Thursday 27 January 2022

Things I didn't blog about in 2021 Part Three - Madi: Once Upon A Time In The Future

Yes, Dear Reader, you guessed it  -  I'm still looking back at things which I really should have blogged about in 2021 but didn't due to the general existential crisis we were coping with last year, and because I'm a lazy git. I reckon I can get away with these posts until at least October. Well, maybe February.
As I mentioned here in my review of Dan McDaid's wonderful Dega there was an upsurge of graphic novels / comics being crowd-funded and published via platforms such as Kickstarter last year. With comic shops shut from 2020 into 2021 a lot of creators had to find other ways of getting their projects released. Once such project was the science fiction graphic novel Madi: Once Upon A Time In The Future by Duncan Jones, Alex de Campi and a host of top artists...

You could contribute different amounts of money to different "tiers" ( not the Covid kind ) and receive ever-escalating rewards for your cash. For my money I got the absolutely HUGE hardcover edition of the graphic novel plus some lovely art prints and a highly-prized "J-Squad" badge. ( "Who are the J-Squad?" you may reasonably ask. Well, read on. ) I imagine if you contributed to the highest tier the creators themselves would have delivered the book to you, the ink still wet, and maybe helped out with the housework. But I was very happy with the version I received... many months after the expected deadline. Seemingly interminable Brexit / Covid -related delays put the book back and back and no doubt put Jones & de Campi off ever doing such a thing again. Which would be a shame because their fictional, near-future dystopia is far more entertaining than the one we're living through. So, what's the actual book like?

 The tag line on the back cover describes Madi as "a globe-spanning action adventure in a world of drones, militarised multinationals and bad options. But mostly, it's about family." Madi ( the character ) is a grunt in a private army, employed by the Liberty corporation to fight corporate skirmishes, mostly involving securing cutting-edge technology at any price. Like the rest of J-Squad ( "Arrive, Augment, Achieve" ) Madi is basically a cyborg mercenary, a former Special Forces soldier with various bionic implants or augmentations for strength and speed who, crucially, can be remote-controlled by operators via a chip in the back of her neck. As Madi puts it: "Our training gets us to the target and then, by teleoperation, specialists do whatever needs to be done, through us. Maybe you need a brain surgeon behind enemy lines. A bomb disposal expert. A therapist..."

On a mission to retrieve some priceless information, Madi finds said information is actually in the brain of a pre-pubescent boy and things begin to go spectacularly wrong. The story combines cyberpunk with a sprawling road trip, some occasionally goofy humour and lashings of the old ultra-violence. Madi ( the book ) is the third part of a loose trilogy, the first two installments of which were Jones' movies Moon and Mute ( a lot of "m"s here... ) but, after finding he couldn't get funding for part three, Jones collaborated with Dracula, Motherfucker! author Alex de Campi to adapt the screenplay into a graphic novel. Reading the book you can really see how this would have played out as a movie, with some scenes screaming out for a huge budget which, luckily, isn't such an issue on the printed page. Jones had put the word out on Twitter that he was looking for artists and, sure enough, an enthusiastic gang of illustrators turned up to help realise the project. There's an eclectic mix here from the 2000 AD / indie Brit school ( Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Dylan Teague ) to the Manga stylings of James Stokoe to the clear lines of Tonci Zonjic. The transitions between differing art styles can be jarring but there's some wonderful artwork on display here. De Campi & Jones' dialogue is often sparse but also witty with characters sharply delineated by their actions as much as their words. And, speaking of characters in action, here's a lovely sketch of Madi by the amazing Dylan Teague...

