Monday, April 30, 2007

K Day for Topshop

Kate who? So far it's business as usual for Topshop. Well, it is for these fellas, at least. I passed by Topshop at lunchtime today and checked out what was happening - and it wasn't quite the same as the Oxford Street Primark frenzy. Or even the 'I'm not a plastic bag' frenzy. Quite surprising for what is the biggest British fashion event of 2007.

Could this mean that Miss Moss is no more à la mode? Her collection is due to hit Manhattan's Barney's, an upmarket department-store chain, next week. And it has already attracted some criticism in America: New York magazine accused Kate of simply "copying all the crap already hanging in her closet." This is, as it happens, an excellent business plan. You don't need to be Phillip Green to see the cult of this particular celebrity. Just think of all the muffin-tops squeezed into skinny jeans and you know Topshop tills will be ringing.

And rumour has it that Kate is appearing, mannequin-like, in the window of Topshop tonight - just ahead of doors opening and the stampede of Mossionistas being let in to buy her designs. Although as Kate's appearance is due to take place after an hour-long, in-store cocktail party for her and her coked up mates, I do have a rather lovely image of her staggering onto the stage in her newly designed Little Black Dress, fag in one hand, glass of champers in the other. Beautiful but damned. Just like I like her.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Message in a bottle

Oh, Becks, no. Just when I decided to cut you and the stick insect some slack and wish you well in La-La land, you have to go and reinvent yourself again but this time as Sting. Or is it platinum Brad post Jennifer break-up? If you really want to try something different, grow out a beard braid, slap some beads onto it, and have a nervous breakdown.

But enough of that. This is starting to read like Metro which is the new unspeakable. Rather, it is Friday and frivolity is in order which is our cue for the 32nd edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction":

1) Are you pleased to hear that Sloane Square is being saved? React by paying your dues en route to check out the hottest show in town: 'That Face', a hit debut from a 20 year-old playwright. Yes, 20 and no I promise it's not Lily Allen. Book now, limited availability. Blinding reviews here. Tickets £15. Royal Court Theatre. Sloane Square, SW1. 0207 565 5000. Until 17 May.

2) Has the Kate and Wills split left you worried the British Monarchy will forever be determined by breeding? React by taking this idea one step backward with a controversial performance of the re-enactment of Prince William's conception - literally. It should put those ill-fated Woolworth collector items into perspective. Guy Hilton Gallery, 35 Fournier Street, E1. 0795859 5033. Sat. 5PM. RSVP essential. Free.

3) Are April's record temperatures making you frisky for the wild outdoors? React by catching the last weekend of the always inspiring Wildlife Photographer of the Year annual exhibition. National History Museum. SW7. Sat-Sun 10AM-5:50PM. £6.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hugh bastard!

It's not every day that I wake up railing against some member of the media like a spoilt, self absorbed prat. But today I feel like Hugh Grant did yesterday minus the baked beans. Because after a month of gruelling suspense over those Best of Brit Blog Awards, Metro (never trust anything free) has decided to bestow the Arts & Entertainment award on a self-described "web magazine"called Hecklerspray.

And therein lies my (not so) repressed anger: I thought I was in the ring with other gritty blogs not shiny magazines. A blog: the thing you write at work that isn't your work. A magazine: the thing you write at work that is your work. Over at Hecklerspray HQ they are seven writers strong, including the luxury of a full-time editor. That is hardly riding the personal diary revolution. But anyway, winning is a lousy teacher. It seduces you into thinking you can't lose.

And I am taking it in stride, can't you tell? The result was to be expected, really. Alan McGee, our category's judge, is a red-headed monster with a reputation for being one of the music business's biggest bastards and the person who made boy bands wear leather trousers. What does he know about unlocking talent? Never mind that he is legendary for foisting Oasis.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kiss of the Spider Woman

If you aren't curious about what happens when a gay, film-loving window dresser and a straight Marxist guerrilla are thrown together in a Latin American jail than today's post is not for you. But if you are than I suggest you book now (press night is tonight) for an evening of 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' at the Donmar.

