Books on the Tube

I did like reading a book on the Tube but now I’m no longer in London I have to make do with reading books on the Tube like this lovely-looking series of 12 books Penguin have put out to celebrate the Underground’s 150th birthday. Each one is about or inspired by a single Tube line with the authors taking a variety of approaches — historical, personal, humourous, political — to capture the meaning and, er, pyschogeography (big word!) of the system that binds the city together. I don’t think I’ll be shelling out for the whole boxset but to start I’ve ordered the ones about the lines that mean the most to me personally: the District (home), Northern (work), and Piccadilly (clubbing). Though I am intrigued by what Paul Morley has to say about the Bakerloo Line.

Download: Man On The Tube – The Passions (mp3)

This is from The Passions debut album Michael & Miranda which I wasn’t crazy about at the time (think I sold my copy) but its very 1980, nervy indie jangle sounds really good now. It appears to be out of print which is a shame, I guess they didn’t get “rediscovered” during the recent post-punk vogue.


Mrs. Peel, you’re remarkable

“Granted, The Avengers’ vision of Britishness, while rooted in some truths about the national character, was pure fantasy. But it’s an attractive fantasy: this land where the heroes are tasteful yet fashionable, reserved yet lascivious, demure yet effective. Of late, the U.K. has embraced the World War II-era poster “Keep Calm And Carry On” as a motto, but the citizenry could just as easily seize on the last thing Emma Peel said to John Steed in her final Avengers appearance: “Always keep your bowler on in times of stress, and a watchful eye open for diabolical masterminds.”- The appeal of The Avengers’ stylish, lascivious vision of Britishness

Download: Warm Leatherette – The Normal (mp3)

New Monday

If I had to pick my favourite kind of soul music I’d probably go with the smooth 70s sound of Philly, especially the dreamy harmonies of groups like The Delfonics. So I was more than a little intrigued (and very surprised) when I heard that they had a new album out, sort of.

Adrian Younge Presents The Delfonics is basically a solo album by lead singer William Hart with different backing singers and producer Adrian Younge makes it sound almost like an old Delfonics record while keeping it fresh and modern so it isn’t just some safe exercise in dusty nostalgia. Hart is in his late 60s now so his heavenly falsetto is a bit more wobbly these days, but he still sounds wonderful and the album is very good indeed. Listen to the whole thing here.

Something for the Weekend

I’ve never bought into the whole “the only band that mattered” bollocks (who came up with that?) because The Jam mattered more to me than The Clash anyway, but they were still pretty bloody magnificent.

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We’ll Always Have Paris

A while ago I started writing a post about the “retirement” of David Bowie who, since his heart attack in 2004, seemed to have given up the rocking and rolling and was content to live the quiet domestic life in New York – painting, reading, and picking his kid up from school. I thought of him as the stranded alien Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell To Earth who has wearily “had enough” at the end and lives in anonymous seclusion.

Like 99% of the posts I start writing it never got finished, but the point I was going to make was that I was happy for Bowie that he’d retired, and personally didn’t care much if he never made another record because, you know, we’ll always have Paris. He made enough great records and left me with enough good memories that his reputation was golden for the rest of his life, no matter how many average late-career records he made that I didn’t want to buy.

But I suppose he must have had a creative itch he needed to scratch because he’s gone and made another one after a 10-year silence which raises the hype and expectation way higher than it was for Reality or Heathen and all those other albums of his I was never arsed enough about to actually buy (along with everybody else). He’s risking a lot with The Next Day because people are paying attention this time and he could have very publicly fallen flat on his geriatric rocker face with it, but — phew! — it’s actually a very good album. Not Hunky Dory or Low good of course, but almost Lodger or Scary Monsters good. Pulling off this surprise this might be Bowie’s most audacious move in a career that’s been full of them.

Now if only Paul McCartney would bugger off for 10 years.

Download: Valentine’s Day – David Bowie (mp3)