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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Endings and Beginnings - Alle Macht den Räten!

And so, we come to the final blog post of the year and, as custom dictates, take a moment to reflect on what has slipped into the past and what lies before us. I was interested to look back at a blog I posted at the end of last year (see 'here') where I spoke about 2011 being imbued with the spirit of change and optimism via the events of  the Arab Spring, the Occcupy movement, Los Indignados in Spain, and the Europe wide anti-austerity protests. At that time, I was still heavily involved in the public sector unions' attempt to co-ordinate a concerted riposte to the government's attack on workers' terms and conditions. Unfortunately, as outlined in this excellent, detailed piece by Steven John's on, we - meaning the ordinary union members - were soon to find ourselves being led into a dead-end by the union 'leaders'. Plus ça change, and all that.

So, in terms of generating a spirit of change amongst the mass of the population, 2012 has felt like a bit of a damp squib to some extent - and 2011 can be written off as just another false dawn. And yet, and yet...

Here in Scotland in 2012 there was something happening which seemed to offer the genuine possibility of a chance for radical change, in this country at least. I'm referring to the Radical Independence Campaign, which I've covered previously on these pages 'here'. Right now, some of the things we promised would happen at the conference in November are already being planned, not least of which was a commitment to a mass blockade of Faslane nuclear submarine base. I can promise Streetlamp readers that this will definitely happen next year over the 3 days of 13th to 15th of April. The event will be called Scrap Trident and as the date approaches we will keep you up to date with ways that you can participate.

Despite this positive attempt to unite left radicals in this country, there remains within libertarian socialist circles a lingering suspicion of the Radical Independence Campaign and where it may lead. This is understandable, I am not going to deny that history shows that the more authoritarian elements of the radical left have manipulated and betrayed anarchists in the past. And yet, and yet...

Recently I was alerted via another article on the wonderful site (please do check it out) to the release of a new book by PM Press called All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918-1919. Edited and translated by Gabriel Kuhn, and drawing on newly uncovered material uncovered through meticulous archival historical research, this new documentary collection gathers eyewitness accounts and revolutionary voices from Germany’s 1918–1919 worker-soldier-council revolution. Unlike most of the histories of this period, which are written from a strongly communist perspective and focus almost exclusively on the role of Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg,and the Communist Spartakusbund (Spartacus League), this book shows that there were other equally important radical left and anti-military traditions involved. In particular, Kuhn presents documents from Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsam, the famous Munich anarchists who took part in the struggle for a councils´ republic in Bavaria. He also exhibits documentary evidence from Bremen, Brunswick, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel. All of these German cities were taken over by workers´ uprisings or sailors and soldiers in mutiny. Kuhn's sources demonstrate that the German Revolution was not orchestrated by a Marxist political vanguard, but by a spontaneous eruption of the whole population. Many very different groups were involved,  from centrist social democrats to trade unions, syndicalists and radical anarchists. Many ordinary workers only got radicalised during the events themselves.

One of the most interesting groups involved, formed during WWI, were the Revolutionary Stewards, a group of rank and file unionists independent from the official unions. Starting out by striking for better wages in the war industry, they ended up being one of the most radical advocates of a councils´ republic in Germany. Kuhn shows that when the Revolution unfolded in November 1918 this group was far more influential then Liebknecht and the Spartacists, because unlike them it had a wide network of supporters in the factories and workshops. In organizing three mass strikes between 1916 and 1918, the Revolutionary Stewards were decisive in bringing about the Revolution.

OK, history shows that the centrist social democrats’collaboration with reactionary counter-revolutionary and military forces paved the way to the Weimar Republic, and from there to Nazi Germany, but one can not but help wonder if, had the anarchist influence been more central, coherent and convincing, and tied closely to the mass, independent union movement, could the revolutionaries have created a less bureaucratic and centralist socialist model?

Is there anything that can we learn from these events that is pertinent to our position here in Scotland today? The anarchists, notably Landauer and Mühsam, were strong champions of federalism and formulated a strong critique of what they saw as the centralist tendencies of the Spartacists. That they were involved and embedded in the revolution from the start meant that they were able to do so. Had they more support within the ranks of the Revolutionary Stewards movement might they have been more effective?

