Frame 21 - Something sticky this way comes….

We rarely recognise momentous events when they are happening. It can take weeks, months or even years for their affects to ripple through our lives. One day we wake up and say to ourselves "that was fantastic". However, sometimes you just know you are part of history in the making. So it is with Wrangler and their latest album - White Glue. 

If ever we needed a poignant reminder of where we are as a society, we need only look to track titles such as Dirty, Stupid and Stop, the latter being a prescient condemnation of rampant consumerism. Its a visceral wake up call or maybe even a call to arms.

Wrangler are not Eurovision Song Contest material however much of a spectacle the would be. Nor are they Top of the Pops material. They are three blokes just making some honest music and obviously enjoying the experience. Their self professed “Wrangling” of tunes by whatever means necessary and whatever equipment fits the bill is a testament to joyful experimentation harking back to a time beginning to cloud over in todays computer driven MIDI/Digital age at a time when mainstream music is processed until the last iota the fun has been wrung out of it in the name of merciless commercialisation. Their use of sumptuous sounding analogue equipment and a simple recording process is key to their success. Like many groups, the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts. Lazy parallels with Stephen Mallinders work with Cabaret Voltaire are far too easy to draw. Moments of Benge and his work with John Foxx are also apparent as are Phil Winters of Tunng. But its the fusion of personalities and musical influences that brings a whole new sound to the fore. Everyone has a part to play and everyone plays a part. 

Where this album departs from their previous LA Spark is in its infectiousness. There is a new found confidence here as Wrangler seem to find their stride and deliver outrageous thumping bleeping electropop with a twist on a grand scale. The tense rhythms are hypnotic while synth riffs dart in and out of the psyche. There is an insidious quality to this album, a darker, more dire message is being delivered here. The single Stupid with its accompanying video, is perhaps a warning on mans inability to not learn from his mistakes. Perhaps we are genetically predisposed to destruct. 

Overall it is a more relaxed and refined outing, less aggressive than its predecessor and in many ways easier on the ear. But don’t be fooled, its cleverly crafted and there is energy in abundance. With Wrangler, disappointment is not an option.

If the world is going to hell in a handcart, you can be sure it will be the artists left to sweep the floors and turn out the lights. For now, Wrangler are readying their brooms. 


Frame 20 - The space between the shadows.

Its been a while. How have you been? How have I been? On that, I'm not so sure.

A lot has happened, both in the larger world and in my own personal one. I now have a Fine Art degree. I now own a lot of synthesisers and other studio equipment and my vinyl/CD collection is now prestigious to say the least. I am now settled down with a lovely woman in a lovely home and its fair to say, much of the anger and angst of earlier years has dissipated like an early morning fog. So, in many respects I am in a better place. My trepidations on the state of the world and those inhabiting it are still present. I still worry about politics both here in the UK and in the world. I still allow the occasional conspiracy theory to draw me in and I still wear my inate cynicism like a protective cloak. Its often wrapped tightly around me nowadays.

But things are better, for me at least.

Back to that Art degree. It was an eye opener. I had no preconceptions on what it would entail let alone what I would gain from it.  So, it came as a great surprise when I realised part way through that I disliked the 'Art World'. All the pretentiousness and arty farty emperors new clothes abounded. Don't get me wrong. I love art but not the art machine that is the art world. Perhaps it was just the university I attended but I was underwhelmed by the teaching which was hard as there was next to none. The tutors trotted out the same old lines such as "which artists do you follow" and the words "identity, juxtaposition and contemporaneous" filled the air with non existent meaning, clogging up the arteries of creativity. Everyone was trying to be an artist rather than just being an artist. The distinction was subtle enough to elude the majority, even the tutors. But it wasn't all bad. There were some good artists with good ideas but they like me were on to a losing battle in that environment. I learnt a lot though. Not about art but about people. I graduated with a 2.1 and promptly downed my brushes, mainly from having been exposed to too much intellectual art wank over several years. I needed some time to reset my compass.

Almost a year later, I picked up the brushes again and here is the result:


As usual, one of my eternal interests - Star Wars provide the impetus and the subject matter. These three Shoretroopers are the latest addition to the Star Wars universe and will be seen in Rogue One. I should also mention that in the last year or so I have become a Stormtrooper of Star Wars fame. I troop in armour as part of the worldwide 501st costuming group with the UK Garrison. Its a charitable pursuit and a lot of fun.

So this brings me to my main point. A sort of epiphany if you will and I have my good friend Robert to thank for this. His insight is often brilliant (I hope he is not listening). He was mightily impressed by this particular painting and pointed out that my work often reflects the authoritarian or even totalitarian aspects of society. True - the historical connotations of Stormtroopers coupled with the Imperial and Empire dominating aspects of Star Wars are undeniable. After mulling this over, I realised it should not come as a great surprise as I have rebelled against authority since I was a child. I rebelled against my teachers, the teaching system, my mother and my work. I am sure a psychologist would have a lot to say on the matter. However, coupled with that streak of rebellion and perhaps even due to it, was a yearning for freedom. I now realise that the idea of freedom balances my anarchic anti-establishment tendencies. In response, I have produced works based on travel and the open road. Perhaps I have found a balance: the Ying and the Yang. If I have, I find that truly bizarre and breathtakingly ironic.

But then I have always thought the universe was founded on irony...