The play involves two actors who deserve to be heralded pleasures of current London theatre: Will Keen as the flouncing, mincing, prancing yet astonishingly heart-breaking Molina and Rupert Evans as the politically possessed and defensive Valentin. The plot centres around the two men locked in a cell with Molina passing the time by recounting memories from one of his favourite films. He weaves the characters into a narrative meant to comfort Valentin and distract him from the harsh realities of political imprisonment.

Molina reminded me of the father in 'Life Is Beautiful' who lives in his own romantic fairy tale world, but must learn how to use his fertile imagination to help his son survive their internment in a Nazi concentration camp. It is that absolutely pure thing of the collective imagination: two people in a room listening to the glamorous fantasy of a story. For me the play was all about where the mind can take you - two men shut inside a room like we, the audience, are shut inside the theatre.

The world of the prison is a wonderful metaphor for how people try to disengage from life. Similiar to the world of the pub, in many ways. Thankfully, with a ticket price of £15 my evening afforded disengagement in both.

'Kiss of the Spider Woman'
Donmar Warehouse
0870 060 6624
Until 26 May

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hey, hey we're the monkeys

It’s that time once again. The wisecracking kids from Sheffield are back with their sophomore album. So get on your dancing shoes, you trendy little Arctic Monkeys fan. And that means you too over at HM Treasury. If only to show you a successful succession.

And making no bones about it: 'Favourite Worst Nightmare' is a brilliant album. What I found most striking is the amount of emotional depth injected throughout. I get the feeling that Arctic Monkeys have tasted the bitter fruit of life and their response is to smash the pulp right out of it. 'Do Me A Favour', a dusty, almost Americana style number about a broken relationship is devastating, a tale of "tears on the steering wheel dripping on the seat" which by the ending line of "perhaps fuck off might be too kind" left me weeping.

Another belter is 'Fluorescent Adolescent', possibly the catchiest thing they've ever written. It's a song of an aging harlot who is bored with life in a steady relationship (“You used to get it in your fishnets, now you only get in your night dress”). It reminded me of Morrissey and Kirsty MacColl's chronicling of slightly sad English lives. What’s more, it contains the best euphemism for a lacklustre sex life I’ve ever heard: “That bloody Mary is lacking in Tabasco.”

Did you know there are only five months until this year's Mercury Prize ceremony? I'll see you at Ladbrokes.

'Favourite Worst Nightmares' was released yesterday across the UK.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Maternal Girl?

Madonna is famous and infamous for her sinful buffet of personas. She's been a geisha, a virgin, and a dominatrix, but she's always been an original. Which is what's so troubling about her latest reinvention. Why is she trying to be Angelina Jolie?

Madonna's current, hugely publicized trip to Malawi — the native country of her adopted son, David — is torn from the pages of The Canonization of Angelina. Bravely, Madge has scrubbed the makeup from her face (see Jolie, Angelina, Vanity-Free Goodwill Missions Of), visited orphanages (see: Jolie, Angelina, Demonstrations of Compassion for Orphaned Children By), and taken David to see his father (see Jolie, Angelina, Frequent Trips to Cambodia to Help Maddox Understand His Heritage Mandated By). But in striving to remind us she's really just a Maternal Girl at heart, Madonna's treading territory that feels très Jolie — and that "been-there, done-that" feeling is unusual when we're talking about a woman who put herself on a crucifix every night of her last tour.

But subtlety was never Madonna's strength. Though that's great when you're prancing around a stage in a leotard and top hat, the blatant approach doesn't work when you're peddling a softer, gentler side. And, really, she shouldn't be begging for people's regard like this in the first place. She's freaking Madonna. She's not supposed to be making plays for public affection, and she's certainly not supposed to be walking a trail someone else forged first. The Madonna of yore would want to slap her silly. And that we'd certainly tune in for.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Clowns to the left

It's that time of year again - London Marathon weekend. To think it started as a sacred, elite sporting event attracting world-class athletes. Until one day when somebody decided: "I know what, I'll go dressed in a tutu" and it fast became a runner's Brazilian carnival.

