Wednesday, 19 December 2007

It’s that time of the year again. I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts about the best music of 2007 lately. My own list makes no claims to being comprehensive or objective. Let me explain why, in mind-numbing detail:

It’s somewhat limited, genre-wise. I can’t stand emo or indie rock, and my tastes certainly don’t run as far afield as to step outside the boundaries of guitar-based music. While I do listen to jazz, blues and both Indian and western classical music, I am not abreast with current developments in any of these genres. By and large, I like sludgy, fuzzy, heavy, riff-based music. Within those confines my tastes stretch from death metal all the way to funeral doom. I’m also a fairly demanding fan of so-called alternative music. So this list is limited to music that fits within these admittedly narrow specifications.

It’s also skewed towards my actual listening patterns. While there are other albums I’d include in a comprehensive listing of worthwhile albums released this year, I’m picking and choosing the albums I specifically found myself listening to time and again. So, while bands as diverse as Gamma Ray, Immolation and Alchemist all released awesome albums, within their own stylistic confines, this year, I’ve favoured the albums that I actually listened to obsessively for a fortnight or so. So, it doesn’t even pretend to be an objectively definitive list.

Lastly, I’ve noticed that I tend to be more impressed with a relatively new band putting out a promising album than an established band chugging out more of the same mid or late career competency – so albums by Megadeth, Annihilator and the likes tend to get overlooked while newer bands whom some will contend are simply derivatives of these older acts may find their way in. I’m very keen on seeing the music I listen to as a living artform with new artists constantly arriving to take the form further, and this does skew my preferences and perhaps my judgement.

And now, in no very specific order, here is a list of my favourite 2007 music:

  1. Clutch – From Beale Street To Oblivion. While it doesn’t have the breakthrough excitement of it’s predecessor, ‘Robot Hive/Exodus’, Clutch’s new album shows the band taking another step on its evolution from hardcore infused metal to deeply stonerrific blues rock.
  2. Disbelief- Navigator. The thing that sets this album apart from a lot of death metal I enjoyed this year is that Disbelief keep launching into these awesome grooves that harken back to the best moments of the whole late-90s groove metal movement, while keeping things real. The singer is kickass too.
  3. Neurosis – Given To The Rising. Really, this should need no explanation. In an increasingly crowded post-metal landscape, Neurosis still dominates. Huge, soaring and misanthropic riffs, brooding interludes and one of the most balanced sets they’ve ever done.
  4. Mustasch – The Latest Version Of The Truth. Definitely this Swedish hard rock band’s breakthrough album. Gritty guitar tones, groovy, infectious classic hard rock and metal riffing and juicy, catchy vocals, these guys sometimes remind me of classic Alice Cooper.
  5. Alabama Thunderpussy – Open Fire. This might even be my favourite album of the year. Incredibly kickass, energetic and memorable southern rock in total overdrive mode. Great songwriting, tasty chops and super vocals.
  6. Orange Goblin – Healing Through Fire. Much like the above, only from the UK. Orange Goblin continues to be a relatively newly arrived yet dominating presence in the stoner scene.
  7. Hidden Hand – The Resurrection Of Whiskey Foote. Scott Wino Weinrich is responsible for some of the most important stoner/doom music ever made, and with this new album he continues to build that awe-inspiring legacy.
  8. Baroness – The Red Album. This is an awesome debut. It’s modern metal, not nu metal or metalcore or any of that crap. Drawing on a diversity of influences, some traditional, some rather avant garde, Baroness are poised for the sort of crossover success currently enjoyed by Opeth and Mastodon.
  9. Blotted Science – The Machinations Of Dementia. Does what it says on the cover. Uncompromisingly technical and frenetic heavyass instrumental prog from one of the pioneering technical metal guitarists, and my favourite prog or prog-related album of the year, hands-down.
  10. Reverend Bizarre – III So Long Suckers. Old school doom metal at its most drawn-out and majestic. A great swan song for this band, although the iterative arrangements may not win a lot of fans outside of doom adherents.
  11. Antimatter – Leaving Eden. Just brilliant acoustic-based melancholic rock. If you like Nick Drake or Pink Floyd, you can’t help but love this one.
  12. Grinderman – Grinderman. A sort of back-to-basics project for Nick Cave. It’s great to see him functioning in a rawer format than the pianistic crooning of latter Bad Seeds material, although a lot of this material could well have been on a Bad Seeds album with more filled-out arrangements.
  13. sHeavy – The Machine That Won The War. A singer who sounds like Ozzy but with better lungs, and awesome Sabbath/classic doom metal riffs and grooves.
  14. Atavist - II Haunted. Atavist raise the stakes for Khanate-style sludge. An amazing album, it has to be heard as a single unit. Essentially a very ambitious musical structure created using very simple tools.
  15. Unsane – Visqueen. One of their best albums, as far as I’m concerned. Abrasive, muffled vocals, cold, relentless riffs – it is formula music, but an awesome formula executed to perfection.
  16. Amplified Heat – How do you like the sound of that. This Texan band plays energetic, stomping blues-based rock that bypasses three decades of rock evolution to show that old ideas still work well, if used with the right amount of enthusiasm and authenticity.
  17. Thrown – The Suicidal Kings Occult. Dark, melodic music from the heavier side of doom. A dash of NWOBHM melody, huge, enveloping riffs and harsh, death-influenced vocals together with great song construction combine in an album that really ought to have a wider audience.
  18. Taint: Secrets And Lies. Sludge metal with traces of doom, stoner and hardcore.A great amalgamation of influences into an original sound, and a great second album for this more than promising band.
  19. Evile – Enter The Grave. There’s been a lot of great thrash revivalism this year, a lot of it very efficiently delivered by some of the original thrash giants. This one stood out from the pack because of the awesome guitar work.
  20. The Austerity Program – Black Madonna. A very well-named band. Unadorned riffing backed with drum machine and spiced with math tendencies. This album is strictly no-frills stuff, and to my mind, that increases its impact. Steve Albini would approve.
  21. Jonas Hellborg – Art Metal. Together with Selvaganesh and Mathias Eklundh, Hellborg creates a downright masterpiece of Indian-influenced fusion with a heavy edge. I defy anyone who claims to appreciate music in its purest form to be unmoved by this album.
  22. Thurston Moore – Trees Outside The Academy. Moore takes songs that could have sat happily in a Sonic Youth album and develops in ways that are interestingly different from the Sonic pattern, with much emphasis on acoustic guitar and violin interplay. It’s the sound of a real musical visionary purposefully stretching out, and it is good.
  23. Aeon – Rise To Dominate. Slamming by-the-book Floridan death, only from Sweden. It doesn’t veer from the template in any form, but the masterful handling of the death format and the absolutely crushing vocals made this one a frequent repeat listen.
  24. Fu Manchu – We Must Obey. Their riffiest album in years, and it clearly shows that these happy-go-lucky stoners still have the art of desert rock groove-jamming aced.
  25. The Ocean – Precambrian. An incredibly ambitious and layered album, this one is a triumph of structuring. This really does amount to an aural evocation of long-ago geological ages, and if there’s any justice, The Ocean will break through into broader acclaim with this album. This would be another serious contender for the best album of the year.
  26. Worship – Dooom. Uncompromisingly dark and stripped-down funeral doom, this isn’t an album, it’s a cult.
  27. Om: Pilgrimage. Om continue to produce some of the most meditative and spiritually elevating music this atheist has ever tripped on. This is music for the heart and soul, so to speak, and an album of rare beauty and finesse.
  28. C-187 – Collision. Pestilence guitar man returns with a groove metal album that is streets ahead of anything else being produced in this rather crowded idiom. Viral grooves, neck-snapping rhythms and occasional glimpses at Mameli’s former jazz-death flights.
  29. Witchcraft – The Alchemist. Witchcraft have arrived. While their first two albums were awesome examples of vintage doom metal that sounded like they slipped through a time warp from circa 1974, this album consolidates and builds on those sounds to take Witchcraft to a new level of groovy, melodic brilliance.
  30. Electric Wizard – Witchcult Today. The Wizard is back, and the lugubrious grooves, hypnotic jams and schlock horror mix has evolved, while maintaining a great deal of consistency from their past albums.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Venkatesh asked me what I thought about Martin Amis' controversial remarks about Muslims. Recently, the writer Laila Lalami posted a quote from James Baldwin as her response to this issue. It speaks for itself, I think:

