Critical Everything

Reviews of anything reviewable

Fishface O’Henry and the Jazz Musketeers.

Fishface O’Henry and the Jazz Musketeers is a live album by Fishface O’Henry and the Jazz Musketeers. For those who don’t know who these pioneering jazz cats are, they’re pioneering jazz cats who’ve been breaking musical boundaries for almost half a century. 

Fishface first cut his chops in New York, becoming a regular jazzman around town. A trumpeter, he got the nickname for the way his face would inflate when he played, sometimes to an enormous size. He soon became one of the biggest names in the NY club scene, and after being on a few good records as a session musician, formed his legendary group The Jazz Musketeers in ‘69 whose records and live performances quickly made them a national, then international act of great renown.

The band is still made up of its original members, apart from pianist Duck Withers, who passed in the early 70’s from a bad batch of heroin. He was replaced by the legendary Eggs Boscome. The other members are Curly Van Peterson on drums, Earl Klutz on alto sax, Max Django on bass and Moggsy Anderson on trombone. 

Fishface hasn’t used an instrument since ‘72, instead becoming possibly the worlds greatest mouth trumpeter. The story goes he did a bunch of acid before giving his what he thought was his best trumpet performance to date. People at the show agreed, and the crowd went wild. It was only later when he sobered up that he realised he hadn’t even being playing an instrument. In the words of Moggsy:

"Man, that shit was crazy. He we all are up on stage, warming the crowd up for Fish you know, ‘cos he liked to come on a little after the band for suspense or whatever. Anyway he comes on stage with his trumpet case, same as usual, only when he opens it, there’s nothing there, it’s empty! I’m thinking ‘oh shit, he’s done lost his mind’ with him reaching into the case to pull out, well nothing! There he is acting like there’s an trumpet in his hands, us still playing, waiting to see what he’s gonna do. I’m looking at the crowd, who clearly think this is some kind of a joke or something, when he raises that imaginary goddamn trumpet to his lips and starts blowing. Man, nobody thought it was a joke then. He’s laying out the baddest trumpet playing anyone had ever heard, and he didn’t even have a trumpet! Shit, those crazy fish cheeks of his were bulging and he was making the sweetest sounds. When he finished that first number the crowd all stood and cheered the damn roof off. Whew! I’ll never forget. When I told him what happened later he looked at me like I was mad ‘till the rest of the guys confirmed it. After that he never looked back, never played an actual trumpet again as far as I know. Never does on stage."

Fishface’s mouth trumpeting is what gives the group its unique sound and approach, and this comes across very clearly on this live album, recorded in Holland in 2003 at Jazz Fest. The group might have been going 40 odd years by this recording, but the music sounds fresh as ever, full of off kilter rhythms and intertwining melodies. I included one of the shorter tracks, Tumbling Potatoes, above to give a taste of what you can expect.

It’s certainly not easy listening. These guys play loose. Real l o o s e. The music they make tends to follow abstract themes and feelings, rather than melodies, set rhythms or anything restrictive to the vibe. This is what makes them such a great live act because they never play a song the same way twice, basing their sound on the players moods and approach to the subject at the precise moment they’re playing. In this track, they set out to catch the essence of potatoes tumbling and rolling down stuff. One day it might be the jolly tumbling of the taters down a soft, grassy hillside on a sunny day, the next it might me their bloated stumbling down the cold steps of a cellar. Listen to the track and don’t tell me you can’t picture those potatoes doing their thing. It’s like a perfect Haiku in music form.

As a whole album, this live performance catches the essence of the band and their music as well as anything they’ve released in their career. The years they’ve spent playing together has made them a seriously competent unit, but not at the expense of the spontaneity and spirit of discovery that has always been the backbone of their sound. Take Cats Scramblin’ in the Kitchen, or Old Mans Swagger from this album and tell me aren’t just as fresh and exciting as the versions they recorded in the 80’s and 90’s. If you’re new to the group, give this a listen not once, not even twice but a few times. What at first sounds like mindless chaos will slowly start to make sense, then click. Before you know it, you’ll be revelling in its complex simplicity and, dare I say it, genius. 

Subjective Rating: 9/10. Would’ve got ten if they’d included Chubby Lobster in the set. But hey, that’s just a personal thing.

