Thursday, 30 June 2011

Andreas Dorau-Todesmelodien

Yesterday was a brilliant day as Andreas Dorau's new album "Todesmelodien" dropped through the letter box and, today, I've had chance to give it quite a number of listens through in its entirety. As anybody who knows me will tell you, I've got a big thing about Andreas Dorau and have had for many years so the arrival of this, his eighth album depending on how you count, was very much highly anticipated and it hasn't disappointed in the least. In fact, I'd already stick my neck out and say that it's one of his very best.

The sound is, for the most part, the highly appealing, unadulterated  and unashamed pop which anyone familiar with his work will have come to expect, unchallenging verse/chorus song structures, Dorau's instantly recognisable and slightly childish voice, elements of electro-pop and disco basslines on some tracks, backing vocals straight out of the seventies throughout and a seeming disregard for the fact that the outcome never quite fits in with current trends. However, compared to his last album "Ich bin der eine von uns beiden"(2005) the songs on "Todesmelodien" seem a lot more crafted, with plinking pianos playing quite a significant role where samples last time were at the heart of a number of tracks.

The album might at first appear light, but, as the title ("Deathmelodies") suggests, the lyrical content is quite dark, pulling in a very different direction to the poppy and sometimes breezy surface matter and this is most obvious on the songs where Dorau has provided the lyrics himself, which is the majority of them, although it's nice to see that he has collaborated with Der Plan's Moritz Rrrr on one track ("Neid") and that Wolfgang Müller, he of Die Tödliche Doris fame, is still contributing lyrics as he has done for several of the last albums.

In fact, if we can read Dorau's words as autobiographical and if the level of my German hasn't led me to miss subtle ironies, he doesn't appear to be in a very happy place at all on this release as, besides songs about the unpleasant character traits of envy  and egomania ("Neid" and "Größenwahn"), on another he repeatedly tells us about the indescribable pain he feels inside himself as he lies on the sofa with his hands locked together in front of him ("Es Tut So Weh"). Elsewhere, he sings of a house which once contained a bright light which didn't burn for very long, it presumably being the home of the family whose journey on the autobahn got interrupted by heavy rain, this then leading to their car hitting a tree at high speed ("Es war hell"). Then, in another he describes himself as being positioned on a precipice between words and action in a world where nobody seems to hear or understand, telling us that it's all too late anyway ("Und dann"), whilst in "Stimmen in der Nacht" he describes being haunted by the voices which awaken him in the night, these stemming from a departed person whose semi-darkened room, double-locked from the inside, is now empty apart from a photograph on a shelf and the wallpaper which they once found so pleasing. Presumably they are dead as he tells us that their life was all wrong. It all sounds a bit worrying, actually, the more I trawl through it, a bit like the spirit of Ian Curtis may have slipped into our Andreas. 

As usual, there are quite a number of collaborators and contributors on this album as, besides those already mentioned, the majority of the music has been written with Tim Lorenz on some tracks and Mense Reents (Die Goldenen Zitronen) on others, both being new to the brew this time round, I believe. Long-term collaborator Justus Köhncke is also back, having co-written another, whilst backing vocals on "Schwarz Rot Gold" come courtesy of Francoise Cactus from Stereo Total and Inga Humpe, once of Neonbabies and, more recently, 2Raumwohnung appears in the same role on quite a number of others. It's a bit of an old school party, it seems, albeit a rather solemn one.

As mentioned earlier, Moritz Rrrr features in the procedings which fits quite nicely because, as we all know, several of Dorau's earliest releases came out on Der Plan's Ata Tak label, something that's being referred to in some of the imagery that accompanies this album's release, the download single ("Größenwahn") having a "sleeve"  which revisits Dorau's debut "Tulpen und Narzissen" from 1981 and I'm not entirely convinced that the "Todesmelodien" cover isn't an homage to Pyrolator's "Inland" which was released on the label in 1979- see what you think. (Talking of Pyrolator, he's got a new album out very soon, I've just heard.)

dorugrossenwahn.jpg image by germanbite       pyrolator.jpg

Well, there you go, some quick initial thoughts on another great Andreas Dorau album. To round things off, here's a couple of tasters which were put out prior to its release. I hope everyone reading this is as enthusiastic about them as I am.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Stinky Toys-Birthday Party

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was French and so were Stinky Toys. This is for some of my most beloved friends who have all had their birthdays in the last few days or so and for another couple who have theirs coming up. If I'd have known how to, I'd have made them all a Chinese birthday cake.

