Saturday, 30 May 2009

Monday, 25 May 2009

Friday, 22 May 2009

Shellac ATP

When I was sixteen my girlfriend gave me Shellac's first single, Uranus. The picture doesn't do it justice. It's a proper thing of beauty; lovely cream card cover that could be hand printed, with a seven inch as thick as a dinner plate inside. Playing it for the first time, I didn't know what to make of the music. It spoke of a whole new universe; tin foil guitars, caveman drums, songs about miners and wing walkers. And for me anyway, the whole thing sounded like a spinning record. It was cyclic, abrasive and raw. These people were clearly not to be messed with. There would be drugs, irresponsible driving, crossbows.

But the reality is completely different. Shellac is just three people who have jobs and tour and record when they can find the time. True, much is made about the fact this stripped down rock n roll band is fronted by Steve Albini the outspoken recording engineer behind countless classic records. And in all likelihood, most people only know about Shellac because he's in it. But this shouldn't detract from the fact that three talented guys have not stopped playing music simply because they've grown old and have to get up in the morning to go to work.

If you do anything creative, there's a great urge to 'make it from your work', because then you'll have the creative freedom to 'do what you want'. This is, at best, incredibly hard and for most people, impossible. As soon as you do anything creative for money, you can expect to compromise. But this is no bad thing, just as long as you walk into the arrangement with your eyes open. Shellac is a great example of three people doing something for the sheer love of it. I'm sure they could be signed to be a bigger label for more money - perhaps Domino or Warp, who seem to sign anyone with any alternative cred. But then they'll have to tour regularly, play rubbish festivals and do radio promos. Sounds too much like hard work.

According to Albini, all their songs are about baseball and Canada. And if it sounds like they're playing sheet metal guitars, it's because they are, in a way.

They're pretty amazing live.

Here's how they finished their set last Sunday at the Breeders' ATP.

End of Shellac from James Scott on Vimeo.

Some day all festivals will be as good as ATP; no more than six thousand people, self catering chalets with proper beds, showers and flushing toilets (I'm showing my age here).

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Idaho Transfer

Odd little sci-fi movie via Directed by Peter Fonda, man. Click to see the whole picture and even download it to your ipod/touch/phone/PSP if you really like it.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Bankers Fight!

There they are flying out of a plate glass window in a Kirby rip-off composition. 'It's your fault!'

Sunday, 10 May 2009


My mother-in-law's scanner makes everything look like it's from been beamed in from the Twilight Zone.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Future Guilt

The news the European Court of Human Rights has ruled the UK Government's practice of storing DNA is illegal has split opinion between a number of my friends. Some say if you've been charged for violent or sexual offence, then storing DNA is good and helps convict those who commit such acts. Conviction rates for rape are still astonishingly low and there are plenty of examples of people being brought to justice years after a crime because of wayward DNA left at the scene.

'It's no different that having your fingerprints taken', say supporters. I don't believe so for a number of reasons:
  • Last time I looked, we are innocent until proven guilty in this country. The storing of DNA assumes if we're arrested for any reason, regardless of innocence, we're bound to be guilty of something someday soon. In short, the Government doesn't trust us.

  • The chances of data being compromised increase with the size and complexity of the database. To give you an example, on the 9am BBC Radio 4 news on Thursday 7 May, item one was about the storing of DNA. Item two was the recent finding that a great deal of computers sold second hand often contain sensitive data, such as medical records, which can easily be accessed or forensically recovered using software.

  • For the same reasons I'm opposed to ID cards, I believe we all have the right to anonymity. There is nothing sinister about minding your own business and respecting other's privacy. It is perhaps the greatest freedom a civilisation can bestow upon its populace; the assumption people are inherently good and not plotting to smash up the state either today or tomorrow. True many of us already choose to give away our information in exchange for a cheaper weekly shop, but that's our business.

What do people get arrested for? Those suspected of rape or violent crimes are sometimes arrested and acquitted and because I know a little about how the system works, I think DNA records for these offences should be retained. But people are detained in custody for all sorts of things. Like protesting. I bet if the Police retained the DNA profiles of protesters, people might think twice about attending a march.

DNA is such a contentious issue. It's more than a fingerprint. It's our blueprints. It can tell us everything about ourselves. Well, we think it does, nobody's really sure. Our DNA could reveal when we're going to die and of what diseases. DNA could tell the police who in society is more likely to commit crime. Or it might not, and the current consensus might change the more we learn about DNA. Should such sensitive data be used as tool to support statistical theory? I don't think so.