Monthly Archives: March 2014


The first quarter final of Masterchef was on tonight and it all got a bit highly strung: Danny had over-salted his curry and was flapping around wailing “It’s too salty, it’s too salty!” Meanwhile Robert was throwing a wobbler over the compromising of his artistic vision in the palette test and someone had lost half their sauce. To which John Torode replied with the least genuine “Oh no” ever, while inwardly licking his lips for the added culinary peril. For the second test, a food critic was parachuted in to offer his appraisal on the contestants. Not literally unfortunately. The critic was understandably alarmed by Greg’s black and white ravioli and dared to offer lisping flavour maestro Robert a critique, which went down about as well as Nigel Farage at the passport office. Ah I like Robert though, he looked as though it meant the world to him to get through (with Danny) to the semi final. He obviously really cares about what he’s doing. A lisping lindy hop dance instructor with a dark side if you ever insult his resurrected retro recipes. And this is why I enjoy Masterchef.

White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

White Denim – Corsicana Lemonade

This Texas four piece create soul-tinged psychedelic rock (the best kind) a little reminiscent of the Black Keys, as are vocals of James Petralli .No bad thing. At Night in Dreams is my song of the moment and I am also predisposed to them for their name, being as I am a fan of denim’s most unforgiving yet seductive incarnation. Alas there seems to be no YouTube video of their full album of October last year, Corsicana Lemonade, but there is this taster playlist.

MO – No Mytholigies to Follow

MO – No Mytholigies to Follow

I’ve mentioned Mo a couple of times before in Off The Beaten Tracks and now that I have a brand spanking new laptop I can finally check out the debut album that I was so excited about. I’ve been mesmerised by her and her brand of sumptuous Scandi-pop ever since I saw her at a small stage at Latitude one July afternoon last year. The album doesn’t disappoint. I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe it and I can’t except to say that it is wonderful, magisterial electro-pop and I’m glad it’s in the world.

A change of look

The blog has returned – with a new name and look. As much as I enjoyed the intellectual brownie points I awarded myself for the last name, it was somewhat cumbersome and a name which needs explaining is not the one. So, it’s now NICO and is a lifestyle magazine and will be broadening its remit. The last theme suggested quirky and eccentric, this one is all soft gooey lilacs, but rest assured the writing will stay spiky. A lady can enjoy a lilac hue and still have an opinion. I hope you approve.

Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle

What a tortuous load of self-indulgent bollocks. Repetitive, pretentious and mystifyingly lauded by some quarters, this is the sort of thing that people want to like more than they actually do – like a comedy version of quinoa. The closest thing to a laugh that it engendered from me was an agonised sigh. What really stoked my ire was when he started his routine and gave the audience maddeningly specific instructions of exactly how to clap him in: “Three seconds of applause, like I’m halfway through the routine and have just said a mediocre bit.” What the hell? That’s a man drunk on his tiny little bit of power.

The thrust of his show was that racism was bad, so thanks for clearing that up. After that though, he proceeded to be… well, ok, not racist but strereotypical and snobbish about all Liverpudlians. This is a common thing in comedy: it’s ok to mock the poorer and disaffected if they are from our own country but not if they are from somewhere else. It is ok to denigrate the Scots – the joke about their biggest import to England being tramps is an old one – in a way that it’s not about say, the Polish. There’s a comedy shorthand: Norfolk + incest = easy laugh.

Lee says comedy audiences come to shows ready to laugh, which would explain how he gets them. He then said something about the comedian’s job is to decant laughter, like a surgeon or pig semen milker (another agonised sigh). I think a comedian’s job is just to make people laugh. He literally tells the audience to laugh. He’s lucky that the type of people who would pay to see him are forgiving: if I had paid to see his show and he told me exactly how and how long to laugh for, without actually making me laugh, I would find it very difficult to resist launching some sort of projectile at him.

Lee is speaking to a very particular set of assumptions which creates a shorthand in which he doesn’t actually need to make jokes. It’s laughter from guilt rather than mirth. He says a neutral statement and the audience make their own jokes from their own Guardian-primed preconceptions. Some might call it clever, I call it lazy.

Only people with too much money would pay to see a comedian who isn’t actually funny and makes them do the work themselves; it’s like going to see Lady Gaga and being expected to don a rotting, putrid meat dress yourself. That’s not what entertainers are for.

I also took umbrage with his hair.

Off the Beaten Tracks

Joan as Policewoman – The Classic. Boastful title for satisfying modern doo wop ditty.

Michael Kiwanuke – You’ve Got Nothing to Lose. Didn’t get his critically acclaimed first album but his voice is smoother and more mature on this beauty, which is produced by Jack White, no less. From the EP of the same name.

Joe Goddard feat. Valentina – Gabriel. Played on radio today and reminded me what a massive tune it is.

Lykke Li – Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone. The artist behind one of the best albums in recent years as far as I’m concerned – Wounded Rhymes – is back with this single from new album I Never Learn, which drops in May. I love her fragile, raw soprano and her tunes are always so affecting. Today, an unfortunate photo of her in the Evening Standard led me to think it was Tim Minchin at first glance. Whoops!

