Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Friday, 22 March 2013



Gensu Dean & Planet Asia    Chuck Berry (Mello Music Group)

Holy fucking Moly, this is fucking mad. Strung out yet rocksteady beat peppered with a smear of static, and the filthiest fuzz guitar this side of Eddie Hazell or Pete Cosey. Heard this beat before on Roc Marciano's 'Scareface' rerub but my god, when you stumble across something as fantastically unhinged as this you just want more and more of it. 'Abrasions' is the forthcoming long-player, me want me want me want - even more so having heard this monster. Go get.

The Killers    Flesh & Bone  (Island) 

How can we dance when the world it turning? How can we sleep when our beds are burning? Lots & lots of words here achieving the special trick of meaning sweet fanny adams, rotating the same (yawn) "anthemic" motifs the rest of schmindie-shmock seems to have their Converse mired in at the moment but desperately shoving Casiotone Dixons pissabouts, badbad prog-poesy and horribly chirpy Christian-rawk into the chunder-swirl as well. Get to fuck you grotesquely professional pricks ya. Motivational-speaker music. 

Biffy Clyro    Biblical (Beggars Banquet)

    God it must be tough being in a gee-tard band sometimes. All that VAGUENESS to keep afloat, making sure that every single one of your thoughts, ideas, expressions have that definitive aura of non-commital commitment, that latitudinal damn-near horizontal imprecision todays rock-demographic desire. Making sure that your music never ever strays dangerously away from the endlessly accented trills tween fifths and ninths that Blink 182 & Godspeed You Wank Emperor & Radiohead & other enemies of humanity have laid down as thee constraints of serious frowny flail-rock. It must feel so odd, to so feign freedom under the weight of so much self-inflicted paralysis. Only when the brain is truly incapable of creating anything of any possible interest can it start getting easy, and it'd seem that Biffy Clyro have hit magic-time now, the kind of golden-era of creative ease artists rarely achieve in which everything they touch turns to the kind of shit that will sell to the walking agglomerations of body-odour they call their fans. Festival season soon so this will light the fires up the hill, brayed to the heavens by the hordes as God plugs his ears and puts another Dillinja 12 on his i-pod. Real people, y'know.  Every third face having a burger inserted into it. Real people, the kinda people you avoid like their leprosy is airborne, the kind of people who a decade ago were into Feeder, a decade before into the Stereophonics, a decade hence looking forward to the Biffy Clyro reunion tour with the kids they've inculcated with their cuntishness. Ever thus. Ever with us. 
     It really is time to make the anthemic anathema cos fuck me this is some horrifically ugly shit. Gruesome lumpen para-rhymes (magical, wonderful, biblical, immeasurable, understandable - this record is only one of these things sadly), the 'under-tow' (they heard a Tool album once & there's another word - in fact entire lyrical theme -the nautical - that needs banning from rock lyrics forever) gleaming chugalug technofied rock like Fountains Of Wayne getting sodomized by a leering Butch Vig, BC looking over their heavily inked shoulders as  his left talon strokes their beards, his right-claw anointing his scaly permatanned cock with a jar of tinctured digital syrup before plunging in nutsdeep, goochdeep, making them wail all the way to the shockingly compressed & confined limits of the soundscape. 
    NME/Kerrang rock par excellence. Avoid like the Coalition government it, and those magazines, so clearly thoroughly support.  

Copywrite    Obituaries (Man Bites Dog Records)

"What the fuck's sleep? Oh yeah, that stupid shit you humans do..." - Copywrite making friends and influencing people again with some really rugged low-end menace courtesy of Marco Polo and rhymes you have to rewind half-a-dozen times just to catch every syllable. Reminiscent of Chino XL at his moodiest, 'Obituaries' should point you towards the 'MHz Legacy' LP as soon as possible, you protoplasmic scum. Sorry, think this freak's rubbing off on me. 


Amelia Lily     Party Over (Xenomania)

As a fellow diabetic, I should show solidarity to this near-forgotten X-factor mediocrity - however I should advise Ms. Lily that not only is her single a regrettable slew of Fall Out Boy-meets-liquid-d'n'b arserot, but that the 'party' she refers to should definitely be over if, as the video avers, sugary soft drinks and alcohol rather than fresh fruit and vegetables are on offer. Although it looks like good cardio-vascular exercise is being engaged in, it's no good if her glucose intake is so high, and her blood-sugar count will be well over the 4-8 range she should be aiming for. In fact, she is in possible danger, if she doesn't back up her insulin shot with the right amount of slow-release Metformin, of slipping into hypo-glycaemic shock. Yes, Amelia, the 'party' is definitely over. Now, have a bowl of Quaker Oat Pillows and get some sleep.

Bat For Lashes   Lillies (Capitol)

As a fellow paki, I should show solidarity to this listless bore. However I should advise Ms. Kahn that not only is her single a forgettable slew of Tamsin Archer-meets-Tori Amos magical-realist twinkly bollocks, but that the video she's so clearly proud of actually comes across like the kind of thing your parents force you to watch cos it's 'good old-fashioned storytelling'. Sonically polite to the point of gagworthy, like a fart so smelly it's actually sweet. Always nice to find that artists/bands that others have been flipping wads over & that you've never listened to should REMAIN that way. I've done my duty now and can safely put BFL in the ol' mental rolodex under 'Please Dispose Of Your Dog's Waste Here'. Bye, hippy.


Dag Savage    Cali Dreaming (Dirty Science)

Gorgeous production from that man Exile again - keeping things simple, but making sure each component is weighted perfectly, rotational dreamlike piano and sparse sketchy guitar threading together a beautifully atmospheric warp 'n' weft of sound. Great rhymes from Fashawn & Co$$, and just the right amount of cut-ups to lubricate the flow. Wonderful stuff, stuff you want to drown in. Whilst you're at it seek out 'Twilight and 'When It Rains' too. Need album, NOW. 

