As feared, following the murder of 25 year old Army Drummer Lee Rigby, resultant violence was seen in Woolwich last night, with EDL protesters moving against Metpol to make their sentiments known about the Muslim communities of the UK. Here are a few choice examples of their spectacular levels of collective IQ:
Because clearly, Rushdie and Van Gogh are spinning in their rebellious graves over their respective murders at the hands of Islam.
Then we have the papers. The Guardian, the Sun and the Mail, choosing to print full-length, front page copy of one of the killers, bloody hands and all. These papers are stacked in the eyeline of small children, in every conceivable newsagents across the country. The papers might as well have been advocating the notoriety which the attackers so desperately sought. A bit of editorial commonsense, would’ve sufficed.
I’m afraid this is beyond Darwin, now; we’re actually regressing, as a species.
And to cap it all, this appeared on my Facebook feed last night, after I’d posted about the attack and subsequent fears for the Muslim communities across the UK:
—- “if we didn’t let the fuckers in this country in the first place we wouldn’t be in this situation now ?????”
Well, you know what they say about being able to choose friends, but not family? I’d rather like to opt out of that clause.
My response: “Oh come on, —-, you know better than that. These lads are probably 2-3 generations removed from the lands of their ancestors, London born and bred. We need to get over this ‘our country’ bullshit. It belongs to us all, the English language is peppered with words that the Empire cadged off other countries when we took them over. Can’t very well conquer places and then say to the development descendants, ‘oh no, you can’t come back to our place, this is strictly a one- way door.
We need to find which hateful syndicate is pouring poison into young Muslim ears in and around Woolwich. But to be honest, I have a feeling these two have insanity issues as well, and their defence may well plug this. Certainly, it was frenzied brutality on a new scale.”
Incidentally, the BBC live coverage at the crime scene earlier, stated that it has very much “wound down” since 24 hours ago. Which should really be a cue for the sodding cameras to be taken off-site, don’t you think?
SOCO, for all their intricate work, don’t exactly make for riveting live feed, after all.
My thoughts and heartfelt pity lie with the family of Lee Rigby; with his two-year-old son, who has not only lost his father, but any chance of the precious anonymity we, the majority public, take for granted in life.
How to continue in everyday life, against scenes such as this?
In Woolwich, South East London, a man – described by local MP Nick Raynsford as a soldier at Woolwich barracks (unconfirmed as yet) and dressed in a Help for Heroes t-shirt – was hauled off the pavement and hacked to death, in a suspected jihadist attack. Eyewitness “James” described the attackers as “just animals. They dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road and left his body there.” There is a strong suggestion they were trying to behead the young man.
Not only did the killers wait for police to arrive, they were seen to charge up and down the road with the blood fresh on their machetes and clothes. They called for their pictures to be taken. They called for Allah to bless them (“Allahu Akbar” [God is Great])
These young men were not representatives of the holy name they spoke. Call it what you like, terror attack or murder – it takes a certain kind of person to enact such brutality on another human being. These two, after being shot down by Metpol, are now being treated in hospital. At least UK police leave the culprits alive, even when riddled with bullets. They will be able to talk.
They will be brought to justice, in a manner appropriate to their “cause.” They will be treated with more dignity and respect than that which they showed their victim, and onlookers (one was heard to tell witnesses, “We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. I apologise that women have had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government, they don’t care about you.”)
Oh, they may philander, and they may be slippery as eels. But they will deliver swift justice in the name of our country’s protection, and without the help of rabble-rowsers such as the EDL. Though UKIP may be preening themselves right now, the last thing they – or any other political figure – should dare do, is try to gain an upper hand in this horrendous situation.
I fear for Muslims everywhere, tonight, and in the days to come.
Theresa May has been briefed by MI5, and COBRA called (Dominic Casciani, Home affairs correspondent):
“It is too soon to know exactly what happened. But what makes this completely different to any other violent attack is the fact that the prime minister asked the home secretary to convene a meeting of Whitehall’s emergency response committee. Those meetings are not convened lightly.
The fact is that all available accounts point towards this being a terrorist incident carried out by someone inspired by al-Qaeda’s jihadist ideology. If that’s the case it would be the first such incident leading to a death of someone other than the perpetrator since the London suicide bombings of 2005.
So the first task for ministers will be to consider what implications the situation has for the public and national security.
The official terrorism threat level is currently “substantial” – the third highest level – which means that an attack is “a strong possibility”.
If officials raise the level to “severe”, that would mean they fear that another attack is highly likely.
So the cycle comes around again. Against a potentially larger threat, we need to stick together.
And this means every race, every religious denomination.
