Saturday, 25 December 2010

Death by Puppy - Christmas Special

Here to add to the merriness of your christmas is our semi-regular feature, Death by Puppy, in which we pay tribute to soft toys that have fallen to the paws and jaws of our little Jack Russell, Woody. And this particular entry couldn't be more seasonal if you sprayed it with fake snow, wrapped it in tinsel and hollered ho ho ho... for this week's victim is a highly cute and very cuddly red-nosed reindeer.

Although it's likely we were meant to call him Rudolph, this little chap lived his precious few hours with Woody as Mr Tampon Legs; named in tribute to those chunky menstrual blockers he tried to pass off as limbs. Interestingly Woody never tried to eat said feminine hygiene products but he did give the rest of our unfortunate reindeer a good ravaging.

Name: Mr Tampon Legs
Number of Days Survived: 3
Nature of Injuries: dissection leading to squeaker removal;
stuffing disembowelment;
Cause of Death: string unpicking leading to risk of puppy flossing (when aforementioned canine eats long length of cord and has it coming out both ends)

Vale Mr Tampon Legs. Rest in Pieces.
Messy Christmas everyone.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Gorillaz, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne

Growing up I used to watch a lot of old music shows on TV with my mum. Whenever artists like David Bowie, Neil Young or the Faces were shown performing in their seventies pomp, she was rather fond of saying the phrase ‘I was there, I was that soldier.’

I’ve had a few such moments of my own in the 20 or so years I’ve been watching live music, but it’s been a while since I had an ‘I was there’ concert. Thanks then to the Gorillaz for providing one of those moments at the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.

I think I sufficiently articulated my excitement about the opportunity to see Damon Albarn play live again back in August when this concert was announced. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how much of an ensemble performance Gorillaz were capable of offering. When artists talk about guest collaborators and huge numbers of musicians on stage it’s rarely a precursor to great music – more a sign of big budgets and prog-tastic ostentatiousness.

Then again, most ensemble casts don’t include half of The Clash. There is something indescribably thrilling about the sight of Paul Simonon and Mick Jones prowling the stage wearing matching naval uniforms and handling their guitars like rifles. The vision of them standing like Russian guards, flanking Albarn as he stood poised with his melodica for the intro to Clint Eastwood was worth the entrance fee alone, let alone their incredible musical contribution. The Clash were amongst London’s first celebrity champions of reggae and Simonon’s bass makes a smooth arc from the Clash’s Guns of Brixton to Gorillaz’ first dub-influenced single Tomorrow Comes Today – whose vibrations shook the huge tennis arena.

Those familiar with the Gorillaz albums will know the calibre of their other collaborators, many of whom were present either on screen (Snoop Dogg resplendent in naval gangster chic) or in the flesh. De La Soul’s contribution to the party was far larger than their two recorded offerings suggest. As warm up band they go down in history as the only hip hop act to ever actually make me put my arms in the air (like I did not care) and as part of the show their exuberance and clearly reciprocated affection for Albarn was uplifting.

Turns from Bobby Womack, Little Dragon, the Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, Bashy and Kano bring the Gorillaz songs to life whilst contributions of a string section (who knew cellos, sailor caps and LBDs was such a sexy get-up?), Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (like the Muppets band but with more energy) and members of the Syrian National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music provide the necessary tools to craft the hugely diverse songs Gorillaz have produced in their ten years together. From dub to hip hop, rock to pop, soul to gospel, techno to rap and kiddy choir, there are elements of everything in the show, with Albarn’s enthusiasm and ability unbounding for them all.

The show was so heavy on hits that it seems unfair to highlight individual tracks but Glitter Freeze, Stylo, 19-2000, Feel Good Inc and Dirty Harry nearly blew the roof off, Punk offered a welcome sight of 1992 era Albarn doing his knee-tuck in leap for 90 seconds, On Melancholy Hill made me cry – and finishing with the church-choir singalong of Demon Days was just lush.