 Tom Odell   Hold Me (Sony)

Gosh, he's certainly not someone you can sit on the fence about! Hats off to him! Haven’t had such a strong response to music in a while (Al Pacino voice) whooahh! 
   Sometimes it takes time to really get into stuff or figure out a response but have to say there’s no such umming or ahhing with fresh new privately-educated, signed to Lily Allen's label, albinoesque  talent Tom Odell. Within merely 3 seconds exposure, in fact before he'd even made a noise,  I wanted to drive red-hot ingots into his eyes, the stout hammering of medieval molten agony to his pasty phizog reaffirmed as reasonable response with only the most cursory scan of the overwhelmingly positive youtube comments this slab of sloppy effluent has attracted. Comments as enlightened, Australian-interrogative and entirely non-loathsome as this . . .
Really annoys me -the fact have brilliant artists like Tom, The Rolling Stones, Green Day, The Sex Pistols and stuff -and I know they are different so you cam compare, but I mean you get shittypeople like Rihanna and Lady Gaga, who are like a disgrace to music?"
'Hold Me'? Only if it's under the water in a bathtub until your legs stop kicking you objectionable guffmerchant. Next time someone you love, care about, potentially maybe even someone you might accept food or drink from (just think, they'll have touched it, with their freckly, dirty hands), admits to you that they like Arcade Fire, send them thissaway. Make them watch this worthless birdshitstain cunt, hear the nauseating over-wroughtness of his voice, the corduroy-choirboy punchability of the chorus, the ‘anthemic’ (yeah man, cos BELONGING like I’m in a fucking Carling Black Label advert is what I most fondly covet from pop) the almost scarily-negative musical non-entity of the timbre and orchestration. Make them hear it. Then make them hear it again. Then drive those red-hot ingots into their eyes also, just to be sure, just to be on the safe side. It’s the only way we’re gonna progress as a pop culture. Careful, attentive listening, and the repeated use of red-hot ingots in the eyes, ears and asses of reactionaries everywhere. So, to recap on our progress so far,  that's two things to remember -  
1. listen carefully.
2: red-hot ingots. 
Do you think you'll remember that? There'll be a test at the end.

Taylor Swift   Twenty Two (Big Machine Records)

"It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters and make fun of our exes/It feels like a perfect night for breakfast at midnight/To fall in love with strangers"
   Clearly stop-out Swift's not been listening to her most caring critics like the genius girl above, more worryingly she appears to have given up on the idea of creating anything, rather pinning herself like a butterfly on the flailing vagaries of algorhythms and code.  '22' is like a leftover-sandwich, every offcut from all her other songs condensed into one emetic stew of cliche, every line completed by predictive text, all slathered over music that seems to be made up as it goes along, and not in a 'Trout Mask Replica' way either.
 This is the sound of what happens when the computers set up to devise the next edition of pro-tools start becoming self-aware and human decisions are removed from strategic songwriting. (Pro-Tools begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug). Scarily bland.


Quelle Chris feat Denmark Vessey    Rappin Ass (Mello Music Group)


Now THIS is what some proper crate-diggin' can get you. Hats off to Mr House Shoes, WHAT A GROOVE. Don't know where it's from, don't care, just know that it's filling out today with some of the freakiest most frabjous, sumptuously stupendous soul-funk I've heard in aeons - great piss-taking rhymes from QC seal the deal up compellingly, and with a great nonchalant vibe. There are doubtless more cutting edge, hipper, more important records released this month but nothing will seep sunshine into your cells quite like this, and in this bleak neverending midwinter that's all you should care about. VVUNDERRBARRR.

Haim   Falling (Polydor)

Phewff, that was close, nearly clicked on the version that was ‘live from Maida Vale’. 
[Bomb Maida Vale, someone, now that it's become the livelounge cathedral sanctifying the ongoing acoustic anschluss, preferably ensuring that Jo Whiley is inside, wearing a big parka sat on a piano stool next to Kelly Jones, her pisshole-in-the-snow eyes closed as she nods appreciatively as he plays a broken version of ‘Mr Writer’. Would be lovely if she’d invited Zane Lowe & Fearne Cotton along too. Sorry, shouldn’t get lost in these daydreams, the snap back to reality where these people live and breathe and move through air and draw wages from my license fee is too too painful to make the reveries worthwhile. Her parka-fur singed and lit and undoused by her frenzied tears. Lowe’s crispy flame-grilled fists beaten into tandoorified charred stumps on the door-pane, the air in Cotton’s head evaporating in an empty baloon hiss of steam. The sprinklers failing . . . failing, sorry where was I?]
   Oh yeah: the Haim sisters & friend continue their mission to dilute ‘Tango In The Night’ into palatable chunks of disguised vomit for mass re-consumption and commit the cardinal error so common to so many born-in-the-80s 80s-retronauts i.e getting everything right sonically and nothing right spiritually, and as ever forgetting to write a chorus. The retro-ness I don't particularly have a problem with at this late stage of our disappearance down pop-history's plughole but it's the palpable sense as ever that these people are on no journey, personally, emotionally, or musically, or romantically, just that they've arrived WITH MUSIC TO MAKE and the tools immediately at their disposal, that so utterly saps their admittedly 'correct' sourcing and facsimile of any potential intrigue it might have had. 

See, that’s not a chorus, that’s a bridge. FFS am I gonna have to get Songwriting101 on yr asses? Yessssssss, it happens after a verse but that doesn’t make it a chorus. Admit it, you were so pleased with yourself for constructing such a believable simulacra of a 70s soft-rock verse &  bridge you COULDN’T ACTUALLY BE ARSED to find a hook for a chorus. Which is like blowing up the paddling pool only to not bother putting water in it y'lazy fuckers. This is not Belladonna. It's just vella shitta. 

