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The Good Soldier Švejk and his Fortunes in the World War
The Good Soldier Švejk and his Fortunes in the World War
by Jaroslav Hasek
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Beg to report, sir, I was found to be feeble-minded, 3 May 2014
Lots of blather this centenary year about The Great War already, and not all of it that Great, to be honest. If you want the highly unofficial low-rent gutter view of the bloodbath, as written by a drunken anarchist nutcase who was actually in it, this is the real deal. Low on Honour, Valour, Heroism &c but exceedingly high on stupidity, shagging, skiving, brutality, gambling, arsing about and truly epic boozing. It is brilliant. The Austrians officers are jingo cretins, the priests are drunks, sadists, crooks or all three, the Czechs and the Magyars hate and batter the bejaysus each other, and they’re all meant to be on the same side. Dogs are stolen, respectable gentlemen are repeatedly kicked down the stairs, luckless peasants get their livestock robbed and all the while there’s the shambolic but inexorable creep towards the Front to be slaughtered for the notional Glory of a farce of an Empire that long since passed its sell by date. Roughly half way between Spike Milligan and Catch-22, but looser, loonier and more chaotic and subversive than either.


Rip It Up
Rip It Up

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original Indie Kids, 12 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Rip It Up (Audio CD)
This is a wonderful, wonderful record. It has been pretty much unavailable for years - this is the first time in ages it has been available on CD and I've been making do with a second hand vinyl copy for the last two decades. In the Official Sound of Young Scotland / Postcard / Edwyn Collins history, this and the third album seem to have been relegated to the unfortunate Major Label period with chin-stroking critical opinion favouring the early singles and "You Can't Hide Your Love Forever". Heretically, though, this is my favourite version of Orange Juice. The songs and the playing are so sharp, and the smarts and slickness add rather than detract. There's a lovely African High Life feel to a lot of the numbers, but done with a featherlight touch. "Hokoyo", "Flesh Of My Flesh", 80s student disco hardy perennial "Rip It Up" and the peerless "I Can't Help Myself" still sound marvellous and uplifting even at 30 years remove. For a band often credited and blamed for subsequent waves of fey shambling incompetent Indie Kids with floppy fringes, they execute some pretty nifty funky turns and soulful touches.

Edwyn's done a load of great records over the years but this is the one I always come back to. If nothing else, for the hilarious and ingenious way he references the Buzzcocks lyrically and musically in the title track. Only the most charming man in Scotland could get away with that. Even David Tennant would struggle ...


Never Mind the Bollocks: Here's the Sex Pistols
Never Mind the Bollocks: Here's the Sex Pistols
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £8.56

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guitars so fat they could win pub fights on their own, 4 Jun. 2004
The Pistols had it all, really. Jamie Reid's flawlessly subversive art work, Malcolm McLaren's brilliantly improvised media circus and their almost perfect trajectory from nowhere to global notoriety to acrimonious breakup in just over two tumultous years. And then there's the music, which is often derided or overlooked in place of the endless anecdotes and myths surrounding the band's chaotic career.
But the hell with it; this is an unbeatable record. You can take The Who Sing My Generation or Tutti Frutti or any of your other internationally critically-approved Rock Classics, but nothing has the pure wallop, bile and energy of this disc. The Stooges' Funhouse runs it close, but Never Mind The Bollocks is the one that throws the punch hard and really follows it through.
The first thing is the sound. The guitars are so fat, they could win pub fights on their own. Steve Jones comes directly out of the Chuck Berry / Johnny Thunders School of Basic Riffs but chops it right down and amps it right up and has absolutely no frigging regard for Rock History And The Grand Tradition. He just "gives it some bollocks" to quote the Great Man himself. You can tell Jonesy and Paul Cook have a long history (mostly shoplifting) going way back as they fit together perfectly. Cooky is an excellent excellent meaty drummer. Plenty of bass drum thump thump, no fannying about with paradiddles or any of that nonsense- just Pure Unadulterated Wallop. Wallop. There's no other word for it. The Cook/Jones Crunch is one of the inimitable sounds of Rock'n'Roll - even the daft songs they did post-Rotten ("No One Is Innocent", "Silly Thing" etc) are worth a spin for this reason. Much credit must also go to Chris Thomas for capturing and pumping up the Pistols' live sound. If you put Bollocks against the recordings produced by Dave Goodman, their sound engineer, there's no comparison. "I Wanna Be Me" is ace, but doesn't have the force and the bite of "Anarchy". Lydon has moaned endlessly since that he had only a single channel on the multi-track left to do his vocal after all the guitar overdubs Thomas had Steve Jones doing. But screw it. Thomas was right. It sounds fantastic. Only the Stooges or (occasionally) Motorhead or (perhaps) Husker Du got as close to the perfect Rock'n'Roll Racket.
Second, the songs. Glen Matlock had been booted out and doesn't play on most of the record (Steve Jones played bass on the bulk of it) but he left a lot of smarts behind in the writing. Like everything with the Pistols, it isn't clever clever but it's bloody sharp. Matlock was clearly too Nice and too Pop for the band's myth but absolutely necessary for their music. The songs are so keen and so catchy, and stand up so much better than the hordes of imitation second- and third-wavers who tended to go for the Ramones-clone 1-2-3-4 buzzsaw blur. What other punk band would steal a tune from Abba ? You can almost forgive the lad for liking Paul McCartney ...
And then there's the voice. It ain't Sinatra, it ain't Pavarotti, and in many ways it can't hold a tune for toffee but it has all the edge, nastiness and vicious power of a pint mug being smashed in your face. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr. Johnny Rotten (nee Lydon) of Finsbury Park, the disaffected 70s doleite nightmare made flesh. He's the Flower in the Dustbin, he's the Future, Your Future, on a personal mision to end England's Dreaming. He mocks, he screams, he sneers but somehow it's totally uplifting. You're not sure if he's deranged, sincere, speeding or on a big wind up but he drags you along regardless. And the lyrics are so good - casual, tossed off in 5 minutes, slangy but right on the money. "Eat your heart out on a plastic tray ... God save your mad parade ... No feelings for anybody else".
Never Mind The Bollocks is amphetaminised, nihilistic, angry, dismissive, sour and whinging but it pours out it's venom so well that all that hatred turns into a 100% cathartic ecstatic head rush. It is genuinely the Bollocks and God Save The Queen is the greatest Rock'n'Roll track ever and if anyone wants to argue for Imagine or Bohemian Rhapsody or a Whiter Shade of Pale I am going to get spiteful on them with a pick-axe handle and a pair of boltcutters.
Just buy the damn record, right ?


