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A Five Dollar Note Kissed By The Artist

February 6, 2013


A numbered limited edition of my art piece A Five Dollar Note Kissed By The Artist will be available this weekend from The Window Gallery.

This event is part of Sticky Institute’s Paper City 2013 festival, which I helped organise and stuff. I’ll be there most of this weekend, so if you’ve ever aspired to inflict physical harm upon me, that’s where you can find me.


2012 As A Mixtape

December 26, 2012

Happy New Year and everything.

Here is my mixtape of things I’ve liked this year. You can stream it here:

2012 As A Mixtape by Ttfb on Mixcloud

Or if you’re quick – and again of course I can not condone this – but if you want to download it, it’ll be here for a limited time. Yep, here. Or you can email me for it, I guess. Obviously I will have to tell you what a heinous act it is first, and then send it you.


I don’t think I will write such an extensive track-by-track breakdown like here and here, but I have a few notes:


  • Internet Forever s/t is my album of the year, hands down. If this embed works you can listen to it here:


  • The Church Of Hysteria are the band I saw live most this year. Once, it was in the upstairs of a pub while the man in front of me was so offended he put his fingers in his ears, like a cartoon weasel waiting for dynamite to go off. Once it was in a complete shithole, watching alongside two bemused and be-ponytailed businessmen and a dog, and (at the most recent gig) in front of a gaggle of headbanging kids. I don’t regret attending any of them (and I regret loads of stuff). You can hear their album Argyle below, I will try not to make all of these points bandcamp embeds.


  • Most of the new music I listened to this year could easily have conceivably been made ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago even. I’m not going to go ‘the full Simon Reynolds’ on you and explain why I think this is both a good and bad thing, and why that’s probably mostly my fault anyway. But Never by Micachu & The Shapes is the only album I’ve heard this year where, upon first listening, I couldn’t have imagined it being made the day before. This explains it better tbh.


  • This is surely the best music video made this year:


  • Err I think that’s it. I hope you had a wonderful year.

Fifty Unused Zine Titles

November 11, 2012

So I have a new zine out called Fifty Unused Zine Titles. Guess what it’s about.

I’m happy for you to use any of these titles for any future zine you make, on the one condition that you send me a copy, because I’d like to read it please.

You can buy this thing here or just email here or something. They’re two buxx apop. All the money raised goes towards funding christmas dinner for Sticky Institute volunteers.

Fish And Chips Bastard*

August 12, 2012


So I’ve not written on this blog for ages, sorry about that as usual. I have got a nine-to-five now. Err, yeah.

Anyway. Here’s some ace stuff I’ve written about in the past few months for the lovely Three Thousand, seek all of these out if you know what’s good for yer:

The films of Kenneth Anger. It was a push fitting this into two hundred words, I’ll be honest.

A Night Out In Frosnall Graaf, by Mike Hawkins. I think you can still buy it here. Yes, I’ve just checked and you can.

Being Born Is Goin’ Blind by Sam Wallman. He has a new collection of drawings here.

Band T-Shirt by Vanessa Berry. That reminds me I should really write something for My Band T-Shirt.

Grace Note by Keith Deverell. An art thing about drummers. That was my original review but they insisted on something more substantial.

The Many Faces Of George Grosz #1 by Keith McDougall. The only time in my brief history of writing for Three Thousand that someone’s tweeted me to say I’ve got my facts wrong. Can you spot where?

Textanudes by Arlene Textaqueen. I don’t think her work is pornographic, I should have made that clearer.

Hollywood Burn by Soda_Jerk and Sam Smith. I wish I’d actually gone to this screening.

Wok The Rock. What a dude.

Stay Home Sakoku by Eugenia Lim. I basically want to be her.

Blue by Pat Grant, basically the most important graphic novel released in the country this year. Buy it.

Classic Albums exhibition, an excuse to make jokes about Pink Floyd and tell more people about this.

The Guerrilla Girls, generally. I hope they’re coming back in April.

Eames: The Architect & The Painter. Also difficult to sum up the Eameses in so few inches.

Entertain Us!, by Craig Schuftan. See below.

Buffalo Girls, a film about Thai boxing nine-year-olds. Less harrowing than you’d except.

Panpsychic Household Solutions, where Katherine Riley will clean your house for free. Try it?

An Individual Note by Daphne Oram. Or some event to do with it. An excuse for me to gush about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop anyway.

