No one should be doing indie rock at 43: Band of Horses’s Things Are Great reviewed

Grade: B That thing, ‘indie rock’, is so well played and produced these days, so pristine and flawless, that it has become almost the antithesis of what it was back at the end of the 1970s, when the term was invented. Then it referred to bands who released stuff on small independent labels because the big labels wouldn’t take them on. Shouty, angsty and angular, or just weird and beloved by the befringed dolorous yoof, in their anoraks or donkey jackets, the whole thing had a pleasing DIY feel to it, even if it sometimes grated. These days ‘indie’ just tends to mean anodyne power pop played by whining blokes

Oh dear, Abba’s new album is a bit of a dog: Voyage reviewed

I assume that somewhere on the guided ‘Piers and Queers’ walking tour of Brighton, the participants are enjoined to regard, in awe, the Dome — the venue at which Abba, on 6 April 1974, won the Eurovision Song Contest, thus both launching themselves as a wildly successful band and establishing the town (as it was then) as a mecca (probably the wrong choice of word there) for the UK’s swiftly growing gay community. Hitherto it had been a rather frowsy, Tory-voting seaside resort, best known for dirty weekends and petty villains. The Swedes won with ‘Waterloo’, of course, which may have provided our nation with some much-needed succour. A remembrance

Apocalypse, Seventies-style: BritBox’s Survivors reviewed

When the apocalypse comes, I want it to be scripted by a 1970s screenwriter. That’s my conclusion after watching the first few episodes of Terry Nation’s landmark 1975 ‘cosy catastrophe’ series Survivors on BritBox. Everything was so much more innocent and charming back then, including the end of the world. Survivors establishes its MacGuffin in the opening credits: a montage which begins with a masked, enigmatic oriental man in a laboratory where he accidentally smashes a vial; we then see clips of him in a suit travelling through various airports, with passport stamps (New York, London, etc) taunting us from the past with just how easy it was back then

A very watchable doc cashing in on Line of Duty: BBC2’s Bent Coppers reviewed

If you’re after an exciting, twisty programme about police corruption that doesn’t also feel a bit like sitting an exam in Line of Duty studies, then Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty could well hit the spot. As both the timing and subtitle not so much suggest as bellow, this three-part documentary series is an obvious attempt to cash in on its fictional counterpart. Happily, though, it’s a successful one. In Wednesday’s second episode the focus was on 1970s Soho, where the most reliable way to make a fortune was by opening what the narrator Philip Glenister called, in suitably 1970s argot, ‘dirty bookshops’. Of course, there were certain

‘You can’t have opinions any more’: Rick Wakeman interviewed

‘Classic rock’ is a rather fusty old oxymoron, but then the term ‘classic’ is applied these days to chocolate bars and that most in-demand of consumer undurable, lavatory paper, so I suppose one shouldn’t complain. Covid-19 will probably be remembered as a ‘classic virus’ one day not too soon, when there are other more baleful new-wave viruses with spiky hair pogoing around. ‘Classic rock’, meanwhile, is a term applied to the sort of chest-beating rawk that people of my generation admire: the Who, Bad Company, Blue Oyster Cult insisting, in timely fashion, that we should embrace death, and Lynyrd Skynyrd informing us, with unforeseen irony, that they can fly, free

I could have directed it better: Steve McQueen’s Small Axe reviewed

Unlike with every other BBC period drama series these days, I didn’t have to sit through Small Axe: Mangrove grumbling about the implausible and anachronistic diversity casting. Mangrove was the West Indian-owned restaurant in Notting Hill which, in 1970, became the subject for a landmark Old Bailey trial involving nine of its habitués on trumped-up charges of riot and affray. Though it gets much better once we’re actually in court, the first hour’s build-up is awfully slow. I fear writer/director Steve McQueen is to blame. He has an artist’s eye for the visual side of things: the look and feel of late-1960s west London — just as the Westway overpass

The artist who left no physical record of her work

While locked-down galleries compete to keep their artists in the public eye — or ear — by uploading interview podcasts, a treasure trove of earlier recordings is being overlooked. Artists’ Lives, part of the British Library’s oral history archive, is a collection of interviews with 370 artists, 200 of which are available on the British Library Sounds website. As an account of British art of the past century they are more comprehensive than Vasari’s Lives and more reliable, coming as they do from the horse’s mouth. They are also exhaustive. But for those who haven’t got all day to follow the fascinating career of Guyanese-born Frank Bowling RA through 17

