Monday, December 31, 2007 

The year of the Madeleine.

You can't really say that 2007 was anything but eventful. At long last, we were freed from the tyranny of Blair and Blairism, only for it to be replaced by revolutionary Brownism - indistinguishable and just as incompetent. He started so well that even I was encouraged to begin with; then it all came crashing down. One party politics though has in actuality remained the defining ideology. Neither the Tories or the Liberal Democrats offer anything approaching a genuine alternative, let alone even an illusion of change. If anything, the Conservatives have shifted further to the right - emboldened by the inheritance tax cut pledge. The side is only held up by their opposition to the extension of detention without charge for "terrorist suspects", which provides the party with liberal credentials that it doesn't deserve. With Nick Clegg replacing the dignified but doomed Ming Campbell, the lack of difference is all too enveloping.

Little in reality has changed. We enter a new year with a Brown government that has been reacting, not leading to the various catastrophes, from the losing of the child benefit discs, Northern Rock, David Abrahams' donations, to the continuing prison overcrowding and refusal to compromise over ID cards or extended detention limits. In Iraq, the troops numbers may have come down slightly, but their continuing presence has no rhyme or reason behind it, while we leave the translators we owe a debt to to the mercies of the militias and bureaucrats deciding whether they potentially live or die. Afghanistan remains as intractable as before, with the Tories denouncing any attempt whatsoever to talk to the Taliban and bring the lunacy that there's a military solution to an end. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto, however flawed she was, has plunged the region into further turmoil. The one silver lining is that the tension over Iran's nuclear programme has been alleviated thanks to the National Intelligence Estimate. There is no way now that Bush can lead an attack prior to his leaving office.


Iraq itself has been becalmed to an extent, but at what cost and for how long are questions without answers. The fall in violence has not been down to the surge, but to the
salvation council model which has spread across the country. Former Sunni militants have turned decisively away from the takfirists of the Islamic State of Iraq, isolating both them and the foreign recruits which overwhelmingly made up their numbers. Of real concern however is whether the fragile accord between the Sunni and Shia groups holds where it exists, as is whether the former insurgents now being armed by the US on the councils eventually turn their guns on the occupiers. Despite the fall in violence, the numbers of American dead, just short of 1,000, are the highest to date. At least 18,000 Iraqis have died in violence this year, and you'd imagine that is most certainly a fraction of the real number.

Back home, we faced the most inept terror attacks since Kate Nash took to a microphone. The laughable attempt to blow first a nightclub then Glasgow airport up using patio gas canisters with nails packed around them was mostly responded to in the manner it warranted: contempt. Only the Sun went overboard, unable to come up with an original or distinct way to respond,
resorting to facile flag-waving. Middle England was flooded, while northern working class England, similarly underwater previously, got ignored.

We'd be deluding ourselves if we thought that any of the above was the real story of the year. There was only one, and that occurred when Madeleine McCann vanished from the family apartment in Praia Da Luz back in May. That is the one indisputable fact that's been established, even 7 months later. Everything else has been pure conjecture. Where she went, whether she was murdered or abducted, and who was involved has been open to the public ever since. The coverage has never managed to strike the right note from the very beginning: first it was
vapid emotional pornography, faux concern and caring from journalists only interested in extracting the necessary pound of flesh for their masters. It couldn't have been exemplified more than by how Robert Murat was at first implicated by a Sunday Mirror journalist. When that got stale, the Portuguese investigation itself was turned on for its "incompetence", or in other words, failing to find Madeleine for the poor, devastated and distressed McCanns, brimming with casual xenophobia and prejudice. It's hard now looking back to see it as anything other than a reaction to how the police weren't providing the media with any solid information because of the Portuguese legal system. The third act, the announcement that the McCanns themselves were being made arguidos, and their subsequent flight back to the UK, with the media unable to decide whether they were guilty as hell or the victims of the most unbearably hurtful slur, was capped by their decision to hire an ex-journalist as their spin doctor/spokesman. Their stomach-churningly bad decision to make a tape at Christmas addressed to Madeleine was the icing on the cake for a couple that have never understood the very basics of how the media work. That's not their fault, but even they must be amazed at how 7 months later their daughter's disappearance is still front page news. If the Diana inquest hadn't resumed that beaten and battered dead horse, then she could be described as the new one.

2008 stretches only slightly less bleakly than 2007 did. Still, musn't grumble, right?

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Saturday, December 29, 2007 

25 best albums of 2007.

Before we get underway, here are some albums which are worthy mentions but didn't quite make the list:

Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (would have been high on my list if it wasn't technically released last year)
The Wombats - A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation
Biffy Clyro - Puzzle
65daysofstatic - The Destruction of Small Ideas
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Fiery Furnaces - Widow City
GoodBooks - Control
Gravenhurst - The Western Lands
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom
Maximo Park - Our Earthly Pleasures
Oceansize - Frames
The Good, The Bad & The Queen - s/t
The Rumble Strips - Girls and Weather
White Stripes - Icky Thump
Thrice - Alchemy Index Vols I & II
Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity

and some I've either missed or haven't listened enough to yet:

Battles - Mirrored
Burial - Untrue
Maserati - Inventions for the New Season
PJ Harvey - White Chalk
Stars of the Lid - And Their Refinement of the Decline
Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Radiohead - In Rainbows
The National - Boxer

25. Interpol / Editors - Our Love to Admire / An End Has A Start

The cynical would argue that what both Interpol and Editors do amounts to little more than petty larceny. Both bands can hardly argue that they're not anything other than devotees to the back catalogue of Joy Division; Editors especially just strike one as taking the melodies, making them even more anthemic and radio friendly and writing the lyrics as an afterthought, as the line from "The Racing Rats" where the singer asks how big a hole would a plane make in the surface of the earth clearly demonstrates. What can't be denied is that they're very, very good at doing it. Previously, Interpol were far more subtle, and with Turn on the Bright Lights produced one of the best tributes to Ian Curtis which wasn't actually addressed to him. On this, their third album, they seem to be appearing to start to flag. Nonetheless, the singles, the Heinrich Maneuver and Mammoth, while not being anything quite on the level of Obstacle 1, are superior to almost all of the other trash released this year. How better for the bands then to share the same space?

