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Archive for December, 2015

Best Of 2015

BEST OF 2015
BOOKS
Gary Webb: “Dark Alliance”, Judith Orr: “Marxism and Women’s Liberation”, Owen Hatherley: “Landscapes of Communism”, Tony Cliff: “Trotskyism After Trotsky”, “Lenin: All Power To The Soviets”, Bobby Seale: “Seize The Time”, Chris Hedges: “Days of Destruction, Days of Rage”, John Newsinger: “The Blood Never Dried”, Ian Birchall: “Tony Cliff – A Marxist For His Time”, Terry Eagleton: “Why Marx Was Right”, James Baldwin: “Giovanni’s Room”, Kim Gordon: “Girl In A Band”, George Breitman: “The Last Year of Malcolm X”, Mark Curtis: “Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World”, Richard Brautigan: “Sombrero Fallout”, Julian Petley, “Censorship”, Jeffrey Haas: “The Assassination of Fred Hampton, Kevin Ovenden: “Malcolm X – Socialism and Black Nationalism”, Peter Kennard: “Unofficial War Artist”, Tony Cliff and Donny Gluckstein: “The Labour Party: A Marxist History”, Emile Harsch: “Thomas Sankara: An African Revolutionary”, Stephen Tuck: “The Night That Malcolm X Spoke at the Oxford Union”, Curtis J. Austin: “Up Against The Wall: Violence in the Making and Unmaking of the Black Panther Party”, Jean Patrick Manchette: “Fatale”.
EVENTS
Algiers at The Waiting Room, Stoke Newington, London, Bad Guys at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, Acid Mothers Temple at The Fulford Arms, York, “With Banners Held High”, Unity Works, Wakefield, Stand Up to UKIP public meeting with key speaker Amal Azzudin, Shami Chakrabarti On Liberty at Friend’s Meeting House, Marxism 2015, supporting the National Gallery strikers during their successful action against victimization and privatization, the local and general election campaigns for the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in York.
FILMS
“The Duke of Burgundy”, “The Falling”, “Violette”, “Selma”, “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”
DVDS
Maria Metszaros: “Diary for My Children”, Goran Olsson: “Concerning Violence”, Milos Forman: “The Firemen’s Ball”, Barbara Kopple: “Harlan County U.S.A.”, Michael Cuesta: “Kill The Messenger”, Peter Strickland: “Katalin Varga”, “Hesher”, Andrzej Wajda: “The Promised Land”, Penelope Spheeris: “The Decline of Western Civilization” parts 1 2 and 3, Raymond Bernard: “Wooden Crosses”, Haskell Wexler: “Medium Cool”, Abel Ferrara: “Pasolini”, Kelly Reichert: “Night Moves”,
MUSIC
Algiers: “S/T”, Lonelady: “Hinterland”, Goatsnake: “Black Age Blues”, Zombi: “Shape Shift”, Torche: “Restarter”, With The Dead: “S/T”, SUNNO))): “Kannon”, Nile: “What Should Not Be Unearthed”, Corrections House: “How To Carry A Whip”, Grimes: “Art Angels”, The Clientele, “Unreal and Alone”, Leviathan: “Scar Sighted”, Black Breath: “Slaves Beyond Death”, Bad Guys: “Bad Guynaecology”, Luke Haines: “Adventures in Dementia”, Rolo Tomassi: “Grievances”, Bardo Pond: “Record Store Day Trilogy”, Workin’ Man Noise Unit: “Play Loud”, Rose McDowall: “Cut With A Cake Knife”, Pig Destroyer: “Prowler In The Yard”, Swans: “Filth” deluxe reissue, Punk 45: “Burn Rubber CityBurn!” and “Extermination Nights in the Sixth City”.
TELEVISION
“Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death”, “Broad City”, “Luther”

WEBSITES
The Juice Rap News (RIP), Act Out!, The Stimulator/SubMedia TV, The Empire Files with Abby Martin,
HIGHS
Disovering the best band of 2015 by a country mile, Algiers, a band of such undeniable strength and invention that the sky is literally the limit for them. Their powerhouse performance at the Waiting Room Stoke Newington was a thing of wonder, transfixing everyone who was lucky enough to witness it. Their debut album, to quote Godard, is not the promise of something, but the thing itself; bristling with political articulation and aural sophistication, avowedly experimental yet completely immediate, theirs is a singular vision that brings together so many revolutionary elements that it truly is rebel music for the new century. It has been my privilege to write about them in my first pieces for “Socialist Worker” and “Socialist Review”.
LOWS
The sad and untimely deaths of beloved friends. Being made redundant for the fourth time in ten years. Too many cultural events missed. Too little writing completed.
R.I.P.
Steve Cox, Paul Van Linden, Francesco Rosi, Edgar Froese, Andre Brink, Robert Stone, Andy Fraser, Gunter Grass, Eduardo Galeano, Ornette Coleman, Morris Beckman, Dieter Moebius, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Chantal Akerman, Steve Mackay, Corey Lander, Maureen O’Hara, Philip French, Gunnar Hansen, Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor.

