Friday, 14 June 2013

This Is Not A Review: Art Brut at the Scala (10 Year Anniversary Show)

This is not a review.  No idiot would attempt to write a review of a show that happened two and half weeks ago, particularly when said idiot is in possession of the sort of short term memory that regularly leads to them going into the kitchen and promptly forgetting what they wanted there (you know how some really thin celebrities shrug off concerns about their weight, claiming they "forget to eat"?  Yeah, that actually happens).  I meant to write a review, the next morning and tout it to the various online music rags I've written for in the past, but as it turns out, the life of an unemployed tour guide is very busy, and I'm actually doing a lot of hair modelling at the moment  and blah middle class problems blah.   And I can't find a setlist online (I just found one in my draw, which is interesting, as I have no recollection of acquiring it, but I think it's from the other year), so this is not a review, but I wanted to write something, since I'd been planning it so here are some things that I wrote about it.

First surprising thing of the night was there was a fairly sizeable queue outside the Scala an hour before doors opened.  Given that I was on my way to the pub first, not joining the line it was fairly troubling - the first time I have ever experienced queue anxiety at an Art Brut gig (if you don't know what queue anxiety is, ask a Manics fan.  It's why we sleep on pavements.).

The setlist wasn't much different from usual for it being a greatest hits show, because Art Bruts gigs have always taken in the entire span of their career (I remember being mildly disappointed the first time I saw them that they didn't play more from Art Brut vs Satan - their current album at the time - though that was probably, I suspect, because I didn't know much of their earlier stuff then. For reasons which remain unclear to me I bought a fancy imported version of Bang Bang Rock And Roll a year later in a boutique record shop in Berlin for 18 euros instead of getting it on eBay for 99p like a normal person).  Eddie took "requests" from the crowd all night, from people like "the man with the big face", the girl with the hat" and the "guy with the beard" - kind of like a real life version of Guess Who? - which by remarkable coincidence always matched the setlist taped to the stage in front of me.

Sexy Sometimes was a surprise (I accept I may have been the only one surprised, given that it's on their greatest hits), which Eddie explained he had written after someone at their former label had accidentally cc'd him in on an email saying he "wasn't sexy enough" (not sexy?  Please. Dude clearly has no taste).  Sexy Sometimes is one of my favourites from Brilliant Tragic, so it was a good surprise, although Eddie skipped my favourite lyric so null points for that Argos!

Unsurprisingly, new tracks We Make Pop Music and Arizona Bay both got a hearing; I bloody love Arizona Bay (sample lyric: I was lucky to survive/There was never a chance I was going to die).  however serious Art Brut are being when they talk about being a classic rock band, I think Arizona Bay does cement them in that status, to me, at least, because it's 10 years on and the lyrics are as sharp/witty/charmingly self-deprecating as they always have been and the music is as fun and catchy as ever (I'm not very good at talking about music, as you can probably tell, I appreciate good music but I'm more a lyric person.  Guess it's the writer in me.  That's probably why I like bands that make other people knit their eyebrows together in bafflement and say "but he's just talking".  And why I've always been confused by people who listened to Kevin Carter and did not immediately look up who Kevin Carter was.  I mean, how can you not care?  Were you not listening?!  In my opinion, how attention you pay to the lyrics is a good measure of your worth as a human being.  You don't have to like them, just listen.  I once accidentally took a friend who I later found out despises Eddie, and Jasper for that matter, with a passion burning to the very core of her soul - I forget why, it was something complicated about a unicorn - to an Everybody Was In The French Resistance Now! gig, and even she said she liked the idea, if not the execution, which I respected.  See, I only ask that you listen.), and of course they're as good live as they've ever been, better actually.  Don't know what was up at the gig we went to in Kingston, but the atmosphere was a bit wonky and everything seemed kind of off.  Though that might have been the amount of brandy I accidentally decanted into my coke.  I'm not good at measuring shots from a hip flask.  Scala was one of the best gigs I've been to for a while because it was so clearly about five people on stage really fucking enjoying what they're doing, and the crowd really fucking enjoying what they're doing, cos let's face it, Art Brut don't have many casual fans that I know of, and the atmosphere was one of joy and exuberance which was only later spoiled by the queue at the cloakroom stretching halfway around the universe and back.  If I hadn't shamelessly pushed in I'd have missed my last train.

