Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A SONG FOR TOMORROW



Just in case anyone doesn't know (most likely through being colonials), tomorrow's public sector strikes are likely to be the largest since the Winter of Discontent back in the winter of '79. See you there!

(Incidentally this Tom Robinson track was prophetically written in '78, so all the "you should have been there" stuff is intended ironically.)

"It was us poor bastards took the chop,
When the tubes gone up and the buses stop,
The top people still come out on top,
The government never resign."

PS: Answers to the Comics Quiz are coming!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

COMICS QUIZ!


These are my quiz questions from yesterday’s Comics Friends United. (I co-ran the quiz with Nigel “the N is for knowledge” Fletcher, whether Nigel is going to put his on-line anywhere I’ve no idea.) Congratulations to the Brave and the Cold team for their top score, narrowly beating the Super-Villain Team-Up.

If you didn’t attend (or did but have a really bad memory), feel free to have a go if you think you’re sad enough. No prizes this time... well, maybe a no-prize, I’ll post the answers in due course.

Please remember it was planned as a live quiz so don’t just Google - use your noggin!

Funny thing is, I probably now have enough unused questions to do another quiz!

COMICS AND MUSIC

1. Anarchy Comics... or more specifically, Paul Mavrides’ strip ‘No Exit’, published in Anarchy Comics No. 3 in 1981, featured punk singer Jean-Paul Sartre Junior. What actual punk singer was he based on?

2. ‘Watchmen’ contains quotes from all sorts of folk from Jung to Nietzsche. But only one musical figure is quoted twice. For one points, who is it and for two extra which songs are quoted from?

3. A record made No. 2 in the singles chart over the Christmas period in 1967, despite actually being a double EP with a comic strip insert by Bob Gibson. For one point each, what was the EP called and who recorded it?

4. For a point each, what comics artist drew the cover of Frank Zappa’s 1978 album ’Studio Tan’ and what comic artist his 1983 album ’The Man From Utopia’?

5. Nurse With Wound’s 1996 album was called ’Alice The Goon’, after the track ’Prelude to Alice the Goon’. What’s the comics connection?

6. The 1990s satirical cartoon ’Duckman’ (based on a Dark Horse comic), had a theme tune by who?

7. What comic artist also performs in the noise band Lighting Bolt?

8. In the 1996 Simpsons episode ‘Homerpalooza’ Homer attends a Loollapalooza festival. In the course of the episode he meets several bands, all voiced by themselves, one of which provides a version of the theme tune for the closing credits. Which band?

9. The Teardrop Explodes sang “comics are all I read”. But what’s their other comics connection?

10. Who recorded the song with the lyrics “Doctor Strange is always changing size”? (For two points, please name band and song.)

GEOGRAPHY

1.      Superman hangs out in Metropolis, and Batman Gotham City, what City did Will Eisner’s Spirit inhabit?

2.      Fort Thunder was a warehouse turned into an art colony by a bunch of crazies, including a clutch of comics artists whose style came to be named after the venue. They included Brian Ralph, Brian Chippendale and Mat Brinkman. What city was it located in?

3.      The European comics magazine Stripburger has been running since 1992, and claims to be the only comics magazine in its home country. Which country?

4.      What imaginary country was featured in Dylan Horrock’s Atlas?

5.     In which imaginary country is the TinTin adventure King Ottaker’s Sceptre set? (Clue, it was derived from taking sections from the names of two existing East European countries.)

ART AND LITERATURE

1. Richard Hamilton’s 1956 collage ‘What Makes Today’s Homes So Different So Appealing’ has a comic cover framed on the wall, made by a well-known pair of comic creators? For a point each, who are they?

2. Which of the For Beginners series of books was drawn by Robert Crumb?

3. ...and which by Oscar Zarate?

