Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The dark side of the Easter Bunny

It’s ridiculous. A row over the removal of ‘Easter’ from an egg hunt. On a poster headed ‘Easter Fun’. Found via a link on a front page headed ‘Easter Time’. In a sane world, it wouldn’t fly. In a sane world, it would be shot down by a media that spoke truth to power. But this isn’t a sane world.
There was never a halcyon time where sanity and reason prevailed but, post Brexit, we have been propelled into some of the darkest and most confusing times I can remember. The row over a Cadbury’s egg hunt may seem trivial given the big lies making hay across the world but it is a simple symbol of how such things now play out and, more crucially, the motivations behind all parties when they do.

We now live in a world where their reality is the only reality. Where once this was the preserve of a clutch of outliers on social media who refused to believe in anything that was accepted fact, refused to engage in debate or shift their position one iota, this is now becoming the de-facto position of anyone in any kind of authority or with any kind of stake in a breaking story. Fact crumbles in the face of obstinacy and politically expedient positions.

Witness our Prime Minister’s reaction to Eggxit. Push points of her vicar father and membership of the National Trust solidify a data driven political strategy that allies her with a set of values that chime with her current defender of British values schtick. Shoring up (once again) what is perceived as the Tories current weak spot, the territory to the right ignored (even cut adrift) by the Cameron / Osbourne alliance but now the only game in town with the centre ceded by Labour and unattainable for now by the Lib Dems. Politics as usual? Removing the UKIP threat is the only goal.

Witness the Bishop of York wading into the row, claiming outrage on behalf of the Quaker Cadbury family with a bombastic claim that the company were ‘spitting on the grave’ of the Cadbury founder, somehow missing the point that Quakerism believes all days are holy days and therefore do not celebrate Easter. Or indeed, that Cadbury were quite happy to lead the charge in making chocolate eggs for a celebration in which they didn’t participate. Or that the link between Easter and eggs is more cultural than religious and harks back to paganism. Along with our PM this was the Church staking their claim to primacy, surreptitiously stating that Christian belief defines the behaviour of national institutions as the UK is a Christian country. 

Such statements and behaviour carry a darker tone, less surprising from the Conservative Party than the Church and, whether unintended or deliberate, like Brexit carrying a dangerous message beneath its seemingly reasonable surface. For who is to blame for this decoupling of ‘Easter’ from ‘Egg’. Is it Cadbury? Forced into a position the company issued a statement that said they wished to encourage people of all faiths to take part, a weak PR misstep at best and a dereliction of duty at worst, looking less an affirmation of values and more a flimsy catch all response to any issue of religious tension. Thus, focus shifted from the company to those much derided ‘liberal values’ and, by extension, multi-culturalism. Which, given the history of the company and its pioneering social values, is both miserably depressing and totally unexcepted in this topsy-turvy create your own reality world.
Signs of this cultural push back are everywhere and, as ever, the trivial masks the reality.

Take another non-story of the week, Leggxit, the Daily Mail’s return to Benny Hillism to belittle both the gains of feminism in the public sphere and a serious constitutional crisis forewarned by those who opposed the Brexit so publicly backed by the title and its (non-domiciled) owner. Little surprise that its female writer was rolled out to defend the piece; after all, if a woman wrote it, it can’t be sexist, the oldest trick in the book and akin to UKIP’s endless front rowing of their handful of ethnic minority members. 

The PM, in sharp contrast to Eggxit laughed it all off. Laughing at outright sexism is a known strategy, deployed not just by men but those women who felt that feminists were, well, you know, not ‘proper’ ladies. It was the default response to uppity women who objected to wolf whistles and bum slaps in years gone by, the chauvinistic defence of ‘it’s just a bit of a laugh, where’s your sense of humour?’, was, I thought, given the take-down a few decades ago. Now it’s not just back but backed by our PM. Expect a return to scantily clad ladies being chased by sweating men any time now on ITV Encore.

Then today, as if to confirm that we really are running the clocks backwards in the UK, The Sun have revisited a past headline with a new xenophobic update transferring ‘Delors’ to Senors’. Well, they’re all foreigners, aren’t they? No mention there of the Gibraltarians caught in the crossfire that they so forcefully voted against.

Now here’s where it gets serious. Recall the stories around Cambridge Analytica and their role in securing success for both Leave.EU and Donald Trump by micro managing data captured to tailor messaging to garner votes and target resources? The push of the story revolved around the data and how it was being used. Little thought was given to the other side of the story, the morality of a world in which political messaging was being perverted and manipulated to give individuals the exact message that they desire. That was accepted without any serious comment. 

We are complicit in accepting that our political leaders are driven solely by personal and party gain and further that we are powerless to stop them. We have lost belief in our own power, whether through ennui or fear. The concept of public service, of proposing the tough, unpopular decisions for a greater and more lasting public good, is now at its lowest ebb in my memory. Fellow travellers here are the Labour Party, implacably opposed to Brexit yet triangulated to accept the ‘will of the people’ in a desperate (and likely futile) attempt to shore up votes and seats. A bill to repeal hanging, formalise state abortions or even create a public national health service would seem impossible in the current climate given the forces that would immediately swing into action as they did around Brexit to squash all debate. Too often our response is to disengage, leaving a rump of self-interest that can be exploited and manipulated to maintain and strengthen the type of power that puts us all in, eventually, a desperate position. 