Duke Dumont Ft. A*M*E   Need U 100% (iTunes)

Hmmmkay, THIS is how you do 80s rejigs without a proper chorus. Don't matter when the bass'n'beats'n'keys are PROPERLY compelling, PROPERLY physical like they are here. Nearly nothing to it but the tiny details seal it - the suddenly dubbed-out vocals, the rippling snare-shots & hand-claps, the build from the bass-heavy verse upwards to the trebly bliss of the turnaround.
     Not gonna be taken as seriously as Haim in the 80s reimaginings stakes cos this is more to do with the wrong side of 80s Detroit than the right-side of 70s Laurel Canyon but 100% better for it.

Iggy Azalea   Work (iTunes)

OH FFS - I was only into her for a month! 'Whatchu Lookin At' was the track that first got me sold on IA. Diggit.

I thought, instantly -  she's hilarious. Great rhymes, great rock'n'roll delivery, great at fitting syllables between rhythms. Prayed she'd NEVER let anyone else have a voice on her records. Hoped she'd be a bigger star in 2013 than she ever has been before. And now here comes her first kinda 'official' non-mixtape release and quelle surprise she suddenly sucks just a little bit . Afflicted suddenly with that horrible ubiquiotous note of teenage self-pity & defiance that renders 'Work' nauseatingly aspirational, absolutely sucked-dry of all the juicy UNREASONABLENESS that made 'Whatchu Lookin At' so compelling.
   Tasteful piano sweeps where there should be bass pitched so low it makes you puke, mellotron strings and Guettechno-build where there could be more swearing. Bullshit teenage self-melodrama about 'struggle' and 'working hard' and 'you can hate' and how 'you don't know the half', the good lines about valleygirls giving blowjobs "head over heels", and 'no money no family/16 in the middle of Miami' (IA bullshitted her parents and came to her spiritual hip-hop home from her native Oz all on her tod - see, a hell of a story unfortunately only touched on here) squashed out of the prominent hookiness they deserve. Leaving the door wide open for lazy Ke$ha & Minaj comparisons when she'd previously suggested so much more than that. Hope she gets back on track soon cos I reck she could be a better pop star than all of them put together.


Twizzy    Make The World Spin (Bandcamp)

Loving the Charlie Mac production here, a sweet swoonsome mix of pared-down Blue Note jazz sparseness with string-laded Delfonic-style soul swish. The lyrics pose questions, leave them open, take us absolutely into Twizzy's mindset, both downered and hopeful, leave you almost breathless with the incisiveness and honesty, a clarity and lightness matched every step of the way by CM's production, ending with some of the most divinely fuzzed-up guitar you've ever heard. 'Working Class Zero' is the album this is taken from, cannot WAIT for it to drop.

Hurts    Blind (RCA)

What? Yr fucking kidding me. This is it? I really wanted to hear Hurts cos the phrase 'disastrous A&R showcase' in a biog is almost guaranteed to get my ears pricked up. But this is horrible, a lighters-aloft sway-along song for the bovine and docile that makes Fun sound like Caspar Brotzmann Massaker. Has anyone got a fresh set of ingots heated up yet? For gods sake, lets get a backlog built up, the cunts are coming in waves.

Rihanna    Pour It Up (Island)

Man, this song is soooo about my life it's not true. Checkitout, RiRi might have come a long way from her roots as market-stall barker and crackhead's daughter but she hasn't forgotten the struggle, or how things are for the vast majority of us great unwashed. 

“Throw it up, throw it up/Watch it all fall out/Pour it up, pour it up/That's how we ball out/Strip clubs and dollar bills I still got more money/Patron shots can I get a refill?/I still got more money/ Strippers goin' up and down that pole And I still got more money/ Four o'clock and we ain't going home Cause I still got more money /Money make the world go round I still got more money /Bands make your girl go down I still got more money/ Lot more where that came from/I still got more money/All I see is signs All I see is dollar signs/Money on my mind Money, money on my mind/I still got more money Who cares how you haters feel And I still got more money Call Jay up and close a deal I still got more money My fragrance on and they love my smell I still got more money So who cares about what I spend I still got more money My pocket's deep, and they never end I still got more money I'm going dumb with all my friends I still got more money”.

So, basically Rihanna doing what she does best i.e absolutely fuck all of any interest whatsoever, and charmlessly so at that. No video as yet, but this will suffice.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Ofsted. F***ing up standards, ruining lives.

We had Ofsted inspecting us this past week at work so particularly enjoyed the weekend. Every day at work  last week felt twice as long. All that extra effort looking over your shoulder, making sure that at every point you were looking busy, making sure that at every point you were providing evidence and showing demonstratively things that you do anyway. Elemental thing that has always fucked up at every place I've ever worked is the breakdown of trust between management and staff - always means that where you work transforms from a nice place to be into an array of cubicles, drones housed within, tip-tap-tip-tapping their paperwork into shape, the paperwork the only shape work has anymore, the joy gone, the malcontentment growing with every keystroke. Ofsted bring such mutual contempt to a dizzying frenzy of panic and rage. 

And what they insist on has little to do with encouraging thought as a teacher. It's a checklist any idiot could conform to, and bad teachers are great at conforming. Crucially though, it's Ofsted's blanket insistence on the same approach to every lesson, the same approach from every teacher, this attempt to smash everyone down to the same bland level of 'evidenced' 'provision', and the highly dubious way that evidence can be generated and checked, that irks the most.

For good teachers it's a chance to feel worried and mistrusted. I've been given graded observations by Ofsted many times, always the same grade (2), always the same mealy mouthed advice given as to how I could improve. Increase 'interactivity' (for it is a buzzword, and that's what Ofsted's rhetoric is all about) by getting students involved earlier in lessons. Actually had one inspector tell me in all earnestness that instead of offering questions out for kids to put their hands up, I should actually look into having buzzers in class so students could 'buzz in' their answers like it was a quiz show. I'd previously been unaware that Chris Tarrant was some kind of educational idol to aspire to but that's another thing Ofsted do, they teach you things you never knew before. Like a lesson in which the kids aren't DOING something within the space of two minutes is a bad lesson. Like too much 'chalk and talk' (i.e a teacher talking whilst the kids listen) is inherently damaging to a kids education. This runs so utterly counter to my deepest-held intuitive memories and thoughts about teaching I find it next to impossible to ever change the way I teach for these people. Which means I'll be a 2 forever. Fucking fine. 