The empress of art

Somewhere in the bowels of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is a portrait from a lost world. Its subject is a beautiful young woman: Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran. The condition of the work, however, a luminous print by Andy Warhol from 1977, is so bad that it could be a metaphor for Iran itself. Fundamentalist vandals have slashed at it with knives. The Empress — forced into exile when the Iranian Revolution overthrew her husband, the Shah, two years after the portrait was completed — discovered this upsetting news while watching French TV in her Paris apartment. ‘Seeing that, I said, “They are stupid”,’ she

The 1975: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Grade: C A derided year in pop music, 1975 — and yet a great one. The mainstream was horrible, but we had Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night, Patti Smith’s Horses, Guy Clarke’s Old No. 1 and Television just beginning to break through. It is in the lacunae, before the next big wave, that we hear the most inventive music, which is why ’75 — with Queen and disco hogging the charts and the blind alleys of prog and metal as your only alternative — was so good. But I suppose you want to hear about the band, The 1975 — one of Britain’s biggest. Oh, Britain. The 1975 are a

Four play | 14 May 2015

If Julian, Dick, George and Anne had become terrorists they’d have called themselves The Angry Brigade. It’s such a Wendy house name. The quartet of violent outcasts met in a Camden squat in the late Sixties and moved to Stoke Newington where they rented a house to deflect unwanted attention. They began planting bombs around London in the hope of jerking the proles from their consumerist trance and sparking a communist war. They preferred catchy locations for their fireworks: the Albert Hall, a BBC film unit, an MP’s garden. And it took the cops ages to track them down and sling them in jail. James Graham’s new play uses a

Don’t mock Elvis’s style – he was ahead of the curve

In the giftshop at the new Elvis exhibition at the Dome, you can buy your own version of his flared white jumpsuits. I can’t think of anyone who could wear one and not look ridiculous — particularly if they had a bit of a weight problem. But Elvis, who would have turned 80 this year, managed to pull it off. This selection of the best Elvisiana from Graceland is full of the sort of kitschy excess that would sit so awkwardly on anyone else: his outsized solitaire diamond ring, the gold phone by his bedside table, the Harley-Davidson golf carts he used to rocket through Graceland’s grounds. It’s easy to

The Best of Me is more of a sleepie than a weepie – especially when our old friend No Sexual Chemistry makes an appearance

Take tissues to The Best of Me, I’d read, as it’s such a weepie, so I took tissues, being a weeper at weepies — I still dab my eyes whenever I even think about War Horse — but it was rubbish advice. You don’t need tissues for this film. Instead, you need to line up several triple espressos, as many cans of Red Bull as you can reasonably manage, two matchsticks (one for each eye, obviously), replacement matchsticks for when the weight of your eyelids proves too much and they snap, plus a small hammer to knock yourself in the side of your head when you find yourself bored out

Coming soon – the Bank of Miliband. Be very afraid.

If you think bankers do a bad job of banking, just wait until government tries its hand. This seems to be what Ed Miliband is proposing today: a Labour government would set up two new banks, to challenge the existing five big ones. And so his 1970s revival continues. There’s no evidence that new banks would help much, as the Bank of England Governor has already indicated. But as I say in my Telegraph column today, Ed Miliband isn’t too worried about lack of evidence. He’s proposing to be a different kind of political leader. His list of ‘predators’ – ie, nasty businesses to whom he promises to give six

Rotten, vicious times

A.N. Wilson recalls the worst decade of  recent history and the death throes of Old England There was a distressing news story the other day about a man who did not declare his father’s death because he wanted, like a character in Gogol, to go on claiming his late parent’s benefits. The smell eventually alerted neighbours to what was going on. The person I pitied was the pathologist who performed the autopsy, eventually declaring that the man had died of natural causes. Presumably this verdict could only be reached after hours of prodding putrescent limbs and organs with a scalpel. A similar feeling of pity arises when contemplating Dominic Sandbrook’s