[I]ndeed, within this web of lust and fury, black and white can only thrust and counter-thrust, long for each other's slow, exquisite death; death by torture, acid knives and burning; the thrust, the counter-thrust, the longing making the heavier that cloud which blinds and suffocates them both, so that they go down into the pit together. Thus has the cage betrayed us all, this moment, our life, turned to nothing through our terrible attempts to insure it. For Bigger's tragedy is not that he is cold or black or hungry, not even that he is American, black; but that he has accepted a theology that denies him life, that he admits the possibility of his being sub-human and feels constrained, therefore, to battle for his humanity according to those brutal criteria, bequeathed to him at birth. But our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult--that is, accept it.]

Another really strange meme.

1. Go to the Wikipedia home page and click random article. That is your band's name.

2. Click random article again; that is your album name.

3. Click random article 15 more times; those are the tracks on your album.

Band: Argonne Rebels

Named after a drum and bugle corps from Kansas, this is either a really deep and ironic post-rock/drone outfit, or a hair metal revival band who thought the name would sound good ‘coz it says they are rebels! I’m guessing it’s some weird combo of both, with the guitarists and drummer leaning toward post-rock and the vocalist, bassist and keyboard player bringing the glam.

Album Name: Salzbergen

Salzbergen is a very small German town with a population of 7,504 people. Half the band selected this title to suggest a concept of life in microcosm. The other half supposes there will be beer maidens in low-cut blouses and is totally down with that.

Tracks:

1. "Dakota Formation" – One of the guitarists, a geology student, recreates the sedimentary processes that resulted in this formation with a variety of complex riffs and textures, while the glam boys go along because the singer is allowed to contribute lyrics about waiting for Dakota Fanning to attain majority.

2. "Golden Plover" – Everyone thinks it’s about a bird. This much they agree on.

3. "Perpetual Burn" – An ambitious re-casting of the Jason Becker song. Guitar exploration is common ground for this band, although some members are rather non-plussed by the substitution of drones and feedback squalls for Becker’s sweep and tapping techniques.

5. "Ebenezer B. Finley " -- A tribute to this obscure politician, solder and lawyer. An attempt to advance the theme of minor lives, but with added naughty bits. The Finely estate is considering litigation.

6. "Transverse Doppler effect” – A collection of abstract phasing effects, while the singer takes the chance to intone a completely unrelated set of power ballad lyrics about how he watched this babe walking away from him – sideways.

