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Chin Up England

You can claim you’re not arsed about this summer’s World Cup, but we all know that’s bollocks. 

International football tournaments are indisputably brilliant. 

Pound shops everywhere are dusting off the left over car flags from 2006, that prick from work has pulled Panama in the office sweepstake and the excuse to go to the pub on a Monday night we’ve all been waiting for is nearly upon us.

From Bebeto’s rocking the baby celebration, through trying to recreate that Gazza goal to blagging into pubs underage full of adolescent swagger, then 3 pints later giving Cristiano Ronaldo the wanker sign as you dry your eyes (mate) following another penalty defeat, international tournament years are landmark summers that shape your life. As do the songs that soundtrack them.

Most football songs are shit, destined to be forgotten about, neglected, unplayed and unloved, on the second side of a ‘Footie Anthems’ CD that’s been gathering dust in your childhood bedroom since your mum’s mate bought it for your 10th birthday. 

However, every now and then one comes along that is genuinely brilliant, a Carnival de Paris in a sea of Diamond Lights. 

Sitting somewhere between World in Motion and Fat Les, the Rhythm Method’s new World Cup single is the anthem we’ve all been waiting for since Three Lions. 

Whilst he has built a likeable young team who will give it a good go over the next month or so, ultimately summer Soviet success surely seems slim for Southgate.

With that in mind, ‘Chin Up’ doesn’t so much set out to inspire the team to victory but rather to celebrate where we’ll really excel in Russia. The garden furniture flying across town squares, the fucking off of Mexican Waves and the inevitable, dramatic glorious failure, complete with a catchy chorus for the lads to sing along to. 

Chin up England, it might just happen.


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Home Sweet Home

It seems apt that the release of the new single by The Rhythm Method, ‘Home Sweet Home’, coincided with the decision by Islington council to revoke Fabric’s license.

As the news came in the club was to permanently close the song was almost simultaneously receiving its first play on Radio One.

With it’s repeated lament: ‘with every closing bar there’s hollows in my heart’ it seems the perfect soundtrack to a generation’s unease in the city they grew up in teetering on transforming into something completely unrecognisable.

A soundtrack to a city where developers who know the price of everything and the value of nothing hover seeking to iron out all the rough edges into something sterile and safe, and leave us with a 24 hour tube and nowhere to go.

Everyone’s read articles pontificating on what is to become of our capital city, and the broadsheets will no doubt be full of Fabric think pieces again this weekend and I’ve no need or desire to add to that.

However, whilst the NME is full of Fake Tales of San Francisco once more,  I find myself questioning the relevance of an ‘indie scene’ that says nothing to me about my life so it’s refreshing for a song to actually resonate and a band saying something worth listening to.

By Callum West




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David Corio: Photographing Hip Hop in London

David Corio was born in London in 1960, he began his career as a freelance photographer for the NME in the late 1970s and also worked for The Face and Time Out before moving to New York in 1992 (cheers google).

David has published a book of photographs of black musicians in 1999 ‘The Black Chord’ and in 2011 the ‘Catch the Beat: The Roots of Punk & Hip-Hop’ exhibition in the Morrison Hotel Gallery, New York detailed his and fellow British photographer Janette Beckman’s work in capturing the early days of both punk and hip hop.

I stumbled across his photographs of musicians accidentally whilst searching for something else but was particularly struck by the black and white shots of fresh faced hip-hop artists in the 1980s many on early tours to Great Britain. Here’s a few below.

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Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith, in his Fresh Prince guise, at the Holiday Inn – Swiss Cottage, where he still chooses to stay on visits to London (1986).

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Public Enemy, Hyde Park (1987).

Schooly D  on Harrow Road, London 1985

Schooly D, Harrow Road  (1985).

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Biz Markie, London street (1988).

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Eric B and Rakim, London (1987).

By Callum West

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Up The Bracket – 10 Years On.

In 2002 the musical landscape in Britain was unfailingly bleak. Angst-riddled teenage middle class rebellion was soundtracked by a dirge of American nu-metal bands in backwards baseball and silly masks, Toploader were dancing in the moonlight – or at least on Jamie Oliver’s roof – Travis were still perpetually getting rained on, Coldplay were Coldplay and the Beddingfields were the face of British pop, essentially it was a shit time to be 15.

10 years ago this week, one band and one album changed this. The Libertines – Up The Bracket.

The Libertines were everything their contemporaries were not, dynamic, rebellious, exciting, they played ‘guerrilla gigs’ for fans at their flat, and in Pete Doherty and Carl Barat and their red military tunics they had a captivating focal point.

Equally, at a time when my classmates were – in the main – wearing baggy jeans and listening to Korn, they were mine.

Pop at its best inspires an interest in surrounding culture and art forms, Up The Bracket did this, it opened my eyes to the world around me, I read novel’s I’d have otherwise never heard of, watched repeats of Steptoe & Son and Hancock’s Half Hour on UK Gold, dug out my dad’s old Kinks, Clash and Smiths records; for a 15 year old it was revolutionary.