Objective Rating: 10/10. Both a flawless jazz and live album, down to the banter and crowd participation. It really catches them at their stunning, dynamic best.

My Job Application to Wired Canvas

image

There are two kinds of job applications in this world - the ones where you thoughtlessly wing off a CV and prefab cover letter, and the ones where you bring the big guns out.

This, as you may have surmised, is one of the latter. The job description was personable, and itself probably required a good deal of thought and effort, so it only seemed right to reply in kind. The requirements were specific, and there was a sense that a bit of out-the-box thinking would go a long way. Anyway, they asked that applicants included ‘something else’, whatever they felt was necessary, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone - get a new review up on the blog, and add a little bit of je ne sais quoi to my application. 

Before I go further, I should probably explain the Hello LP cover above with my head crudely inserted in place of Lionel Richie’s. The subject line for the application is “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” so it seemed natural that I should include the picture above, for humour and to show off my obvious flair for design. So far I think things are going pretty good.

The application itself is almost an essay. I have crammed in as much to support my suitability and enthusiasm for this role as possible, with an individual answer to every skill or task required of me. I’ve also highlighted a little of my background, and tried to give an honest account of my character, as well as researched the company and its employees. If I was reviewing the application based solely on effort, I would certainly give it an A. It’s as comprehensive as I feel I could make it without going mad and writing an entire biography, or coming across as deranged, Rupert Pupkin style in King of Comedy.

So I’ve definitely covered my skills and technical suitability for the role, the harder thing to judge is whether I got my character across. The application called for personality as much as it did for ‘skillz’. After all, you have to actually work with people, and getting along with them is fundamental to job satisfaction.

I think I gave an accurate impression of myself, and I hope it’s an impression that rubs the people over at Wired Canvas the right way. There’s no objective right personality after all, so I can only hope mine is to their taste. This blog will certainly help colour me in further, which is good, I think.

I should also mention I’m very happy with my CV, which I’ve designed with lots of colours, nice examples of my work, pretty text and a clean layout. Go me. 

Subjective Rating: 9/10. However much you think you’ve nailed something, there is always a niggling doubt. 

Objective Rating: 8/10. It helped get me in the top 3.2% of applicants and secure an interview which is pretty dandy. I didn’t get the job, but thanks to my review, at least I got the opportunity. 

Bagpipe Cats

image

Bagpipe Cats are a rare, twisted instrument found upon the Scottish island of Lerwick, far from the constraints of civilisation and scornful of rationality.

Invented by somebody totally mad, they are the Frankensteinian combination of an actual cat and a set of bagpipes. The result is a living, breathing instrument that can be picked up and played. Just like normal bagpipes, you simply place the cat under your arm and rhythmically squeeze it whilst fingering the pipes. There’s a blowpipe located in its rear incase it needs extra inflating, but most of the time its lungs and natural breathing rhythms do the job.

Why would somebody invent this? Well. The reason is the peculiar and quite beautiful sound it makes, like a distorted electric bagpipes. When playing the cat, it opens its mouth wide in a snarl of ecstasy, amplifying the sound and imbuing it with randomised textures, as well as rhythmic meow’s and purr’s.

I had the chance to play one last week when I ran into a travelling piper by Walthamstow marshes. At first glance I thought there was simply a tartan cat by his side, then I looked closer and noticed it had pipes growing out of its back. Having read an article about animal instruments on The Mail Online (apparently trumpet snakes and alligator keyboards are surprisingly common), I knew what it was and asked if I could have a tinker. Kindly, the gentleman permitted it, and luckily I managed to record a short sample on my phone. Here it is: 

The sound it made was amazing. This low quality recording doesn’t do it justice at all. The melody, rich and powerful, wafted over the marshes like a million treacle butterflies, stirring in my heart primitive memories of a time before myself, even before us. 

I have to say, the cat didn’t seem perturbed by my playing it, and offered not a scratch nor a hiss when I picked it up. I talked to the piper, asking whether he thought it a cruel practice. He told me they were born this way, genetically modified to grow into instruments, and found nothing perturbing about their situation, natural as it was to them. Whether this is truly the case I cannot say, though I myself find it hard to countenance. I am yet to find a full scientific report on these cats, but when I do I will post it up here.  

