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Thanks this week (from 2002) …

Having a bit of a clear out and reminded just how much the world has changed. We had a website called callthecops (after the Shaun Ryder shout out in Step On) which as intended (very broadly) to be a UK equivalent of the still brilliant Onion. We had all kinds of stuff on there from commenting on news stories to regular columns. One of these columns was a sort of round up of all the places we had drank, eaten and all the films we had seen and the music we had bought. Seems almost quaint to read some of this stuff now in the age of blogs, bit torrent and ipods. But anyway, for one week in early 2002 this is what me and my mate Gary (http://www.travelwriters.co.uk/garybowerman/) were up to:

Thanks this week go to …
As regular readers will notice, the quantity of places, music and other bits and pieces recommended in this column can vary considerably. This is simply because it really does represent where we were, what we did and the stuff we absorbed in the last seven days. Places reviewed truly represent what we believe modern living (whatever that actually is) should be about. In that spirit …

Couple of pubs we liked (maybe too much) this week. First off, The Kingston Arms in Cambridge. It has excellent, helpful staff, a short sensible wine list and great food. What is remarkable is that it does the simple things really well. This, of course, shouldn’t be any great endeavour but it does seem to elude the larger chains – which invest millions of pounds but fail to understand what punters actually want. So, Mr Whitbread, any combination of the following will do:

a) competent, friendly staff who don’t look like they’d rather be anywhere else at the moment you approach the bar.
b) nice clean bar with reasonable beer options and preferably a well-balanced wine list that doesn’t insult our intelligence about the cost of wine.
c) clean bathrooms, staff and general environment – kitchen staff wandering around looking like they’ve just crawled out from underneath a log really doesn’t help (thanks, but no thanks, All Bar One).
d) food – nothing too fancy but simple things done well with the emphasis not on the skill of the person who ‘designed’ the frozen product.
e) music – keep it light and unobtrusive, but not insubstantial. Van Morrrison is fine, Kenny G isn’t.
f) and, crucially, keep the light down. Pubs should be dark, safe havens.

That will do for starters, and nothing here is particularly difficult. In that spirit, we held the editorial meeting this week in The Dove, on Broadway Market in Hackney. Didn’t eat there and, to be blunt, drank far too much but what we saw we liked.

Sadlers Wells theatre has long been a favourite place to absorb a bit of the “cultural” stuff, but even it has surpassed its own eclecticism by hosting Bounce – a mind blowing dance and music show that blends all aspects of street dance with more mainstream styles, including ballet, jive and tap. The whole thing is set to a blistering “greatest hits of hip hop” soundtrack that kicks real ass. The energy, choreography and abundant talent of the performers make it pretty much a “must see”.

Heading South, Looking North by Ariel Dorfman is not new, but well worth revisiting. This sublimely stylistic autobiography neatly segues his twin existences, in Spanish-speaking Chile and English-speaking USA. But the heart of the book details how, as a government worker in the ousted Allende regime, he was hunted and persecuted by Pinochet’s secret police. It serves as an excellent introduction to the pain the Chilean nation suffered under Pinochet, and sets you up nicely to tackle Andy Beckett’s excellent new book Pinochet in Piccadilly, about the events before and after the
General’s arrest in London in 1998.

As renowned fans of Shoreditch’s Cantaloupe, we felt a little guilty trying out nearby – and newly refurbished – Home. The upstairs restaurant is gloriously gauche and art deco in design and, while not cheap, the food is well presented and carefully constructed. But the best part was the Red Berry Mojito cocktails. Not cheap (almost £7 a throw), but to absolutely die for.

It’s taken a while, but we have warmed to Paul Kaye’s Liar gameshow on BBC2. Not stunningly original or earth-shatteringly brilliant, but the ex-Dennis Pennis host holds the thing together neatly with some good one-liners and a very acute sense of the ridiculous.

Coming back to music, we’ve been thinking and buying again and the consistent thought has been – what is it about runs of three? Why do all the great artists have three great albums that almost always transcend time and then do some ok stuff but never quite get there again. Here are three great ‘threes’ for you to ponder on:

1) Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced; Axis Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland.
2) The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Exile On Main Street and Sticky Fingers (alright four but my point is still valid).
3) Stevie Wonder – Talking Book (with the awesome Superstition), Music Of Mind, Innervisions – and then a skip admittedly to the ‘just words fail me’ breadth, brilliance and capacity to wreck of Songs In The key Life.

So, anyway, ponder on.

Also, repurchased and previously recommended in these very pages – Prince, Sign O’ Of The Times. Buy and remember what all the fuss was about. As Charles Shaar Murray said on its initial release: ‘Sign Of The Times is good fun, good music, good sex and good politics’. Isn’t that enough? Oh yeah, the first three people to drop an e-mail to molson@callthecops.com will receive a free copy to carry them forward through these quite frankly very trying times.

And just to finish up, that strangely sketched chico, Manu Chao, releases his first live album this week. We’ve snaffled a copy and will review it next week. Look out also for a forthcoming thanks to the brilliance of Phoenix Nights. What on earth would we do without it?

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