Dave Hill | The Guardian: As Canary Wharf expands will more East Londoners enjoy the benefits?

London’s newest major business district could employ 200,000 people in two decades’ time, but many who live near it are still finding it hard to join their ranks

Twenty-five years after the completion of its hallmark Canada Square tower, Canary Wharf still inspires both adulation and bile. For a man from the Evening Standard, London’s “Wall Street on the Water” has come of age: the restaurants are now rather good, you see. For others, it remains the exemplar of all that is fraudulent about regeneration hype. It’s not hard to see why: the Canary Wharf sashimi may be “melt-in-the-mouth”, yet somehow or other 49% of children in the borough where it’s cooked live in poverty. The ordinary people of the derelict Docklands seem not to have been invited to the feast.

The Canary Wharf Group has been big news of late due to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and Canadian property investor Brookfield gaining control of its biggest shareholder, an entity called Songbird which was itself created ten years ago in order to capture the Wharf. The £2.6bn takeover siege has kept devotees of such matters enthralled for weeks. But it’s business as usual, despite all the blood on the floor.

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The VPME TRACK OF THE DAY – MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS – ‘I’m A Ruin’

We first met Marina And The Diamonds back in the heady days of MySpace, the music and social media platform founded by an all-seeing munificent benefactor known simply as ‘Tom.’ Tom was great, even if his profile picture did look like he was standing at a urinal, caught mid-flow, but back in those carefree innocent days then unknown singer songwriter Marina Diamandis would upload lo-fi bedroom demos to share with her MySpace chums and often chat about them.  She came across as driven, ambitious but also warm and witty and it was obvious even in those early days that a/ she had a lot of talent and b/ she was, in the nicest possible way, a wee bit bonkers.  (Here’s our relatively sane interview with her from 2009 – Click)

Since then she’s appeared on the ‘BBC Sound of‘  list …released two albums ( with the second ‘Electra Heart’  debuting at number one on the UK Albums Chart)  gained an incredibly loyal legion of fans,  toured the world, played festivals, appeared in Vogue etc, etc.  Living the dream, you might think…  and yet she always seems to have had an uneasy relationship with fame and the whole being a ‘pop star’ thing.  In the past, there’s certainly been a love-hate dichotomy, whereby on one hand she can appear to celebrate pop star superficiality, and yet on the other hand berate its emptiness whilst seemingly striving for something much deeper.

Her last album was initially an enjoyable electro pop romp but it didn’t really stay with us, in many ways, it felt disposable, but such is the nature of popular culture and perhaps maybe that was the point?  She also adopted an ironic pop alter ego the titular ‘Electra Heart’ which baffled many, but it’s a technique many musicians have employed with varying degrees of success over the years.  Even Hank Williams adopted a ‘Luke the Drifter,’  persona, a pious wandering minstrel who travelled the countryside preaching the gospel, saving souls and generally being an all round good egg, not unlike a musical Ned Flanders, sans the 70’s porn star ‘tache.  ‘Luke’ was the complete antithesis of ‘Hank Williams,’ the dissolute wastrel and drunken user of women, and he was certainly considerably less fun.  So in terms of the pop alter ego, at its best you have Bowie’s legendary Ziggy Stardust persona, and at the other end of the spectrum, you have a failed northern variety act finding fame with his incongruous parody pop star character ‘Robbie Williams.‘  In Marina’s case, ‘Electra Heart’ (the character) was something of a distraction with some critics suggesting it lacked depth (which again was kind of the point!) and coherence. Perhaps the timing didn’t help in terms of the albums critical reception because a few months earlier Lana Del Rey seemed to capture the zeitgeist with her take on the doomed grandeur and narcotic emptiness of the American Dream with the cinematic ‘Born To Die.’

The addition of ‘How To Be A Heartbreaker’ on the US version of ‘Electra Heart’ had us a little worried that Marina was veering into the terrifying world of camp Euro pop.  However, based on the evidence of the tracks she’s released from her forthcoming third album ‘Froot‘  she’s going back to her roots, getting back to what we believe she does best.  The latest track to emerge the superb ‘I’m A Ruin‘ is certainly as strong as her early songs, such as ‘I Am Not A Robot’ and ‘Obsessions’ and eschews the bombastic full on pop production in favour of something that whilst still polished with commercial appeal, is a little more nuanced and gives her voice room to breathe.