4. What American writer wrote a novel about Krazy Kat?

5. What Academy Award winning author wrote the storyline for the first Superman film?

ODD ONE OUT

1. Hanna Barbera’s The Flintstones was, as we all know, set in the stone age. But other settings were trialled. Which of these wasn’t one of them?
-                Ancient Rome
-                Hillbillies
-                Outer Space
-                Pilgrims

2. Which of these famous people was never used as a ‘guest star’ in Dave Sim’s ’Cerebus’?
-                Woody Allen
-                Marty Feldman
-                George Harrison
-                Brian Jones

3. Which is not a genuine Asterix title?
’Asterix in Belgium’
‘Asterix in Corsica’
‘Asterix in Spain’

‘Asterix in Sweden’

4. Which was not a genuine subhead of ’Raw’ magazine?
"The Graphix Magazine for Damned Intellectuals"
"The Graphix Magazine of Abstract Depressionism"
“The Graphix Magazine That Became Jaded by Ennui”
"The Graphix Magazine That Lost Its Faith in Nihilism"

5. The Caption convention in Oxford, now Britain’s longest-running comics convention, has a theme for each year. One of the following is a fake theme, but which?
- Are we having fun yet?
- Euro Standardised Caption
- Love is Caption
- Pirate Caption Ahoy!

KNOW THE LOGOS

One point for knowing which comics logo each letter is pulled from, note it runs all the way along the phrase to the exclamation marks!

COVER VERSION

One point for knowing name of the comic each of these eight cover segments is cut from, one for the issue number. Half a point for a ‘Friends explanation’ eg. “the one where the FF first face Doctor Doom!”


TRUE OR FALSE?

As the round name might suggest, please state which of the following is true and which false...

1. Nicholas Cage was such a comics fan he christened his first-born son Kal-El.

2. Alan Class reprints of old Marvel comics were copied from the printed pages, without securing any copyright, which is why they were always so badly reproduced.

3. The voice of The Shadow on radio broadcasts was provided by Orson Welles .

4. In October 2004, Fathers For Justice member Jonathan Stanesby protested about family law by scaling Tower Bridge dressed as Spider-Man, only to get stuck and have to be rescued by the Fire Brigade.

5. The Dazzler as originally conceived was based on an actual disco singer in a cross-promotion with Casablanca records, and her only super-power was the ability to compel people to tell the truth.

6. Marvel’s ’GI Joe’ 21 (1984), was “the most unusual GI Joe story ever” – a completely silent issue, no captions or speech balloons. However, this was because in their haste they sent the artwork to print before it had gone to the letterer.

7. The “bullet logo” used by DC comics in the Eighties, with the four stars in the circle, was created by the same designer as the “I Love NY” logo.

8.  In 1989, the Barbie Liberation Organisation stole a bunch of Barbie and GI Joe dolls, switched their voiceboxes, then returned them to the stores. Children then found Barbies who yelled “vengeance is mine!” and GI Joes who breathed “let’s plan our dream wedding!”

9.  A talking Clanger doll, commercially released by the Golden Bear Company, said when squeezed “oh sod it, the bloody thing’s stuck again!”

  1. The ’2000AD’ strip Nemesis The Warlock was originally based on the Jam song ‘Going Underground’, as everybody in it lived underground.

CARTOON CATCHPHRASES

One point for naming the cartoon, another for the character who says it.

1. “It’s the wool-uf, it’s the wool-uf!”

2. “Hay-lp! Hay-lp!”

3. “Up and at ‘em!”

4. “To infinity – and beyond!”

5. “Herbidaceous!”

CARTOON THEME TUNES 

Name the cartoon/ animation whose theme tune these words are pulled from. (Please note, one of these is not a cartoon/ animation theme. An extra point if you guess which, and yet another point if you can say how it actually was disseminated.

1. “Buckle up your seatbelts,
They could be in orbit in the stars
On a spooky planet, maybe Mars
There’s no way of knowing
When they’re groovin’ way above the atmosphere
Trying to get back to here”

2. “With beauty and grace,
as swift as can be,
Watch it flying through the air.
It travels in space,
Or under the sea,
And it can journey anywhere.
It travels on land,
Or roams the skies,
Through a heavens stormy rage,
It's Mercury-manned,
And everyone cries,
‘It's the marvel of the age!’”