Interpol - Wrecking Ball
Editors - An End Has A Start


24. Kubichek! - Not Enough Night

The wheels seem to have fallen off the Kubichek! wagon come the end of this year, with the lead guitarist and vocalist leaving to do his own thing. It's a great shame, as their spastic combination of math-rock and dancefloor friendly blistering post-punk was just the thing to blow away the cobwebs back in March. Its slight downfall might have been that it was released around the same time as two of the records in the worthy mention section and at least a couple featured lower down this list. Well worth seeking out, especially if you also like another band further down the list.

Kubichek! - Nightjoy


23. Shitdisco - Kingdom of Fear

In the year in which so-called "new rave" conquered all comers, Shitdisco found themselves somewhat left behind. Although they fit the description even less than the Klaxons, as they feature even less "old rave" sounds in their tunes, their ability to both rock and capture the dancefloor was not in doubt. From "I Know Kung Fu", their breakout hit, to "Reactor Party", "72 Virgins" and "OK", the disco was anything but shit.

Shitdisco - OK

22. Fields - Everything Last Winter

Perhaps like with Shitdisco, the name Fields chose may not have helped. This year alone there were records out from The Field and Field Music, and probably some others I've missed. Fields' influences of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins aren't the most popular at the moment either, but that shouldn't detract from a thoroughly bold and at times even thrilling debut album which shows the band know how to build up to a crescendo without being predictable.

Fields - If You Fail, We All Fail

21. Good Shoes - Think Before You Speak

This is what the View and all the other Libertines followers should be attempting to sound like. While the "successful" ones have just rehashed their already rehashed sound and taken all the vitality out of the music as a result, Good Shoes are just on the right side of the post-Strokes post-Libertines spiky guitar band path. Rather than sounding like the lyrics and music have been especially rounded for a label's PR manager to shoot his load over, Good Shoes actually sound real: the standout, Morden, is hardly an original idea, moaning about the dinginess of a small town, but they manage to make it fresh. The banter between girlfriend and boyfriend on "We Are Not the Same", which emerges as shouts as the guitars attack is some of the best unashamed indie-pop of the year, as is the rest of their debut.

Good Shoes - Morden

20. The Rakes - Ten New Messages

The Rakes, along with Bloc Party were one of the great hopes of 2005: sharp indie without pretending to be about anything other than middle-class angst. While the Arctic Monkeys were chronicling the working class travails of clubbing and pubbing, the Rakes were worrying about their 22 Grand Job in the city. It's therefore completely understandable why the Rakes also on their second album went the Bloc Party route and attempted a sort of concept-album about a day in the life of living in London, even if they are nowhere near as successful. There are still some brilliant moments here, such as the opener, originally commissioned for a fashion show(!), the World Was a Mess But His Hair was Perfect, which effortlessly targets the hypocrisy of bourgeois hipsters and the facile anti-Americanism which exists, even while they continue to drink Budweiser and smoke hash, most likely while wearing Levis. Gobsmackingly good also is "Suspicious Eyes", which ought to win an Ivor Novello for its quite brilliant first person narrative from three different perspectives on a post 7/7 underground train. It slips slightly towards the conclusion, but the first half is remarkable.

The Rakes - Suspicious Eyes

19. Hadouken! - Not Here to Please You

Not technically an album, instead rather a "mixtape" released on USB stick only, Not Here to Please You showcases probably the most "now" act currently around. Mixing grime, hip-hop, new-rave and even metal guitars on occasions, Hadouken! ought to be rubbish and very quickly forgotten. Somehow, it works, and while like other bands of their nature casual misogyny seems to seep in on "Girls" and "Tuning In", you can't deny the urgency of "Liquid Lives", even if the Noisia remix is far better than the original. Leap of Faith, a download only single, shows where they intend to go from here, with its blistering pace which is far removed from their original material. Could such a band really be maturing already? Their debut album proper, out early next year, should provide the answer.

Hadouken! - Liquid Lives


18. Coheed and Cambria - No World for Tomorrow

Technically the second part to 2005's Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, if you manage to ignore the prog-rock wankery and fact that this is the final chapter of a story, with the first chapter the next album to be released, C & C do still manage to specialise in good old fashioned tunes. While the previous album marked a change from the post-hardcore emo of their first two albums towards an even more progressive outlook, No World for Tomorrow pays tribute more to 80s metal, especially on the squealing guitar solos of Gravemakers & Gunslingers. While there isn't anything here as magnificently urgent as "Welcome Home", which played homage to Kashmir, the melodies on the Running Free and Sanchez's harmonising are still top of the draw.

Coheed and Cambria - The Running Free


17. Dartz! - This is My Ship

Like Kubichek!, even sharing that essential exclamation mark, Dartz! created an album full of pogoing math-rock and the aptly named disco-punk, surpassing their soundlikes with quite some ease. The breakdowns, time signatures and shouting response lyrics are all in evidence, and on "A Simple Hypothetical" all is summed up by the chanting of the title followed by "we've got a job to do!", which they seem to have quite easily achieved. Single "Once, Twice, Again!" is quite rightly up there with some of the best of the year. You also can't help but warm to a band gently mocking their being nominated for the XFM Best New Music award, as the website puts it, alongside such luminaries as "Kate Nash and Enter Shikari".

Dartz! - A Simple Hypothetical

16. Marcus Intalex - Fabriclive 35

While most of the other so-called superclubs established at the start of the decade or just before have fell by the wayside, Fabric has if anything continued to grow in strength. Alongside the eclectic nights it puts on, its line of "Fabriclive" and Fabric" albums continue to surpass almost all the other DJ mixes and compilations put out by anyone else, this year alone releasing great sets from the likes of Spank Rock and LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy. I'm sorry to admit that I hadn't heard of Marcus Intalex prior to this release, but he's certainly now up there with the very best that drum and bass has to offer. The current trend amongst most dnb DJs is to get as many tracks into their sets as humanly possible - the average CD having at least 25 or 30 crammed in. Intalex goes for the opposite route: still packing in 19 into an hour and 17 minutes, but letting the liquid funk he plays linger long enough for you to actually enjoy it. The smoothness of the mix is unequaled this year, so much so that this quite rightly deserves a place in any album of the year list.