Subjective Rating: 5/10. The sound of a Bagpipe Cat is astonishing. It is one of the most wonderful things I have ever experienced. I have mixed feelings about playing a piped cat though.

Objective Rating: 1/10. This seems overall to ethically unsound. The practice of making genetically modified bagpipe cats can only be to the detriment of humanity. I have rated it 1 rather than 0 because part of me thinks I might be wrong in this assumption. Humanity is always fucking with other parts of nature, so maybe Bagpipe Cats are in actuality a perfectly acceptable offspring of our technical and societal evolution.

centuriespast:

Two wooden anatomical figures, 17th century
Anatomical figures of a male and a female with removable chest and abdomen covers. Some religious restrictions on dissection were lifted in the 15th century, which led to the wider study of anatomy, using models like these as extra teaching aids. Both figures show the heart and lungs, one shows a pregnant female with a baby in the uterus, and the other shows the kidney and intestines in a male.
The Science Museum

———————————————————————————————————————————————
One of the best things I’ve seen in a while. I like the fact this wooden couple still strive to maintain their dignity by covering their bits, even while their inner workings are exposed. Kind of like Adam & Eve after the first bite of the apple. God sees all!
Subjective Rating: 10/10. Yes.
Objective Rating: 10/10. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. 

centuriespast:

Two wooden anatomical figures, 17th century

Anatomical figures of a male and a female with removable chest and abdomen covers. Some religious restrictions on dissection were lifted in the 15th century, which led to the wider study of anatomy, using models like these as extra teaching aids. Both figures show the heart and lungs, one shows a pregnant female with a baby in the uterus, and the other shows the kidney and intestines in a male.

The Science Museum

———————————————————————————————————————————————

One of the best things I’ve seen in a while. I like the fact this wooden couple still strive to maintain their dignity by covering their bits, even while their inner workings are exposed. Kind of like Adam & Eve after the first bite of the apple. God sees all!

Subjective Rating: 10/10. Yes.

Objective Rating: 10/10. They don’t make ‘em like they used to. 

centuriespast:

Beaded Picture
Date:1650-1670
Place:England/United Kingdom
Cincinnati Art Museum

 
This is the best thing I’ve seen in months, no, years. Look at all the wondrous detail, the birds and butterflies, caterpillars and cats. And in the center of it all some sweet guy handing his lovely a flower. This is everything I wish the world was, my best dream captured and made real. 
Subjective Rating: 10/10. Amazing. Undeniably so.
Objective Rating: 10/10. Humanity rarely, if ever before, or since, has achieved perfection such as this. It shines with the highest values an artist can hope to capture, a humble beacon to guide and comfort all our souls. 

centuriespast:

Beaded Picture

Date:1650-1670

Place:England/United Kingdom

Cincinnati Art Museum

 

This is the best thing I’ve seen in months, no, years. Look at all the wondrous detail, the birds and butterflies, caterpillars and cats. And in the center of it all some sweet guy handing his lovely a flower. This is everything I wish the world was, my best dream captured and made real. 

Subjective Rating: 10/10. Amazing. Undeniably so.

Objective Rating: 10/10. Humanity rarely, if ever before, or since, has achieved perfection such as this. It shines with the highest values an artist can hope to capture, a humble beacon to guide and comfort all our souls. 

Tom Ford’s Posing

I was reading an article about Tom Ford in The Times Style Magazine the other day, and was struck by Mr Ford’s repetitive posing in the photos. I’m not sure whether it’s a conscious affectation, ‘blue steel’ style, or just an accident, but in every one, he’s pulling the same look, at least as far as his head goes. It’s a kind of frowny, sly grin thing, presented from a 3/4 profile facing right, a sort of ‘I see you there buddy, and yes, I’m the bees knees’ look. Please see below, and recognise:

image

Magnum

image

Ferrari

image

Le Tigre

image

Blue Steel

As you can see, he might as well be a fucking mannequin for all his variety of expression.. Maybe this is the point, like he’s a secret insider, a pervy voyeur providing a contextual frame for the model whilst casting a knowing glance to the onlooker. More likely he’s just a shit poser and a thief to boot. Look at the gif below and tell me he didn’t steal his entire vibe from actor Todd Rivers of Garth Marenghi fame. You need to sort it out Ford.

image

Need I say more.