3. “Be an early riser
Strive to be ambitious
Speak a little wiser
Try to be judicious
Be a good adviser
Never ever vicious
Where will you be then?
Face front, lift your head, you’re on the winning team”

4. “It’s -- -,
Brave and free,
Fighting evil ‘neath the sea,
He is a boy.
A very special boy,
Powered by propeller shoes,
Flying sub ahoy.
Whooshing through the water
On a friendly dolphin’s back
Racing to the rescue
Of victims of attack”

5. “Terrorist your game is through
cause now you have to answer to,
America,
What you going to do when we come for you now?
It’s the dream that we all share;
It’s the hope for tomorrow”

6.  For the final question, each team chose a sealed envelope at random. It contained the title and a random couple of lines from a cartoon theme tune which they had to remember the whole of and then sing back. One choice not used on the night was ’Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines.’ The sample lyrics were...

“Nab him, jab him, tab him, grab him,
Stop that pigeon now!”

Two points if you can remember all the words, one point for a decent effort. (The teams on the night got an extra point for singing them, but that may not work so well over the net.)


Answers, as I say, to follow. For now it only remains to give a big thanks to Hassan Yusuf and Fiona Jerome for organising the day, plus the good folks at 30th Century Comics for providing the prizes.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

THE GREATEST BRIGHTON GIGS I NEVER WENT TO (2)

Continuing the vidclips of local gigs I failed to attend, taking us back from 2009 to 1974!

The Slits
10th Sept 2009, Brighton Concorde

In a similar story to Thee Silver Mount Zion, I had seen the reconstituted Slits at an earlier gig at the Pressure Point but was out of town for their return. From watching clips I’d reckon the set I saw to be better. (I posted my review of it in tribute after Ari Up’s untimely death.) But then a lot of the live experience comes from Ari’s arresting personality, which isn’t going to transmit to video the same way. This version of ‘Heard It Through the Grapevine’ can’t be faulted, though.



Fever Ray
Loop Festival, May 2009

Despite attending this very festival, and despite a friend’s protestations, I insisted on watching Squarepusher on the other stage. (Who admittedly was great!) Shortly after I read a Guardian review of this set, which prompted me to listen to the album again on Spotify - which prompted me to kick myself very hard indeed! Unfortunately this vid kicks out mid-track, but it’s surprising how well such spooky spacey music works live. (Her videos are worth watching too, in a strange and unsettling way that leaves you wondering if you’ve inadvertently strayed across some black magic ritual.)




PJ Harvey & John Parrish
15th April 2009, Corn Exchange

Beyond watching some of an early mid-afternoon set at Glastonbury, many moons ago, I have never actually succeeded in seeing PJ Harvey. This was another one I didn’t make this one through an unindulgent response from my bank manager. I guess I will never see her like this now because she isn’t like this any more. (Tho’ of course it’s cool the way she won’t rest on her laurels but is forever breaking into something new.)



The Vitamin B12
15th Nov 2008, Komediai

I don’t always make it to Brighton’s resident purveyors of Dadaist shock-tactics anti-music, but then I saw them fairly often when they used to rehearse in the front room of my old house. (I’d come home from work and they’d be squarking on saxes and hitting household items.) Believe it or not, this banging-against-the-bourgeoisie session is pretty ‘regular’ for them.



I obviously managed to make everything in 2007, because coming up next we have...

Polly Shang Kuan Band
11th Nov, 2006, Old Market

Not one for the fainthearted! Brighton’s finest in full frenzied flow, from the first ever Colour Out Of Space – which I inexplicably missed! (Alas only a short clip.)



Sonic Youth
Sometime in 1985, Brighton beach

“Anyone for a swim?”

There’s a story to missing this one, which may set the scene for what Brighton was like in the Eighties. I’d turned up in town for a seafront rally, especially early as rumours were flying that the fascists were going to try and disrupt it. (I remember this as a May Day event, and while the video claims August the weather looks more May-like.) A few bonehead twats actually did show up for once, and stood around in small clumps, occasionally shouting “seig heil” and generally behaving like the master race. Psychic TV (then Brighton residents) were supposed to play the beach, but had cancelled. The support act were still playing but, never having heard of Sonic Youth, we took them to be a reggae band (in the style of Big Youth?) and headed home. Ironically, only a few years later I’d have stayed for a reggae band!