Gorillaz are often derided amongst musos for their cartoon origins, as if comic books somehow infantilise and devalue the music. I suspect such critics haven’t seen Gorillaz live, where Jamie Hewlett’s blend of the macabre and the beautiful creates something funny and frequently poignant (the sight of a windmill-powered flying island being attacked and grounded by sinister helicopter gunships during El MaƱana a case in point). The graphic evolution of Murdoc, Russel, 2D and Noodle – with a slightly naff but amazingly detailed computer animation of the band in their dressing room punctuating the night – is also fascinating, especially watching the simplicity of the original video to Clint Eastwood.

Regardless of my own predilection towards all things Albarn, it’s hard not to feel pleased for the lad. Tonight’s show is a collaboration – and one that only works when all the players work together - but it is also a testament to the boy from Blur’s talents. From what was presumably a very stoned pre-Millennium night in Hewlett’s flat he has assembled his own version of Dave Chappelle’s Block Party - a globe straddling, multi-headed genre shagging colossus that is too brilliant to ignore and too smart to disappear up its own arse. If, as is rumoured, Gorillaz calls it quite after the end of this tour - and after they release one last album online on Christmas Day – it’ll be the right thing to do. Still at least I’ll be able to tell my mum I was there. For once, I was that soldier.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Crap Band Photography Day 5: Roisin Toast

And so to the final day of our celebration of the uselessness of camera phones. This session is dedicated to some of the more theatrical proponents of this business called show. Either that or its an excuse to show pictures of the divine Roisin Murphy (and her incredible wardrobe) who visited these shores in 2008 and sent my heart a flutter...

1. Ms M takes to the stage hidden by a leather hooded overcoat and Bono-sunglasses

2. overcoat removed but anonymity maintained by a Russian military hat. Note take on Wonder Woman cuffs

3. new jacket on and military hat swapped for Escher-like purple foam/felt millenary number
4. time to quit messing now. enormous red woolen pixie slanket? Roisin gotchu...

5. slanket removed to reveal fringed lacy top and cake-stand fascinator

6. return to simplicity with dashing Irish green fez and tassles...

7. and to remind you this is a music show, here's 'the Debbies' - Harry and Gibson

8. for the penultimate number here's Roisin in a sparkly silver frock vogueing through my favourite Moloko number - Forever More. Note Roy Lichtenstein backdrop and small cake tin attached to Ms Murphy's head...

9. to close let's not forget Super Bee: part pop star, part nectar collector with silk S&M mask...

... and wings. Gorgeous. Roisin, come back to us soon.

Roisin's effortless glamour is hard to beat but a special mention to Beck in the theatricality stakes for his 2007 visit to Australia. The shitty picture above is of his touring marionette show, which performed alongside the real thing throughout his show. This was a good thing because Beck seems to be incapable of the James Brown/Prince inspired dancing that made him so unmissable in the 1990's. Sharp distracting Mr Hansen.

What better way to close our little exhibition than a photo that is simultaneously awful and revealing of the grandeur of theatrical pop stage shows? In case you can't tell (you can't) this is the Pet Shop Boys, sitting atop enormous cardboard cut outs of their own heads. Feel the glamour, breathe the excitement, smell the festival BO and sunscreen. Rock photography at it's nadir.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Crap Band Photography Part 4

Day 4 of the world's worst photography exhibition is a squint-and-you-see-it tribute to some of the icons of indie who have visited these shores in the past couple of years.

First up are Pavement, the Pitchfork generation's equivalent of Pavlov's bell - a band guaranteed to leave the checky shirted hoardes salivating. All I remember from this gig at the Palace in Melbourne was having a sore back and thinking I'd rather be lying down, a point reflected by the artistry employed in this picture.

Part of my really likes this picture but I think it's the part that remembers what I could see with my eyes rather than what the camera was able to capture. For the record this is Stereolab's Laeticia Sadier playing a tambourine in profile at the Billboard in Melbourne (flutter flutter).

An embarrasingly crap photo of one of those gigs: Underground Lovers magnificently reunited at the East Brunswick Club. Review here proves gig was better than picture suggests

The (ahem) Modfather, Paul Weller shows his appreciation with a whistle at the Enmore in Sydney. Note enormous hand in foreground that looks like one of those sponge ones you get at the cricket.