Most of the teachers who ever affected me strongly as a child were those where you got a sense that (a) they knew what they were talking about & (b) they CARED about what they were talking about. With such teachers, it was fine if they decided to talk for a while without necessarily 'INVOLVING' you. For me it's  analogous to good telly. How would David Attenborough, or Simon Schama, or Kenneth Clarke, or Bronowsky, or Meades or Robert Hughes or John Berger or AJP Taylor have managed if within two minutes they'd have to sort their audiences into groups, get them to mark their own work or create a 'mind-map' of their 'feelings'? For Ofsted, the pictures in brochures for education, those perfectly posed prospectus shots of happy smiling students 'interacting' with each other and staff in fun role-playing and group-therapy-style situations are what they want to see when they walk past and through classrooms, and the idea of a group of students simply LISTENING to what an expert has to say is utter anathema to them. Ofsted start from the defeatist perspective that kids are naturally resistant to being given knowledge, that you have to 'smuggle' learning through via the kind of 'ice-breaking' and 'peer-led' assesment & teaching techniques of management-consultancy and team building. Learning for them is always, dictatorially, an active thing, and that means ACTION, never mind that listening can be incredibly active, never mind that hearing someone who knows what they're on about go on about that thing they know about with something approaching care can actually be the most lasting memory of education, the most keenly felt learning, beyond the distribution of scissors and moodboards and bingo-markers and brainstorming. Again I see deep analogies with previous places of work, times when in desperation the voice has fundamentally altered from speaking across to a readership to speaking down, simplifying essential complexity in favour of a supposedly inclusive crayon-scrawled emptiness of content. Ofsted would actually seek to stop the danger of teaching where it occurs, would prefer 'involvement' in relativist 'discussion' to the enrapture of  concrete ideas.

Although schools inspectors have always been with us, it's Ofsted's creation in 1992 that marks the real final shift in educational values away from knowledge and towards pure vocationalism. To be a teacher now, is to be little more than a cheerleader for capitalism, someone who prepares their charges for the viccisitudes of the workplace and nothing else. Anything else, apparently, is a waste of time, anything else is something kids apparently don't 'want' (curiously reminiscent of being told kids don't want writing that challenges them by various dunderheads in the media over the years, clueless underestimation all the way). Consequently, my natural revulsion for such tiny-minded notions of what teachers and students are capable of means that I have always utterly disregarded Ofsted's guideline obsessiveness about instant and constant 'interaction'. To them, I must be a bad teacher. Good. The other week, I had a lesson wherein I was going to teach a group of 17 year olds about governmental and authoritarian interference in music. I planned on dealing with a few thousand years of the history of that interference in a 90 minute session, all the way from Plato & Aristotle & Socrates through the Christian era, through the baroque/classical/romantic systems of patronage and leaving things just as we emerge into the modern era in the 20th Century.  Although it's anathema to modern teaching practice I decided, given the breadth of the subject matter and the complexity of the ideas, to deliver this in an entirely un-interactive, contemporarily-scorned manner. I talked, and the students wrote down what I said. I wasn't, and am not, a total monster. Questions were frequently invited, and were answered. Answered not by peer-to-peer discussion, or online research or via whiteboards or Lanschool or Moodle but by ME, because I'm the teacher, and as a serious thinker about music for most of my life I felt my answers were good, crucially undefinitive but suggestive. The kids had alot of questions, discussion was free, only truncated by time constraints. Didn't go fully old-skool (you can't throw whiteboard rubbers at kids heads, utterly innefective in drawing blood), but by the end of the lesson, without ever organising them into groups, or pointing them towards doing 'their own research' (the lazy teachers constant recourse), they each had a fairly complete picture of ancient, medieval and renaissance ideas about music, politics, religion, the state and the relationships between those ideas. I closed the lesson by pointing them towards some places where their reading could go further, and how if they wished,  they could improve what we'd built. 

 According to Ofsted, the kids should've hated this lesson, should've recoiled from it's old-fashioned didactic nature, should've come away having learned nothing except a bristling resentment for the subject. The newsflash you can guess runs thus: THEY FUCKING LOVED IT. Some of them even expressed a preference for more teaching to be like this. And though I would never dream of saying that EVERY lesson should be like that or that EVERY student had the same response, I equally ferociously reject Ofsted's idea that NO lesson can EVER be like that, that NO student EVER wants that. That blanket insistence on de rigeur methods stems from what I mentioned earlier, that fatal mistrust that poisons relationships between exec and those at the coal-face. It's mistrust that breeds formalistic prescriptions, it's mistrust that breeds the constant generation of ever-more preposterous waves of evidence-provision and boxes to tick (which of course, as a part-timer, I'm meant to generate in my own sweet spare time).

According to Ofsted before every lesson I should've printed out the following, and if I'm missing any single element from the following list I have failed as a teacher, failed my students and failed their criteria for getting anything approaching a good grade in any observation. 
1. A lesson plan that breaks down everything that will happen in the lesson according to strict time-demarcations, my activities in each chunk of the lesson, the students activities in each chunk of the lesson, the embedding of 'equality & diversity' teaching (kind of tricky when you're teaching people about the development and invention of the MP3 say, but hohum), the differentiation between different students' abilities/problems again for each of those time slots within the lesson, a list of resources used in terms of equipment etc, targets for the lesson, targets for the next lesson, targets from the last lesson and an appraisal of how that lesson and the current lesson went. Indications throughout as to whether the language used was vocational or academic. Indications throughout of assessment method, as well as a final appraisal as to whether all objectives have been achieved. 
2. A 'Scheme Of Work', i.e a detailed plan of how the entire unit/term is taught incorporating times/groups, special support needs, a week by week breakdown of curriculum covered, teachers activities, student activities, resources used, learning-outcomes covered, specific learning objectives for every week including indication as to whether these are successfully achieved. Basically all your lesson plans for an entire subject condensed into an epic document that you should ALWAYS have with you for every lesson. 
3. A detailed 'Learner Profile' containing information about every student including any support needs, problems, testimony from support staff or parents, each students preferred learning style (auditory-visual-kinaesthetic etc) and any other information about the student gleaned from previously generated learner-profiles or one-on-one tutorials with the students progress tutor. This document frequently runs into dozens of pages. 

