14th of February: Bad Day for a Comeback

Look, I know it’s been a while, and I’m sorry. I was super-ill, and then I was out in the countryside, and TBH I lost track of which blog I was supposed to be posting which Sunday. I’m back now, though. Naturally, I’m back on Valentine’s Day and also the much-awaited release of Kanye’s new album day (listening to it now innit). So if you’re reading this today I’m questioning your decisions on a number of levels. That said, thanks for your loyalty and that.

Song of the week* should be off The Life of Pablo really, but it’s exclusive on Tidal (fuming I actually subscribed [for a free trial]) and I haven’t quite absorbed it (good so far imo). So instead, blast from the (my) past. I don’t think Mando Diao ever really made it to the UK, but they were big for me around 17/18. This song has two separate chord changes that still get me and some absolutely nonsense lyrics.

Bonus! The only video on Youtube is from their super-weird MTV Unplugged DVD that I almost bought for a birthday gift until I realised that it was like £25 and no crush is worth that much. Good jackets though.

*I know I don’t normally do one with these posts, I’m not quite sure why I created that precedent

What a Carve Up! ~ Jonathan Coe


I wavered on this book for about a hundred words in the middle (mostly because I had just bought a war book in a Kindle sale and it was pressing on my mind – more to follow) and then was ultimately gripped through to the end.

An early 1990s satire of the UK’s elites, born into money and taking over the various fields they choose to go into, Coe’s Carve-Up is amusing enough, but I think it might have been a lot funnier when it was written. Reading it now, it feels like the jokes are stale and all of the new absurdities he’s highlighting are just reality as I know it, if not well out-dated. The book is set just before the outbreak of the First Gulf War, and much like in Iain Banks’ work, as a child of the Second Gulf War, I’m always slightly perplexed at the dramatics early 90s authors manage to cram into Desert Storm. Coe also takes aim at bankers (ooooh), the media (aaaaah) and …. art dealers and industrial farmers. The last two aside, it’s very much “any episode of Mock the Week you find on Dave”. The farming chapter is genuinely upsetting, though in the same way “living with vegetarians(vegans for a month)” was, so I was slightly impervious.

The actual plot centres on a slightly damaged author chap, and he’s charming enough, although it took me a fair while to care about him, and then he’s rudely Farewell to Arms-ed. Essentially, he’s hired to write the story of a nasty rich family, the afore-mentioned elites the book takes aim at, and the book jumps around chronologically through his life, their lives, and the lives of others their paths have crossed.

It’s alright if your Dad buys it in a charity shop and gives it to you to read on the train, I guess. That’s the score I’d give it.

Between the World and Me ~ Ta-Nehisi Coates


It’s very hard to write anything of interest about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World And Me. Partly because the dust has settled on the thinkpiece back-and-forth that met its release, so there’s not so much of a ready-made debate to plug into. Partly because I’m a white English bloke, so there are limits as to what I have to offer in the way of useful commentary.

It’s beautiful and powerful stuff. Much more lyrical than most of his work at The Atlantic, it occasionally seems to try and move you beyond what the simple evocation of horrible facts would do. This is likely down to the framing device – Coates writes the book as a letter to his son. As well as his searing critique of structural racism in the States, there is memoir, and meditations on fatherhood, and more poetry than usual.

While it’s not a long book, I think it’s one that could probably benefit from re-reading, as it’s dense and heavy going. I’ve linked to excerpts in the blog before, I can’t imagine you’ll dislike it if you’ve liked his previous work.

Why The Allies Won ~ Richard Overy


When will I learn that good books don’t have Niall Ferguson quotes on the cover?