15. Soulwax - Most of the Remixes

There are two ways to remix a track: you either beef it up or minimalise what you're given to work with, or you throw the whole lot out, start from the beginning and only include passing moments of the original. Soulwax know when to use the former and the latter: their still massive rejig of Gossip's Standing in the Way of the Control only really tightens the bass and ups the speed, while DJ Shadow's Six Days, a mournful slow original is given more urgency. Then there are their versions of Klaxons' Gravity's Rainbow, an already decent original, but their remix slows it down only to then up the ante with the guitar, and the unimaginable remake of the fat dancer from Take That's Lovelight, which takes a sow's ear and turns it into a silk purse, all sirens and beats. Add in excellent reimaginings of LCD Soundsystem, Justice and Daft Punk, finished off with a brilliant rework of Muse's Muscle Museum, and a second disc with some other remixes in the mix, and this is a fantastic value package.

Robbie Williams - Lovelight (Soulwax Ravelight Dub)

14. Manic Street Preachers - Send Away the Tigers

Who honestly thought that the Manics were capable of another great album? Every sign has been since Everything Must Go and Richey's disappearance before it that the Manics were in slow but inexorable decline. The decision following the failure of Lifeblood to pursue their own solo projects seemed to be the death-knell of the group; on the contrary, after returning from their personal exploits the band seems to have found a second wind. The reversing of the "Rs" in their name, like on their opus the Holy Bible was a statement of intent: as evidenced by their return to sloganising and politicking on "Rendition", to my knowledge the only song so far about the CIA's kidnapping and outsourced torturing of "terrorist suspects", and the rant against neo-colonalism of "Imperial Body Bags". Elsewhere, they produced their finest single in years in "Your Love Alone is Not Enough", featuring the singer from the Cardigans, and the one-two punch of "Indian Summer" and "The Second Great Depression". Ignoring slight misfires "Underdogs", a rather heavy-handed tribute to the fans, and "Autumnsong", with its awful lyrics, and SATT suggests there's still fire in the Manics' bellies.

Manic Street Preachers - Rendition

13. High Contrast - Tough Guys Don't Dance

No one else in drum and bass has been as consistent or as downright imaginative in recent years as Hospital Records' High Contrast, aka Lincoln Barrett. Providing the antidote to the finally dying down runaway train that was jump-up, HC's liquid funk continues to improve, with Tough Guys Don't Dance undoubtedly his finest album so far. Taking just as much influence from old film soundtracks as he does from the roots of d&b, the anthems If We Ever and Everything's Different only confirm his crossover appeal, now being requested to remix numerous other artists. The album closer, "Ghost of Jungle Past", manages to look both forward and backwards at the same time, an admirable feat.

High Contrast - Ghost of Jungle Past


12. Liars - Liars

Liars continue in their efforts to create a genre all of their own. Following from the brilliant, avant-garde and kraut-rock influenced Drum's Not Dead, their fourth album doesn't quite live up to its forerunner, but still has enough melt your face off riffs, especially in the form of single "Plaster Casts of Everything" and sheer mood of foreboding that runs throughout to earn itself another high place in this year's best albums lists.

Liars - Plaster Casts of Everything

11. Future of the Left - Curses!

Apart from having a great name, Future of the Left, made up of the remnants of Mclusky and Jarcrew carry on the tradition of making great critically acclaimed and fan-loved material whilst failing to break through into the mainstream. That's probably more than alright with them, but you can't help feeling they deserve better. Curses! simply rocks incredibly hard: in the words of Drowned in Sound, mixing ear-shredding punk and avant-garde rock squall, along with the same at times nonsensical lyrics and at other times hilarious sense of sardonic humour which perforated the Mclusky albums. How many other bands would write a song that involved the lyric "Mark Foley was right", or indeed, even know who Mark Foley is? Highlight is probably "Small Bones Small Bodies", with the title chanted incessantly over the grinding background.

Future of the Left - Small Bones, Small Bodies


10. iLiKETRAiNS - Elegies to Lessons Learnt

2007 perhaps showed that post-rock is on its last legs. Where once it was confined to the listening habits of college students and others in "the know", the success of Sigur Ros, even if not strictly a post-rock band, seems to have opened the floodgates to every television producer to use various pieces from post-rock albums to fill whichever emotional or cathartic scene that such a score is required for. It's one thing to use Hoppipolla for Planet Earth, quite another to hear one of Explosions in the Sky's tracks on a BBC trailer. EitS's own album this year was a definite disappointment, and although Stars of the Lid's album, again not strictly post-rock but more ambient has been very well received, staleness seems to have finally caught up with the genre.

Thankfully, iLiKETRAiNS, featured on last year's list with their EP Progress / Reform returned this year with their long-awaited full-length. On first listen you might be disappointed: their choice of recording venue, a church, seems to have taken the tautness of their EP and demos and turned it into aural sparseness, but after a few listens you can appreciate why they did it, and it becomes even more clear if you take the opportunity to see them live. Live, their tightness and power is all too overwhelming. The literary quality and historical first-person narratives continue here, so much so that the band have provided explanatory essays to accompany the songs. Even without them, the brilliance of "The Deception" and "Spencer Perceval", a close to 10 minute opus about the only British prime minister ever to be assassinated are incredibly special. Their only worry is how to follow it up without repeating themselves amid the genre's limitations.

iLiKETRAiNS - Joshua and Victress (from the Deception single)

9. !!! - Myth Takes

Following up 2004's Louden Up Now was always going to be a challenge for Chk Chk Chk. Coming at the height of dance-punk's short critical and commercial favour, its foul-mouthed funk and taut rhythms conquered all before it. Somehow, 3 years later, it's as if they had never been away. Dropping the swearing but only sharpening the beats, Myth Takes owes perhaps more to LCD Soundsystem than it does to the Rapture, but what isn't in doubt is the quality of the material. Nearly the whole album could have been released as singles, but those that were, especially "Must be the Moon", about casual sex and a man who fails to satisfy his partner, and "Heart of Hearts" alongside the extended freak-out of "Bend Over Beethoven" more than equaled their previous album.

!!! - Bend Over Beethoven

8. Justice - Cross

The French duo who led this year's dance music renaissance in actual fact put out the relatively weakest album. However huge "D.A.N.C.E." was, and backed as it is by "Phantom" and "Genesis", some of the other tracks are relative filler. Best of the rest is "Stress" and "The Party", which manages to make Uffie even sound good.

