Republican’t

At the end of the world, when the few surviving brittle-boned superhumans pass the time before the apocalypse by glumly looking back over humanity’s greatest achievements, facebook probably won’t be ranked amongst its greatest forums for political debate. It’s a distinctly rubbish way of discussing matters political, the digital era’s answer to the age-old tradition of pub lunch contrarianism, as angry people rant ill-informedly at each other until either participant gets bored, has an electronic strop, or loses consciousness.

Still, misguidedly or not, people persevere in trying to inject some seriousness into banal social networking, and the other day we found an acquaintance’s younger brother engaged in an ire-splattered facebook exchange about the monarchy. Continue reading

Brooding Six (Joe Strummer)

Joe Strummer was political punk’s beloved activist-spokesman-in-chief, but after the dissolution of the band with which he first blazed an angsty trail across the popular consciousness, The Clash, and before his latter-day resurgence as leader of the Mescaleros, the artist formerly known as Graham Mellor dropped off the radar and made film scores. This more genteel musical pursuit allowed him to vent a gentler side, still neglected a decade on from his premature death in this very county. ‘Brooding Six’ comes from his soundtrack to Alex Cox’s 1987 film Walker, a loose and occasionally surreal take on the life of William Walker, the American adventurer who became the dictatorial President of Nicaragua in 1856. It’s nothing particularly original – its melancholic piano motif strongly recalls the magisterial Ennio Morricone – but its echoey tinkling and warmly strummed guitar make for a winsome combination, even with the hint of uncertainty they convey.

Billy Jenkins

billy jenkins al fresco 2

Billy Jenkins is responsible for much journalistic willy-waving. Music critics tend to use him as a linguistic ordnance test, competing to encapsulate his raging idiosyncrasy in the pithiest, showiest, most OTT way imaginable. This is a man who has been variously dubbed ‘a combination of Woody Allen, Tony Hancock and Keith Floyd’, ‘the Victor Meldrew of avant-garde jazz ‘ and ‘the musical equivalent of Duchamp’s moustachioed Mona Lisa”. Elsewhere, he’s been likened to Vic Reeves, Telly Savallas, Tommy Cooper, Duane Eddy, Duke Ellington and Debussy.

Billy Jenkins is probably the closest thing we have to a British Zappa. He bombards his fanatical listenership with a combination of satire, improvisation, melancholia, cynicism, anti-commercialism, top-drawer musicianship and humour. Both men explore the spikier sides of jazz and blues while refusing to take it too seriously. And both apparently hate being compared to other artists. Presented with the frequently-used Zappa comparison, Jenkins spoke admiringly but briefly of Uncle Frank’s talents as a composer and arranger, dismissively skimmed over his guitar-playing ability before concluding that he was “a control freak, an excellent businessman and a capitalist. I am none of these things”.

Jenkins is a 55 year-old man from Bromley in Kent, the captain of the Francis Drake Bowls Club in Lewisham, and a magnificent live performer, which is a shame, since he’s now permanently off the road organising and conducting humanist funerals.

Here, performed in Belgium, is a shrieking atheistic blues number called ‘There Is No Lord Up There’, which nicely displays what Mr Jenkins is about.