But the large number of costumed runners also means it is the world's largest fundraising event. Which is odd because generally the Brits give far less to charity than other countries. So what is it about a page (a sort of fundraising MySpace) that encourages such generosity?

And whilst we ponder that British peculiarity, let's also race on to the 31st edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Shocked at news that a famous Banksy has been painted over by Transport for London cleaners? React by embracing art's inescapable commercial intent with Andreas Gursky's powerful images of capitalism's grandeur. White Cube Mason's Yard. 25-26 Mason's Yard, SW1. Until 5 May. Tues-Sat 10AM-6 PM.

2) Disheartened to hear that one of the best music venues in London, the Spitz, will close its doors in less than 6 months to be turned it into yet another gastropub? React by first signing the petition to save the Spitz and then booking up for a gig at this weekend's Festival of the Blues. 109 Commercial Street, Old Spitalfields Market, E1. 0207 392 9032.

3) Missed Pete Doherty's secret Camden Crawl gig? React by enjoying a good knees up at an unpretentious indie/ disco/ house music night in Vauxhall - expect everything from Chicks on Speed to The Klaxons, and, er, Chas n Dave! Saturday. 9pm-6am Secret location. Vauxhall, SE11. £5. 020 7701 1500.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Every now and then the Daily Mail prints something not about a) the evils of career women b) death by the NHS c) the Royals in crisis. Women, Germaine Greer once said, have no idea how much men hate them. But given the avid female following of the Daily Mail, despite its lamentable portrayal of women, you can't help wondering whether they hate themselves even more than men do.

The paper seems locked into a conspiracy with the reader to lament the modern independent woman. It assumes the role of watchful neighbour, sniffing disapprovingly as it leans over the garden wall to share malevolence disguised as concerned gossip. It constantly harks back to a kind of mythical golden age in which women knew their place. It's a Stepford Wife picture of the world.

And sadly nothing was different about the "Are you ready for extreme dating ?" article in last Sunday's paper. Guised as a piece on the 'world of romance New York-style,' it was little more than a Middle England version of The Rules. It includes lines such as "the more attractive a man is, the less available you ought to be." Inspired.

But there was one bit I did rather enjoy. The article suggests there are three levels of problems one comes across in a relationship: glitch (minor annoyance), core challenge (tough problem) and deal-breaker (it's over). The key being to find out what yours are, so you know what you can and can't live with. It was then that I realised mine would be if he hates Elvis, loves PlayStation and reads the Daily Mail. What are yours?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Treat yourself

I have been meaning to recommend 'Treats' for weeks now. But it took an offer in yesterday's thelondonpaper for £15 seats to remind me.

The story evolves around three very ordinary people bickering their way in and out of love. There is Anne (Billie Piper), an indecisive woman who can't help falling for the wrong men; Dave (Kris Marshall, who will forever be remembered as the geeky guy from 'Love Actually'), her dominating and abusive ex; and Anne's nice-but-dull current squeeze, Patrick (Laurence Fox, fresh from 'Becoming Jane' fame).

Christopher Hampton wrote 'Treats' in 1975, apparently as a response to Ibsen's, 'A Doll's House', reasoning that there were as many women trapped in destructive relationships in the 1970s as there had been in Ibsen's 1870s. And while the theme is a bit tired, it does make points about our addictive and self-damaging habits.

The script is the high point including some great quips: Patrick is shamed as "a bore of international reputation." But it was Billie's character that I most enjoyed. Both in her own impassioned attack of her bully-boy ex: "Well, what's there to say? Except that for two and half years you bullied and terrorized me to such an extent I could hardly open my mouth. I didn't dare to have an opinion you hadn't approved about anything. My friends pitied me and your friends despised me." And in his attack of her obstinacy: "It's possible to disagree with someone about the ethics of non-violence without wanting to kick his face in."

