Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More God etc

A little while ago I wrote a post entitled God etc in which I innocently linked to a few articles in the press about the intelligent design debate. This sparked off a furor of passionately held comments. I think the most I have ever got for a single blog.

Anyway, this morning on the bus I read something which I thought was quite relevant to the debate. At the risk of getting off-topic, I thought I would share it with everyone that commented last time. It's the words of Ravi Zacharias talking about the State v John Scopes trial.

"In the same manner as the small town trial, we bring this prejudice to Genesis and think that we are capable of deciding whether God acted in six days or thorugh 15 billion years. That was not the intention at all. The four major thoughts of the Genesis text have been lost in the volume of extraneous debate. The principal thrust of the opening pages of Genesis is that God is the Creator and that he is both personal and eternal - He is a living communicating God.

The second is that the world did not come by accident, but was designed with humanuty in mind - man is an intelligent, spiritual being. The third thrust is that life could not be lived out alone but through companionship - man is a relational, dependent being. The fourth aspect is that man was fashioned as a moral entity with the privilege of self determination - man is an accountable, rational being."

From the Book "Jesus among other gods" by World Publishing.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Live Review - Duke Special, Empire Belfast 27 May

Dave had his Stag do on Saturday night. To celebrate the death of his single days we went to a swanky Belfast restaurant called Nick's Warehouse, drank fine Pinot Noir with Aaron, David Gate, James 'the only book I've ever read is super-stars of the premiership 1997' Hamilton, and notable other stags. After some swish dining we made to the Empire to hear one of favourites, Duke Special.

ARTIST Duke Special

VENUE The Empire Music Hall, Belfast

DATE Saturday 27 May 2006


The last time the Duke played two sold out nights at the Empire we thought he was criminally under-rated and overlooked. As the support act singer explained, to a full, anticipatory house tonight, "If you'd told me that eight months later this guy with dreadlocks would have signed a major record deal with a profile rising exponentially I'd have said, 'Yeah, that sounds about right.'"

Perhaps there is some justice that Belfast's best kept secret is about to be passed around to the rest of the world. Cameras buzzed and the atmosphere was electric. We know that the Empire may not contain Duke Special much longer.

He arrived on stage to howling cheers and wolf whistles. He's getting used to that by now. Launching straight into a couple of well known crowd favourites from 'Adventures in Gramophone' he then aired a few songs from the forth-coming record. It's tricky to sustain the interest of a restless audience to new material but Duke Special just about managed.

Chip Bailey, the charismatic, wiry-haired, percussionist pulled cheese graters and egg whisks out of his Tesco bag to hit just about anything and make a beat. During a brief interval he held a master class on elementary cheese grater rhythms. The Duke performed the rest of the set without much chat but still giving his all. The familiar sing-a-longs 'Freewheel' and 'Last Night I Nearly died' were highlights that enveloped the Empire from the front row to the back of the balcony.

For the second encore, Duke felt that it was time to make his circus a little more carnival. To the horror of the bouncers, he wheeled the piano into the middle of the audience, handed out song sheets and launched into 'Oh I do like to be beside the seaside' and 'Sesame Street'. Everybody in the immediate area joined in. It didn't quite go to plan as there were too many people and to retain the captive audience he closed the gig with a number on stage. Overall it was a solid performance, while not quite up to the high-water mark of the October shows, it still augers well for what must be a dazzling future.

The set list went something like this:

saturday night
wake up scarlett
everybody wants a little something
brixton leaves
slip of a girl
i let you down
ballad of a broken man
last night i nearly died
[chip's whisk rudiments]
salvation tambourine
no cover up
don't breathe
singalong (i do like to be beside the seaside/sesame street/john lennon love/love cats/video killed the radio star)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

CD review - Ron Sexmith : Time Being

I had the opportunity to have a chat with Ron just after the release of his side-project with Don Kerr called Destination Unknown. He's a great guy and a wonderful song-writer. A pity his record sales don't reflect the size of his talent, but isn't that often the way? His new reocord proper is a must, and even if you haven't listened to him before, this provides a great way in. I'm giving it:

Ron Sexsmith
Time Being

Ron Sexsmith is no stranger to this game. His tenth, and most accessible album yet, uses all his experience and tricks gleaned over the years to produce a gem.
Teaming up once again with long-time producer Mitchell Froom, Sexsmith opts not to rekindle his youth, but instead to reflect on the passing years. He does so with mellow wisdom, relying on well thought lyrics, natural acoustic sounds and strong melodies.

The album opens with "Hands Of Time", a song about the importance of "this here and now" and feeling "When you move your snow-white hand in mine." Over the next eleven tracks he ponders the well trodden themes of the fleeting nature of life and time, eventual death and the possibilities after that. The beguiling vocals and exquisite harmonies draw you in immediately without the need for repeated listens.

