Wednesday, December 13, 2006


So, tonight was Madness in Glasgow. Not generally, there's some of that every night. Specifically, Madness, the band, were playing at the SECC.

Unlike most gigs I go to, I was at this one early. A good ten-fifteen minutes before the doors even opened in fact. I don't much like being that early, but my mate gave me a ticket and he wanted to be there, so it would have been rude to say no.

Jerry Dammers from The Specials was on warm up duty, playing a selection of ska & reggae records. Set the mood well.
Support came from an American band who I'd never heard of until Monday, The Aggrolites. They too were good.

Bit of a weird crowd. It's to be expected with a band like Madness though. Loads of couples and blokes in their mid forties who clearly only get to a gig once or twice a year. I'm fairly convinced I was one of the youngest people there without parental supervision. The make up of the crowd being what it was, it was at times very odd when you'd be down the front, trying to get a good spot of jumping around done, and would be met with disapproving looks from a woman standing in the pit with her husband, wondering what the hell is going on. In other places, a gaggle of the aforementioned 40-something would be horrifically drunk, falling over, and generally getting in the way. At one point I came across 4 men holding hands, because it was the only way they could stand up.

There was a good fifteen minute spell where I failed miserablely to pay attention to the band. The reason? Not one, but two fights broke out. First, some kind of disagreement & shouting match between a man & woman, then mere moments later, a full on 4 girl cat fight. Cat fights are much better in specialty videos than in real life at a concert, incidentally... Both happened right behind me. At one point the catfight was going on right in my left ear, hence, being able to pay attention to Madness was near impossible.

Madness themselves were in fine form, sounding pretty tight. As with most of the crowd, they are a bit older and fatter, but still fun.
Suggs & Chas Smash did a great job getting a party atmosphere going - no mean feat in the SECC, which is a soulless cavern with bad sound in the main.
All in all, not a show you'd want to see frequently, but once a year around Christmas, when the old and infirm get to come out and have fun and crazy women get to scream obscene words at random strangers and their friends, it was great fun.

Alcohol consumed tonight - one solitary pint of weak lager. Hence, this report is far more lucid than any other I've written

There's a bootleg coming, but it's two CDs with no setlist, and I can barely hear, so it'll have to wait till tomorrow for me to rip it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Pogues - Glasgow Carling Academy - 11.12.06

I've been neglecting Channel D, but since no one reads it, thats OK.

Anyway, here's a half arsed review of the gig I was at tonight.

Missed the support, as usual for most gigs I go to.
I only just had my first pint in the venue in my hand when The clash's "Straight To Hell" kicked in, which for the uninitiated is The Pogues' entrance music.

Quick charge into a good position and the band opened with Streams Of Whisky. Shane was looking good. Well, for Shane. I've seen him much worse, this time he at least looked healthy.
The bastard did get round Scotland's smoking ban though, by mostly ignoring it. He had a fan fairly near him on stage, which was apparently enough to let him smoke.
As a smoker in the crowd, this annoyed me immensly, until eventually myself and my brother decided to ignore that particular law. Given the stench of farts and B.O. from the people just in front of us, no one complained at a couple of ciggies being lit.
Oh yeah, there was a band on, wasn't there?

For the most part the set was the same as last year, which was no great surprise. [At this point, chronology may get the better of me] They did throw in a few songs that haven't been played the last few years though, most memorably Kitty.
Encore was of course Fairytale (with Jem Finner's daughter Ella, looking and sounding lovely, just like last year) and Fiesta .

All in all, a f*cking great gig. I'll be back tomorrow to tell you what I thought of Madness.
(I may also be posting an official bootleg of Madness, if anyone is interested.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Arab Strap Split

Aw, bugger. Always a favourite band of mine ever since the first time i heard The First Big Weekened. Malcolm's solo work has been good though, and Aiden's Lucky Pierre stuff is nothing to complain about either, so hopefully we'll still get regular doses of solo work from them.
Until then, I'm just going to have to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to the last Glasgow gigs.

Chemikal Underground Press Release

Farewell compilation album released 27th November 2006.

After six studio albums, three live albums and countless gigs, Arab Strap are to split up. A book-end compilation album and a celebratory farewell tour will mark the end of Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton's ten year relationship. The Last Romance, released in 2005, will remain their final studio offering.

"There's no animosity, no drama. We simply feel we've run our course," explains Aidan. "The Last Romance seems the most obvious and logical final act of the Arab Strap studio adventure. Everybody likes a happy ending."