So, in total then I have to create 3 documents per lesson before I can even start the lesson. In total this might total at least 20-30 pages of documentation (fuck the polar-bears, we need EVIDENCE!). For every lesson. Every single fucking lesson in the week. For me, that's 250 different kids spread between a dozen different groups from 9-5.30 five days a week. A lesson plan, scheme of work & learner profile for every single one of those 5 lessons a day, every single day. I should create 75 documents a week just to prove I'm a teacher, and this is before any actual preparation for the teaching I'm doing in the lesson. Because hey, newsflash. In three stages (Ofsted, like all exec, love their numbered bullet-points).

1. A good teacher has a lesson plan IN THEIR HEAD before even daring to set foot in a classroom because they know that beyond Ofsted, kids can sniff disorganisation a mile off and will instantaneously translate that into a total lack of respect for your floundering ass. 
2. A good teacher NEVER EVER FUCKING REFERS to a scheme of work because they know that criteria/learning outcomes are usually written by people with no experience in the field they're supposedly expert in, and like all criteria, they're their to be worked around rather than with. I know of no teacher who has actually found a Scheme Of Work to be useful in their teaching, only a GIGANTIC PAIN IN THE ARSE to create, and always for the purposes of box-tickers and checkers higher up the managerial-chain. 
3. A good teacher KNOWS THEIR STUDENTS inside and out and doesn't need a potentially dangerous & essentially private document like a learner profile to be toted with them class-to-class to inform them of which students need care & consideration.

For bad teachers of course, Ofsted is a chance to cosmetically slap on a good lesson for once and get a totally unfair appraisal. I recall a teacher in my dept. who was appalling, hated by students and other staff, so inept that he actually abandoned a lesson once because he 'couldn't find a hard surface to fill out my register on'. Every time he got tipped the wink that Ofsted were coming he'd suddenly produce a great lesson, then smugly coast on that rating for the rest of his entirely lazy-assed year of unprofessional duty-dereliction.

   Either way, we all get tarred with a brush only developed through minimal contact with teachers and students. A good teacher, knowing Ofsted are coming a-knocking should be able to knock up the necessary documentation, hold their noses and get through it. But of course, none of your pannicced artifice, the slapped on smile and suddenly-created documentary-evidence matters if you don't get seen, and if other teachers do badly, the institution as a whole, even if you never see hide nor hair of the inspectors themselves, will be damned. Meaning Ofsted will be back within the year, a year in which there'll be ever more hoops to jump through, ever-more distractions from the real business of teaching and learning. 

I hear ours went badly. I'm not surprised. Fundamental flaw in the inspection process is that we are warned. Gives enough time for a climate of fear to be created, and for everyone to fall into the same step, give the same tacit approval to Ofsted's maneouvres of data-crunching, their forensic compiling  of defects in the paper-trail. I sincerely hope next time Ofsted turn up at college they DON'T give a warning, just turn up on a Monday morning and don't immediately go into 4hrs of meetings with management but just stride into lessons straight away. I would actually cherish the opportunity to explain to inspectors at length why I HAVEN'T got the documents they desire i.e cos I'm a fucking teacher & I'm here to teach. I would love to waft away their pointless justifications of their pointless roles, make them realise that I apprehend them purely as lubricators of Thatcherite league-table-obsessed educational competetiveness via all this box-ticking bullshit, box-ticking that isn't just a totally disconnected-with-realities-of-teaching exercise in timewasting but is actually utterly inimical to my deepest held beliefs about teaching and what kids need and care about. Ofsted are all, ex-teachers or not (and many Ofsted inspectors, like me, have no teaching qualifications), exec, and consequently have forgot, or never had a clue in the first place, what makes a good lesson, a good teacher, a good institution, a good place to learn.
It's no accident that so many Ofsted staff sell-by-moonlight their services to colleges that are due inspections, consultations about how to achieve the best outcomes, the 'sharing of good practice' to ensure the right numbers get crunched. It's no accident that the real solution, in direct contrast to Ofsted's baffling labarynthine attempts to confuse every issue, is a simple one.
   Ofsted is founded on NOT trusting people to do their job. Fuck that. Trust YOUR instincts about the school, the teachers, and whether it's a good place for your kid to go. You don't need checklists, you don't need hours of meeting with slimy management-bods, and you certainly don't need to judge whether the institution itself can work itself into a sufficiently frenzied aura of panic to necessitate the creation of enough paperwork to fell a rainforest. 