The highlight of the album is "Snow Angel". Using the image of a melting snowman as a metaphor for love, Ron remains upbeat, his delicate vocals creating something beautiful. "Never Give Up", with its whispered, hopeful message stands out along with "Ship of Fools"- a McCartney-esque pop ballad with the best chorus on the record.

Eight months after the worthy detour of "Destination Unknown", Ron Sexmith returns with one of his strongest albums yet. Mid-life crisis has never sounded so good.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Perfect moments in cinema - Heat

I don't own many DVDs, but one that I do have is Heat. Michael Mann's thrilling heist movie definately ranks in my top 5 films and grows with repeated viewings.

In a new feature, Stylus magazine are looking at perfect moments in cinema. Where better to start than with Heat, a film jam-packed with them. If you like the movie, and you probably do, then spend a minute to read this insightful homage to the final showdown at LAX airport.

The tension and sense of danger is palpable. Unlike most good guy/bad guy payoffs, neither man wants to harm the other, but they have backed themselves into a corner and something has to give. As a viewer, we, too, are torn, undecided as to what we want to see happen. McCauley’s intelligent, lonely thief is eminently likeable and we badly want him to get away. Hanna’s career policeman has had too many knocks and no real luck; we don’t want this to become one of the statistics that have plagued his life and marriages.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Douglas Coupland interview

Ever since my friend Ali gave me a copy of "All Families are Psychotic", beacause I liked the picture of the rocket on the front, I've been hooked on Coupland. He has a wonderful ability to sum up an emotion in a sentence, to capture what you've felt with characters you can empathise.

Time magazine carries an interview with the author in advance of the release of his new novel, J-Pod. He makes an interesting observation about blogs:

TIME: Do you write a blog?

DC: No. I used to keep blogs, formerly known as diaries. Back in the '90s, I did it for a while. What I found is that when you go through your day, you begin reclassifying your life into "that will make a good blog entry" or "that won't make a good blog entry." Suddenly your life isn't your life anymore.

How true. If you haven't read any of his work, I reccomend "Life After God" and "Girlfriend in a Coma". I have pre-ordered J-Pod and am looking forward to settling down on a big recliner by the pool in the Italian sunshine and reading it on holiday.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

All Good Sufjan Stevens Fans of the World say Yes!

I'm very excited. When I arrived home the new Sufjan Stevens record, "The Avalanche" was awaiting me. I've just popped it into the CD player, and Illinois-style sounds are coming out.

To celebrate this occasion, go and read an interesting interview with the man himself over there at Pitchfork about the new record, touring, writing music and a Mistress witch..

News - Thom York (solo) record

This was sent out from Radiohead HQ yesterday.

"this is just a note to say that something has been kicking around in the background that i have not told you about.
its called The Eraser.
nigel produced & arranged it .
i wrote and played it.
the elements have been kicking round now for a few years and needed to be finished & i have been itching to do something like this for ages.
it was fun and quick to do.
inevitably it is more beats & electronics.
but its songs.
stanley did the cover.
yes its a record!
no its not a radiohead record.
as you know the band are now touring and writing new stuff and getting to a good space so i want no crap about me being a traitor or whatever splitting up blah blah...
this was all done with their blessing. and i don't wanna hear that word solo. doesnt sound right.
ok then thats that."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Live Review - Josh Ritter, Belfast, May 14 2006

Dave, Clare and I checked out Josh Ritter last night at the Empire. We had a great time, and speaking to Josh afterwards we found a shared fondness for Ron Sexsmith and velvet jackets.

ARTIST: Josh Ritter
VENUE: The Empire, Belfast
DATE: 14 May 2006

JoshJosh Ritter and his band played a lengthy, value for money set to a sold out crowd at the Empire Music Hall on a rainy Sunday evening. He seems to be in Ireland more than he's not these days, and that can only be a good thing.

This April-May tour is in support of his excellent new album, 'The Animal Years' (check out my review here). As such, his set drew mainly from that album, but still had time to incorporate fans' favourites from "The Golden Age Of Radio" and "Hello Starling".

Josh kicked off with 'Girl in the war', the Iraq-influenced opener from his latest album where the Saints look at the world and 'wonder what it is we done'. He moved straight into the catchy, "Monster Ballads" by which the time the band with its big drum sounds and thumping bass had found a groove. By the time he played his third song, 'Good man' the audience too were singing.