Justice - B.E.A.T. (from the D.A.N.C.E. single)

7. Simian Mobile Disco - Attack Decay Release Sustain

It's fitting that Justice and SMD came to everyone's attention when Justice remixed Simian's "Never Be Alone", transforming it into the massive "We Are Your Friends". Frustrated by Simian's lack of success, James Ford and James Shaw branched out into Simian Mobile Disco, remixing and DJing their way into notoriety, especially with the massive "Hustler". The album, featuring "It's The Beat", "I Believe" and "Tits and Acid" was frustrating not because of the quality of the material, but because of its relative shortness: only radio edits instead of original full length mixes were released. Despite that, the collaborations with other artists, SMD's continuing remixes and their DJ compliations such as the Bugged Out! mix and the latest Mixmag cover mount only suggest they continue to go from strength to strength.

Simian Mobile Disco - I Believe (SMD Space Dub) (from the I Believe single)

6. Digitalism - Idealism

Where Justice are signed to Ed Banger, Digitalism are signed to Kitsune, without doubt the two biggest breakthrough labels of the year, apart from perhaps Transgressive. Coming along much the same path, having remixed artists as varied as Test Icicles, the Futureheads, Klaxons and probably the group all the new-wave owe the most to, Daft Punk, Digitalism produced by far the most coherent and well-mixed album of the 3 breakthroughs. From the opening pulses of "Magnets", the single "Pogo", which as they say does exactly what it says on the tin through to the track that relates that it "was the biggest party ever", it's hard to disagree.

Digitalism - Digitalism in Cairo (Extended Mix) (from the Idealistic single)

5. Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future

Worthy winners of the Mercury or not, and overlooking their rather drunken statement that they were the "most forward-thinking band" nominated, Klaxons' Myths is still a massive and highly enjoyable record. The "new rave" stuff may have been overegged, and their cover of Grace's classic "It's Not Over Yet" may be pretty dire, but it's hard to resist the swagger and melody of "Golden Skans" or the bleeping and sirens of "Atlantis to Interzone". Their deriders might say that they're just playing the same songs as everyone else except twice as fast, and their live show did for a while leave a lot to be desired, but great things still seem to beckon.

Klaxons - Elektrickery (Erol Alkan produced, from the Gravity's Rainbow single)


4. Maps - We Can Create

This was the record that should of won the Mercury. Created and recorded almost entirely in James Chapman's bedroom, it just oozes with everything that makes you think a lot of bands ought to go back to basics. Lush soundscapes, breathy vocals, ample amounts of distortion, influenced heavily by Spiritualized, Low and My Bloody Valentine, it received the critical acclaim it deserves but fewer of the sales. If you missed it for some reason, for God's sake go out and buy it.

Maps - To The Sky

3. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

It's really hard to know quite where to put the top 3 of this list, as all three are both interchangeable and undoubtedly are the albums of the year. LCD Soundsystem, aka James Murphy was simply head and shoulders above everyone else in his/their genre this year, creating an album as effusive, convincing and simply enjoyable as could be achieved. It's hard to pick a stand-out track, such is the quality, although the singles "North American Scum" and "All My Friends" are outstanding, while both the opener "Get Innocuous!" to closer "New York..." showcase Murphy's talent to be both upbeat and downbeat with equal skill. A complete joy.

LCD Soundsystem - Get Innocuous!

2. Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare

Ignoring the hideous artwork and their new band logo, the Arctic Monkeys' debut, despite the incessant hype and huge sales, wasn't quite the triumph which most claimed it to be. As brilliant as "When The Sun Goes Down" and "A Certain Romance" were, the obsession with clubs and pubs was tedious and got more so on repeated listens. Thankfully, for FWN they chose both a undoubtedly in-form producer in SMD's James Ford, and to eschew their previous material to, dare I say it, mature. The racket of "Brianstorm" has to be one of the best tracks to hit the top 3 of the chart this year, while the tenderness and social comment of "Florescent Adolescent" is just as good as on the previous album's Mardy Bum. Heavier if anything than their debut, the attack of "Teddy Picker", "Balaclava" and "Do Me A Favour" is matched only by the whimiscal downbeat of "505". Not content with producing an album of 12 great tracks, each single has been backed by 3 b-sides, with some of the content, especially the Brianstorm EP matching or even bettering that on the album. Far, far better and likely to be more influential in the long-run than the Libertines? Please let it be so.

Arctic Monkeys - Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend (from the Brianstorm EP)

1. Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City

Some of those who had fallen in love with BP's debut, Silent Alarm, were turned off by the far more experimental and concept form of A Weekend in the City. It is undoubtedly lead singer and lyricist Kele's album, which is either a good thing or bad thing depending on your point of view. The opener, Song for Clay, with its lyrics inspired by Bret Easton Ellis's Less than Zero, is just one of the tracks to polarise opinion: although once the tune gets going it's an excellent song, the lyrics are close to impenetrable, even if expressing the vacuousness of the modern existence of someone with a permanent disposable income. Unsurpassed though was the stomp of first single "The Prayer", the regret of "I Still Remember", which has been easily misconstrued as Kele coming out, the attack on scaremongering over the terror threat of "Hunting for Witches", the authentic voice of the disposessed and insecure minorities on "Where is Home?" and the self-loathing centrepiece "Uniform". Only adding to the bravery was the release of "Flux", which reached for the synths instead of the guitar and came out just right, although the live version is infinitely better than the recorded one. Like with the Arctics, Bloc Party didn't seem content with producing just one album, with there being a virtual other one in b-sides, not to mention the numerous remixes. For sheer hard work and aspiration alone, with the band already either planning to record the next album or doing so, A Weekend in the City deserves to be album of the year.

Bloc Party - Rhododendrons (from the Hunting for Witches single)

Related posts:
Last year's best and worst lists.

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Friday, December 28, 2007 

The most disappointing and worst music of 2007.

2007 has turned out to be a somewhat paradoxical year where music is concerned. It has both shown signs of a revival in genuinely exciting, increasingly experimental indie-rock - Battles and Foals, for example - while "dance" music, derided as dead just a couple of years ago has re-emerged Lazarus like, energized by the likes of Justice, Digitalism, Simian Mobile Disco and Soulwax, with the Kitsune and Ed Banger labels leading the field.