Savage Messiah(1972)

Blink and you'll miss it but Leeds has gone a bit Henri Gaudier-Brzeska mad of late, this stemming from The Henry Moore Institute's joint project with Kettle's Yard in Cambridge to republish "Savage Messiah", H.S.Ede's 1931 biography of the sculptor. Gaudier had been killed sixteen years prior to its publication, when fighting in the WW1 trenches at The Somme, and still lay in relative obscurity when, apparently, the author found a number of his works gathering dust in a store room at the Tate Gallery when he was looking for some picture frames. To tie in, the Institute is also staging a small exhibition - on until the end of July - which includes Ede's original manuscript, various other books written about the sculptor over the decades, including one by Ezra Pound who is also represented by one of Gaudier's busts - you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for a work by Jacob Epstein, in my view, though - and various bits of ephemera relating to Ken Russell's 1972 film which he based on the book. Last Thursday, they also hosted a one day study symposium on the sculptor's life and work and, that evening, this tied in with a rare showing of the film at The Hyde Park Picture House. As it's an old favourite of mine from the days it was never off the TNT movie channel, I went along with a fellow admirer for whom I bought a ticket as a birthday treat.


Now, Ken Russell was supposed to be in attendance to introduce his work, which really would have been quite something,  but, unfortunately, having recently suffered a stroke, he was under strict orders from his doctor not to make the journey from Hampshire, sending instead a dictated introduction which was read out by Michael Bradsell who worked as film editor on this and quite a number of other Russell productions. And, in amongst various other snippets of information, it was very nice to hear that he holds this as his very favourite piece from amongst his oeuvre, a view with which Bradsell also concurred. A bit of further research - dipping into Russell's 1989 autobiography "A British Picture" - offers some evidence as to why this may be the case, the most obvious being the inspiration the director had drawn from the sculptor's determination to express himself and forge new ground in spite of prevailing popular trends ("...I felt I owed Gaudier something. It would have been so easy to have  gone into my father's business and opted for the easy life but Gaudier taught me that there was a life outside commerce and that it was worth struggling for. Long live Gaudier!" /  "Savage Messiah was about passion and sweat, it was about a poverty-stricken artist who stole a tombstone from a cemetery, sculpted it into a nude and, when the dealer who commissioned it refused to pay, threw it through the window of his Bond Street gallery. It was about revolution and fuck  the art dealers of Bond Street and Madison Avenue and fuck Pinewood and Hollywood, who have never made a proper film on an artist yet!"). Secondly, "Savage Messiah" represented the grand climax of a series of television films he'd made during the previous decade or so about other artists: "Two Scottish Painters" (Robert MacBryde and Robert Colquhoun), "Pop Goes The Easel" (Peter Blake, Peter Phillips, Derek Boshier and Pauline Boty), "Always on a Sunday" (Henri Rousseau), "The Biggest Dancer in the World" (Isadora Duncan) and "Dante's Inferno" (The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood). He so believed in the project that he double mortgaged his house in order to help finance it. I'm very glad he did, too, as it's truly marvellous.