Sonic Youth
11th August 1985, Zap Club

...and this is them at the old Zap Club, later that night. (Or back later that year, if my memory’s correct.) In fine ‘early’ mode, recited vocals, detuning as the new tuning, detached cool shook up in the same bottle as total derangement, coming at song structure like it’s an enemy stronghold that needs to be sacked! To this day I have never seen them, and most likely now never will, though I have seen both Kim and Thursten play solo.



ABBA
Brighton Dome, 1974

Okay this one’s a bit of a cheat! The odds were against me seeing this gig, principally because i) I wouldn’t move to Brighton for another decade and ii) I was eight at the time. But it was on the stage of Brighton Dome that Abba launched their career by winning Eurovision! And any excuse to play the track is a good one, as I think you will agree...



Coming Soon as I get the chance!: Something on this year’s Colour Out of Space...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

THE GREATEST BRIGHTON GIGS I NEVER WENT TO (1)

This started with a desire to clone myself and ended up as an act of masochism.

I have wanted to see Bellowhead’s famed live act for a while now. But this desire is apparently not mine alone, and normally by the time I’d made my way to the ticket shop there was no more room at the inn. This time I made sure I was bright and early, and had my ticket to clutch. Then what do you know but Colour Out of Space (Brighton’s three-day festival of “exploratory sound”) gets announced the same weekend!

And then what do you know but two other folk/country artists I’m desperate to see get announced on successive dates the same weekend – Gillian Welch and Richard Buckner! There didn’t even seem to be any way to evaluate my choice, as the two styles of music were so completely different as to be incomparable.

When early experiments in devising a cloning method did not work well, I finally decided that Colour Out of Space would contain a whole load of acts I would never see again. The others (with varying degrees of certainty) may show up here again at some point. (Or at least such is my hope!) So I sold back my prized Bellowhead ticket and bought up a Colour Out Of Space pass. (Which I will write about soonishly – promise!)

Then, as is my custom for skipped gigs, I searched YouTube to try and catch snatches of what I missed. At some point along the way, it occurred to me to do a whole post just of unattended gigs. (As a kind of ‘negative space’ version of the normal run of things.) This gathered momentum and, at a further point along the way, became the two-part affair you see before you.

Having embarked on this, I discovered a complete absence of clips of this most recent Bellowhead gig, so I’ve slipped its predecessor into the chronology below. Nor could I find anything of Richard Buckner in Brighton, or for that matter anywhere in Europe. (So this doesn’t fit the schema at all, but having heard this there’s no way I’m not passing it on. Living right up to his “insurgent country” tag...)

People always tell me the fun starts when I’m not around. Let’s see if they’re right...

Gillian Welch
12th Nov 2011, Brighton Dome

Everybody’s... well mine... favourite Country star sounding typically fatalistic yet fantastically poignant on ’The Way It Will Be.’ (NB: I don’t think she’s singing “I’ve never been so disabused” about my not making the gig.) Someone else uploaded the classic ’Revelator’ but alas the sound is muffled for sections of it. Here’s me getting all excited over that album.)

I seriously hope she comes to Brighton again...



Bela Emerson
4th Nov 2011, Green Door Store

It’s fantastic the way that Emerson can exploit the sumptuous, cigar-advert sound of the cello yet simultaneously make it sound so strange and out-there just by judiciously incorporating some loops. This clip is perhaps a good indication of how she uses them to build the layers up, until there’s a wall of sound that would knock Phil Spector over.

(Yeah, I know we were all consigned long ago to a soundbite world. If eight-and-a-half minutes seems too long to some, I nearly posted the other number which is twice the length!)



DJ Shadow
May 12th 2011, Dome

Alas I had to be out of town the weekend that Brighton Festival tickets went on sale and ended up missing out on a couple of things - chiefly a rare UK appearance of this guy! Music composed entirely of samples from what is quite possibly the world’s largest record collection. That weird thing that looks like the Death Star remodelled as an art installation, but still trying to take over the universe, is apparently the ‘Shadowsphere.’