Conversely, 2007 has also seen the musical apocalypse accelerating, such has been the success of so many either unbearably average or completely shit bands, with the View and Reverend and the Makers, both so breathtakingly, mind numbingly dull and insipid, careering up the charts, while Jam rip-offs the Enemy have been similarly bewilderingly welcomed. The shadow of the Libertines, the most overrated band since Nirvana, who released a best-of this year despite only producing two albums, still hangs heavy over the "indie" scene, if you can now perhaps call the genre of music which seems to be the opiate of teenagers across the country in any way independent.

Something is also seriously rotten at the very core of music when an album of cover versions of songs only released in the last two or so years is the 4th biggest selling of the year. Quite why anyone would want to hear Oh My God by the Kaiser Chiefs as much as once more, let alone covered by Lily fucking Allen, would pose an unanswerable conundrum to even Wittgenstein. Granted, Amy Winehouse's cover of the Zutons' Valerie isn't too bad, but one song does not an album make. Never before also has the money grubbing of formerly big bands or groups reforming been so apparent or shallow: Take That's return encouraging both the Spice Girls and All Saints to reform, even though no one wanted either. The only two bands that anyone would really like to see back together again - Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, both of whom have played one-off live shows in the last few years - are so riven with their petty hatreds that comeback tours are inconceivable.

Here then is both the most disappointing and very worst of 2007 in music.


The Coral - Roots and Echoes

Bursting through in 2002, the Coral showed signs of being the possibly greatest band to emerge from Liverpool since the La's, while some even went as far as imagining that their brilliant mixture of Captain Beefheart style psychedelica, folk and peerless indie-pop was comparable with a 21st century Beatles. Their self-titled debut is undoubtedly one of the records of the decade - so head and shoulders above everything else that when it didn't win the Mercury music prize it seemed fitting, as so many other great albums failed to win to what are now viewed as vastly inferior works. The follow-up, Magic and Medicine, while not a patch on the debut, was by no means bad; and ignoring the mini-album Nightfreak and the Sons of Becker, the Invisible Invasion was also a decent effort. Roots and Echoes however showcases either a band in terminal decline or one simply not trying - most of the tracks are lifeless, almost parodied images of their first attempts. The energy which was synonymous with the debut had completely decayed, and while the singles, Who's Gonna Find Me and Jacqueline are reminiscent of previous triumphs like In the Morning and Leizah, the rest is limp and pedestrian.

The reasons for the decline, which vary from acrimony between members of the group who had been friends since childhood to the copious amounts of drugs which they have infamously consumed, none still really explain why a group which oozed vitality has come so apparently far from their roots. Unlike other bands that stop innovating and ruin their best material as a result by keeping going, you have to hope the Coral split rather than take the Oasis route.


VA - Radio 1 Established 1967

How better then to celebrate 40 years of the greatest radio station on earth than to get today's best bands to cover songs from over the entire 40 years' of its existence? What could possibly go wrong?

From the Kaiser Chiefs, who only have one song and have recorded it now around 30 times, who cover the very first song played on Radio 1, The Move's Flowers in the Rain, the whole 2cd set doesn't just stink, it's the equivalent of rotten potatoes, onions and decomposing flesh all mixed together and then thrown at the Fratellis for so much as daring to cover All Along the Watchtower. The irony of covering a cover of a cover, in that they attempt to perform Jimi Hendrix's version, and fail in such a way that you truly wish they had never set eyes on a guitar is quite obviously completely lost on a band that also only have one song and it's one that is chanted on football terraces, a usually sign of creating a monster. Someone must have been laughing in a similar way when Razorlight were asked to cover Englishman in New York - a total twat singing a song written by a total twat. While few of the songs are as offensive as the above examples, there's something truly staggering about how the View were either asked or decided to cover Don't Look Back Into the Sun by the Libertines - that'll be a band that are an exact clone of them except even worse and whose best known song is based around how the singer has been wearing the same jeans for 4 days going completely through the motions.

Surely if you're going to do a cover version you might as well do something almost interesting with it - and most of the bands here that will have been completely forgotten in another 40 years don't even bother trying. It's an indictment of the vast majority of so-called "indie" bands featured that it's Girls Aloud doing Teenage Dirtbag and Corrine Bailey-Rae producing an inspired version of Steady As She Goes that come out with the most credit from the teeth-pullingly painful 2 hours plus length.


Mika - Life in Cartoon Motion

Just where do some of these people come from? Mika emerged from absolutely nowhere, with no hype, no MySpace fame, no apparent huge PR push to blanket radio airplay and to be one of the biggest selling artists of the year. If even a slight, tiny amount of that success was warranted, you might just accept it; as it is, with Mika being the bastard spawn of the Scissor Sisters and the Bee Gees, squealing like Aled Jones before his balls dropped, and dumping such pure shit on our heads as "Big Girls (You Are Beautiful)", a cynical ploy if there ever was one, you're inclined to demand to know where he was prior to the beginning of this year. Is he illegal? Is he an alien? Is he Satan himself? After suffering him, we deserve to be told.


Scouting for Girls - Scouting for Girls (Although, primarily, She's So Lovely)

Unlike with Mika, we do know where Scouting for Girls came from: namely, the wilds of MySpace. We were sold the internet as being great for learning, for removing the hierarchical access to knowledge which the privileged had exercised for decades. In practice, it's unleashed a cavalcade of hardcore pornography, allowed office workers to poke each other electronically on Facebook, let nerds have arguments in their own bedrooms about whether an image can be legally used or not on Wikipedia, and given the great unwashed access to all the terrible bands that previously would never have been noticed and quite rightly never got anywhere. Last year MySpace gave us the delights of Sandi Thom and Lily Allen; this year, Scouting for Girls were discovered. I could now spout some further venom about how SfG are the worst group to have ever decided that they could play instruments, or I could just paste the lyrics to She's So Lovely:

I love the way she fills her clothes
she looks just like them girls in Vogue
I love the way she plays it cool
I think that she is beautiful

She's so lovely (7x)

She's pretty
a fitty
she's got a boyfriend though
and that's a pity

She's flirty
turned thirty
aint that the age a girl gets really dirty

I don't know (3x)
how we'll make it through this
(3x)

I don't know (3x)

I love the way she bites her lip
I love the way she shakes her hips
I love the way she makes me drool
I think that you are beautiful

She's so lovely (7x)

A stunner
I wonder
was she this fit
when she was 10 years younger?
come see me, discretely
she said she's got a trick or two
to teach me

I don't know (3x)
how we'll make it through this
(3x)

I don't know (3x)

I think that you are lovely (7x)
I think that you are beautiful

She's so lovely (7x)

I don't know (3x)
how we'll make it through this
(5x)

I don't know (3x)

Oh oh oh oh...