 

Subjective Rating: 2/10. He gets 2 because it’s an alright face freeze. It’s the repetition that kills it. 

Objective Rating: 7/10. ‘Ooooooh, he’s so handsome’.

Crafty Dans Retro Vintage Junk Emporium

image

Crafty Dan sells shit for a living. His Retro Junk Emporium is essentially a standard junkyard with the word ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ snuck in to make it attractive to the 20-35 year old world-‘o’-Poloroid-image-obsessed-with-a-bit-of-money-and-artistic-pretentions market. Based in the parking lot of a burnt out dummy factory in Peckham, the emporium is mostly outdoors, with Dan conducting business out of a wigwam, which also serves as his home.

On a side note, it was used as the location for that Miley Cyrus video where she licks a hammer. I don’t want to tell you what Crafty Dan was up to when that was going on. OK, I do. He was wanking in his wigwam.

Alongside the standard array of junk you can find some gems here. Last time I was down I managed to bag a gas powered Victorian toaster and Richard III’s flat cap, pictured on the man himself below:

image

Nice.

Both items came to a tenner, which was a bit steep compared to the old days, but the emporium has become increasingly popular, and to be fair, Crafty Dan could probably do with the cash. A few years ago I picked up Napoleon’s pimp cane for two quid, which is an incredible bargain. You can see the pimp cane in the picture below. It’s the one with the little gangsta hand doing the brap sign on top.

image

Brap Brap.

These were great finds, especially the flatcap and pimp cane which go together real good, but many times you can walk around for hours and not find a thing. This has been made worse by enterprising salesmen who come down with vans to buy up all the good stuff, presumably to sell at a huge markup somewhere that isn’t a parking lot.

I asked crafty Dan what he thought of this. He said he ‘couldn’t give two shits’. As long as his wigwam is in good nick, and he can afford his small pleasures (vintage erotica, cans of Guinness Original, Wicked Zinger Box Meals), it seems he’s mostly content. 

To get the best finds, go on a rainy day. The absence of roofly protection will drive away all but the most dedicated retro vintage junk shoppers.

Subjective Rating: 7/10. Prices have gone up, and real gems are thinner on the ground than they used to be, but this place is still one of London’s best destinations for good trash.

Objective Rating: 5/10. Not everybody’s into retro vintage junk.

Pandora’s Box

image

Pandora’s box is an artwork by Bob Moody, an artist famed for throwing a packet of Danish bacon at Damien Hirst. It is, I guess, a found object in the form of an old erotic painting, that has been painted over with acrylic, for reasons of re-contextualisation and aesthetics. It is called Pandora’s Box. The meaning of the name is pretty obvious upon even a casual glance. The lady in the painting, assumably Pandora, has a bright pink box around her, well, box. 

Let us peer into the depths of this oniony work, to see what we may discover. First off, we have a gag, a pun, a play on words. According to the myth, Pandora was the first lady on earth, ever. She was given a box and told never to open it. She opened it. All kinds of hell broke loose. Basically she set free a whole bunch of evil that spread across the earth. Wikipedia will tell you the rest. Box is a slang term for muff, and you can figure out the gag from that. But is this all the work presents us with? A cheap jape? Surely not. Let’s peel further.  

One cannot help but draw comparisons between Pandora and Eve. Both are the world’s first women, both are presented with something they are forbidden to mess with, and what do they both do? They go and mess with it. For Eve, it’s an apple, which upon her nibble invites sin into the world. For Pandora it’s a box, which upon opening does basically the same thing. What Bob is doing here, it seems to me, is drawing our attention to the vilification of women in our myths and ideology

By making Pandora’s box a part of Pandora herself, and indeed the part that is perhaps most representative of femininity as whole, Bob is essentially saying that this myth blames women for releasing evil into the world. Pandora, stay with me here, opened her box. One could take this to mean she spread her legs, inviting, or offering, wickedness, temptation and sin to the world, or, to put it bluntly, evil. 

It’s an interesting notion, especially within the context of Eve and original sin, where Eve plays the temptress, persuading Adam to join her in disobeying the instructions of God. This first sin leads to the end of humanities tenancy in paradise, and they are cast out into a world unprotected from misfortune, sin and evil. 

