Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hang On! These Records Are Tremendous...

Red House Painters:
Brockwell Park [demo] (1993, 4AD)
Summer Dress [live] (1993, 4AD)

The fact that the Red House Painters are, like, the greatest group evah has long been settled in my mind, but I was happy to find out recently that the rest of the world is catching up. A week or so ago I went to Suffolk to interview Colin Larkin, probably the world's leading rock boffin (and thoroughly nice chap). He is responsible for the 3 million words that make up the 12 volume Encyclopedia Of Popular Music. Part of the interview was to find out who's made it in, and he mentioned ver Painters in the same way he mentioned, y'know, The Doors or The Byrds. Although he's only discovered them recently (*raises eyebrows towards Billy and Colleen...) he says they will never be ousted from his books now as they are "a very important group indeed". Well, I could have told you that fifteen years ago pal! I have memories of RHP shows and records that I will take to my grave. But maybe we'll do all that another time.

More pertinently, not enough San Franciscan groups have written a song about that big lump of grass in Herne Hill, so fair play. This version of Summer Dress just makes me want to lie on the ground and die (in a good way).

Russ Gabriel: Airborne (Input, 1995)
Talking of Billy, he used to have this flat on Castlenau in Barnes and Saturday nights would be spent round there after a good few pints in the pub. On summer evenings, a group of us would spend hours stood at the end of the garden (by the reservoir) smoking furiously and staring up at the trees watching how the leaves and branches shook in the wind, forming ever more strange and unlikely shapes (King Henry VIII riding a motorcycle, anyone?). Meanwhile, brilliant records like Gabriel's would be playing a hundred yards away in the wood-panelled front room. Yes, wood-panelled. As a rule, I'm not a huge fan of the 4/4, but this is just beautiful...

Joe Harriott: Raga Megha (Atlantic, 1966)
Joe Harriott's a bit good. A bit very good indeed. This LP he made with John Mayer is a total classic - though it might be a bit outre for some. If you're in the mood for eight plus minutes of startlingly inventive UK-grown indo-jazz then come on in!

No! Come back!

Pasta all’Amatriciana

As we're about to go on holiday, I've spent the last fortnight trying to cook everything in the fridge. On our last night, all I have left is a vine of over-ripe tomatoes, one punnet of pancetta, a packet of ham, a tub of soft cheese and the end of a decent block of Pecornio. So that's super-quick pasta for tea then and sandwiches for the 4am drive to the airport. Hoorah!

Serves 3
300g spaghetti or bucatini
85g cubed pancetta
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 sprig semi-fresh rosemary
4 - 5 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
pinch of sugar
splash of balsamic vinegar
crushed chilli flakes and finely grated Pecornio, to serve

1 Cook the pancetta in a saucepan for 5 minutes or so until crispy. Lift out with a slotted spoon.

2 Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted water.

3 Add the garlic and rosemary to the hot pancetta oil and sizzle for 30 seconds then lift out the rosemary sprig. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar and cook gently for 10 minutes or so until pulpy. Using a hand-held blender, whizz until smooth. Return the bacon and rosemary sprig to the pan, check the seasoning and then toss with the cooked pasta.

4 Divide between bowls and serve with chilli flakes and plenty of cheese.


My friends Gareth and Ruth gave me a Fisheye Lomo camera for my birthday. How brilliant is that? I am very excited about it and off on holiday tomorrow so could do with some tips on how to use it.

By the way, the Pecs branch of Boots have got Kodak disposable underwater cameras on BOGOF this week. Don't suppose that's very useful information unless you're off on holiday somewhere warm and sunny and by the sea.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My Favourite Pub

Is definitely, definitely The Montpelier on Choumert Road. Like most of the pubs in SE London, it's been taken over and done up recently. But it hasn't quite turned into a standard gastropub - there's still a waft of the old pub it used to be that hasn't quite been bleached out and I like that.

