Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Is it a Bird? Is It a Plane? No It's Super Injunction!

There has been a lot of media consternation in the last week about the growing trend for rich celebrities to cover up the more sordid elements of their private lives by resorting to the super injunction.

Costing £50K a pop it is not the sort of thing Joe Monkey down the pub can legitimately afford to employ when he is caught cheating on his missus with Tracy from accounts. Like some an expensive Elfin garment it grants the wearer anonymity from public scrutiny. Those in the know are not able to name the parties involved or even mention that a certain individual has taken out a super injunction.

Of course the press paint this legal shackeling as tantamount to censorship but let's not forget the tabloids make a fortune reporting, and at times bugging, the rich and famous so you can read about the girth of Russell Brand' penis as your eat your Sunday bacon butty. They are no saints.

Only yesterday Andrew Marr, the BBC broadcaster and jug-eared sex-bomb came clean and fessed up to taking out a super injunction in 2008. He said he was "embarrassed" about taking out the super injunction (although not about the adultery) saying:

'I did not come into journalism to go around gagging journalists. I also had my own family to think about, and I believed this story was nobody else's business."

It is a shame he wasn't thinking about his family when he was boning someone else after a late night standing in front of number 10. It is worth noting this Damascene conversion didn't come purely out of the goodness of his heart. He was outed after Private Eye editor Ian Hislop expensively challenged the gagging order to highlight the hypocrisy of a journalist who has made a career of prying into the personal affairs of others gagging fellow journalists when it suited him. Commenting on Radio 4 Hislop said:

"I thought this was a touch hypocritical since he'd written a piece specifically about privacy law in which he said judges should not determine privacy law, it should be determined by parliament...therefore he had just done the exact opposite of what he believed.

Of course not every super injunction is challenged. Last week it emerged that three celebrities had sought super injunctions when their infidelities were on the verge of kiss n' tell stories in the tabloids. Out came the lawyers and the judge issued a gag. However, the Internet is the cyber equivalent of the Wild West, impossible to police and the leaked news spread like wild fire.

Of course websites started off cute. No mention of his name but confirmed that one of the aggreived was a married actor who was Scottish and had appeared in the Star Wars films. They might as well have said that when he to the shops he goes The Long Way Round.

Then as word spread people starting getting more confident. Like the fact that family man Ryan Giggs was slipping the salami to serial slapper Imogen Thomas. Ironic, Giggsy taking out a gagging order, when given Imogen's record for bedding footballers she, quite literally, was gagging for it.

You may argue that is it even in the public interest to know all about the sex-lives of celebrities? What the fuck has it got to do with you if Carlos Kickaball shags some fame hungry slapper? You may have a point. Personally it only bothers me if there is an element of hypocrisy to it. So if an MP is banging on about family values to his constituents and then is caught shagging the secretary behind his wife's back he has every right to shut up and take his medicine in the full public glare.

Not so easy to argue are the examples of big business hushing up unsavoury practices from being reported. Today it has emerged that scumbag rip-off artist Fred "The Shred" Goodwin has used a super injunction to hush up some shady dealings that may have caused the terminal collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland. It is currently being decided whether it is in the public interest for M.P's (parliamentary privilege grants MP's immunity from prosecution)to release this information.

In September 2009 solicitors on behalf of oil trader Trafigura, prohibiting the reporting of an internal Trafigura report into the 2006 Côte d'Ivoire toxic waste scandal that led to 100000 injuries and 15 deaths after toxic waste was illegally dumped. If it wasn't for a parliamentary question tabled by an MP and subsequently circulated on the Internet the information would have been suppressed.

David Cameron has expressed his "unease" at this growing trend for unelected judges to decide where to tilt the balance between freedom of press and the right to privacy.

The wider issue here is that super injunctions have gone from a legitimate tool to protect vulnerable people or criminal cases from collapsing to just a means for rich people to clean up their dirty laundry.

Of course you do realise I am going to go to prison for telling you all this?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Is Music The Food Of Love?

I came across this amusing article in NME about a new music-based dating website that finds your perfect match based on your mutual musical tastes. As a big music fan my dreams of finding a Terence Trent D’arby obsessed nymphomaniac were suddenly one step closer to becoming reality.

It’s not such as an outlandish idea as it sounds. Somehow deep in the inner most fibres of my soul I know I would never be able to have a lasting relationship with anyone who has ever bought a Celine Dion album. That is a scientific fact. Yet, on the flipside I know if I find someone who really likes Stevie Wonder they WILL call to say they love me, know the words “discreet” when a part time lover and be very superstitious and wash their face and hands after I take them to Nandos.

As part of the launch of (shit name by the way) they conducted a survey asking users how far they would go on a first date. Users were given the options of "I’d only meet up for a chat", "Perhaps a kiss" and "I’d go all the way if the mood was right." and then matched their answers to their musical preferences.