Richard Overy’s Why The Allies Won isn’t bad, to be fair. Presented as a sort of myth-buster, taking an overall view of the Second World War to challenge conventional wisdom on the factors behind Allied victory. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to think it was inevitable, and I think one of the great successes of the book is essentially being a long “Actually…” but in a very valuable way. Popular mono-causal explanations for the outcome of WW2 are challenged with simple historical logic – if Hitler’s bad decisions were what lost the war, why did they bring victory for the first two years? If simple production capacity was what made victory inevitable, why wasn’t the Axis able to capitalise on the period where it had almost all of Europe’s production at its disposal? It occasionally strays into strawman territory, but the explanations he’s challenging are widespread enough that I don’t think he’s ever too unfair.

The main issue, I think, is a general repetitiveness. In part due to a tendency to over-summarise in a very “in the previous part we have seen x, we will now look at y.” kind of way, and in part just because everything he’s talking about is interconnected, there’s a slight tendency to cover similar ground several times in each part. Coupled with a fairly boring writing style, and it just became a bit of a drag.

Nevertheless, I’m quite glad I read it, I think, just because it soothes my general contrarian nature to be able to think “nah mate that’s a widespread misconception based on faulty reasoning” whenever I hear someone being wrong, and this fed that. It was just a bit boring.

And I know, I know, I can hear you, my girlfriend, my parents, and my librarian saying the same thing – “have you considered reading books that aren’t about WW2 you sound like you’re getting sick of them tbh mate”. First off, no. Second, tanks are good*. Third, I’m currently writing a standalone review post of a World War Two book series which was excellent, so there.

On the other hand, I’m now reading a book on the Eastern Front that is honestly sapping my will to live. Swings and roundabouts I guess.


*found out Airfix models of tanks are really cheap so that’s a dangerous discovery, especially as Amazon algorithms are now chasing me around the internet with £6 Sherman offers

18th of October: Bad and/or Tory Books

It’s no wonder I’m not reading as many books when they’re all like this. Let’s get right to it.

Wings – The RAF at War, 1912-2012

I feel like a bit of an idiot. I once saw Dead Aid had a cover quote by Niall Ferguson and kept reading, and not having learnt my lesson, I just finished reading a book with an endorsement from James Delingpole.

Wings, by Patrick Bishop, is bad on a number of levels. It’s structurally flawed, purporting to be a history of the RAF from 1912 to 2012 but essentially just recounting its experiences in the World Wars and then dispensing with sixty years in about as many pages. As history, it is consequently pretty shallow, never really affording anything the time and consideration it deserves. As a consequence of that, it becomes morally really rather flat and stupid.

In particular, I think any work that touches on the role of the RAF during the Second World War can’t avoid addressing the morality of strategic bombing. Bomber Command was such a significant part of what the air war involved that it can’t be ignored. However, I think I would have rather Bishop hadn’t bothered. His assessment of the morality of strategic bombing and of those who criticised it is breathtakingly patronising and weak, and worth quoting in full just to marvel at it.

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“proof of the brutalizing consequences” indeed.

This is resolutely not the book to read if you want to be challenged on your feelings on Dresden, etc. – A.C. Grayling and Max Hastings (also Tory) have both published better work on it, with divergent perspectives.

This doesn’t fit into my unfolding critique device here, but it’s also a pretty Tory book. Military history is obviously pretty Tory, and you have to sort of take it as it is, but even within those limits, there has to be some sort of limit to the amount of times you can unironically refer to “the natives” in a serious work of history? And when your prose sounds like it could have been lifted from a Times editorial lionising the RAF on the anniversary of the Battle of Britain or something, take a look in the mirror, tbh.

Even when the prose isn’t politically nauseating, it’s pretty bad. At one point, he refers to a contemporary account as being written in purple prose and you have to sort of put the book down and go for a walk and just consider the cheek of it.

It takes a lot to stop me enjoying stories about bombs and soldiers and that. But this is A Bad Book. Shallow, badly written, morally suspect, and worst of all: Tory.

Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West’s Afghan Campaign – Sherard Cowper-Cowles

Not been a great week for books, tbh. This one isn’t brilliant, either.

Essentially the memoirs of the former UK Ambassador to Afghanistan / Special Representative for Af-Pak, it’s sort of limited in a few ways.