Maybe I am reading into Bob’s work too much, but this seems to me what the work is drawing attention to: the idea of women as vehicles of temptation, and consequently sin and suffering. Think Herodias and John the Baptist, Samson and Delilah, or the Sirens and some such. The New Testament has a few positive female leads, say Mary, but Jesus’ mum gave birth without ever actually offering up her box so to speak, so read of that what you will. These are my thoughts on the picture, and they may not be correct, but certainly it’s the train of thought I was led on by the work, so I found myself recieving a good deal from it. 

Besides making it look good, the neon pink gives a kind of trashy feminine vibe to the work, making something that before whispered seductively into something that shouts raunchily. It is something I could see myself owning, and I think Bob did a really interesting work here. I haven’t looked into his work as a whole, but it is something I look forward to doing, partially to see if the themes displayed here are backed up or refuted by anything else in his canon.

Judging art stuff is a quagmire, but this is a judgemental blog, so I’ll have to do it. Furthermore, objective appraisal is a tough thing to nail down, and it is most likely a decrepit concept, especially when applied to this particular corner of culture, but what the hell.

Subjective Rating: 10/10. I like it. It looks nice and it led me down a think tangent.

Objective Rating: 10/10. It succeeds in presenting itself in the best way possible for the notions it entertains. Also, puns are something to be praised universally. 

One Of Those New Japanese Synths

image

I came across this piece of kit in a moody looking electronics store in Hounslow. The first thing I said to myself was, “WOW! This must be one of those new Japanese synths”. Upon depressing some of the buttons around the base, excellent sounds burst forth as the top half of the device opened up, flower like, and started rotating. At the same time a bunch of lights came on, and the thing shone bright and glorious like a handheld disco ball. “Ho-ho!” said I to myself, and before I knew it I was funking out some mad electro jazz in the store. By the time I finished, a crowd had gathered, and awed by my remarkable synth manoeuvrings, they applauded and cheered wildly. 

Having taken a bow, I went to the counter to ask how much it was. “Nothing for you my friend”, said the manager, “I’ve never heard such synthy genius in all my days. Take this strange eastern magic box and make sweet music”. So I did:

 

Anyway, as far as it goes quality wise, I can only say “top notch”. I mean listen to the digi-rumblings in the track above. It wasn’t really compatible with any other instrument or software, but it didn’t need to be, such was its sonic range and versatility. Playing it was simple as a sandwich, I mean it basically played itself. Infact, the only downside was that it wasn’t a synth at all, but some kind of an inter-dimensional key.

This became clear to me during a gig last Saturday. There I was, synth jamming like a boss, when the crowd erupted into screaming. At first I thought this was on account of my virtuoso skills, but it soon became clear people were fleeing the venue, and people digging virtuoso skills don’t do that. As the crowd parted, I saw a large hooded figure, flanked by a huge hairy beast man, and some odd little chap who looked kind of like a fish. The hooded figure stopped in front of the stage, and raising both fists in the air, let out a high pitched cackle. “Hahaha! The key! And in the hands of a weak, foolish mortal! It’s finally mine! That muscle bound meddler will truly learn the perils of crossing the mighty Skeletor now! MWAAAGH HA HA!”.

I didn’t really know what was going on. These guys had me shit scared and frozen to the spot as they shared another long round of chuckling. My fears only worsened when the one named Skeletor took down his hood to reveal that he was infact A FUCKING TALKING SKELETON.

Maybe some of you deal with this kind of crazy action on a regular basis, and would handle the situation with ease, nonchalantly thinking “pfffff, it’s just a talking skeleton, a 10ft beast man and a fish bloke. What’s the big deal?”, but I certainly don’t, so without further ado, I dropped the synth and made a run for it, to the sound of mocking laughter from this terrifying trio. What happened to them, and who this ‘muscle bound meddler’ was I’ll never know. What I do know for sure is I’ll never find a synth that badass again. 

Subjective Rating: 7/10. It loses three points for putting me in mortal danger, and causing me to wet myself, then, and nightly since the gig.

Objective Rating: 10/10. Inter dimensional key or no inter dimensional key, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better synth.