All Power to the Councils! raises other questions too that all movements who promote radical change must face. For example; What are the actual demands, needs, and interests of the people? How do we best secure democratic and social progress? How do we facilitate a true transition of power? How do we establish political and economic institutions that really alter the forms of government and production?  How do we prevent powerful political forces, on the left and the right, from using the situation for their own ends? How do we go from being a mass protest movement to organising the mass effort of building a new society?

How do we turn a radical moment into longlasting radicalism?

Another question for some might be - can the libertarian left work effectively with the wider left? Perhaps it can, it is worth remembering that, despite the tensions between the different radical traditions in the German revolution, the various factions continued to defend each other in the face of social democratic and counter-revolutionary attacks. Landauer, for example, gave the Munich eulogy to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg after they were murdered in January 1919. Mühsam called Luxemburg “the flame of the revolution” in an obituary published in his journal Kain. It is worth noting that, at the outset of the revolution, all of the radical factions were also united in their commitment to a council system and in their opposition to bourgeois parliamentarism.

Reading this book, I found myself wondering where they went wrong, how they organised together originally to form this co-ordinated vision and how they might have organised subsequently to protect that vision. During the revolutionary period, all of the radicals shared a single rallying cry - Alle Macht den Räten! (All Power to the Councils). How could they have protected that ideal - how could we?

These are interesting questions to ponder as we look forward into 2013.If you want to read All Power to the Councils! you can order it from PM Press. While you are on their site please take some time to check out their stimulating collection of fiction and nonfiction books, pamphlets, t-shirts, visual and audio materials. Alternatively, for those financially embarrassed, you can download a free pdf copy 'here'.

As usual, I'd like to end the blog, and the year, with a song that, I hope, demonstrates something of the reflective mood I'm in - facing more questions than answers. The song, fittingly for this time of year, is called 'Hogmanay' and was written several years ago by the current writer, so let me offer profound apologies for the shameless self-publicity. I do hope you'll forgive my self-indulgence and, hopefully, enjoy it in the spirit in which it is offered.


Friday, 28 December 2012

Baby Brave and the Love Bites - like eating ice cream or building sand castles

I often feel a bit sorry for the artists that fall into these few blog slots at the fag end of the vanishing year. For a start, it means they've missed the chance to be nominated for our prestigious Streetlamp Festive Thirty, and of course they can't be eligible for next year's either. On top of all that, just to add insult to injury, I'm writing about a light and sunny twee pop band tonight. Now, regular readers will be aware that all of The Streetlamp team are big fans of the twee pop genre. However, what you might not know is that Ray and I are firm believers in matching our music listening to the season of the year (yep, we are that sad) and we are both strongly of the opinion that twee pop is a summer pleasure, like eating ice cream or building sand castles. However, we have had a high level editorial meeting and, due to the extremely high quality of this band's music, we are willing to break our own rules and blog about them in December. These are revolutionary times!

So, who are the band in question? Why, it's Wrexham's Baby Brave and the Love Bites. I first came across this lot at the beginning of the month when they featured on a free sampler released on bandcamp by the Drum With Our Hands DIY record label from North Wales. The release was intended to showcase the talent gathered by this fine little label and I suggest you check it out. The song submitted by Baby Brave and the Love Bites was the excellent Take Your Castle to Spain. Have a listen:

As soon as I heard the flute intro and then the ukulele kicked in I was hooked. When I learned about the esoteric topic of the song, Sam Alper, designer of the Sprite caravan, I was completely charmed and delighted. I think you will be too.

Baby Brave are fronted by the sweetly-harmonising Emily and Jo, who are backed by three Love Bites – Sian - bass guitar, Steve - guitar and Mikey - drums.