The National are a band who know the importance of Time. As the conduit of their experience, the temperance of their quality, it is to the 14-year old Brooklyn band’s discography what age is to fine wine.
I have always looked upon their album progression as love letters to a relationship. 2001 and the eponymous album, saw their lusty awkwardness thread itself through songs such as Perfect Song (“Wanted me to take you home / You said you’d rather be alone / I never thought of that / Car is warm and we had wine / But I couldn’t find the perfect song.”) Progressing through the usual agonies of closet-jealousy, misunderstanding and I need you/I don’t need you’s of any fledgling relationship, 2003′s Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers was more rambunctious in its piss and vinegar, as much an experimentation in sound as attitude. Easy to recognise those teething problems in songs like Available (“Do you still feel clean / When the only dirt is the dirt I left / How can you blame yourself / When I did everything I wanted to?”)
Through the subsequent three albums, we have experienced the flourishing of that relationship, into something that overrides the indignity of losing whole pieces of one’s self – voluntarily given, or laid down to preserve what must be nurtured. We have matured with the band, beyond longing and lust, into a simple understanding of love’s irrefutable truth: that some things are worth the lies, the absences; they are worth exploring further, asking forgiveness for, while receiving it with head hung. Isn’t that what makes us adult, and heartsore with it, after all?
This, their sixth album, finds us on that melancholic stretch, where burdens and old-gold love go hand in hand. Lives so thoroughly intertwined seem impossible to pull apart. The dull ache – at times burning to an altogether keener pain – permeates the bittersweet tone of the album; a continuous realization that Yes, every day will be the same; but to try and live it otherwise, alone, is almost as unbearable (“But if you lose me, I’m gonna die .. Things are tougher than we are.”) – Heavenfaced)
Exploring the exquisite range of his voice – and here, the old cliches are the best, for only melted dark chocolate could produce such a smooth sound – Matt Berninger tells us of life on the road, the much-vaunted rockstar lifestyle so many would kill for, which in turn has the knack of killing that which we need most, if allowed to. Absence can only make the heart fonder for so long, and never is this more apparent than in I need my Girl (“In a week we’ll be together / Try to call you when I’m landed / I need my girl.”)
With the band, we find that aching loneliness in crowds, the stone at the heart of a peach. It is a kaleidoscopic world of tours and studio, as the longing for balance between adventure and home (“everything I love is on the table, everything I love is out to sea”) jostles for space with the sharp, bright fragments.
As ever, names lovingly dropped are as pages turned in someone else’s well-thumbed paperback; each personality is elusive to us in their individuality, but still resonate with such depth of feeling that we soon come to know them, too. We find these people in our living rooms, our bedrooms and lives (“Jenny, I am in trouble / I can’t get these thoughts out of me.”)
Now-familiar beats continue to chronicle the National’s sound – Graceless could well be the darker twin of Bloodbuzz Ohio, that heart-race anthem of fifth album High Violet. The triumph of the latter is replaced with something altogether more poignant, a frustration we have all known, found in the helplessness of being mortal and unable to believe in anything (“I’m trying, but I’m graceless / Don’t have the sunny side to face this.”) At least, until the sun rolls around again, with a rub of the face and embarrassed laugh for feeling so low in self.
Not all the old fire has dimmed, though. The old fears and jealousies lurk; the trials and tribulations of seeing an altogether wider, harder world leave us reeling with the shock (“I was teething on roses / I was in guns and noses … she wore Blue Velvet / she says she can’t help it.”) It is standing before the two-way mirror, seeing yourself in another person’s actions and finding yourself unable to break the glass.
Never afraid to curse and deride himself (“You didn’t see me I was falling apart / I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park … I was a television version of a person with a broken heart,”) Matt is on top autobiographical form, swept along on the baroque storm that is the lifeblood of the band. From the staccato drums and crest-plunge waves of Sea of Love to the trickle- honey guitar of I need my Girl, this is as powerfully personal an album as any the National have yet created.
I Should Live In Salt
Don’t Swallow The Cap
Sea Of Love
This Is The Last Time
I Need My Girl
Hard To Find
A little while back, I was asked to post some poetry on my blog for a follower to read. And of course, sieve that my memory can be, this information drained right through as soon as something else (novel, work, a bee) got my attention.
So, without further ado – some mind ripples. They usually occur at emotional peaks, when no other outlet will do. Being half-cut usually helps in the process; though were I to try a live reading, I’d need said bottle and a table to stand on, and subsequently fall off.
Published earlier this year (I still hold copyright)
Flowers on my windowsill
Pale and lifeless, cut
And steeped in old water
Their heads shun the light.