Silent Army Storeroom. If you are in Melbourne and like comics you should go meet Mr Fikaris, he’s great.

I also done loads of listings. They won’t be relevant now.

*this is a reference to an Andrew O’Neill joke, btw.

Book review: Craig Schuftan – ‘Entertain Us! The Rise And Fall Of Alternative Rock In The Nineties’

May 30, 2012

Craig SchuftanEntertain Us!: The Rise And Fall Of Alternative Rock In The Nineties. Available here.

As I pointed out in this review for The Thousands, Craig Schuftan’s new book about the rise and fall of nineties alt-rock, Entertain Us!, is one that (unlike many others before it) doesn’t just focus on the UK or the US. Other books and documentaries on this period perhaps overstate the competitiveness between those two nations, suggesting that Britpop was a direct reply to grunge, and that nu-metal was in turn America’s commercial fight back. Schuftan’s book points out that in reality the main rivalries throughout that decade were either between classes (Blur vs Oasis), tourmates (Marilyn Manson vs. Courtney Love) or differing ideologies (Billy Corgan vs. everyone else) – very few of them were transatlantic. The nationalistic, anti-Americanisation element of Britpop is of course acknowledged – particularly in Damon Albarn’s case, where he went as far as to insist Graham Coxon listen to Sonic Youth on his headphones in the tourbus so that he didn’t have to put up with any US music. But the book also makes plain that it seeks to find the similarities between records like Nevermind and Modern Life Is Rubbish, be it their congruent attitudes against the American dream, the disappointment at the failure of previous generations to make things better, or even their underappreciated grasp of irony.


Indeed, those are three subjects that often crop up throughout this re-telling of the decade. Luckily they are approached with great thoughtfulness, as Schuftan is a writer able to make deep critical analysis of pop culture both accessible and readable, not to mention varied (as evidenced by his citations of Walter Benjamin, Naomi Klein and Beavis & Butthead). Therefore I welcome his take on such a culturally explosive decade, particularly considering how distant and bizarre it now feels. In my mind the successes of the nineties seem as incongruous and unlikely to be repeated as those of the sixties, and are made to feel even more extraordinary considering they occurred in a decade I’ve actually lived through. My recollections of that time are of unbelievably exciting records in the charts and on heavy rotation on TV, being made by clever  and considerate pop stars and discussed not just in broadsheets but in playgrounds and offices across the world. Take Nirvana for instance. They may now be treated as a familiar and comfortable part of rock’s coherent lineage, and have been ever since the success of Nevermind (as remarked on in the book, where a new Hard Rock Café has the words “Here we are now, entertain us” emblazoned above the entrance). But considering that Kurt was a wiry, paranoid feminist Vaselines fan with a crippling stomach condition and head full of worries, his role as the frontman of the biggest band in the world seems like a beautiful anomaly.

I’m pleased that a writer like Schuftan has decided to contextualise the decade in which something like that could have happened; what’s more, I’m glad that he’s been so anti-nostalgic about it. Many of the key players in this story were prompted to bring the counter-culture to the masses by hearing wistful baby-boomers endlessly recalling the sixties, saying that the Age Of Aquarius was a time when the sun shone every day and its glory would never be rivalled. Rather than accepting their parents’ view, the nineties kids asked why that generation failed in their aim to change the world for the better, and considered the aborted mission to create a united ‘alternative nation’ as unfinished business. In turn, Schuftan asks the same thing of the nineties’ rock icons. Why was this utopia never properly achieved? And, with so many bands claiming their aim was to take the underground to a wider audience, smuggling the voice of the disenfranchised into a mainstream conscience, how come they floundered and choked when they actually got the chance?


Entertain Us!, like Simon Reynold’s Rip It Up And Start Again (perhaps the finest rock tome of recent years), is effectively a group of band biographies woven into a wider over-arching narrative, occasionally interspersed with sections on heroin chic or Guy Debord. However, by including year-by-year overviews and intertwining bands more often, Schuftan arguably tells the more compelling story. In some cases it would seem hard not to, considering nineties alt-rock’s catastrophic downfall from an idyllic, hopeful beginning. In 1990, with The Stone Roses making optimistic and defiant statements across the music press, organising the harmonious Spike Island gig and helping destroy the barrier between dance and rock, the future seemed bright. But the cracks began to show early, and warning signs that this encouraging generational camaraderie would be co-opted and cheapened by The Man for its own ends quickly appeared. For instance, Jesus Jones’ song about events in Eastern Europe, ‘Right Here Right Now’, was used on the Clinton campaign trail, while MTV used the fall of the Berlin Wall to help advertise new music videos. Around this point Schuftan remarks on Ian Brown’s attitude to the rock stars of the past, in particular Mick Jagger, encompassing it by saying: “Heroes let you down, but records last forever”. From that moment this seems to be the tone of the rest of the book, with the mood getting sourer with each year and ending with the bleakness and chaos of Woodstock ’99, with bands being taken to task for their mistakes and missteps along the way, and all punctuated by eulogizing about some truly great records.