Madi: Once Upon A Time In The Future is a blast, a widescreen spectacular that's well worth a read if you can track it down  -  I believe there are copies out in the wild from Z2 Comics  -  and I'm so glad to have been part of the project in my own small, "give-us-yer-feckin'-money" kind of way. I'll leave you with some more Madi artwork from Duncan Fegredo:

Soundtrack: Hawkwind Live '79 by, er, Hawkwind ( have I got my finger on the pulse or what? )

Wednesday 12 January 2022

God Save The Teen! ( My Top 3 Teenage Punk Songs )


My good friend and esteemed fellow blogger Tom ( of Poetry, Music, Other fame ) recently suggested that we both write a post on the subject of our three fave teenage Punk songs and drop them ( as I believe "the kids" say ) on the same day. I initially thought he meant three Punk songs about being a teenager or having the word "teenage/r" somewhere in the song. Easy, I thought: I can think of three straight away, no problem. But no, the brief is to write about three favourite Punk songs from my teenage years. That subtle difference instantly meant I had to consider many, many more songs. Am I up to the challenge? Find out below, after another adorable Punk Cat picture...

I've been over-thinking this of course but, as Punk was such a singles-driven genre, I decided to include singles I actually own(ed) so couldn't include Anarchy In The UK ( 'cos I'm not rich ) or such classics as The Jam's In The City or The Ramones' Blizkrieg Bop as they were never in my collection on 45 rpm. 

I do have about 100 Punk singles ( give or take a few, I mean do I count Adam & The Ants as Punk? ) so it's been a painful process, made doubly difficult by trying to remember what I actually liked as a teen as opposed to what I think I liked in hindsight. And to be fair, I did like some crap back then. A lot of the time I listened to the more Street Punk / Oi! / early '80s end of the Punk spectrum which sounded great when I was an angry teen but doesn't really stand up now. I don't really lounge around in my smoking-jacket and reminisce to the soothing sounds of The 4-Skins or The Cockney Rejects nowadays but, when I was about 15 and everybody else hated that stuff, I thought I was a proper rebel. ( Pause here for hysterical laughter. ) Anyway, I've chosen my Top 3 ( for the purposes of this blog anyway ) which comprise two all-time classics and one slightly more obscure offering. Hey ho, let's go...

Number 3: Religious Wars e.p. by The Subhumans

By 1982 Punk was Officially Dead, the movers and shakers and taste-makers had moved on to Joy Division gloom or New Romantic glitz, and teenage rebellion was old hat. Of course, nobody told the diehard Punks that and they kept angry and carried on as their increasingly-fractured "movement" went back underground where it had started. As well as the Punk / skinhead hybrid of Oi! and the proto-Goth which went by the counter-intuitive moniker of Positive Punk, there was a large Anarchist Punk sub-genre. Spearheaded by the Crass collective, a whole bunch of spiky-haired crusties were making very noisy music ( in the loosest sense of the word ) and shouting about violence, vivisection, vegetarianism and other subjects that didn't begin with "v". Bands like Conflict, Poison Girls, Omega Tribe, Dirt and The Subhumans. This last bunch were probably the nearest the sub-genre got to an actual rock band ( they could play their instruments and everything! ) and were pretty successful. I mean, they actually sold a few records: one such being my Number 3, Religious Wars. This kicks off with a mighty guitar riff ( they freely admitted to heretically liking Sabbath and Led Zep ) and then sets out to destroy organised religion from the comfort of their squat. They didn't actually succeed of course but it's a powerful, angry and bitter attack on the kind of indoctrination which leads to wars and genocide  -  "Religious wars, no reason why / What a glorious way to die" - with a scorchingly propulsive momentum which seemingly pushes you through the 2 1/2 minute song in about 2 1/2 seconds. If that makes any sense. It's an assault on the ears, a nagging question beaten into your brain by a breeze-block, it's not pretty but it's bloody immense. 