Josh T Pearson
March 29th 2011, The Hanbury Club

Although I was absolutely gutted about not getting into this, the clip does reveal why a small and intimate venue like the Hanbury was needed. It’s about a seismic a shift from Pearson’s old Lift To Experience days - as if Ingmar Bergman took up breakdancing. Back then, tracks would start with the end of the world and work their way up. Now, playing solo, at times both his voice and guitar fall away almost to nothing, but the effect is to make you lean in, desperate to capture each breathy word.



Duke Garwood
March 2011, Hector’s House

In all honesty I stumbled upon this clip searching for something else. But now I’ve seen it I wish I’d seen Garwood’s blues, even if I’ve never heard of him before!




Show of Hands and The Brighton Taverners
Jan 2011, Brighton Trades and Labour Club

This place was less than five minutes from my house for about seven years without me going into it once, and I had only moved away from there a few weeks before this occurred. Apparently the farewell gig of the Brighton Taverners (who I had never heard of before), for which Show of Hands turned up “all the way from Devon.”



Bellowhead
Nov 2010, Brighton Concorde

As said, one of the many times I failed to see the full-on folk outfit do their thing, a group always described by A-list folk blogger Andrew Rilstone “the mighty Bellowhead.” (I always thought that was John Peel and the Fall, but no matter...) So raucous and yet so directed! Hopefully they will stride a Brighton stage sometime again soon.



Micachu perform Cornelius Cardew
July 2010

Somehow this one slipped me by! Michachu (aka Mica Levy) performing Cornelius Cardew’s ’Treatise’ as part of the Soundwaves festival. Alas the clip is little more than a minute long!



Nina Nastasia
31st May 2010, The Freebutt

I couldn’t make this night at the (now sadly lamented) Free Butt, though I did try and see her more recently. An icy night when the roads had been closed most of the day, I made my way there over treacherous underfootness to find it was unsurprisingly cancelled and not a single punter in the bar. I did see her at the ‘Homefires’ multi-headliner night back in ’07 where she mostly just seemed nervous. But here she’s at the height of her powers. If this version of (not the Beatles’) ’Cry Baby Cry’ doesn’t do for you what it says on the lid, I fear for your heart and suspect you of being a robot in human guise.



Tunng
15th May 2010, Komedia

I love the slightly twisted psych-folk of Tunng. Yet, though they seem to play down here a bit, beyond a short set at the Loop festival, I always seem to miss them. Not great sound quality on this one, but it is the very track which got me into them. (After I heard it on the Festive Fifty, many moons ago.)



The Fall
9th May 2010, The Concorde

Time was, I wouldn’t have missed a Fall gig had I been on my deathbed. But, truth to tell, I don’t normally bother going to see them now. Once they were so relentlessly, insistently together it was almost frightening. Later gigs can be strange, hit-and-miss affairs, constantly see-sawing between nailing it and bashing thumbs. (Depending upon the mood and alcohol consumption of the cantankerous Smith. And I’d guess his stated antipathy to Brighton doesn’t help.) From the clips, this night seems no exception. But when they’re on it they’re still on it! This is a rare re-tread of an early number, and virtually Smith’s signature tune. “When I am dead and gone, my vibrations will live on...”



Show of Hands
Komedia, April 2010

More of the above! As even I was able to see, once I’d finally caught up with them, Show of Hands are primarily a live band. The idea that folk music means wan warblings about May Queens, or school-assembly recitals gets unceremonially trampled in this charge-through of ‘Keys of Canterbury.’



Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra 27th March 2010, St. George’s Church

Actually I saw them a few years before in this very venue and they did this very number! But I’d happily have seen them again. Last time they sang a ‘clean’ version and Efrim confessed he’d been worried about swearing the whole time. Maybe there’s now a trendy vicar in charge, because this time they did the unexpurgated version. Be warned, kids!