Sweden's Peter, Bjorn and John charm the pants of everybody at the Metro Theatre in Sydney. I promise it is them and not just some mates on a dark school stage.

And to wrap up for today, a rather uninspired picture of the world's most inspiring band - Super Furry Animals. For the record there were many magnificent photo opportunities throughout this gig, not least a space helmetted Gruff Rhys singing Slow Life into a vocoder. Sadly those pictures were so bad they didn't even make it past the bus ride home.

Please come back tomorrow for our final day of bad photography, in which we pay tribute to pop star theatricality and drool a little bit about Roisin Murphy.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Crap Band Photography Part 3 - The Bohemoths

Day 3 of the Mint Custard Crap Rock Photography exhibition and today we celebrate some of the living legends of the business they call show. When marvelling at the photographic techniques I employed to capture these essential moments in live music history, try not to think so much about what I was doing there in the first place. That's between me and the rock dinosaurs.

The glowing blurred blob above is Mr Neil Young, performing one of his indeterminedly long and painful guitar solos at the Melbourne Big Day Out, 2009. The more observant amongst you will note that is a b flat minor chord he's playing. Maybe.

Whilst it's not immediately obvious, this is the mighty Spandau Ballet performing at the Rod Laver Arena earlier this year (you can read my review here). The figure on the big screen (and bottom left on the stage) is former Eastender Martin Kemp, the ballet's bass player. Be grateful this picture was taken before the encore when both Kemp brothers emerged shirtless and wearing leather waistcoats and I did a little sick in my mouth.

Supporting the Ballet that day were Tears for Fears. This scintillating picture captures band members Roland Orzabol and Kurt Smith seemingly being abducted by aliens.

In late 2008 my friend's mum scored some free front row tickets to see Def Leppard at the Rod Laver Arena. Sadly she didn't have anyone to go with. When it comes to bands from Sheffield I may be more Jarvis than Joe Cocker but I do love the first side of Hysteria enough to recognise a gift horse when I see one. Not wanting to waste this unexpected opportunity, I thrust my enormous lense into the sweaty middle-aged rock action.

Lest we be allowed to forget (for it was enshrined in popular song) the drummer from Def Leppard only has one arm. That doesn't stop Rick Allen (for 'tis he) from bringing the noise, and with this many drums around him you can see why.

Rock lesson # 1. Rock likes black t-shirts.

Rock lesson # 2. No black tshirt = no shirt at all.

Join us again tomorrow for more works unlikely to be hung up in any gallery or museum soon.

Crap Band Photography Part 2

Welcome back to Day 2 of the Mint Custard Crap Rock Photography exhibition. And before you ask, no, it's just the photography that's crap... All these pictures were taken pushing my Sony Ericsson's enormous 2.0 megapixels to the max so that you, and your descendants, could sample the atmosphere for yourself. Let us dwell no more and get stuck in...

Pop intellectual turned folk troubadour Lloyd Cole strums for the Thornbury Theatre audience in Melbourne. Please be assured that I wasn't actually a kilometre away from the stage - it just seems that way.

And whilst we're at the Thornbury Theatre, let us remember Candle Records heroes the Lucksmiths, captured here for posterity at their last but one ever gig. I attended this concert in my slippers. Which was nice.

A crowd of backpackers chant for an English band at some theatre or other in Sydney. Said band were not as good as said crowd drunkenly believed.

The unmistakably slight silhouette of Mr Jarvis Branson Cocker, erstwhile of Pulp, seen here at the Metro Theatre in Sydney for his first solo tour. Mrs Custard took this, hence the slightly higher than average picture quality.

Mr Cocker again, flanked by Mr Steven Mackey (erstwhile of Pulp) and Mr Martin (M) Craft. Note other person taking photo of same scene. I assume theirs came out better than this.

And last for today, my most favourite picture that I took on my old phone. If you don't know that's Mr Robert Forster, with bassist Adele Pickvance in the background. This was taken in the Studio Theatre, Sydney Opera House during Forster's first post Go-Betweens solo tour. The show was so good this was the only picture I got around to taking.