Kate Nash - Made of Bricks

Admit it: you knew this was coming. There are very, very few music artists that manage to put me in such a state of apoplexy that I consider it would be good therapy to go to one of their gigs and throw rotten fruit/bottles filled with piss/pint glasses/house bricks/grenades at them. Sandi Thom, with her conflation of punks and hippies was one. Kate Nash is another.

Unlike Mika, you can at least see why Nash has been successful. After Lily Allen's emergence last year, a whole legion of "mini-Allens" were identified who performed much the same interminable "aren't I street" act, all who had previous asshole boyfriends that they wrote songs about. Unlike with Allen however, who despite her famous father did have something slightly genuine about her, Nash was a middle-class chancer who'd been to the same drama school as the Kooks had. At least the Kooks didn't pretend to be anything other than middle-class kids who could come up with a half-decent melody; Nash, however, portrayed herself as anything but, calling herself a "chav" and reacting angrily to accusations she was anything other than "4 real". Again, this could have been excused if like Allen her songs were at least bouncy: my main complaint about Allen was her terrible lyrics. Nash however manages to combine being completely phony with dull as dishwater music, a fake accent and, you guessed it, terrible lyrics. The very worst of her output, from her biggest hit Foundations:

You said I must eat so many lemons
'cause i am so bitter.
I said
"I'd rather be with your friends mate 'cause they are much fitter."

Except, in Nash's patois, it isn't bitt-er and fitt-er; it's bitt-ah and fitt-ah. Ignoring that lemons aren't bitter, they're sour, which is a common misconception, there can be few lines that sum up the emptiness of teenage life so effectively: we don't care about it when it happens to our friends, and we sure as fuck don't want to hear about it in song form. She even sings

Oh, my gosh, I cannot be bothered with this

exactly like Catherine Tate's Lauren, and she doesn't seem to be paying homage.

Despite all this, the majority of the critics still didn't see through her, apart from the usual snobs on the internet review sites. The Grauniad's Alexis Petridis was about the only one who gave it a sour, sorry, I mean bitt-ah, review. Nash even went so far as to claim that the follow-up single Mouthwash was err, about the Iraq war:

“With ‘Mouthwash’ I read this play called Guardians about a female soldier who was pictured torturing Iraqis,” Nash explained to DiS.

“There’s a monologue from her and the one thing she says she couldn’t get out of her head was these women buy toothpaste, like they’re in a totally different world but they’re the same as her.

Perhaps not as ridiculous as some might first think, Nash explained:

“When you strip away everything from someone you have the same basic needs like brushing your teeth so this was saying don’t judge me... it’s a bit of a protest song really.”

The lyrics to which were:

This is my face, covered in freckles with an occasional spot and some veins.
This is my body, covered in skin, and not all of it you can see
And, this, is my mind, it goes over and over the same old lines
And, this, is my brain, it's torturous analytical thoughts make me go insane

And I use mouthwash
Sometimes I floss
I got a family
And I drink lots of tea

I've got nostalgic don't know
I've got familar faces
I've got a mixed-up memory
And I've got favourite places

And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night (2x)
And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night and I hope everything's going to be alright (2x)

This is my face, I've got a thousand opinions and not the time to explain
And this is my body, and no matter how you try and disable it, I'll still be
here
And, this, is my mind, and although you try to infringe you cannot confine
And, this, is my brain, and even if you try and hold me back there's nothing
that you can gain

Because I use mouthwash
Sometimes I floss
I got a family
And I drink lots of tea

I've got nostalgic don't know
I've got familar faces
I've got a mixed-up memory
And I've got favourite places

And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night (2x)
And I'm sitting at home on a Friday night and I hope everything's going to be alright (2x)

You can definitely see where she was coming from. This isn't to even mention other songs on her album, such as Dickhead:

Why you being a dickhead for?
Stop being a dickhead
Why you being a dickhead for?
You're just fucking up situations

Why you being a dickhead for?
Stop being a dickhead
Why you being a dickhead for?
You're just fucking up situations

or We Get On:

Saturday night
I watched channel five
I particularly liked CSI


If there was one person who you wouldn't shed any tears over if they were to be caught up in a suicide bombing, Ms Nash would be it.

To conclude with the words of John Brainlove:
I think the Iraq War was actually influenced by Kate Nash because she's so fucking brain splittingly awful in every possible way that she brings out the human genocidal impulse.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007 

A multiple tragedy, and potentially multiple deaths.



The first photo shows the exact moment of the suicide blast; the other two depict the aftermath.

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a multiple tragedy. On one level, it continues the personal family tradition of "martyrdom": her father, Zulfikar Ali, was both president and prime minister of Pakistan before he was executed in 1979, ostensibly on charges of conspiracy to murder, but seen more as politically motivated following one of a number of military coups in Pakistan's short independent history, led by Zia-ul-Haq. Haq himself died in a plane crash in 1988. While it is by no means an exact comparison, the Bhutto clan most closely resembles the Kennedys: they both offered and offer the least worst political ideology in their respective countries.

For all of Bhutto's failings, and she had many, varying from the allegations of corruption and murder to the established fact that she was complicit in the military intelligence funding of the Taliban, her return to Pakistan less than three months ago was still welcome. In the face of the blatant gerrymandering of the vote under Musharraf, she at the very least gave hope to her supporters that her presence would stop the military dictator from stealing yet another vote. While his announcement of a state of emergency removed even that, with the supreme court judges who had struck down his reelection as president purged and replaced with obsequious sycophants who overruled the original decision, the longest striptease in political history finally came to an end when Musharraf was forced to shed his army uniform, standing down as its head. Even though the suicide attacks that had increased exponentially since the siege of the Red Mosque and bin Laden's call for jihad against the army and government that helped justify the state of emergency had continued unabated, there was a still a chance that the parliamentary elections, set for early next month, would be somewhat free and fair.