Although being about the sculptor (played by Scott Antony - who seems to have appeared in little else film-wise, although he had a part in "The Mutations" which is another favourite chez moi), the main focus is his relationship with the Polish writer, twenty years his senior, Sophie Brzeska (played by the late Dorothy Tutin who is otherwise best known to me for her role as Cecily Cardew in the 1952 film of "The Importance of Being Earnest", as well as the rather thespy appearance she made on "This is Your Life" somewhere in the blur that was the 1990s). At the beginning of the film, we see the pair meet in a Parisian library where he sketches and she writes and, from this point, a platonic love affair develops, as they visit The Louvre together, he helps her scour the ground for discarded vegetables for her stews and they travel to the country to visit his family who, along with the local residents, are scandalised by their unconventional relationship. Banished from the neighbourgood but undeterred, they decide to combine their names in an act of unity and to emigrate across the channel to London where he works by day and sculpts by night, sketches prostitutes for which she has paid, believing him to be relieving troublesome urges, and slowly begins to make connections in the art world. The most supportive of these is the dealer Angus Corky who is played in deliciously camp fashion by Lindsay Kemp, who is always extremely good value whatever he does and certainly doesn't disappoint here as he rather ineffectually assists with the aforementioned theft, chokes politely on a revolting bowl of stew, is pulled forward and backward like a rag doll on the end of a two person saw being controlled by the driven Gaudier and tries to calm the tension between our hero and heroine and the snobbish Bloomsbury inspired clientele at one of his dinner parties by offering "more cider". Oh, it's all such good stuff! I could go and watch it again, right now!


Another absolute star of the film is Helen Mirren who plays Gosh Boyle, an aristocratic Suffragette whom he meets during a period of separation from Sophie - she has gone elsewhere to work as a governess. Walking along the street at night, she asks him for a light which he then unwittingly applies to a fizzing bomb which, for reasons best known to herself, she throws at a postbox. Her then accompanies her to The Vortex nightclub (presumably based on The Cave of the Golden Calf which opened just off Regent Street in 1912 and was decorated in a "Ballet Russes" / Vorticist style by people like Spencer Gore, Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis and Eric Gill) where she takes the stage and performs a routine that ranks amongst one of my favourite scenes ever in a film. Amongst a gloriously coloured set (designed by none other than Derek Jarman, as were all the film's sets), she begins by slashing away at a talking canvas resembling Goya's "Naked Maja", shouts "Old masters exploit young mistresses" and then launches into a hilariously badly sung ditty, the chorus of which repeats the words "Votes for women! Votes for women! Tra-la la-la la-la lee". The guests from the aforementioned dinner party are all in attendance, dressed and acting suitably outre for the occasion, whilst Gaudier roars his appreciation - "show us your knickers!" Unfortunately, there isn't a clip of this on You Tube to share so here are some stills I managed to capture as a poor substitute.


As the film draws to a close, Henri and Sophie are re-united after he visits her by train and they rekindle their passions amongst Portland stone, he telling her that his first solo show is due to take place and she later agreeing to marry him after the exhibition. However, fate has a cruel part to play in proceedings, as Gaudier, who had at first dismissed going to war, sees a picture of Rheims Cathedral damaged by the advancing Germans and decides to enlist. Then, back at The Vortex, where the face of a wildly metallic looking performer is thrust repeatedly into the camera in order to evoke the violent idiocy of the war, Corky reads out a letter received from the trenches in which Gaudier tells of sculpting using found rifle butts and his delight at going out at night and killing the enemy. The response of one of the Boho crowd is "Whoever wrote that should be shot", to which comes the reply, "He was. Last Thursday," and the film ends beautifully and poignantly, cutting between shots of the grieving Sophie, photos from the trenches and actual pieces of Gaudier's sculpture at the now posthumous exhibition, his Modernist style causing stifled amusement amongst several of those attending. Then the tragic loss is rammed further home as she solitarily views an unfinished piece whilst in the background others celebrate the end of the war.


As with a lot of Ken Russell films, "Savage Messiah" is a bit of a romp and a good deal of irreverent anarchy propels the film through its ninety minutes or so, as he avoids the slavish adherence to fact which stifles more stereotypical and cliched biopics. However, at the same time, all the powerful ingredients remain steadfastly at the core: Gaudier's obvious talent and conviction; the incredible relationship he shared with the remarkable Brzeska; a sense of the milieu in which he operated; and the terrible loss and devastation brought about by WW1. Along with John Maybury's "Love is the Devil" and Derek Jarman's "Caravaggio", "Savage Messiah" is my favourite film about an artist and, let me think now, I'm sure there's a continuous link which connects the three, I believe.