More from my mixed bag of photographic nuts tomorrow...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Rest Easy Cummins

So I have a new phone. This is a good thing because this one actually works and isn't several years out of technological date. Still, it's also cause for sadness because I'd become rather attached to the antiquated brick and it's slightly useless ways.

A case in point is the camera. Weighing in at a hefty 2.0 megapixels and with a shutter button that had to be pressed so hard that any picture not taken in bright sunshine adopted a distinctive blur you'd think I wouldn't ever have bothered using it. Yet many was the time I found myself caught up in post-sunset events thinking 'I must capture this moment forever. Unleash the trusty box brownie phone and let us make photographic magic.'

By way of a tribute to my ex-phone I'll like to share some of our finest concert moments together. Over the next few days I intend to blow your mind with scenes that will actually make you feel you are there - providing by there you mean in the very back row of a 100,000-seater stadium and high on ketamine. I'd like to dedicate this exhibition to the great Kevin Cummins, former NME photographic stalwart and whose works adorned my teenage bedroom walls (and beyond). Kevin, if you need me you know where I am...

French electronic pop supremos Air at the Sydney Opera House, 2008.
They really were that fuzzy.

King Monkey himself, Ian Brown, taken from the very front of the stage at the Metro in Sydney. That's about a metre away. And it's still blurred.

The Charlatans' Tim Burgess peaks around the corner at Sydney's Forum.
No really, I promise it is him.

Rick Nielson of rock monsters Cheap Trick - Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.
Don't let the relative clarity of this shot fool you to believe the
pictures improved over time - every single light in the venue was on when I took it.

The incomparable Cougar Flashy at the Factory in Sydney,
replete with Mexican day of the dead person. He was aces.

One of Daft Punk rocks robots and humans alike at the Sydney showgrounds, 2007.
Before you ask, yes, it is a photograph of a giant TV screen.

If you want to taste the sweat dripping from some of your other favourite rock stars, why not come back tomorrow for a bit more of the same?

Monday, 8 November 2010

Do You Remember the First Time?

Is there nicer news to wake up to than the fact that Pulp have decided to reform and play some live shows in 2011? Probably, but right now I'm too excited to think about what that might be. Details are only sketchy so far but seem to involve Pulp's line up at their 1995 pomp (i.e. Russell Senior is back) and rumours of gigs in London and Spain.

You can find out more by registering at which is flashing up phrases like 'Is this a hoax?' and 'Is this really necessary?' and 'Is this nostalgia?' - the answers to which are hopefully not, yes and yes, but who gives a monkeys. Many people won't care (Pulp quietly returned to the obscurity from whence they came after 2001's We Love Life and their 2002 Hits compilation both stalled in the charts) but it's the kind of news that's already making us change our holiday plans for next year. Candida, Nick, Jarvis, Steve, Mark, Russell - ta, you've made my day.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Feed Me Melbourne

It's been a long dark winter but fortunately I have survived. I can attribute this to central heating, kindly donated downloads of the season 4 of Mad Men and the warmth and comforts of eateries Melbourne wide. I thought it was time to repay the favour, so thank you Ancient Romans for inventing hypocaust, thank you Matthew Weiner for giving us Sterling Cooper et al and thanks to the following fine establishments for keeping my belly full and my tootsies warm.

Felices, 141 Greeves Street (Smith Street end), Fitzroy
We went to Felices the morning after the general election, looking for something to take away the sour taste of the night before. Fortunately this decidedly european cafe (plain timber walls, fussball, large mirrors) with its beautifully uncomplicated menu was able to deliver more than Julia and Tony. We ordered croissants and toast with our coffees, and both came accompanied with generous serves of marscapone cheese, fresh marmalade and one of the nicest strawberry jams I've tasted. Recommended to people who don't want eggs with every breakfast as well as anyone who likes to eat under a giant aeroplane; there's one attached to the roof. If you'd like to see it check out these great pictures at Fitzroyalty, a blog dedicated to all things Fitzroy.