Anyway, I had a little mid-week birthday bash in there the other night and they were so good, it was quite heart-warming. We went in the week before and Scrap had a very good fishcake and chips while I made a plan with the manager: whatever food I wanted, whatever booze I wanted, no minimum spend, no set price per head, we agreed a figure and that was that. On the night, our area was set aside, the candles were lit, the glasses were lined up on the bar-top, we had hand-cut chips, dips, chorzio and ciabatta, big salads and a fabulous chocolate tart made by the chef. And they let Robert bring in a surprise cake from my favourite baker and the house Prosecco was top drawer. It was just lovely and I give The Montpelier full marks for customer care. The fact it is directly across the road from my studio is an added bonus.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Records I Can't Stand: 13

Ultravox: Vienna (Chrysalis, 1981)

"This means nothing to me". Yes, that sounds about right, "Midge".

Thursday, September 27, 2007

That's Handy

This chap plays the hits via the miracle of his - presumably quite sweaty - hands. His version of Britney's gym-slip classic is an object-lesson in taut melody and dramatic arrangement. Love him, cherish him, please don't miss his version of Queen's Don't Stop Me Now.

Or this...

I Knew This Would Happen

Cats On Fire: I Am The White-Manteled King (Marsh Marigold Records, 2007)
This CD has been sat on my desk for about three weeks and I've "filed" (disposed of or burnt) everything else but this one just refused to move. And I kept looking at it thinking I'd like it. So, today I got round to putting it on. And I do like it. Quite a lot, in fact. I knew this would happen. And, what's more, they're from Turku in Finland, which is is quite near someone I know.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hello Old Thing, Hello Even Older Thing: 3

Alan Parker: Frozen Stream (KPM, 1973)
Pictured here is the original 1973 sleeve from the KPM Library files. However, in a mixed-media presentation that would wow even those who know all about mixed-media presentations - someone like Natasha Kaplinsky maybe, or Ronnie Corbett? - I've purloined this from a marvellous (and a great deal easier to access) reissue on Tummy Touch that I would warmly recommend if - like me - you are interested in instrumental music that conjures up the majesty and mystery of the Dark Continent through the liberal usage of some none-more-fluid guitar lines and a breakbeat I fully expect to hear turned into a hit single by Christmas.

John Barry: Alone Blues (CBS, 1965)
As you may have surmised from the picture, this perfectly-poised slice of Barry-ology comes from the brilliant soundtrack to Ver IPCRESS File, innit. As soon as you hear this you'll want to put on a mac and smoke filterless gaspers while trolling about various London locales but that - CAUTION! Gag Approaching! - is caused purely by my skilful Induction of Psycho-neuroses by Conditioned Reflex Under StrESS.

Do you see what I did there?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Your Photos Off The Telly

Thank you BLTP, JC and Simon, these are ace! Got telly pictures? Send them here.

Anyone name all four?

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I love going out to lunch. So when it was my birthday on Friday, Robert and I both took the afternoon off and met for a date at Fino on Charlotte Street. It's hard to find and it turned out to be in a basement but from the second we stepped through the door, I knew I was going to love it. It was packed and lively, the service was friendly and speedy and the food was exactly what I was hoping for.
We had a selection of eight, all delicious, tapa (including Crisp belly pork, Pulpo a la Gallega, Piementos de Padron, Fino chips with Brava sauce, Donuts with Pedro Ximénez ice cream) and a couple of sherries and Cavas and it came to £101. It's not cheap but it's very very good.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Fergal's Irish Stew

We're staying over at our friends tonight and Fergal is making his famous Irish stew. It's a variation on a Ballymaloe recipe. This is how you do it:

Serves 6
1.5kg cubed lamb
2kg potatoes, cubed
750g carrots, cut into chunky pieces
4 onions, cut into chunky pieces
1 large swede, cubed
few sprigs of fresh thyme
3 litres or so of fresh lamb stock
chopped fresh parsley

1 Trim the excess fat off the lamb and cook in a large cassrole dish to melt the fat. Lift out the solids and discard. Add the lamb cubes and cook for a couple of minutes to seal. Lift out the meat.

2 Layer the vegetables and the lamb back into the pan ensuring an even distribution and seasoning with salt, pepper and thyme as you go. Pour over enough stock to cover then bring up to the boil, cover and simmer for a couple of hours.