The band have just released, via Drum With Our Hands, an EP, which includes Take Your Castle to Spain,  called The Hornet's Nest Of Unrequited Ambition That Was 1960s Vogue. Have a listen to track 1, CockRoach:

The CD version of the EP comes in five different patterned envelopes, each with a unique vintage postage stamp. The on body artwork of the CD is matched to the envelope pattern. Each envelope contains the CD, a special edition poster, and a one-of-a-kind Baby Brave and the Love Bites badge. You can also  immediately download the EP in your choice of MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire on a Name Your Price basis.

I hope this sweet blast of pop has warmed you all up on this cold winter's evening. Remember to visit the Facebook pages of  Baby Brave and the Love Bites and Drum With Our Hands record label. Apologies to both for featuring you in the end of year slot and I promise that if you keep in touch with us we'll make sure you get a better slot next year.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

The 2012 Streetlamp Festive Thirty

 It's Christmas time, the font colour has changed to red, and the other Streetlampers have been banished from the keyboard. All this adds up to just one thing - it's time for this year's Streetlamp Festive Thirty.
For anyone who hasn't been following this blog from the beginning, the basic idea is that the Streetlamp team get together for a trawl through the Streetlamp archive and bring you our combined favourite thirty pieces of music to feature on the blog this year. Considered for inclusion are all of those songs which have featured in an article, regardless of their date of release. This means that the list is not a narrow 'Best music of 2012' but is instead a 'Best of The Streetlamp 2012'.

With the Streetlamp now well into its third year, it has changed quite a bit since its inception and now features more political and cultural blog pieces rather than just being a straightforward music blog. That's not to say that we've been ignoring the music and, as far as I'm concerned, the great music featured on here has been the one constant that has tied the whole enterprise together, and each of the Streetlamp Festive Thirty lists is a graphic illustration of that fact. When I look at the range of artists included I think that it highlights how diverse the three of us are in taste and, I believe, this makes a great recipe for an interesting blog.
Anyway, without any further rambling, I will now, as tradition dictates, present to you
- in alphabetical order -

The 2012 Streetlamp Festive Thirty

A Copy of A Copy of A Copy - Captain of the Rant vs. Hair Explosion
And If - Stephen Harrison
Bed on a Ward - Wise Children
Blackwater Side - Anne Briggs
Chair - Big Deal
Chico - The Velveteens
Comics - Executive Legs
Deep In The Woods - Tennis
Easy Baby - La Luz
Espejo - Julio y Agosto
Fast and Frightening - Luise Pop
Frances - Father Sculptor
Graduation Time - The Refrigerator Cuties
Henry Rollins Don't Dance - Allo Darlin'
I Call You Up - The Tuts
Island Song - Ashley Eriksson
I Think I Like You Girlfriend More Than You - Bentcousin
Late Night Bikes - Capybara
Like One - Silkies
Noam Chomsky? - The Hinkley Veltones
Outside of a small circle of friends - Phil Ochs
Seafarer - Tennis
Separate - Colorform
Shame - The Refrigerator Cuties
Spooked - Niamh de Barra
Strange Ideas - Liechtenstein
Sunglasses in Winter - Bentcousin
The Cinema Bell - Land Lovers
The Pocket Orchestra's Death Song - Land Lovers
These Things Happen - Loki with Bill Breaks


That's a pretty awesome list of songs, I hope you'll agree. Interesting to see too that we've got quite a few bands with two entries in the list this year - Tennis, Land Lovers, The Refrigerator Cuties and Bentcousin all managing that feat. Well done to them.

So, that's this years Festive Thirty and now all that remains for me to say is; 
"Have a very merry Christmas, and see you all in 2013."


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Griff says; Get Bent!

I had a nice wee surprise last night when I returned from the illuminating and opinion-shifting evening that was Glasgow International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers. I had logged on to Facebook when I saw that the impish and mischievous musical sprites that are Brighton's Bentcousin, featured previously on the Streetlamp 'here', had a new song up on their soundcloud page. And,what's more, against all expectations, it is a 'message' song with a serious, political, with a small p, satement to make.