Tabet's Bakery, 607 Sydney Road, Brunswick
There's been a lot of coverage of the hidden delights of Sydney Road in the local press this year, probably as more and more journalists are forced away from the increasingly expensive inner city and head towards the 'burbs. It's true that there are a great many outlets on the main road north out of melbourne, covering a wide range of cuisines and an even broader range of quality. Always reliable however is Tabet's - a lebanese bakery with an exceptionally cheap yet delicious range of bready cheesey products. Both the haloumi pies (essentially a lebanese pastie) and spinach and cheese pies are amazing and for just $2.80 you can eat like royalty even on a budget. Heartily recommended smothered in Masterfoods Hot Chilli sauce.

Salford Lads Club, 1 Fennell Street, Port Melbourne As an indie tragic it's hard to go past a cafe that takes it's name from a place in Greater Manchester made famous by Morrissey and the Smiths. Before you Mozophiles get too excited this isn't a Smiths tribute cafe and there was nothing beyond the name and the This Charming Man ringtone of the owner's phone to link it to Steven, Johnny and the other two.

Having done the pilgrimage to actual SLC and been hassled by actual Salford lads I am pleased to report that this relatively new cafe in Port Melbourne was far more welcoming. The decor inside this industrial setting is an homage to cycling, and there were several old racing bikes and jerseys around the place - as well as a Huddersfield Town banner. Sadly I'm unable to provide much comment on the highly interesting and varied dinner menu as we only went for breakfast. I am happy to report though that the coffee, eggs and homemade baked beans were top drawer and the Northern Breakfast (replete with black pudding) looked good enough to turn Morrissey himself back to meat.

Zingara, 875 High Street, Thornbury
I have double praise for Zingara in Thornbury. Firstly for not making a fuss when our dog started going crazy and almost upended our table when he saw pigeons for the first time. Secondly (and most importantly) for turning out the finest caesar salad I've ever had. Not eating meat makes a good caesar hard to find. Some places do a salmon version but they're few and far between. Thankfully Zingara have thought outside the chicken box and offer a delicious charred king prawns alternative every bit as good if not better as anything I ate back in the meat days. A great choice for these warm spring afternoons, with or without crazy puppy as a dinner guest.

Mamasita, 11 Collins Street, Melbourne
I haven't seen this kind of buzz about a food outlet since Speedy Peppers finally brought take-away pizza to East Yorkshire in the late 80s. Every bloody newspaper and magazine has been crapping on about Mamasita for months now, as if they were serving up Michael Jackson steaks. Sadly the main thing people have to say is 'boo hoo me, I had to queue for hours to get in.' Well here's a couple of suggestions. Firstly don't go the same week as there is a newspaper or magazine feature about it; there's more people can read than just you. Secondly, try avoiding going along at 7pm on a Friday. Everything is busy at 7pm on a Friday cretins. I've been twice, had awesome times, lush modern twists on mexican food (the corn is particularly recommended, as are the soft fish tacos and chilli chocolate), been well looked after by the helpful staff who protected me from the most vicious chillis and hey, never had to queue once. Yay Mamsita.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Nothing to do with your Vorsprung Durch Technik

The past few months have been a quiet time for the Mint Custard Book Club (membership one and counting, slowly). After ripping through A Streetcar Named Desire I got bogged down in Cloudstreet. This is less a reflection on Tim Winton’s Miles Franklin Award winning masterpiece than on the fact that I scored myself a free iPhone. Instead of bettering myself by diligently sticking to my mission to read at least one piece of literature a month, I’ve been distracted by the gaudy thrills of mobile internet, Angry Birds and pseudo-Scrabble, Words with Friends.

Yes, a mere three years after the launch of the iPhone I’ve finally caught up with technology. I say only because despite assurances from gadget enthusiasts that just six months can be a lifetime when it comes to technology, up til now I have spent my life separated from modernity by a continual seven year buffer of which phones are just a minor detail.

Much of this spans back to childhood and a general lack of gadgetry in our house. We got our first video - a VHS Ferguson Videostar – in 1987. It was my grandparent’s old one, donated to us because even Grandad wouldn’t be seen dead with a top loader by then. We had a hi-fi, one of those housed in an MDF wood-effect cabinet and sealed behind a darkened glass door, but it was a strictly tapes and records affair. 1985 may have seen Dire Straits become first band to sell a million copies of an album on compact disc but it was 1992 before I got around to buying my first CD player. Add another ten years to those two dates for DVDs and you can see a bit of a trend.