Firstly, it’s not brilliantly written. Either I got used to it or he dialled it down, but the early chapters are burdened with try-hard description, suggesting Cowles was very keen to be Writerly and Literary, and ended up just a bit lame.

As history, I think it’s probably limited by the author’s proximity in time to events (it was written about a year after he left Afghanistan) and also his direct role in them – there’s a frequent sense of him trying to hedge his bets whenever he wants to criticise something or answer for failings of UK policy which is a bit unsatisfying. It’s a very name-droppy book, which is to be expected, as he was in frequent personal contact with Presidents and ministers but there’s no real bite to it. I kind of wanted him to, at least once, go “Yeah the US Ambassador in 2010 was a right bellend”, and he never did – which I guess is what makes him a diplomat.

It is in that last bit that I found the most value in the book, really. While its portrayal of the war and of the discussions etc. etc. might be a bit dishonest/very dishonest/idk, I think there is a fascinating insight into the struggles of this sort of high-stakes diplomacy and the day-to-day life in an embassy that I really enjoyed so now I just kind of need the Foreign Office to give us a ring, really. I’m waiting on the call.

2nd of November: Record-Breaker

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is that there is no way you won’t find something in this week’s list that interests you. The bad news is that that’s because there are fifty-odd links today. I’m not sure why I all of a sudden started reading so much, especially as this was the week in which I downloaded an app to shame me into reading more books and frittering away less of my time. Oh well.

This was also the week in which Taylor Swift’s 1989 was released on iTunes, which is such an unwieldy piece of software that I was late to class because of it. Also because I don’t care, admittedly. However, I will not burden you all with a song off it as that’d be too obvious – I’ve already got about a dozen articles about it down the bottom of the list.

Song of the week is, just because I’m listening to it at the moment and having a bit of a nostalgic moment, November Rain. Watching the video while listening is compulsory.

Long, over-indulgent song, in an over-long intro, for an over-long blog? Brilliant.

I wrote a thing this week! Not NATO Council anymore, but I wrote up a talk by Professor Keohane I attended at the LSE.

  • Good look at how ISIS exploits tribal divisons

  • This piece on Obama administration diplomacy re: Iraq has some great little anecdotes

  • Even though I find the media’s fetishization of them a bit odd, this is a great feature (FR) on the female Kurdish militias

  • An overview of external interventions in Libya recently

  • Strong argument (FR) against “political solutions” to terrorism

  • Dan Drezner tries to understand the latest outbreak of US-Israeli (hilarious) pettiness

  • Examination of lone-wolf terrorism

  • Review of a damning book on the conduct of the war in Afghanistan.

  • Dilma won, and the Brazilian right are already trying to get her impeached. A look at why the election was so divisive, and an explanation of why she won. Also, some general interesting observations on the election.

  • Good piece on how the “Churchill” model of leadership haunts British politics

  • Fascinating look at how broadly black identity was defined in the UK. Sort of writing I only really see coming from the States, would love recommendations of UK-centric stuff.

  • Philippe Marlière tackles the myth of British generosity to asylum seekers

  • Speaking of which, a great (slightly old now) feature on the seat Nigel Farage is going to target at the next election

  • Also from the LRB, this is a really interesting history of Islam by Tariq Ali, introduced by a beautiful little autobiographical tale

  • A look at the future for Burkina Faso from Al Jazeera and Africa is a Country, as well as this delightfully pointed letter (FR) from President Hollande to (now-ex) President Compaoré

  • Almost dystopian (Kelsey Atherton compared it to Warhammer 40K when he shared it) but fascinating feature, touching on so many problems, piece on Californian prisoners working as volunteer firefighters.

  • An optimistic piece on Ebola? Surely not.