We do often wonder about the wisdom of labels signing talented young artists and then immediately pairing them up with co-writers and hotshot producers as part of their ‘artist development’ programmes.  The result is often that the raw shining talent that had initially attracted the label to the artist in the first place is considerably dimmed and replaced by something much more generic.  Nevertheless, that’s often part of the trade off, it isn’t easy out there and talk of ‘selling out’ is complete wankspangling tommyrot as Marina has never hid her intentions of wishing to become a full-on pop star.  The good news is that all the songs on ‘Froot’ are written solely by Marina, she’s co-produced it with David Kosten [Everything Everything, Bat For Lashes],  and it even has The Cure‘s drummer overseeing percussion. It could certainly prove to be her most ‘Frootfull’ collection of songs yet Wink

Marina Ruin

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God Is In The TV: Independent Venue Week – Fibbers, York, 30th January 2015

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Daniel Lucas and Amy Greene

This is Independent Venue Week; a seven day long celebration of the continuing existence of the small music venue. Now in its second year, a grand total of 87 venues – from Aberdeen in the North of Scotland to Plymouth in the South West of England – are now taking part in the event, putting on a wonderful variety of shows that will include performances by Laura Marling, Edwyn Collins, The Subways, Clinic, The Fat White Family, Julian Cope, Frank Turner, Ghostpoet and The Yardbirds amongst many, many other acts.

One of those venues is Fibbers in York. It relocated last autumn from the city’s Stonebow where it had been for more than 20 years and where it had played host to countless then emerging bands including The Killers, Stereophonics, Kaiser Chiefs, Editors, Kasabian and Coldplay. Where these bands have ended up in the rock’n’roll firmament merely affirms the capacity of such venues to launch careers and the undoubted importance that they have within the live music industry.

Rick Witter (of Shed Seven)

Given the appearance of Rick Witter and Joe Johnson from Shed Seven, as well as the former Seahorses and The Bluetones’ frontmen Chris Helme and Mark Morriss on tonight’s bill in York, the evening has a distinctly Britpop/’90s feel to it. They each play rousing acoustic sets peppered with some of their most famous songs from ‘Going For Gold’ to ‘Blinded By The Sun’ to a compelling ‘Sleazy Bed Track’, every single one of them accompanied by the most cheerful of mass sing-a-longs by the capacity crowd.  But to think of this evening merely in terms of some exercise in unashamed nostalgia would be severely wide of the mark.

Not only is Independent Venue Week a celebration of such small, grassroots venues and the opportunities they provide to both new and established acts alike, but it is also a rallying cry to fight against the restrictive noise legislation, threats from residential developers and transport infrastructure projects and the increased levels of taxation that place these revered musical haunts at such great risk.

A future without small music venues is unimaginable; they form the very backbone of the live music industry. Every single artist has to start here. And, after all, where else would we be able to experience joyous nights like this, where relatively newer acts like Toby Burras and Daniel Lucas – performing here as Unfinished Drawings and Boss Caine respectively (the latter with most able support from Amy Greene on delightful harmony vocals) – can take to the stage alongside more widely known performers and each put in spirited, heart-warming sets that will linger long in the memory and way beyond anything that home entertainment can offer?

More photos from this show can be found here

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the finest kiss: Diet Cig

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Diet Cig a duo from New Paltz, New York are roughly 20 years on and 200 miles away from where Small Factory first started. That’s enough time for a band to have kids who grow up to be in a band. Diet Cig have that same wide-eyed wonder, youthful enthusiasm and pop skills that Small Factory had in spades. The five songs on the duo’s debut EP are full hormones and adolescent angst and are often humorous as well. Pool Boyz boasts a huge chorus that would make Alex Kemp envious, and the stand out song on the EP, Harvard is a great kiss off to a certain former Ivy League boyfriend. Thank god they still make bands like this!

Diet Cig’s Over Easy is out on Father/Daughter Records.

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Filed under: indiepop, Music Tagged: Courtney Love, Diet Cig, Father/Daughter Records, Lois, Small Factory, Sourpatch, Tiger Trap

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God Is In The TV: Fields of The Nephilim, HIM – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – 6th December 2014

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Despite tonight being Fields of the Nephilim‘s party, the name on the lips of many people at the Empire qtonight (and, as I found from the moment of the gig’s announcement, online) was HIM, tonight’s “love metal” foreplay – and it’s not all positive. Many of the scene’s seasoned veterans in attendance aren’t entirely happy about the Kerrang posterboys’ presence and, maybe moreso, the piercing screams from their devoted banshee throng on the barrier.

Thing is, it doesn’t take much stretching of the imagination to see why HIM are an ideal support for this occasion. The very existence of a band that wears their FotN influence on their sleeves (to, it has to be said, the point of sounding very much like them in places – only with more sheen and pop polish) that has attained such gigantic popularity, particularly amongst a younger audience (more on that later) is worth flaunting tonight, almost as if they were a trophy to commemorate their far-reaching influence. For what it’s worth, this very reviewer’s first gig was HIM at Cambridge Corn Exchange. Through HIM, I found Bauhaus, Killing Joke and many others – including, of course, Fields of the Nephilim. To many of the younger audience members, HIM were their gateway drug.