Number 2: God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols

I know, I know, this is the most boring, obvious choice BUT it still sounds absolutely fantastic 200 years after it was recorded ( I think that's right ) and has to win out over Anarchy because, well, see above. GTSQ, as we all know, was actually a Number One Hit Single in the Jubilee year of 1977 despite media censorship / chart-rigging ( Rod who? Rod Stewart? Never heard of 'im ) and was probably the high point for Punk in terms of mainstream success and attention. ( I was, of course, blissfully unaware of this at the time. My musical tastes at the age of 10 didn't stretch much further than the Abba and Boney M albums my Mum had or the Glenn Miller tapes my old man would play in the car. ) Although the furore over the anti-Monarchist lyrics seems ludicrous today ( Lydon never calls Her Maj a moron  -  he calls "you", her subject, a moron ) the song is still good, seething fun and the closing "No Future" refrain still grabs you by the throat and leerily belches in your face. Which is nice. The Pistols themselves may now be a cartoonish "heritage" act, more of a brand than a band, but this slab of paradoxically organised Anarchy stands tall on its own bug-eyed, vein-bursting merits.

Number 1: ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais by The Clash

Again, an apparently safe choice: the band who were famously accused of "selling out" because they dared to sign to a record label... or alternatively the "Only Band That Mattered"  -  the mighty Clash. I suppose I could have gone for The Varukers or GBH for a bit more street cred. But they were shit. The Clash, by the point of this single release, had gone through the "Gob on you!" days and had started to dismiss the received wisdom of the day by learning to play their instruments and write songs with actual tunes. It's not as if they'd turned into Steely Dan or anything ( at least, not yet ) but they were certainly becoming more sophisticated. ( White Man ) In Hammersmith Palais is testament to this: a fusion of Punk and Reggae, far more potent than their earlier efforts to combine the two genres. The song chronicles the time that Clash-man Joe Strummer accompanied the legendary Don Letts ( DJ and future member of BAD ) to a Reggae gig at the equally-legendary Hammersmith Palais. Strummer was expecting some heavy Roots Reggae, cultural tourist that he was, but was disappointed to hear the more pop-slanted sounds of Ken Boothe. The song then moves on to various gripes about the state of the nation, deciding at its climax that the UK was in such a state that "If Adolph Hitler flew in today / They'd send a limousine anyway." The more things change etc. It's all a bit incoherent but that's part of its charm and the supremely confident playing, coupled with Strummer's snarling vocals, make it a top-drawer Punk classic. Even if it doesn't have a chorus to speak of...

So, that's my Top 3 all-time fave Punk songs ever, ever. Well, not really. They're all definitely up there, with the Pistols and Clash offerings obviously near the top... but, if you asked me tomorrow, I might say something different. The great thing about those years is that so many wonderful songs were released, so many beer- or amphetamine-fuelled anthems by and for angry youth. Mostly. A lot of this I experienced in a second-hand way, years later ( most of these singles were bought from second-hand record shops ), although I was definitely there for the likes of The Subhumans  -  pogo-ing around my rural bedroom as if I was some urban desperado, instead of a teenager with absolutely no conception of "life on the street". It was good, vicarious fun and opened my eyes to music, politics and attitudes that you didn't really see on Top Of The Pops. I've added some photos of some of my old singles here as a sample of the kind of thing I was listening to back in the day.

Alternative Ulster - Stiff Little Fingers / Ready Steady Go - Generation X / Safety In Numbers - The Adverts / Nazi Punks Fuck Off! - The Dead Kennedys / Warhead - UK Subs / No More Heroes - The Stranglers / California Uber Alles - The Dead Kennedys / The Cost Of Living e.p. - The Clash / Reality Asylum - Crass / Woman In Disguise - The Angelic Upstarts / No Room For You - Demob

And there's more...

And that's more than enough dodgy old Punk singles. Thanks to Tom for suggesting this synchronised blogging bonanza, can't wait to see his choices.

Punk Rock For Life!