  • Very interesting interview about rethinking the way we design cities, taking, but of course, Latin America as an example

  • Terrifying piece (FR) on Boko Haram’s latest attack

  • This is a long, moving, intelligent, thoughtful, upsetting essay on dealing with grief – I had to read it in several sittings both because of the length and the subject matter but I highly recommend making the effort

  • Sober reaction to the Virgin Galactic crash Friday

  • Beautiful little piece on Egypt’s revolution

  • What is dehumanisation, and how does it enable atrocities?

  • I had assumed this sort of thing was an algorithm – turns out there are poorly-paid people dealing with ‘reported’ content on social media.

  • Long feature on how Louisiana is fading into the sea and the political, environmental, and cartographical implications of this

  • Two on abuse of women online – one an account, and the other a call to stand up to trolls

  • Very good feature on how China is causing concern in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • This is funny on ‘The Secret Fantasies of Adults’

  • Also funny but kind of not on the pictures used to illustrate overpopulation stories

  • Surreal feature on ‘Uber but for not-quite-escorts’

  • ICYMI, J.K. Rowling wrote a thing about Umbridge. The bit beneath where she explains where the character came from is more interesting TBH. Mostly sharing because it reminded me of “’The ministry has fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming.”, ie the best quote in the whole series.

  • The Chuckle Brothers are having a moment and it’s amazing
  • This game looks fascinating but horrific – great review

  • Still haven’t played Metal Gear Solid 3 but this is such a great piece anyway

  • Very interesting look at different treatments of sex in RPGs

  • Proof that Gamergate (ugh) is winning – Anita Sarkeesian got invited onto The Colbert Report. Performs very well, too.

  • Right, we’re approaching the Taylor Swift segment. This is technically a Swift piece but I think it’s broaderly [sic] relevant on how we dismiss music without understanding where it’s coming from.

  • Here goes *deep breath*. Jezebel on how dude-heavy reviews of 1989 have been. Reviews from NPR, Vulture, Grantland, The Guardian* . Review from Slate is actually very interesting despite a stupid gimmick. Delightfully keen ‘conversation‘ on 1989. On Swift’s persona. On her use of social media**. This is on Red but it’s interesting. Vox did a cool live-blog (dude-heavy). The Guardian did a roundup of pieces on it, some of which I may not have linked to (doubtful). And… *exhale*

That’s all! Just under the thousand-word-mark. Have a lovely week. x

*though not a fan of the dig at Lana

**which is undeniably skilful but I’m actually finding quite annoying – my Tumblr is now even more adolescent than it was when I just followed my sister on there

HBO’s The Pacific: Review

Image courtesy of HBO Canada

So following the D-Day commemorations, the excellent Stephen Saideman got to wondering why the Pacific theatre of World War Two, and by association, the HBO miniseries The Pacific, are far less acknowledged than the European theatre and Band of Brothers. This prompted me to finally get around to watching The Pacific – I watched the first episode last year with Daniel, but as is inevitable when you commit to watching something with a specific person, we never found the time to watch the rest.

I finished it in about a week, and kept notes all the way through. I’ve collected those episode-by-episode notes in a Tumblr post here, unvarnished and incoherent, here, if you want. This can also serve as my job application for the AV Club.

For a more coherent take, read on.

Continue reading

February 2nd: Reading List

So back when I was still on Live Journal and much better at blogging than I am these days, I did one of those “stuff I’ve read” this week blogs that I kept up for several months. Inspired both by Stavvers’ excellent version of this same idea, and my good friend Charlie’s general flurry of online activity I’ve decided to try and do one of these again as a substitute for original content. Also, in the absence of any real expertise in any thing that would make this blog worth reading, I figure I can leverage something that I am actually pretty good at – reading a whole bunch of articles on tangential subjects from different sources. Hopefully at least one post per week will be super interesting to at least one of you, and if so, then that’s cool I guess.