Here is a ghastly American trailer which adds a gravelly voice and equally dramatic music to make the film look melodramatic and crassly worthy which, to me, competely misses the point. Turn down the sound and enjoy!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Horrors / Toy : Manchester Academy 3 - 16 June 2011

I completely love The Horrors and have done since the very first day I heard their "Sheena is a Parasite" single in 2006 and then all those that followed, "Death at the Chapel", "Count in Fives" and "Gloves", in the run-up to their exhilarating first album "Strange House". They were a complete breath of fresh air which seemed to come out of nowhere and their instant success was a real joy to experience when everything else being raved about at the time was such dross. Although a lot of people said they were derivative and over-hyped, they were very welcomely received round these quarters and quite a few others by the looks of things.

In some respects, they remind me of Depeche Mode, not least because they achieved their first fame very quickly and whilst still in their late teens, or thereabouts, and so have had to do their growing up in public, evolving away from their early Birthday Party / garage punk style in much the same way that DM outgrew their early ultrapop sound and teenybop image. Both bands also strike me as being real lovers of music, constantly broadening their listening horizons and soaking up influences along the way. So, just as Depeche Mode started experimenting with sampling and taking on board ideas they were hearing in Berlin around 1983, The Horrors released a landmark album characterised by a more textured and electronically experimental sound also around the three year mark. "Primary Colours" sent a thrill through me when I first played it in 2009 and is still a delight from start to finish. In the two years or so that they had been away a new, more sophisticated yet equally exciting style had developed.

The Horrors always put on a very good live show, too, and I've been fortunate to see them quite a number of times along the line, again experiencing their evolution from the days of "Jack the Ripper" and Farris walking into the audience to streak the faces of unsuspecting attendees with the dreaded black grease to a more serious and musically considered stage act, Rhys having swapped his Farfisa for the bass and Tom becoming the electronics boffin with his banks of vintage synths at the edge of the stage. Although the crowd surfing seems out of place now, the live impact is still riveting but for completely different reasons of a much more sonic variety. 

Last week, they played their first UK shows of 2011 and I jumped at the opportunity to catch them in quite a small venue in Manchester University's Student Union. As anticipated, they didn't disappoint and what was glaringly obvious is that, once again, things have moved on to another level. Gone was anything remotely thrashy fom the set list - nothing at all from the first album and things like "New Ice Age" and "I Can't Control Myself" from "Primary Colours" also being absent - the gaps being filled by songs from the new album "Skying" which is due out in a few weeks' time. Like all things of depth, I'm sure that this as yet unfamiliar material is going to prove itself to be a collection of real growers and, on first listen, I'm already greatly optimistic about what lies just around the corner. This said, though, there was still plenty on offer from what we've already grown to love and it was great to see hordes of teenage boys who couldn't get served with beer at the bar a few minutes earlier thrashing around to songs as intelligent as "Mirror's Image", "Sea Within A Sea", "Scarlet Fields" and "Who Can Say". It kind of offers hope. 

Finally, another reason why The Horrors remind me of Depeche Mode, at least in the early days, - and Siouxsie and the Banshees, for that matter - is that I get the distinct impression that they insist on choosing their own support bands who reflect their own impeccable tastes and, therefore, manage to expose their mainly young audience to something they might not otherwise have come across in the process. So, just as early(ish) Depeche Mode audiences were warmed up by people like Palais Schaumburg,  Fad Gadget, Portion Control or Hard-Corps, last time I saw The Horrors in Leeds they had Factory Floor on before them and, on this occasion, they had Toy, a new group with no releases to their name yet, in support. They were superb. At a first glance, you could be mistaken for thinking they'd churn out some kind of stoner rock but this wasn't the case at all, as they delivered an obviously sixties inspired pop  but with a degree of complexity built into it, this being achieved by not too obvious song structures, appealing guitar effects and hypnotic keyboards - nothing laboured and dreary, though, just highly effective, catchy but not superficial tunes. In some respects, their sound reminded me a little of Felt which is no bad thing at all, although it was much more contemporary than that at the same time. They're certainly a name to watch out for and were well worth making the mid-week journey over to Manchester for alone.