I've never been to such a good-natured gig at the Empire before. The atmosphere was less of a hushed reverence than a raucous party. Friendly banter was exchanged and to cheers and handclaps Josh was forced to down a Guinness in one go. A challenge he was more than equal to. Through his ear-to-ear grin Josh told stories between songs of Lionel Richie casettes and cooking with power-tools.

He was clearly enjoying himself, moreso when he spotted the gaudy 'Glamarama' neon-sign hanging over the stage. 'We HAVE to turn this thing on' he exclaimed, 'everybody needs a bit of Glamarama!'. Throughout the jaunty "Lillian, Egypt" as the sign emitted its artifical-light, Josh careered around the stage and the crowd clapped and stomped their feet.

The band let him perform a couple of songs by himself and for the very last number he unplugged the guitar, came as close to the audience as he could and all sang together. A perfect way to end a great night.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

CD review - Built to Spill: You in Reverse

Built to Spill are one of those indie bands that have been around for ages, and with good reason. Great anticipation surrounded their first release for five years. I'm giving it a 7/10.

ARTIST Built to Spill

ALBUM You in Reverse

LABEL Warner

YEAR 2006



Built to Spill's 2001 effort, the flat, complacent Ancient Melodies of the Future featured an electric guitar on the front cover, and with good reason. Built to Spill, have innocuously resided as giants of American indie rock for over ten years. Their latest album finds the Idahoan trio revelling in guitar-centric pieces while managing to keep the structure more tight and focused than before.

The band that put the jam into jamboree crack the five minute mark on seven of the ten tracks on You in Reverse, which is a boon for Built to Spill's action-packed jams and expansive tune sense. Similar to Wilco's A Ghost is Born, the jams appear loose and spontaneous yet with a largely well thought out structure. The epic, nine-minute opening track "Goin' Against Your Mind" is the best example: guitars swoop and cry, circling above the pounding beat and Martsch's vocal melody suits his moony insights. At one goose-bumping inducing moment the drums fade and lights dim as he sings "kid I saw a light / Floating high above the trees one night / Thought it was an alien / Turned out to be just God". It's bliss.

The ten tracks retain the BTS sporadic nature, but the solos are never indulgent, the tunes are a nice collection of front-porch melodies and Neil Young guitar jams. Where You in Reverse falters is in a slight lack of direction in the lengthy cuts and the melodies don't catch like they used to. Despite this the record marks at a return to the spirit that made 1996's Perfect From Now On great.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ross Thompson, my fellow Alternative Ulster cohort is an excellent writer. So good that I am regulary told when enquiring about CDs and gigs to review, "Oh yeah, we gave that one to Ross" Case in point, Ross spoke to Grandaddy, the legendary indie-band the other day. Naturally he has produced a superb write up, Read the article here. Or preferably buy a copy of Alternative Ulster magazine.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Blog Shares

Here is an interesting idea. I'm not sure if it has much practical use besides novelty value, but Blog Shares is an online fantasy share trading service for blogs. It tracks your blog, incoming and outgoing visitors, allocates a market share and valuation. For example, to see how about the music fares, click here.

Last time I checked the valuation was B$4,371.63

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mogwai news

David is whooping with delight, perhaps you will be too. Some Mogwai news.




After spending the first five months of the year on the road playing to sold-out venues in the UK, Japan, the US and Europe, Mogwai will release the Travel Is Dangerous EP (12" and CD on PIAS, 26th June). The lead track ("the best shoegazing track since My Bloody Valentine¹s heyday ­ Observer Music Monthl"y) is taken from Mogwai's most revered, and biggest album to date "Mr Beast" and features multi-instrumentalist Barry Burns on vocals. Two album tracks have been remangled for the release in the shape of Acid Casuals take on the piano-led first single Friend of The Night and Error¹s new version of Auto Rock. Two tracks recorded live in Tokyo in January will also be included, the seminal Like Herod and new end of set favourite We're No Here.

Prior to the World Cup, on 24th May "Zidane", a portrait of the French footballer by Scottish film director Douglas Gordon, will be shown in France in over 300 cinemas while also being showcased as an out of competition "Official Selection" at Cannes Film Festival between 17th and 27th May. The film is sound-tracked by a tailor-made score the fitba loving Glaswegians recorded in their Castle of Doom studio over Christmas. Preview screenings have been very warmly received. Trailers viewable at: here and

Mogwai are currently on a 22 date tour of the US and Canada including Coachella Festival and two nights at New York¹s Webster Hall.