Also I liked Eddie's new classic rock band front man move with the crowd-surfing at the end, although it got a bit hairy and at one point I wasn't sure whether I was more concerned for his safety or that of the people in that section of the audience who didn't look at all prepared for it.  And I liked the fake encore, and I was going to say I liked that they played Maternity Ward, but now I'm genuinely not sure if they did or if I've just completely made it up.  I would have liked a few more b-sides and rarities, actually.  These Animal Men Swear or Just Desserts would have been awesome.  I would have made a request, but you know, I don't have any distinguishing characteristics like glasses or a hat...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A Weekend In Street Harrassment

Anyone who has been following Everyday Sexism on Twitter (and I imagine that's most of my followers) will know about the current vogue for taking a stand against street harassment in all its insidious forms.  With that in mind, I'm not really sure why I'm doing this, as it's not anything new or special, but the subject has been at the forefront of my consciousness recently, and after experiencing two very different forms of street harassment over the weekend, I thought I'd do a little compare and contrast.

Let me start my saying I'm very lucky in that I don't tend to experience too much street harassment as a general rule.  Like almost everyone else I've spoken to about it, it got significantly worse when I moved to London, and both instances at the weekend happened in the capital as well.  I'm not saying men in Essex aren't natural born street harassers (I'm absolutely certain they are), I really don't want to let Essex off the hook when it comes to any criticism I could level at it (I'm not a fan of my hometown, I'm not sure if you picked that up), but I've a theory I don't experience harassment so much in Essex because the only time I venture out in it is to leave it, and my route to the station doesn't involve much scope for human interaction (deliberate, let me assure you).

Anyway, I digress.  I don't encounter a great deal of street harassment and my stories are far from as harrowing as some you'll see over on Everyday Sexism.  No one has tried to touch me in the street that I recall (though a man in Subway did once pick me up and move me like a fucking human chess piece); I'm enamoured of the suggestion that it's because I look pissed off enough already, and most men realise it'd be the fastest way to lose an arm.  A radio host did once say he "wouldn't want to meet me in a dark alley" and he hadn't even seen me, just listened to me ranting on some topical debate programme for 10 minutes.  So this isn't a tearful plea for sympathy, I can handle myself.  This is, simply, the tale of my weekend.


On Saturday I got off the London Overground at Brockley around lunchtime and was halfway out of the station when some bloke started shouting "LEGS!" at the top of his voice.  The dearth of other people in the vicinity at that exact moment and a cursory glance over my shoulder at the culprit led me to believe that I was the target of his attentions, which never extended beyond him aggressively chanting "LEGS! LEGS! LEGGGGGSSSS!" like a cross between Father Jack and excitable two-year-old until I was out of view, which happened fairly quickly as I was feeling quite intimidated and in my flustered state hurried off down the wrong road and momentarily got lost yet again on a journey that legendarily takes less than one and a half minutes by foot.

Now this, is my opinion, is yet another example of how street harassers are getting lazier.  Legs what?  What was he trying to tell me?  That I have legs?  That he liked my legs?  That he didn't like my legs?  Was it a critique on my sartorial choices that day, which did involve a playsuit cut fairly high on the leg as I'd somewhat optimistically dressed for the fact that it was June, and not for the fact that it was Britain and the skies were grey?  Come on dude, if your opinion's that important that you have to shout it across the street at me, you should at least properly enunciate it.  It reminds me of the time a friend and I were walking down the main road just off my street in SE London and a car went past from which a man yelled "SUCK MY COCK!" (I'm not sure which of us it was aimed at, he didn't express a preference and my guess is he couldn't exactly afford to be picky), but he didn't slow down, much less stop the car, so how was I supposed to find him to suck his undoubtedly lovely and disease free cock?  As is so often the case, he simply hadn't thought his harassment through.


On Sunday morning about 11am I was hurrying down a quiet residential street somewhere between Brockley and New Cross, late for the train again, and a young guy, younger than me, teenage, maybe, was walking towards me from the opposite direction.  He looked me up and down, and in the fraction of a second as we passed on the narrow pavement he leaned in and whispered "You're gorgeous" in my ear, which managed to be both far less intimidating than the previous day's shouting and about a thousand times more creepy all at once.  It clearly wasn't a genuine declaration of romantic intent because he didn't miss a step, and I very much doubt I was really a vision of beauty to him the morning after the night before with bad hair no make up.  So who knows what this guy wanted either?  If I had to choose which kind of irritating twat I had to deal with on a regular basis on balance I think I'd plump for the latter, but ideally, I'd prefer to be left to go about my business without the social commentary.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Top 5 Most Bullshit Reasons Why Doctor Who Shouldn't Be A Woman

I'm going to start this post with full disclosure - I don't watch Doctor Who.  I used to, when I was young, though this was largely because my father appeared to consider it a mandatory part of my upbringing. This is why I'm also fairly well versed in Star Trek (and Prisoner: Cell Block H, oddly enough.  That was a lot of sex and murder, and sex that ended in murder, to process as a nine-year-old.  But I digress). So I'm coming at this from a feminist angle, rather than as a fan - I'll leave it up to you to decide how much of a "right" I have to speak on the subject.

