Sunday, February 26, 2006

This Place Is Death With Curtains

When you're woken in the early hours by a black cat chewing your hair as the chill wind whips against the Victorian casements of your stately pile*, there's nothing for it but to resign yourself to an entire weekend of full-on Gothickness.

It started last night, when I somehow found myself at a neo-goth club night called Feeling Gloomy. In between cheery Leonard Cohen disco numbers, the lovely S and I were entertained by a band called Black Dog, who should win some sort of anti-lyrical prize for a chorus which intoned "Jesus knows my secret...and I know his" for what seemed like all eternity.

Contrary to what you might expect, we hadn't just wandered in by mistake (ha!), but had gone with a purpose - which was to see the Divine Ms P's band Anarchic Hand in action.

"The" Hand are quite famous these days - well, they've been in the Guardian - and were therefore conducting themselves in true rockstar fashion, cracking rude jokes, looking like Helena Bonham-Carter in Fight Club, and sporadically launching themselves into the audience to snog unsuspecting goth chicklets. During one such altercation I had a newly lit cigarette (ahem) knocked from my fingers, so I should really thank the Hand for prolonging my life by five minutes. Good work.

The only way to go from here was down, down into the dread pit of gloom and despair that is the Tate Britain's Gothic Nightmares exhibition. I walked all the way there, too, which took a mighty THREE HOURS.

As it turned out, the walk was the best bit. The show is meant to explore the theme of the "sublime" - the expression of physical and sexual violence, horror and the supernatural - in 18th century art, but actually it's all quite comical. But then gothdom *is* quite comical, as anyone who's ever heard the Sisters of Mercy's cover of "Jolene" will testify.

I found myself marvelling more at the moody lighting, red velvet curtains, faux-flock wallpaper and tastefully veiled porno section than I did at Henry Fuseli's paintings of phallic horse's heads, struggling Prometheuses and crouching incubi. No, give me Aubrey Beardsley or the French Symbolists over Fuseli any day. Sorry about that, Henry.

It didn't stop me coming home and downloading the Sisters' cover of Jolene, though. Gothtastic!

UPDATE: I should confess that since writing this post I have been indulging in a full-on personal Sisters of Mercy revival. I thus speak from a position of considerable authority in advising you that they never bettered their 1982 single "Body Electric", the b-side of which, "Adrenochrome", is, and always has been, awesome. Seriously. Terrible production though.

* For which read "compact second-floor flat".

Friday, February 24, 2006

I'm Not A Hippy

I know this for a fact, since I own no floaty skirts whatsoever*, I never find myself wishing my name was Sky, or Pomegranate, and I also preside in evil bourgeois fashion over a (tiny) capitalist creative empire.

However, if anything was going to turn me into a hippy, it would be this really gorgeous album** I've just bought. It's by Archer Prewitt (there's a hippy name, if ever there were), and it's a year old (but hey, what's time, man?). It's full of truly lovely songs about, well, you know, love, and sunshine, and travelling unhurriedly from A to B, and "romantic monastics", whatever they might be.

It's a bit Nick Drake, with a bit of low-key psychedelia thrown in, which doesn't stop it sometimes sounding a bit like Simon and Garfunkel. In a good way.

I've been listening to it pretty much all day, while editing factsheets about clinical research software, with the result that my clinical software-related thoughts have been continually interrupted by far nicer thoughts, like "oo, I think I should climb a hill now, and just sit there for ages watching the sun set", and "oo, I think I should just go to the beach now, and sit there for ages, watching the sun set", and "oo, if only I lived in my cottage in Scotland, I could sit in the garden for ages, watching the sun set over the sea and the distant mountains."

Which leads me to conclude that this is probably an album for watching sunsets to, and that's never a bad thing.

I'm not a hippy, though. Honest.

UPDATE: Tracked down an mp3 now, from a BBC session: O, Lord (courtesy of Tight Ship Records)

* This may not be strictly true.

** Sadly no mp3s to be found, but you can listen to the whole album at this link. Far out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What Kind Of Idiot Am I?