Parents, teachers, students:  ignore Ofsted.
Ignore their findings.
Ignore the league-tables created.
Ignore the Blairite headmasters keen for Academy status.
Ignore the "roadmaps to progress", the recommendations, the 'plans put in place to achieve compliance to' a better rating, just as you should ignore the 'triumphant outcomes'. They are simply documents of fear, loathing, mistrust and lies. If you have a kid in the school, ask the kid (something Ofsted do painfully little of) and trust what they say. If they're not happy, go see your school, give 'em hell, see what can be done. Fight your own fights. Trust in yourself to win.
Trust, y'see, all important and all but forgotten by Ofsted and their believers. Fucking up standards. Ruining lives.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Queer Noises 1961-1978: From The Closet To The Charts - album review, Plan B Magazine, 2006

(Original Headline: "get bent" - from Plan B Magazine, 2006)
Words: Neil Kulkarni

Various Artists
Queer Noises 1961-1978: From The Closet To The Charts (Trikont)
   In this age of all-out retro gluttony, when every single tendril of pop can be teased out with a click into its prone entirety, the only way that ol’ construct that is The Compilation can surely work beyond laziness is by thematic dogmatism, by cutting a swathe through the ages and pulling together the diverse with a purpose, with a reason to be together. Queer Noises, Jon Savage’s hugely inspirational, endlessly fascinating collection of forgotten, and unforgettable, transmissions from the gay pop underground works both as musical journey, and as a launchpad for your own reconnaissance. Crucially, it works because it doesn’t try too much – it tries something clear, specific, and always political.
   Savage’s engrossing sleeve-notes spell out the score way more eloquently than I ever could, but what he’s collated here is a trip between lacerating camp, butch hostility, subterfuge, pride, comic angst and tragic-theatre – he charts a four-decade journey from terrifying shame (and its concurrent outrageous skewering in queer clubland) through acceptance to a faltering sense of identity with some fascinating and freakin’ brilliant music. Highlights have to be the Good Lord Joe Meek letting The Tornadoes drop ‘Do You Come Here Often’ with a snicker and a shufty, Teddy & Darrel’s Sunset-Strip drag-bitchin’ ‘These Boots’, Carl Boettcher’s skykissing ‘Astral Cowboy’, the Seventies glory of Sylvester and Jobriath & Peter Grudzien’s mindblowing ‘White Trash Hillbilly Trick’.
   At every turn, the overtness of the lyrics (even 30 years on) is startling and heartbreaking, especially when you consider that any r’n’b/hip hop act making records as brave as The Miracles ‘Ain’t Nobody Straight In LA’ would be dropped like a bad habit right now – and the palpable sense of relief (both from the parody/grotesqueries of the Sixties past and the navel-gazing of the early Seventies) sweeps you through the Ramones and the awesome Twinkeys into Sylvester’s ‘Mighty Real’ with a real euphoric rush come the end.
  Gratifyingly, where such a comp could’ve tediously pointed out the ambiguities and coppings of queer culture that mainstream pop thieves and
thrives on, what it aims for instead is entirely insular, self-sufficient, thrillingly guerrilla, creating an alternative cannon of gay music, frequently ignored, often suppressed, always utterly exciting to hear cos you always sense that this is music that had to battle, fight, not just for its own space but within itself for its own id and identity. Get this, get bent, and then, as Savage says, go straight to www.queermusicheritage.com and pursue your own intrigue as far as it’ll take you.
   I await volume two with breath baited.

Various Artists - Congotronics II album review, Plan B Magazine, 2006.

(from Plan B Magazine)

Various Artists
Congotronics 2: Buzz’N’Rumble From The Urban Jungle
(Crammed Discs)
My God, that’s a fucking atrocious title. And it plays into the hands of every smart-arse who’s gonna call this ‘African music for people who don’t like African music’. The idea being that only in the places where this music either rhythmically simulates Western exploration, or sonically strays into noise territory (which must always be a Western thing, obviously) can it interest us – like we need to start slapping down the Can references just to feel we can get close to this, feel at home. Still the myth of the dark heart; still the notion that ‘World Music’ (y’know, as opposed to Our Music) is travel from the safety of your home office. The sleeve and shtick of this, then, is little more than an über-hip, slightly gritty version of one of those page-wide ads in The Guardian for overland trips to the back of beyond that assure you that at no point will you suffer from tourists’ guilt. To which Crammed Discs could quite correctly respond that without them, would I have got to hear this hour of wonder at all?

   Furrymuff, but I hope you can stay mentally limber enough not to let their rock-crit buzzwordiness and natty marketing spoil the mystery and magic contained within this compilation of suburban Kinshasan music. And, to the label’s credit, it’s the variety here that makes the record work, beyond being a dip-in reserve for hip compilations and/or perfect for that end-of-year-chart smugness.
 Last year’s Konono No 1 album was a riot for brain and booty, but this album presents a fuller spectrum of voices and a longer trip around the ‘hood – s’the freshness of the rhythms; the new steps that you and yours are gonna have to work out to entail the pulse of things like Masanka Sankayi’s ‘Wa Muluendu’, which really engrosses, and, far from the noise being overpowering, it’s the crush between distortion and the startling clarity of melodies that makes much of Congotronics so engrossing. Dig Kasai Allstars’ nine-minute monster ‘Kabuangoyi’, for sheer heartstopping beauty; the accordion hooks of Bolya We Ndenge’s ‘Bosamba Ndeke’; the way Sobanza’s ‘Kiwembo’ builds from its fuzztone opening to a rattling cardiac-shot of joy; the plateau of clouded bliss that Basokin’s ‘Mulumi’ lifts you to. Throughout, your urge to decipher and understand has to damn well wait for your brain to stop dancing, but that piqued curiosity should hopefully push us all on to spit out the diseased teat of the Western music industry and open ourselves to human transmissions from further than we’re currently allowed to hear.

   Next time, I want lyric sheets and album deals for everyone, but for now, Congotronics 2 is as good a cheap holiday in someone else’s misery as you’ll find because it always forces you to travel within itself and yourself, which is the only journey that eventually matters. Hear here.

