Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A lovely (and edible...bonus!) surprise...

Just a brief one to tell you all about the wonders of http://www.doughdough.com/.
In short, things have not been great for me lately, but today my day was brightened by receiving a couple of unexpected packages through my door. I opened them to find that some wonderful friends had sent me a chocolate brownie and some dolly mixtures to cheer me up a bit...and I felt very loved indeed!
The website that they were ordered from is lovely, straightforward and easy to use...it allows you to choose a gift card to go along with your purchase (all of which are very pretty and in very good taste) and add a short message to be typed into it.
I can say, from personal experience, that this is a lovely gift to receive and a sweet (pun intended) way to show someone you care.
Hop to it!
P.s. I have already scoffed the brownie (whilst typing this in fact) and can affirm that it was delicious! ;o)

Monday, October 29, 2007

CocoRosie - Full (free) album streaming

I am stoked to have found this! A site where you can listen to the whole album The Adventures Of Ghosthorse And Stillborn by CocoRosie for FREE! Oh yay!

I have, and love, their two previous albums, La Maison de Mon Reve and Noah's Ark, but have not yet got around to purchasing their third. And it's a treat!

You can have a listen for yourselves here (mp3.com).

I have also managed to find a track from one of their earlier albums that you can download right here:

Download Free MP3 - CocoRosie, By Your Side (from La Maison de Mon Reve)

They are something of an acquired taste...a bit like Marmite, you will either love them or hate them! I fell immediately for their curious and intriguing sounds...something so original and so artistic. This is completely uncompromising, but astonishingly beautiful...layered, considered and personal.

To read more about them, visit their Wikipedia page. (Their own website is gorgeous looking, but takes forever and ever and ever to load!).

Anyone for a cuppa?

I found these on my travellings about the internet recently. I am most impressed! We have had many an amusing (we thought) conversation at work about making tea/coffee for others..."I'll have mine American Tan" etc. Now you can get it spot on!

You can buy these beauties at Suck UK, which also has the inspired mugs below...for when you've been unlucky on the hot beverages round and have an igloo's chance in hell of remembering everyone's order!

Witty and useful design...I like it. There are also many other pleasing items there for your perusal, so check the website out...off you go!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jolie Holland: "I used to be an angel now I'm just like everybody else/I left my wings in the gutter and my halo's lost, dusty on a shelf"

Jolie Holland holds the accolade of playing one of the best and one of the worst gigs I have ever been to.

Hailing from Houston, Texas, Ms Holland made her name with (and was a founding member of) The Be Good Tanyas, before releasing her first solo effort, Catalpa, in 2003. Catalpa was recorded in a home studio and was never intended for release. The sound quality is appalling, but the songs are beautiful and Holland's languid voice beguiling. The opening line, on the song Alley Flowers, is the wonderful "Some people say I got a psychadelic presence/Shining in the park with a bioluminescence".

2004 brought Escondida, a much more polished studio consignment, and one which brought her to the attention of the music press in a big way. Holland's strange, almost eerie intonation and phrasing were captivating, sounding like nothing that had been heard before, whilst somehow still managing to sound like old-time music from decades past. Her jazzy-bluesy voice (of, almost unbelievably, a woman then aged only 29) ambled its way through folk-tinged, country-styled numbers...this was rootsy, yet somehow fresh.

It was shortly after the release of Escondida that I first saw Holland playing live. The venue was the Live Theatre in Newcastle, a small and charming place for which I have always had something of a soft spot (and which, following a regeneration, has very recently reopened). She came on stage, in a rather odd and mismatched outfit, every bit the small town gal. She was as humble as she was mesmerising. The band was astoundingly good...these people were true musicians, and this included Holland, who turned her hand to guitar and ukelele (and, as I remember, fiddle too). Her natural talent was obvious and she seemed sweet and shy as she introduced each song in a drawl so thick you couldn't help but warm to her. I really felt, on this night, that I had been let in on some very special secret. I even got a hug from the woman herself at the end of the gig and came away feeling high and happy, like my soul had grown a little.

In addition to songs from the two albums she had released, she played us a new song that she had been working on, called Moonshiner, which we were later to hear on her 2006 album Springtime Can Kill You. For me, this release was somewhat disappointing; and from someone I had thought could do no wrong. The captivating voice was still there, and it still sounded pleasant, but the songs just did not engage me and etch themselves into my consciousness as those on the previous two albums. I would be hard pressed, even now, to hum any of them for you, or to name any beyond the title track and the aforementioned Moonshiner.

But when I found out Holland was going to be touring again I was keen to get in on the action, having enjoyed my evening so much previously. Gutted was I, then, to find that she wouldn't be coming to the UK. And ecstatic when I realised that she was to be playing in San Francisco during the time some friends and I were going to be there! As soon as they went on sale, I booked three tickets over the internet (how jet-setting am I booking tickets for a concert on another continent?!).