Titled Ten Years Of Tears (a nod to the critics who frequently pegged Arab Strap as 'Falkirk miserablists'), the compilation is by no means a traditional 'Best Of' collection. Comprising B-sides, demos, remixes, new recordings, live tracks and Peel sessions, it's a handpicked selection designed to give a full picture of this unique band.

"The idea of the compilation is to capture the essence of the band over our ten year career," says Malcolm. "Sometimes the albums were a bit stifled because we were worrying too much about making a good album. I think that live versions of songs and b-sides etc show a truer, more relaxed side to the band. Ten Years Of Tears can serve both as an introduction to Arab Strap and also a fitting finale to those people who have followed us along the way."

Acquaintances on the Falkirk scene, Aidan and Malcolm became friends in 1995. They soon began making music together, telling twisted tales of messy sexual encounters, shit jobs, titanic drinking sessions and the twisted chemistries of human relationships. They called themselves Arab Strap after a sex toy Aidan spotted in a porn mag.

And it wouldn't be the same without a farewell tour, ending appropriately at the venue where the Strap played their first gig:



Signing to Chemikal Underground, they released their debut single, The First Big Weekend, a tale of Aidan and Malcolm's adventures on the weekend Scotland were knocked out of Euro '96, in September of that year. A cult classic, it's included on this compilation along with a recording from their debut live performance. Over the years that followed, we were given countless glimpses into the intimately private lives of our two protagonists, whether they were pondering the risk of STDs (Packs Of Three) or wondering if they'd get to shag that friend of the cellist from Belle & Sebastian (I Saw You).

"No one really writes honest, hateful love songs," Aidan once said. "The kids never hear it like they should hear it. They should know of the farting, the fighting and the fucking. The pain and the pleasure."

Together, Aidan and Malcolm have created some of the most beautifully observed and brutally painful music of the last ten years. The album ends, appropriately enough, with the triumphal There Is No Ending. The story continues with Malcolm's solo career (he's currently recording his new album with Tony Dougan at The Castle Of Doom in Glasgow) and Aidan's recordings as his alter ego L. Pierre (new album 'Dip' released early 2007) and a spoken-word album and tour in late 2007. And then there's this album, which serves as a key to that astonishing back catalogue. Future generations who want to know about the farting, the fighting and the fucking will hopefully know where to look.

Chemikal Underground Statement....

So it's with a lump in our throats that we have to announce the impending dissolution of Arab Strap. After a career spanning ten years, Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton have decided to wind up a musical partnership that has rightly earned its place in musical folklore. It's rare nowadays for a band to stake any sort of legitimate claim on originality; with Arab Strap, it's a claim to which they can feel richly entitled; over the last decade they have pursued a musical vision so singular in its tone and inventive in its execution that they found themselves in a genre almost entirely of their own.

For Chemikal Underground, Arab Strap's decision to dissolve represents something far more significant than the ending of a band's career: it's the end of an era. When we received a demo cassette back in 1996, neatly packaged in a hand made green box (emblazoned with a leaping frog of all things), it marked the beginning of a relationship that would have all the hallmarks of the trysts recounted in Arab Strap's albums. Awkward courtships, alcohol-soaked mutual appreciations and alcohol-fuelled tirades of frustration and disappointment; messy break-ups, sanguine reunions and fraught disagreements over the conception of albums; Arab Strap and Chemikal Underground have been together longer than some marriages, so it's hardly surprising that we'll look back on their career with a heady concoction of love, regret, gratitude and, most importantly, admiration for a band that was, quite simply, one of a kind.

"So that was the first big weekend of the summer", Aidan drolly informed us 10 years ago this month when their debut single hit the airwaves. What followed was an intoxicating flurry of interest in a band that no-one had heard of; rumours abounded that they didn't exist and were actually another band in disguise; Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley's Evening Session proceeded to play the track on 13 consecutive shows (a record that remains unbeaten today) and hailed The First Big Weekend as "the best single of the decade". The track would go on to feature in one of Guinness's flagship TV adverts; Arab Strap's first ever concert was to be aired live on Radio 1 for the Peel Show; their debut album The Week Never Starts Round Here was released to a cacophony of unanimous praise and they were drummed out of Falkirk by the Lord Provost for denigrating the town's image.

