I’ve not had as much time as I would like to listen to much new stuff of late, meaning that the list of new albums I need to buy is steadily growing. It will be getting longer still at the end of the month, when Body Dalle’s first solo album, Diploid Love, comes out.

I’ve a lot of time for Dalle: those gravelly, raspy lyrics (I’ve previously suggested that she must have poured whiskey on her cornflakes daily since the age of three to have developed that voice) and that ballsy, take-no-prisoners stagger. But surely the twelve intervening years since the peak of The Distillers, two children and becoming blonde might have mellowed her?

If anything, Meet the Foetus suggests that having given birth twice may just have made her lyrics a bit more twisted. Mixing impending motherhood, self-harm and class A drugs?

Every night I burn holes in your eyes
LSD, I know I go in disguise
Organ mouse, silk blood spouse
Ex-sanguinate the fears

Vividly disturbing, uncompromising stuff.

That said, stonking track. Particularly so three minutes in, when she and Shirley Manson rock out the ‘Oh The Joy’ section. Two former enfants terribles rocking it out good and proper.

I’ve a feeling that graceful respectability is still a few years off for Dalle. A good job too.

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The Long Shadow cast over Ukraine…

by Jackie_South on April 17, 2014

Ukraine_shadow

You can never understand a nation’s crisis without understanding its history. 6.8 million Ukrainians were killed in World War II: 16.3 percent of its population at the time, a proportion only exceeded in neighbouring Belarus (25.3%) and Poland (16.4%). Russia lost far more (almost 14 million) but was a smaller proportion of the population overall (12.7%). In contrast, the figure in the UK was 450,000 (0.9%).

If you thought this was all over and done with almost seventy years ago, look again. It is clear that the grim shadow of that massive sacrifice and the Nazis shapes the views on both sides of today’s problems.

The view looking eastwards
Let’s start with the hawkish Western view of Putin’s Russia. The local agitations, aided by the Russians, in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine against a repressive central government that speaks a different language seems to echo of the Sudetenland Crisis of 1938. Just as the Sudetenland Germans of 1930′s Czechoslovakia demanded annexation by Germany, Crimea has asked the same from Russia.

And are there not too echoes of Chamberlain’s appeasement in trying to find an accommodation with Russia which does not return the Crimea to the control of Kiev? Is there not a little of his infamous Kettering speech, those hawks ask, in that attitude: “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing.”

The view looking westwards
Yet the accusations of Nazi-ism are stronger still from the other direction: from ethnic Russians in Ukraine and, increasingly, Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

After all, they would argue, the only democratically legitimate decision taken by the electorate in Ukraine in the two months since the overthrow of the Yanukovich regime has been the Crimean referendum (not something that happened in the Sudetenland). The government in Kiev has no electoral mandate, although elections are scheduled for 25 May.

That government’s second-largest party is Svoboda, an extreme-right, and extremely anti-Semitic, party who make the BNP look like boy scouts. To get a hint, here is their pre-2004 party emblem:

Svoboda are not passive recipient of the fallout of the Euromaiden protest, they were key orchestrators behind it. They were at the heart of some of the violence of those protestors and 18 of the protesters killed were Svoboda members.

Since they took power, they have not mellowed in office. They boastfully put on line a video showing them beating up a TV boss and forcing him to resign last month. You won’t be reassured to know that Ukraine’s new General Prosecutor is Svoboda’s Oleh Makhnitsky.

Neither are they an isolated voice in the government: the separate but similarly far-right (although they publicly reject Svoboda’s anti-Semitism) Right Sector is also a key component of the new government, and were also key movers in Euromaiden.

The early decision of the new government to have Ukrainian as the sole official language of the state (removing Russian, Romanian and Hungarian from their similar status) seemed to show that the fears of non-Ukrainian speakers in Ukraine could be well-founded. This decision was quickly overturned by acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, but it demonstrated a clear attitude of the new government towards its minority communities.

