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This Weekend I’ll be Listening to… The Adverts – ‘The Great British Mistake’ and other songs… January 31, 2020

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What better song to have on This Weekend on this of all days (and a couple of hours early to align with broader historical events) but The Great British Mistake from the Adverts.

An interesting, and in a way underrated, band, The Adverts. They had the songs, the lyrics, the image, Gaye Advert was surely one of the coolest of bass players ever, TV Smith articulate and angry and a rhythm section with Gaye Advert and Laurie Driver (ahem) on drums (later superseded by Rod Latter), while Howard Pickup/Boak on guitars raged. Tim Cross arrived for the second album, and later Pickup and Latter were replaced by Paul Martinez and Rick Martinez.

There was a soaring quality to the vocals and those guitars that sort of signposted future possibilities and listen to the sounds on the live clip at the foot of the page which despite the self-deprecation of One Chord Wonders surely pointed towards post-punk. The first album was filled with genuinely classic despatches from the frontline of punk – Gary Gilmore’s Eyes that was as catchy as it was tasteless. Bored Teenagers, the aforementioned Great British Mistake. But while the songs are punk there’s more than hints of power pop and new wave (something they actually nod at in the lyrics).

Their second and last album, Cast of Thousands which was a strange, stripped down and yet simultaneously pumped up, almost hypnotic album (the title track sounds a bit like later period Auteurs, others are reminiscent of Magazine/Howard Devoto, or is it the other way around?). The difference between the two is very clear and yet so are the commonalities. Crunchy guitar riffs, but curiously dramatic song structures and some amazing keyboards. It’s a fascinating album produced with Tom Newman, better known for his production of Tubular Bells. Frankly he did a terrible job, production wise, but mostly the songs themselves shine. It’s a fascinating if deeply flawed album. And as with the title track, explicitly political. I’m usually immune to more melodramatic music, but this… I like a lot. And yet listening to it, who do I hear, but Hawklords odd blend of punk and rock. Listen to I Looked At the Sun and the keyboards in the background. Oddly similar – convergent evolution I’d have thought.

The band split up soon after Cast of Thousands was released, and TV Smith with Cross went off on a solo career. I have the first album from that period of his career, ‘Last Words of the Great Explorer’, had it probably since the early 1980s. Not entirely convinced by it – the keyboards are too pervasive and the vocals tend to cross a line into melodrama – but your mileage may vary. He’s been remarkably hard-working across a career that saw his latest album released only a year or so ago.

Anyhow, take the two Adverts albums together and they offer a sense of just how punk – whatever the overheated boosterism of the later anniversaries – really did offer a moment in musical history where anything seemed possible and often was.

The Great British Mistake

Gary Gilmore’s Eyes

Bored Teenagers

No Time to be 21

One Chord Wonders

Cast of Thousands

The Adverts

I Looked at the Sun

Televisions Over

Live at the Vortex 77

The never-ending Brexit crisis… January 31, 2020

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TAFKA made a good point re Brexit this week that it is time to focus on what happens to this state and island as distinct from the UK. And the news about that – well, it’s not exactly heartening.

According to a confidential memorandum to be circulated to [ROI] Ministers, even the best-case scenario for an agreement between the EU and UK would cause serious problems for businesses importing from, and exporting to, the UK.
“Even an ambitious and deep agreement, if such were achievable in the short timeframe, will not be the status quo and will involve considerable disruption,” it states.
But officials express doubt the agreement can be concluded by the end of the year when the transition period is to end and the UK will no longer be covered by EU rules.

How, though, could it be otherwise. Trade moves from the context of a single market and customs area to the opposite situation – with all the delays, checks and so forth necessary between two different areas. It has often been said, indeed it has been reiterated numerous times on this very site, that any situation other than the status quo ante is a lesser situation.

And this has very real ramifications for this state – the IT notes that we can expect in 2030 that the ROI economy will be 7% smaller in the event of a no-deal Brexit. That would see unemployment at least a couple of percentage points higher. And with an FTA? Somewhere between 3 and 4% smaller economy-wise.

The Financial Times points to other aspects of this – complication piled on complication in terms of goods imported from Britain to NI and then the question – on to the ROI/EU, or not?

And meanwhile in London the government, or at least the PM, continues to say there will be no checks between NI and Britain.

Which prompts the question, what is going to give and where on all this?

