"U.S and A! U.S and A!"
What I've learned after spending five days in swingin' London?
-Compared to New York, the cabbies are rather aggressive. Despite being far more knowledgeable than their NYC counterparts, they will not hesitate to mow you down if you jaywalk.
-The Tube is much cleaner, faster, and idiot proof than the Subway.
-You know how the confusion brought on by the streets of the West Village can baffle even the most hearty New Yorkers? All of London is like that (thus the knowledgeable cabbies). You're screwed without a map, and you'll still probably get lost b/c the streets are a little lacking in the signage department.
-The Tate Modern is wholly different than the Tate Britain and vice versa.
-Despite everything being extremely expensive due to the lousy dollars/pounds ratio, record stores still have some amazing deals on 'back catalog' albums by popular artists. While recent stuff isn't exactly cheap, you can buy new copies of fantastic albums like Ash's Free All Angels and The Pixies' Trompe Le Monde for three pounds each.
-You can say the F-word on non cable television
-Welsh rock trio Mclusky has a far larger fanbase in the U.K. than they do in the States.
Getting back to that last observation, I spent last Friday evening catching the aforementioned band at the University of London Union (ULU); an 800 person venue that can probably be best described as a room similar in look and width to the Knitting Factory mainspace, but goes back very far a'la Roseland Ballroom. The place is apparently an honest to goodness student union when bands aren't there, so it's decorated with all kinds of college fliers and advertisements and whatnot, which is kind of cute. A pint of Carling (which I guess is the U.K. answer to Budweiser) was 2.50 (5 bucks U.S.).
Mclusky is an excellent band oft compared to the Pixies or Jesus Lizard; probably the latter due to their steam roller riffage and miles deep, Albini-produced bass, and the former on account of their tightness, obnoxiousness, and vocalist Andy Falkous's spastic screaming. Try to imagine three Welsh lager louts getting particularly rowdy after a football match and donning guitars, and you kind of get the idea. I've seen them at the Mercury Lounge before, and the place was half full by the end of their set, with the crowd displaying the usual arms-crossed, hand in pocket hipster tendencies. In contrast, the London gig was sold out, and comprised of college kids and local punks stage diving and moshing in a manner that had far more to do with jumping up and down repeatedly than beating the crap out of each other. If you've ever seen the Pixies DVD documenting the band's first London gigs in 1988, the crowd action was similar to that. It was also the most fun I've had at a rock show in ages, as much for the crowd enthusiasm and music as the band's hilarious stage banter between songs.
No sooner do I get back into town when Lee Jenkins reports that the Mets have offered Pedro Martinez a 3-year, 38 million dollar deal. File this under something that will never come to fruition, but it's at least impressive to see them pulling out the stops for once. All told, Martinez would probably end up being a lousy fit for Queens due to his sensitivity, serious eccentricities, documented dislike of Piazza (should he stay put that is), and the simple fact that Shea Stadium is built over a hellmouth. Somehow none of this takes away from the fact that I would still salivate over the concept of Pedro in a Mets uni. Whatever. This is so far away from actually happening that it's barely worth speculating over.
Billboard is reporting that former Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett spent an evening in an Australian hospital after a mysterious collapse. Here's hoping he slept well as those hospital beds are rumored to be extremely fiery.
The Manic Street Preachers are proof that while being a huge, and fiercely pretentious rock band from the U.K. is usually the fast track to American success, the key word is 'usually.' Despite the fact that I haven't unequivocally loved any of their albums since 1996's Everything Must Go, I've always been fascinated by their virtual anonymity in the States, and that one of their founding members used to carve slogans into his arm with a razor before disappearing off the face of the earth.
2001's Know Your Enemy, is 5 good songs surrounded by 11 horrible ones, and is quite literally one of the worst albums I own. But for some reason I bought their very recent Lifeblood anyway (across the pond that is; I'm guessing a U.S. release isn't imminent), and it's surprisingly excellent. Their poppiest effort to date with lots of 80's keyboard flourishes and Peter Hook sounding basslines, and better for it. Check out bassist Nicky Wire's Top Ten Lists. Always an obnoxious contrarian, he apparently thinks that Small Time Crooks is better than Annie Hall.