And talking of things to watch out for, The Horrors have put their forthcoming single on You Tube to get us in the mood for the new album. I was right. It is a real grower. Every time I listen to "Still Life", which was one of the highlights of last week's show, it sounds better than the time before and I want to go back and listen again. Maybe it will be single of the year. Roll on July 11th (release date) and their next big tour in October. I've got my ticket already, tucked behind the telephone.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Nothing But The Night (1973)

This weekend that's just gone was a bit like buses in the end as it was also the occasion of the tenth annual "Fantastic Films Weekend" at The Media Museum in Bradford which is always a highlight of the year. They showed loads of brilliant films, as well: "Hands of the Ripper", "Countess Dracula", "The Plague of the Zombies", "Horror Express", "The Beast Must Die", "Twins of Evil", "The Stone Tape" and the delectable Regan MacNeil in a midnight showing. What with Ladytron and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, though, I didn't manage to get over there one fraction of as much as I would have liked. However, I did catch a rather colour drained print of one of my favourite films of all-time "Nothing But The Night" on their big Pictureville screen last night.

Now, for anyone who doesn't know, "Nothing But The Night", which has a stellar cast including Diana Dors, Peter Cushing, Georgia Brown, Keith Barron (David from the sitcom "Duty Free"), Fulton Mackay (Mackay from "Porridge") and a pubescent Gwyneth Strong (Cassandra from "Only Fools and Horses") was the first release from Charlemagne Productions, the company set up by Christopher Lee who also stars. Apparently, it was so named because his family could trace their lineage back to this eighth century French king, would you believe?

In spite of all of who appear, though, I'm afraid that, whenever I watch this film, I only have eyes for Ms. Dors who is stupendous in the role of Anna Harb, an ex-prostitute who has done time in Broadmoor for a triple murder, now earns a living as a fortune teller and drives around in a blue and white car with astrological symbols on the side and a sinister black cat, a bit like the one on the firework boxes, on her bonnet and rear end. She storms around in what seems like a permanent rage for the first half of the film, barging her way past people in hospital corridors and snapping at everyone she meets and, in the latter half, crawls helplessly but valiantly like a wounded animal (dressed in a red leather coat and auburn wig) through rough terrain as she tries to evade capture by Tracy Truncheon in what seems to be a prefiguration of Dawn Davenport in "Female Trouble". I've often wondered if John Waters caught a showing of "Nothing But The Night" (a.k.a. "The Devil's Undead", a.k.a. "The Resurrection Syndicate") when dreaming up scenes for Divine a year later.


Anyway, to the plot - unsurprisingly, given her mother's track record, the Harb child (Strong) has had her name changed -  to Mary Valley - and has been taken into the care of the charitable Van Treylan Trust with whom she lives an idyllic and privileged life in a huge cliff top mansion on the Scottish isle of Bala. However, as the film progresses, it emerges that the wealthy benefactors who take in such children don't have the altrusitic motives one might at first have expected and, as they begin to get bumped off in freak accidents or what appear to be suicides, the plot thickens.

In one such "accident", Mary, who was leading what looks like an amphetamine-fuelled chorus of "Ten Green Bottles" in the aisle of a coach when it crashes, lands up in hospital and starts to babble about being trapped in a fire which no-one can fathom out when she could have experienced. To cut a long story short, the Van Treylan lot, in a bid to achieve immortality of a sort, have been experimenting on the children in their care, using their remote hideaway as a place to implant parts of their brains, and therefore memories and personalities, into their wards. This achieved, they are ready to shuffle off and let the youngsters take over.

However, as the dastardly goings on start to be detected, first by Mary's doctor (Keith Barron), who gets a hat pin skewered into the side of his head for his troubles, and, later, by the more scientific Sir Mark Ashley (Peter Cushing), who seems to slice up pieces of liver and rump steak and squeeze them into test tubes to reach his conclusions, Dors is brought onto the scene by a meddling and gutsy journalist played by Georgia Brown. Then, in an attempt to regain "the kid", and now chief suspect in the hunt for the murderer of Dr. Haynes (see above), she heads up to Scotland and the Van Treylan mansion in the aforementioned car which she, unfortunately, has to abandon on a ferry so we never get to see it again.