7. "Bitză” – A tribute to the Romanian rapper, an attempt to further explore the concept of lives in microcosms and a chance for the bassist to try out this really cool rap-rock singing style he’s been practicing secretly.

8. "Frederick Hall" – A vast, conceptual suite about the various minor figures who have had nothing in common, except this name. The glam people think it’s proggy, which is cool once in a while.

9. "St. Marie, Montana” – A song about a very minor US town with a population of 183 people. The singer makes sleazy propositions to every one of the women making up that 183 figure, while the drummer creates a polyrhythmic signature motif for each citizen of the town.

10. "Bristol Sonics” -- A rabble-rousing rugby anthem. For some reason.

11. "Diskreet " – A medley of the death metal band’s songs, a shout-out from the Argonne Rebels, who opened for Diskreet last year, and would like to do so again. Please.

12. "Ilija Basicevic” – An exploration of the strange imagery in this obscure artist’s work. Veers between Neurosis-like misanthropy and Alice Cooper style schlock horror.

13. "Tyrone Keys” – The keyboardist wanted a solo. No one’s sure why he named it after a football player.

14. "Emilio Taruffi” – An epic suite evoking the works of this baroque painter, culminating in sustained feedback storm to capture the horror of his eventual assassination.

15. “Vinta” – A song about hanky panky on a boating expedition, sung in Tagalog.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Another ridiculous music meme no one invited me to join:

If your life were a movie, what would the soundtrack be?

1. Open your music library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc).

2. Put it on shuffle.

3. Press play.

4. For every question, type the song that's playing.

5 . When you go to a new question, press the next button.

6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool.

Opening credits:

‘Swords For Teeth’ – Black Cobra. Well, it’s really thick, and sludgy. Maybe they could pan over the sluggish waters of the River Coovum in Madras, where I was born? And from those vile depths, gradually, emerges a beast … with swords for teeth.

Waking up:

‘Dirt Road White Girl’ – Artimus Pyledriver. Well, I don’t see how that fits in. There weren’t any dirt roads near my first house, and I don’t think any white girls were involved either.

First day of school:

‘Loyal to No-One’ - Dropkick Murphys. It’s a great song, but I don’t see how it fits my first day at school, or anyone's.

Falling In Love:

‘Last of the V8 Interceptors’ – Atomic Bitchwax. Er. Well, if you just consider the music it’s this slow, loping stoner thing with a slow build into that could go with the gradual dawning awareness of someone experiencing a first crush. But probably not. Or maybe that beast from the river is attacking the populace for the first time, and there’s this cool chick fighting back in a V8 Interceptor, so that she isn’t surprised by the authorities, who object to her vigilantism.

First love song:

‘Cool-School Drop-Out’ – Peter Pan Speedrock. Well, maybe if I was to be portrayed as falling in love with myself for not being an identical clone of the other kids in school. So maybe this fits.

Breaking up:

‘Side Naked’ – Stinking Lizaveta. This is an instrumental. There’s a lot of dissonance, so perhaps it would be good mood music as the V8 Interceptor girl (we’ll call her Mad Maxine) becomes progressively more fed up with me and finally dumps me. Oh, sob. I hardly knew her!

Prom:

‘Swarm Of Malice’ – Hail!Hornet. We never had a prom in any school I attended. But yea, why not a riff-chugging, misanthropic sludge song to fit with the punch-chugging, misanthropic state I’m probably in at the event, having lost the V8 Interceptor girl.

Mental Breakdown:

‘High Life’ – Artimus Pyledriver. Unless my breakdown is related to having too much of a good time, this doesn’t really fit. I think. I can’t really make out what the singer is rasping. The guitars are great though.

Driving:

‘Gettin' Old’ – Atomic Bitchwax. Another slow, stoner groove. Maybe I’m driving very, very slowly through the sluggish flow of the Coovum river, looking for old Swordtooth, to redeem myself in a final confrontation. And feeling very cold and very old.

Flashback:

‘Shitkicker’ – Atomic Bitchwax. Wow, okay, so I’m having a drug flashback. Great time for it, too. Here comes old Swordtooth, mad as hell!

Getting back together:

‘Five Daggers’ – Black Cobra. Wow. That’s some harsh sludge there. It might fit in if I’m busy being dragged along the Coovum river-bottom by Swordtooth, and Mad Maxine plunges in to save me, and there’s this really awesome and grimy fight scene which ends with us getting back together. This is shaping up to be a good movie of my life, even if has nothing to do with my life.

Wedding:

‘Gimme Some’ – Peter Pan Speedrock. ‘Baby. Baby, gimme some/the other girls are no fun’? Yea, okay. It’s not really that romantic, but maybe it doesn’t need to be the most tasteful scene in this movie. Which, from the looks of it, isn’t that tasteful anyway.

Birth of Child:

‘Neurotic Disorder’ – Hangman’s Chair. Fortunately this is an instrumental. It’s all slow and brooding and acoustic, you figure out a way to fit it in. There’s some voice clips at the end that don’t fit at all though.

Final Battle:

‘Scientist Of The Future’ – Stinking Lizaveta. Another instrumental. The music could easily go with a hectic battle between Swordtooth on one side and Maxine, Junior and me on the other. Maybe the title alludes to the revelation that Maxine is a time traveler! This is a really good movie!