Of course the issue here is that it’s Sunday and I decided to do this two hours ago and so don’t remember what I’ve read. I refuse to fuck with the chronology of this and do it every Tuesday or some shit. Conversely, I know that if I wait until next Sunday I will have lost all drive to write it. So this week, I’ll provide some general recommendations for sites as well as any articles I can find in my Pocket* archive that I loved. I’m going to try and do a mildly organised theme to this though the sections are likely to shift and split more than an amoeba, so we’ll see.**

Popular Culture

The AV Club: I visit this site several times a day for one simple reason. The TV Club post really, really good recaps/reviews of most of the TV programs I watch almost the minute they come out. Moreover, there are good odds that they have archived articles on older shows, or even better, an explicitly over-thinking kind of “rewatch” blog (there’s currently one running for Mad Men which has really tempted me to get back into it). I have always felt a strange compulsion to read reviews and analyses of media I consume almost the minute I put it down, so this is a godsend to me. It’s gotten to the weird point where I enjoy a series less if I know the AV Club don’t have articles on it (Lost pre-end of Season 3, The Wire pre-Season 5, Fresh Meat (all of it) and generally a large proportion of UK TV). Worse, I sometimes find myself itching to read the review before I’ve even finished watching the episode just to make sense of what I’ve just seen. My pathological need to be told how to feel aside, the reviews are generally excellent. It is to the site’s immense credit that it generally discusses the How I Met Your Mothers or Big Bang Theorys of the world with a similar level of seriousness to Mad Men or The Sopranos. Sometimes it can feel like attributing too much depth and intent to light-hearted comedies***, but it enables the writers to bring all their knowledge of the context and history of TV to bear in elucidating what makes these series work. Even the comments are broadly tolerable.

Rock Paper Shotgun: I found this site by accident a couple of months ago, and it is now another that I check for updates regularly, despite really not being interested in most of them. It’s a PC-gaming focused website, and with that comes a lot of news about games I don’t care about and never will, a fair bit of hardware talk, and other stuff that I don’t want to read. However, I keep coming back because their features and reviews are utterly brilliant. Much like The AV Club recaps, the Wot I Think reviews are really interesting takes on games that, despite hitting a lot of the “gameplay,graphics,sound” beats that other reviews do, seem to elevate them much further, taking games completely seriously. The features are generally excellent too. Of special note is their Sunday Papers posts**** (another inspiration for this feature), which collects their favourite writing on games from the week. And they do collect some fucking fantastic writing with really out-there, intelligent, quite radical takes on video-games, that, again, take it seriously.

Now for some actual articles!

This, from Brendan Vance, who I suspect I found through the Sunday Papers, is provocative and quite interesting.  Most of his blogs on game design philosophy and stuff are worth checking out if you’re into videogames.

“It’s gotten weird, people, and it’s getting weirder. “

This, on the other hand, is much less light-hearted and fun and more upsetting, sad but with a tiny bit of optimism-maybe. It’s a longish read from Dorian Lynskey about anti-fascist groups and hip hop in Greece and Golden Dawn and that whole situation is kind of fucked and at its heart there’s just a really sad story of a guy who seemed like a good guy getting murdered. Nevertheless, well worth the read.

Foreign Policy/Defence

To be honest I don’t really know what to call this section – if I did I might know what I am academically interested in and what to pursue as a career, but that’s a whine for another blog. Basically I could see this one just becoming politics, but a lot of my reading these days does happen on a specifically IR/military sort of area, with a distinctly US-centric (which admittedly for this kind of thing isn’t as bad as it sounds since they matter a lot).

One of the best sources of clear-headed, realist (in the academic sense), writing from people who generally know their shit is War on the Rocks. It’s almost weird to me when I look at my old LJ blog and think of the bolshie teenager that I used to be that today I am highly recommending a blog with a large proportion of serving or former US military personnel advocating different ways for the US to maintain its power but there you go. It is, at the very least, a welcome antidote to all the utterly vacuous thinking on international relations you get in the UK press (from the left’s knee-jerk anti-Americanism absent any real analysis or alternative, to the right’s tediously predictable empty call for interventions absent any real detail or planning beyond moralising and smugness).