3 Skim off any excess fat from the surface. Stir in the parsley, check the seasoning then ladle into bowls and serve.


East Dulwich Deli have got their first batch of this season's Vacherin in!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hello Old Thing, Hello Even Older Thing: 4

G. W. McLennan: Fingers (Beggars Banquet, 1993)
I used to listen to this record over and over and over and over again, endlessly moved by it's spare and simple beauty. I'd never really been a big fan of The Go Betweens - McLennan's dayjob - other than an unshakable thirst for their Streets Of Your Town single. Anyway, I picked this up one morning in the Beggars office 14 years ago and it's never moved too far from me since. I have lost, mislaid, broken, given away, thrown out, sat on, fatally wounded or otherwise been parted from hundreds of things over the last ten years or so, but Fingers is always there unlike, sadly, McLennan, who died in his sleep, at home in Brisbane, last May. He was just 48.

Andrew Hill: Illusion (Blue Note, 1969)
Since we're talking about spare and simple beauty - and having a piano moment - this would be a good time to offer up a little Andrew Hill. I wish I had more Hill than I do (ie, hardly any) as it's fantastically focussed, beautifully minimal chamber-jazz, the sort of music you most wish you were listening to when someone walks in on you unexpectedly. Just being in the same room as an Andrew Hill record brings your IQ up by about 25% and Illusion is an amazing piece of music, funkier than hell's own bedsocks while icier than than a barmaid's heart. As you listen you may ask yourself, 'Rob, tell me, is that the great Ron Carter I hear on bass?' And the answer's yes. And, yes, hi-end jazz-bo fans, that is the astonishing Kermit Moore on cello. Hey Kermit, nice cello!


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pictures Off The Telly

I love photos taken from the telly, they have a very nice quality. And if you look closely you can usually see something of the room or a faint reflection of the person crouching in front of the screen with their camera so you sort of get two stories in one.

This first picture is from Euro 2004 when our Scrap was just a newborn and we really thought England were going to win. They were playing Portugal and lost the penalty shoot out. The second picture was taken tonight off the telly in my Plymouth hotel room. If anyone wants to email us a photo off the telly, I’ll post it up.

But while we’re on telly, I’ve just seen an advert for Peter Grant. It’s a spoof, right?

Bucatini with Brascioli

This a very old-fashioned Italian pasta sauce. My mum has cooked if forever using tough old braising steak and claims it was invented in her home town in Puglia but I'm not so sure about that. Traditonally, the meat is lifted out and served with salad after the pasta and sauce.

For more home-cooked pasta recipes go to the Presto Pasta Night Round-Up

Serves 4
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 garlic cloves
bunch of parsley
few rosemary or thyme leaves
pinch of dried chillies
2 tbsp soft sun-dried tomatoes in oil
300g minute or frying steaks (you should get 8 - 10 for this weight)
500g pack bucatini and grated Parmesan to serve

1 Tip the tomatoes into a saucepan with one can of water. Liquidise with a handblender and a little salt until smooth. Stir in the oregano.

2 Place the garlic, parsley, rosemary, chilli, sun dried tomatoes and some salt and pepper in a mini-chopper and blend to make a paste. Spread the paste over the steaks with the back of a teapoon. Roll up to enclose the paste and tie with cotton or string to secure.

3 Drop the meat rolls into the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Bubble for a couple of hours until the sauce is dark and thickened. Serve with bucatini and pass round the Parmesan.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Scrap Is Better Than This Already

I've let Scrap get all over my old King, Battle Breaks and Ultimate Breaks And Beats LPs for a while now and he's really doing OK. He's a little hung up on the Impeach The President break, but that's understandable.

Anyway, I've banned all Roary The Racing Car viewings until he can do this with his eyes shut.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The New Piccadilly

I've recently, finally joined Facebook and become a member of my first group,
Go And Have Lunch At The New Piccadilly
It's going to be a fairly short lived membership though. The group's named in honour of a classic London cafe that's due to close down this very weekend. Sadly, we're not going to make it for lunch but Rob and I have worked out a good plan so we can have a last breakfast!

The New Piccadilly, one of Soho's oldest and grooviest caffs, will be closing it's doors for good on September 22. It's too late to save it, but at the very least go and have a spag bol and a frothy coffee there and soak up a bit of Soho history before it's gone for good!

I couldn't agree more. Go before it's too late!

I Can Do This Sort Of Thing Really Well Without Even Thinking About It...