Death Scene:

‘Dominion theology’ Fall Of Efrafa – This is an extremely long, often majectic song. Lyrically it is about intolerance in the name of religion. Maybe Swordtooth was killing people to offer as sacrifices to his god, who just happens to be mad ld Yehova, and not some squamous Lovecraftian deity, as you might imagine. Anyway, this is where I bow out, and honestly, this is a great piece for it. I can just imagine myself all brave and noble and hopelessly doomed, taking on The Beast From The Stinky River. There’s a bit where they quote Richard Dawkins (or maybe it’s actually Dawkins speaking) talking about what a creep the Old Testament god is, and that would make my final moments seem so very noble. Swordtooth dies, too.

Funeral song:

‘The Saphire Falcon’ – Black Cobra. More sludge. Everyone’s really manic and enraged at my funeral. I suppose.

End Credits:

‘Maelstrom’ – Heavy Lord. A doomy epic. As the flames lick around my corpse, Maxine and Junior hunt down Swordtooth’s god to kill him and avenge my death. Roll over Philip Pullman – this is the real deal!

And, er, yeah. Wow. What a very odd experience.

Much discussion on TV last night about the school shooting in Delhi and what it says about Our Society. What is says is pretty simple really - that some minors have reasonably easy access to firearms, and are capable of using these firearms to kill. What's just as telling, to me, is that the parents of these boys are absconding. Covering their own asses and leaving their children in the lurch. Whatever these children have done, that's certainly some loco parenting. Hurrah for Bharathiya Family Values©.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Listening to Deep Purple's 1993 album, The Battle Rages On I have to wonder why Ian Gillan doesn't get any praise from the mainstream meeja for preserving his wonderful hard rock voice for so long, as well as finding new and interesting ways to use it despite steadily loosing its higher end as one will, while not just the usual hoors like Rolling Stone et al but also more weighty outlets like the NY Times feel the need to fellate every new bleating by Robert Plant, who hasn't sounded anything but maudlin and tired ever since he patented his new voice on '29 Palms'. I think it's because Gillan stayed hard longer (he's proper mellowed out now, but hey, he kept it going three decades before that) and there is a vast indie-wing conspiracy to make rocking out with guts and gusto seem naff, unless it's done by people who are clearly not able to do it as well as they could and can therefore be called mature or by chuckleheads who don't have the actual chops to pull it off and can be called ironic or postmodern (see: White Stripes).

Because Gillan sounds awesome on The Battle Rages On. He probably couldn't execute the 'Child In Time' high bits anymore at that point (at least going by the Hell Of High Water live album released soon after; he still could not too long ago, going by the Nobody's Perfect live album in 1988). His high end is still sharp, all glissando and controlled warble, and his low end is thick and rich. He hits a variety of emotive tones, from grimy and loving it to wistful and sombre to the occasional wise hard rocking elder statesman bit. Blackmore sounds great too - his playing is just so much more engaged and inventive than even on the overrated Machinehead and has way more personality than Morse's slicker chops can convey. But that's another debate.

I do like Ambrose Bierce - The Damned Thing and The Death Of Halpin Frayser are among my favourite horror stories, and of course that dictionary of his is suitably cynical and droll, as are his parables. However, the following passage is clearly the creepiest bit in the otherwise by-the-numbers haunted-shed story, The Secret Of Macarger's Gulch:

"By the way," said Morgan, "the name of the gulch is a corruption; it should have been called 'MacGregor's.'

My dear," he added, speaking to his wife, "Mr. Elderson has upset his wine."

That was hardly accurate--I had simply dropped it, glass and all.

"There was an old shanty once in the gulch," Morgan resumed when the ruin wrought by my awkwardness

had been repaired, "but just previously to my visit it had been blown down..."

Of course, it's not that odd for the time, but this somehow makes it worse:

Mr. Morgan turned to his wife. "Pardon me, my dear," he said with affected solemnity, "for mentioning these

disagreeable particulars, the natural though regrettable incidents of a conjugal quarrel-- resulting, doubtless,

from the luckless wife's insubordination."

"I ought to be able to overlook it," the lady replied with composure; "you have so many times asked me to in

those very words."

I thought he seemed rather glad to go on with his story.

What are the odds Mr. Morgan's belt comes off for a bit of discipline once the visitor leaves? Like I said, creepy. Or am I missing something here?

Also, horror stories that rely exclusively on numinous happenings as per 19th century 'spiritualism' (you know, the mediums and apports business) need to have a bloody good atmosphere and twist to work for me. Even some of MR James' and Le Fanu's stuff falls short for me on this count, although the quality of the prose itself and the quaint, antiquated settings usually see me through.

Yasmine and I attended a play yesterday. It was an Urdu/English one man show about, apparently, a displaced Kashmiri muslim who now works as an undertaker and, having lost or alienated everyone around him, is now utterly alone except for the bodies he tends and his own memories and mania. It's a fairly standard torment-of-the-alienated portrait, but the performance by Abhishek Majumdar was often breathtaking, especially his wildly morphable body language, and, apparently, transformer-like physique. He seemed like a crippled old man one moment, a gawky child the next, and then again a raving young madman, flowing from one physical manifestation to another as smoothly as if he was digitised. The costume, make-up and set were all minimal and just about sufficient. A modicum of everything, no more.