Speaking of which, this is one of the better Syria pieces I have read in a while.

“Why assume U.S. military aid will be a “magic bullet” given the apparent evidence of our poor aim to date?”

Strikes me as quite an important point, given that the failure to get any backing for direct military involvement seems to have given rise to a push to increase lethal aid to the opposition.

John Mearsheimer is one of my favourite IR theorists at the moment (what a dick sentence) and this essay by him is one of those really nice expressions of a man’s thinking that also makes a whole lot of sense as a suggestion for the USA. I’ve lifted the conclusion so you can get a sense of what that thinking is.

“None of this is to say the United States should become isolationist or ignore its position in the global balance of power. On the contrary, it should make sure it remains the most powerful country on the planet, which means making sure a rising China does not dominate Asia the way the United States dominates the Western Hemisphere. It should also use force when core strategic interests are threatened. But Washington should stop intervening in the politics of countries like Egypt and Syria and more generally abandon its interventionist strategy of global domination, which has led to unending trouble. We might then begin to restore the tarnished liberal-democratic principles that once made America truly exceptional and widely admired.”

I like how it balances reluctance to intervene like the neo-cons/liberal internationalists who dominate these days do, with the commitment to maintaining US hegemony. Quite a nice balance. Again, as a former diehard anti-imperialist lad, I don’t quite know what the fuck led me to be OK with an author advocating continued US hegemony but there you go. Rather them than China, anyway.

Finally, for a more light-hearted***** piece, this, from Foreign Policy about portable tactical nukes is a really nicely-presented (finally coming round to the redesign) report, a la Snowfall, on a completely fucking surreal technology and period in recent history and just generally it’s mad.

“NATO allies, particularly West Germany, were understandably apprehensive about the idea of U.S. forces lighting off scores of small nuclear weapons on their territory.”

Imagine that as a serious sentence. Baffling. But you know, real, and fascinating.

Other shit

Finally, because sometimes stuff doesn’t fit anywhere else, the overflow section.

This piece (Buzzfeed doing well today, despite their having recently revived those god-awful quizzes we used to do in high school on the old Facebook) from a few weeks back is really weird. It sort of toes this line where there’s a real danger it’ll turn out to be a really self-indulgent story by some gentrifying hipster dickhead but never quite gets there and so remains just a really unique interesting and quite uplifting story. Also because Detroit and the wholesale decline of a massive, massive city is a kind of fascinating tragedy to watch.

This, from the AV Club, but not a TV article is just weird and surreal and a bit wonderful.

And there we have it. 1500 words is far too long, so sorry about that, but there was establishing and stuff that needed done this week, so it’ll get snappier as it goes on.

*one of my favourite apps out there. With the addition of a little button in my browser taskbar it solves both the problem of too many articles queued up clogging up my tabs, and the eternal quest for stuff to read when I’m offline.

**I feel like a more professional blogger would have done all this stuff mentally instead of showing the gears of it all to you but there you go

***I say this largely to deflect any judgement and hostility, but to be honest, the programs that have had the most emotional impact on me have tended to be frothy sitcoms anyway. How I Met Your Mother has reduced me to tears on a number of occasions and I’m increasingly anxious about the imminent series finale in March.

****see what I’ve done there is actually link you to the Sunday Papers tag so you can see all of the past posts. Aren’t I great?

*****as light-hearted as you can really be while discussing nuclear fucking war I guess.

Out and About in London: 06/02/2012: Gilby Clarke @ The Underworld, Camden

Gilby Clarke

Gilby Clarke today

My route to university on the days I don’t have a Travelcard takes me past the Undeworld, what I take to be quite a famous metal venue/nightclub with pop and indie nights (seriously.). Generally, I hardly spare it a glance, expecting the windows to be full of bands with names and posters that I can only hope are tongue-in-cheek. And, when I saw the poster of a dark-haired man with an angry face making the horns at the camera, I thought it was just another metal band. Then I saw the name – Gilby Clarke.

