Friday, May 18, 2007

Captain Moonlight Interview: "I just couldn't take skirting around the issues any more."

Barry must have been thinking exactly along the same lines as myself when he posted about Captain Moonlight some time last week. For a flash last year Moonlight received a glare of attention for a track called "Dirty Cunts." The track scratched the face of our gombeen elite with hip hop beats and a visceral abuse tempered with some precision angered comments on developers and corporate Ireland. Keen to avoid a critical discussion about politics, most media obsessed about his dirty, dirty cursing and treated him as a once off hip hop oddity instead.

Moonlight's guttural rhyming patterns strike like a lyrical hot poker into the heart of Celtic Tiger Ireland to expose alcohol crippled lives, sharp cultural clashes of class and a deep seated alienation from politics as done, that "same auld, same auld shite." Moonlight is a very capable musical voice for a slowly growing Irish social movement, a transmission point for social woes that rarely get adequate treatment in the main media, and that is hip hop at its most traditional. In this interview carried out for Indymedia I catch up with the good Captain about politics, that track, voting and the demon delight of booze...

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Film Review: This Is England, This Is Masterful

The first obvious thing to do when reviewing a film or book is to take an interest in the director or author. To interrogate their past and look for associations between their personal life and the hidden message that you feel is contained within their work. More often than not the association is not there but constructed for the sake of pluralizing interpretation. I am usually the first one to declare the death of the author, and try to concentrate on the work itself but for Shane Meadows ‘This is England’ it would be an injustice to do so.

The film is in effect, the autobiography of the director and his coming to age under Thatcher’s regime in the early 80’s. The entire film is based on his own experiences with the UK skinhead movement of the early eighties. The opening scenes immediately depict a riot between workers and police during the Miner’s strike and gradually photograph the depravation within white working class communities in the early 80’s. There are quotes from Thatcher preaching about the need to wage war in the Falklands and brings home the all too familiar war rhetoric used by Blair during the invasion of Iraq. Apparently, Shane Meadows has never been one to shy away from drawing on his own history for his films, rooting all of his work thus far in the white working class English midlands that are his own roots.

Young Thomas Turgoose stars as Shaun – a twelve year old boy raised by his single mother. His father is mysteriously absent and sorely missed. We later realise that his father died during the Falklands war. An awkward child Shaun is teased and bullied by other children over the usual things - the out of style clothing that is all his mother can afford and his absent father, the latter of which provokes him to violence. Shaun lives a solitary life until he is essentially adopted by Woody, an older teen skinhead, and his small group of friends. Though all signs are that Woody has some sort of darker past this particular group are a happy lot, interracial, and mostly just looking to have a good time while providing the loyalty and support that is otherwise entirely lacking from their lives.
The first half an hour is hilarious and contains everything that is great about being young and not giving a fuck. There are side splitting scenes for any working class bloke that can identify with the confused raw aggression of smashing windows and running riot. No malicious intent and too young to realise the right and wrong of the situation. Gadget is the fat whipping boy who feels well pissed over this young lad moving up the hierarchy ahead of him. Each bloke has his place, each level of hierarchy is respected and the leader Woody maintains order and respect amongst the lads. Shaun is coming of age and finds his own identity within this small close knit group of Skins. He shaves his head, buys the doc martins and proudly wears his spotless Ben Sherman in every scene. The mother does not seem too bothered and is happy that her lonely son has found a brother like figure in Woody.

Everything is working well for Shaun until the arrival of Combo; an old friend of Woody's who has just spent three years in jail. The mood of the film immediately changes with the arrival of this older more politically aggressive skinhead. And if Woody represents the happier face of the skinhead movement, more interested in two tone Ska and having a laugh than anything else, then Combo is the grim underbelly, representing all of the negatives that come to mind with the skinhead label. Combo is militantly political and his presence immediately divides the group into those who, like Woody, are simply looking for a bit of craic and comradeship and those who are drawn to the racist element of the movement.