Interesting stuff, and interesting enough that I might watch more of the this here real-life not-on-telly theeeturr stuff agin'.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Will Self's My Idea Of Fun was very Crowleyesque with a booster shot of (William) Burroughs. The first half is captivating, with its sorerer's apprentice narrator and all that eideticking mental travel. The Fat Collector peddles a neat line in gratuituous brutality which somehow seems very much of the 90s lit-fic zetigeist to me. The second half stumbles a bit, the third-person narrative sometimes a little too densely caustic for its own good, but it also acheives new pinnacles of bizarre menace in The Land Of Children's Jokes. There's something inherently creepy in the sort of jokes schoolkids like to tell each other - the imagery suggests a crazed amalgam of Lear and those shock-wesbites with pictures of disembowelled steel workers and whatnot. All couched in an idiom that is superficially similar to the anodyne fare the Disneys of the world are simultaneously trying to shove down the little brutes' throats. The plot itself developed somewhat predictably beyond a point, and I can't really say what it's about apart from some very mind-boggling mental excursions, some really creepy bits and a lot of very knowing cynicism about the intersection between marketing and commerce.

I also read The Extraordinary Adventures Of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey, bought cheap at a charity bazaar. A game little page-turner with the ever-alluring Arthurian business played out in tandem with a gawky, misfit teenager's coming of age. This stuff isn't meant to be taken too seriously, but I have to admit I was troubled that the teenaged hero brutalises and kills people with a sword. The fact that the people are a crazed would-be world dominator and his minions and that the sword is the righteous Excalibur doesn't help a lot. The Bauer-esque philosophy of judging methods by results is troubling enough in entertainment for adults, it's hard to know what to make of it in YA fiction. I'm not sure I'm a true-blue ahimsaist, but it seems like a more satisfying story could have been told about how Alfred circumvented the need for violence in achieving his ends. Now he's going to join the X-Files analogue secret agency and no doubt have many more fantastical adventures including a bit of righteous head-loping from time to time.

I'd still read the sequels, if I found them similarly cheap at other charity bazaars. Chewing gum for the mind, and a philanthopic gesture.

Michael Chabon's Gentlemen Of The Road is cool, and has at least one character who is also suspicious of solutions includng the mass exercise of brute force. Also, it kinda reads like Tim Powers, specifically The Drawing Of The Dark, albeit without the Grail angle or the beer. I'm drawing this one out as an accompaniment to my (highly healthful) veg sandwich, no cheese, no mayo lunches.

The Dutch band Heavy Lord plays a very cool brand of doomsludge on their new album Chained To The World. In some ways the album the new Down could have been, in most ways its own triumphant entity. Bruce Springsteen is still a boss songwriter on Magic. I'm re-discovering Burn by Deep Purple and I suspect the Srikanth is right- this may well be the best thing they ever did.

I'd like to talk about political things but they're annoying me a little too much for coherence right now.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Elsewhere,

I grapple with apostrophes and uncover a damn fine hard rock album.

Also, I mercilessly revile Beowulf, the movie.

I'm not very thrilled with Warchetype's doom metal. But I'm down with Thurston Moore's new album and I think Mammatus is a pretty rad band.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

So I decided to to fall for an internet meme.

Rules:
1. Put your music player on Shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER WHAT(this is in capital letters, so it is very serious).

1. IF SOMEONE SAYS “IS THIS OKAY” YOU SAY? 'Nice Day...For A Funeral', Overkill

2. WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY? 'Hairdresser' - ZZ Top

3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL? 'Hope' - Rush

4. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY? 'Interview with Blind Guardian'. Really. It's a bonus track on their new album. 12 minutes of men with odd Germanic voices talking.

5. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE? 'The Midway' - Acid King

6. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO? 'You Don't Understand' - Sebastian Bach

7. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU? 'Slash Your Face' - The Hookers

8. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS? 'Skalds And Shadows' - Blind Guardian

9. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN? 'Thanx For Nothing' - Overkill

10. WHAT IS 2+2? 'Loaded' - ZZ Top

11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND? 'Parking Banshee' - Gentleman's Pistol

12. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE? 'More Human Than Human' - White Zombie

13. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY? 'Another Stranger Me' - Blind Guardian

14. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? 'Take You Down With Me' - Sebastian Bach

15. WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE? 'Bare Bones' - Overkill

16. WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU? 'New Machine' - Overkill

17. WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING? 'After All (The Dead)' - Black Sabbath

18. WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL? 'Widow Maker' - Gentleman's Pistol

19. WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST? 'Silver > Blue' - Thurston Moore

20. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET? 'The Main Monkey Business' - Rush

21. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS? 'Turn The Page' - Blind Guardian

22. WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS? 'Dry Run' - Acid King

I'm not a big fan of Blind Guardian. I have their latest album on my mp3 player because a friend asked me to check it out, during the course of a lengthy and no doubt anorakish discussion of power/epic genre of metal BG belongs to. I am a big fan of Overkill, whose discography I'm in the process of rediscovering. White Zombie was a favourite for a while in college, and a trip down memory lane today. Rush's new album is pretty good and Sebastian Bach's is awesome. As is Thurston Moore's new solo outing. I've only recently discovered Acid King, and can't get enough of that fuzz. I like fuzz a lot - hence also Rhythmeen, one of ZZ Top's fuzziest albums. The Hookers are a very infectious rock/punk/metal hybrid band who ought to be better known. I don't know much about them myself, but a friend tipped me off recently. Gentleman's Pistol is a new UK-based band who play hard rock in the 70s vein, a bit like a more raucuous Witchcraft (who are basically spooky hard rock, even if they claim they play doom metal).