Monday 3 January 2022

Things I didn't blog about in 2021 - Part Two: The Skids at Gloucester Guildhall

Apart from the obvious difficulty in meeting friends and relations, the biggest social impact the bloody pandemic has had on me has been curtailing my usual gig-going habits. I appreciate that's not really a big deal when millions have lost their lives and had their health ruined by Covid-19, but it's certainly not helped my mental health. ( Although it's probably helped my bank balance. ) My last gig had been back in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit the UK, and as gigs and tours got cancelled all over the world the future of live music was very much in doubt. By the end of Summer 2021, after many of us had thankfully received our vaccines, it looked like gigs could be back on the agenda. I was due to see the mighty Ash in Bristol in August ( a gig put off from 2020 ) but still felt unsure about being in a crowd and, coupled with Sarah's concerns about me being in such a situation, I reluctantly missed it. Another gig I'd been waiting for was the return of the equally-mighty Skids to Gloucester's Guildhall, with local heroes Borrowed Time in support. This gig finally happened in October and by this point we felt slightly more comfortable about going out so we put a brave face on it, put our best feet forward and stepped out Into The Valley...

Well, into the Guildhall anyway. It was slightly daunting to be back in a venue, surrounded by people ( mostly ) not wearing masks, although the majority wore masks at the bar or in the corridors. It was lovely however to see so many old friends again. We went with our good friend and regular gig-companion Caz and met up with loads of people we hadn't seen in ages, including Ben from Chinese Burn, Mark from those Death Planet Commandos, my mate Fergus from work, the dashing David Rose ( follow the link to David's blog ) and many more besides, including the Borrowed Time boys  -  Glenn, Cliff, Rob, Marcus & Steve. It was a treat to see them back on stage where they belong, as tight and enthusiastic as ever. They played a cracking set, packed with old favourites and even some ( gasp! ) new songs, with the most appropriate probably being Day We Broke The World. Let's hope we can fix it too. ( Here's Rob from BT not doing too well at the old social distancing... )

And then, with the familiar, bubbling-synth sounds of Peaceful Times booming out across the hall, Dunfermline's finest took to the stage.

The expected one-two punch of the growling Animation and high energy Of One Skin kicked the set off in style and the classics kept coming: Charles and The Saints Are Coming flew the flag for the early years and a powerful Kings Of The New World Order brought us ( nearly ) up to date with the more straightforward 21st century Skids sound. The band were on sparkling form, the twin guitar interplay of Bruce and Jamie Watson just outstanding on such favourites as Out Of Town and Masquerade, while Richard Jobson was his usual ebullient self, as happy telling his outrageous between-song tales as he was whirling around the stage, his throaty roar as powerful as ever. ( But, please Jobbo, can you retire the Leo Sayer story now? It's getting a bit stale. ) A large chunk of the set consisted of anthems from The Absolute Game, which was bloody great to hear, Hurry On Boys and the awesome Woman In Winter causing mass outbreaks ( sorry ) of crowd chanting, all orchestrated by a beaming Jobson. I could have done without the Punk karaoke section which again featured The Skids covering pogo-era classics for no real reason. To be fair a lot of people seemed to like this chance for a cheesy singalong but I don't personally want to hear anybody but The Clash performing Complete Control. And The Clash don't exist. But apart from that, it was all good, boisterous fun with a rousing rendition of  The Olympian leaving us "Whoah-woahing" to our hearts' content.

This gig turned out to be my only one of the year as the Winter drew in and the expected resurgence of Covid-19 ( now in its ultra-catchy new Omicron form ) meant that events started to be cancelled again and many of us began to withdraw again from large gatherings anyway. But, as my lone 2021 live music experience, it was a fantastic one and I'm so glad we took the plunge and went along and, most importantly, came away happy and healthy. Fingers crossed that 2022 will see some respite from the damn virus and we can again enjoy such wonderful nights.

( The set list above was nicked from David Rose's blog. Cheers, mate! )

Saturday 1 January 2022

Happy New Year from The Glass Walking-Stick

Here's hoping 2022 will be a better year for all of us. Best wishes to all you lovely people in BlogWorld ( yes, even you... ) from all the barely-working staff at Glass Walking-Stick HQ.

 Peace and love...


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