New Albums

Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Belong

Third stellar album from these pure voiced Americans. The riffs, key changes and harmonies are all still there. Its got up-beat Smiths overtones in an shoegazer kind of way but weirdly uplifting in a poppy way.

Killer line – ‘She was the heart in the heartbreak. She was the miss in the mistake.’

TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

LOVE this band. Brooklyn based kings of versatility do it again. Its a touch short of the epic Dear Science from 2008 but this is still one of the best albums of the year so far. Dave Sitek mixes it up as usual, Tunde trip-hops lullabies and spits out rock and the driving climax is worthy of any late night.

Killer Line – Confidence and ignorance approve me (that’s going in my diss!)

The Weeknd – House of Balloons

Mellow, dark and downcast yet beautifully crafted R n’B, The Weeknd have come out of nowhere and to be the new Girls or The XX of regretful memories, becoming-of-age angst. 20 year old Abel Tesfaye is another Canadian act to follow in their elongated renaissance.

Katy B – On a Mission

I liked this. I didn’t expect to. But Katy B brings a bit more than the usual to dubstep album. Its catchy and holds your attention. Guest appearance of Miss Dynamite as well. Also the last track adds a nice, thoughtful, thankful edge. And thanks for putting 12 songs on an album. Doesn’t happen too often these days

(And this album is highlights the recent love affair of the brass evidenced in The Arcade Fire, Destroyer, The National, TV on the Radio, Bright Eyes and now Katy B. I am sure there are many others too.)

The Mountain Goats – All Eternal Decks

One of the best song-writing groups around. TMG brood multi-layered, acoustic numbers with childhood heroes and wasted love. Reminds you of The Decemberists,

Killer Line – ‘Scream when captured, arch your back. Let this whole town hear your knuckles crack.’

Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See

This album closes very well. I’m not a huge fan of the band but they are coming on. Alex Turner always had a great turn of phrase and his voice is getting smokier as he ages (or smokes!). At times, its like a tribute album to their favourite bands but Love Is a Laserquest is heart-breaking! (And when I’m hanging on by the rings around my eyes. And I convince myself I need another. For a minute it gets easier to pretend that you were just some lover).

Killer Line – ‘Called up to listen to the voice of reason and got his answering machine. I left my message but did he fuck get back to me..

But what about the journalists????

I’ve just been listening to the radio, Radio 5 to be exact. Richard Bacon that loveable non-rogue is presenting and talking to a BBC (yet another) correspondent in Tripoli right now. The correspondent is near the compound now under control of the rebels (why they are called rebels when Gaddifi, a tyrant who took over in a coup I don’t know) but where there is still sporadic gunfire by Gaddafi loyalists. The tragedy was the journalists couldn’t leave the hotel.

What annoyed me what this question from Bacon:

So you are now outside the compound. Are you saying there are actually journalists trapped in there? 

Oh My God….could a journalist actually get hurt doing his job? Can we afford it? Or is the drama related to the lack of tonic for their gins.

The sight of journalists in  enormous flak jackets and helmets interviewing the locals is embarrassing. The locals in the background look on amused. The BBC footage of ‘themselves’ coming under fire was hilarious. While the rest of the convoy continued into Tripoli, the BBC pick-up with its Western driver (probably ex-army) pulled a U-turn and drove off at pace with the important people, cowering in their flak jackets and helmets. The BBC then reported it as if they (the BBC) themselves were targeted.

Well so far very few journalists have been injured or killed in his war. Tim Hetherington, the photojournalist was killed by shelling in April alongside an American photographer caused much hand-wringing. Both sides understand the power of media representation and like in most modern wars have shied away from hurting journalists. The stats show that more journalists died in ‘peaceful times,’ usually at the behest of the state. Indonesia, Russia and Colombia have a pretty poor record here.

I congratulate the journalists for being out there and secretly I ‘m a bit jealous. Moments of crises reveal much about societies and the human psyche. It’s in these stressful times when we see whether we’re able to endure suffering and anger and still find meaning beyond revenge.

It might be asking too much of the journalists to delve that deep in the immediacy of a war but to show the warts, disasters and triumphs involves taking risks.  The subsequent reports about some journalists covering Fukushima indicated ignorance and panic. Its a journalist’s job to search deeper. That’s front-line journalism at its most revealing, genuine and useful.

