast elsewhere and that were of such a high quality I was left wondering why anyone would complain about paying their licence fee.

Beyond belief is not my usual cup of tea but, having taught in a convent for the past 10 years, my interest was pricked by the topic of nuns. Much of the discussion was predictable, addressing issues such as the decline in new members; however, two points in particular grasped my attention. Firstly, the openness which emerged after the second Vatican council left many older nuns dealing with feelings of loss and isolation which frequently come when individuals are forced to emerge from what Erving Goffman would call "total institutions". But most interestingly was the contention that being a nun is a counter-cultural activity. The women featured (two Catholic and one Buddhist) felt their rejection of consumerism, materialism and sexual norms gave them a relative autonomy from which to analyse society from a feminist perspective.

More my usual kind of thing was tonight's documentary about the Liberal Democrat's orange book. Attempting to place the Liberals and their antecedents on the ideological spectrum, it served as a reminder that none of us should really be surprised that the current Lib Dem leadership are (and ought to be) natural bedfellows of the Tories.

Great stuff all round.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A lot of good things happened in the last week.
I bought a few good records. Deerhoof v evil is possibly the best thing they've ever released. The pop tunes keep getting bigger and brighter but there is no compromise in the weirdness. There are fewer guitars than on previous releases but there's enough noise from other sources to satisfy. Yeah, and super duper rescue heads is as amazing as you've heard.
Yuck's debut album might have been awful. Constant references to bands I love made me think it could be, at best, a poor version of greatness and, at worst, musical plagiarism. Wrong on both counts. Yes, the references are there for all to hear; snatches of teenage fanclub, swathes of my bloody valentine, spikes of sonic youth and moods of yo la tengo but they're all handled with love. The power of a good melody always wins out.
I got to see a stack of good shows too. Starting with mogwai in Belfast and Dublin, they put in a couple of outstanding performances. Then I headed to see two of Belfast's brightest hopes, girls names and sea pinks, upstairs in Whelan's. Featuring the same three people, they each manage to have a clear identity despite both dealing in big slices of guitar driven indie pop.
I also handed in a couple of application forms to go back to university to do a Masters in Political Communication. This could be another of those times where my life takes some interesting turns.