However, it is still the ‘fall’ part that seems to hold greater sway over this ‘rise and fall’ story. Everything troubling that occurs in this book seems to relate back to the problems of ‘selling out’, about the failure to coerce the underground to the overground without losing its principles and dignity along the way. The idea that this is even an issue is usually met with accusations of rockism and elitism, but it’s hard not to recognise it as the strand running through the book. Because while ‘selling out’ does encompass issues of commercialisation, the exposure of indie music and ideals to a wider world also involves questions of artistry, identity and interpretation by a mass audience. And this book is chock full of moments that make that plain. It can be seen when Stone Temple Pilots’ ‘Sex Type Thing’ is high-fived to by jocks and treated as a party anthem, even though the lyrics condemn the rape of a friend by football players at a high-school get-together. It can be seen when Nada Surf are confronted with having to play their hit ‘Popular’ in front of kids that would have made fun of them at school for MTV Beach House. It can be seen when Blur attempt to make a ‘difficult’ album to alienate and weed out casual fans, and it backfires when they accidentally write their biggest American hit. It can be seen when Richey Edwards carves ‘4 REAL’ into his arm, when Thom Yorke decides to limit his ‘lucrative’ vocals on Kid A, when Faith No More chuckle at the thought of annoying their San Fran peers by appearing on MTV. And it can be seen when both Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain were faced with having to fake the real emotion in their songs on demand and onstage every night. As we know, for one that ended with a taken life, and as Schuftan points out, Cobain’s death was not like those of other fallen rock stars like Joplin or Hendrix. Theirs was accidental death resulting from embracing rock and roll’s excesses too heavily; his was purposeful death from not being able to fulfil rock and roll’s demands without guilt. Having read Schuftan’s account of the incident and its reasons, it’s hard not to think of Cobain as a man who thought himself to death.

But this is a book that acknowledges that there are no easy answers to these issues. It raises questions of whether In Utero should have kept the harsh Steve Albini production intact, sure. But it also prompts questions of whether a movement like riot grrl should have aimed to reach a broader audience, so that its inherent feminist ideals could be promoted to the wider world (rather than just used as a way to sell clothes).


As a parable on sudden unexpected mega-stardom, Entertain Us! demonstrates that there is an irresolvable absurdity of playing music promoting individuality to an audience that feels like an amorphous blob of indistinguishable humanity. Which basically makes it one of the more intelligent and thoughtful ways of reminding me to dig out Screamadelica and The Blue Album again.

Death Of A Scenester #5 – The Food Issue

May 16, 2012

I am honoured to be part of Death Of A Scenester #5 – The Food Issue, featuring some great pieces by writers such as Sean Gleeson, Claire Marshall, Sophie Langley, Ali E, Matthew Jones, Samantha Jonscher, Kim OpieShane Jesse Christmas, Sam Bonwick The Truth Sleuth and more. I did a stupid cartoon strip about potatoes for it, to go amongst all this wonderful writing. My bit comes after a particularly moving (and beautifully written) story by Keira Dickinson about her work distributing soup to the homeless, which makes me feel even more ridiculous. Anyway, you should get it, check where it’s stocked at their website I guess. And while you’re at it check out the Soup Van Stories, which the aforementioned Keira Dickinson piece came from.

Occupy Dimsdale

April 9, 2012

So I done a zine called Occupy Dimsdale, which includes:

  • a cartoon strip called Mike Hitchen Rules, and other stupid pun-based material
  • an impossible sudoku
  • a piss-easy wordsearch
  • and, for each issue, a unique hand-collaged front cover. Some of them, for instance, look like this:

You can get what’s left of these from Sticky, and you can also get it at their mail department, they’re $2 each. They were made to help raise money for this event though, so you could just donate straight to that instead, if you want.