Here's a handy tip for you all: if there's a gig you really want to go to, and it's likely to be quite popular, DO NOT wait for three weeks before you attempt to buy tickets for it.

So, er, I don't suppose anyone *accidentally* bought three tickets for Calexico at the Kentish Town Forum on 23rd April that they really don't want?

Thought not. Bugger.

TOTALLY UNRELATED UPDATE: Hurrah for prodigious commenter and excellent raconteur Dave F, who now has his own congregation of vapours over at, well, I just told you. Go to it!

TOTALLY RELATED UPDATE: For anyone still reading, here's a taste of what my ticketless companions and I will be missing: link to the video for my new (it's not new, just new to me) favouritest Calexico song, Crystal Frontier. Calexico. Horns. The Mexican border. Searching for your lost love along the river of tears. Marvellous.

Monday, February 20, 2006


The great thing about the blogosphere is that you can pretty much do anything you like and get away with it. You know, as long as it involves typing and pictures, and as long as no one clicks on that "report this blog" thing at the top. But for some reason I haven't got one of those, so I am ENTIRELY AT LIBERTY, mwahahahaaa!

So, in the same spirit of rampant, blinkered self-importance that built the British Empire and endowed our nation's finest public schools, I am hereby instituting a Coveted Prize.

Well, no one's coveted it yet, and there isn't an actual prize as such, but I'm only just getting started.

The Quinquireme Prize is for Pretentiousness in Music Journalism. I'm going to award it as frequently as I see fit, which will be very frequently, because *all* music journalism is unutterably pretentious. I often wonder how this can be, since all music journalists are geeky adolescents who surely haven't had enough time on this planet to have accumulated the vocabulary, experience and semantic agility required to create the kind of tortured metaphors and similes they regularly apply to their poor innocent test subjects.

Perhaps music journalists are actually alien steganographers, sent from another planet to communicate important information about redemption, the afterlife and how to avoid repeated anal probings to anyone clever enough to extract their messages from the florid prose in which they're hidden. Or perhaps their parents just brought them up on a diet of undiluted Captain Beefheart.

Either way, you might have thought that the first recipient - and all subsequent recipients - of this prize would be the editorial staff of the almost incomparable Stylus Magazine, but not so!

Instead, step forward the Boomkat Newsletter, which proved itself a worthy first winner on Friday with the following glorious description of Dub Tractor's "Hideout" album:

Opening with 'I Woke Up', gravelly electronica is crushed underfoot as Remmer introduces waves of shoegaze guitar and Space Invader rejects - atop of which his vocals are both buoyantly optimistic yet marbled with a Stygian pathos.

"Marbled with a Stygian pathos"! I have *no* idea what that means, but I absolutely love it. All hail to the Boomkat. Seriously.

All nominations for future recipients of the Quinquireme Prize for Pretentiousness in Music Journalism will be gratefully received.

And yes, I did nick this whole thing from Private Eye.

UPDATE: For anyone who might aspire to win a Coveted Prize for Pretentiousness (myself included), new commenter Loganoc (welcome!) has thoughtfully supplied an exhaustive yet handy Guide To Becoming A Pretentious Fuck. Check it out, yeah? Thanks Loganoc.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

And Finally...

Song of the week, and rainy Sunday afternoon listening par excellence: the quite excellent, beautiful and, er, heart-melting Melt Your Heart (mp3) by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, from their very highly recommended Rabbit Fur Coat album.

Hey, I'm quite getting the hang of this mp3 lark, eh?

802.11b Blues


Polish* Shop Assistant: Can I help you?

Me: Yes, my wireless gateway is broken. I need a new one, which one do you recommend?

Assistant: It isn't broken.

Me: No, it is.

Assistant: What makes you think it's broken?

Me: It hasn't picked up the internet for four days.

Assistant: It isn't broken. I am electronics. I know.

Me: It's totally broken. I've been having to dial up to my French ISP. Long-distance! International! Expensive! Slow connection! I've been trying to receive an allegedly legendary cover of "Sweet Child O' Mine" for two days!

Assistant: Bring it to me. I am electronics. I fix it.