Eminem: Subterania, London (Melody Maker, 10 April 1999)

SERENDIPITOUS as f***. He must've been spying on my bedroom habits, the goddamn degenerate. OK, last two weeks I've been lying on my bed stroking myself and listening to nowt but Pharcyde, Quest, KMO, Nubian, 3rd Bass, Alkaholics and Beatnuts — wondering when hip hop was gonna get run again. Worrying about what new slice of style mag-feted sludgecore everyone'd pretend to like this week. Wondering why aged, disenfranchised b-boys have to insist on music as graceless and curmudgeonly and beardy as themselves. Building up a convenient theory to dismiss the stifling politeness of the nu-skool and call for a return to rap's good, old-fashioned traits of cartoon delinquency, get the f ***ing hoolies back in running things, as they have and always should. And then this mad bleat comes from the radio: "Slim Shady, Slim Shady..." and I follow it all the way to Ladbroke Grove and — f*** me! — the DJ's playing Kool G Rap & Polo and everything gets sorted out in the punk-funk barnstormer that Eminem is live and I'm speechless. Pop works sometimes. Whodathunkit?
   Telling things: the crowd isn't the Beastie-style, shaved spod-fest you might fear. There be b-boys here, headz, metal fans, teenyboppers, wind-yr-waist dread junglettes, dance-hall fetishists, ultra-pierced hardcore skaters. It's rammed with all this fleshy mess, the DJ's forcing things overboard with Jeru and Biggie, a stubby little tattooed chappy bounds cross-stage with his rhyme-partner in tow, the decks thrum out louder than anyone could've hoped for, we're straight into 'Brain Damage' and things get even messier. Physically, Eminem is anonymous enough to be forgettable: what sticks and scintillates is his foul mouth and the beautiful shapes it makes. Absolute obscenity for most of the 20 minutes he's onstage tonight and every single bit of it's captivating: think of the grotesque glossaialia of a Chino XL or Dr Doom, multiply it by about 10 hysterics, make it viciously, vividly funny and you're getting close.

Image copyright Catherine McGann
    Luckily the DJ's smart enough just to keep up a remorseless boom-thunk bass bin slam going all night that suits this raw ruckus fine and dandy. On 'Big It Up' we're only five minutes into the set, and the crowd are like itchy testicles in E's hand: the idle cool with which he toys with them keeps up a determinedly childish, playpen atmosphere to proceedings which doesn't flag all night. You realise that this is what you crave from hip hop: he slips into a hilarious skit on Snoop's 'Ain't Nothin' But A G Thang', before plunging fists first into 'I Just Don't Give A F***': quite possibly the most adrenalising slab of brat hop since Onyx or prime-era Beasties, certainly already anthem of choice for an aggro summer involving everyone here. The closing chaos of 'My Name Is Slim Shady', a brain-bending freestyle encore, a chorus of boos and a triumphant 'Guilty' only quicken the chaotic crescendo of the night, and the background whinges you can hear about "20-minute rip-off' are the only things that vex. They couldn't be more wrong.
   Because this was a perfectly unrespectable, slam-bang kick in the head to hip hop's current outbreak of mass critical blindness, a blindness crippling writers, fans and artists alike: "It's on Rawkus — it must be good. It's got a grimy, graff cover — it must be good. It features DJ F*** Knows from the Impoverished Unemployables Crew — it must be good." Bullshit. Half of what you've been told is cutting-edge, nu-skool hip hop is a crock of tedious, uninvolving muso shit for counter-leaners and technicians. It's nothing more than pop reassembled by mitten-wearing jobsworth dunces, backing up rhymes which display such a stupendously dull lack of imagination (or "representin'" as it's now known) that it boggles the brainstem as to why you got into this shit in the first place. See Eminem as a wake-up call and a reminder of what first snagged your soul way back when. Or, failing that, just roll on this rockin' shit all summer. Keep getting it wrong, boy. It feels so right.
SHOW & TELL: Phenomenal or 'Shady' character?
Kremser (23) from Austria
One-hit wonder, or here to stay? Kremser: "With the Dre connection and the LP, he's definitely gonna be a star." Sick of the single yet? K: "In Austria, not yet. He will be here very soon!" Best track tonight? K: "'My Name Is Slim Shady'."
Juni (21) from London
One-hit wonder, or here to stay? Juni: "I think the massive variety of the audience proves he's here to stay. He's got something for everyone: from indie hip hop fans to straight-up b-boys." Sick of the single yet? J: "Not yet. It's bound to happen, though. All the best songs get irritating." Best track tonight? J: "'I Just Don't Give A F***'."
PAUL (28), from Plymouth
One-hit wonder, or here to stay? Paul: "He's got a lot more than just the single. The album is gonna surprise everyone." Sick of the single yet? P: "It's the poppiest thing on the album, but it's still great." Best track tonight? P: "'Brain Damage'."

"The show was dope! It's the first time I've been in London, and I've been waiting for the moment to give some love back to all the people that have been showing me love in the UK. The shit was real! I came on thinking that it's gonna be an industry vibe, but true heads were in the crowd giving me love, and it made me feel good. Like when the crowd were rapping with me — they're real fans, proving hip hop lives! It was off the hook, man."

POP WON'T LET YOU DIE - Suicidal thoughts worked out via a singles page, Plan B Magazine

I'VE A FEELING she’s not listening anymore.
Every night I’d pray to my little goddess. She sits on a tiger, the cosmos spinning around her 50-odd fingers, a beguiling smile playing across her lips, knowing that hope and faith are not maintainable as permanent conditions. She knows that they should take you over like love, a last resort when the will and its inevitable futility have been exhausted.
   Every night I’d throw the day at her and every morning I’d ask her to throw it back at me. And for a while things went my way. Then I forgot my little goddess. She became another religious artefact on my mantel, alongside the two Ganeshes; the Jain figurehead, proudly secular (that’s the benefit of being a Hindu – you don’t have to believe in God); the wallet-sized laminate of the Virgin and Child plucked from a Chicago sidewalk. Like every other object around me, the goddess just became another distant taker up of space within my planetsized demise. I let things slip and 2004 became perhaps the shittiest year of my life, not only in events – my job, lovelife, and car all died – but also my response to them, a plain, expansive, debilitating depression that made every moment of hope seem cruel, every spark of effort snuffed out by inexpressible anger and the bone-chilling damp of self-loathing. Of course, if I’d made my daily orisons to the sacred mantelpiece, nothing would have been different.
   It’s just that today is Christmas day, I can see the end of the year looming and, startlingly, I feel hope. I have new holy artefacts that are spiritually re-arming me right now, telling me the only viable response to this bleak, miasmic fog is to thrash out with beauty, with anger, with hope. And I want to talk about these sacred tablets, these pop records. Cos together, they’re a new prayer for my little goddess.

