Monday, 11 December 2017


9 December, The Cellar, Oxford

First gig as Sad Boys Club

Reviewed by Richard Brabin for Little Indie

Now, first bands on tend to come with a little leeway given to them as they are often honing their trade, still in their infancy or, in Sad Boys Club’s case, actually playing their first ever show. It is therefore anticipated that there will be bum notes, confused looks and a slightly bedraggled live sound - despite their impressing Little Indie enough to have been a TrackOf The Day during the week. This nonchalant attitude to the North London outfit's performance lasted about 27 seconds into their opening track when it became quickly apparent that something rather special was happening on stage and it was probably best we all stopped checking Twitter and gave it our full attention.

Glossy and misty guitar textures immediately glide into focus as frontman Jacob Wheldon’s succinct but dreamlike lyrics creates a Slowdive meets The Cure melee of sumptuous tones and ethereal high end. With a wholesome and tactile wall of noise coming from five performers, SBC treats its audience to a quite breathtaking half an hour of immersive compositions, each one armed with not only a gentle and sensitive consistency but also big, chunky choruses built to hold their delicate work firmly in place.

Their debut single 'Know' is a highlight, simmering and shimmering throughout its four minute existence into a climax of distorted reverb and vibrato with a trademark and infectious hook which remains in the consciousness long after the lads have dismounted from stage. If it’s anything to go by, this is only the beginning for a group of musicians showing all the hallmarks of an exceptional and highly authentic band.

Thursday, 30 November 2017


To the NPG for privileged early look sans crowds at the Cezanne Portraits exhibition.  Curiously cheerless bunch of characters, not a smile to be seen, all very flat and still.  At the same time, it is impossible to be made despondent by despond so wonderfully rendered.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Letter to The Times by Simon Schama, Howard Jacobson and Simon Sebag-Montefiore.

Letter to The Times by Simon Schama, Howard Jacobson and Simon Sebag-Montefiore.  6/11/17

Sir, In this centenary year of the Balfour Declaration we are troubled by the tone and direction of debate about Israel and Zionism within the Labour Party.
We are alarmed that during the past few years, constructive criticism of Israeli governments has morphed into something closer to antisemitism under the cloak of so-called anti-Zionism. We do not object to fair criticism of Israel governments, but this has grown to be indistinguishable from a demonisation of Zionism itself — the right of the Jewish people to a homeland, and the very existence of a Jewish state. Although anti-Zionists claim innocence of any antisemitic intent, anti-Zionism frequently borrows the libels of classical Jew-hating. Accusations of international Jewish conspiracy and control of the media have resurfaced to support false equations of Zionism with colonialism and imperialism, and the promotion of vicious, fictitious parallels with genocide and Nazism. How, in such instances, is anti-Zionism distinguishable from antisemitism?
Such themes and language have become widespread in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. So far the Labour leadership’s reaction has been derisory. It is not enough to denounce all racisms in general when this specific strain rages unchecked.
Zionism — the longing of a dispersed people to return home — has been a constant, cherished part of Jewish life since AD70. In its modern form Zionism was a response to the centuries of persecution, expulsions and mass murder in Christian and Muslim worlds that continued from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century. Its revival was an assertion of the right to exist in the face of cruelty unique in history.
We do not forget nor deny that the Palestinian people have an equally legitimate, ancient history and culture in Palestine nor that they have suffered wrongs that must be healed. We hope that a Palestinian state will exist peacefully alongside Israel. We do not attempt to minimalise their suffering nor the part played by the creation of the state of Israel. Yet justice for one nation does not make justice for the other inherently wicked. Zionism is the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. We believe that anti-Zionism, with its antisemitic characteristics, has no place in a civil society.
Howard Jacobson

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Simon Schama

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

AFTERWARDS by Thomas Hardy


When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
"He was a man who used to notice such things"? 

If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
"To him this must have been a familiar sight." 

If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone." 

If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"? 

And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things"?

Thomas Hardy


Sunday, 15 October 2017



From the Westway, slowing, glancing,
flame has revealed the bones of the thing.
A dark lattice. Lives so done away with
they have turned into sky: overcast
or blue as joy, or London’s night.
A home became a crematory,
human heat released into anonymity.
Impossible to remember those we did not know.  
Imagination must blank out the sky, 
and fill the emptinesses with the flesh 
of those we love, and it’s then we gulp, 
unsentimentally, horrified
at how mortal we are, how easily they died.