Baring both bonafide hits (Buried Alive By Love, Rip Out The Wings of a Butterfly, Poison Girl) and welcome deep cuts (Soul On Fire and the first performance of Razorblade Kiss of the decade), HIM were certainly not in “support band mode” tonight, making sure that the Valo devotees in attendance didn’t leave (in many cases, before FotN’s set) feeling short-changed. Older music fans are tough eggs to crack, however, so it’s hard to tell whether their confident, strident performance would have converted any of the skeptical 40+ crowd. Judging by the shrieking that punctuated the gaps between their songs, it’s not as if they’d need to care.

After the kids filed out and the grown-ups returned from the bar/toilet, attention was turned to the main event, which started with an earth-shaking sonic boom. Preceded by his guttural basso profundo, Carl McCoy stepped out to a rapturous returning hero’s welcome at the climax of opener “Shroud (Exordium)”, diving head first into “Straight To The Light” without a single word or moment’s hesitation. Tony Pettit’s reprisal of the bass playing position added oomph to faithful, note-perfect renditions of “Dawnrazor”, “Moonchild” and encore start “Psychonaut”, differing from their recorded counterparts by only the sound of every word being bellowed back by the congregation. The energy is infectious, fuelled in equal parts by the gigantic choruses and strident riffs, and the simultaneous renditions sung, shouted and screamed right back by the devoted throng. They may be a morbid lot, but the ambience is far from funereal.

It would be easy to write this celebration off as a cynical, nostalgic cash-grabbing exercise, but the industro-disco of “Prophecy” showed a small glimpse of what lies in the future of the godfathers of Goth (with a capital “G”). If McCoy’s break from restrained plodding to mic stand-grabbing Freddie Mercury-isms during the newie are any indication, The Neph’ are seemingly striding towards their future with confidence and swagger, though I suspect the appetites of many here won’t be satiated by anything less than a new record – at long last.

If the words of the set closer “Mourning Sun” (“I’m alive again; I will rise again; we will rise again!”) are to be believed, this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing from McCoy & Co. Will they gift us with a new LP in 2015? All we can do now is sit and wait for the Nephilim to, indeed, rise again.

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God Is In The TV: Bjork -‘Vulnicura.’ (One Little Indian)

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The sheer uniqueness and startling creativity of Bjork‘s work means that any new album from her is liable to be anticipated and then poured over by critics and fans. Having only been confirmed a couple of weeks ago, as you’re doubtless aware by now, the album was leaked and its release brought forward. You’ve probably also read that it’s a break-up album, inspired by her split from her partner of over ten years, American artist Matthew Barney.

The break-up album is hardly a new concept, and one of the most perennial themes in music, Bob Dylan‘s Blood On The Tracks, celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. But how does Bjork approach such a record? Perhaps it’s stating the obvious to say that a break-up album is going to be nakedly personal in nature: for Bjork that means that the lyrics are upfront, rather than coated in mystery. This begins the album artwork, which sees her with her chest torn open, as if to suggest that a part of her has physically been taken, in tandem with the none-too-subtle observation that this tear resembles a vagina.

Bjork has worn her heart on her sleeve before, most noticeably on 2001’s Vespertine. It’s poignant to go back and play that album now, as we the listener have the benefit of hindsight, that the man she loves so much on that record will break her heart spectacularly. To listen to the refrain of ‘Pagan Poetry’ ‘I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him’ is poignant enough for us as listeners; it may be (quite understandably) that she may never perform the song live ever again. Vulnicura meanwhile, is a nine song album where she charts the breaking-down of her relationship, how she felt in the aftermath and begins to look to the future

The album opens with the beautiful ‘stonemilker’ which has been described as being the saddest song she has ever recorded. Perhaps with good reason. ‘Moments of clarity are so rare…I better document this’ she sings. This is the sound of Bjork trying to keep herself grounded and sane than simply as an idea for a song or album. ‘Show me emotional respect’ she pleads. ‘Stonemilker‘ gives us an view into a relationship where one partner is open and the other closed-up, which may be where things started to go wrong for them.

A relationship may be going through a rocky patch and sometimes we can lie to ourselves that it’s going to be okay. ‘Maybe he will come out of this loving me,’ she ponders on the chorus of ‘lion song.’ ‘Once it was so simple, one feeling at a time.’ On ‘History of touches’ she awakes in the middle of the night to look at the lover who is pulling away from her. ‘I wake you up in the middle of the night to express my love for you.’ It’s a very female album – and this lyric is almost the other side of the coin of Ian Curtis‘ second verse of ‘love will tear us apart’: ‘why is the bedroom so cold/you turn away on your side.’