The scent of the lilies
Streaks my mind, lost
As it is in memories
With no hope of return.
This bed, my soft grave,
White as the skin
Which papers my bones,
Holds a memory alone.
Written for my paternal grandfather, a real Jupiter of a character; now sadly diminished in age, but no less loving (or articulate)
I wait among shadows, the smell of old leather
Where bees wax and boot polish mingle and blend
To settle my nervy excitement, to keep
My twitching young fingers from straying too near.
A small golden crescent of lamplight dethrones
The darkness from seating itself in his place
Of workman repose, of silent production
With small ticking arms, and shining clock face.
His dexterous fingers dance with a spidery
Grace and intelligence so seldom seen
Among men of his age and endurance in living
But Grandfather breathes with the breath of a trade.
A collector of watches and clocks in his time
As jeweler and husband, as father and man
Of travels cross-country and through many homes
Where his head lay on pillows of feather and straw.
But settled is he in a workshop of webs
Of dust and old tools, where the mice come and go
And here shall I stand in my corner, to wait
For the memories that fragment, to follow me home.
Scrawled out in my notepad, while bored as sin in what was purported to be a Creative Writing seminar, at Portsmouth Uni. I lasted about 9 weeks there.
A tapestry of autumn
Banked against a sky of pearl
A room within, hard walls of lemon
With heads bent low
Trained on the job in hand.
A restless leaf, my mind
Is stirred in the fearless breeze
Along the ledge, the baubles of rain
Cluster as starlings
Awaiting their shining flight.
And a few haikus, posted to Twitter when out walking and inspired, or lost in the daze before sleep:
The dance of the rook / Blackest wing to shroud my day / Night lives in its throat
With the faintest light / Love’s lasting kiss, the promise / A secret and star
It’s a milk-honey sky out there, a gorgeous evening. Make sure you fling the windows wide, friend; let the leaf-shadows and blossom in, and the tortured breath of humans, out.
I have always viewed tribute acts as precarious things. Too often, the enthusiasm that drives them – an adoration born of determination, like any fan, to recapture a semblance of what was – cancels out what talent there is. How many times have you turned up at a local venue, in anticipation of reliving that original gig or mind-blowing concert, to feel saturated in talent and shared fandom again – only to find a threadbare lookalike bellowing into a crackly mic, his own band attempting to drown him out? I’m haunted by memories of such events.
So it was with a heavy heart that I saw the posters last year, splashed over the exterior of the Horn pub in St Albans, detailing one of their many weekend tribute acts. Normally, I will smile and walk on by, able to parcel the thought away that ah well, it doesn’t detract from the original. In the same sense, I don’t take photos when on holiday. How can a glossy piece of paper hope to recapture the freedom I once felt, outside of normal life? Best to indulge in memories alone.
To my own reasoning, how could a tribute act like The Smyths, hope to recreate an insurmountable legacy?
I was born in the year Meat is Murder was released. Fortunate enough to have a father in the RAF – who just happened to DJ on his time off, in the NAAFI – I was exposed early-on to the sort of music that might rewrite a child’s life. Leonard Cohen, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd – and of course, the Smiths. The kind of artists who told stories, sometimes without using words. The type of music my peers would often scorn later in college, when speaking of their parents’ taste. Already feeling misplaced in time (one of my Dad’s friends called me an “old soul”), I left them all to Shanks & Bigfoot.
I’ll never forget the look on Dad’s face when, aged four, I heard my first Smiths song, “How Soon is Now?” and – correlating it with a sound I heard everyday – asked him how they’d got a wokka-wokka (my baby term for the Chinook helicopter) on it?
I’m listening to that oscillating guitar now. It still makes me smile to remember those twin-rotor blades in the sky.
The Smiths were there for me through school and college; when I refused to wear the tights ‘n tiny skirt combi my female peers favoured; when the inevitable teasing came, for my cropped hair (an easier route, because of eczema), I could listen to a man who – so my Dad told me – regularly wore cast-off cardigans and quiffed his hair in a way no one outside the Billy Fury years would understand. A man who prowled with a feline elegance and disdain I found appealing, who eschewed meat – as I most surely did, despite my parents’ protests. A man I couldn’t hope to find in my home town full of shaven eyebrows and sports labels. I could, while listening to Dad’s crackling vinyl, at least dream of that better world.
So with these precious memories in mind, to say I was being generous when buying a ticket to see the Smyths, is putting it mildly. With the rise of the internet and Youtube, I’d already begun to fit that jangling guitar, that cat-strut figure with its sloping vocals, the heartbeat bass and prickling drums, to what I had experienced on abstract vinyl for years. Why bother to tarnish the originals?