The band commented “AA meetings and gymnastic classes in the basement, and a picture of jesus hung dangled above the stage, blood from his wrists pouring out on us. too much. we could have done better by them i think, but church-gigs are an awkward thing- uncomfortable as those fucking pews.” But to my ears those harmonies work splendidly in the cavernous Church.



Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra
10th March 2010, Brighton Dome

Alas I just couldn’t cobble together the cash for this, no matter how many old jeans pockets I rummaged through. But word was that ex-Special Jerry Dammers’ tribute to the “cosmic jazz” of Sun Ra was quite splendid stuff! The band trooped off stage through the audience, playing all the while, then served up this impromptu finale in the bar area afterwards.



Coming soon! 2009 back to (yes, really) 1974

Monday, 14 November 2011

ENGLISH JOURNEY RE-IMAGINED/ SILVER APPLES (GIG-GOING ADVENTURES STAY CULTISH)

See here for other recent cult-event experiences


ENGLISH JOURNEY: RE-IMAGINED
Barbican, London, 22nd Oct

... in which Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore and assorted folks attempted to evoke the spirit of the English landscape in a multi-media extravaganza involving readings, music and visuals.

As which many of these things, I suspect we English came to be reacquainted with ourselves via an imported idea. It was some time after American writer Greil Marcus coined the phrase “old weird America” that we finally noticed we sat atop an England still older and still weirder. Perhaps we’re finally catching up. Recent genres such as folktronica feel almost explicably about coming to terms with it.

But coming face-to-face with it still feel strange and unsettling. This is exemplified when, during an instrumental piece, a black-faced Mummers takes to the stage. He dances, but in an oddly automated way, as if zombified, a disinterred corpse. Coming to a halt well before the music he stands stock still, facing out at the audience, his very existence almost a confrontation. The relative you wanted locked away.

Of course the point of multi-media events is to create a synergy of all their elements, where they all gang up on your senses to the point where you can no longer tell them apart.

In all honesty, I am not sure how well that worked here.

This is partly because the music dominated. Perhaps inevitably for, in an evening designed to evoke, music has something of a headstart. As Tolstoy said, “music is a short-cut to emotion”, working it’s way upon you while words are still assembling their argument. But also, perhaps the music just worked better. Folk instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy were rendered unfamiliar. But most dominant was the percussion. Not least because it was too loud to miss, but it also fittingly employed actual objects such as pebbles. I’ve often wondered if something animist lay in the heart of music concrete, as if all objects have a spirit and music’s purpose is to release it. The music here felt part-predicated on that idea.

(Perhaps ironically that I realised afterwards that my ear had made the key evoker of Englishness someone German!, FM Enheit, aka Mufty, late of notorious metal-bashers Einsturzende Neubaten. Still, I suppose we both inherit the Romantic tradition!)

Meanwhile, as the musicians were bringing pieces from the landscape into the auditorium, the wordsmiths were casting their nets nationwide.  Many of Moore’s solo performances have been site-specific, often not in regular venues and designed around conjuring up a sense of place. This virtual tour took in Aldburgh and Newcastle as well as London, and the compacting of all these journeys into one point felt very modern - less pilgrim journey, more Google Maps.

But perhaps more to the point, the dense and allusive style of Sinclair and Moore was an odd fit for a live event. It’s like taking a document with lots of hyper-links, then having it read it out loud in the town square. You kept wanting to pause it to follow up some of those links.

The reading which worked best was Moore’s, from the journal of Victorian poet John Clare (see vidclip below). Though beset by madness, Clare had left his asylum to walk to his home village, his intent to see Mary, his first wife and childhood sweetheart. So he was distraught, not only to find merely his new wife but to be told such a marriage had never been, and that anyway Mary was now dead. Although you tended to presumed the marriage was a figment of his illness (as confirmed by subsequent research), I was at the time ignorant of this – an ambiguity which probably enhanced the experience.

A recurrent theme of the night was the concept of multiple Englands, of cultural memory growing in a sedimentary fashion, each layer inscribing itself upon the one beneath. I took the marriage to Mary to be in itself a ‘folk memory’, a buried layer, a Merry England which may never have been but still cannot be dispelled.