And this is not just a UK issue. For UKIP’s seizing of the political agenda despite little real public support (one borrowed MP), see also the Front National polarisation of the French political system to Oui or Non for Marie Le Pen, removing real choice to a binary call. Likewise, Germany's ADP, seizing headlines to corral a similar position in their domestic politics. A real functioning democracy, with its mess of compromise and shades of opinion is being reduced to a Push / Pull system bolstered by unregulated political outrage and systematic vote grubbing policy positions engineered to game the system rather than create a better reality.

Which is the fear. I grew into adulthood believing that the big battles were won. That sexism, racism, isolationism was confined to the history books. I accepted that our politics would always be flawed and tainted by self and party interest but that certain lines once drawn, could not be erased. Bereft of real leadership to mount the push back across culture and politics that is necessary to confront these vested interests and challenge the non-realities that are being transformed into fact in front of our eyes requires a new set of channels, new forms of leadership and community, new commitment to a shared cause, built on compromise around basic beliefs about truth, facts and morality. As Europe knows from the thirties, pretending things aren’t how they are doesn’t solve anything. Disengaging is not an answer. Poking fun from the sidelines changes nothing. Now, more than ever, is the time to stand up.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Elbow release for Record Store Day in aid of CALM

To celebrate Record Store Day on 22nd April 2017, elbow have announced a 7” release as part of Torch Songs, the project led by the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). The release marks the first release from the band to follow their recent UK Number One album ‘Little Fictions’; their second consecutive album to debut at the top of the album charts.

Torch Songs brings together top artists and music lovers to share the tracks they turn to when things get tough, shedding light on how commonplace it is to face pressures in life. Latest UK figures show men are three times more likely than women to take their own life, and less likely to tell anyone about going through depression.
CALM launched Torch Songs on International Men’s Day 2016, since releasing exclusive and unexpected covers from artists including Years & Years, The Vaccines, Frank Turner, Enter Shakiri and Twin Atlantic.
A limited edition run of only 1,100 copies of Elbow’s new 7” release, a cover of ‘August & September’ by The The, will be available in selected UK record stores. This accompanies online Torch Songs releases from rock band Mallory Knox, Leeds post-punk Post War Glamour Girls and R&B singer Ady Suleiman, who will release a cover of Bill Withers’ soul classic, Lean on Me.

You don’t have to be a musician to get involved — fans are encouraged to spread awareness by sharing their own Torch Songs online with the hashtag #whatsyourtorchsong. 

Friday, 10 February 2017

Great Lost Tracks - Catatonia - 'Sweet Catatonia'

Way before Moulder and Scully and (bloody) Road Rage and duets with Tom Jones, Catatonia were the most amazing band. Led by Cerys, that voice, but without the styling that the good people of Warner decided would be the ideal way to make a buck, they were a riotous, joyous live experience and this, their signature tune, was the pinnacle. Never has a Welsh rugby top looked better than as worn by Cerys fronting this band.

Friday, 27 January 2017



elbow make available today a further track from their forthcoming album, ‘Little Fictions’ together with a landmark video. The short for ‘Gentle Storm’ is directed by the legendary Kevin Godley and sees him revisit the iconic promo he directed in 1985 for Godley and Creme’s ‘Cry’, a video that remains one of the touchstone examples of the genre.

The idea to re-imagine the ‘Cry’ video came from lead singer Guy Garvey as he explains:

‘‘Gentle Storm’ reminded me of something but I couldn’t work it out for a bit, the yearning and the sparsity of the sound. When I worked out it was ‘Cry’ I asked the rest of the band if they remembered the video cos it was such a seismic event as a kid. Pete and Mark did but Craig didn’t and I realised that a lot of people wouldn’t know the track or the video even though they were BOTH so important to me. So Kevin Godley is a Prestwich boy and so am I so I thought ‘I’ll be a cheeky bastard and get in touch with him and see if he is up for doing it again for our track.’ It was amazing that he was up for it. We got a load of our friends and family involved so they ALSO are in it. The shoot day was incredible, video shoots can be quite grim but it was such a great atmosphere that Kevin created and the finished film is something we are amazingly proud to be involved with.’

Kevin’s initial reaction to that call from Guy was puzzlement, but as he explains, he soon saw what could be possible for all concerned.

‘When Guy Garvey called me and said: “Would you consider recreating the ‘Cry’ video for our new song ‘Gentle Storm’ I was a bit puzzled. Why would he want something that was already out there? Then I realised… ‘out there’ really meant out there since 1985 and a whole generation or three wouldn’t have seen the original, or have a clue who Godley & Creme were, so to a world of millennials it would probably be “who the fuck?”

I didn’t really have to direct anyone - they all became suitably themselves as soon as the camera rolled. Everything felt real, nothing felt forced and there were no fuck ups, no tantrums and no 35 mm gates to check as we shot on 4K res digital video. In fact the only difference between this shoot and Cry was the major technological advance of steadying people’s heads with a sink plunger instead of a saucepan.’

‘Little Fictions’ has been hailed as one of elbow’s finest albums to date, described as ‘silky and punchy and full of sonic detail’ by Mojo magazine in a four star review and regarded by Q as simply ‘another brilliant album’ adding a further four stars. 

To see the video for ‘Gentle Storm’ go to

‘Gentle Storm’ and previously released tracks from the album can be heard at

‘Little Fictions’ is released by Polydor on 3rd February 2017 on Gatefold Vinyl, CD and digital download. Those pre-ordering the album digitally will receive ‘Gentle Storm’, ‘Magnificent (She Says)’ and ‘All Disco’ immediately. A special edition boxset of the album containing a bespoke book, CD LP and digital download of the album is also available in limited quantities exclusively on the elbow store.


Lewis Jamieson                                   / 07718 652582 / @LewJam