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SWEEP THE LEG JOHNNY
This interview with Sweep The Leg Johnny singer/saxophonist Steve Sostak was conducted in late 2001 and published in SALT issue two, which appeared in early 2002. It is no exaggeration to say that Sweep The Leg Johnny were a band that changed my life. In the wilderness years of the late 90s music press, an ecstatic review by Tommy Udo in the NME convinced me to buy Sweep’s then new album, “Tomorrow We Will Run Faster”. Its impact on me was extraordinary: the bruising, post-hardcore guitars, the plaintive saxophone figures, the dynamic four-square tempos, the elliptical lyrics all wove their spell upon me. All of these elements were best demonstrated on their masterpiece “Rest Stop”, a fifteen minute work of genius that remains one of my all-time favourites to this very day. I interviewed Steve in anticipation of their album “Sto Cazzo!”, which was released on the eve of a UK tour that turned out to be their last visit to this country. Their gig at the Adelphi in Leeds in early March 2002 was incredible. The band played with their back to a fireplace with a giant mirror, lit from below so everyone could see their reflections as they drew closer to them. They played with fervor and passion, and wrung every last drop of energy from us. Before the show they could not have been nicer to me as I presented them with copies of my zine. Some of my questions are naïve but they were replied to with considerable eloquence by Steve, for which I will always be grateful. It took me years to get hold of their final album “Going Down Swingin’”, but it proved to a wonderful epitaph for one of the finest bands I ever had the privilege of including in the pages of SALT.
First of all, is it true that you took your name from “The Karate Kid”?Steve Sostak: Is it that obvious?
How long have you been together as Sweep The Leg Johnny? Were you all in bands previously?
The core of the band has been together for five years, although John (M. Brady, bass) has been with us for two. John played in Spanakorzo and The Swing Kids, whereas the rest of us were in a bunch of lame rock bands growing up.
Coming from such a vibrant city for music as Chicago, which bands/sounds were most influential to you?
I don’t think any one of us would choose the Chicago scene as a direct influence. I believe Chicago can bring about the best in compositional ideas. There is quite a lineage of bands using different time signatures, dynamics and song structure but as far as having a specific band that we all draw influence from…there really isn’t one. We seem to allow ourselves room to do different things on each record and within each song. That is more emblematic of our diverse influences. Punk, goth, classic rock, noise, even hip-hop.
What I found most remarkable about “Tomorrow We Will Run Faster” was the contrast between the very eloquent and tender lyrics, mostly about love, set against an explosive musical barrage. How did you develop this volatile approach?
It seemed simply to derive from my limited ability as a vocalist and naïve sense of song-writing that such a style came about. I always have known that I have a weak speaking voice and found it difficult to go out of my way to write and sing in a particularly aggressive fashion…I have always enjoyed my writing, which tends to be mildly poetic as opposed to musically lyrical, so I think there was always a sense of apprehension. My goal became trying to fund placement, where the words and my voice could find room to be more natural. That ended up being within the storm of the music…within the “barrage”. It was comfortable.
Steve, how demanding is it for you to sing at full tilt and then play saxophone with the same intensity?
Each year it gets harder. My body isn’t too happy after 600 shows.
My favourite track is “Rest Stop” which sustains incredible tension over its fifteen minutes. Impressive enough for me as a fan, but what is it like to be inside that sound, creating it?To this day, I think this is the best story we have written. The first time we played the song perfectly, I was quite moved. A song like “Rest Stop” makes you feel good about being an artist and I think it was extremely pleasing for us all to be in tune with each-other in such a composition. You feel close and dramatic. Good to be alive.
I noticed you name-check the wrestling legend Ric Flair in the notes of “Tomorrow…”: are you big fans of ‘The Nature Boy’?If you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man, you got to walk that aisle.
Was the “Sto Cazzo!” album an attempt to capture the power of your live shows?
I think it was more of an attempt to have fun in the studio. It just tended to coincide with a number of songs that were more chaotic. I like the record because if you turn it up it will bowl you over like our live show. It can be powerful
What have been the highlights of your recent US tour?
Sharing the stage with the great Rumah Sakit. Huger turnout.
The song “Columbus Day” refers to the colonization of America and its history of murder and oppression; what motivated you to write it?
Catching up on American history. I never had a good history class in high school or college so I tried recently to read more. The song is a simple anecdote to a specific historical incident. Again, just something that was sad and I thought was worth mentioning to Sweep’s listeners.
Do you have a very committed fan base in the US? How do European fans compare?
Our fans are extremely committed everywhere. The base is small but they are so loyal. They seem to really identify with our live shows and we love to see so many familiar faces. Most of the kids are regular kids that love music and are not concerned with being cool. They fucking rule.
Finally, what is the future for Sweep The Leg Johnny?
We are breaking up pretty damn soon so you should come out quickly and see us to believe it.

sweep photo

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