Vesuvius And Fuji

When we were leaving Rome for the Bay of Naples the receptionist at the hotel we were checking out of asked where we were heading on to. After telling her we were going to Pompeii she looked at us like we were mad- ‘in this heat?!’ she said. And she was right, it was very, very hot. But also a genuinely breathtaking and amazing place. Having walked through the streets of Pompeii we turned into the Forum, the centre of the town, a vast public space with columns and buildings around the four sides and in the distance Vesuvius lurked- the reason the town was destroyed, thousands killed but also the reason the town survived.

Eighteen years ago Fila Brazillia played at Fuji Rock. The 9 song set was recorded, has been cleaned up by Steve Cobby and is about to be released as the first Fila Brazillia album for nearly two decades. You can buy it at Bandcamp and watch A Zed And Two Ls below. The set also features Throwing Down A Shape, New Cannonball, Slow Light, Little Hands Rouge, Ridden Pony, 6ft Wasp, Pissy Willy and Harmonicas Are Shite. By 2000 Cobby and Dave McSherry’s band was a fully fleshed out touring group, playing slow motion funk, disco inflected grooves, jazzy ambient house and every other down tempo genre you can think of. Cross pollination for the nation.

Lay Back In The Sun

Views from our hotel in Sorrento, from the balcony at the front (top) and the same balcony at sunset (bottom) and from my room facing inland (middle). I could stare at these views for hours.
It seems to be commonly accepted that Spiritualized’s best album is Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space and maybe rightly so but I think the preceding album Pure Phase runs it very close. Pure Phase isn’t as song based, although there are straightforward songs on it, but is more into groove and tones and drones. There’s a section in the middle, a kind of crescendo, starting with the short, whispy Born Never Asked which then segues into the utterly tremendous 7 minutes and 40 seconds of Electric Mainline, a masterclass of flow and repetition. It is then followed by Lay Back In The Sun, a song so glorious and elegantly wasted it burns the ears. The sun Jason was singing about probably wasn’t the big ball of fire seen above but a more narcotic warmth, a hit of something strong. But the song is blast of bass and horns and bliss, rolling and sliding for over 5 minutes.

Statues

The Vatican Museum has got statues, lots and lots of Roman and Greek statues. Two wings of a gallery full of statues and busts, many in almost perfect condition. Among them are the Emperors Tiberius and Claudius (below).

The Vatican and its enormous museum aren’t the easiest of visits. The museum is too busy in places, rammed full of tourists being herded about by guides, filling galleries and staircases. At times it’s impossible to avoid getting swept along in a wave of people walking down corridors, selfie sticks aloft, past wall paintings and tapestries, without any sense of what’s happening other than everyone keeps moving and clicking. The Roman statues gallery was relatively quiet and for a while I took refuge in the Etruscan gallery, full of beautiful decorated vases and open windows looking out over the city. Dipping into the modern art collection (and I’m not generally a fan of Christian art) there was a calming, awe-inspiring room containing Matisse’s huge designs for the Chapelle du Rosaire in Provence.
For a really soulless experience I can recommend the Sistene Chapel. Hundreds of people at a time corralled into the room, necks craned upwards gazing at the fingers of God and Adam and Michaelangelo’s brushwork, ushers ordering people to either keep to the edges if moving or into the centre if standing while also being barking at the visitors, telling to stop talking and take no photos. On leaving the Sistene Chapel you enter the gift shop, piled high with jigsaws, posters and mousemats of the ceiling. The Vatican insists that the Capella Sistena is a sacred place and that guests must show respect and be appropriately dressed, no naked shoulders or knees, but the pile ’em in and bark at ’em attitude of the museum and chapel is dispiriting. I think Jesus might have had views about it similar to his attitude the money lenders in the temple.
In the statues gallery they’ve got this unnamed, bearded Dacian man which handily brings me around to the latest edition of Andrew Weatherall’s Music’s Not For Everyone, transmitted on NTS Radio yesterday and piled high with high quality tunes from everyone from Naphta and The Shamans to Link Wray to Seahawks to Wally Badarou. Tracklist here. No talking from Lord Sabre in this one, just music.