This is all spreading a not irrational fear in the east of the country. Take this quote in today’s Guardian from a man living in the eastern town of Slavyansk, where local citizens yesterday stopped the Ukrainian army in its tracks in a sort-of reverse Euromaiden:

“I’m not a radical or a separatist. I’m actually more on the left. I didn’t much like Viktor Yanukovych. I’m for peaceful coexistence. The problem is that when the nationalists seized power in Kiev they didn’t think about the consequences. I have my own prognosis about what will happen next. It’s not comforting.”

All this suggests that the Western view that the resistance in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is purely down to Putin’s machinations is a deeply flawed one. It also suggests that Russian-speaking Ukrainians (as opposed to the Crimean Russians) are becoming increasingly worried about the Kiev government.

Yes, the Russian-speakers are probably hearing a biased view through their media of what is happening in Kiev, but probably no more biased than the Ukrainian speakers in the rest of the country are hearing from theirs, particularly if those Ukrainian-speaking broadcasters fear a Svoboda lynch mob turning up if they speak out of line. The 30 percent who have Russian as their first language have, after all, been given one of the clearest indications in history that their new government has no time for them.

A way forward
This all shows that when the USA, EU, Russia and Ukraine meet in Geneva to find a route to peace, that the West will need to concede that the fears of Russian-speaking Ukrainians are genuine and not purely something whipped up by Putin.

It also means that the West and Ukraine need to realise that the anti-government protests are likely to grow further. Although Russian-speakers are only in a clear majority in two regions (excluding Crimea) – the Dombas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the challenge is that there are also big cities outside these regions with Russian-speaking majorities – such as Odessa and Kharkiv. Cities are far more potent for brewing up protest than the more rural Ukrainian-speaking parts of the east and south.

Six weeks ago, my colleague George East suggested a Peace Plan to move things forward. Events have moved on in that time, but I think that the West will need to put pressure on the new government of Ukraine as well as Russia  to reach a peaceful resolution.

That pressure needs to include proper legal and constitutional protections for non-Ukrainian-speaking minorities in the country. There needs to be agreement that a post-election government will both include Russian-speakers and exclude Svoboda and Right Sector.

The Americans have their own constitutional lessons for us on ensuring that democracy does not impose a tyranny of the majority. It is a lesson they need to adapt here if peace is to be achieved.

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Pay finally outpacing inflation? Read the small print…

April 17, 2014

There has been lots of rightwing gloating about the Office for National Statistics (ONS) report yesterday that wage increases in March have exceeded inflation for the first time since 2008. The annnualised pay increase was 1.7%, compared to inflation (using the consumer price index) of 1.6%. That’s it! Recession over! Not quite. That annualised 0.1% [...]

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In His Desperation Cameron Turns To God

April 17, 2014

I wrote yesterday about the signs of panic in the Toryverse about the stubborn polling of UKIP and the refusal of the British public to accept the heavily pushed conservative narrative (swallowed by 90% of the Westminster Village), that it is Labour who is in trouble and that the Tories are on a glide path [...]

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#882: 1963, Gerry and the Pacemakers, You’ll Never Walk Alone

April 16, 2014

I was going to keep this song to one side, on the off chance that Liverpool won the title, but then I heard Gerry Marsden singing it at Anfield on the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy and I thought that it was more pertinent to celebrate that event with this song. People forget that [...]

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Mr East Goes To The Movies 2014: Only Lovers Left Alive

April 16, 2014

Jim Jarmusch was one of the first American independent directors I really got into.   With his distinctive white quiff and his tendency to cast rock icons in his films like Tom Waits in Down By Law and Joe Strummer and Screaming Jay Hawkins in Mystery Train, there was an effortless cool about him and his [...]

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UKIP and The Decline of The Times

April 16, 2014

I am not old enough to remember the apparent halcyon days of the Times before Rupert Murdoch got his grubby hands on the paper.  For me it has pretty much always been the weakest of the broadsheets.  With The Financial Times someway in the lead as the newspaper to be most relied upon for its [...]