Dom the Sex King released. Run for Cover Ladies!!


So DSK, Dominique Strauss-Khan gets away with it. Of course I mean the judge dropped the charges after massive inconsistencies from the accuser, a hotel maid from Guinea. DSK gets his passport back and can finally return to France where his welcome will be interesting to note.

His life will be very different now. Previous almost the left’s President candidate-elect, his political future is uncertain. After all, no one is doubting he had sex with a hotel maid, then went off to meet his daughter for lunch before attempting to fly back to France and his wife. That’s just how Dom the Sex King rolls.

He won’t get his old job back. The IMF, a conservative American, sorry I mean world institution won’t want to be brought into the spotlight. Someone might make the connection that neither of them have any fucking morals. ‘Scuse my French.

Besides they have a new boss anyway. Another French politician because when you are a world body that is prefers blanket policies and patronises and ignores other cultural and economic circumstances, you need either the French or an American and by custom the Americans run the World Bank.

But even at home in his Paris boudoir, Sexy Dom is attracting women….to sue him for sexual assault or rape. Two trials are upcoming. Normally he would be forgiven but Dom committed one great moral sin here. His dalliances got noticed, reported and exposed. Its not frowned on in France to have affairs. But by custom they aren’t reported on. Its a different moral code. So that’s why it was fine for Nick Sexkozy to campaign for and win the Presidency as a family man and then two weeks later divorce his wife to stand on his tippy-tip toes with Carla Bruni.

Politically DSK is in the wilderness too. The Socialists are holding their Presidential candidate vote in October but this sexual bulldozer missed the deadline to put his name down. He could help out, act as an economic advisor to the clueless socialists but with feelings amongst French women running high, (more in anger than passion DSK, not that that ever mattered to him), his political career looks over.

Its a curious nature of French and Italy politics. Ask an Italian about Silvio Berlusconi and they will call him an idiot probably throwing up their shoulders and twisting their wrists outward. Mention the Bunga Bunga parties with 18 year old hookers called Ruby and Italian women will throw up an arm to the heaven and walk away in disgust. The men will make some feeble reproach and then lean forward and add quietly ‘ but have you seen Ruby?’

So we have two methods here; Silvio – I’ll pay don’t worry; and the Dom, ‘you may not know you want it so I’ll help’ method. Maybe Dom the Sex King and then soon to retire Bunga Bunga King can get together and set up their party. Call themselves the Bunga Sex Kings or something. Must be some votes in it. Or they could just throw a party. They’ve 137 years between them. They must known some people right?

Season Preview

Arsenal

Ahh the usual season for Arsenal involving some sparklingly keep-ball and no one to finish them off. The usual fragilities will be less obvious with Vermalean coming back but there is a distinct lack of belief in the team and the Great Wenger is looking more and more isolated. Whereas before they’ve relied on players who are simply not good enough, now it will be down to their very talented youth. The arrival of Wiltshire and Ryo Miyaichi will push Arsenal on but signings like Gervinho simply arent good enough.

Aston Villa

Its difficult to know how Villa will do this season. McLeish needs a good start to quell any discontent. Losing Young is disappointing but they have decent young players coming through especially in Albrighton. Agbonlahor is a real talent and staying fit could link up well with Heskey. Given is a like-for-like replacement for Friedel. A lack of strength in depth could hinder them.

Blackburn Rovers

A poor team under an unnecessary manager and curious owners. By February last season I was fairly sure Rovers would get relegated. They survived but with little conviction. Without a change of management and some new players, Blackburn are drifting to inevitable relegation.

Bolton Wanderers

Despite the disastrous FA Cup semi-final loss to Stoke, Bolton has a pretty good season last year. Coyle is a good manager and added some flair to the team. They need some investment especially if they lose Cahill. Their summer signing don’t inspire a sense of progress.

Chelsea

A difficult team to assess this season. Chelsea are ageing yet still efficient. Torres looks keen to lead the line and they have enough flair to provide the chances. Lakaku is no Drogba, a player with underrated skill and the loss of Essien is a serious blow. I’m not reading much into this new manager yet. He may have worked under Jose but there is only one Jose Mourinho. Roman should have known that.