In the meantime, her daugher is preparing her birthday party, a cliff-top bonfire with fireworks and this is where the film reaches its denouement with the children, now dressed in the scaled-down, antiquated attire of their elderly predecesors, gleefully watching the innocent Anna Harb, who they had earlier captured and turned into their guy, become engulfed by the flames. Christopher Lee almost suffers a similar fate, too, being tied up by the children and dragged towards the fire in a sinister variation on tug-of-war and, as this goes on, the soul of Helen Van Treylan speaks through Mary Valley, explaining all that's gone before in the belief that he'll take his knowledge of her machinations to the grave. However, just in the nick of time, Cushing arrives and, as the precociously dressed Mary laughs, "You're going to burn! Ha, ha, ha! You're going to burn!", his helicopter fans the flames and up goes her frock, causing her to dash to the cliff edge and jump to her death, her plan now foiled. Then, in a scene which would never be filmed in today's climate, like lemmings, the other children follow suit, toppling over one by one, and we watch their body's spiral down towards the rocks and water below just before the credits begin to roll.

What a film!! They showed it on the Friday, too, and its director, Peter Sasdy, was on hand to introduce it and to answer questions. If I'd been there, I'd have shaken his hand.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

"The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye"

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine who reads newspapers and cuts out articles and photographs for me noticed that Marie Losier's film "The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye" was to get its UK premiere at the Sheffield Doc/Fest this weekend. So, on-line we went to buy tickets and then, yesterday, we made the journey down the M1 to catch a teatime showing and, as with moreorless anything connected with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, it proved to be very interesting and stimulating viewing.

Although largely about P-Orridge's relationship with h/er wife Lady Jaye, who died suddenly in October 2007, just twenty days after Psychic TV played a memorable but, sadly, poorly attended gig in Leeds, the main focus is on the former Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV front person and, to some extent, the film acts as a kind of impressionistic biopic as snippets from h/er illustrious/notorious career pepper the proceedings. 

Archive footage, therefore, features quite a bit so we get to see TG performing "Discipline" at their "final" show in San Francisco in 1981, as well as GPO's daughters being filmed on a Brighton funfair and at Derek Jarman's Dungeness cottage back in the late eighties for the video of PTV's "Are You Experienced?" - s/he tells us that the record got to number one in Italy and was used there as the theme for a top TV pop show for a while. Most interestingly for me, though, as I didn't know such a thing existed, we get to see black and white footage of h/er from the COUM Transmissions days, long-haired, sitting on the floor and naked from the waist down urinating copiously into a milk bottle and nonchalantly imbibing the contents of a used condom. S/he also takes us through her personal archive, showing us the infamous "Wreckers of Civilisation" newspaper clipping, complete with accompanying photo of Siouxsie and Steve Severin, a newspaper hoarding reading "Sex Show Man's Amazing Free Tour" - "that's me", s/he grinningly declares - and a selection of 12" records spanning a recording career which dates back to the 1968 "Early Worm" album, from the back sleeve of which she reads proudly, "We have nothing to say and we are saying it."

As narrator of the tale, aspects of h/er philosophies and what shaped these also surface as, for example, we hear about a master brutally humiliating h/er in front of the entire school  on h/er first day there, this ironically occuring in chapel below a giant painting of Jesus Christ. Although not stated overtly, h/er hatred of the British establishment and its conventions seems partly to stem from this moment which led to a prolonged period of violent bullying and misery at school. This anger seems still to be present, too, as evidenced when, dressed in a black leather mini skirt, matching shirt and stuck on Hitler moustache, and accompanied by Lady Jaye in similarly themed garb, s/he goes into a kind of Mel Brooks parody diatribe about refusing to be told what to wear, how to act and how to think. S/he also tells us about h/er father being a jazz drummer and this being the kind of music to which s/he was exposed prior to becoming enthusiastic about the likes of early Pink Floyd, The Doors and The Velvet Underground. An improvisational approach to music, we're told, was essential to Throbbing Gristle and extends to h/er present day violin duets with Tony Conrad which we see them performing in a bubble filled room. H/er friendships with William Burroughs and, later, Brion Gysin - who, s/he says always kept at least one packet of Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers in his Paris flat in case GPO hopped across The Channel to pay a call - also figure strongly and it is made clear how influential their cut-up technique and philosophy have been throughout h/er life.