Despite their circumstances mum and dad always did their best to get us all what we wanted. Unable to afford the Atari 2600 games console I wanted they got me Astro Wars, a single game table top space shoot-em-up they probably couldn’t afford either and which I clocked several hundred times. I still have it and, in keeping with my temporal techno buffer, I eventually got my 2600 and a sackful of games for my eighteenth birthday in 1993. Mum got it on the cheap from a local second-hand shop inundated with Ataris thanks to Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. Again, still have it and still love it. I bought Raiders of the Lost Ark for it last week.

Games consoles have become a bit of a yardstick for my gadget delay. Despite spending the entire summer of 1996 playing Worms on my friends’ PlayStation, it was 2003 - three years after the launch of PS2 - before someone took pity on us and gave us their old one. Having never seen a PS2 in action our old machine was still a revelation, and even better, the games were ridiculously cheap. A similar thing happened in 2008 when a kindly soul gave us a Nintendo GameCube. Leaping several years into the future in a single bound we were amazed by the graphics and game play – happily ignorant that kids of all ages were in similar thrall to the Nintendo Wii. I look forward to getting one… in 2015.

After slagging off mobile phone users for several years I got my first mobile in 2003. It was (naturally) a hand-me down from Mrs Custard, and even that had been given to her by a friend. I left it at home a lot and got told off for not answering it when people rang, but I did like the primitive version of Snake which kept me busy on the bus. I kept it for three years, updating to yet another pre-loved phone in exchange for a six pack of beer. It had a dodgy joystick and perhaps the worst camera ever made, but it did have a great mini-golf game. I finally signed a proper contract in 2008 and was given a free phone for my troubles. It had a rather pointless Walkman feature which didn’t let you use your own headphones, but the mini-golf had better graphics and the at least the camera worked. I felt modern, even though most of my friends had long since moved on to iPhone.

Anyway so finally, after so long at apogee of technological innovation here I am, at its artificially beating heart. For once in my life I can look people in the eye without shame, without a shrug of ‘ahdunno’ when discussing matters telecommunicational. I may have forgotten how to read a book but I can feel the same sense of smugness and self-satisfaction that I am more cutting edge than the general populous. I speak the language of Gates and Jobs. I - with my iPhone 3G - am of the moment. I am now. I am 2010. I am… sorry... hang on... there’s a what? When? Oh balls…

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Death by Puppy - Round 2

It's time for another round of Death by Puppy, a semi-regular feature dedicated to the memory of anthropomorphised peluches whose tour of duty as companion/punching bag to Woody, our small but tenacious puppy, has come to an end. This time we feature two much loved but short-lived folks from land and sea.

First up we have Kanga Poo. We would like to dedicate this to the memory of not one but two of the Poo family who perished at Woody's tiny jaws. The first friendly yellow marsupial met its maker literally overnight, its back ripped open along what we assumed was a dodgy workshop-sewn seam and Woody triumphant with a plastic squeaker in his mouth. We took the unprecendented move of returning Kanga Poo to the shop on the basis of poor seamstressness, noting that we only had a Jack Russell, not a rottweiler-velociraptor cross.

Sure enough within three days Woody (who it must be said greatly enjoyed playing with Kanga during their short time together) had once again ripped open Kanga Two's spine, removed the squeaker and decorated his bed in white fluff. Rest in Pieces, Kanga.

Second up we have Annabel Crab, a small squeaky crustacean with threaded wool instead of a shell and big googly eyes that lasted about 48 hours. We think Woody ate them. Despite this Annabel fared quite well for a while. That was until Woody realised that he could unpick her shell row by row by standing on her back and yanking with his teeth. By the time the fourth row was gone Woody had enough wool to form a lassoo and Annabel's stuffing was stuffed.