So, having seriously 'bigged her up' to my friends, who had never heard of her, we spent that day pootling up through Chinatown, past the Transamerica Pyramid, calling in at the infamous City Lights book store, before taking in Lombard Street and North Beach. Our destination was Bimbo's 365, where Ms Holland would be playing.
After waiting in line outside for eons we finally got in, only to find out that almost every seat in the house had been reserved in advance (which, as 'auslanders' we could not have known). We took some seats right near the back and decided to get a drink...which was extortionate, particularly if, as expected, you took advantage of the table service. The venue itself was capacious, yet somehow still quite dingy and, however many miles it was that we were from the stage, our vantage point was disappointing. But not to worry - she would be so excellent that it would be as if warm honey had been poured into my friends' virgin ears and this wouldn't matter a jot!
Sadly, I was mistaken.
She took to the stage looking somewhat bewildered and lackadaisical, demanding that someone bring her bag, which she had left backstage, to her. Then followed an entire evening's worth of dull meanderings, reworkings of every song so that they became tuneless, pointless and, frankly, boring. I was so disappointed...and embarrassed to have sung her praises so highly when this had been my friends' introduction to her music! We even considered getting out our pack of cards to keep us entertained, but general Britishness prevented this!
Every single song was completely immemorable and Ms Holland appeared to have picked up quite an attitude somewhere along the way. No longer the charming, unassuming woman sitting in front of us, this was someone who told a girl at the front of the audience to be quiet (fair enough) whilst she was on stage, addressing her as "Baby doll" (patronising, quite rude and not fair enough!). When the evening finally wound to a close my friends were so infused with ennui that they didn't even feel like going on elsewhere for a post-gig drink.
There is a lesson in here somewhere I am sure. Perhaps it is about not putting people on a pedestal, perhaps it is about taking each individual experience for what it is and not expecting to be able to recreate it. Perhaps it is simply that one should keep one's expectations low?
Below are a couple of free-to-download MP3s I found on the internet (I am ever so proud of myself for understanding source code enough to post them on here!). They are worth a listen, despite the negative tone of the second half of the article itself. To me they sound quite bewitching, and only slightly sullied by my disappointment in the way Jolie Holland has gone! I would still thoroughly recommended the first two albums, particularly Escondida...definitely worth an investment.

Download Free MP3 - I Wanna Die (from Catalpa)

Download Free MP3 - Old Fashioned Morphine (from Escondida)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Acceptable In The 80s

The Cadbury's Wispa is back!

As, it would seem from an advertisment during a recent evening's televisual viewing, are Sylvanian Families (which was something I desperately wanted as a child!).

This, apparently, is the Wildwood Family grandparents!

Bananarama were on This Morning the other day (without Siobhan, who was always the best one), and Facebook is heaving with '80s kids' tv' quizzes.
Next week I shall mostly be wearing a flourescent skirt over my cycling shorts...and moaning about Margaret Thatcher!

I'm Not There - a film about a certain Mr Zimmerman (that's Bob Dylan to me and you)

I'm Not There, directed by Todd Haynes, is a film about the life of Bob Dylan.
The film is named after a Dylan song only available on bootleg albums (The Genuine Basement Tapes and A Tree With Roots). It was recorded during The Basement Tapes sessions, but was cut from the final release.
Haynes is probably best known for his 2002 film Far From Heaven (which I will admit I have not seen) and 1998's Velvet Goldmine (a let down). He was also responsible for the 1987 film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, in which Carpenter was portrayed by Barbie dolls - Haynes was sued by Richard Carpenter and the film was removed from distribution.
Continuing with this 'arty' focus to his film-making, I'm Not There follows Dylan through seven different stages of his life, played by six different actors: Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere and Cate Blanchett.
Yes, you did read that right...Cate Blanchett!
This, for me, brings to mind Todd Solondz's film Palindromes, in which the protagonist, 13 year old Aviva, was played by eight different actors of varying age, race and gender. If you haven't seen that, it's really interesting and well worth a look.
I'm Not There has already won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. I can't wait to see it! Let's just hope, after such wonderful biopics as Ray and Walk The Line, that this one is worthy of the great man. The cinematography certainly looks beautiful from the trailers I have seen (below).
Also starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams.

If you want to check it out further, try Internet Movie Database (a film geek's paradise!) as a starting point.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Really love your peaches, want to shake your tree": Songs about food (well, with food in the title!)

"Cream tangerine and Montelimar
A ginger sling with a pineapple heart
A coffee dessert - yes you know it's good news
But you'll have to have them all pulled out
After the Savoy truffle"

The Beatles - Savoy Truffle

Before we start...a handy piece of advice from The Clash...Don't Get Lost In The Supermarket.

This is by no means an exhaustive list...comment away with your own additions! For example, I know that there are oodles (and noodles?) of blues songs not listed, but that's not really my 'specialist subject' and I've tried to stick to songs I know (most of which are in my personal music library).