When Izzy Stradlin left Guns N’ Roses in 1991, Gilby Clarke replaced him on tour for three years. That’s about the extent of my familiarity with him – he makes frequent appearances in Slash’s autobiography around that period. Nonetheless, this was an opportunity to tick another Guns member off the list – two and counting. I think I might have listened to one or two songs of his before buying the tickets. I bought them well in advance however, and had time to Spotify his debut album Pawn Shop Guitars quite extensively, and thought it was a very solid album. Not only was it going to be a good night in terms of being within one degree of separation of Slash and Axl, but, it turned out, it was going to be a good gig anyway.

I’d never been to the Underworld as a music venue, only as a nightclub. However, it’s a great venue for rock – all black, in the basement, in a sort of pit, the stage not too high up. It certainly feels very intimate. Drinks were, as ever, a fortune. However, as they gave me a re-entry stamp, I was able to nip to Sainsbury’s, and then nip home to pick up my phone, only missing five minutes of one of the support acts. Just one of the many delights of living in Camden.

There were three support acts. The first one don’t appear on the website and I didn’t catch their name, but were quite standard pub-rock types. Quite enjoyable music, but little in the way of variation. And the singer was dressed as a pirate.

Next up, Guns 2 Roses, the band I missed a bit of – unfortunately, as they were fantastic. I’m always sceptical of Guns N’ Roses covers, as I feel Axl has one of those inimitable voices, and, sure enough, the singer wasn’t quite there at all times. Nonetheless, the band were really good, the singer had real energy (he had the Axl dances down pat) and this was when the room really started to come into its own. There was a really good atmosphere and lots of energy – I finally understand the point of tribute acts.  Only slight sticking point was the dancers during Paradise City, their closing song. Out of nowhere, they brought up a young blonde woman in little more than fishnets and underwear to dance sexily on stage. It was probably in character, not that the Guns attitude to women was anything to live by, but it just seemed quite cheap. Not that I mind cheap blondes (ahem) but even without putting on my feminist hat, it sat poorly with me.

Touring with Gilby are Swedish band Badmouth, who, to be honest, I thought were the weakest act of the night. Hard rock is a genre that invites cliché, and while usually I don’t mind, I found it grated here, perhaps because of the lack of anything particularly interesting about the band itself, the lead singer’s glorious hair aside. They also kept doing the “everybody clap” thing, which needs to die. It’s just an awkward idea, which will inevitably end up in out-of-time noise, with everyone unsure how long to keep clapping. It also demoralises the musician, I find – when you don’t get a response from the audience, it’s a downer, and it’s not pleasant to inflict that on a band.

Finally, at about ten, out swaggered Gilby. I hadn’t seen him for twenty years, so didn’t quite recognise him at first. The set-up was pretty amateurish, which I didn’t mind – having Gilby come out and fiddle with amplifiers and pedals for five minutes in plain sight was quite endearing. The broken snare drum later on was handled with similar professionalism, which one of the boring people behind me complained about, but again, quite endearing.

The music was fantastic – very tight playing. Gilby was the rhythm guitarist with Guns, but he has a really distinctive lead style, even on Guns covers, with plenty of attack. I can’t really comment too much on the setlist as I only knew his debut album, but it wasn’t monotonous like the first band, and had all my favourite songs on it, so I was pleased.

If only he had played to an empty room. I think the intimacy of club gigs when compared to stadiums and the like is a double-edged sword in some ways. You can’t heckle in a crowd of a hundred thousand.  The idiots who make requests for songs are far more obnoxious when they’re not diluted. And then there’s the unavoidables. Obnoxious people directly surrounding you. Mosh pits. The cameraphones. Moshpits. I seriously can’t describe how much I despise mosh pits. I missed a good portion of Tijuana Jail because I was busy not getting hit in the face, and then I lost my place near the front for the encore.

In conclusion, though, it was a great night. Now to seek out Velvet Revolver – three Guns with one stone!