Me: But then I'd have to go home to get it, and it's a long way, and I'm wearing three-inch heels. Can't I just buy a new one?

Assistant: No, it isn't broken. I know. You don't need a new one.

Me: But...but...I can't live without the internet! I've been having to do other things. You know, watch telly. Read books. See my friends. It's been awful.

Assistant: Don't worry. I fix it. I am electronics.

Ten minutes later:


Me: I'll have this wireless gateway, please.

Assistant: Fine.

Me: Woo!

* Lest anyone think I'm a xenophobe, I only include this information to explain his curious repetition of the phrase "I am electronics".

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Spirit of '73

Not content with gorging myself on the final two episodes of the fantabulously excellent Life on Mars* (thanks to sneaky preview DVD bestowed upon me by very kind benefactor), this weekend I’ve also been getting into 1973 in a big way by purchasing DVDs of The Wicker Man and Don’t Look Now, neither of which I’d seen before.

Tabby Rabbit came round to Quinquireme Towers to partake in the resulting impromptu Seventies British Horror Afternoon, which turned out not to be nearly as horrifying as the amount of tea and cake (especially cake) we consumed while viewing.

Live commentary on Don’t Look Now went something like:

- I was always falling in ponds when I was little.

- Oh look, it’s turned into a dodgy seventies porn film.

- Well, he’s got the moustache for it.

- How tall do you think she is?

- Yes, but she can get away with wearing a black polo-neck, because she hasn’t got any tits.

- How did her hair get so straight on the plane?

- Oh, I like her boots.

- Oo, it’s just like that time we went fossil-hunting in Dorset.

- I don’t think I like her boots after all.

- Oh, I can’t look!

- Wow, look at the fake blood.

- Hmm, that wasn’t very scary.

- Well, he should have seen it coming, shouldn’t he?

The Wicker Man, on the other hand, was total quality from start to finish. I’ve been led to believe by almost every bloke I’ve ever met that it is in fact the greatest film of all time. I see now that this curiously unanimous judgment may not be based on detached critical appreciation so much as on the lengthy footage of Britt Ekland cavorting naked in front of some (surprisingly tasteful) curtains.

I personally enjoyed the amusing transformation in Chris Lee’s hairstyle as his “pagan nutcase” persona emerged, and the aerial shots of the Quiraing at the beginning. And Scotland *is* lovely in May, human sacrifice or no human sacrifice, so they definitely got that right.

All in all, The Wicker Man is a bit like Eyes Wide Shut with drystone walls and moss, but only half as long and minus Tom Cruise, which makes it a winner all round.

In other news, it's my Dad's birthday today. Happy birthday Dad.

UPDATE: In accordance with the general spirit of 1973 hovering over Quinquireme Towers, there's a fantastic black Ford Capri parked across the street from me, which I am coveting. I keep expecting John Simm and Philip Glenister to tumble out of it shouting "We're Life on Mars, son, and we haven't had any dinner!"

* Which has had a second series commissioned, hurrah!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Unfashionably late to the fray once more, but here goes...

So, Valentine's Day, eh? I've been amusing no one but myself over the past few days by saying hilarious things like: "So, Valentine's Day, eh? Any other day of the year, sending anonymous messages of infatuation would count as stalking."

I'm not a big fan of romance, unless the romantic gestures in question are a) subtle and b) unorthodox. Oh, but I'm a big fan of subtle, unorthodox romantic gestures. Preferably so subtle and unorthodox that you can barely tell they exist. This gives me licence to interpret almost anything I like as a subtle, unorthodox romantic gesture, which is great for relieving the tedium of everyday life.

But I'm straying from the point.

Which is that Valentine's Day has traditionally been a bit of a mixed bag for me. Let's review some previous instances of the occasion:

Feb 14th, 1991, circa 7am: Unaware that it is in fact Valentine's Day, I get it together with D, after having spent the entire night talking about conspiracy theories and the Sisters of Mercy. I reckon he's The One. He reckons I'm The One. We fall desperately in love. A couple of years later, we're walking across a car park, he's carrying some camouflage netting, I tell him I'm the happiest I've ever, wait, I've done that one.