So let's start with...


  • Electric Soup – Corduroy
  • Post Houmous – Morcheeba (it has literally only just occurred to me, whilst typing this up, that their name is a dope-smoking reference!)
  • Pumpkin Seeds – Devendra Banhart
  • The Soup – Regina Spektor
  • Tick Eats The Olives – Devendra Banhart


  • Hot Burrito #1 – Belly (Hot Burrito #1 and #2 – Flying Burrito Brothers)
  • Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad – Wanda Jackson
  • Hot Tamale – Donna The Buffalo


  • Cold Turkey – The Beatles
  • Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – Charles Mingus
  • Meat Hook – Tracy Bonham
    And who could forget...
  • Spam – Monty Python (if Spam can ever be called a meat!)


  • Catfish Blues – Robert Petway
  • Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie – Joanna Newsom
  • Pulling Mussels (From A Shell) – Squeeze
  • Rock Lobster – The B52s
  • Turnip Fish – Sultans Of Ping FC (which could also be in 'vegetables' I suppose...an executive decision!)

MAIN DISHES / ENTREES (Which, for some reason, seem to be primarily about pie!)

  • American Pie – Don McLean
  • Jambalaya (On The Bayou) – Hank Williams (or The Carpenters)
  • Memphis Soul Stew – King Curtis
  • Ocean Pie – Shed Seven
  • Petootie Pie – Ella Fitzgerald
  • Rainbow Stew – Merle Haggard


  • A Widow's Toast – Neko Case
  • Bread And Butter – The Newbeats
  • Bread And Roses – Mr Hudson And The Library
  • Shortnin' Bread – Paul Robeson
  • There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis – Kirsty MacColl
  • Toast – Tori Amos


  • Emperor Tomato Ketchup – Stereolab
  • Lady Marmalade – LaBelle
  • Marmalade – The Geraldine Fibbers
  • Reading Time With Pickle – Regina Spektor


  • Cinnamon Girl – Neil Young
  • Ginger Park – 50 Foot Wave
  • Let No Man Steal Your Thyme – Pentangle
  • Open Sesame – Kool & The Gang
  • Rosemary – Nina Nastasia
  • Rosemary – Suzanne Vega
  • Sally Cinnamon – The Stone Roses


  • Battle Of The Beanfield – The Levellers
  • Glass Onion – The Beatles
  • Green Onions – Booker T & The MGs
  • Know Your Onion! – The Shins
  • Navy Bean – Tracy Bonham
  • Polk Salad Annie – Tony Joe White
  • Pumpkin – Tricky
  • Sliced Tomatoes – Just Brothers (ok, so tomatoes are technically a fruit...pumpkins are too I guess?)
  • Sprout And The Bean – Joanna Newsom
  • Sweet Potato – Sia
  • The Onion Song – Marvin Gaye
  • Vege-tables – Brian Wilson
  • Vegetable – Radiohead


  • Agent Orange – Tori Amos
  • Black Cherry – Goldfrapp
  • Black Horse And The Cherry Tree – KT Tunstall
  • Blackberry Way – The Move
  • Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino (an ex of mine was adamant that the lyrics to this are “I found my freedom...”; that makes no sense at all, and therefore she was quite silly!)
  • Cantaloupe Island – Herbie Hancock
  • Coconut Grove – The Lovin' Spoonful (I have a cover by Sandie Shaw)
  • Golden Apples Of The Sun – Devendra Banhart (with Vashti Bunyan)
  • Gooseberry Fool – Kinky Machine
  • I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye (slightly tenuous, but such a great song it demanded to be included!)
  • Lemon Incest – Serge and Charlotte Gainsbourg
  • Love Tastes Like Strawberries – Miriam Makeba
  • Orange Moon – Erykah Badu
  • Peach, Pear, Plum – Joanna Newsom
  • Peaches – Presidents Of The United States Of America
  • Raspberry Beret – Prince
  • Raspberry Swirl – Tori Amos
  • Shiny Apple – The Waifs
  • Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday (and many others)
  • Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles
  • Strawberry Julius – Bikini Kill
  • Strawberry Letter #23 – The Brothers Johnson
  • Strawberry Street – Jeff Buckley
  • Tangerine – Moist


  • Biscuit – Portishead
  • Broken Biscuit – Sia
  • Butterscotch – CocoRosie
  • Candy Everyone Wants – 10,000 Maniacs
  • Candy Kisses – Kitty Wells
  • Caramel – Suzanne Vega
  • Dolly Mixture Kid – Kinky Machine
  • Lollipop – The Chordettes (or Ronald and Ruby)
  • My Boy Lollipop – Millie Small
  • No-Biscuit Blues – Kate and Anna McGarrigle
  • So Like Candy – Elvis Costello
  • Sweets For My Sweet – The Drifters
  • Whitechocolatespaceegg – Liz Phair


  • Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson
  • Doughnut Song – Tori Amos
  • Ice Cream – New Young Pony Club
  • Just Desserts – Chumbawamba
  • Nobody In Town Can Bake A Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine – Bessie Smith
  • She Don't Use Jelly – The Flaming Lips (I guess this would be in the condiments section for US folk)
  • The Jello Fund – The Lemonheads

SUGAR (There are so many it needs its own category...as does 'honey', which comes next)

  • Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones
  • I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl – Bessie Smith (what wanton smut for an old time gal!)
  • Pour Some Sugar On Me – Millie Jackson
  • Spin Spin Sugar – Sneaker Pimps
  • Sugar – The Archies (dreadful, dreadful song)
  • Sugar – Heather Nova
  • Sugar And Spice – The Searchers
  • Sugar Blues – Ella Fitzgerald
  • Sugar Daddy – The Jackson 5
  • Sugar Dumpling – Desmond Dekker and The Aces (or Sam Cooke)
  • Sugar Is Sweeter – CJ Bolland
  • Sugar Pie – Ella Fitzgerald
  • Sugar Pie – Har Mar Superstar

HONEY (And this is just a selection!)

  • Deep Honey – Goldfrapp
  • Honey Bop – Wanda Jackson
  • Honey Molasses – Jill Scott
  • Honey Now – Gillian Welch
  • Honey Or Tar – CocoRosie (well I know which I'd choose!)
  • Honey Pie – The Beatles
  • Milk And Honey – Nick Drake
  • Pony 4 Honey – The Need
  • Slow Like Honey – Fiona Apple
  • Sticky Honey – Juliette and The Licks
  • Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison
  • Wild Honey Pie – The Beatles


  • 32 Flavors – Ani DiFranco
  • Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
  • Hominy Grits – Josephine Foster
  • The Sun Maid – Soul Asylum (ok, so there's no mention of food, but this always makes me think of raisins! Purely unintentional I'm sure)

A FEW SUGGESTIONS OF THINGS TO WASH IT ALL DOWN WITH (Drinks could be a whole separate blog!)

  • Champagne Supernova – Oasis (for the decadent)
  • Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffet
  • Milkshake – Kelis
  • One Mint Julep – The Clovers (or Ray Charles)
  • Pennyroyal Tea – Nirvana
    ...or if it really has all been too much
  • Black Coffee In Bed – Squeeze


  • Intergalactic Laxative – Donovan


  • Give The Anarchist A Cigarette – Chumbawamba


  • Breakfast In Bed – Dusty Springfield
  • Chowdown – Corduroy
  • Double Cookin' – Checkerboard Squares
  • Eat For Two – 10,000 Maniacs
  • Eat It – Weird Al Yankovic (he has squillions of others about food too)
  • Eat To The Beat – Blondie
  • Feed The Light – Joan As Police Woman
  • Feed The Tree – Belly
  • I Eat Dinner – Kate and Anna McGarrigle
  • Nighthawks At The Diner – Tom Waits
  • Power Lunch – Har Mar Superstar (featuring Beth Ditto)
  • Smokey Joe's Cafe – The Coasters (or The Robins)
  • The First Taste – Fiona Apple
  • Tom's Diner – Suzanne Vega


Fiona Apple, Bananarama, Blind Melon, Bread, Cake, Cherry Ghost, The Cranberries, Cream, Flying Burrito Brothers, Hot Chocolate, The Jam, Jelly Roll Morton, Korn, Lamb, The Lemonheads, Meatloaf, Mint Royale, Peaches, Peechees, Prefab Sprout, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Salt-N-Pepa, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sugar, The Sugarcubes, Tangerine Dream, T-Bone Walker, Wild Cherry...you get the picture!

And we've got Sam Cooke and Sam Baker to do all the work for us!

I realise that most of these songs actually have nothing to do with food...even if they do pertain to ;o) But it's certainly food for thought!

Just one more wafer thin mint?


One Vision by Queen, when it was being written, was called Fried Chicken, and Yesterday by The Beatles was hummed by Sir Paul of McCartney as Scrambled Eggs whilst he was composing it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amoeba Music: Now that's what I call the best record store in the world...ever!

Amoeba Music is the music lover's wet dream...as far as music stores go, this is (in my opinion) the daddy of them all!
(If you can think of a rival, please leave a comment and let me know...I'd be keen to check it out if I'm ever in the vicinity).

The first store was opened on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley, California in 1990 (this one is particularly good for vinyl), with two further stores joining in on the fun since then: San Francisco (since 1997) and Hollywood (Sunset Boulevard, since 2001 – which claims to be the world's largest independent music store at 31,000 square feet – and which is the only one I haven't been to). This blog will mostly be about the San Francisco outlet, which is at the top of Haight Street, just before Golden Gate Park.