If this were a Hollywood film Shaun would follow Woody and that would be the end of it, but this is based on real life which is seldom so simple. If Woody was a surrogate brother for Shaun then Combo quickly becomes established as a father figure. Shaun simply idolises the man, drawn by his strength and passion and the strength that he offers. Blind to the dark consequences of Combo's beliefs it isn't long before Shaun is mimicking his every move spray painting racist slogans, attending political rallies and issuing threats to Pakistani shop keepers. It all leads to a cruel awakening ... This Is England is a coming of age movie like no other. Beyond simply dealing with his own adolescence Shaun must come to terms with aggression, racism, hatred and violence with absolutely no one to guide him through the process. It is above all else, a depiction of the rise of right wing nationalism amongst the white working class under Thatcher.

Combo, although aggressive and full of hate is also a likeable character. He offers unconditional support to his ‘troops’. He guarantees them security and becomes a replacement for all that is lost in their poverty stricken lives. In a remarkable scene he rallies against the economic policies of Thatcher and the poverty it has created for working class people, only to make the all too familiar conclusion that it is the immigrants who must take the blame. He hates Thatcher and the poverty around him and needs someone to blame. Thus, the film depicts the truth behind most racist mentality and uncompromisingly states the truth behind the support for right wing ideology.

Combo has obvious emotional problems. He almost cries when discussions on family life take place. He is lonely, desiring love and one discerns that he too is a victim of an authoritarian father and poverty. He was bullied by his father and bullies everyone else around him. This is a theme that runs throughout the film. The whipping boy in all the groups finds someone else to become the whipping boy. Thus, there is a Freudian connection between the authoritarian paternalistic instinct and its political results: ring wing nationalism. He wants to father Shaun and Shaun wants a father. The conclusion is obvious, an unhealthy but loving relationship. Combo is the sort of character that would be deathly easy to reduce to a cartoon, the simply minded violently racist thug. And he is those things but he is much more as well and combo easily takes on the complicated psychology of this man. He is a menacing physical presence, a man desperate to be proven strong; fiercely loyal to his friends, as truly protective and caring for Shaun as he can be, and at point’s appalled at his own capacity for violence.

Meadows is to be commended for his treatment of this very difficult material. He tackles the rise of nationalism through an uncompromisingly honest depiction of life in white working class England during the eighties. It also offers a more honest role to the individual personality and the psychological baggage that comes with loss and fear than any structural and theoretical account of fascism. He is also one who remembers that the racist element of the skin movement is actually only a relatively small subset of the group and while he certainly does not gloss over the negatives of that element he gives equal time to other aspects of the movement as well: the camaraderie and sense of family that drove it in its high points not to mention the simple fact that outside of the racist subset it was actually an inter-racial movement.

This is England is a masterful film: vibrant, uncompromising, complex, full of life, remarkably unsentimental and an unflinchingly honest account of how the rise of ring wing nationalism occurred in white working class communities under Thatcher.

This review was first published on Indymedia.ie by Chief.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Gig Review: Max Tundra In Dublin

"I did a Kid 606 remix and all I got was this lousy tee-shirt." Said the tee-shirt he had on him. It was an ATP festival somewhere back in the mist of time 2003, maybe? On a good day. And there he was dancing like a demented coat hanger on speed: Max Tundra. April 2007.

Four Zero looms And yer all alone. Even de ice on the bar has turned into melted fizzy sweets. You've been drinking the pear Koppleberg again
Or one of its Norwegian variations. Do they have a name for that time between periods of non-sleeping?

But hark - there he is with a cute bear hat with sticky up ears aaaw. The pocket rocket. The mini prince of the nerd geek retro scene. And aren't we all there. Beards and glasses. A touchy affair

Back in the USSA. Paisley Park is in turmoil! Purple ring Purple ring ring
Prince: Yo answa that mutha fuking 4-own
Who is it y'all?

Minian: Its y'all stoopid geek version; Max Tundra from London UK on line 1
Prince: waaaah no waaaaaaaay – tell dat mutha ####er I'm busy man!
Minian: He has a NEW hat that he wears for instrumentals
Prince: waaaah no waaaaaaaay. OK I'll take that in the romper room

And he sings like Prince on speed, Freddy Mercury on hamster, not quite Marvin Gaye on booze… And he has more Gaeilge then most of the audience. And when he says he loves playing here you strongly sense it's the full and whole truth! The crowd call out random songs

He obliges with a snatch of "Bicyle" by Queen accompanied with every note on his old keyboard. And he plays, as Herv put it to me, with virtuosity, which is neither a word nor an action you see all that fecking much of really these days.

