Friday, 23 March 2018


Chosen Survivors, d. Sutton Roley (1974)

Briskly ticking pretty much every box on my mental clipboard, Chosen Survivors is a 1970s US sci fi drama set in a sealed military bunker which quickly becomes a horror and disaster movie. The titular survivors arrive drugged and disoriented by army helicopter, and are herded into the shelter by soldiers just a few minutes ahead of a worldwide nuclear apocalypse. The race and gender balanced group are from all walks of life, and are people prominent in their own fields selected to be preserved for posterity, i.e. it’s going to be their job to repopulate America (they’re all a bit too old for this, by the way, surely what you’d really want is a few teenagers?).    

The trouble with this deep shelter set in an ancient cave system, however, is that the hole is already populated – with millions of vampire bats – who are both pissed off at the intrusion and delighted that their larder has been filled. What follows is messy, as (poorly) optically imposed bats feed on middle aged character actors, some of whom fight back and some of whom just flap and flip around until the bats empty them. It’s good fun. To observe as fictional entertainment, I mean, I can’t imagine the reality of it would be anything other than nippy and unpleasant.

Here’s a spoiler: the best thing? It’s not even a real nuclear war, it’s just a drill. Oh, the irony!  

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Teeny Deane, here's some rock an roll, Bubbu, hope you like em if you don't you're a cretin!! Ratfink*.

Chrome is not so much a band as an unexplained phenomenon. I don’t know how they wrote these songs, how they performed them, or how they recorded them. They seem to follow the classic film screenwriting edict of ‘come in late, leave early’, so many of their songs are like blurred Polaroids: bits and pieces in motion, indistinct edges, colours smeared and inchoate. The overall result is as exhilarating as it is disorienting. Their music chops and changes like a radio being tuned, ending abruptly, fading out or changing tack mid-song, layered to overload with scuzzy riffs, wild noodling and wayward analogue electronics. Sometimes they layer in screams, chuckles or maniacal laughter, ear-splitting buzzes and sudden bursts of static or dialogue taped off the telly. Their subject matter is from the pages of Philip K. Dick: mass surveillance, sinister media, doppelgangers, terrorism, paranoia, time out of joint. The drums always sound as if they are in a different room to the tape recorder.

My favourite Chrome album is their third, Half Machine Lip Moves, perhaps the most perfectly Chrome-like of their peak output between 1977 and 1982 (they’re still going now, albeit in a revised form, having lost a founder member along the way). It’s a record that sounds like a mix tape – it jumps around in time and space, in time zones and space spaces, a hundred sonic ideas hastily jotted down then crossed through, an album with both a laser sharp focus and attention deficit disorder. Arrows point to new directions, new sounds emerge. Everything sounds live and improvised, then laden with overdubs, echo and lots and lots of compression, slightly chaotic, but often hypnotic and adorned with sinuous guitar lines and squelches. It’s beautifully composed cacophony, sheets of sound, metallic clangs and clatters, heavily treated vocals that hiss about alienation, duplication, death and a ‘cold clammy bombing that will shit on your town’. If the Red Army Faction had made a record, it might sound like this, reeking of high explosive and petrol.

They’re probably my favourite band, and they are becoming more relevant as the world becomes more splintered and confusing. I strongly recommend them to you if you want to listen to something that will beat the hell out of your ears and head whilst making your heart and legs compulsively pump up and down.     

*Indented inscription on the cover of my secondhand copy of the album.

Thursday, 15 March 2018


I like animals in general more than humans. That said, there are a number of humans who I would hold protectively in my hand if I were able to. None of us are just one thing, are we? Life doesn't work like that.  

Friday, 9 March 2018


200,000 years in, we're still trying to find an origin story that makes sense. This isn't it.

Friday, 2 March 2018


Nightbeast, d. Don Dohler (1982)

This movie doesn't mess about. A monstrous alien lump, with a mouth full of terrible dentistry, crash lands on Earth near a small mid-western town and spends the rest of the film killing everybody he meets. This is, apparently, a close encounter of the sixth kind*. At first he uses his disintegrator gun which looks brilliant and is astonishingly effective. Later on, it uses its bare hands, clawing and clutching and chopping his victims into bloody bits and pieces, memorably popping the idiotic Mayor's head like a pimple. 

Clearly a creature made of a form of flesh and some sort of bone, it's never quite explained why it isn't in any way affected by the five hundred or so bullets he has fired into him, but regardless of the science, it makes for a formidable threat who, like Odd Job, Ted Bundy or Jaws 2, can only be destroyed by the application of an enormous amount of electricity.

* i.e. death or injury is involved. A close encounter of the seventh kind involves interplanetary sex. 

Friday, 23 February 2018



Marc Riley: What’s this song about?
           Mark E Smith: Er, nothing.

I slouch here not to bury MES but to praise. He was an imperfect human being, a curmudgeon, a bully, an inflicter of harm, particularly to himself and those closest to him. But what talent, almost uncanny in its uniqueness! An autodidact; no instruction booklet, no map to the path he staggered along for forty years without ever losing his direction; a hunched man walking in a howling wind, like an arctic explorer or shit mime in beret.

As a sallow, grey yellow youth he was obsessed with Lovecraft and Machen – inhaled weird, cosmic horror and unsettling ghost stories like B & H – sucking in on and off planet eeriness. He wore out the visceral pulp of Sven Hassel and James Herbert, read classics, ate culture, regurgitated it all as clamour, as clatter, as art. As a kid, I first encountered Wyndham Lewis through MES-emulation. But where the hell did he hear of him, let alone be influenced by him to the extent that the syntax of The Fall was the text of Blast! projected fifty years hence?  

Fags and beer and Prestwich aside, where did Smith get that that voice-ah? Eldritch in tone and timbre. Timber! And that squeak/squeal/scratch/scream, banshee shot at with airgun; Howling Wolf given helium. And that VOICE? Those words, wrenched from what strange plain? MES said he had second sight, but read no tea leaves, was this a case of possession? By ghosts, spirits, strange Gods and odd alternating energies, alien manifestations and psychic parasites that cranked his chemistry and ran his non-stop, can’t stop, won’t stop mouth: enthousiasmos in excelsis.

The Fall were not a one man band (seven thousand members and counting), but instead an ever moveable feast, a pick n mix of personnel martinet run like a small business, hammering at their instruments like trolls in Vulcan’s workshop, like Morlocks. When I raise my pint glass, play, when I turn off your amp, stop and get your stuff, you’re sacked.

The mess and method and the nerve and noise of The Fall make me think of Paxmans Factory in Colchester (great social club and workers taking turns to nap) where they made Intercity 125 engines and always had one going, full bore, high volume, powering nothing but its own demise. It worked until it stopped working, broke, blew up, and then they poked around in it to find out what went wrong, then start up another one. MES and The Fall ran until they broke, blew up, Now it’s stopped, the engineer’s post mortem can begin. But it’s a pointless exercise, as this engine didn’t run in any kind of standard way  or on any type of conventional fuel. In fact, it had no right working at all.  

Friday, 16 February 2018


Apes aren't natural artists, although they clearly have the thumbs for it, their hands being far more complex than ours - and they have twice as many. A chimp might trace its shadow on a wall with a finger, but that's generally as far as they go in terms of drawing and painting, unless they are presented with the right equipment and lots of encouragement. The pictures here are by Julia, Bozo, Jessica and Lady, respectively, all chimpanzees showing great promise. I love the great apes. That's where the future lays - not only in art, but of humanity.