Feb 14th, 1995: D and I agree that we've come to the end of the road, which we have, both metaphorically and literally, as we're standing at the top of Peascod Street in Windsor. He's alright about it. I'm alright about it. As a farewell gift he presents me with a black fake-fur jacket, which I love. Almost three years later I leave the jacket behind in someone's warehouse flat in Brick Lane after a particularly debauched New Year's party, and never see it again.

Feb 14th, 2005: I'm happily married to ex-Mr P. For Valentine's Day he takes me for lunch at the Oxo Tower, where we talk about Microsoft. Afterwards, he takes me to the Tate Modern, where we laugh at couples embracing in front of a video of slowly rotting fruit, and ex-Mr P gets told off for interfering with the exhibits. Later, we walk hand-in-hand over the wobbly bridge and go to the Apple Store, where I buy my trusty iPod Shuffle. (Happy Birthday, Shuffle. You've been a great friend). I couldn't be happier.

Feb 14th, 2006: Unaware of the ironic timing, I email a firm of solicitors based in the same office building as me, asking them for advice about my impending divorce.

Romance, happy endings, The One - it's all bollocks, isn't it?

Isn't it?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Conversational Highlight No. 5

Me: How do you spell "Agarttha"? Does it have two Ts?

Nibus: I think so. [pause] Are you still writing that service-oriented architecture white paper?

Well, it made me laugh.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Simply everyone (apart from Betty, who has a great post about birds) is suffering from blogger's block at the moment. It's *very* February '06. Always one to catch on unfashionably late to the latest trends, I should inform you that I've got it with a vengeance. I mean, come on. Like, today, right, I got up at 7.30am and spent four hours editing a set of turgid and extremely poorly written documents about hospital administration software. And not only that, but I'm also, errr, going to Leamington Spa on Thursday. Woo! Mm.

Also! I considered going to see Richard Swift (dull, whiny singer-songwriter) play at Bush Hall on Thursday evening, but decided against it. (Although Jens Lekman is also playing, and he's meant to be quite the thing). Instead, I'll probably go home and eat one of those microwave meals from M&S that's made to look like it's in some kind of raffia basket, but the "basket" is actually made of cardboard. I might eat a yoghurt afterwards. Probably will.

(There's a scene in Desperately Seeking Susan* where Madonna is flicking through Rosanna Arquette's diary, and says: "This must be a front. No one's life could be this boring". Would that this were true of this blog, but sadly it isn't).

In other non-news, I have spent most of the weekend trolling up and down from Kensington High Street, dragging improbably large interior accoutrements back from Urban Outfitters and Habitat, like some kind of scruffy-haired, middle-class leafcutter ant. Even though the net result of this is that my whole flat now looks like the set of an Elle Deco photo-shoot, and my tasty red leather sofa is now adorned with The Greatest Cushions Known To Mankind, I feel that this information is as naught without an accompanying picture, and there are none to be had on the interweb.

Oh, it's as if the whole world is against me!

And finally, I have recently taken delivery of a beautiful, elegant Edwardian oak hall cupboard, which won't open. It's like a metaphor waiting to happen!

Still, at least I've got a day off on Friday.

Sorry folks. Normal service, etc. Something terribly exciting might happen in or near Leamington Spa. You never know.

UPDATE: By popular demand (well, one demand, but that counts as popularity in my book), here's my word cloud...

* On the subject of which, could someone please inform me whether Desperately Seeking Susan *actually* features one of the greatest screen kisses of all time, or was I just suffering from over-active teenage hormones when I saw it?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Just For The Beep...

Apparently if Belle & Sebastian and Morrissey took it upon themselves to organise a disco in the British Library, the music would sound a bit like my favourite twee Texan indie band, Voxtrot. And to prove it, here's a nice free mp3 of their latest tip-top library-pop outing, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives.

No time for more...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sometimes You Get A Story...

...and sometimes you just get a rubbish picture.

