Friday, 24 September 2010

Get Well Soon

Best wishes to Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes who is in hospital this week after collapsing during a gig in Philadelphia, US. He is now back in the UK being treated for a brain tumour but doctors say he should be OK.

I've met Jon on a couple of occasions and he is a very obliging and humble chap, not to mention someone who gives everything every gig he plays. As I've noted a few times, the Charlatans are as tight and powerful a band as you can see in 2010 and this is due in no small part to Brookes' skills and his mutual understanding with bassist Martin Blunt.

Jon will obviously play no part in the forthcoming Charlatans world tour, with Pete Salisbury from the Verve covering his duties. This is a great shame but at least it appears he'll be OK in the long run, which is all that really counts.

Jon Brookes, Lyon 2008 (courtesy

The band have of course faced similar crises in the past and have faced every challenge like prize fighters on the ropes. It may sound crass out of its 1996 context but their 'we've lost our mate. there will be no change. we are rock' statement on the death of keyboard player Rob Collins galvanised them and led to some of the best music of their career. Here's hoping they find some of that spirit to get them through this time and inspire Jon to a speedy recovery.

For more details visit

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

I Never Said I Was Deep

I like the world sometimes. A bit of sunshine on my face here, a little rain for the garden there, a lie-in wrapped in daggy flannel sheets, a 95th minute equaliser against Arsenal at home. Tiny things that warm my little cockles. I had another one this week when a man who was helping puppy-proof our yard spotted the Sunderland sticker on display in our car.

Despite being from Zimbabwe he was all too familiar with internecine football politics in the north east of England having lived in Newcastle for a while. We used to live just around the corner from each other. Small world and all that but the thing that made me smile most was that he lived in one of my favourite buildings in the world, Shieldfield House.

It’s hard to explain why I love Shieldfield House so much. As you can see it’s a rather typical and unassuming 1960s tower block, typical of many on Tyneside built in that period. As far as I know it's only claim to fame is the less than prestigious title of second tallest building in Newcastle. I’ve never lived there or even been inside and whilst it’s similar to a block of flats in Hull we used to live in, I’m not so nostalgically romantic about it as to project on other unsuspecting highrises.

Yet there is something that makes Shieldfield House special amongst buildings; it is magic. Magic how, you ask? Look closely at the picture. What do you see? More pertinently, what do you not see? I'll tell you what you won't see - 3D. That is because Shieldfield House is a two dimensional building. Not a reflection on the residents, but a geometrical fact. Shieldfield House has an up and a down, and a side-to-side but it is sadly lacking a front-to-back. In dimensional terms it is deficient to the tune of one. Like those shanty town facades in old western movies, it's easily to believe that a good gust of wind could see the whole thing fall flat on its face.

Now I don’t claim to know the nature of this feat of concrete conjuring, but look again for proof. Even up close and from the side, there is still no... side. Despite the fact that you can sometimes see people going about their lives inside, and even opening their windows, Shieldfield House remains as improbably flat as the Phantom Zone in Superman II.

If you're ever in the area i thoroughly recommend checking out this unlikely architectural phenomenon for yourself. That said, even when visiting it in the flesh it doesn't look any different to these photos, so if you're unlikely to ever take trip up to Shieldfield just take my word for it. As Bucks Fizz once assured us in more innocent pre-Photoshop days, the camera never lies and no amount of James Cameron-style 3D trickery will change that.

Shieldfield House, Mint Custard salutes you. I never said you were deep, but you are profoundly shallow.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Rolling Ball Gathers More Friends

This time of year is traditionally when people in Australia go a little crazy for balls of all kinds. August sees the start of the football season, with the local A-League (this year bolstered by a second Melbourne team in Melbourne Heart) and the start of the European football season - including the English Premier League and Champion's League. The first mentions of summer cricket start to be made whilst at the the oval end of the ball spectrum September is finals month for the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL). So, in the spirit of this ball-fest I'd like to bring you up to date with our sister site, i am Ball, dedicated to the adventures of a plucky young tennis ball called Ball.

I wrote about Ball on these pages back in May when he was just setting off on his adventures. Since then there have been over 25 reported sightings of our fuzzy friend from places as far apart as Cairns and Cornwall. Each spotting has been recorded with a photo and some detail of Ball's condition and general demeanour. It's not always good (dogs seem to have a love-hate-love relationship with him, and the less said about people mounting Ball on their car bumpers the better) but it's not all bad either and is all part of the adventure of being Ball.

If you've never been please have a look and see what he's all about. This is a good place to start as you get an idea of who Ball is and what to do if you cross his path. Otherwise just have wander around i am Ball ( to read about his globe trotting adventures. Remember, if you see Ball say hello and take his picture. We're always hoping for more sightings from around the world, so please help do your bit to keep the word about Ball rolling.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Merchandise Strikes Back

Star Whores Episode 347:
The Merchandise Strikes Back

It is a dark time for Mint Custard. Though reconciled to George Lucas’ relentless commercialisation of everything he once held dear, and having vowed never again to give money to Lucasfilm, he did not count on the thirtieth anniversary of the Empire Strikes Back; his very favourite of all the Star Wars films.

Clearly preying on Custard’s long-standing recurrent dream about discovering dusty boxes of mint condition Star Wars toys in abandoned toy stores and dark attics, the evil Lucas has combined with Kenner to create nostalgia-based merchandise in pursuit of the Custard dollar.

Having evaded wave after wave of Star Wars related tat for many years, the once young and innocent - now just immature and with a steady job - Custard has capitulated under the onslaught of temptation provided by historically accurate and anatomically correct plastic figurines on special at K-Mart.