Some of the selections have me convinced that my mp3 player has a sardonic, cruel sense of humour and hates the whole human race, especially me.

"inhuman eyes in a suppurating sea of stubby maggot-like mouths; liquescent flesh, tumorous and gelid, floating and reforming."

Vs.

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.
Stranger: Indeed?
Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.
Stranger: I wear no mask.
Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

What scares you more? Personally, I think they both have merits, even if the first quote is over-written. I'd like to have my suppurating cake and eat it too.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

People need to learn to differentiate betwen fiction and reality.

But I suppose that's exactly the sort of mindset that makes those all-important leaps of faith possible.

here it is



One of my stories, 'War Of The Words', is in this book.

Monday, 3 December 2007

LINT by Steve Aylett was an amusing read, equal parts carefully-crafted non sequiturs and offhand profundity ('Civilization is just the agreement to have breaks between wars.'). It's impossible not to feel that Philip K Dick is in some way the inspiration behind this farrago of lies and jelly. Which makes it that much more dramatic to reveal that I finally found a copy of Michael Bishop's novel PHILIP K DICK IS DEAD, ALAS in the bookstore the day I finished reading LINT. RED RIGHT HAND, the 2nd collection of Denise Mina's HELLBLAZER run isn't as good as EMPATHY IS THE ENEMY. Also the artist doesn't seem sure what colour anything should be, least of all Chaz.

Now reading: MY IDEA OF FUN by Will Self (very interesting and strange; hard-boiled in an oddly William S Burroughs-esque way) and TWOC by Graham Joyce (engaging and increasingly weird, a more British and less soppy Jonathan Carroll, maybe).

Now spinning: ANGEL DOWN by Sebastian Bach (best hard rock album this year, after Alabama Thunderpussy's OPEN FIRE), EATER OF BIRDS by Cobalt (surprisingly diverse and groovy black metal), THE SUICIDAL KINGS OCCULT by Thrown (still completely obscure, but still a shoo-in for my Best Of 2007 list), RHYTHMEEN by ZZ Top, VOL. 4 by Black Sabbath, DEHUMANIZER, also by Black Sabbath, THE EARLY YEARS - Acid King, and the new Rush which is rather good musicaly and rather dull lyrically.

They'll tell you we have freedom of speech. They're lying.

Questions to theistards: if yer Best Buddy In The Sky is all-powerful, clearly he allowed this woman to write these things. In which case, isn't it all g*d's plan, which it is not your place to question? Or if you're going to pull the old freewill gambit, again, wouldn't the fact that said BBITS is also all-knowing, isn't it conceivable that he already knew this stuff would be written at some point, and somehow has a place for it in that plan we're not supposed to second-guess?

But it's all really just about taking the spotlight off Nandigram, isn't it?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

This article makes me even more convinced that I've somehow wandered into a dystopic alternative world.

In gist, a big muckety professor of Education from the Oosa is telling an international conference on nursery schooling that teaching children under 7 to read is too much, too soon, and will probably put them off reading for life. While I realise I'm a bit exceptional in exactly how early I became literate, I did start learning to read before I was 5, and the habit has sort of stuck. 5 seems like as good an age as any to start learning to read, and I'm not sure why this person wants to extend our pre-literate years in an era where, despite declining book reading, literary itself is becoming an increasingly important tool.

She says that starting to teach children to read too early can have an especially bad impact on boys, and her explanation makes me suspect what the real cause is: 'For most boys they are growing up in cultures where they are expected to be assertive and active. In instruction they are passive and receptive and reactive, and in the long term that accounts for the negative effects. In most cultures girls tend to put up with instruction earlier and better'.

The problem, I think, is not developmental but cultural. Educationists need to respond to this better - simply abetting a general thugging-up and dumbing-down of society isn't quite the role of an educator. What these learned people need to do is find ways to combat this culturally-imposed stunting of the ability to learn.

But then, I've always believed that education is what helps us to transcend our culture, and that one's culture is something to be valued, but kept at a distance and selectively drawn from on a rational basis.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

The BJP/JD(U) alliance in Karnataka has fallen apart again, which should come as no surprise to anyone. In the wake of this predictable (but still appreciated) collapse, the BJP's Yedyurrappa, the fellow who spent last week visiting temples and doing nothing of an official nature while waiting for his mandate, is convinced that he's been hoodooed! In the wake of his government's collapse, he told journalists that he's the victim of evil arcane schemes by Gowda and son: “I am aware of the black magic that Gowda and his sons are performing... a plan has been hatched to finish me off. Many of his opponents have suffered this fate in the past and I could be the latest victim of Gowda’s black magic”.

He's writing a will and is going to inform the home department that, if he dies, the world should know that They Used Dark Forces.

This man is so far off his rocker that he's lying on the floor wearing a tin-foil hat and receiving instructions from Martians through his dental implants. Oh wait, that's right, we already knew that - he's got religion! No big surprise then, move along people, nothing to see here. Just the mad leading the stupid (or being prevented from doing so by the greedy.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Can a man be less self-aware and still remember to breathe?

In what seems to have been a completely un-ironic regurgitation of corporate buzzwords, Rahul Gandhi has enjoined the Congress (I) to be a more 'meritocratic' organisation.

This doesn't even need a punchline.