Unlike the highly principled and civic-minded surly girl, I have no qualms about the lack of editorial quality on this blog. So all I've got to say today is that I've been spending an unjustifiably inordinate amount of time looking at's latest feature: a lovely collage of the covers of the albums I apparently listen to most.

Now, wasn't that lovely?

UPDATE: Two nanoseconds after I posted this, James sent me a much better picture. It's The Day There Were Two Pictures, One Of Which Was Better Than The Other!

Sunday, February 05, 2006


As predicted, my hair has now reverted to its usual scruffy mess, which is fortunate, because the whole straight-hair thing turned out to attract Entirely The Wrong Type Of Bloke.

This one came in the form of the owner of my local gastropub, one of those Notting Hill 1960s-throwback types who labour under the misapprehension that they are in fact Keith Richards. And not in a Johnny-Depp-in-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-type way, because that would be just fine with me. In fact I'd happily get up at 4am every day to clamp my hair in a trouser press if it was going to attract Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean mode, or in any mode at all, really. But I digress.

Anyway, this one actually used the line "Do you come here often?" without any discernible trace of irony, and then proceeded to pose various questions including whether I could sew (I can't), whether my surname was Orr (it isn't), whether I knew the derivation of the surname Orr (I don't), whether I knew the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill (I don't), whether I thought that Fulham was full of foreigners these days (I wasn't sure, but even if it is, I didn't agree that this was A Bad Thing), and whether I thought that Chiswick was the best place in the world because it's "so English" (I don't).

Later, one of the bar staff appeared at my side proffering a mobile phone and saying that the owner wanted to talk to me. "So," says Keith Richards. "I thought you might be bored there. Do you want to come for a drink at the Electric Brasserie?". I decline demurely.

Even later, I have a dream in which this conversation replays itself, only instead of declining demurely, I say "Look here. What makes you think you can just pick out a woman in a pub like you're choosing a lobster from a tank?".

To which I can only say: "Oo, you go, feisty dream-Patroclus!"

There are times when I think I might be taking the whole ice maiden thing a bit too far. But I really don't think last night was one of them.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Hurrah - the sickness has gone! To celebrate, I spend two hours and more than a hundred quid in the hairdresser's, getting my hair done all straight, with added gingery bits. I haven't had my hair straight for a year. I think I look mightily cute, if a bit like every other thirtysomething female in the greater Chiswick area. Conscious that this effect will last for approximately twelve hours, at which point the hair will revert to its usual scruffy mess, I merrily admire it in shop/house/car windows all the way home.

Upon arrival chez moi, I get accosted by the Stalking Neighbour. "Are you alright?" he says. "It's just you look...really rough."


Friday, February 03, 2006

Patroclus Gets Down With The Sickness, Calexico

Sorry that the whole blogging thing has been a bit thin on the ground this week, but the real world keeps intervening, in the largely unwelcome forms of food poisoning*, mysterious nocturnal shaking fits, locking myself out of the flat, Nick Cave, stupid amounts of work, the sinister HOWARU bacterium (exclusive to Marks & Spencer!), and the possibly even more sinister GRINDSTED BARRIER SYSTEM 1000.

All I can do now is write this week off and look forward to next week, when I trust my life will be untroubled by any food-related gubbins.

And I'm also very much looking forward to the 23rd April, when Ennio Morricone's fantasy house band** Calexico will be playing in my old neck of the woods at the Kentish Town Forum. With a woo! and a hoo!

UPDATE: This isn't becoming one of those mp3 blogs or anything (because if it was, it would be a rubbish one, with about one mp3 for every four posts about the Lost Language of the Picts, which probably wouldn't really pull in today's discerning indie kid). But since I was talking about Calexico, here for your delectation is a free mp3 of their quite excellent Sunken Waltz.

* Thanks for that, Deliverance. Warning: stay away from the sticky rice.

** I can't claim credit for this epithet. But it's great.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

His Shadow Is Cast Wherever He Stands

Ohhh, if only I had time to tell you just how unutterably brilliant last night's Nick Cave solo gig was. But sadly I have too much junk mail to write and too many meetings to go to.