   Hip hop holds my brain in a state of FUCK YOU. It tells me, yeah, you can’t imagine a worse fate than the future, but you wanna be there when the shit goes down having FUN.

Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’ ‘What U Gon Do’ (TVT) makes you feel like Robocop going from chassis to completion, clamped with only forward vision while the spods in your peripheries are retooling you for war. Edan’s ‘Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme’ (Lewis) continues his mindblowing mission to marry psych and rap with his finest since ‘Primitive Plus’. On the flip, ‘Beauty’ is putting a spring in my step that sproings me stellar, an overt attempt at ‘hip hop surrealism’ that manages simultaneously to sound like both Ultramagnetics and also United States Of America’s ‘Love Song For The Dead Ché’.

On a similarly maverick tip, J-Zone’s hysterical ‘Greater Later’ (Old Maid), Sage Francis’ ‘Sea Lion’ (feat. Will Oldham) (Epitaph), Cee- Rock’s ‘Anderson Iz Nice’ (Wolftown),Example’s ‘The Sell Out’ (All The Chats), and Count Bass D’s ‘DownEasy’ (Ramp) are all infernally, inspirationally full of incisive insight, insane abstraction, hilarity and sheer bloody joyful LIFE.

My new year’s resolution is to give this music the exposure it fucking deserves, cos in a world where hip hop’s still thought of in terms of yer Eminems and Ja Rules these people need to be made stars as quickly as possible. Hip hop is still a faith to get irate and agitated about, and people working within it are still not getting their due. Just dig the fact that Roots Manuva’s ‘Colossal Insight’ (Big Dada) will be analysed everywhere as a UK rap tune, and not for what it is – one of the finest British pop records of this decade. He’s been listening to Cabaret Voltaire, The Cure and the second side ofMore Specials, bigstyle.

‘Colossal Insight’ pivots on a poignant downward spiral of Doppler effect electro spliced against a snappy lounge-ska beat. The lyrics are hilarious when they’re not winceworthily accurate; a dead funny, deadly serious, deadpan, dead-on look at Roots’ journey of the past few years and where he imagines he’s going. He’s sensible enough to end up with the colossal insight that predictions are pointless when you, the world and your music are this uncontrollable. The Soft Pink Truth remix is brutally irreverent to its source– Roots’ vocal shredded down, everything surrendered to the disco-pulse. You’d better take a deep breath and keep following the R in 2005.

   POP HOLDS MY HEART together and strokes the breakages with tender, glue-exuding fingers. I don’t mean Manic Street Preachers’ appositely titled ‘Empty Souls’ (Sony), Kasabian’s storm-in-a-shitbucket ‘Cut Off’ (BMG), Interpol’s inappropriately titled ‘Evil’ (Matador), Client’s ‘Pornography’ (Toast Hawaii but basically EMI), The Killers’ dismal ‘Somebody Told Me’ (Pinnacle), The Others’ shockingly mediocre ‘Lackey’ (Universal) or the Chemical Brothers’ menopausal ‘Galvanise’ (Virgin). These are the records that the megastores andmags and PR-dependent broadcasters want you to think matter in January ‘05. Oh sure, they ‘matter’ in a depressingly real sense (all the above will get in your way at some point soon), but not to those smart enough to know we’re too dumb to be pleased by such middling thought, too bright to be suckered by such tepid ghosts of fire. Nah, dig Soulwax’s ‘E-Talking’ (PIAS) for its honesty and humour, 65daysofstatic’s wonderfuel ‘Retreat!Retreat’ (Monotreme), which is like Mogwai with all the hmmmmmpffffftttt taken out and all the WOW!JESUS!!HOLYFUCKINGMOTHEROFPEARL!!! put back in, and The Silent League’s ‘Breathe’ (Something In Construction), cos it’s like all the best bits of the Joyzipper and Fiver albums condensed into three wondrous minutes. Most of all, dig Hood’s ‘The Lost You’ (Domino).

Why? Let’s go for a walk. Yeah, I know it’s midnight. And it’s Christmas day. But I’ve got to tell you something. Put your gloves on.

    OK, we’re here, this is the highest you get. Now, turn around and look at the horizon. See the lights twinkling into the distance? You can see the runway to the airport and the rolling hills to the south. The dim orange glow of other cities to the North. Now close your eyes and hear the traffic die to no louder than your heartbeat. Feel the wind gash your face open, let your lips rest on each other, breathe in the far-off din of other souls in transit and realise your fragile place in the universe. Look at the curvature of the earth from this blood-spilled Petri dish that is your hometown, realise how broken down you are, get ripped open by the elements, find that small, steady voice of disquiet that is your own, inside your temple. All that despair, all that heartache, all those reasons to leave – why have you remained? Why are you, impossibly, seeing another year begin? Because, like it or not, in-between the stars and the sodden earth, you are what you always were and will always be – a mind, heart and soul open to the universe, hungry for death but ever so prone to rebirth. You are the city and the city is you. There is hope here, and it’s not empty-headed, it’s a full-on throwing out and ingestion of love. It’s gonna be a battle and it’s gonna be a struggle, but what else is there? Yes, we are outnumbered hugely. But that should tell us everything. Hood are up on that hillside already. They’ve found ‘The Lost You’ and turned it into the most soulful, spectral, suggestive music of 2005 thus far. They’ll carry you home. And then, there’s much to be done. These artefacts, these bits of plastic – they’re chances, d’ya see? New ways of seeing and being. Pop won’t let you die. Let’s go home. Let’s stick… apart. Let’s ask that little goddess if she fancies a dance.
I’ve a feeling she will.