MO – Don’t Wanna Dance. More songs from MO as really rate her – this time immediately infectious, dancey pop. I don’t like Scandi police procedurals but I flipping love their music. Album out Monday, I want it, I want it, I want it!!

A few self-absorbed ones that sum up my predicament at the moment:

Gwen Guthrie – Ain’t Nothing Going’ on but the Rent

Toots and the Maytals – Pressure Drop

Thought for the Day

After a week of more high-calibre than usual nonsense from the streets of Archway, which included a woman screaming at the top of her lungs about a stolen ipod, screaming threats and abuse at 8am on a Monday morning and a man banging on the front door of my mansions to scream about (including but not limited to) lemon cake and kidneys, prompted me to have this thought… Why don’t people ever lose their minds quietly? I don’t mean to be flippant or unsympathetic to mental illness, but why does a psychotic break prompt a need for the entire neighbourhood to be disturbed and know about it? I’ve lived in London my entire life and the amount of crazy people on the streets is incredible. It’s all very well for authorities to release them, they probably don’t have to encounter them on a daily basis where they live. It’s not fair on the person who is unwell and needs care, and it’s not fair on the people that are frightened and disturbed by them. On the same thread why do the voices in the head of schizophrenics never say anything nice like: have a cup of tea and calm down, or call your Mum?

Superstar Dogs

This show had its last bark yesterday evening, with tiny terrier tornado Smurf rushing his way to victory. What a clever boy. I hope all the contestants involved enjoyed themselves- I was looking out for waggy tails, but didn’t see as many as I’d have liked. Quite a few of the dogs slipped on the obstacle course, so if they do another series maybe they should use a different ground to make it easier – I wouldn’t want any of them getting hurt.

BBC Two’s got in on the act now with Sport Relief’s Top Dog on weekdays at 6.30pm. This show had the added bonus of featuring Winnie, a hilariously intractable miniature dachshund, in one episode. It was obvious who wore the (tiny) trousers in the relationship between Winnie and her human, an alleged “celebrity.” One game involved her sitting in a circle while various temptations were paraded past her. She went after the ball. She went after the bigger ball. She definitely went after the chicken on a motorised toy truck. She fared better on the obstacle course, throwing herself into it with admirable abandon for such a diminutive being. It was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. She didn’t run as her legs were too short to bend, so she just sort of pitched back and forth gaily. It was delightful to watch. Mini dachshunds are an inherently absurd looking creature, through nature and breeding: they have stumpy little legs, flappy ears and an over long sausagey body and yet they still strut around like they’re the bees knees (or indeed, even have workable knees, which I’m not sure they do). I can’t help but love them for this, they know they look silly but what they lack in gravitas and stature they more than make up for in character and pride, heads held high. I must get me a Winnie, I would never be bored again.

An Hour to Save Your life

This show (Tuesday, BBC Two, 9pm) was graphic, gripping and visceral TV. 30 year old Rumen had been hit by a car, tossed in the air and landed on the curb. He’d broken both legs so badly the bone’s sticking out, a fact the camera doesn’t flinch from. In fact it zooms in on in this anatomical atrocity and lingers on the excruciatingly wrong angles of his feet rather longer than is comfortable. 66 year old farmer Bill has been crushed against a wall by a 650kg cow. 29 year old Zoe has had a heart attack in the middle of Oxford Street. We follow the doctors and paramedics as they battle to save their lives and keep them as close to how they were before the trauma. Zoe’s body is cooled down to prevent brain damage, Rumen’s legs are set back into place at the roadside to prevent him losing his feet. You couldn’t help but deeply respect everyone involved – the energy it must take to stay calm and make the right decisions in intense, frightening situations like that is something I can’t even contemplate. It would take a heart of pure flint not to shed a tear at the end when the trauma victims talked about their experiences and thanked those involved in saving them. But it was all a bit unbearably real for me. I think I’ll stick to Holby City in future.

Rewarding Idiocy

A story that caught my eye this week was a teacher who received £230,000 compensation for slipping on a ketchup packet. The only thing I can say about this is that it is the opposite of Darwinism. To avoid this happening, look down. What hope do the children of Essex have if they are being taught by someone who can’t avoid a mishap on an errant sauce packet?  If I slipped on a ketchup packet, I’d be embarrassed – I wouldn’t have the gall to ask for compensation years later, a few days before the deadline, which would take money away from education.  This incident was part of a story about Essex County Council giving away £1 million in compensation to hapless teachers, including one who slipped on the same wet floor twice in one day. I’ll say it again, just look down. If you’ve slipped on one wet floor that day, don’t walk on it again. Simples. Sometimes shit just happens and there’s no one to blame (except maybe yourself). I think you can only blame someone else if the accident was absolutely unavoidable. There is nothing unavoidable about a ketchup packet, it is tiny in comparison to a school corridor, there were plenty of other places he could have walked. (I don’t know why I assume said teacher is male as I don’t think the sex was specified, but I just do. Sorry.)

Now excuse me while I go on the hunt for a discarded banana skin so I can sue Archway Council.