The store: A massive 24,000 square feet (2,200 square metres for all you metric kids) of converted bowling alley...seriously, it's like an aircraft hangar or something it's so humongous...and it is stocked to the brim with goodies! It really does feel like a treasure hunt. This place seriously blows my mind!

The staff...are everything I want to be; they are the ultimate music geeks. They really know their stuff, their knowledge immense and seemingly endless. And I know that, like me, these are people that simply wet themselves over making the perfect mix-tape (or cd in these modern times!), and introducing friends to music they love and are super-excited about. I found the staff to be really helpful; I was specifically looking for a copy of Iron Horse Fade To Bluegrass, a great album of Metallica songs covered in a bluegrass style, which I had heard in a local diner, and simply had to have! So they are definitely capable of helping you to find that obscure or limited-release title (and I'm sure they come much more obscure than that too!). They have a computer to look it up on, as with anywhere nowadays, but they also have a glint in their eyes, a genuine enthusiasm, and a remarkable, encyclopaedic ability to converse about any of it...and make suggestions if you ask for them too. While I was there I also picked up a great in-store magazine/zine/bible chock full of the (informed and insightful...and passionate) recommendations of people working in all three outlets.

And, most importantly, the stock: This is like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory for the music afficionado...except without such a creepy man running the show (did Gene Wilder, as Willy Wonka, give anyone else the willies?). It really is endless...there is (almost) every release you could ever want...and so much stuff that you didn't even know you wanted! They stock vinyl, cds, cassettes, new and used (as well as dvds, although I didn't allow myself to peruse this bit of the shop!) - a very eclectic range, including hard to find bounty. They even have listening posts where you can scan the bar code of a cd you fancy having a listen to, which then shows up on a screen where you can select the track etc. Or you can just search their extensive database for inspiration...although that might take some of the fun out of the experience of rummaging, trying to find a bargain or hidden gem. There are swathes of clearance racks, offering used cds from about $1.99 (with some sort of 'buy lots and we'll give you a discount' schtick on top of that, as if necessary...something like 'get every fourth one free' if I recall correctly). And it's not all just dross, as with many bargain bins...I got Geraldine Fibbers, Natalie Merchant and Elvis Costello albums (as well as quite a few others!) from the cheapo-cheapo section...why is it that this always feels like such an accomplishment...like you've pulled a swift one on them?

The atmosphere is of a community record store, despite the size...you are surrounded by tonnes of other music nerds with sweaty palms, nimble fingers (for rifling through the racks) and wide eyes. Have you read (or seen) High Fidelity? These (me included) are those people!

And if this wasn't enough, they also host live in-stores shows...I shall list some of those that personally would interest me, but if you click on the link to their website you can have a squizz for your good selves.

Past performances have included: Datarock, Kristin Hersh, Aimee Mann, Solomon Burke, Smoosh, The Dears, Saul Williams, Rilo Kiley, Gossip, Devendra Banhart, CocoRosie, Broken Social Scene, Ladytron and The White Stripes.

Oh, did I mention that this (small selection from the whopping big list as a whole) only covers the San Francisco joint?

(Hollywood have had, amongst others: Patti Smith, Erin McKeown, Tegan and Sara, Jolie Holland, Neko Case, Ben Harper, Wanda Jackson (!! Belated happy birthday by the way Ms Jackson...she turned 70 on October 20th), Nickel Creek, Elvis Costello, Old Crow Medicine Show, PJ Harvey, Camera Obscura, Amp Fiddler, Po Girl, Throwing Muses, Lucinda Williams and The Melvins.)

And all for free folks!

Apparently they even have their own record label now...although from the looks of things this is still quite young.

Ok, so just to balance this review out a bit...the negatives. It is hugely overwhelming as there is just so much stock! Seriously, you could get lost in this place for days and still not touch the sides. It's like your eyes are too big for your stomach...make that your wallet and the amount of time it is humanly possible to spend in a record store in one go. The temptation is so great you are also likely to come out (blinking at the sunlight) a whole lot poorer, with more arm loads than you can carry, and with that gnawing anxiety that you just missed THE cd/lp you simply can't live without (even though you've managed ok so far, thank you very much). But these are hardly real criticisms.

You are, however, likely to be offered any number of illegal substances in the street outside (this is Haight-Ashbury, after all), so if that offends your sensibilities...

If it eases your conscience at all, Amoeba (a prime example of the kind of word I hate, never mind how much I love the stores...the whole 'oe' vowel pronunciation bit...yuck!) donates some of its profits to Rainforest Action Network. It also, in the Hollywood store, has a 'Big Green Box' in which to deposit your unused/broken/faulty electrical items and batteries, for them to be recycled rather than sent to landfill. If you think about it, even a lot of the music is recycled...bought used (for cash, or more in in-store credit).