Curiousity has always bitten this cat.
We arrived early, as the guys at the Cross Keys pub had put me in a foul mood for having the temerity to run out of Morgans’ Spiced rum. The Horn has a neat little bar area that bean-shapes itself around to meet the low-ceiling venue room; good for parceled-acoustics, not so great for a dance. Still, we mingled among the eclectic jumble of middle-aged and young-twenties who had gathered, each with their own stories to tell of Smiths-adoration. The older folk, in their original-print T-shirts and sporting gladioli out of back pockets, had clearly seen the original band live. I soaked up their anecdotes gleefully. The younger ones, closer to my age, wore fantastic home-brand merchandise; the lad in the T-shirt emblazoned with floral print I dreamt about you last night, and I fell out of bed twice won hands down.
We supped our drinks as the pub filled up with yet more fans. I was forced to reassess not only my count of Smiths fans in St Albans, but the impact of the tribute to come, particularly when I spotted a few T-shirts emblazoned with their spelling. No Smiths fan would dare make the mistake.
The Cure, Joy Division, Depeche Mode – the music sifted into our background on a continuous reel, as we made our way into the venue room. A welcome nod of contemporaries; and needless to say, as the booze flowed, the mood buzzed with a keener note.
We’d worked ourselves into a decent state of excitement by the time the lights dimmed, to rousing cheers and the standard Smiths’ intro of Prokofiev’s March of the Knights. As the band strode gracefully on stage, plucking up old-friend instruments, I felt a strange shock down my spine, as the tall figure followed them through the backstage door.
Only Morrissey could get away with that on-stage sashay to something so dramatic as Prokofiev, with tongue jammed squarely in his cheek. And believe me, Graham – the Smyths vocalist – let it slip in true Moz style, more than a few times that night.
Though in his early 40′s, Graham has the feral dignity of the original, which I had believed inimitable. As Paul Morley put it in his interview with the tribute act, he pulls off a decent Morrissey circa-1985, in the looks department – but only decent. The true magic happens when he opens his mouth.
I couldn’t stop giggling, all delight, as the lean figure stalked back and forth across the stage in his red cardigan and jeans that Simon Cowell would beg for. Offering us his folded arms, leer and occasional banter, he had the personality down pat, all right. We were helpless in the face of it, really. Graham is an intoxicating presence, not merely a tribute, but a conduit.
There were perhaps seven of us younger ones, rammed right up against the row of speakers out front, due to the press of people behind and in anticipation of a much-loved phenomenon, witnessed on Youtube of past fans. And when it came, one lass in particular led the way, stretching up with a devotee’s arm to grab at Graham’s jeans. After that ice-breaker, only into the third song, there was no going back. We were all after a bit of him, this medium of our disenchantment with the world. Things aren’t so very different from 1983, though the Iron Pants have been exchanged for itchy wooliness.
We have known the taunts, the pointing fingers; the braces and awkwardness, the ineptitude and the loneliness; and when crying just wouldn’t do it justice, there was the Smiths. For those of us out in the front row, it was as much a cauterizing event as an affirmation – that the words we had listened to for years on charity-shop vinyl, hadn’t been a money-grabbing hoax by a Northern band. Morrissey continues to outdo all lyricists in in his ability to turn the darkest hours of our life, to light; to wholly agree with us that Yes, the world’s a bitch but that it’s still worth giving a playful slap on the arse to. Believe me, there was plenty of that, with an asexual lust that the original blue-eyed bastard of erotica and ego as tall as his hair, might’ve been proud of.
The albums were sifted through with an orderless finger, and I experienced the joy of hearing “Jeane” live for the first time – to be honest, I was rather glad for this virgin exposure. Though my only grievance lay in the omission of the frantic drumroll and staccato lyrics of The Queen is Dead (my favourite method of breaking in new earphones), its domineering presence was filled neatly with the likes of B-sides Rubber Ring, Please, Please, Please and Oscillate Wildly, live performances of which are like rocking-horse droppings to find. And speaking of oscillation – yes, my eyes did mist up, as the guitarists effortlessly spun out the chords of How Soon is Now? Layered on thick, they reverberated around that packed room until I was there, back in 80′s Gutersloh, head up and watching the sky outside the RAF base where I grew up.
For that is another precious gift of tribute bands, learned that night by your most humbled narrator – that whatever is brought to the act, can only help to season the flavour.
“You’ll never see The Smiths again, but The Smyths are the next best thing,” says Music-News.com.
With a tribute like the Smyths – who promote themselves on their site as “The Smiths band of Smiths fans for Smiths fans” – the light won’t be going out anytime soon.