Everton

Moyes will do it again. Bringing in unheralded players and moulding them into a winning, or at least, very difficult to beat team. Everton only lost 10 times all season but ended the season with only a 6+ goal difference. There is no point calling for more investment. It just can’t happen under the board. How long Moyes can continue this brilliant job or wants to, I don’t know but if Moyes does leave, Everton are in trouble.

Fulham

We will see another solid over-achieving season from Fulham, this time under Martin Jol. Fulham are a team re-born, forged into a solid defensive outfit and an attractive attacking team especially at set pieces.

Liverpool

Kenny has no excuses. The board have lavished money on the squad. Dalglish has bought well (even if he has overpaid especially for Downing and Henderson) and the youth team re-organised by Rafa is finally coming through. Lucas came of age and Suarez is a real talent but there remain many questions over Carroll, Gerard and the right side.

Manchester City

Winning the FA Cup and finishing 3rd hardly seems enough for such an expensively created team. Despite still looking like a Championship Manager team, for me they should have done better and Mancini wont have too many excuses next summer. He has quality in De Jong, Toure, Silva and Aguero. However they still look vulnerable at the back. Any team with Lescott in it, won’t win the league.

Manchester United

United have invested for the future but right now are they stronger than last year? They will have more dynamism, Nani might finally do more than show off, Anderson can lead the midfield and Young will add more finesse to procedures. De Gea doesn’t convince me at all but Rooney looks comfortable and they have quality at the back. Definite favourites for the league.

Newcastle United

The usual messy season coming up but mid-table is all Mike Ashley aspires to. While allowing Nolan to leave is a bad decision, Newcastle have the organisation and defensive nous in Tiote to overcome their lack of flair and in Joey Barton, they’ll always get a headline.

Norwich City

Paul Lambert is yet another up-and-coming Scottish manager. He has brought in 8 new players and kept the old squad on the books. My friend Jorden tells me Grant Holt is the greatest Norwich striker since Robert Fleck. I’m not sure what that means in reality but Norwich should have enough to stay up especially if they garner points at Carrow Road.

QPR

QPR are a rough diamond according their new owner Tony Fernandes. He could have been talking about Neil Warnock as well. Warnock has sensibly invested upfront bringing in Jay Boothroyd and DJ Campbell, two marginal Premier League players. They will inhabit the lower echelons of the league for most of the season but its competitive down there. That will suit Warnock.

Stoke City

Stoke will be Stoke. They will take no prisoners and make compromising tackles. Europe may be a distraction for Pulis but ultimately they have enough to finish mid-table and give the fans a few nice European away days.

Sunderland

The loss of Bent last season hit them hard along with injuries. They’ve invested in a few quality defenders in Wes Brown and John O’Shea and Connor Wickham looks a good shot for the future. But the future can’t wait. Bruce needs a good start or this season and his tenure will begin to look difficult.

Swansea City

Swansea have promised to play attractive football in the Premier League so prepare to get relegated. Coming up via the play-offs they’ve brought in 6 players, none of whom will save them. I hope they have some good days home and away but I suspect they won’t last longer than a season.

Tottenham Hotspur

Harry’s team have improved and now challenge the big boys. In Van Der Vaart and Modric, they have real talents in midfield. But there are gaps. I fear for their defence. They can’t keep wheeling out Ledley King and Kaboul or Bassong aren’t good enough replacements. How Gomes starts ahead of Freidel is beyond me. And too many draws last season (14) indicates they lack a prolific goalscorer.

West Brom

Finishing 11th last season was more than the Baggies could have wished for. Hodgson will repeat the trick this season. The squad remains intact and Shane Long is a good bet. But it all rests on the wily Hodgson who will see them to midtable again.

Wigan Athletic

I can’t believe they survived last season. I like Martinez but his team is poor. I know its Wigan but I expected more. Having lost their only real talent in N’Zogbia, they will really struggle this season. Only the poor league can save them.

Wolves

Similarly to Wigan, Wolves pulled it out on the final day. Mick McCarthy instigated a clear-out but has brought little in. Roger Johnson is a solid defender but Jamie O’Hara was there last season on loan. Wolves will struggle, that’s a guarantee but similarly to Wigan, there may be a way to survive.