No surprise to find that tofu eating Coldplay fans are least likely to get jiggy on a first date and dirty Nirvana fans were the most likely to exchange bodily fluids in return for a momentary increase in their self esteem.

So if music be the food of love what are the best tracks to woo a potential target…I mean wife from the beginning of the date to its grisly climax? Here is my selection:

I’m In Love With a Stripper – T-Pain
The Best Day Ever – Spongebob Squarepants
You’re The Best Around – Joe Esposito
Me So Horny – 2 Live Crew
Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini - Bombalarina ft Timmy Mallett
You Can Leave Your Hat On – Randy Newman
I Should Be So Lucky – Kylie Minogue
I Wanna Sex You Up –Color Me Badd
Cover Up – UB40
Down Under – Men At Work
Into the Groove - Madonna
Theme from Shaft - Isaac Hayes
Jack U Off – Prince
I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – Hall and Oates
One Minute Man – Missy Elliot
She Swallowed It – N.W.A
Yummy Yummy Yummy (I’ve Got Love In My Tummy) -1910 Fruitgum Company
Glory of Love – Peter Cetera
I Might Be Used But I Ain’t Used Up – Waylon Jennings
No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn – Beastie Boys
I’m So Tired – The Beatles
The Theme from Taxi – Bob James

Ladies, I will try and respond to your date requests one at a time.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Live Music - Bilal - Jazz Cafe London 10/04/2011

It's amazing to think that in the 20 years I have been going to gigs I have never ventured into the hallowed halls of the Jazz Cafe. An intimate venue with a regular roster of jazz, funk and soul artists passing through its doors, its style somewhat at odds with the usual scuzzy Camden ambience of drunks and druggies that float about outside.

It is a testament to Bilal that the gig is sold out despite his not having released an album in 10 years. Record company politics and an online leak meant second album Love For Sale was bootlegged and never saw the light of day. Whilst a personal pity for Bilal he admits that word of mouth recommendations sustained his career and gave him an added boost during this wilderness period.

Educated in Mannes College of Music in New York by none other then a protege of John Coltrane, Bilal is about as far removed from the Ushers, Ne-Yos and Chris Browns of this world as it is possible to be. Whilst you will probably find him pigeonholed in the moribund R n B category his work regularly dips a toe in the waters of rock, electronica, jazz and funk. You wouldn't expect anyone who cites Zappa and Mingus as his biggest influences to wow the audience with choreographed dance routines. In fact when he appears on stage he looks and sounds like a man who is quite drunk and would probably fall over attempting the running man.

Wearing a leather jacket and a black beanie hat and despite the social lubrication Bilal's performance is impassioned and beguiling. If he is not pulling odd faces at the audience he is shrieking and top of his lungs (think of Prince at his most experimental)and raising his tattooed arms skyward. Bilal's voice is a thing of beauty, versatile enough to sing a variety of styles at the drop of a hat. On tracks like Gotsto Be Cool his voice is a smooth as George Clooney covered in cooking oil and on All For Love his falsetto is smoking. When he sings Bilal means business.

The crowd are treated to a laid back version of Sometimes from the 1st Born Second album which is about a close as Bilal comes to a straight up R 'n B hit albeit with trademark jazzy interludes and off beat lyrics.

"Sometimes, hey Slim, you should be nicer than you are
Sometimes, you take that complaining shit way too far
I mean, I thought it was cute in the beginning but now
I think you only do it 'cuz you know I hate it"

Another cut from 1st Born Second, Reminicse is sung in respect to J Dilla the uber-producer who worked on the first album and who tragically passed away in the prime of his life. Its loping bassline and jazzy piano tinklings are perfectly suited to a late night session.

Restart is an urgent upbeat track from new album Airtight's Revenge that marries the dancefloor to Bilal's soul stylings. It sounds very similar to the style on Miike Snow's latest album which achieved critical acclaim. Sounding very contemporary it could easily be remixed to become a massive floorfiller.

The marriage of modern and vintage continues with Cake & Eat It Too's blend of woozy electronica and George Clintonesque experimental vocals which is a little too laid back for a live rendition.

Think it Over as near as he gets to a simple old school track that starts off sounding like a distant cousin to Sam Cooke's Wonderful World with its guitar motif and plaintive vocals.

White Turns To Gray parping bass and soporific funk is perhaps an example of where Bilal's jazz tendencies sometimes get the better of him. In interviews he admits to going off in tangents when recording and needs the steady hand of a fellow producer to riegn him in. Tonight a couple of the extended jams went on for just that bit too long. Even some his band weren't sure what direction he was going next (at one point he wandered off to lie on the stairs whilst his bandmates carried on). But that is jazz I guess.