Bhutto's murder has almost certainly destroyed any lingering possibility of that. Although it seems highly unlikely that Musharraf, his supporters or the army were involved in the shooting followed by suicide bombing, he has the most to gain. For all the talk from both Bush and Brown today of not letting terrorism destroy democracy, neither will find much to complain about should Musharraf reinstate the emergency or even declare martial law. Postponement of the elections, possibly permanently, is doubtlessly also on the agenda. It's therefore completely understandable why the initial anger, rather than being directed towards the radical Islamists that had previously so ruthlessly attacked Bhutto's vanity on the homecoming parade and took 140 lives with them in the process, is currently being directed the president's way. The rioting that is being reported in Karachi and in some other areas will gradually turn from reaction to mourning, but not before it too is used as justification for another twist in Pakistan's tortured recent history.

If not Musharraf then, who is most likely responsible? Suspicion will instantly turn towards either al-Qaida itself or the Taliban, who had threatened to assassinate Bhutto and who nearly succeeded previously. The other chief suspects will be independent but al-Qaida inspired militants who declared war after the siege of the Red Mosque, or possibly remnants of other Pakistani terrorist groups formerly more concerned with Kashmir but now also increasingly focused on events in their home country itself. If it is the work of al-Qaida, then it will be the first high profile assassination that they have successfully achieved: while Ayman al-Zahawiri's former organisation al-Jihad aka Islamic Jihad had attempted to kill the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and there have also been previous attempts on Musharraf himself which have only been narrowly thwarted and afterwards linked to al-Qaida, their style has usually been to slaughter innocents, not specifically target politicians. Ramzi Yousef's plans to kill either Bill Clinton or the Pope were not strictly ever the work of al-Qaida itself, despite his involvement with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: he was probably the closest takfirist terrorism has come to someone who just liked making bombs and killing people rather than caring about the religious motive, however spurious, behind it.

The rather hysterical claims that Pakistan now faces civil war or at the least the possibility of it are for the moment premature. The government has never really controlled the semi-autonomous, tribal regions of the east next to the Afghanistan border, and it's there that the real battle against those supportive of the Taliban will be decided, not in the cities, despite the suicide bombings which have mostly so far targeted either soldiers or military installations. What Bhutto's assassination has done is thrown even the semblance of normality in the country completely out of the window; how Musharraf responds will be crucial. A temporary harsh crackdown is likely unavoidable, and with the one remaining popular opposition leader Nawaz Sharif declaring he will boycott the elections, there's little reason for him not to go even further and once again rule by decree, again possibly for as long as the West tolerates it.

Whoever was behind the attack, when they murdered Bhutto they were also attempting to kill an idea, an ideology, even hope itself. However the people and the government of Pakistan reacts to this latest atrocity, they should not lose sight of Bhutto's own dream of a secular, peaceful and democratic Pakistan, even if her own flaws and lust for power of that imaginary nation should have disqualified her from leading it. From even the most dreadful and despicable of acts, good can still be drawn. Mourn now and fight for that ambition another day.

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Monday, December 24, 2007 

Standing in the way of control.

It's Christmas Eve, so let's have a shooting fish in a barrel contest. Tony McNulty, the ghastly minister of state for security, counter terrorism, crime and policing writes into the Grauniad to defend control orders after Gareth Peirce, one of the lawyers acting for some of those under them savaged them last week:

Gareth Peirce's article (Britain's own Guantánamo, December 21) seriously exaggerates both the use of, and conditions for individuals on, control orders.

How then does McNulty defend control orders? By, err, exaggerating the safeguards, and being downright evasive and selective in regurgitating some of the facts.

The UK faces an unprecedented threat from terrorism and the government's top priority is to protect the public. There are certain individuals who we have strong suspicion are involved in terrorist activity but who we cannot prosecute or, if they are foreign nationals, deport.

This to begin with is nonsense. If the evidence held against the men was made admissible, most of which was obtained through phone-tapping, then they could almost certainly be tried. There is of course another suspicion as to why they haven't been prosecuted: that the intelligence is so thin that even if wiretapping was admissible it still wouldn't be enough for the CPS to authorise a prosecution. McNulty strangely doesn't mention that they are attempting to deport many "terrorist suspects" under "articles of understanding" to countries where torture is endemic, a piece of paper promising that such brutality won't be used against our returnees.

Peirce's claim that considerable numbers of people don't know the case against them is simply wrong. We use control orders only in a limited number of carefully selected cases. Fourteen people are currently subject to a control order and none of them is under house arrest. Control order obligations are tailored to the risk posed by the individual concerned.

I don't know about you, but I would describe a 16-hour home curfew, which is what most of those on control orders are under, where they are electronically tagged, have to report to a police station daily, are denied access to the internet or telephone, and are only allowed very select visitors who are authorised in advanced as little better than house arrest.

There are also strong safeguards to protect their rights. For example, where a controlled person cannot see the evidence against them for security reasons, an independent legal representative is appointed who can see the evidence and make representations on their behalf. And each control order is subject to mandatory review by the high court.

But that representative, who is appointed by the state, not the defendant, still cannot inform the person under the control order what the allegations against them are. To know what you are accused of has been a right since the dark ages, that's how far the Kafkaesque control order system has dragged us back. That each control order is subject to mandatory review makes little difference:
when Mr Justice Beatson quashed an order on a Tunisian and made clear that he felt he should be prosecuted, the former home secretary John Reid just imposed a slightly less restrictive order on him and completely ignored the judge's recommendation.

The House of Lords recently endorsed the principles of the control order regime, and the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile, concluded in his last annual report that control orders remained a necessary and proportionate response to the current threat.

Now this is where the bullshit really starts to fly. The law lords most certainly did not endorse the "principles of the control order regime"; it was asked to rule on whether 18-hour curfews under control orders were in breach of Article 5 of the Human Rights Act, the right to liberty, which they duly found that they were. They did however rule that 12-hour curfews were permissible, and because Lord Brown in a dissenting opinion wrote that he thought 16-hour curfews were also potentially legal, the wonderful Jacqui Smith immediately pounced and in some cases made the orders more restrictive as a result. The law lords also ruled that those under the orders and their lawyers must be given access to some of the secret evidence currently held from them, although how this will work out in practice is still yet to be ascertained. As for Lord Carlile, he seems to have gone native.