Sunglasses in Winter, for that is the name of Bentcousin's new song, deals with the issue of violence against women and it does so brilliantly, But don't take my word for it, have a listen:

Isn't that just fantastic? It reminds me, in its sound and lyrical content, of some of the best of the post-punk bands of the early 80s. High praise, indeed, from me. The song is available as a free download too, so no excuses for not adding it to your MP3 player right now. The band can also be visited on facebook for details of upcoming releases, gigs etc.

Rather fortuitously, the nature of the lyric of Sunglasses in Winter also allows me to mention once more the White Ribbon Scotland campaign. I would be grateful if any Scottish boys or men reading this would consider visiting their website in order to show their support and to make their personal pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

Thank you,


Monday, 17 December 2012

Singing Bradley's Song

Today is the 17th. of December, which means that it is Bradley Manning's 25th  birthday. As in previous years, the Streetlamp would like to draw everyone's attention to the fact that Manning, the alleged source of the largest intelligence leak in US history, including the infamous  "Collateral Murder" video, remains in prison facing 22 counts in a court martial that could see him remain there for the rest of his life.

Manning's trial is expected to begin in February 2013, but he won’t be sentenced by a military judge until March, and at that point he’ll likely have spent over 1,000 days, 10% of his life, in solitary confinement. Earlier this month we were able to hear something of the details of Manning's imprisionment over the last couple of years, at the motion hearing addressing his unlawful pretrial punishment. The information that was made available, such as that immediately upon his arrest on May 26, 2010, Manning was transferred to an 8’ x 8’ x 8’ wire mesh cage in Kuwait which contained just a toilet and a shelf where he remained in solitary for nearly two months are pretty harrowing. Or that at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico , Virginia, he was held for nine months in maximum custody in a cell smaller than the one he saw overseas - just 6' x 8'. For only 20 minutes a day, Manning was allowed to see daylight while shackled in chains. For the remaining 23-and-a-half hours, Manning was deprived of just about everything, including contact with other inmates and often his clothes. He was forced to sleep from 1 PM to 11 PM, naked, and was allowed to do so only when facing his lamp.The list of indignities goes on and full details of this experience can be found elsewhere online.

Today, those of us on the outside must never allow ourselves to forget exactly what has been happening to Bradley Manning, man of conscience, whistleblower and human rights defender. The attempt to completely crush and dishonour him is continuing to play out here in one of the so-called Western democracies. Meanwhile we point our fingers and bleat about human rights violations in other countries who do not support our enthusiasm for the neoliberal project. Manning's case is the clearest example of the relentless suppression of any voice who draws attention to the hypocrisy at the heart of Western democracy. As Manning himself is alleged to have said of the video footage released along with the haul of US diplomatic cables to Wikileaks:

"This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare,”

We have nothing to add to that. If you want to find out how you can support Bradley Manning, visit this site here.

The video embedded below is a fine piece of political hip hop called  'Bradley's Song' by Symphony, a producer and rapper from Southern California.

If you enjoyed that then check out the same artist's  album 'The War Letters' released earlier this year on bandcamp as a free download.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Christmas? OK? Yes!

I'm not a huge fan of the whole Christmas experience. It seems to me that the collective madness that is consumerism reaches a truly strange and frightening pitch at this time of year. It almost makes me scared to go out of the house, people just get so frantic and, well... mad. Despite my reservations, The Streetlamp has had something of a tradition in the past of bringing you lots of festive musical fare and it seems that some of you, well our Ray for instance, are missing it this year. That being the case, Ray has finally broken me down with one of his Christmas suggestions for inclusion on the blog this month. The band in question are called OK?NO!! and are purveyors of an experimental brand of cutesy Japanese pop. They have released a single this month, called simply Xmas Song, and even I, old curmudgeon that I am, must admit that it is more than a little catchy and fairly bounces with energy. Have a listen:


The song is backed by an equally charming music box version of the same tune and both are available on a name your price basis from the band's bandcamp page .While you are visiting their site, you might want to take the opportunity tobandcamp site alsodownload their eponymous debut album, which was released in 2011.

