Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Gathering Storm

I’m no anti-American, seriously, not in a million years. I don’t subscribe to any of the Brit crap about USA stupidity or the lack-of-irony myth, when my own experience has been almost exclusively that of open-minded, open-hearted people. They’ve maintained welcoming curiosity and in many cases good manners that have long gone in many parts of Drunk UK.

But it’s worth really thinking about some of the raw aggression and open racism that has surfaced in the crowds at the increasingly desperate McCain/Palin rallies recently. The heckles need to be tied to the possible defeat of the conservative ticket, the economic problems and the slow decay of the American Empire: and I think they, as much as anything, signal the truly dreadful possibilities ahead in that land.

I love the USA so much. A month doesn’t go by when we don’t sit at home seriously weighing up the possibilities of moving to southern California and, when the boys from Entourage went out to Joshua Tree last week to take shrooms, I felt a physical longing for that place. No, it doesn’t conflict with my politics, obviously you can love a land, people, culture, counter-culture, even streets and buildings, without loving its government or systems. And anyway, if I was to move somewhere purely for politics, I’d be in Cuba or Venezuela right now, so that makes no sense.

However, I think there’s a truly epic gathering storm, as the great empire of the 20th century makes way for the great empires of the 21st, in the far east. You can see it in Simon Schama’s exploration of the water problems in the Colorado basin and even hints of it in Stephen Fry’s lighter-in-tone but equally perceptive jaunt.

They are used to opulence and it’s running out. They are used to freedom and – in order to maintain control as resources thin – it will be reigned in. Some are used to tying morally regressive patriarchy to isolationist elegy, when now, both are seeping away. Some are used to ignoring the Other America, the underbelly of The Wire and Hurricane Katrina and no health insurance, yet now that underbelly is rising. They are used to cheap gas (it’s still half the price of ours) but that’s ebbing fast and relies on their enemies.

They are used to being winners and deifying the concept of victory, yet they are headed – in so many ways – for defeat. There’s still no bigger insult than ‘loser’ in the USA.

They are armed. 

By the way, I’ve just boshed off a complaint to the BBC about last night’s execrable Panorama, which, despite touting itself as a balanced look at the US election, turned out to be a strangely Fox News-esque and unBeeblike hatchet job, moulding scarcely any real content into a negative picture of Obama’s rise, while avoiding any similar study of his two rivals and ignoring his running-mate completely.

Simply: to bring up the Reverend Wright connection as an argument undermining Obama (in an emotive way, juxtaposing the worst soundclip over a photo of them together), yet not mention a single issue about Palin (such as her exorcism by a far more extreme religious nut, who has run people out of their homes for being witches, or her links to Alaskan Independence movements, or the bridge to nowhere, or McCain’s Keating scandal, or – for god’s sake – her rampant creationist extremism), instead letting the ‘hockey mom’ myth stand and presenting her as a mainstream populist alternative, was beyond biased, it was dangerously irresponsible and misleading for the UK public about what is really going on inside the USA.

While there is definitely some space for questions about Obama’s lack of legislative substance and fast rise through Chicago’s political scene, it was despicable that they let McCain and Palin off similar (any!) scrutiny.

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saving the economy in one go / last night

Yesterday I realised the ultimate right-wing dream: a one-step solution to the global economic crisis that doesn’t involve scary socialism. Just make a big (cost-free) ethical shift instead of these crazy-expensive fiscal shifts… here we go: let’s legalise the black markets. Drugs, the sex trade, the movement of labour and suddenly some of the world’s biggest, most stable and profit-making trades become a sizeable chunk of the ‘official’ economy. All the resources currently spent fighting them can be channelled into their development and the deregulators get to crow victory. A shot in the arm, if you like.

Really enjoyed yesterday’s Manchester jaunt. Marc Riley is a total gent, his team are lovely and we rocked it. It’s dangerous having a bar so near the studio though – especially with gaps between each performance – because the band has a swift one after get-in, another swift one after soundcheck and then one between each song.

Not me, I was driving.

Only bummer was, we adjourned to a highly recommended curry house, where everyone else had a delicious meal but I had a shite one. My floridly-described main course was just sag aloo with an onion. Asked for it mild, got it medium-strong. The tarka dal was viciously hot as well and even the pilau wasn’t much cop. And they forgot my mango lassi (though it was the nicest bit when it came). So I don’t care that the rest of the party was raving, I was gutted. Then three hours down the motorway I nearly lost my rag in Welcome Break, where it took thee different attempts to score a pathetic excuse for a coffee. Both Coffee Nation machines in WHSmith were bust and the staff were a bit ‘confused’. Especially once the milk started running and running. So I was forced into Coffee Primo, Welcome Break’s pretend café brand. It’s the worst! The staff can’t make hot drinks for shit, you get a filthy lukewarm milk’n’dirt mess and you don’t realise it’s undrinkable until you’re back on the road, doing 80 miles an hour with nowhere to throw it. The canteen was full of flies as well. God I hope their IT department tracks back!

trouser-free near miss

I must be going mad. I’ve spent most of the morning sat in front of the laptop with my guitar, just in a t-shirt and pants, trying to tape a new song. Then I decided to go for a walk around the park, so I put my hat, jacket and boots on, opened the door and stepped outside. I was about to shut the door when I realised I wasn’t wearing any trousers! If I hadn’t clocked in the nick of time, I’d’ve been locked out without phone or cash because my house key is in my trouser pocket.

I’d even gone upstairs to get a pair of socks.

Jim Bob session

Just got out of the Earth Terminal studio with Jim, although it was a shorter session than previous ones – we didn’t mix or even finish vocals, just slammed down multi-layered backing tracks for seven songs and they sound amazingly lush.

I can’t really tell you anything about the theme, style or anything, because it’s not my story to tell – but it’s the third Jim Bob album I’ve been involved in and definitely the best yet. It’s light-of-touch because Jim wrote these tunes fast, while concentrating on something else (writing the script for his story, which has been optioned by a Hollywood production company). It’s also black-as-treacle… but that’s a judgement on unfinished stuff.

Johny came along for the ride and brought crazy instruments with him. We jammed out chunks live, rehearsing the evening before each day, which is a departure for Jim’s stuff. Also, although we’ve been gigging together for almost a year, I haven’t been in a studio environment with Johny before and it was great, he’s got a similar constant musicality to Tim Victor which I should’ve noticed before but didn’t.

Another highlight of being in the studio with Jim is Mr Spoons’ high class catering. Johny is a pro chef but that didn’t cramp Spoons’ wong – he did seriously gorgeous mushroom wellington, squash soup and a blinding veggie curry. But more importantly, he made sticky toffee pudding with dates that was psychedelically intense. Because I’m “cutting down” (whatever the fuck that means), I ate one portion slowly – but when you eat slower, less is more.

The trip kicked my own demos up the bum and I’m rattling along at a decent pace now, will have enough tunes to hand in a disc to management before we head off on tour. I’ve also worked out what this year’s Christmas (free homemade) EP is going to be: A.A. Milne. 

A big personal prop to Sarge and Jane because Sarge is taking 3 weeks off to go campaign for Obama in Nevada and (I assume) he’s only able to do it because Jane is keeping everything else going. And when I say ‘campaign’ I really mean it – he’s working his arse off knocking on doors, canvassing and fighting the good fight in a vital swing state. The US elections seem enormous, showy and impersonal. But really, the importance of swing states means it often comes down to a few thousand votes in certain areas. The work Sarge does in Vegas and surrounding towns will make a real difference.