Also, I need to recant. A few weeks back, I was all agog about Scott Lynch, saying that his second novel was every bit the supremely entertaining and satisfying adventure yarn that his debut was. Well, I may have spoken too soon. Now that I've finished the damn thing, I have to say it takes a turn into lachrymose melodrama far too often, repeats plot points from the first book without sustaining the same air of dark, fantastic menace, and sadly, his flair for witty dialogue is starting to falter and sink to Eddings-like levels of 'everyone talks the same and makes the same kind of joke, kind of'. Maybe he's trying for a film deal? Anyway, Red Sails Under Red Skies (which could easily have been called Red Sails Over Red Seas - think about it) is only half as good as The Lies Of Locke Lamorra. Number three's going to be the decider.

In other news, the new Robert Plant album, the one with that hillbilly woman, is really boring. Strictly for the over-50 set and everyone who reads and obeys music reviews in the mainstream press (the same people who are calling Britney Spears' latest an 'artistic triumph'). Album of the year? Regurgitated country-blues chops, far too much compression + reverb on anodyne guitars and two voices singing together in a variety of simplistic ways does not make for a musical masterpiece. Has anyone ever noticed how, when Plant and Kraus sing in unison the cumulative result is to sound just like a somewhat less smarmy Don Henley? Not the happiest shade to invoke. Plant, and Page, should both just cut their losses and ask John Paul Jones if he'll let them join their band.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Just received: the cheque for my first professional fiction sale.

In celebration, here's an awesome Black Sabbath poster:

Friday, 16 November 2007

You know, people, I'm fine with being a primate (and Honourary Feline because I sleep so much, my cats inform me) but I sure as hell don't feel proud of being a human most of the time. Least of all today.

Not when a gang rape victim is being sentenced to 200 lashes and 6 months' imprisonment for being in the company of men she wasn't related to. (Link)

Not when women, children and an orangutan were found being kept in slavery in a 'protitute village'. (Link)

Seriously, just call it off, okay? There is no benign entity in the cosmos that made us all and has a masterplan that's worth getting behind. If you think there is, you might as well rip your own head off and use your cranium as an ashtray, because it certainly isn't doing anything useful right now.

And, yes, fooey. And fie.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

“I feel guilty that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ led to ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen,’” he told The Los Angeles Times in 2002. “A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books.”

“Of course,” Mr. Levin added, “I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.”

Ira Levin is no more.

I rank him alongside Richard Matheson as a canny craftsman of unease. Without an especially notable prose style, or indeed any literary pretensions at all, he mined that lucrative point at which the populist and the primal merge, spinning out archetypal fears from the mundane stuff of contemporary life. It's no surprise that his books have made for so many popular film adaptations - to correct the cause-and-effect citation Levin wrongly proposes in the above quote, he seems to have sensed a deep vein of darkness running beneath the surface of his culture long before it became as overt as it is today.

Monday, 12 November 2007

...The Flower Beneath The Foot by Ronald Firbank. A strange book, apparently an influence on Waugh's Black Mischief, but as far from Waugh as you can get in some ways. It's as if one of ER Eddisson's post-Ouroboros ponderances about archetypes and exemplars afoot in Zimimavia were to be taken over by Wilde, brought back down to earth and made stranger, funnier, more subversive and more resonant in the process. I almost wrote that it is like the novel Huysmans' Des Esseintes would write, but Firbank was both more knowing and more self-aware than that tragicomic synsesthete.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Yesterday, the power supply was cut from 9 AM to 6 PM in several parts of town. I'm not going to launch into a diatribe against the BESCOM at this point, richly though they may deserve it. Instead, I'd like to send special aah fooeys from the darkness to the Times Of India, who, in their headline about this power outage show exactly which sections of the great unwashed masses they actually give a fuck about: 'Black Sunday for traders, shoppers'.

That's right. On a sunday when ordinary people with no special desire to buy or sell anything were all inconvenienced on their day off, the Times' wizened little heart bleeds for the merchants and those unheeding victims of consumerism who could not make use of what the Times' correspondant calls 'peak shopping hours before Diwali'. This observation even deserves an actual exclamation point, something not deemed fit for rapes, murders and other normal activities. That's right, see it right there: 'Lights out during peak shopping hours before Diwali!' Oh horrors, I think I have the vapours! Hesu cripes, babalooey. Is it time we declared war on Diwali?

The article goes into great detail over the travails of honest merchants who could not exploit our new, shining India, where every mother is a godess and no child is left to starve, and its enthusiasm for shopping. Here's just one of 4 quotes from these good gents: ' “It kills our Diwali business. So much has been spent on decorating the road, and a power cut is disappointing. We opened shops at 10.30 am and waited till 6.30 pm before power resumed,” said Sunit Gulrajani, who owns a camera shop. '

Aww, man. Cry me a fucking river, Gul.

Only at the very end of this disgusting little front-page upchucking do the good folk at ToI choose to notice that people outside the buy-and-sell cycle might have been impacted:

Capt M B S Gopal, a resident of Indiranagar, said: “Without power, we cannot pump water from the underground tank in our house and a power cut like this affects life on a Sunday that should see us relaxing.”

Gosh. Thanks for giving the little people a voice, ToI! Thanks for showing that in between toning down soft-porn photo shoots of starlets for family entertainment in the Bangalore Times supplements and listing the names of each Page Three Impersonality pictured in your society pages you still have your fingers on the pulse of the common man. You know, that little fellow with the funny jacket RK Laxman still finds to doodle about in your cartoon section.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

once again, FOOEY

We're quick to analyse and celebrate when our Sensex hits new highs.