From auspicious beginnings Aidan and Malcolm went on to produce a flood of material that would articulately dissect and mournfully celebrate the human condition in a style that was as blunt as it was thrilling. Drum machines, squalling guitars, soaring strings and barber shop quartets were called upon to underscore tales of carnal design, chemically enhanced recreation and romantic aspirations (with all the attendant insecurities included) - names were not always changed to protect the innocent, unspeakable thoughts would form the spine of a chorus while vindictive rebukes would often adorn a middle eight. With Aidan and his (then) girlfriend posing nude for the portraits that would become the cover art for their second album Philophobia (an album which continues to rejoice in the immortal opening line "It was the biggest cock you'd ever seen, but you've no idea where that cock had been") it was patently obvious that Arab Strap were no ordinary pop group, and would not be getting su

cked into the Britpop wars that were currently raging, unchecked, in music tabloids across the UK.

Arab Strap's journey would see them depart Chemikal Underground after Philophobia and join Go! Beat for one studio album (Elephant Shoe) and one live album (Mad For Sadness) before returning to Chemikal for The Red Thread (2001), Monday At The Hug And Pint (2003) and The Last Romance (2005). All these stages are represented on their final collection, 10 Years Of Tears, as the band collate an assortment of rarities, live tracks, demos and b-sides for a final, comprehensive and hugely entertaining epilogue to the bands career. Their later albums displayed an increasingly mature take on the themes that had shaped their earlier sound, the music broader in scope; the narrative depictions of complex liaisons and vice-fuelled weekends (five years before Mike Skinner's rise to prominence), replaced with compellingly insightful commentaries that could be in turn reflective and vehement, while often being laugh-out-loud funny (despite persistent appraisals of miserablism in the music press).

What elevated Arab Strap's art way beyond the realms of the observational was the way in which Aidan's lyrics were more than matched by the intelligence of Malcolm's music. There can be no doubt that Malcolm Middleton has an uncanny grasp of all things melodic (as evidenced on his two solo albums) and it was often Malcolm's guitars that made Aidan's fury or disenchantment all the more palpable. As in the best partnerships there existed a constant friction; they were exacting perfectionists and stubbornly demanding in equal measure - meetings with Chemikal Underground were often battlefields of baleful stares, strafed with disagreements and saved by countless agreeable ceasefires.

From Malcolm's drowsy bass notes at the beginning of their debut album's opener, Coming Down, to the blithe, descending brass scale on The Last Romance's closer There Is No Ending, Arab Strap have navigated routes few bands would have dared to travel. Their albums were musically compelling and lyrically provocative; wholly unique and courageously honest - that they never broke into the mainstream is both hardly surprising and wholly irrelevant. It's not really the end of course, it's important to note that both Aidan and Malcolm will continue to make music with their own individual projects: Malcolm with his burgeoning solo career; Aidan with his L. Pierre incarnation and spoken word projects. Arab Strap will also be performing one last, farewell tour around the UK and Europe.

Bands split up all the time and it's all too easy to inflate the significance of their decision, mourning an incalculable loss to music and eulogising a legacy that may not have been bequeathed in the first place. This cannot be said for Arab Strap. They were one of UK music's most original acts and from our point of view, it has been an absolute honour to have worked with them.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lea Hernandez House Fire

Reposted from Newsarama with permission.

Early this morning, the Texas home of award-winning writer/artist Lea Hernandez, my friend and co-creator of the graphic novel Killer Princesses, caught fire and burned. Half her house is now gone, and the rest is smoke-damaged. In addition, she lost at least six of her family’s beloved pets, two dogs and four cats. If you knew Lea, you’d know how devastating that is.

She’s lost a great deal of her family’s possessions, including irreplaceable art. She doesn’t yet know the full accounting of what’s been lost at this time.

Most know Lea as the brilliant creator of such works as Rumble Girls and Cathedral Child. She drew the Marvel Mangaverse Punisher book, and has drawn for Transmetropolitan, among many other accomplishments. She is also the co-founder and original editor for Girl-A-Matic, one of the most important venues for female-friendly comics created to date.

She’s also my friend, and it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t have a career in comics if she hadn’t asked me to write Killer Princesses for her to draw.

And finally, Lea is one of the last great firebrand hellraisers in comics.

Lea has two (wonderful, amazing) special needs children and right now they need a place to stay and some clothes to wear. More than that, they need
some help, and fast, in the form of donations to her paypal account. Lea’s a proud person so I’m going to ask FOR her. This is important, and a great chance to do a wonderful thing for a creator who has consistently enriched this industry we all love so much. Please, take a moment and send WHATEVER YOU CAN to Lea’s paypal account and help make this time a little bit less painful for someone who would do the same for you if the positions were reversed.