For me the hightlight of the night is the stomper All Matter, Bilal's musings on the universe and beyond.

"We're all the same
And allso very different
Divine by design
It all intertwines"

It is off the hook. Propelled to such a crescendo by the talented band even the too-cool-for-school people can't help but dance. At one point Bilal jumps into audience to remonstrate with a woman dressed in suit and glasses who he accuses of looking like a librarian and gets annoyed when she doesn't join in. She joins in. Some people just need a bit of encouragement.

For the encore we get Soul Sista

"...the only hit we got, mutherfucker. We play that last."

and a funked up verison of Gloria Jones' Tainted Love that sadly due to the vagaries of of London's 19th century public transport system I had to forgoe or risk having to sleep in a shop doorway with Camden's resident hobos.

If you like your R n B delivered with a little more thought and panache I recommend you grab a copy of Airtight's Revenge... Or maybe you just want to stick to your four chords.

Monday, 4 April 2011

TV Review : Louis Theroux - America's Most Hated Family In Crisis

If ever there was a prime example of the danger of poor parenting, Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church show that there are no outlandish belief systems that cannot be installed into a child providing you brainwash them at a young enough age.

I've never been a big fan of religion as I believe it causes more problems then it solves. Even so, I was left open mouthed at the sheer hatred that these Westboro nutcase have for their fellow man.

None of the love-thy-neighbour-turn-the-other-cheek twee sentimentality that is a feature of British Christianity. Oh no, this lot are old school fire and brimstone nutjobs. To be fair they are at least equal opportunities bigots. They hate 99.9% of God's children with equal fervour. Jews, homosexuals, abortionists, unwed mothers, fornicators and Muslims. It don't matter to them. They are all going to burn in the hottest recesses of hell for their sinful beliefs and skin colours.

Louis first gave worldwide exposure to this bizzare sect 4 years ago when he stayed with the Phelps family (the de-facto leaders of this cult) and highlighted their madness to a wider world in his typically unassuming way. After four years he has come back to find their behaviour even more extreme then ever.

In a nutshell the cult rejoice in all the terrible suffering that takes place throughout the world be it tsunamis, earthquakes, war, illness, rape and murder believing it to be the will of a God as a punishment to non-believers. Cancer for them is a form of ethnic cleansing.

They seem to have a particular dislike for gays and their regular roadside demos against homosexuality complete with "God Hates Fags" placards has got them some understandable notoriety.

In fact their targetting of the funerals of dead soliders (it's members have protested at more than 200 military funerals to promote their belief that U.S. military deaths are God's punishment for America's liberal stance on homosexuality.) has got their cause as far as the Supreme court.

Albert Snyder, whose son's funeral was targetted for abuse brought a case for "intenional emotional distress" and won $11million damages back in 2007. On appeal in March of this year the Supreme court overturned the decision and protected Westboro's First amendment rights of free speech to ensure that even 'hurtful' comments must be allowed to avoid stifling public debate.

It is a strange contradiction that a country so prudish and traditional in many aspects of it's national character allows the kind of degrading and offensive "free speech" that would get you locked up in the UK for inciting hatred.

On this visit Louis is treated with suspicion and one of the members even accuses him of being en par with Pontius Pilate as one of the "most evil men in history" after his first documentary painted their group in a bad light. The crisis that the church is facing and the reason they have allowed Louis back is that they are losing members hand over fist and need more publicity to recruit more members. Not only is their belief system complete balls they strict stance on church behaviour has led to many of the group being cast out.

Members have been ex-communicated for simple things like wanting a boyfriend or wearing a bikini and are in effect dead to family members still in the cult. Louis tried to illicit some feeling or humanity from the parents of the apostates but his comments are met with blank faces or religious rhetoric that these defections were all part of the grand plan. At times it is hard to accept that these people are not actors such is their lunacy. Louis normally keeps his cool when interviewing the oddballs in his documentaries but you could see that even he was growing frustrated at the groups inability to offer concessions or acknowlegde any of the points he was making.

Along with the picketing there was a new practice of singing altered words to popular songs by Lady Ga Ga or Queen (I guessed they missed the fact that Freddie Mercury was one of the most out gay men in modern history)to fit their agenda. I don't know how effective singing about the sin of homosexualilty is to the tune of "Fat Bottom Girls". I guess that bit must have been in the Old Testament.

In a an era where most of the developed world is making strides towards religious and sexual tolerance and equality it was most upsetting to see the younger members of the group brainswashed into spouting religious soundbites and desperately repressing the humanistic urges. You could see the internal struggle int their eyes.

Luckily the oxygen of publicity they desire will ultimately destroy them as they become increasingly alienated and driven out by all right thinking people the world over.

I strongly recommend you watch this on Iplayer or you on Youtube if only to see the damage fundamental religion can do to the human spirit.