The Monster Muggs (First Young Puffins)
The Monster Muggs (First Young Puffins)
by Jeremy Strong
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Monster monster monster !!!, 16 Aug. 2003
My daughter (just 3) loves this book. So much so that she recites it back to us as we read it and I am compelled to have it on permanent loan from Histon library. It's a great little silly story with great primary colour pictures of the Monster Muggs family. The endless daft incidents are a major part of the appeal: we start with Ugly Mugg setting his bottom on fire and we end with the Muggs living in a rubbish bin. How could you not like that ? On top of that there is much shouting, rhyming nonsense and funny face-pulling.
Highly highly highly recommended for any toddler. Except that you will have to spend the next three weeks being Ugly Mugg / Big Mugg, pulling stupid faces and shouting "Okey Dokey What a Jokey". Fantastic stuff.


MALPRACTICE
MALPRACTICE
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £11.60

64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars R&B with Bad Attitude, 18 April 2002
This review is from: MALPRACTICE (Audio CD)
This is basic Pub Rock'n'Roll as it ought to be: fast, nasty, wound-up and stinking of diesel, chips and brown ale. I reckon it's the best LP of the classic original Wilko-Brilleaux Feelgoods line-up. It kicks hard and even gets a bit experimental on like "Because You're Mine". You can see where Gang of Four nicked a lot of moves from. The original Feelgoods could kick in any other R&B outfit before or since and they looked fantastic too. Sparks and Figure were an awesomely solid metronomic rhythm section, just perfect for Brilleaux's Canvey Island via Chicago bark and Wilko's broken glass guitar to sit on top of. Buy this, and buy Stupidity and Down by the Jetty as well.
The perfect music for driving down the A13 to Southend in a Transit Van to dump the shooter after you've done a blag, guv.


Scum of the Earth
Scum of the Earth
by Arthur Koestler
Edition: Paperback

101 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prison camp psychology and the Fall of France, 4 Feb. 2002
This review is from: Scum of the Earth (Paperback)
This is one of the strongest books I have ever read. It details Koestler's internment in France as an "undesirable alien" in the early part of the war, and then his struggle to keep out of the clutches of the Gestapo as the Germans march in and the country collapses in 1940.
It begins almost as travel writing, with Koestler and his girlfriend lazing around in pleasantly bohemian fashion on the Riviera, the increasing tension in 1939 Europe seemingly a million miles away. But back in Paris, Koestler is arrested by the increasingly paranoid French authorities and interned at Le Vernet along with a ragbag collection of other foreigners. Mostly leftists, intellectuals and Jews, they include Spanish Civil War veterans, Russian émigrés, German refugees and sundry unlucky Eastern European immigrants and petty criminals. His description of the people and the hardships encountered during his three months of internment with the dregs of the European Left stands comparison with any other prison camp autobiography, including One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. These are the beaten and bloody remnants of the once heroic International Brigades, betrayed by Stalin, by France and by each other -the titular Scum of the Earth.
The rest of the book follows Koestler through his release, his return to Paris, his attempts to leave for England legitimately, and his final chaotic escape through a disintegrating France. Again, the observations on the mentality of the French people and the French state faced with Hitler are incredibly acute and clear-eyed. However the most vivid feeling you take from the book is the hysterical fear, despair and disgust that grows on Koestler as the Nazis advance.
I'd recommend this book to everybody . It should be read anyone interested in 1930s radicalism and it's destruction on the anvil of the Nazi-Soviet pact, and by anyone interested in how and why France was invaded in 6 weeks in 1940. But it has strong draws on other levels as well. It deals fascinatingly with Koestler's favoured theme of Ends vs. Means, and with the psychology of political prisoners, but then it is also a skewed travelogue of France as Koestler staggers round the South West disguised as a Swiss Foreign Legionnaire trying to dodge the Panzers.
Koestler's reputation as a man has (rightly) taken a battering after David Cesarani's recent biography but nonetheless this is a very fine book. I would say it is the equal of his great novel, Darkness at Noon - it deals with similar themes but in a more direct, conversational way. Like his friend George Orwell, Koestler had the ability to write about politics with enormous common-sense and without catcalling or bandying jargon around. He refuses to be a propagandist and he gives all the people and points of view he encounters a fair and compassionate hearing, however blinkered, prejudiced or stupid they may be.


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