... but you might need some help.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pot-Roasted Lamb Shanks

Most of us do slow-cooked lamb shanks the same way, in red wine with herbs and onions. That's because it works so well and some matches are just meant to be. Like crackling'd roast pork and Bramley apple sauce. Like sausages and HP. Like......

Serves 2
2 lamb shanks
2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
3 carrots, chunked
2 red onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
few sprigs of rosemary or thyme
few juniper or allspice berries
2 tsp sweetness: brown sugar, honey, redcurrant jelly
1/3 bottle red wine
glass of water
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 160C. Place all of the ingredients (except vinegar) in a casserole dish, cover and roast for 3 hours or so. Take the lid off for the last half hour if it's too liquidy for you. I like to balance it out with a bit of vinegar at the end.
Serve with mash.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I couldn't give a monkey's about Led flaming Zeppelin, but lots of people seem to disagree. When I say "lots" I obviously mean somewhere between 20 and 220 million. Or, here's a thought, are all these numbers as made up as each other?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pop Videos I Was Nearly In: 1

A: Old Folks (London, 1999)
Every now and again I think about A. And more often than not I think of the time I went to Palm Springs with them for a Melody Maker feature. While there, they filmed this video. The building they filmed in front of was their cheap hotel. London Records put me, the photographer and the press officer in a much nicer hotel up the road (and flew us there and back in business). What struck me more than anything during the four days we were there was their enthusiasm for everything. I've still never met another band who just loved it like they did. I remember doing the interview surrounded by bottles of Schlitz and Gatorade and I smoked Camel Wides with the desert sun dropping down behind Bob Hope's house. Later, we played Barry Manilow records on the jukebox in some crappy bar and waved goodbye. They went off to Lake Tahoe and I drove (properly drunk) around the empty, cold hills in the hire car.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hello Old Thing, Hello New Thing: 22

T. Rex: Woodland Rock (EMI, 1971)
I'm way too young to really remember T. Rex (I am, I promise), but even someone as fresh-faced and perky as I can see that that having great hair and wearing ballet shoes - are you listening, Amy Winehouse - all make a pop star just that little bit more exciting. I have purloined this from a rather smart new compilation that's available next month. I'm very happy to say this version includes a wonderful intro by BBC ledge, Brian Matthew. This is the stuff...

Example: So Many Roads (The Beats, 2007)
Example is from Fulham. This track samples The Carpenters. His album is very good. I spoke to him the other week for a Guardian piece (I had nothing to do with the headline) and he was highly amusing. Crucially, on the record, he mentions the 220 bus route. Well, the old double-two (I've never, ever called it 'the old double-two' before) is a favourite of mine, so, in a way, he can now do no wrong.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Buon Giorno!

Not being able to speak Italian whilst bearing the most Italian name in the world has always been my biggest regret. But not for my Scrap. At 3 1/2, he needs to learn now. But can I find anyone to teach him? I have trawled the net, emailed the Italian Institute and scoured the library notice boards all to no avail. I imagined a nice Saturday morning school in Clerkenwell (or somewhere like that) where he learns fluent Italian while Rob and I drink coffee and eat pastries nearby, he then translates all the menus and road signs for all of our future holidays. No such luck. Any ideas?

Monday, September 10, 2007

The All New Landcroft House: The Movie

I have just unearthed this incredible film that pretty much sums up how I see the all-new Landcroft House kitchen working out. It's actually a little bit uncanny...

This Record Is Quite Nice, Actually: 3

Robyn: Every Heartbeat [acoustic version]
(Konichiwa Records, 2007)
You might remember this from being No 1 in the pop charts. Then again, you might not, it's increasingly difficult to actually hear what's No 1 in the pop charts, I find. Anyway, this is a completely re-done version where the lovely Robyn gives it some joanna and the whole thing ends up peering over Kate Bush's fence, hoping to catch her singing to herself in the kitchen.

Good work, that proper pop star.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Street Party!

As a child I remember there being quite a few occasions that called for a street party. The best one of course, was the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977 when I must have gone to a dozen parties. But when was the most recent celebration that got everyone out on the street? They don't seem to happen. Is it because we don't know our neighbours? Can't we be bothered? Or are there too many public highway regulations?

