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w/e 14 October 2018

This week we watched the three-part BBC Four documentary Can You Feel It - How Dance Music Conquered the World, which was good. I was never a clubber but the programmes were still fascinating and, of course, much of the music is great. I was pleasantly surprised that most of the superstar DJs seemed quite nice. I’m not sure why I expected otherwise, but still.

When I was about fifteen, 1986-ish, my friend Tony, who bought a lot of records, gave me a tape he’d made, which I loved but somehow lost a few years later. Side A was a mixture of house music — I think it included tracks like Move Your Body and Can You Feel It. Side B was an album by a band whose name I’d since forgotten.

I loved that tape because it all sounded so different to any other music I’d heard, and I wish I could remember exactly what was on it. But, inspired by watching that documentary I decided to work out what that Side B was — I could only remember that one track had the word “river” in the title. A quick browse of some search results on Discogs later and, ta da! It was the self-titled album by Total Contrast. This video has clips of each track.

Whether it’s good or not (that cover of Where is Love? seems ill-advised) it’s great to hear that again after nearly three decades of not even being able to remember who it was.

On Monday we saw A Star is Born. I probably wouldn’t have gone to see it if it hadn’t had such good reviews, and I was glad I went. It was all good, they were both great, and I thought the first act was brilliant: I was on the verge of tears-of-happiness throughout that. Seeing them feel their way around each other, work each other out, realise what was happening. Lovely.

One of my core skills is putting off reading or watching or listening to things that I want to read or watch or listen to. As a result I’ve had the seven issues of Phonogram: The Singles Club sat on the shelf for years and only got round to reading them this week.

I loved the first series, Rue Britannia. It was set in Bristol in the 1990s and treated Britpop-type music as a truly magical power, so it was hard for me not to love it.

I felt a bit more detached from The Singles Club given things moved on to the early 2000s. Partly because I realised how suddenly my interest in popular British indie music had dissipated around the millennium. There are so many bands, who had plenty of hits, that I have no memory of ever hearing. And, with most of them, this doesn’t feel like a loss. But a few others — like The Long Blondes and New Young Pony Club — I wish I’d been aware of at the time.

While reading it I did wonder sometimes about whether it was able to communicate anything of depth, given each issue had a page or so of small type explaining and expanding on the background, characters’ motivations, and the meaning of everything. It seems odd that a medium can’t carry all of this detail and depth itself. But I’m not a regular comics reader and feel like I’m getting out of my, er, depth talking about it… I still enjoyed it and will no doubt get round to reading the next series when I’ve stopped putting it off.

I went to a Meisner technique (acting) drop-in class this week, my first class for about three months. I did the repetition exercise with my friend Viktorja and it went OK. Some bits went well, others were “sticky”, as is often the way.

I don’t have much else interesting to say about that event specifically but it was good to be back in such a friendly room again. As at least one of the teachers has said, acting isn’t therapy but it can be therapeutic. Part of that is, for me, down to the supportive environment. There’s a good chance you’ll fuck up when trying whatever it is you’re trying, but that’s OK. We’re all trying, none of us are comfortable, it’s fine, well done, try again next time.

We finished watching Killing Eve this week and enjoyed it. It wasn’t entirely profound or believable, but that’s fine, it was fun. I really enjoyed watching David Hague, who I only otherwise remember as Steve Fleming in The Thick of It. He seems so at ease in his performance. And Jodie Comer as the assassin was good, so unpredictable, and so different to the only other role I’ve seen her in, in Thirteen.

On Thursday I went to see Mark Kozelek at the Union Chapel. I’m not sure what I’d think of his recent music if I wasn’t already familiar with him. I’ve been listening to him (and his bands Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon) for thirty years or so. His songwriting has changed but my familiarity with his voice and style has carried me along with the changes.

But I haven’t been as grabbed by recent albums as I was years ago. Maybe this is partly because much of my music listening is while sitting at the computer, doing things, and his recent songs are full of narrative that demands more attention than I’m giving it.

However, these long songs, full of anecdotes and stories, work really well live, where the audience can give their full attention. Kozelek seemed relaxed and happy (never a given, and nice to see), and was only accompanied by beautiful rippling piano, acoustic guitar and an occasional simple drum machine. It was lovely to watch and listen to.

Here’s the first track from his most recent self-titled album: This is My Town, about San Francisco.

Quite a musical week that one. Let’s play some more good music this week.

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