As all three actors have come from television roles, it ends up playing the closest theatre gets to soap opera. But I would recommend it to anyone curious about self-damaging relationships: if, in fact, damaged is not our collective experience. One of the many things I pondered long after the curtain call.

For best available tickets @£15:
phone: 0870 890 1104
quote: thelondonpaper offer

Garrick Theatre, until 26 May

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Make sense, not art

I like to believe in the power of words to make sense of things. Don't we all? For if they bore no consequence, why would Blair be troubled by what he calls the 'war in error' these days? Oops sorry, but see what I mean? Precision of usage can change everything.

Which brings me to today's topic: what in the devil is Tracy Emin on about now? As of last Friday, the heart of London's Southbank boasts her latest shock n'awe image: swimming sperm on a (21 ft by 15 ft) flag that reads, "One Secret is to Save Everything."

Hayward Gallery director, Ralph Rugoff, praised Emin's "precise sense of paradox and ambiguity in subverting what might be a reassuring formula for happiness." Now maybe I am just not artistic or spiritual enough, but is this guy or Emin's piece trying to suggest that saving sperm is the key to happiness? Surely, Monica's famous blew (sorry blue) dress proved otherwise?

But maybe we should be grateful for any lack of sense. Sometimes the less direct the better.

As the second in a series of artworks commissioned by the Southbank Centre, Tracey Emin's flag is at Jubilee Gardens until 31st July.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Royal Split

It's all over the news - Kate and Wills have split. I haven't been this shocked since Brad and Jen. What went wrong? They looked so good on the Woolworth commemorative mugs. She invested five years of her life into the relationship. Not to mention all of time we wasted speculating. And for what? Didn't we deserve a happy ending?

Typically Clarence House remains tight lipped. We'll never know the true reason and many trees will fall in speculating. Did William feel up one too many drunken blondes? Did she show too much spunk with the media? What, if anything, did Camilla have to do with this? The questions and possibilities for spin are endless.

Our first instinct might be to feel sorry for her. After all, now that she no longer has to save the monarchy, she has time to think about her future. But don't feel so bad, she has several options before she becomes a royal footnote:

She can write her autobiography. Nothing eases the pain like cashing in.

She can become a motivational speaker, holding seminars on 'How not to become a princess'.

She can do tearful appearances on Oprah. And make the cover of Hello magazine looking despondent.

She can appear on reality shows eating questionable animal parts with Paul Burrell.

She can become a contestant on Dancing With the Stars.

If she's feeling charitable, she could go out with Kev Fed.

She can become BFF with Paris Hilton.

And most importantly:

She can get on with her life.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Freaky Friday

So London's big gig of this week was A Night with Pete Doherty at Hackney Empire. Is it just me or is he looking less like Cherie and more like Kate in drag these days? And for pete's sake (sorry), why hasn't Freddy Krueger rung him up and asked for his clothes back? Surely, now that Pete's engaged to TopShop's hottest designer he has no excuse? But then again he is a wack job.

But enough freakiness for this Friday the 13th. Let's get out and enjoy London's 24°C weather, armed with the 30th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Do you admire Red Ken's ability to link gangsta rap and Margaret Thatcher in the same sentence? React in kind by learning how to link music, film, fashion and art with one word: camouflage. It has impacted far beyond the battlefield. Imperial War Museum, SE1. 10am-6pm Sat-Sun, £7.