At one point, though, s/he says that s/he doesn't want to be ultimately remembered as "The Tampax Man" or for being exiled from Britain for being a destructive influence on society but, instead, for being part of an all-consuming, passionate love affair and this is the over-riding theme of the film. As GPO remembers, it was love at first sight as, after a night out at New York's Jackie 60 club in the 1990s, s/he crashed out in the dungeon of a dominatrix friend and woke to see a beautiful young woman passing repeatedly across a doorway, dressed firstly in sixties attire and then fetish gear - "my two favourites" s/he recalls with relish - this being Lady Jaye Breyer dressing for the work she undertook alongside her involvement in performance art at the time.

From this point onwards, the aforementioned love affair and identification of each as being the other's second half developed to the point where, instead of having children, they decided to cement their relationship by undertaking their pandrogyne journey which involved combining their features in an attempt to become, as much as possible, a third entity. So, we see footage of them having their faces prepared for surgery and hear an account of them waking side-by-side after both simultaneously having breast implants. "Look. It's our angelic body", s/he recalls saying when first emerging from the anaesthetic. We also get to see snippets of their seemingly inseparable lives together, riding the subway, attending a birthday barbecue, preparing food in their tiny kitchen, stepping out identically dressed, either for an afternoon in the park or a night on the town clad in matching dresses, tights, fur coats and facial bandages.

Their dual roles in the latter incarnation of Psychic TV also feature heavily, as Lady Jaye, whose worst nightmare was, apparently, to ever be part of a band, was eventually coaxed into becoming a member through her part-time provision of samples and ultimate inability to conceive being spearated from GPO during long periods of touring. So, we see them soundchecking at London's Astoria, walking around the streets of Amsterdam and eating collectively with other band members backstage and it is the accumulation of all this detail, the fondness with which Lady Jaye is spoken and the obvious pleasure the footage shows of them sharing in each other's company that makes it so tragic when it comes to the relating of her death, Lady Jaye breathing her last breaths into GPO's mouth as s/he tried to resuscitate her on their bathroom floor. Interestingly, from this point in the story onwards GPO refers to h/erself using the collective pronoun "we" which obviously provides some comfort.

"The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye" is an outstanding film for many reasons, not least because of the story it tells and the incredible relationship detailed therein but also because it affords a seemingly honest insight into the day-to-day life of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge about whom so much mystery and myth has been created over the decades, also showing how much s/he has changed since those days of Industrial Music and Culture. What we see in h/er relationship with Lady Jaye is a playful, very loving and, actually, at times quite comically twee personality who does a Swedish chef impression whilst preparing ravioli at the stove and a sitting down charlston with h/er knees on the metro, talks on several occasions in baby speak, plays peepo between the shelving of h/er archive, makes tunes with h/er arse on the keyboard and seems to like being referred to as Genny in intimate surroundings. S/he also comes across as someone incredibly likeable and who is doing impressively well in remaining creative and productive whilst dealing with h/er profound grief.

I guess the film will get a more general release shortly and, ultimately, come out on DVD and it comes recommended by me to absolutely everybody in the world, even if only for the closing scene over which "The Orchids" from 1983's album "Dreams Less Sweet" finds a suitable home. Here are a couple of trailers I found knocking about.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Ladytron-St. George's Hall, Liverpool : 10th June 2011

Ladytron played what was apparently a special gig last night in order to mark the occasion of it being ten years since the release of their debut album "604" and I was so pleased that I made the treck across The Pennines to be there as it was a totally fantastic occasion. Going to Liverpool is always a treat, anyway, because it's one of my favourite places and arriving early and, therefore, managing to fit in a quick drink at The Lisbon, a semi-subterranean pub on Victoria Street with a superbly preserved and impressive interior - busy stuccoed ceiling, wood-panelled walls and Art Nouveau sign - certainly set the tone for what was to come when we arrived at the venue.