I don't know much about the band other than the music appears to be the work of two musicians Akio Kanno and Sho Ueno, who are occasionally supported by drummer Nao Takegawa. The band release their music via Japanese net-label Sasakino Records, which was established in August 2010. Sasakino Records have an eclectic mix of artists on their roster and are on the lookout for more. Get in touch with them if you're a producer of experimental pop.


Sunday, 9 December 2012

Griff says; Come dine with The Chefs

Way back in February (see 'here') I wrote an article about Trixie's Big Red Motorbike and their place in the development of the branch of the indie-pop genre that went on to become the sub-genre known as twee pop. For those unfamiliar with twee pop let me explain that it is a gentle, ramshackle music that grew out of post-punk and is characterised by boy-girl harmonies, lovelorn lyrics, infectious melodies, and simple, unaffected performances. In that article one of the bands I name-checked were The Chefs, whom I described as purveyors of  self-conscious, clever/cute, student-pop. Unfortunately for The Chefs, they were a little ahead of their time and their jangly, melodic pop, which would have been justifiably fêted had they released it during the C-86 era, seemed oddly out of place in the early 80s of Thatcherism, inner city riots and the growing goth-rock movement.

One person who did appreciate them was John Peel and it was he who picked up on their four-track EP, called simply The Chefs, and released in 1980 by Attrix Records. Peel gave the EP regular airplay and, as I seem to mention rather often on these blog pages, I swiftly went out and bought the record.

The band line-up for the recording was:
Carl Evans - guitar/vocals
James McCallum - guitar
Helen McCookerybook - bass/vocals
Russel Greenwood -drums

The four tracks on the EP are: Sweetie, Thrush, Records & Tea and Boasting.
As The Chefs seem to have sunk rather into obscurity compared to their contemporaries, and as he is such a big fan of jangly pop music, our Ray decided recently to make a couple of Youtube videos, of Sweetie and Thrush to showcase the band's sound. Both are embedded below for your enjoyment:

The Streetlamp has converted both tracks from original vinyl into MP3 and they are available for download 'here'. More free MP3 recordings of the band can also be found on the fine 'Punk History of Brighton' website.



Thursday, 6 December 2012

Griff says; Welcome to a separate reality - Colorform and Sarah Valeri

Good news, Streetlampers! Our long-time, favourite NYC band, Colorform, are poised to release a new EP. Cue much joy at Streetlamp HQ. Unfortunately, due to the presence of the pesky Atlantic Ocean, we won't be able to attend the EP release party tomorrow, but those of you in and around New York City may be interested to know that the band can be found at the Parkside Lounge (317 E Houston btwn B and C) tomorrow night. Guest performer Khaled is on at 8:00 p.m. followed by Colorform themselves at 9:00 p.m.  Entry is a mere $5 and, what's more, everyone attending gets a free copy of the new EP. It's Colorform's last show of the year, so get yourself down there!

To get you in the mood, here's a track named Separate, from the new EP, released as a teaser and available as a free download on the band's soundcloud page. :

If you've read my previous writings on Colorform you'll know that I find this band particularly intriguing due to their synaesthetic merging of music and visual art and to their inclusion of cello as an integral part of their sound. That cello, by turns intimate or fiery, but always graceful, is weilded by the lovely Matt Logan, who as well as being a cellist is also a photographer, political activist and producer of the excellent ventilate blog.

As intimated above, Colorform's company also includes a visual artist, in the shape of Sarah Valeri. It is this integration of improvised visual art that adds another whole dimension to the Colorform experience and sets them apart from other bands. Before any live performance, and even in rehearsals, you will see a blank canvas laid out on a wall or the floor. Over the course of a set, this will be transformed into a full work, inspired by the music and the energy of the room.