Oh, and finally, there's a great pizza shop, with daily 'slice' specials (I opted for the veggie options that they were proffering that day...I think it was a slice each of 'You Say Potato' and 'Elementary My Dear Watsonville' that I had, going by the menu) called Escape From New York, just a few doors away. Pop in, stock up on calories to see you through the next several hours of browsing/hunting.

Whilst I'm on a food (and San Francisco) tip I shall mention a taqueria that I dream about...El Farolito (nowhere near Amoeba at 24th and Mission). It is grotty, grubby, in a bad(ish) part of town, but boy is it yummy! And very very cheap indeed. Their veggie burritos are to die for, and are enough to keep you flup (full up) all day! You should also check out the pico de gallo (or whatever the green salsa they make is called there...you can serve yourself pots of it for free...great if you buy a basket of tortilla chips for something ludicrous like 50 cents). I crave burritos in the UK...there aren't any Mexican take-aways round here, which I think is sacrilege. Any Mexican peeps out there in Gateshead or Newcastle reading this? ;o)
As for Amoeba Music...don't just take my word for it...here is what some other people have to say: Amoeba San Francisco.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

“In her kiss I taste the revolution!”: The impact of Riot Grrrl on Gossip and music today

In light of the recent success of female-fronted bands such as Gossip, it seemed timely to look back at the Riot Grrrl movement and the inspiration it provided to a younger school of musicians.

Beth Ditto and her band, Gossip, have been splashed across the UK press in a big way this past year. Fear not, this is not just another article about squirrels! Gossip's brand of energetic punk-pop, their outspoken frontwoman and their political affiliations have caught the attention of the mainstream media and, it seems, the public. A great deal of the attention has been on Ditto herself and the fact that she is fat (and proud of it), gay (and proud of it!) and feminist (ditto – ha!). I can't seem to turn on my tv lately without seeing her face on even the most inane shows.
They started out some seven years ago. Such a big voice in such a small town (Judsonia, Arkansas) was never going to work. Ditto and Gossip guitarist Nathan Howdeshell (who goes by the moniker Brace Payne) moved from backwoods Arkansas to Olympia, Washington where, inspired by the Do-It-Yourself aesthetic of the thriving local music scene, they decided to start a band.
Gossip's first two full-length albums, 2001's That's Not What I Heard and 2003's Movement, released on the Kill Rock Stars label, are rough, unpolished affairs of short, snappy, punky songs which do not shy away from overtly lesbian lyrics and the band's political agenda. These sentiments are still there with their most recent album Standing In The Way Of Control, the title track of which is a diatribe against the Bush government's decision not to sanction gay marriage in the US. The difference is that now people are dancing to it in clubs and are blissfully unaware of its political sentiments; a nice coat of sparkly lipstick has been added to make it all a bit more presentable.

But the basics of Gossip's ethos owe a lot to Riot Grrrl. The DIY philosophy is still very much present, with Ditto doing newspaper interviews about how to make and amend your own clothing and the statement on the band's MySpace page:



Ditto has not been shy about her political leanings and, whilst courting the press in a way that riot grrrls at the time never did (she even has her own fortnightly Guardian column – What Would Beth Ditto Do?), she brazenly speaks her mind about issues important to her, and does not sugar her words. The music itself also shows many similarities, and it is no coincidence that their early albums were released on Kill Rock Stars. Of course one can ascribe many influences in listening to Gossip, from the bluesy wail of Janis Joplin to the soulful belting of Aretha Franklin, but the punk allegiances are very much there for all to see.

As Ms Ditto herself puts it “I don't want the world, I only want what I deserve” - a message which would have fitted perfectly with the beliefs of those early riot grrrls.

“Revolution girl style now!”

So what is Riot Grrrl? Well, it all started in 1991, around the time of the International Pop Underground Convention, in the Pacific Northwest of America, specifically Olympia, Washington and Washington DC. Disillusioned by the male-dominated, often misogynist, world of punk music, a group of women decided to take matters into their own hands.

A deeply political movement, this scene was as much about activism and 'the message' as the music that was produced. Equally important was the creation, and distribution, of zines (key zines including Jigsaw and Girl Germs), and the co-ordination of gatherings and festivals such as Pussystock, where seminars and workshops were held on such topics as sexual abuse and self-defence. Tackling head-on issues including sexuality, gender, sexism and homophobia (overlapping here with the Queercore movement), as well as rape, domestic and sexual abuse, body image, abortion and a woman's right to choose, the aim was to build communities of women, encourage communication and shared experience and, ultimately, to empower.

The popular press naturally misinterpreted the intentions of these “angry young women”, misquoted them, and wrote spiels about how they were 'man-haters' who neglected to take care of their appearance, completely missing the point about standing up for equal rights, for what you believe in, and for not being ashamed of what happens to be between your legs. So misrepresented were they that, by 1992, key members called for a “media blackout”, refusing to speak to the popular press. This had the unfortunate effect of limiting available information even further, therefore continuing to distort what was fed to the public about the intended purpose of the movement.