We Will Never Change No Matter What They Say

People don’t really change very much. Wandering round Pompeii with its streets, houses, fast food take aways, bars and taverns, graffiti about politics and love, mucky pictures on the walls in the brothel and grand public buildings, I was struck by how similar the people of ancient Rome were to us. I took the picture at the top in the Colosseum, a pillar constructed somewhere between 70 and 80AD, that was graffitied by visitors wanting to leave their name on an ancient monument in the 1880s. The doorway in the picture below was round the corner from our hotel in Rome, which includes the line in the middle ‘Heraklion Hooligans est 1984 Gate 4’, left by visiting fans from the Greek football team OFI Crete FC. The sport we watch may have changed from ritual slaughter to football but the arenas and fervour are largely the same. The impulse to carve or write your name on a public wall, to leave your mark, isn’t a modern phenomenon.

I’ve had Spacemen 3 and related bands looping around my head for the last few weeks. There may be another one to follow today’s post before the next few days are out. I’d forgotten about Sonic Boom’s cover version of Beat Happening’s Indian Summer. A good cover version, definitely one to keep.

Indian Summer

Beat Happening’s original version from 1988 is a lo-fi, primitive classic, a song I can come back to time and time again. In both versions here it is a perfect evocation of sexual awakenings, lost youth and heady days.

‘Breakfast in cemetery
Boy tasting wild cherry
Touch a girl apple blossom
Just a by playing possum’

Indian Summer

Nothing Is Perfect

Rome is a good city to walk around, despite the mad roads, even madder driving and uneven pavements. Some cities seem to be very delineated with different areas for shops, business, hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants. In Rome, everything is mixed in together. The driving is unreal, people largely driving (and parking) how and where they want. And hundreds of Vespas, in all kinds of condition and age- the one above was a beauty parked up on a pavement near  Piazza della Repubblica. The picture above was taken in the courtyard behind Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a rather beautiful basilica built on the back of the Baths of Diocletian. The railway station, Termini, is just across the road. Our hotel was a 5 minute walk away, on the edge of an area packed with cafes, little bars and tabbachis, and street markets, populated by a broad ethnic mix. Walking around the city, up and down its streets, brought glimpses of side streets and across piazzas. It was hot and we got tired from walking but it was well worth it, especially as the sun started to go down and the golden sunlight lit up painted buildings.

Field Of Dreams have just released this song, Nothing Is Perfect, an uptempo electronic delight with vocals from Mr Bradley that remind me of Liam from Flowered Up. The run out groove contains two well chosen words to our current government. There is also a monster of an Andrew Weatherall remix. Out now on vinyl with individually hand painted sleeves.

Harder Rhythm

I got back from my trip to Rome and Sorrento on Tuesday and then spent today in Blackpool (which takes in both ends of the coastal scale). Italy is amazing. I’ll come back to things in more detail over the next few days but in short Rome was stunning and full on and the Bay of Naples and Sorrento are beautiful with jaw-dropping views and a way of life very different from the UK. Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the Colosseum and Forum in Rome, took my breath away. And it was hot, by Zeus, it was hot. At Herculaneum it was as hot as I’ve ever been. We packed a huge amount into 5 day and nights, a bit of a mad dash to some places that without an itinerary and 42 teenagers in tow you might do at a more leisurely pace, but it was a great way to see some incredible places. Sorrento is the kind of place I could return to and many people told us that Amalfi, just down the coast, is a must.

This is the latest from Gabe Gurnsey’s upcoming solo album, a thumping, vibrant, track called Harder Rhythm that according to Gabe is inspired by ‘the twin primal instincts of sexual attractions and our instilled affinity with rhythm’.

Italia

Well, there you go, a game too far maybe for a young and inexperienced side but there is no shame at all in being beaten 2-1 in the semi-final of the World Cup by Croatia. Well done to Gareth Southgate and the whole squad. I’m sorry to all my Scottish friends who’ve probably got fed up with it but you’re just going to have to live with it this little piece of English football pride we’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks and you’d have done the same if it had been you.

As this publishes I shall be on a plane to Italy, on a school trip taking in a couple of days in Rome and then a bus ride south to the Bay of Naples for a couple of days, to Sorento visitng Pompeii, Herculaneum and Vesuvius. There won’t be any blogging going on while I’m away. The weather forecast looks even hotter and sunnier there than it has been here for the last month. I’ve never been before and am massively looking forward to seeing the historical sites and sights of ancient Rome and Italia in all its glory. See you all next week.

To make Thursday start off with a beautifully relaxed start here is some blissed out, sunkissed Italian house from Q-Base in 1991. If you hear anything more chilled out than this today, please let me know.

Il Sulo (The Sun) Deep Mix