I wish we did not need control orders. Sadly, given the threat we face and the activities certain individuals are undertaking to harm us, we do.

If the government really wanted to, it could easily prosecute all of those under the orders, some of whom have never even been questioned by the police. That it still refuses to and also seems to continue to refuse to make phone-tap evidence admissible shows up McNulty's closing remarks as utterly self-serving.

So, err, merry Winterval! Be back in a couple of days and I'll probably do a best of, best and worst music of the year and most likely some other tedious shite. Have a good one.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007 

The politics of pornography.

Marina Hyde writes convincingly on how pornography is shaping young men's expectations of sex:

The marvellous website jezebel.com touched on this theme recently, having identified an experiential trend among the staff's acquaintances. Several of these women had been on a first date, ended up sleeping with the guys, and the men had ejaculated on their face without asking.

...

Now, either these guys were just borderline rapists, or - way more likely and way more scarily - they simply didn't know any better.

I don't think it is either misogyny or, as Hyde puts it, borderline rape, but rather that pornography has changed, even from the early days when it was far more storyline-based and also erotic, into a series of perversions where women are sex objects rather than individuals whose sexual pleasure is just as important as that of the man's. The "studs" are there to have their every demand catered for by the "slut", whether it goes from the banal in pornographic terms of oral and "straight" sex, right up to the female performer having to rim or even felch the male, indulge in anal sex and then after all that, either take a "facial" or swallow his ejaculate. It's all about male power, and there are few more subjugating experiences for a woman than for the man to display his control over his lover than to come her on face. All of this though occurs in a controlled environment, in which the female performer has consented, most likely signed a contract which goes into exact details of what she's expected to do, probably received an enema and anesthetic if she's to "do anal", and then is handsomely paid for the privilege.

Unfortunately, young men especially don't see that pornography is fantasy, as Hyde points out. They expect women to be shaved or waxed, to perform blowjobs without any complaint and for them to be more than pleased when they come on their faces. After all, don't the women in porn at times beg for it, or even love it? Apart from that, there's also anecdotal evidence that teenagers especially are increasingly expecting their girlfriends to obligingly partake in anal, so commonplace has it become in pornography that they almost seem to imagine that the backside is self-lubricating, and that it's neither painful or messy. Anal sex is in fact even more about power, pain and force than "facials" are, for the simple reason that few women find it pleasurable without immense practice: they can't help that they don't have the prostate gland which is what becomes stimulated in homosexual male intercourse.

Pornography of course isn't going to go away, and this is also where sex education, which needs real reform, should be coming in and separating the myths from the reality. Pornography itself, despite some notable exceptions, is designed for male consumption: women don't get much of a look in. That needs to change, and it's that that's most likely to lead to a sea change in attitudes. In the meantime, a moderate, modern feminism, one that doesn't immediately dismiss all those involved in pornography as either victims or abusers, and which accepts that sex and the media are bound together but that they can be either toned down or that women themselves should be taking control, is sorely needed.

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Bear shits in woods.

In a shock move, Pope Benedict has renounced his Catholic faith and will be stepping down as God's messenger on Earth with immediate effect. Questioned why just before Christmas he was abandoning Jehovah, Joseph Ratzinger was brusque:

"It's that Tony Blair. I might have been the figurehead of a church which through its policies on abortion and contraception condemns many of the world's poor to further unnecessary misery, but to share the same faith as a war criminal responsible in part for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis was just too much of a burden to bear."

Obsolete did attempt to contact Mr Blair for comment, but was met only with a reply from his spin doctor, the archangel Gabriel, who said:

"We don't do war."

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British sex for British people!

Unbelievably vile cliches and prejudices from the News of the Screws, via PP and Parbury:

A GIRLFRIEND set to marry her fiancé flushed her relationship down the drain when she started having sex with their Polish plumber.

Besotted Lindsey Goodman, 26, has now left Philip Martin and moved in with new love Adam Stojak.

Randy Stojak—one of the millions of East Europeans over here accused of taking British jobs—admitted he had no qualms about stealing our women too.

Perhaps Gordon Brown/the BNP can take up the News of the Screws's clarion call and start demanding British sex for British people.

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Friday, December 21, 2007 

We need to talk.

I realise I'm very late to the party on this one, but in the last couple of weeks I finally got round to reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I have a terrible habit of starting books, especially novels, and not finishing them: I must have at least 4 or 5 that I've recently began and either lost enthusiasm for or simply find myself picking up another when I go to grab one. It doesn't help that Age Concern have recently opened up a second hand charity bookshop in town, which proves too much of a temptation, especially when I find gems like Bakunin on Anarchy for less than a pound. (Even more rewarding was that inside was a cutting from the Guardian on the 100th anniversary of his death from 1976!)

I found Kevin though completely impossible to put down. Whilst I have read Shriver's articles in the Guardian, they don't in anyway prepare you for the sheer virtuosity of the prose: flowing, vivid and thrilling. The questions it asks which are never answered in the pages are put into a perspective which you never previously would have seen them from. The only real flaw is that if anything Kevin is just too benevolently vile, so much so that it justifies Eva's cruel unwillingness to really attempt to like him, yet alone love him, even from when he was first placed on her breast. While not wishing to give anything away for those who haven't read it, I didn't quite foresee the final explanation for why Eva is writing to her ex-husband, although I came very close to doing so. By most accounts Shriver's follow-up seems to have simply tried drawing her narrative out too far: Kevin is by contrast just the right length. Shriver's opus is the diametric opposite to Vernon God Little, also a fine recent novel on school shootings, although nowhere near as satisfying.

Next up, apart from the Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright and Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran for my non-fiction fix, I've got The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

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Suicide is painless.


"If these [findings] were true ... I would not only resign, I would go out and commit suicide."

Such were the words of Ronnie Flanagan, now Sir, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, when Nuala O'Loan delivered her report into the police handling of the Omagh bombing. Flanagan wasn't the only one who was critical: Peter Mandelson said that she had shown a "certain lack of experience and possibly gullibility".

O'Loan's findings have now been backed up by Mr Justice Weir, who found Sean Hoey not guilty of 29 murders. Low copy number DNA evidence has also been suspended as a result.

To come back to Flanagan: are you going to get the noose or are we, you fucking cowardly liar?

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