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#881: 1982, The Associates, Party Fears Two

April 14, 2014

I remarked in my recent Songs to Learn and Sing post on the Wild Beasts’Wanderlust that Hayden Thorpe’s affected vocal style reminded me of the Associates’ great front man, Billy Mackenzie.  It then occurred to me that we hadn’t had any Associates yet on Songs To Learn and Sing, which can’t be right. Party Fears [...]

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Should the CPS pay Nigel Evans’ Legal Costs?

April 14, 2014

Nigel Evans has been acquitted of everything he was accused of. Ok. Fair enough. Good luck to the man, I hope he now goes on to live a very nice and productive life. As George East said, rightly, on these pages last week, the charges were bought by the CPS because they had taken an [...]

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Week 15: Villain – Benjamin Netanyahu

April 14, 2014

This Week’s villain is the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. Bibi Netanyahu is no stranger to this award – and the reason for that s because he is a regressive, war mongering bully who appears hell-bent on keeping the Middle East in a state of perpetual and violent civil unrest. You hope that one [...]

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#880: 1967, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Tears of a Clown

April 13, 2014

Tonight’s song choice is the result of no better reason than a chance hearing yesterday on the streets of South London. But that was a great reminder of what a truly great song this is. Its theme of course has a lot of similarity with that other Smokey Robinson classic, The Tracks Of My Tears [...]

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Cine-East Film Club Presents #43: 2002, Être et Avoir (Nicholas Philibert)

April 13, 2014

Over the last dozen years or so there has been a huge renaissance in feature documentaries getting cinematic releases.  It has been a golden age for factual film making, with titles getting wider distribution and being better seen than perhaps any time in the form’s history.   Indeed last year’s most critically raved and most disturbing [...]

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Week 15: Prat – David Cameron

April 13, 2014

For the third time this year, our panel have given the Prime Minister our Prat of the Week award. Last week, I wrote on how unsustainable Maria Miller’s position in the cabinet was: you cannot have someone found to have inappropriately claimed at least £45,000 in expenses and being found to have deliberately obstructed the investigation [...]

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Week 15: Hero – John Mann MP

April 13, 2014

This Week’s Hero of the Week is the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, John Mann for his instrumental role in the downfall of expenses trougher, Maria Miller If you take a look at John Mann MP’s website, you will find something that looks pretty much like it was designed in the late 1990s.   Ugly two colour [...]

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#879: 1964, The Beatles, Twist and Shout

April 11, 2014

How strange – this week we’ve marked the anniversary of the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Lee Brilleaux, and also the release of The Clash‘s first album, well, this week also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the week in which The Beatles enjoyed all top five singles in the US Billboard Top 100. A feat [...]

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Songs To Learn and Sing Golden Years #13: 1988

April 11, 2014

I almost missed this one.   As long ago as Charlie East-West’s posting of The Proclaimers’ politically charged Cap In Hand 1988 became the 13th year to have had 20 Songs To Learn and Sing Posted and to thereby enter the Golden Years pantheon.  The others (with the total number of songs it took to reach [...]

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Nigel Evans: In Defence of the CPS

April 11, 2014

In the light of the acquittal of Nigel Evans MP on all charges yesterday, there is a lot of criticism in today’s papers about the CPS.  From the Daily Telegraph’s report of the Conservative Party being at war with the CPS, to the Guardian’s somewhat critical editorial, the prosecution authority has faced attacks from  across [...]

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Sportsnight #36: The European Cup Final 1977

April 9, 2014

‘Good evening and welcome to Sportsnight. Tonight’s action comes from the Olypmic Stadium in Rome, where Liverpool the champions of England are bidding to become only the second English club to win the European Cup. Standing between them and this historic feat are the German Chamions Borrusia Monchengladbach. It had been a magnificent season for [...]

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#878: 1977, The Clash, Janie Jones

April 8, 2014

The last couple of Songs To Learn and Sing have been anniversary posts, of the deaths of Kurt Cobain and Lee Brilleaux respectively.   Sticking with that train, though this time commemorating a rather happier occasion, today was the 37th anniversary of the release of the eponymous debut album by The Clash. Like John Lydon, Joe [...]