Even from the outside, St. George's Hall is magnificant, elevated grandly above the traffic on Lime Street like a giant temple preserved from Classical times. In fact, this Grade 1 listed building, dating from the mid-Victorian period, was described by the expert on all such matters Nikolaus Pevsner as the greatest Neo-Grecian building in the world. It provided the perfect setting for what was to come, too, as the inside is equally impressive, giving off a sense of the bygone grandeur I'm sure we've all at times romantically associated with cities like Berlin and Vienna. Add a bit of dry ice and one could easily imagine a pompous Midge Ure striding seriously and purposefully from between a potted palm and a Doric column and out across a Byzantine-style tiled floor before stopping to turn meaningfully to look into the camera. The band played in what was once called The Golden Concert Room and, Wilton's Music Hall in London aside, it is easily the best place I've ever seen a gig, with its columned and mirror-backed stage, ornamental balcony supported by caryatids and lavish decorative detail wherever the eye might land. Compared to the hangar-like venues where I've seen Ladytron play previously, it provided quite an intimate setting, too, almost like being at a party or, without wanting to cheapen things here, on the set of "The Roxy", ITV's short-lived attempt to rival "Top of the Pops" in the mid-eighties, for those that don't remember.

Anyway, I digress so onto the music. Support group, Outfit, who were fronted by dual vocalists, one mainly providing synth and the other guitar, keyboard and hip wiggles, may or may not have been local and provided quite an interesting proposition. As my co-star in this adventure pointed out, they were a bit all over the place but, this and one terrible Rock School-style reggaefied number aside, I found them to be quite appealing in a number of ways, not least that, for me, they had the years 1982/1983 stamped across them. Maybe it was the setting but, as their short set unfolded, a number of Liverpool bands from this era passed across my mind, not least The Pale Fountains, The Wild Swans and Care in their foppishness and seeming attempts to craft a kind of intelligent, dramatic and slightly sophisticated pop which goes against the grain in the current climate. Apart from the final stand-out number, which also had me thinking of Aztec Camera and the poppier moments of Postcard Records, they're still a bit embarrassingly clunky at present but definitely a name I'll keep an eye out for in the future.

Ladytron took the stage, as scheduled, at quarter past nine, the last remnants of daylight, therefore, still creeping in above them and were absolutely superb, playing a set which stretched across their entire career and seemingly tied in with their recently released "Best Of 00-10" album. Opening in tried and tested, but highly effective, style with "Black Cat", "Runaway" and "Ghosts" it was one favourite after another for an hour and a half and hearing so many brilliant, luscious and memorable pop songs which such an enormous number of people, based on the evidence here and the other occasions I've seen them live, clearly love so much, it beggars belief that they've never had even a medium-sized hit. In an ideal world they'd have had a string of number ones that would make ABBA blush and would currently be giving the likes of Ms. Gaga and Rihanna a run for their money. I blame it on distribution myself. Has anyone else noticed how poorly stocked even high street shops in Britain are with Ladytron product, maybe one of two copies of the odd album tucked away in the Dance Music section rather than stuffed invitingly into the mainstream area where most people browse? "Discotraxx", "Seventeen" (which had one elegantly dressed lady dancing like royalty in private reverie up on the balcony - an image I'll have cemented in my mind for a long time to come, I hope), "International Dateline",  "Season of Illusions" - it was a continuous string of gems, leading to a euphoric encore of perennial crowd-pleasers "Playgirl" and "Destroy Everything You Touch". 

The fact that some of my own personal favourites like "Sugar", "Burning Up", "I'm Not Scared" and "Evil" could not be squeezed into the set serves as further evidence as to why they have become such an essential and cherished band, at least in these quarters, over the last decade. It's far from over yet, too, by the looks of things as they played three new songs - their danced -up cover version of Death in June's "Little Black Angel" and two fantastic tasters from their forthcoming album "Gravity The Seducer" which is due in September. One of these, "White Elephant", is available already as a download (personally I prefer a nice 7" single but you can't have everything) and here it is for your delectation.

As always, some kind souls were on hand filming it and, although the histrionic, rockist drum finale in this clip probably represents the gig's nadir, it does provide a better sense of the setting than my comparatively weedy photos. The one afterwards is more better for the music.