Six Damn Fine Degrees #96: Biffy Clyro

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

So there are these three Scotsmen who formed a band back in 1995, starting out with unruly punk rock under the equally unruly name of Biffy Clyro, the meaning of which now even escapes the musicians themselves. That doesn’t prevent them from making up stuff – they once claimed that Biffy Clyro was the name of the first Scotsman in space. So anyway – they have become one of the most versatile bands around. They still make a hell of a lot of noise, but they also have one soundtrack (Balance, Not Symmetry), several beautiful ballads (Machines, Opposite, God & Satan) and at least one disco hit (All Singing and All Dancing) under their belt. But their mastery lies in guitar-loaded pop rock with an edge. Listen to the slick mainstream radio tune “Black Chandelier”, or try to heat your flat with “A Hunger In Your Haunt” all turned up. They are highly precise musicians, but they refuse to slow down. If you need a challenge for your ears, listen to the headfuck called “Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep”.

It’s the black oil zombie apocalypse, held in check by three fit young blokes with tats.

And so this guy here bought tickets for their March show a year ago, which got postponed because of some virus, and so finally, finally, they came round here in September. It was in a medium-sized concert hall, and that was part of the problem. The Biff played so loud that it was probably illegal for an indoors concert. My girlfriend, who is not one for earplugs, put them in after the first song (“DumDum”) made the hairs on her arm stand up. What helped her get through the gig was that, very early on, the three guys kept on rumbling half-naked. Not as tall as me, she tried to get glimpses of the trio who behaved like indefatigable Energizer bunnies on stage. She seemed cheerful. I love that woman to bits.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #95: The Awesome Wells of Portugal and Spain

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Piece of evidence #1: Orson Welles as a deceptive conjurer in the awful comedy version of Casino Royale (1967) – or just deceptively conjured up himself?

The train has left the station. The literal one, no metaphors, no fakes: The blissful travels of my current teacher timeout have brought me across Spain all the way to Portugal within the past ten days. As I’m leaving Porto Campaña station en route to Lisbon, I marvel at Matt’s shocking revelation from last week about the impossibility of Orson Welles‘ existence. Could it really be true that one of the most famous directors was just a figment of our imagination, an image of one towering director to deceive us all?

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #93: Mank v Welles

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Orson Welles ca. 1949, Getty Images
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Six Damn Fine Degrees #92: Hurdy Gurdy Man

Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968) is one creepy trip of a song. Judging only from the lyrics, the hurdy gurdy man should bring solace and tranquility to the suffering of all mankind by simply playing his instrument and softly singing his monotonous, hypnotising hurdy gurdy lyrics. Of course, on some level, it is a drug-addled tune, but the words point to an agreeable nirvana of semi-consciousness. The hurdy gurdy player seems to be some godlike being whose superpower is to reign benign over all of us.

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Delirious in Yekaterinburg: Petrov’s Flu (2021)

Petrov isn’t doing well. It’s nighttime, he’s on a bus at night, and he’s got a fever. He sees, and takes part in, things that probably, hopefully, aren’t actually happening: violence, murder, weird, weird shit. The people around him may not have come down with the flu, but the snippets of conversations he hears are just as weird and ominous: the people are highly unpleasant, they’re selfish and paranoid and judgmental, happy to throw each other to the wolves. If Petrov wasn’t ill, he might even almost be relieved when the FSB stops the bus, drags him off and throws him into a van – but it turns out that while this episode really does seem to happen, it’s not the FSB but a bunch of mates of Petrov’s. Oh, and a coffin with a dead person inside. It’s one of those nights, and it’ll only get stranger.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #86: Grace Jones, I’ve Seen That Face Before

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I was in Florence some years ago, it was a one-week holiday, and it should have gone on longer, because I grew to like the city a whole lot. For instance, in the Nelson bookstore, you could take any book you wanted from their shelves and into their coffee shop and read it or leaf through it. The downside was that some of their books no longer looked pristine. The downside includes that the shop does not seem to exist any longer – at least I was unable to find it, and I seem to remember that it was at one side of a huge square.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #82: Murder

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

It’s an ugly thing to kill someone, and more or less willingly, isn’t it?

There is the sanitized version of murder in countless whodunits, where the rules are clear: someone might be dead by the hand of another, and some clever brain will figure it all out, preferably in a showdown before a chimney fire, holding a long speech that ends in a big revelation. The rules are clear; the culprit, more often than not, is punished by the law, as if this was only slightly more atrocious than any hockey game. And while any sturdily waxed moustaches might have been replaced by squint-eyed scientists, the rules still apply. Miss Marple is never wrong, but science can’t lie.

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Fathers, sons, and requiems

In 1984, my dad took me and my sister to see Amadeus at the cinema. We would go to see a movie, usually something from the Disney catalogue of animated features, as a family once a year, but this wasn’t part of the annual ritual. My dad was an avid hobby musician and he loved Mozart’s music, so he wanted to see the film with his children. I was nine at the time, and I’m sure my dad didn’t expect the mature themes or the scatology. I don’t really remember seeing any other films just with my dad when I was a kid, rather than with my mum or both my parents, but Amadeus stayed with me. As a pretentious little nine-year-old, I loved it – less so for Mozart’s impish, infantile irreverence than for the drama and the dark humour. Or perhaps that’s me projecting into my younger self, 38 years after the fact.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #77: Kasabian’s Club Foot (2004)

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

On the surface, Kasabian’s Club Foot is a macho song: “One, take control of me? – you’re messing with the enemy.” And there is, after the ominous intro, that one-two rattled beat making sure you are paying attention despite yourself. It’s the best use of a bass guitar outside of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage. Yes, it’s possible to love or hate a pop song just because of the pace of its rhythm. The song steps straight on, not paying any attention to the left or the right. It’s wearing silver-studded boots, leaving messy prints behind. There is sweaty leather and unwashed hair in that little tune. The title is a red herring if there ever was one: someone is stepping large, seemingly able-bodied, sartorial and not giving a frigging fuck. In your face, Tony Manero. Club Foot is as subtle as a viking attack.

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