Highlights: – All the old tunes, all the new tunes (New album very soon. Along with - both hats but most especially the instrumental one. And the mini xylophone solo in his rocking instrumental –a two keyboard special mini rave out twist on the KLF's "What time is Love"

I'm bitter - I'm twisted - Max Tundra is not ####ing my sista. (Krossie you don't have a sister!) (Krossie hello, hello – its your parole officer its very important that we talk!) zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Max Tundra played Kennedys in Dublin on April 27th. The photo of the pocket rocket is by Krossie.

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Marijuana March: All This Canna-biz In Toronto

"All day up on green, inhale smoke every time I breathe, talking junk when I hit the seed I love that smoke and a bag of weed, might attack that White Widow, dirty bud the hydro - too many people buy the homegrown, It'd wanna be bum to make my mind blow. Thick lumps start to change me, head in the clouds paranoid and lazy, everything about me starts to faze me, never thought weed would drive me crazy, up late and I start to lose my temper..." - Mark One/Sizzla (Feat Virus Syndicate) "I Got Too."

Pot activists in Toronto continued their campaign for legislation of that much vaunted plant yesterday as the city's annual Freedom Festival gathered in front of the legislature at Queen's Park. Mainstream media reports of the event settled on an attendance figure of a massive 20,000. A huge majority of these didn't even bother to join the Marijuana March that eventually wormed its way down Bloor St and back again. Staying behind instead for the direct business of mass spliffage on the grass.

The main stage tossed out pop-metal along Linkin Park lines, a suitable soundtrack for the teenage, lank haired and stoned. The crowd was mostly middle-class, rarely stretching further than their early 20s and there weren't many obvious worshipers of dead Ethiopian dictators around either but plenty of bongoloids getting their primal drumming on, college students flicking hacky sacks in circles, the spaced staring off under trees or clutches sharing over-sized decorative bongs.

The numbers are hardly surprising with the Freedom Festival and Marijuana March organisers under-taking a massive promotional effort year after year for this "cultural pro-testival." The logo of the organisers, which cleverly uses the CN Tower as a leaf in a cannabis plant, was flapping on posters stapled to poles across the city for weeks before hand.

The event has a massive appeal, drunk people shout at you about it from cars roaring past the night before and you could find it without having any idea of the city, given the crowd flow to and from it. Fake cannabis leafs draped around them, cash just handed over for temporary braidings of their hair or t-shirts with terrible visual puns boasting of drug usage and cannabis culture cliches. You're shooting fish in a barrel really.

The parade was grand marshaled by the so-called "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery, head of the Marijuana Party and publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine. Arrested over 20 times in the course of his campaigning he is wanted for extradition by the US for sending seeds across the border, in online sales some claim have netted him over five million dollars. He claims he simply introduced a business plan into the Canadian cannabis world,"a retail revolution so we could earn lots of money to fund a peaceful revolution to change the way the world thinks about marijuana."

Apart from a rebellious stature gained from appeal to a culture centred around cannabis, he's really not much of a figure to care about. A few google searches reveal a traditional captialist libertarian, who according to Wikipedia favours the abolition of public education in favour of private tutorship. In true shock jock style his comments about older people are far more reprehensible, basically funding for their health care should be cut off and they should be left to die.

There's a clear tension in Toronto's well developed movement to "free the weed," with some campaigners trying to establish activity outside the "official" Freedom Festival, so April 20th now figures strongly as an alternative date within the cannabis culture calendar here. Set aside by more radical liberationists as a day of smokers pride with the numerical representation of the date matching the 4:20 police code for a cannabis possession offence. Last 4:20 A crew calling themselves the Toronto Hash Mob (as in flash mob) assembled out of no where in the downtown area in an "out yourself" smoke out. Police officers looked on and promised no arrests , with some major debate sparked in the letters pages of the alternative press on decriminalization or legalization.

