Friday, February 26, 2010

"There are some things we'll never understand..."

Look at him again. This 23-year-old with a day job and a kid, a wife and lover and a debilitating, unpredictable illness, all of which are killing him. This is his moment. He isn't fucking about on Later, he will not be clinking a bottle of green-room Budweiser and sharing a few jokes with Jonathan Ross and The Kooks about his dancing. He will not be putting his arm around his bandmates' shoulders for the bows. There is no time for that, no time for anything now. Love is tearing him apart.
- Stuart Maconie on Ian Curtis, Word magazine August 2008.

Something of a companion-piece to the previous post, this week I finally got around to seeing Control on DVD. It's a worthwhile film, being beautifully shot, and concerning itself with the facts far more than 24 Hour Party People did. Where it falls down somewhat is the fact that for much of its length it feels like quite a conventional biopic, with only the last 45 minutes operating above that. I also felt that the film doesn't really offer any insights into who Curtis actually was, but then, that's something that it may not be possible to provide any answers to.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Very Andy Warhol." 'Very L.S. Lowry.'

My sister was up from London last weekend, and coincidentally Friday was the opening of FAC251, the old Factory Records building, as a new live music venue and club by Peter Hook of New Order, so I got tickets for it. Apparently the tickets had sold out in about 10 minutes, so I seem to have done pretty well.

There's been a bit of backlash about the whole thing in some blogs as an cash-in exercise which reduces Manchester and its music scene to a late 70s-late 80s theme park. And y'know, to some extent they have a point - the crowd was a mixture of senior types in their 40s and 50s (blue jeans & pinstripe suit-jacket) and students (newly-bought "Unknown Pleasures" t-shirts). The set that Hook played, despite featuring contributions from Hook's current bands The Light and Freebass, was mostly a run-through of the Joy Division and New Order back-catalogues. Being too young to really remember 1980s Manchester, the only song played the I recall from the charts was Monaco's "What Do You Want From Me". Anyone? Anyone?

But treating The Factory entirely as a bit of reification and a retirement plan for 'ookey might be both too harsh and too premature. Yes, the opening did feature the shambling corpse of Madchester in the form of Mani and Rowetta, but in coming weeks the club is playing host to bands, such as MAY68, who are precisely the sort of new, non-Madchester-types that some of The Factory's critics are championing. And from observing on the ground, one of the striking features was how young and inexperienced most of the staff of the club were. They were recruited from the same Facebook group which I was part of, and giving people a chance to actually do something and get an idea of the ground seems genuinely in keeping with the spirit that the city should have.

The gig was pretty enjoyable, kicked off by Howard Marks doing his usual schtick, and really only marred by Peter Hook not actually being a singer and his unnerving habit of at random intervals pointing at the audience from slightly above his head. Rowetta actually justified her presence by coming onstage to provide the vocals to two Joy Division tracks. "Atmosphere", never fails to move me to the core, and her vocal performance had all the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Hearing "Warsaw", "Transmission" and "Shadowplay" was pleasing to me, as well. Of some interest was a "lost" Joy Division song which from the lyrics I would have said was called "In The Night Time", but actually turns out to be "Pictures". Closing, predictably enough, was Ian Curtis' own anthem to doomed youth "Love Will Tear Us Apart", although being part of a large crowd singing the chorus is vaguely unsettling. The encore was "Blue Monday", and this, in truth, was something of a let-down. The understandable desire on the part of the band is always to do something slightly different with the really famous songs, but the original "Blue Monday" managed to capture the sprawl of night and cities in which we all now live so perfectly that nothing else really does it justice.

It's impossible to say whether The Factory will turn out to be a springboard for new innovative talent, but it seems unlikely that you'd be able to pre-judge it from an opening-night party.