The roots of Riot Grrrl music were firmly in punk, with key influences including Patti Smith (to my mind the original riot grrrl), The Slits, The Raincoats, Joan Jett, Crass, The Plasmatics, The Au Pairs, Frightwig, Poison Girls, Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, and Debora Iyall of Romeo Void – to name only a few. And it wasn't only influences from the field of music that were important, but feminist writings and strong female voices in general - from performance art (e.g. Carolee Schnemann), journalism (e.g. Ellen Willis) and the world of zines (e.g. Vaginal Davis).

The key proponents early in the Riot Grrrl revolution included Kathleen Hanna and Tobi Vail of Bikini Kill and Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman of Bratmobile. The movement was christened after a zine they had produced together (the 'grrrl' of Riot Grrrl zine coming from from a term often used in Wolfe's earlier Girl Germs zine - “angry grrrls” - the spelling symbolising a growl). Through the production of various zines and via their music, these two seminal bands incited others to join in and themselves take action – this was not about playing the most proficient or technically capable guitar; it was much more grassroots than that, setting up a garage band and playing what you could (with punky conviction, urgency and true, visceral grit).

So, how about a guide to the 'need to know' of Riot Grrrl...the two key bands mentioned above?

“BECAUSE I believe with my wholeheartmindsoulbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will, change the world for real.”

This is one of the principles of the Riot Girl Manifesto, as penned by Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, who became something of a 'poster girl' for the movement as a whole. They also gave us the title of this article in their song Rebel Girl.

After working together on the zine Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna (of Suture), Tobi Vail and Kathi Wilcox formed a band of the same name, where they were joined by Billy Karen. Known for controversial songs such as I Like Fucking and Suck My Left One (perhaps one of the most iconic songs of the movement, its lyrics about incest), they were known for eschewing major record labels and the mainstream press, and for inviting females to the front of the crowd at their shows, where they would often hand out lyric sheets. The band themselves, and many fans, would sometimes daub themselves, in lipstick or black marker, with words such as 'slut' or 'rape', in an attempt to reclaim words used against women and to bring issues out in the open. This led to great misrepresentation in the press. Vail, Karen and Wilcox (with Molly Neuman of Bratmobile) are now The Frumpies, whereas Hanna went on to form Le Tigre.

Factoid: Kathleen Hanna is responsible for coining the title of Nirvana's breakthrough song Smells Like Teen Spirit when she spray-painted 'Kurt smells like Teen Spirit' on his wall. She was, at the time, in a relationship with Dave Grohl, Vail in a relationship with Kurt Cobain. 'Teen Spirit' was the name of the deodorant which Tobi Vail wore.

“We're not anti-boy, we're pro-girl.” (Molly Neuman)

After collaborating on a zine called Girl Germs (later to become one of their song titles), Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman formed a band in response to the male-orientated grunge music scene. They initially played as a duo, before adding Erin Smith (responsible for popular zine Teenage Gang Debs), introduced to them by Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening and K Records, in July 1991. (With whom, incidentally, Beth Ditto has recorded a song - Lightning Rod For Jesus).

Their aim was to create feminist punk rock – which they did in a sassy, poppy, witty fashion. Their first album Pottymouth is a key one in the Riot Grrrl canon, and contains a great cover of The Runaways' (a Joan Jett incarnation before The Blackhearts) Cherry Bomb.

They split in 1994, in part due to the media scrutiny of Riot Grrrl, reforming in 1999 and touring with Sleater-Kinney after each working with various other outfits. Allison Wolfe was also involved in organising the first Ladyfest in 2001.

Other notables include:
Heavens To Betsy (with Corin Tucker, later of Sleater-Kinney), 7 Year Bitch, Excuse 17 (featuring Carrie Brownstein, again later of Sleater-Kinney), Mecca Normal and the UK's Huggy Bear and Voodoo Queens.

There are arguments for and against including many others in this list, and riot grrrls themselves resisted definition of the movement as it meant different things to the various people involved.

True Riot Grrrls stuck fiercely to independent records labels such as Slim Moon's Kill Rock Stars (a great place to start sifting through the back catalogue - you can even download and sample some free mp3s here), Calvin Johnson's K Records and, later, Donna Dresch's Chainsaw Records, with a few signing to Sub-Pop. Kill Rock Stars continues to release music in which the influences of the early 1990s are unequivocal, including Erase Errata, The Frumpies, Comet Gain and, of course, Gossip, as well as the now defunct Sleater-Kinney and The Need.

Without Riot Grrrl, it would be very difficult to imagine Gossip sounding as they do today. They continue the work of promoting positive self-image (picking up the baton of Bikini Kill zine and its 1991 article on fat oppression), gender equality and the necessity of standing by your convictions. They are also keen to acknowledge their heroes, as with the original scene. This is Riot Grrrl updated for the noughties...perhaps a more image-conscious, media-friendly little riot sister.