Signs of Hope – A continuing series January 31, 2020

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Gewerkschaftler suggested this recently:

I suggest this blog should have a regular (weekly) slot where people can post happenings at the personal or political level that gives them hope that we’re perhaps not going to hell in a handbasket as quickly as we thought. Or as the phlegmatic Germans put it “hope dies last”.

Any contributions this week?

This Week At Irish Election Literature January 31, 2020

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Have been getting loads of leaflets. An index of them from the election that I’ve posted so far is here

Another debate January 31, 2020

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I missed last nights debate, hope to catch up with it today. NFB mentions in comments MM was very tetchy. How was the debate in its totality?

Interventions… January 30, 2020

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Micheál Martin has been very upset over the following:

EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan has become embroiled in a General Election row, with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claiming that comments he made yesterday about Brexit amounted to a “partisan intervention” into Irish politics.

Needless to say, that’s nothing at all like the following from 2007 when Martin was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 2004 to 2008:

A Fianna Fáil party political broadcast shown Wednesday night features outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former US president Bill Clinton and negotiator George Mitchell praising Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s role in the peace process.

The four-minute film was first shown to journalists after the party’s daily press conference this morning.

According to Fianna Fáil, the three individuals knew they were participating in a party political broadcast and approved the film.

Pat Leahy in his history of that government notes the ‘unusual commitment of a British PM to re-electing a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach’! No doubt.

The world of workers: The importance of union activity for non-unionised workplaces… January 30, 2020

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Mark Paul in the IT had a point well worth considering. He noted that ALDI and LIDL have both indicated that their workers are on levels of pay well ahead of the minimum wage increases which occur this week. Indeed they peg their wages to the ‘living wage’ or thereabouts, which as he notes is ‘set by a committee of left-leaning advocates’.

It’s far from nothing either – with the guts of a 100 euro a week for those on the living wage.

He continues:

The willingness of Aldi and Lidl to meet the “living wage” concept has made the State’s minimum wage almost obsolete in the supermarket sector, one of the industries for which it was originally designed.
It has also put pressure on the discounters’ rivals. For example, Dunnes Stores and Tesco, which have both earned plenty of ire from trade unions over the years, have awarded pay increases in each of the last five or six years.

Which is very important. But he makes an even more thought-provoking point here:

Would they have been as willing to do that if their non-union rivals Aldi and Lidl hadn’t kept hiking rates to meet the “living wage”? Hardly. The German discounters’ embrace of the living wage, which is supported by Siptu and Unite, also looks like a form of backdoor trade union engagement, even if neither side would ever admit it.

As we know, ALDI and LIDL are famously non-unionised. But… and it is a significant but. The very fact of union engagement in the area has influenced them and in doing so influenced others. A clear case of how important such union campaigning actually is, even, perhaps especially for workplaces that are not unionised. This is a lesson that is obviously applicable across a range of other areas. Ideally every worker and workplace should be unionised. But short of that ideal it is crucial that unions keep the pressure up, offer means by which companies where workers cannot unionise are kept to reasonable, some of us would say minimum, standards of pay, conditions and so on.

An interesting statistic… January 30, 2020

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Electing former soldiers is common elsewhere. Fifty-two Westminster MPs are veterans. Besides one or two former reservists, the Dáil has no veterans, “aside from maybe some of the Shinners”, jokes one of Berry’s team.

Waiting in the long grass… January 30, 2020

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How simple it must have seemed for Fine Gael only a few weeks back. They had largely been ahead of Fianna Fáil in polls from mid 2017 until April last year where that other party managed to level peg them or marginally come ahead of them. Then in October there was a solid run of polls which showed FG ahead and the last poll before the election pointed to them on the same level.

Fine Gael might have reasonably thought that they were doing well enough to be slightly ahead. But as has been seen, in the first few polls of the election Fianna Fáil has jumped ahead. I’ve long argued that Varadkar was unwise not to go to the country fairly shortly after he was elected leader of Fine Gael, I’ll bet he thinks that too.

But one has to wonder, accepting the fact that FF is not very popular, it appears to be more popular than this last government. Was that baked in from the off?

A travesty January 30, 2020

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There’s little or nothing to say about the Trump ‘deal’ on the Middle East, but I thought Fred Kaplan in Slate noted one aspect of it that pointed to just how farcical it is.

Or, as Kushner himself put it, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the plan is “a great plan,” and if the Palestinians reject it, “they’re going to screw up another opportunity, like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence.”

As Kaplan put it:

Fine words to coax an alienated people on board a plan that’s not of their making and that few of them could possibly desire.

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