What has prompted me to write this, though, is the outright misogyny that some Doctor Who fans (I'm not calling them Whovians.  I refuse) have been spewing all over the internet ever since the incumbent actor, Matt Smith, announced his resignation, and writer/producer Stephen Moffat didn't immediately issue a statement saying that the next actor wouldn't be female, which, given the speed with which the subject came up, is apparently something some Doctor Who fans live in near-constant terror of.  It must be very stressful, living with this malice, even when no one had resigned and made it a pressing issue.  I imagine the average Tuesday for these people goes something like this:

(Our Doctor Who fan, let's call him Mike, walks into his workplace)
Colleague: "Morning Mike!  How are you?"
Mike:  What if the next Doctor Who is a woman?  Oh God, I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!"
(Mike collapses, sobbing, against the photocopier)

So, without further ado, I present to you, The Top 5 Most Bullshit Reasons Why Doctor Who Shouldn't Be A Woman, with (not wholly unflippant) responses.

Bullshit reason number 1: It just wouldn't be the same.

Do not respond to this.  This is not a reason.  If you cannot be bothered even to formulate a simple argument beyond "Arrrgh!  Change!" then I cannot be bothered to engage with you.

Bullshit reason number 2: But Doctor Who being a man has been a tradition for 50 years!

So was slavery.

Bullshit reason number 3: It would divert attention away from some of the other strong female characters who sometimes appear on the show.

Yes, this is a common problem in television.  This is why writers and casting directors are so reluctant to put too many men in any one show, lest it detracts from the strong, male characters.  Oh no, wait THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED EVER.  There have been plenty of programmes with all male and near all male casts, and people, by and large, have not struggled to distinguish between the characters, so unless it's actually the population at large, rather than just Daily Mail readers who view women as one homogeneous mass, I think we'll be able to appreciate the individual attributes of at least two female characters at once.

Bullshit reason number 4:  Young boys would lose a valuable role model.

This one's actually from the Daily Mail, if you couldn't guess.  Apparently Doctor Who is good role model, because he's thoughtful, and moral, and has no discernible sex life (I presume the latter is one of the reasons why they like him).  Take this away from young boys and they will have NO ONE to look up to.  Apart from maybe the all male writing team?  Or, like, 70% of everyone appearing on television, anywhere, ever?  Boys are lacking anyone in the public to look up to?  ARE THEY FUCKING SERIOUS?!

Now lets take this moment to think about female role models, shall we?  What about female role models in this very show?  One of the reasons I found my youthful affection for Doctor Who waning is because I grew increasingly uncomfortable with it's representation of women.   You can't deny that the last run of assistants have all been very much "something for the dads".  Always attractive, grown up but still very much young, women, younger and more attractive than their male leads (I'll grant Matt Smith was only 26 when he took the role, which a lot of Who fans threw their toys out of the pram over.  I'll also maintain that, in my opinion, he looks like he was beaten about the face with a breeze block by someone who then had an attack of conscience and tried to reverse the damage by ironing his head). What's more, they're always the sidekick.  I'm not denying that these women can be fiercely intelligent, warm and passionate in their own right, or saying that they don't have many other admirable qualities.  What are young girls, watching this show for the last 50 years, going to learn?  That they can be strong, sassy and independent, that they can be anything they want, so long as what they want to be is second best.  And that they're under 26 and look good in a tight jumper.  So no, I don't think the programme would suffer from introducing another female role model.  Unless you choose to believe our Daily Mail commenter, who said, and I quote, "Girls have already got lots of role models, like Rihanna, Lindsay Lohan and the Kardashians."  I genuinely don't know if he's being serious, folks.  I JUST DON'T KNOW.

Bullshit reason number 5: Doctor Who is married to a woman, River Song.

Yeah, our misogynists are starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel now.  This was also from the Daily Mail, who's main objection seemed to be that a female doctor would thus be a lesbian by default.  Why aren't I surprised that people who don't want a female doctor who don't want a gay one, either?  And don't kid yourself that there haven't been pre-emptive "And he should stay white, too!" comments.  You could almost hear the sound of them all hitting the floor as they all fainted from horror in unison when Idris Elba's name was floated.

So yeah, oppose a female Doctor Who, if you have a valid reason.  If it's for one of the reasons above, you're aligning yourself with homophobes, racists, and worse, Daily Mail readers.  Is that really something you want?