Champions: Manchester United

2nd: Manchester City

3rd: Chelsea

4th: Liverpool

5th: Spurs

Relegated: Blackburn Rovers, Swansea City, Wigan Athletic

Cameron faces the tough choices

You have to give it to the Prime Minister; in a time of crisis, despair and fear, it is very brave of him to go to Witney, his deprived constituency to make such the speech about our broken society. He must have been overwhelmed with the hard questions; chicken or smoked salmon volovant Mr Prime Minister?

Personally I just don’t know the answer. Its so confusing.

Structured Despair

We’re being asked to donate money to the present East African famine. Its a heart-breaking and very noble cause. I give money to a breast cancer charity after someone I knew with a genetic propensity to cancer ran a half-marathon for it last year. I only mentioned this as I only noticed the subscribed donation was still running (doh!). But I thought its a good cause and there is not much we can do about cancer still so its best to look into why.

But matters are different with regards to the access to food. Ask yourself why we are fat and have more food in the fridge and the capacity to buy even more whenever we want and then we can start answering questions about why Somalians and the rest of East Africa are dying. Something seem a-miss?

Of course there have been droughts and failed harvests and wars and issues of infrastructure. But after 50 years of independence and billions of Western money poured into Africa, Africa is now poorer than it ever was. Ask why?

Some of the blame does lie in its leaders who have siphoned off billions themselves. But then ask where they hide that money? Then ask why we allow that to happen? Well because its good for our economy. It allows us to lend and buy houses and maybe some extra food.

Then ask why we haven’t been better at directing our financial help. What about direct aid such as food and medical help? Well again yes, the food is needed and does a lot of good. It does saves millions of lives. However its more like putting a bandage on an open sore that festers. We could provide the drugs to heal it but that s not financially viable.

Development aid tends to follow two lines; infrastructure aid that build champagne projects we can put a plaque on and take a picture of. Inside the hospital will be stacked full of medical equipment or books which are part of our medical aid. But does a hospital without an eye unit in Kenya really need 22 books on ophthalmology? Probably not but that helps out our producer of medical books here no end. We get to sell our excess books.

The second strand of aid involves our modern piecemeal arrangement under the neo-liberal, human rights agenda. We try to empower people to read or take precautions. This is and could be very helpful. But asking a country to run before it can walk seems unfair. After all it took us centuries and a lot of spilt blood to get to our present rights and liberties. Now we refuse to give structured aid unless many conditions are met. Some like female empowerment is very useful for developing nations, education, equality and child health and should continue. But again these are small-fry. The real aid is only given on a reciprocal agreement.

And that is the main issue, the real nub of the problem. Aid is conditional on the opening of markets in African countries so that we can invest in their education, health, mining and businesses. We can then let the market, a very moral barometer because we freely enter into it decide what is needed. Demand decides supply usually. Or we use our capital advantages to flood markets, push out local producers and then later reduce supply and raise prices. Its called cannibalism and you’ll find Starbucks doing the same thing.

So in the end we own all that is valuable in poor states, improve efficiency (lower costs) and take our profits home. But yet we still still look puzzled when Africa descends into civil war over the valuable resources or revolts like in Madagascar when their land is sold to a South Korean corporation to grow rice for export. We become positively indignant if Africans fight back and demand some form of equitable arrangement like a reduction of European trade barriers on agriculture, a minority sector in Europe but with a comparative advantage in Africa. We laugh when Africans ask about compensation for the slave trade. I mean come on, that was before The Beatles.

But then we just step away, waiting for the next tragedy to fall and we’ll be there, patronising as ever, throw our arms in the despair at the terrible roads, the poorly stocked hospitals and the never-ending desperation of Africans. It seems like we can’t do enough for them. As if we ever started.

Allowing these structural inequalities to continue is demoralising to Africa’s dignity and our sense of humanity. If you want to really help Africa, question why when East Asia has risen from poverty, Africa continues to wallow. Ask why we are quick to reject refugees or boat people from West Africa who are willing to enslave themselves in doing the poorly-paid jobs we scoff at. Question those European trade laws that support a tiny minority of businesses.

Only once we see beyond the starving can you see there is continuing misery and stunted lives. Think more and feel less. Only then can we really help Africa.