03 June - Barcelona, Primavera Festival (Spain)
30 June - Werchter Festival (Belgium)
01 July - Karlsruhe, Tollhaus (Germany)
02 July - Belfort Les Eurockeennes (France),
06 July - Helsinki, Tavastia (Finland)
07 July - Turku Ruisrock Festival (Finland),
12 July - Montreux Jazz Festival (Switzerland)
16 July - Latitude Festival, Southwold, Suffolk HEADLINING (UK)
30 July - Fujirock (Japan)
04 Aug - Haldern Festival (Germany)
11 Aug - St Malo, La Route Du Rock (France)
22 Sep London, RAH (UK)
26 Sep Paris, Olympia (France)
27 Sep Brussels, Cirque Royale (Belgium)

1. Travel Is Dangerous
2. Friend Of The Night (Acid Casuals Mix)
3. Auto Rock (Errors Mix)
4. Like Herod (Live)
5. We're No Here (Live)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Interesting article- Fundamentalist athiests?

Everyone loves to discuss theology, as proven on this, and many other, blogs. I thought I would bring to your attention an intersting article on the Guardian weblog.

Can an atheist be a fundamentalist?

Are there people who believe only somewhat that there are no supernatural entities in the universe - or only part of a god? Read on.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sufjan Stevens news - New Record


Anyone who reads about the music will know that we love Sufjan Stevens. Illinois was undoubtably miles better than any other record released last year. Quicker than you can say 'cash in' the man from Michigan capitalises on his recent success with a bunch of out-takes and not-very-lost songs from Illinois. When we get it the next step will be to make a playlist of how Illinoise should sound in all its double-disk glory. The Asthmatic Kitty press release is below and gives all the info.

The little secret behind the Illinois record is that it was originally conceived as a double album, culminating in a musical collage of nearly 50 songs. But as the project began to develop into an unwieldy epic, common sense weighed in—as did the opinions of others—and the project was cut in half. But as 2005 came to a close, Sufjan returned to the old, forsaken songs on his 8-track like a grandfather remembering his youth, indulging in old journals and newspaper clippings. What he uncovered went beyond the merits of nostalgia; it was more like an ensemble of capricious friends and old acquaintances wearing party outfits, waiting to be let in at the front door, for warm drinks and interesting conversation. Among them were Saul Bellow, Ann Landers, Adlai Stevenson, and a brief cameo from Henry Darger's Vivian Girls. The gathering that followed would become the setting for the songs on The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album.

Sufjan gleaned 21 useable tracks from the abandoned material, including three alternate versions of Chicago. Some songs were in finished form, others were merely outlines, gesture drawings, or musical scribbles mumbled on a hand-held tape recorder. Most of the material required substantial editing, new arrangements or vocals. Much of the work was done at the end of 2005 or in January the following year. Sufjan invited many of the original Illinoisemakers to fill in the edges: drums, trumpet, a choir of singers. The centerpiece, of course, was the title track—The Avalanche—a song intended for the leading role on the Illinois album but eventually cut and placed as a bonus track on the vinyl release. In his rummaging through old musical memorabilia, Sufjan began to use this song as a meditation on the editorial process, returning to old forms, knee-deep in debris, sifting rocks and river water for an occasional glint of gold. "I call ye cabin neighbors," the song bemuses, "I call you once my friends." And like an avid social organizer, Sufjan took in all the odd musical misfits and gathered them together for a party of their own, like good friends.

A careful listener may uncover the obvious trend on this record: almost every song on the Illinois album has a counterpart on the outtakes. Carl Sandburg arm-wrestles Saul Bellow. The aliens landing near Highland salute Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. The loneliness of "Casimir Pulaski Day" deepens even further in the foreboding soundtrack to "Pittsfield." At its best, The Avalanche is an exercise in form, revealing the working habits of one of the most productive songwriters today. As an illustration, the avalanche refers to the snow and rubble that falls off the side of a mountain, or, in this case, the musical debris generously chucked from an abundant epic. It's unlikely you'll find a mountain in the Prairie State so the metaphor will have to do.


1. The Avalanche
2. Dear Mr Supercomputer
3. Adlai Stevenson
4. The Vivian Girls Are Visited In the Night by Saint Dargarius and his Squadron of Benevolent Butterflies
5. Chicago (acoustic version)
6. The Henney Buggy Band
7. Saul Bellow
8. Carlyle Lake
9. Springfield, or Bobby Got a Shadfly Caught in his Hair
10. The Mistress Witch from McClure (or, The Mind That Knows Itself)
11. Kaskaskia River
12. Chicago (adult contemporary easy listening version)
13. Inaugural Pop Music for Jane Margaret Byrne
14. No Man's Land
15. The Palm Sunday Tornado Hits Crystal Lake
16. The Pick-up
17. The Perpetual Self, or "What Would Saul Alinsky Do?"
18. For Clyde Tombaugh
19. Chicago (Multiple Personality Disorder version)
20. Pittsfield
21. The Undivided Self (for Eppie and Popo)