We had our fourth annual street party at the mews where I work yesterday. It was great! I love the sense of community spirit that saw everyone producing a bag of charcoal, a couple of chairs or a tray of brownies. As the children went home for their baths, the tea lights got lit and the music turned up and there was a second sitting for the barbecues.
I wish there were more to go to! Bring back the street party!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sitar-ing Comfortably?

Prof. Debu Chaudhuri: Alap & Jor (1995, India Archive Music)
When you're in your new pad (like the one below), you'll need some sounds. I recommend the good Professor Chaudhuri. This unhurried - it's 46 minutes long - piece is (*reads off the sleeve-notes*) "a measured and contemplative exposition of Lalit, an early morning raga with a meditative mood..."

Trans: It's really mellow.

*snorts joss-stick*

The New Landcroft House Revealed!*

*If we lived in the house I triapse around in my dreams - currently, the one with three different kitchens and the swimming pool in the basement (down a set of castle-like steps) - in all honesty, it would look a lot like this.

Enjoy. And don't miss what might be the single greatest bathroom evah.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Let's Be Having You

Derby County's return to the Premiership is looking like a bit of a disaster. We've got seven injured players and are bottom of the league and losing with scores such as 4-0 and 6-0. And I think we have Arsenal to look forward to soon.
Come on Derby, where are you?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Don't Forget Them

The Elephants: 5 Minutes (Tapete Records, 2007)
According to their Myspace page, The Elephants are "a 6-piece group based in Copenhagen, Denmark, who loves funny instruments". Loves 'em, they do. They also profess to "loves" "Sweden, New York, Brian Wilson and long walks" which makes perfect sense. Anyway, they are - as you might be able to tell from the photo - a pop group. And one, happily, who write really lovely songs that beg to be described by my inner (hugely lame) rock critic as "keening-vocal'd, jingle-jangle, brass-pimpled wig-shakers".

Oh yes.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Charlie's Fingers

Scrap asked his nursery pal Charlie round for tea yesterday. This a new thing for me, a play-date-tea and a 3 1/2 year old who has started fixing his own social calendar. We spent all weekend talking about what we might cook for Charlie and agreed on fish fingers. Anyway, it was very nice, very noisy and Charlie's mum and I were on the cava by 5.30. Luckily, lovely, well-behaved Joseph from over the road came by at the last minute, to set a good example and tackle the fish finger pile.

I know fish fingers are hardly rocket science but they are just yum so here's the recipe anyway. I am a big fan of the hoki fillet.

Makes 12
250g hoki fillet
2 tbsp plain flour
1 egg
1 tbsp finely grated Parmesan
80g dried natural breadcrumbs
half and half sunflower oil and olive oil, for shallow frying

1 Cut the fish into fingers. Dust with flour.

2 Beat together the eggs and Parmesan. Dip the floured fish fingers in the cheesey-egg and then roll in breadcrumbs.

3 Place on a plate and chill until ready to cook. (See pic)

4 Shallow fry for 5 - 8 minutes until dark golden and crispy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Monday Night Roast

Rob was disappointed not to get a Sunday roast at his Mum's yesterday so once the day was done I made a half-arsed, one-pot roast and it was easy and tasty. I put a small joint of pork (yes, from Sainsbury's but the butchers are shut on Mondays and least it wasTaste the Difference, Outdoor Reared) in the oven on highest for 30 minutes. Turned down the heat and added par-boiled potatoes and parsnips, some baby carrots and a splash of olive oil and cooked for another 30 minutes. Then I added a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves and some of mum's dried oregano and finished it off for another 30 minutes and got good crackling and potatoes that were part-crunchy, part-sticky.

A quick red wine gravy and dinner was on the table just in time for the second part of Corrie. And blimey, how exciting was it! Poor Clare!

Monday Morning Pop Thrill

My Insect Guide: It's Nothing (Dead Penny Records, 2007)
Look, it's not my fault loads and loads of bands have decided they want to gaze longingly at their footwear while allowing this great bubble of nosie to shuffle up around them. I'm just a humble reporter, hell-bent on making sure you get to enjoy each new twist and turn in the dreampop road. And it's Monday, so we all need, if not cheering up, then at least a quick jolt to get us going.