The second part of the record is more challenging, as she deals with being left; abandoned, as a partner and as a mother. This is the most intense part of the record, and with the music to go with it. ‘The Black Lake’ clocks in at over ten minutes, ‘Family’ at eight. It may be said that when a relationship ends, particularly where it has been a real partnership, it is a form of grieving. And yet no matter how hurt she may be, it’s dishonest to deny the part that another played in your life, for a time, even if that time is over. ‘If I deny us, I’m denying my soul to grow’ she concedes.

The final third of the record looks forward to the future. After the intensity of the middle third of the record, it’s perhaps says something that the appearance of Antony Hegarty on ‘Atoms Dancing’ comes as something of a light relief. It’s credited as a featuring performance rather than a duet, which is appropriate ‘I’m dancing towards transformation.’ She may not be out of the woods with how she’s feeling, but she’s starting to sense that there may yet be a life beyond it all. And on the closing ‘quicksand’ she moves from focusing on her own break-up to connect with others who have been through a similar thing. Bjork has spoken of wanting to show others that they are not alone, and for many of us of whatever sex, there is comfort to be had in acknowledging that we are not alone in our most private thoughts and worries,

There’s a fantastic set of collaborations on the record, as well as the afore-mentioned Antony Hegarty, there’s the collaborations with producers Arca and Haxan Cloak. These are definitely good choices for working with Bjork who has a long-established track record of working with other very innovative artists. (I’m thinking of Tricky, Thom Yorke and the Brodsky Quartet just off the top of my head) who combine to produce something very original.

Is it an easy listen? No, it’s not, but then nor is it a particularly difficult one. (Certainly less harrowing than much of Nico‘s work.) Each successive listen, whether focusing on the nakedly personal lyrics or the beautiful if complex music reveals another facet. There have been reviewers who have compared her to the latter-day work of Scott Walker, making music that’s to be admired and respected, rather than enjoyed. I think this is unfair (on both her, and indeed to Walker). I’ve played this record numerous times whilst reviewing it, and not only do I do I think it’s going to be an album that will be one of the year’s key releases ( in a way like Let England Shake and St. Vincent have done so far this decade), but one we will want to play for a long time to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Owen Jones: Ed Miliband is right: we must fight political cynicism in the media | Owen Jones

If we get stuck on the idea that all politicians are venal and dishonest, nobody will ever believe it is capable of changing anything

One of the greatest temptations of radical opponents of the status quo – myself included – is to indulge the endemic cynicism that exists towards politicians. “They’re all the same”, “they’re all in it for themselves”, “they’re just lining their own nests”, “they’re just interested in power” – these phrases will be familiar to anyone who gauges popular opinion of our political elite.

So it was with some sympathy that I read comments by Ed Miliband – he who despicably cannot eat a bacon sarnie – to the press pack last night. Make this election about “issues, choices and beliefs that matter to the country”, he begged. “One of the biggest enemies of politics is cynicism, the belief that we are all in it for base motives.” And here’s the thing: it is those who believe in radical change who suffer most from this cynicism.

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God Is In The TV: Track Of The Day #643: Surf City – Hollow Veins

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Strictly for those having lain awake suffering sleepless nights disturbed by jangling pre-occupations creating fantasy super groups from turntable heroes, fear no more for ripped from a forthcoming set for Fire entitled ‘Jekyll Island’, New Zealand imps Surf City have served up ‘Hollow Veins’ as a pre course taster.

This melodically mix n’ matched a three plus minute power popped zapping fuzz buzzed bubble groover that to these ears sounds like Joey Ramone fronting the Pistols themselves rewiring the coda from ‘Silly Thing’ into an uber cooled shades shimmered locked grooving slab of glam nuanced white noise surfadelica ghosted by Eddie Cochran visitations.

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God Is In The TV: NEWS: Latitude Festival 2015

844The year 2015 marks Latitude Festival’s tenth anniversary. To start the birthday celebrations in some considerable style, the festival has unveiled the first of a series of special video collaborations.

Performance poet Luke Wright, who has been involved with the event since its inception in 2006, recites his exclusive poem ‘Latitude’ over a video that captures perfectly the magic and allure of the UK’s leading multi-arts festival

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The headliners and bill be revealed on Tuesday 3rd March 2015.

Latitude Festival 2015 will be held at Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk between Thursday 16th July and Sunday 19th July 2015.

All the Latest News on this year’s festival can be found here

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