The Riot Grrrl movement, however small in size and however short-lived, has had a massive impact for women in the music industry – strong women with voices that demand to be heard – and for equality in general. Sadly, it may also be to blame for watered-down offerings such as the Spice Girls and their trite “girl power”!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My album of the year

The inscription inside the gate fold CD case says it all - "How beautiful are these days."

This album is, from top to bottom, simply beautiful.

And I make no mistake in using the word 'simply'. No flourishes, no trills, no fancy packaging, no pretension, no superfluous production or excess. This is just great music...as simple as that.

There are no honeyed vocals here but, in this case, that is part of the appeal. Baker's voice is something akin to Tom Waits-lite (I do not mean this in any derogatory sense...quite the opposite. His voice has the depth and expressiveness of Tom Waits but, certainly for me, is a great deal more listenable!). He has also been likened to Townes Van Zandt and John Prine...accolades if ever there were any! This is a voice ravaged by the lessons life has taught; someone who has come through the other side to share with us the beauty the world has to offer.

In grizzled tones, Baker sings over a wonderfully sparse backing, at times talking more than singing. An understated offering...but one that has been calculated to perfection.

Upon first listen, there might appear to be a sense of melancholy to the whole affair. But listen more deeply. These are the tales of someone who is glad to be alive; his appreciation of, his joy in, all the little things that so many of us take for granted. It is the rasp of survival...a man that has dusted himself down and learnt to live for every new day. Yet it is not our usual hackneyed story of drug addiction and exorbitance. Baker, in 1986, lived through a terrorist bombing on a train in Peru, only just escaping with his life, deafened in one ear, partially deafened in the other, and having to endure some 17 reconstructive surgeries (never mind 'smaller' accomplishments such as having to learn to play guitar left-handed!).

"a bomb concealed in a suitcase ripped through the roof of a packed train that was carrying tourists to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu. Seven passengers were killed, including one American and three West Germans. As many as 40 other people were injured." (Time.com) or New York Times.

This experience is written all over Baker's work - in an uplifting, not maudlin, way. The storytelling here is consummate, yet the lyrical content economical; there seem to be no unnecessary words, and each song tells its story both succinctly and charmingly. We hear of a woman gambling in Reno, a brothel customer, the son of an oil-rich man, a psychic and, in 'Boxes', a woman searching memories of old Valentine's cards and a letter telling her that her husband will not be returning from war. It is the small details, the things so frequently overlooked, that make these stories so real, the "pigs feet jar" (Juarez), the "one red rose, it glistens in the sun" (Sweetly Undone), "cold Mexican beer" (Days).

The very simplicity is touching; sentiments that could, if offered in a more polished timbre, seem cloying, here are the epitome of rapture:

"Before the sun
Before the heat
Before we untangle from our sheets
Before this summer day unfurls
Pretty world" (Pretty World)


"You've got a book on Africa
I've got Twain
Lay down and rest
Lay down in the sun
Lay down with your top
Sweetly undone". (Sweetly Undone)

For me, the beauty of this album only grows the more I listen to it. It is a great album, not just a great collection of songs. The landscapes can be stark, but are never barren...and they speak of both solitude and love.

The album also features Walt Wilkins (making his name on the Texas red dirt scene with The Mystiqueros) and the sweet vocal additions (contrasting with Baker's own sublimely on 'Odessa') of Chris Baker-Davies.

It's a keeper!

High points: Sweetly Undone (my personal favourite), Pretty World, Broken Fingers, Odessa, Boxes.

You can listen to snippets (and buy the album) here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Smoking, it seems, is good for you...and fun to boot!

Ah, the good old days! ;o)

It all used to be so innocent (the italics are there for a reason!)...before smoking-related litigation I presume.

...here we have cigarettes being advertised by Mr Claus himself ('Have a cancerous Christmas'?)...

And if that doesn't appeal enough to the younger smoker...

...advertising bragging that this brand is a hit with the young'uns (because it's already killed off all of the older ones?).

Start 'em teeny-tiny...

Well, if the medical professionals recommend it...?

Oh, and the sporting ones...

Smoking is good for you for SO many reasons! Stressed?

Sod the bananas!

But let this be a warning to you:

About getting fat if you don't smoke!

Another bonus...

...it gives you that healthy glow:

Hmmm...what else gives you a healthy glow?

Yay for the post-coital puff!

Don't they look satisfied?

He finished first...obviously!


Yes, he joined in too!

Pleasure ahoy indeed!

And that's all I have to say on that topic!

And remember...

...a worthy bit of advice for you boys!

It seems that, more recently, the messages have been far more subtle:


They will stop at nothing to get you hooked! (This is clearly not the place to entertain the recent spate of anti-smoking advertising!).

I shall, therefore, leave you with this beauty from The Philippines:

Well, if she sanctions it...!