On behalf of ourselves and Woody we'd like to take a moment to thank these two loyal, short-lived servants to the cause. Nice one guys. You (temporarily) rocked.
Name: Kanga Poo
Age: 3 days
Nature of Injuries: Disembowelment through spinal column
Cause of Death: Excessive innard spillage leading to squeaker removal

Name: Annabel
Age: 3 weeks
Nature of Injuries: dual eye detachment, shell unplucking
Cause of Death: progressive woolly shell removal leading to potential
choking hazard and multiple exposure to crabby innards

Vale Annabel and Kanga Poo. Fare thee well in the next life

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Rhys's Pieces

In this hung-parliament world of uncertainty and doubt, it’s nice to know that there are some things you can rely on to get you through another day. For me it’s knowing that Gruff Rhys – the world’s favourite softly spoken, curly-locked Welsh gentleman genius – has a new single out. It is, naturally, fricken awesome and even better it can be yours for free. Simply head off to (cannily renamed recently as The Gruffington Post), leave an email address and soon your ears will be swimming in Gruff’s delightful Shark Ridden Waters.

The track is taken from his upcoming (and as yet unnamed) third solo album. It comes at the end of yet another crazy-busy year for Mr Rhys, a man who is starting to make Billy Childish look a bit idle. Lesser folks might still be resting on the rather spectacular laurels of Super Furry Animals’ 2009 epic masterpiece Dark Days/Light Years. Other folks however are not Gruff Rhys who has been involved in a plethora of projects in a year he also marked his 40th birthday.

After collaborating with Gorillaz on their Plastic Beach album (including the as-yet unreleased Leviathan, described by Gruff as a ‘three o'clock in the morning, speeding down the autobahn evading West German police-type track.’) he teamed up with Tony Da Gatorra, ‘a Brazilian TV and VCR repairman and musical freedom fighter. Together they produced The Terror of Cosmic Loneliness, an experimental, mostly live album built around the sound of the gatorra, a homemade drum machine/guitar invented by its namesake. It’s about as far from Gruff’s harmonic style as it’s possible to get so won’t make everyone happy, but it does sound like they’re having a lot of fun. The duo did a few small gigs in the UK this year to promote the album, clips of which you can see on Gruff’s website here...

Gruff met Da Gatorra whilst in South America as part of his other big project for the year, the documentary movie Separado! Described by the blurb as ‘Star Trek meets Buena Vista Social Club in a psychedelic western musical’ the film follows Gruff on ‘a pan continental road trip in search of his long lost Patagonian uncle’.

In an apparently true series of events that sound like the plot of Back to the Future III, a controversial horse race in 1880 led to an unresolved death and a split amongst Gruff’s ancestors, some of whom joined the wave of Welsh expatriates to Patagonia. Gruff undertakes a tour of ‘theatres, nightclubs and desert teahouses of Wales, Brazil and the Argentine Andes as he discovers what became of his family, the Welsh Diaspora and its musical legacy.’ There's unlikely to be an Australian release anytime soon which is a shame as having and watched the trailer with a robot helmeted Guff singing into a vocoder to a crowd of bemused families and scenes of the gatorra in action it looks like it'd be right up my alley.

Whilst we all wait for the DVD, watch the trailer for yourself and find out more about possible cinema screenings in your area at For everything else Gruff, including your free copy of his new single, get yourself over to Believe me, Shark Ridden Waters is everything you’re hoping it will be. For other reliable (and up to date) Gruff and Super Furry news, remember to check out SFA Goodness ( or That should be enough to keep you going until the next SFA album which knowing them will probably arrive as a triple album before Christmas. Maybe. Hwyl!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Return of the Robots

It's been a while since we had a report back on the ongoing war between war and machine, oft reported on these pages as Robots are Going to Kill Us All. I'm not sure if this is because they've upped their camouflage game or I've just not been paying attention. Thankfully our international reporter Mr Flange is still on the case. Over to him for this report from London Village...
After taking the tube for years I was horrified to discover I have been being watched this whole time by robot koalas. I hope you appreciate that I missed my stop and added 20 minutes on to my journey home in order to capture this picture for you. Apologies for low quality.

Mr Flange, it may be low quality resolution but that's high quality evil-robot-cute-furry animal spy hybrid spotting. Your diligence may have just saved mankind one more day in charge before the inevitable techno-apocalypse. Mint Custard salutes you.