Our elected representatives hasten to reassure an anxious nation when the Sensex plummets again.

India is the 24th hungriest country in the world out of 118 countries covered by the Global Hunger Index - behind Ethiopia, even, and the people of our nation neither need nor receive any sort of reassurance. The poor have always starved to death in sullen silence in India - why let them break with a historical tradition? After all tradition is what our glorious national identity is all about.

Hell yeahs to this article, which is basically this same rant as presented by a far more well-informed person.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Meet Piyush 'Bobby' Jindal.

Born-again Catholic convert.

Intelligent Design advocate.

Anti-abortion advocate.

Hate crimes law opponent.

In short, an all-round neocon wingnut.

Aah, fooey to the Indian press and the Indian people for fellating this looney tune for becoming Governor of Lousiana just because his parents happened to be from around here.

My prediction: When the first Indian-origin US serial killer is apprehended, there will be a similar upwelling of unconditional pride and support back in the MotherFucked Land.

Followup aah fooeys to the Durga Puja asshattery, which, with its attendant idol immersion stupidity, has stunk up Ulsoor lake again. Ahh, the stench of godflesh rotting...

All I've got left is a mean-spirited HELLS YEAH \m/ to the monkeys who were involved in the death of SS Bajwa, Deputy Mayor of Delhi and BJP man. A friend of mine made such a totally cringeworthy joke about this one, I have to share it with you:
I imagine Bajwa was pacing up and down his balcony saying to himself, 'We must have Ram Setu because it is Ram Setu!' At which point the monkeys jumped in, said 'If you have anything to setu Ram, say to him directly!' and pushed him off.
Moohaha. Bad taste and unfunny, but it's all I got.

Monday, 22 October 2007

An extra special Aah Fooey to organised religion, as usual, but in this case inspired by Durga Puja. This year's Durga festival got over on the weekend. There's a Durga temple near my house, and on sunday they took out their usual procession, parading the idol of the goddess through the area.

My wife and I went out to pick up some groceries on Sunday evening, and here's what we were treated to:

Crowds of devotees blocking the streets and roads.
Unruly, drunk hooligans, often with face paint on, swaggering around and drinking in public (which I'd get caned for at a rock show, you fucking hypocrites)
Trails of litter left behind by the devotees, including beer cans, arrack packets (I thought those things were banned) and the usual snacks wrappers
One loathsome, vile asshole who took advantage of the darkness and the crowds to grope my wife. We confronted him, and he and his friend tried to rough us up, and threatened me with a rock. We started yelling and asking them to come to the police (who were just around the corner), and they ran. No thanks to the highly socially responsible rubberneckers who parked their bikes at a safe distance down the road to gawk.

My wife did get in a good punch at the fellow who molested her. I could hear the thud when her fist impacted. I hope that hurt.

To all the gods-sucking theism apologists out there, is this the sense of community and shared values that you keep pretending religion provides? Is this the sort of respect for women that is being instilled by goddess worship? Yeah, right.
Aah fooey...

To James Watson, for showing you can be very smart and also very stupid. To quote the Wired article I've linked to, Watson's incredibly arrogant and stupid comments on Africa, and Africans; supposed lack of intelligence is 'self-serving and dangerous. Why think about the legacy of colonialism or the contemporary role of western arms dealers -- why bother to help -- when you can explain away Africa's problems as unavoidable biological flaws?'. Read the articles linked at the end of the one I've linked to for a complete picture.


All right, hell yeah...

To Scott Lynch, whose second Gentleman Bastards novel, 'Red Seas Under Red Skies' is every bit as exciting, deviously plotted and vividly imagined as his debut, 'The Lies Of Locke Lamora'.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Aah, fooey...

To India for having the world's worst maternal mortality rate, according to this report. Seriously, fuckers, what's shining except the tears in a 100,000 motherless babies' eyes? Seems a mother can't get enough medical help in mother India. Bharath Matha Ki Jai?

Hell, Yeah!!!

To the Nobel comittee for awarding the UN IPCC and Al Gore this year's Peace Prize. How much longer are the fossil-fuel-fundamentalists going to keep up with their denial game?

Extra hell yeas to the Nobel comittee for this year's Literature Prize, awarded to Doris Lessing. Let's see, she wrote The Fifth Child, one of the most chilling books I ever read in a childhood marked by excessive deviations into Poe, King and a slew of horror anthologies, she detoured into science fiction without giving two figs for the resulting disdain from mainstream critics, and she wrote an astounding dystopian novel about gender issues, The Cleft, at the age of 87, when most people are dead, senile or some combination of the two. She rocks! (I've chosen this picture, taken more than 50 years back, because of the cat. We always have a hell yeah for the furry prowlers around these parts).

Monday, 15 October 2007

what is this what this is what of it all what I say what

I've been doing this waxing-all-webiloquent thing for a while now, and frankly, I was bored out of my skull with my old blog. So I tried migrating it to blogger beta and dressing it up with different doohickeys, but you know what, it was still mind-meltingly boring to do. Even I wasn't able to read my smug little upchuckings and stay awake anymore. All that verbiage is so TwenCen anyway. So now I'm going to keep things short and hasty, use lots of pictures and make one post a day. About a thing that makes me go 'Ah Fooey!' (because the world is a fuckall place and full of such things) and one thing that makes me go 'All Right, yeah!'. And that's that.