Friday, May 30, 2008

Silverfuck: The Smashing Pumpkins



I've posted a couple of contemporary American alt-rock band Smashing Pumpkins' videos on the Wasteland before: 'Quiet' and 'Cherub Rock' as I recall, both excellent songs from the band's breakthrough (and in my opinion, best) album, Siamese Dream, released in 1993. The video above is a live version of 'Silverfuck', an epic near-9 minuter taken from the same album. Though a strong recorded track in itself, this live version demonstrates why the Pumpkins are perhaps one of the most important and influential rock bands of the 90s, alongside the likes of Nirvana, R.E.M and Radiohead.

For one, the song has a punk aesthetic - the ear-ripping speed of the opening sustained riff combined with the heavily distorted, wailing guitar pieces further in - but at the same time it is sparing and deftly composed. Where punk was about aggressive excess and a certain haphazardness, 'Silverfuck' achieves this feeling whilst also revealing a taut concision, particularly in the middle section, where the glitteringly improvised looping guitar provides a dream-like juxtaposition to Corgan's piercing, anguished vocals. In such a musical onslaught, and particularly before the deconstructive - and ultimately destructive - crescendo and breakdown of the song, it is apt that Corgan repeats the opening refrain of 'Over the Rainbow', just one of the Pumpkins live 'additions' that reveals their sense of humour, as well their skill as entertainers.

Unfortunately, this particular live version of the song cuts out slightly early, but for those who are interested, there are numerous other versions available online, from various eras of the band's career.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Just One Question: Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell

With the Hay Festival in full swing the Guardian have devised an interesting little article that I guess must appear in one of the paper's supplements today (almost always reading the Guardian online means I've pretty much forgotten the format of the thing). The gist of it is as follows: one 'sharp and intelligent mind' from the festival asks another just one question, and the responses (as indeed the questions) vary from the insightful and illuminating to the downright ridiculous and hilarious. See Will Self's question to Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire on the ancient aurochs of Chatsworth, for example.

Anyway, here's poet and novelist Simon Armitage showing his northern roots, questioning fellow poet Glyn Maxwell:

Armitage: Q. Where's that 20 quid I loaned you in Reykjavik?

Maxwell: A. I put it all on Londoners one day electing Boris Johnson to run their city. We're millionaires, man.

Sad but true. What bookie would've given any less than million-to-one odds on such an occurrence back in '94? Mind you, I suppose John Major was PM...


NB. In other news, my critical perspective of Simon Armitage's work is now up on the British Council's Contemporary Writers database. Find it here.