Musically it wasn’t too shabby either, from the opening bars of Vertigo it hit you like the punch ‘up the bracket’ it famously referenced, making you stand up and take notice immediately. Almost always seemingly on the verge of collapse, it’s punky, spikey guitars as quintessentially British as the lyrics that referenced Albion (an archaic word for Britain), William Blake, The Krays and the May Day Riots. The likes of ‘Death on the Stairs’, ‘Time For Heroes’ and the title track became immediate ‘indie’ classics.

Whilst the band imploded shortly after the release of their self-titled follow up and have released no original material since, ‘Up The Bracket’ remains the most important British album of this millennium, the most important since ‘Definitely, Maybe’, it inspired a generation to pick up guitars – without ‘Up The Bracket’ there would be no Arctic Monkeys, no Maccabees, no Laura Marling.

Ten years on the faith in love and music remains.

By Callum West

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Romanzo Criminale

Telling the story of the real life Roman gang the ‘Banda della Magliana’, Romanzo Criminale (literally Crime Novel) is a frantic tale driven by lust, lust for power, money, women and drugs.

Director Stefano Sollima’s  drama has been called ‘The Italian Sopranos’ by the Sabotage Times, equally the Radio Times likened it to an ‘Italian Killing’ and whilst it deals with similar subject matter to the former  it maintains the ‘euro noir’ feel of the latter.

Its two series span a 15 year period from 1977 until 1992 and the story of the gang’s rise to power is set against a back drop of contemporary Italy, with the actions of gang leaders Lebanese, Freddo, Dandi and their cohorts interwoven with references to the increasing radicalisation of the Brigade Rosse, political terrorism, kidnappings and the governmental corruption which has dogged the country for years.

Alongside the scriptwriters eye for political context, director Sollima has a keen eye for detail, and the clothes – flares and leather jackets, the cars – rusting Fiat Pandas, and the music – all Studio 54, of the first series perfectly match its late 70’s setting.

The beautiful cinematography and Roman architecture is juxtaposed with a story which descends increasingly into the darkness that begins to surround the gang: violence, deceit, drug paranoia, prison and prostitution and at the end of the first series it remains unclear whether they can maintain their hold over the city’s underworld.

Series Two starts tonight on Sky Arts 1.

By Callum West

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The Deadly 60

It may be seen as something of ‘guilty pleasure’ given the target audience are probably about half my age, but The Deadly 60 is without a doubt one of the best things on the television at the moment.

The programme’s premise is pretty self-explanatory, host Steve Backshall –who, a quick search of google tells me, is as beloved by lonely house wives as 50 Shades of Grey – scours all four corners of the earth in search of the sixty most deadly animals on the planet, each week adding one or two to the burgeoning collection of predators that make up ‘The Deadly 60’.

When a friend introduced the programme to me, I was sceptical. As someone for whom an away day up north is as intrepid as it gets, I generally regard the outdoorsman with a mixture of contempt and suspicion, an untrustworthy and potentially unhinged lunatic. That alpha male, judging one’s merit as a man based on the ability to pitch a tent, start a fire, and wear Berghaus has never been a bit of me and as such I always secretly hoped Steve Irwin would be eaten by a crocodile or Bear Grylls would choke to death on his own piss.

Equally I’d always found adults engaging in children’s pop culture a bit weird. Whether it be sneering at grown men and women who read Harry Potter on the tube, or not laughing along with those who enjoy Rastamouse ironically, I’d long considered myself above it.

However, with Backshall there is none of this faux macho nonsense of my first concern and thus when he’s swimming with a hippopotamus, there’s no unspoken desire to see the animal rip through him with its giant teeth, when the bullet ant crawls across his hand you’re not praying for it to sting.  No, at the heart of Backshall’s presenting isn’t a desire to show how hard or mental he is, but a heartfelt desire to impart a genuine understanding of the animals of his ‘Deadly 60’ to the children (students, unemployed and frustrated mums) watching.

Furthermore, he has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of zoology which takes it above and beyond just a children’s TV programme and more like Attenborough-lite for people who don’t want to sit through an hour of Planet Earth, and for that reason it is truly compelling viewing.

By Callum West

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Smoking On Screen

Smoking is cool. Not universally so, there’s nothing cool about chain smoking a ten deck of Mayfair outside of a Wetherspoon’s in the rain, or part-timers shamelessly poncing from strangers when three sheets to the wind (guilty). Equally, it is hard to look like a chap whilst puffing on a wonky roll up.

However, on screen – both the silver and the small – there are numerous examples of stars that exude effortless style with a Marlboro in their mouth or a B&H in hand. From Clint Eastwood as ‘The Man With No Name’ in The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, to The Wire’s Omar Little skulking in the shadows sucking on a Newport, film and television history is littered with characters with smoking at the very essence of their ‘cool’. Whether cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos or even pipes, some smokers just have it.

Furthermore there is the paraphernalia. Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and her cigarette holder, the innumerable Bonds with their silver cigarette cases and velvet smoking jackets, the flickering Zippos of the film noir heroes on the 30s and 40s.

Obviously there is nothing attractive about cancer, heart disease or a laryngectomy but the moral issues surrounding smoking on camera is a debate for another time. Here is a look at some of the screens most suave smokers. Anyone got a spare fag?

By Callum West

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