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Why is Guantanamo Bay still in existence?

April 8, 2014

Hold on. Didn’t President Barack Obama tell us many years ago, that he would close Guantanamo Bay detention centre? Yes? I thought so. Then why is it still operating? Why is this great big horrible smear still present, reminding us of the thin line between the so called liberal west and oppression. On every level [...]

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#877: 1975, Dr Feelgood, Back in the Night

April 7, 2014

In all the coverage of the twentieth anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain, today’s twentieth anniversary of the death of Lee Brilleaux appears rather overlooked. Yet without him and Dr Feelgood, punk might have looked different – his blue-collar swagger helped convince working class kids that they could do punk rather than leave it [...]

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Cine-East Film Club Presents #42: 1977, Cross Of Iron (Sam Peckinpah)

April 6, 2014

Captain Kiesel:   ‘Men like Steiner are our last hope and in that sense he is a truly dangerous man’. This week’s Cine-East Film Club Presentation is the third of our five planned tributes to major film figures who have died so far this year (they really have been dropping like flies), following The Talented Mr [...]

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Week 14: Villain – Maria Miller

April 6, 2014

This week, our panel have unanimously given our Villain of the Week award to Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, The Right “Honourable” Maria Miller Maria Miller was found by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, to have over-claimed on the mortgage for her family home in Wimbledon, which she had claimed [...]

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Week 14: Prat – Most Reverend Justin Welby

April 6, 2014

Yep, this week’s Prat is the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby. The Church of England will not allow gay marriages in its churches. Why? Well, thus far we’ve heard a number of excuses – ranging from the ecclesiastical, it is banned in Leviticus, to the procedural, we’ll probably get around to one [...]

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Week 14: Hero – Anja Niedringhaus

April 6, 2014

This Week’s Hero of the Week is German photojournalist Anja Neidringhaus who was killed in Afghanistan while covering the presidential election Journalists get a lot of stick.  Rightly. The disgraceful behavior of the News of the World over phone hacking and the brutal bully boy ideological journalism of the Daily Mail have given the whole [...]

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#876: 1991, Nirvana, I’m On A Plain

April 5, 2014

On the 5th April 1994, news broke that Kurt Cobain had taken a shotgun, put it into his mouth and blown his head off. Twenty years ago today. Rock and Roll suicide par excellence, from a man who always wanted to be an archetype a true rock-star, Kurt Cobain did it in style – he [...]

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Mr East Goes To The Movies 2014: Dallas Buyers Club

April 4, 2014

As seems to happen every year, I start off with the good intention of reviewing all of the new films I see and then one thing and another gets in the way and before I know where I am, I’m way way behind.   This year (Berlin Film Festival aside) I have seen 14 new films [...]

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#875: 2014, Wild Beasts, Wanderlust

April 3, 2014

So, after three months with none, let’s make it 3 in 3 days.    Yes my first song from 2014 comes from the Wild Beasts, who I went to see for the first time on Tuesday night at Brixton Academy. I say for the first time, but this is not really much of a surprise, as [...]

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Maria Miller: Is There Anything That Would Lead David Cameron to Sack a Minister?

April 3, 2014

Like the Bourbons, it seems that at least some MPs have learned precisely nothing from the downfall of many of their forbears.   The 2009 expenses scandal resulted in several MPs and one peer in prison, and may others effectively having their political careers brought to an end.  The reason for this: greed pure and simple.   [...]

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#874: 2014, Wilko Johnson/ Roger Daltrey, I Keep It To Myself

April 2, 2014

In his most recent contribution to Songs to Learn and Sing, Ray broke our 2014 duck by posting The Orwells’ excellent The Righteous One. I’ve also picked a song from this year. I’ve yet to buy Going Back Home, the work of former Dr Feelgood guitarist (and sometime Game of Thrones actor) Wilko Johnson and The [...]

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