Wynn Wheldon

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis doesn’t need dramatising.  It is a poem so varied in tone and pitch, so full of the unexpected, the felicitous, the witty, that to read it is to have one’s own imagination fired.  No, doesn’t need it, but then neither does Hamlet. Or Lear.  Reason not the need.

Christopher Hunter’s exceptional rendering has been an utter pleasure.  I’ve seen it three times, in very different settings, and each engagement with the poem has been different.  Initially, not knowing the text well, it was a matter of keeping up.  The verse, albeit early Shakespeare and fairly straightforward, is also, well, Shakespearean, with all the syntactical complexities that involves.  And of course it is full of astonishments – the very first line is perplexing: “Even as the sun with purple-colour'd face”.  It doesn’t help to know that purple was an exclusively royal colour (Elizabeth banned it from court for anyone other than family members) or that the sun was symbolic of the monarch; it remains odd.  In the fifth verse we have “desire doth lend her force / Courageously to pluck him from his horse”.  Think about that for a moment – except you don’t have a moment.  The poem is galloping ahead: “He saith she is immodest, blames her 'miss / What follows more she murders with a kiss.”  Words murdered with lips?  Wow.  And so it goes, and even now, there are lines I’ve read and heard but not fully taken in or been stopped by.  Tonight it was “bid Suspicion double-lock the door, / Lest Jealousy, that sour unwelcome guest, / Should, by his stealing in, disturb the feast”.  Suddenly I saw this sly figure at the gate, bolting once, bolting twice, and the Green-Eyed monster snarling outside.

Chris’s performance has developed bit by bit.  I first saw it in the sitting room of my pal Stephen Graham (co-producer).  There were about twenty of us.  It was intimate, astonishing.  I had gone out of piety and loyalty.  I left full of a Shakespeare play I didn’t know, eager to read it.   There were several of these ‘salon’ performances before Chris took the show to Edinburgh. There, a fuller theatricality had been developed, the set and style decided upon: a man in a suit and tie sitting on a bench writing.  The tones of voice (Narrator, Venus, Adonis) were more fixed.  A little sound had been added.  For the Rose Playhouse, that unexpected space around the corner from the Globe, where the remains of the original Bankside theatre are to be found, Chris has, as it were, bloomed into the full performance, with a performance surrounded on three sides. With a soundscape. He has never been anything other than word perfect (to this ear at any rate), but now he is so wholly the three parts that the audience is inside the poem itself, right from the start.  He, an almost gaunt man, manages to give Venus a blowsy, Rubensical shape and allure; he gives Adonis that boyishness (Adonis has “a hairless face”) that adolescence messes with, that seems to make him not quite sure of his manliness.  Shakespeare of course gives him almost prosaic lines until his great and touching comparison of love and lust towards the end.

Chris has always maintained that there is a darkness in this poem, that there is an element of sexual abuse, and of course there is: Venus, although a goddess, is recognisably human, for she is full of hot desire.  And she is sexually experienced. She has seduced the god of war himself, led him by a red-rose chain.  And on the first two sittings, I was perhaps more taken with this aspect than I was last night, when I heard and saw the poem as being about the need for beauty; that beauty gives order, or that beauty dies without order.  “For he being dead, with him is beauty slain, / And, beauty dead, black chaos comes again.”   This is the Shakespeare who is familiar from all those comedies that end resolved in marriage, and the tragic partnerships that end amid chaos and bloodshed.

The show finishes at the Rose on Sunday.  It ought to go on its travels.  Should a German or Kenyan or Japanese or American Shakespeare-lover read this, please consider inviting Chris Hunter to perform for you. Help disappoint Venus in her terrible prophesy; “Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend”.  Instead echo Adonis: “Love is all truth”.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Scottish Bounty Hunter

Christian Matlock, born, brought up, and taught how to be drunk and tough in Brechin, Scotland, is now a bounty hunter in Virginia, USA. He has a gun. He arrests people, he smashes down doors. He's white, he's male, he smokes. This guy is clearly what's wrong with the world. Except of course he isn't. He certainly does more for those he hunts down than any number of comfortable virtue-signallers. An interesting, not especially likeable, character - something Dostoevskyian about him. Mesmerising documentary. Also very sad.
Following a young Scottish man forging a career as a professional bounty hunter in America