2) Relieved that the threatened three-day tube strike has been called off? Celebrate with Coco Rosie - the part folk, part electronic, part nutty pop but spookily powerful band of two sisters. They are good. Catch them before they disappear to be lesbian welders in New Mexico. Shepherd's Bush Empire, W12. Sun 7PM. £15

3) Is next week's opening of "New York Fashion Now" at the V&A leaving you wondering if the idea shouldn't be more about getting clothes on living bodies before they end up on mannequins? React by heading to the London Vintage Fashion, Textiles and Accessories Fashion Fair. Hammersmith Town Hall, King St, W6. Sun 8am-5pm. £5.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Long live the Kings

Last week I had the privilege of meeting the editor of Mojo at a party. And there is something about the company of someone who is by definition "cool" that can make you feel by derivation not. Don't get me wrong -I love music. But when faced with a member of music's intelligentsia that is precisely my cred killer. Music elites love to hate. They thrive on labelling artists as "pretentious" or "a sellout" or "a hack." Music elites like the stuff that normal people don't know they hate, but would likely hate if they ever heard it (which they probably won't).

But I was desperate to ask Mojo man what he thought of Tennessee's Kings of Leon. A band of three brothers and their cousin they squirm free of the "southern Strokes" pigeonhole and completely obliterate every expectation one could have of them. And I am currently addicted to their new album's first single, "On Call" (click here for the video). Not since Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" can I remember a song that's simultaneously sad, haunting and powerfully uplifting. It captures that longing sensation from John Cusack's boombox scene in "Say Anything." I did tell you I was uncool.

And true to expectation, Mojo man wasn't keen on the Kings. He gave a considered answer which I think included the term "chart-friendly", but was lost in my hangover haze. But I remain a staunch fan. Because the need for rock n'roll bands to declare war on clichés has been evident for ages. If you like your Americana raw and passionate, look no further.

UK Tour kicks off Saturday (14 April)



Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sickly green

What is it with the 'in' crowd and saving the planet? And, no, I am not talking about news that Madge will be fronting London's Live Earth (the noughties answer to the eighties Live Aid) concert. Rather, I am talking about how London's metropolitan elite no longer cares about social justice. On the contrary, all their political energies have been diverted to the green agenda - and, in particular, the politics of food.

And nowhere is this more apparent than Marylebone. With local residents including Madonna and Noel Gallagher, it is one of the trendiest postcodes in town. That is, until you stroll into the local Waitrose and find the so-called 'trendies' subscribing to the dogma of fresh, local and seasonal. Why on earth should they care about how many 'food miles' a punnet of blueberries rack up when it makes little difference to global warming? As Tony Blair pointed out, if Britain reduced its carbon emissions to zero, the benefit to the environment would be wiped out by just two years of growth in China's emissions.

For a food fascist to imagine that their buying habits is making a difference is like saying they are combating poverty by donating to Oxfam. And on that note, why doesn't their obsession with provenance extend to recreational drugs as well? Certainly cocaine is as un-green as it gets, but these same trendies have no problem snorting it- organic or not.

As for the ammunition behind today's rant? The imminent opening by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage of London's first Natural Kitchen store in Marylebone which "will sell and serve local, regional and seasonal organic food of the highest quality, in a lively and vibrant environment that will lead the way in natural food retailing."

As if the area isn't sickly green as it is.

The Natural Kitchen
77-78 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 5JX

Opening late April.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

And the award goes to...

Thank you all for reading and voting! As announced yesterday, City Slicker has made Metro's 'Best of Brit Blog Awards' Shortlist. And we have been moved from Politics to the Arts & Entertainment category. I wonder if that has anything to do with my likening the current Tory leader to a simpering, moon-faced parrot with about as much sex appeal as a battered saveloy. Regardless, I think A&E is where we best belong. I will keep you posted on the result later this month. Thanks again!

Click here for the complete shortlist.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Crack on

What is it about Easter weekend that the lead-up feels like the longest week of the year? Since Monday have you not lost all work-life inspiration? But this week is not the time to ask yourself "what would Jesus do?" He certainly endured his share.