If you’re a retailer, I ask that you set up a donations jar. If you’re a creator, I ask you to think of how devastating this would be to your career and donate what you can. If you’re a reader, I’m asking you to take a moment and hit the paypal link. You’ll be doing something heroic and you’ll feel great about it, I promise.

Read what Lea had to post on a neighbor’s computer while wearing her pajamas at:

Donate (PLEASE) to her paypal account at:

Finally, if I understand the story correctly (as told to me by Lea’s good friend and current Girl-a-matic editor), it was Lea’s daughter hearing the smoke alarm that allowed the family to get out in time, so for God’s sake, do everyone you love a favor and CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS.

Thank you so much for helping. Really, any amount you can send will make a difference. That’s all I can say.

Sincerely and gratefully,

Gail Simone

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Amazing Screw-On Head

Edit: Just bumping this up a bit as I've added a copy of the comic. See at the bottom for a link.

Sci Fi has posted the pilot episode of The Amazing Screw-On Head on its Sci Fi Pulse website for free viewing. The 23-minute episode is based on Mike Mignola’s 2002 comic book of the same name, a definite break from his Hellboy work of the time, starring a secret agent…who is a screw on head and an assortment of bodies.

Set in the era of Abraham Lincoln, Screw-On Head is the president’s secret weapon against evildoers the world over.

Sci Fi’s description of the episode reads:

In this hilarious send-up of Lovecraftian horror and steampunk adventure, President Abraham Lincoln's top spy is a bodyless head known only as Screw-On Head.
When arch-fiend Emperor Zombie steals an artifact that will enable him to threaten all life on Earth, the task of stopping him is assigned to Screw-on Head. Fortunately, Screw-On Head is not alone on this perilous quest. He is aided by his multitalented manservant, Mr. Groin, and by his talking canine cohort, Mr. Dog.

Can this unorthodox trio stop Emperor Zombie in time? Does Screw-On Head have a body awesome enough to stop the horrors that have been unleashed? Where can we get a talking dog?

All these questions (O.K., maybe not that last one) will be answered when you watch the thrilling tale of The Amazing Screw-On Head!

Amazing Screw-On Head features the voices of Paul Giamatti as Screw-On Head, David Hyde Pierce as Emperor Zombie, Molly Shannon as Screw-On Head's love interest, Patience the Vampire. Rounding out the cast are Patton Oswalt as Mr. Groin, Screw's faithful manservant and Mindy Sterling, playing the dual roles of zombie henchwoman Aggie and Geraldine.

Produced by Kickstart Productions, the pilot was written by Bryan (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls) Fuller. Fuller and Jason Netter serve as executive producers, with Mignola as art director. Chris Prynoski directed the pilot. Following the episode - and this is important viewers are asked to fill out a survey from NBC Universal’s research department about the pilot which will help SCI FI executives decide whether or not to green-light the pilot to series.

The pilot of Amazing Screw-On Head will debut on the Sci Fi Channel on July 27th, following the series debut of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, the new reality show starring Stan Lee.

View the pilot here.

My thoughts : Loved the heck out of the comic when it came out a few years ago and highly reccomend tracking it down if you like things that are completely brilliantly weird. I have my doubts that the cartoon will ever surface in the UK, it's probably a bit too weird. We only just started getting [Adult Swim] this weekend, which shows how far behind our colonial cousins we are.
The cartoon is pretty sweet, it captures the visual style of Mignola's comic book pretty near perfectly, and the writing, animation and voice acting are all top notch.
Go watch it, then pray it gets picked up at a series sometime.

Now I've uploaded the comic here. You'll need something that can open a .cbr file to read it. I use CDisplay.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Kirkman Vs McFarlane

I believe the internet vernacular is Pwn3d...

Powers online, for free!

Newsarama have just started publishing Benis & Oeming's brilliant Powers series online, one page a day, starting from the very beginning.

In addition to the regular comic page, there are enhancements such as scipts and layouts.

Read it here.

Sometime in the future, Newsaram will be doing the same thing with David Mack's Kabuki, which is one of my favourite comics ever.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


More pimping, this time of the new comic coming in October by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.
Ed kindly send me a preview to show off, to try and whip up interst in the book, which you can grab here, and you can read more about it here.
The first issue will be listed in the next issue of Previews under Marvel Comics who are publishing it through their Icon imprint.

Looks bloody marvelous, no pun intended.