Sarah's work can be found at her wordpress site  and, in particular, I'd like to draw your attention to her current work in progress 'The Fugitive's Astronomy Club'. This is a series of  drawings that Sarah hopes to transform, sometime in the future, into little art books, probably with stories attached.
The Fugitive's Astronomy Club drawings feature characters who Sarah imagines as anarchic wanderers, and as part of a unique exhibition project she has been sending selected reproductions through the mail to recipients all around the world, one person at a time. I am rather pleased and proud to say that I have received some of these reproductions here at Streetlamp HQ, which fittingly are from the story of Hester, who collects sounds. They really are very beautiful and have received wonderful comments from my rather envious friends. Here are some of the Hester images for your enjoyment:

Whatever happened to Hester’s house?

 Hester Empty Handed

 Hester in the park

Hester on the Staten Island Ferry

Thoughts in Hester's House

Hope you loved those as much as I do. Keep checking the Streetlamp for more details of the new Colorform EP and for the future adventures of The Fugitive's Astronomy Club.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Bicycle Is Art - Streetlamp Special

Well, we don't know what the weather is like where you are, but here in Scotland we've had a horrible week of snow and ice, with more forecast. Rather annoyingly, the state of the icy roads plus the onset of early darkness has made the roads even more dangerous than usual for those of us whose principle mode of transport is the bicycle ( we know of at least one cyclist who has broken their wrist this week). As a result, The Streetlamp team haven't been able to cycle as much as we would normally, which has made us rather sad. To cheer ourselves up, and you too hopefully, we've decided to bring you a Streetlamp bicycle special. Principally, this will consist of links to interesting bike related sites on the internet plus a gallery of selected images from Ray's extensive collection of vintage bicycle-related art. OK, bicycle clips on? Then let's go.

First up is an advertising image from Peerless cycles, which we cherish because it reminds us of our beloved Les Enfants Du Paradis :

Next up are some images with the sort of striking clear and simple lines which distinguishes all the best poster art:

If you're interested, the title of our blog tonight is inspired by The Bicycle Is Art website, home to art of, and inspired by, the bicycle. Give them a visit.

The next image I (Griff) love because it reminds me of a still from a Hayao Miyazaki film:

Our next website recommendation is The Invisible Visible Man's blog. This thought-provoking site is written by an ex-pat Glaswegian cyclist now resident in New York. Check it out.

The following images are a selection of the once-popular scantily-clad Goddess/bicycle juxtapositions that  advertisers used to love:

In case anyone thinks The Streetlamp has violated its feminist principles by publishing the above, allow us to redress the balance by directing you to Spokeswomen, which bills itself as 'a blog for women who ride bicycles'. Check it out.
And to prove that women aren't just idealised Goddesses in vintage bicycle advertising, here are some more positive images:

We particularly like this last one as it's just such outrageous behaviour on a bike. Can you imagine the reaction of the British Transport Police if the next critical mass ride in Glasgow does this? Now there's an idea - it does look a bit like the tunnel out of Queen Street station!
And speaking of outlandish advertising images. What about these ones?:

We found ourselves wondering what the cyclist in the last image is shouting over his shoulder. Perhaps, "Naw, you get off the fxxxing road, ya bawbag!" Your own suggestions of what he might be saying will be gratefully recieved at Streetlamp HQ.
And speaking of the exchange of views which passes between motorists and cyclists, our last website rcommendation tonight is the excellent CycleHatred on Twitter. This Twitter feed has a simple but effective premise - it's the work of a cyclist re-tweeting the constant stream of Tweets that illustrate peoples crazy, ill informed, and frankly terrifying, view of cyclists.Here are some examples from tonight's feed:

"On Putney bridge in the mornings, I just wanna bump into one cyclist so they hit the rest of the wanky Lycra wearing creatures!"

"I'm sure all these cyclists in York have got a death wish can see myself running one over!"

"Cyclists shouldnt be allowed in rush hour"


" The cyclists I hate are the ones that don't stay close to the's like they want to be run over."

Those are just from the last few hours. There are pages and pages of this kind of shit. But remember, if you're on Twitter yourself, you can bait these morons right back if you're in the mood. Also, these are good to read just before you go on your next Critical Mass ride - gets you in the right frame of mind.

Now, all Together.

"Whose Roads?"

"Our Roads!"

Be careful out there.

Ray and Griff