Sensing victory, the despicable Lucas readies himself for the chance to extract even more cash from his former charge with the release of Return of the Jedi related pish-posh in 2013. Little does he realise the contempt held by Custard for Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks and that by then Custard will be free of his evil clutches forever…

Some irritatingly beautifully-packaged nostalgia, yesterday.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Acid House-martin

It feels a little odd to be advocating concerts that I’ll never attend in promotion of an album that is unlikely to be released in Australia, but since Paul Heaton is afraid of aeroplanes and unlikely to tour here any time soon I have to live vicariously to get my Heato-related kicks.

The musical world's foremost collector of crisp packets (and former Beautiful South and Housemartins frontman) releases his new album, Acid Country next Monday in the UK and whilst I've only heard the snippets available on his website and MySpace page it's enough to make me part with my money. There's unquestionably more of a raw, jangly Housemartins feel to Paul's recent material compared to some of the more polished Beautiful South stuff. This is no bad thing at all as you can see from this live performance of Acid Country's lead single The Ladder's Bottom Rung (though don't look at the audience who all seem like they've ended up there by mistake...)
Mr Heaton will be promoting Acid Country with his second solo tour of 2010 and, as I said back in June, those attending will be chuffed to know that Paul has been playing a few Housemartins songs in his set for the first time in over 20 years. The Acid Country tour starts in Liverpool on the 20th September, winding up in Wexford, Ireland on the 8th October. Tickets are available now from Enjoy it you lucky swines.

Elsewhere Heaton is also the support for the evergreen Madness on their Do Not Adjust Your Nut tour from 26 November to 17 December. Madness were surprisingly wonderful when they toured Australia 18 months ago, so that's not a bad bill, even for a bit of a nostalgia show.

However if, like me, you can't make it to either tour then why not treat yourself to a bit of Heaton live, from his own kitchen table no less, with this acoustic version of I Do from his last album, the Cross Eyed Rambler

Paul's Solo Tour (Tickets on sale from

UK - September

· 20 - O2 Academy, Liverpool

· 21 - King Tuts, Glasgow

· 22 - O2 Academy, Newcastle

· 24 - O2 Academy, Manchester

· 25 - Thekla, Bristol

· 26 - Glee Club, Birmingham

· 28/29 - Borderline, London

· 30 - Leadmill, Sheffield

IRELAND - October

· 2 - SET Theatre, Kilkenny

· 3 - Ruby Rooms, Castelbar

· 5 - Cyprus Avenue, Cork

· 6 - Academy, Dublin

· 7 - Auntie Annie's, Belfast

· 8 - Arts Centre, Wexford

Paul’s new album Acid Country is out on 13 September 2010. For more details visit Paul's website at

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Suffrage Succotash

It would appear that the political u-bend impasse created out of last month's hung parliament in the Australian Federal election will finally be unblocked today as the kingmaker independent MPs show their hands. With the two Green affiliated members already siding with Labor it is now up to the three country independents - Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott - to decide who will form a minority government. By this evening we should know their answer.

Not only will this deliver us a government and relief from the endless hypothesising and second guessing by the media, but it should also curtail any further references to Windsor, Katter and Oakeshott as the Three Amigos. The sooner this trio make a decision and return to the shadows of the back benches the better for the good name of the actual
Three Amigos,
Lucky Day (Steve Martin), Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) and Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase).

Martin, Chase and Short: Never to be as funny again

I for one am not happy to have my heroes associated with this kind of political jiggery pokery and would like to carpae this particular diem to reclaim the good name of The Three Amigos by reliving some of their greatest moments through the glory of
¡You Tube!
  • My Little Buttercup - The willing-to-please Amigos entertain the confused locals at the town cantina with a little pat-a-cake vaudeville song and dance
  • Girl 1: "Which one do you like?" Girl 2: "I like the one that is not so smart" Girl 1: "which one is that?"
  • "would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?" El Guapo gets technical over vocabulary
  • Ned gets wasteful with his water canteen and lip balm whilst the others suffer in the heat of the desert

"Excuse us. We're Not Mexicans. We're from out of town."

  • Ned, Lucky and Dusty summon the invisible swordsman to disastrous affect
  • Flugelman "do you know what 'nada' means?" Dusty "Isn't that a light chicken gravy?"
  • "Gonna make it" - painful physical comedy brilliance from Martin as he attempts to escape his prison chains
  • "We all have our own personal El Guapo to face. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us" - Lucky inspires the troops with a rousing, confusing speech

"Seize Him!" - Lucky gets unlucky

  • Rosita: "I was thinking later you could kiss me on the verandah" Dusty: "lips will be fine"
  • The Amigos campfire singalong of Blue Shadows (On The Trail) accompanied by singing horses, dancing tortoises and shooting stars. Lovely
  • "we raped the horses ... and pruned the hedges of many small villages" - Dusty tries to bluff his way out of trouble with El Guapo
  • "Could it be that once again you are angry for something else, and you are taking it out on me?" - Jefe gets to the heart of his relationship with El Guapo

The "infamous" El Guapo receives a birthday sweater from his men

  • El Guapo "El Guapo only kills men. [the Amigos shuffle nervously] He does not kill crying women! [The Amigos let out a sigh of relief]
  • "I think it's a mail plane" - Ned forgets not to laugh at his own joke
  • "In-famous? Wow!" The Amigos receive a telegram regarding the infamous El Guapo
  • "Look Up Here" - Lucky tries in vain to secretively summon Ned and Dusty. (If you don't watch any other clip watch this one for a reminder of why Steve Martin used to be such a big star).

So Messrs Katter, Oakeshott and Windsor - your moment in the limelight is up. Time for you to face your El Guapo, make a call and then ride off into the sunset. Let's hope for all our futures that your decision making is a little better than that of your temporary namesakes. ¡Arriba!