One participant writing in NOW! magazine, itself a sponsor of yesterday's Freedom Festival described, the consternation the move caused in the canna-biz world of hemp stores, head shops and cafes. "There's a big fear that our unsanctioned actions will feed bathhouse-style raids. Some café owners even beg us not to come back to their establishments post-rally."

The 1981 Bathhouse raids, where the police raided four gay bathhouses leading to the mass arrests of 300 men, spurred the queer community into a series of protests that eventually stabilised as the annual Pride parade. Many seeking a change in the status of cannabis see a similar "pride" strategy as a suitable template for shifting state policy. Toronto now has its own openly stoned culture. Head shops like Roach-a-rama in Kensington Market boast a "pot-io" and a cafe calling itself the Hot Box where the owners allow stoners to smoke on the premises.

The main Freedom festival is affair is now simply that, a festival complete with a small year round staff and sub contracted workers such as security people, paramedics and technicians required by the law coming in during the event. Over the years there has been a string of corporate sponsors including PizzaPizza, a massive fast food franchise present across Ontario.

The festival's website even invites advertisers to "market your brand to core consumers; 80/20 male/female, ages 17 to 35, lower to upper income, socially, progressively, environmentally, and politically aware" and "acquire market intelligence." And of course many advertiser do come on and advertise, like Budbabes.ca - a soft porn site specialising in annual calendars featuring semi-nude, fluoro-goths caressing cannabis paraphernalia or suggestively biting into apples being used as improvised pipes.

Its like a very privatised Gay Pride with a raft of companies saddling up to get in on profits to be made after a status change for the plant or from over-priced cannabis culture kitsch today. There certainly is a very valid argument for a change in the status of cannabis in many countries but for a plant whose past and present intertwines with issues of race and class few of these are to the fore of a cannabis liberation movement dominated by would be entrepreneurs and cannabis devotees fawning all over their own radical stonage.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Murmours of the Past In The Dublin Docklands.

[murmour] is one of those interesting considerations of urban space that sprung up from the civic imagination of Torontonians. Starting as a project to document the experiences of people living in Kensington - a market area full of stalls and wafting with dope smoke from the few open cafes in the city that challenge legislation directly to allow patrons to smoke over a coffee. Through gathering murmours and voices from residents they document the ambiance of a place itself.

Kensington now can be thought of as some mini-Amsterdam fused with the anti-vicious circle mentality of Brighton and cross referenced with just about every hippy clothing store and vintage outlet you've ever come across. Beneath its counter-cultural glare, a marked working class experience and large immigrant population co-exist in an area with traditionally low rents.

As part of the Bealtaine festival [murmour] are swooping down on the Docklands development to record people's stories for an interactive, illustrated audio visualization of the development. In a PDF media package the project aim is making stories heard because once heard "these stories change the way people think about that place and about the city." The site they produced after visiting Leith, Edinburgh gives some idea of the likely end result.

People are invited to take their mobile phones for a walk and ring the numbers on signs mounted where the stories were gathered to hear them recited at their point of origin. Some how all of this is related to a festival for the elderly, "Ah in my day there was none of this ringing traffic sign bollix..."

A dedicated [murmour] site for their documentation of a modern Dublin oral folk history is now online.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Crouch Crouch Walk Forward Punch!

Sudden new NME darlings Hadouken are far more exciting than the sub-Kula Shaker mysticism in eighties shell suits dished out by the Klaxon's - but inevitably they'll end lumped in alongside the whole new rave thing regardless.

The background chug of Indie guitars is familiar but its interesting how they've wedded contemporary grime and dub-step to crazy cartoon Britpop bouncing choruses and lad swagger. Anyone who sees fit to mix the Klaxons with Skepta and Virus Syndicate's alright with me. Isn't there one or two Mark1 tracks riddled with game vocal samples as well? As usual the Hype Machine will fix you up with your downloads. I'd love to see a direct link to that mix for Annie Nightangle's show.

And while we're on a vaguely Street Fighter angle, this live stage skit of a Ryu and Ken training session in the ancient art of Konami had me spluttering apple juice all over my computer screen with laughter.

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to antropheatgmail.com

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