So roll on Thursday's close of play, and welcome in Easter or Christmas-Lite. The weekend when everyone is cooped up at home eating Green & Black's chocolate eggs. But what if you indignantly ignored this week's fear campaign: twinning London with Chernobyl? Join me in inhaling the Big Smoke and rolling on as usual with City Slicker's 29th edition of "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Did this week's PeteMoss video make you nostalgic for the old Primrose Hill set's truly rock n'roll ways? React by heading to the Lost & Found Egg Roll where teams (chicken and egg) come dressed accordingly to answer that age old question of who really did come first. 2pm Friday April 6. Primrose Hill, NW1. Free.

2) Half inclined to check out the 153rd Oxford Cambridge Boat Race but can't face the Putney packrats? React by heading out of town for some sporting action at Kimble's point-to-point racing. Horse racing minus the mwah-mwah brigade. Little Kimble, Buckinghamshire, HP17, 1 hour from London. Saturday April 7. First race 1:30pm. Cars £20, pedestrians £3.

3) Feeling sympathetic to the graffiti that adorns the H&M Madonna range posters on Old Street? React by celebrating the opening of London's first Primark superstore. Show them you like cheap, but not from the Material Girl. From 10 a.m. today; then Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., noon-6 p.m, 499-517 Oxford St.

Happy Easter! Back on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Charlie, my chaplain

One clear sign of getting older is the writing of letters. And I don't mean the kind of letters you used to compose under duress to your grandmother to compensate for not visiting the poor dear. No, I mean letters to strangers. You know those people you have not known or met before but who can still stir a reaction you feel compelled to document. Like a James Blunt "You're Beautiful" moment except you aren't soft: you act firmly on principle.

Let me give you an example. In yesterday's G2 section of the Guardian was this peerless article by the columnist, Charlie Brooker, pillorising David Cameron. Now it doesn't take much to get me cursing the man whose smirk has allowed us to hate the Tories again. For years they were a ramshackle organisation comprising merely of the Parliamentary equivalents of the shouty bloke on the bus who smells of wee and with whom one should not make eye contact, but recently it's become easier to dislike them.

This is down, in no small part, to the fact that if you were to venture down to Portcullis House you would find yourself knee-deep in chinless aspirants in Daks suits attempting to air-kiss the bejesus out of each other and braying so much that you would get confused as to whether they are in the Dispatch Box or a horse box. But, don't take it from me. Charlie is the man.

And so beguiled am I with his column that I wrote to him this morning with the proposal of marriage. What? Surely I am not the only one? Some of you must write fan mail to journalists? Oh no, have I just shown my age?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Glastonbury everyone? Not this one!

Glastonbury is a peaceful festival. I'm a peaceful person, trying to get tickets to that peaceful festival. But right now there is a woman whom I would cheerfully strangle. I don't know her name but her voice will be the stuff of my nightmares for weeks to come.

"Welcome to Aloud ticket agency. The lines are very busy, please call again later or try our website," she chirps on the rare occasion that I get anything but an engaged tone. But I have been trying the sodding website, since 9 o'clock yesterday, the moment the tickets went on sale. I have hit back and refresh so many times I have got a frozen shoulder and what must be RSI in my right arm.

"Error the requested URL could not be retrieved," it says. Or "the service is currently very busy, please try again a little later," or sometimes it tells me I have entered too many tickets (two) for the number they have left, please enter a smaller figure.

It feels like I could stand more chance of getting a golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

But then who needs Glastonbury anyway? Only Kate Moss can be rock n'roll in wellies. No, if you are anything like me you would prefer browsing round a live tattooing, exploring unseen parts of the London Bridge vaults and witnessing a live video installation unroll on a naked body. Maybe we’ve got spring fever and, frankly, need help or maybe we’re just due a visit to SPILL, a brand new festival of experimental theatre and performance taking place over 3 weeks (from TODAY) at the Barbican, the Soho Theatre, South Bank Centre, Shunt Vaults and Toynbee Studios.

Find out what it's all about here.

And throughout SPILL a festival bar will be running daily at the Shunt Lounge, set deep in the tunnels under London Bridge Station. See you there!