Whether this is an insightful idea or not is in a way beside the point. The point is that it is an idea, that my mind took Clare’s simple, direct words and sparked them against themes laid down elsewhere. At other times, it was too busy playing catch-up.

You may if you wish put this down to a prejudice of mine. I tend to prefer art which is a kind of collage, which takes simple elements and spins them into more resonant combinations. Moore was for many years the apple of my comic-reading eye, but the dense prose he can go in for, and the increasingly citational basis of his writing... that’s not really for me.




SILVER APPLES
Coalition, Brighton, 28th Oct


A trendy young clubber joined the post-show toilet queue, grinning ear to ear. “And what are most 71 year olds doing tonight?” he asked, addressing no-one and everyone simultaneously. “Having a fish supper and watching some telly?” Indeed it seems worth remarking on, when music so out-there has come from someone looking every inch a retired financial advisor. (When told from the audience “you’re beautiful” our star turn quickly corrects the notion – “no I ain’t!” “I look in the mirror”, he explained, smile exacerbating the wrinkles.)

I’ll confess upfront to previously only knowing Silver Apples by reputation. That reputation is pretty much as the Stooges of electronica, pioneering a sound which all about them thought folly - then splitting before it all took off. Main man Simeon built his own kit out of oscillators, junk and the spirit of discovery, alienating even his own band who (all bar the drummer) walked out on him. He just built more switches. The first album came out in 1968, ahead even of anything in the German electronic scene.

He has a weak singing voice, true, but that just throws the focus onto the music. It’s not so much like looking at a template or prototype, it’s more akin to a stem cell dividing. Simeon didn’t pioneer a sound so much as an approach, different tracks point in very different directions indeed. You hear the roots of electro-pop, minimalist proto-techno and quite abstract instrumentals, all jumbled together.

In fact those differences are paraded almost willfully. The gig seems sequenced by i-pod shuffle, jumping from metronomic beats to abstract blurts to semi-songs and back again. I couldn’t quite decide whether that aided or abetted proceedings. Certainly it made everything seem alive with possibility. (Simeon cheerily explained his un-upgraded kit was “still a mystery to me”.) But some transitions were quite jarring. (To see what I mean try following the links from the YouTube clip, several tracks from the night have been uploaded.)

You get this strange displacement activity in venues nowadays, now the lucre has moved from live music to clubs. Gigs now start strangely early, so a club night can be slotted in after they finish. I’ve no idea what kind of a night went on at Coalition after we left, but it’s hard to believe it’s not indebted to Simeon in some way. Yet (lads in toilet queues notwithstanding) I expect the two audiences overlapped scarcely at all.

Mostly however the seafront venue started to remind me of the original Zap Club, which I’d attend on first arriving in Brighton in the mid-Eighties. ‘Alternative’ then was a more nebulous term, less a marketing tag and more a territory to explore. (Though thankfully Coalitions’ ceiling is less likely to drip into your beer.)

Certainly what appeals is the way the sound remains unupdated, like it’s emitting from musical Babbage Engines. Vintage cars are always more appealing than contemporary ones, precisely because they’re less smooth running, more likely to crank and belch gas. Like a lot of music, for it to feel like its working it has to feel like it’s barely working, for only then do you sense you’re in on something special.

And yet don’t we have quite a contradictory reaction to electronica? We tend to hail the pioneering days of backroom boffins armed with soldering irons, before rich kids could just buy some kit off the shelf and elbow in. Yet we also praise it for democratising music, rescuing people from having to devote months to mastering archaic instruments. (There’s the famous quote from Alvin Lucier, that electronics should liberate music the way the instant camera liberated photography.)

But perhaps those seemingly contradictory arguments can actually combine. Perhaps the point of Silver Apples isn’t that it happened at the beginning but that it hit a kind of goldilocks ‘just right’ point, where you needed neither a pedigree in music nor degree in electronic engineering – when, given enough attitude, the gifted amateur could take the stage. In fact it worked so well that, over forty years later, he can still be there...


Coming Soon! Beyond even culty...