Offbeat literary recommendations; Monocle music for September; rocking' in Iran and T-shirt devotees get their own glossy title.
“You can go anywhere in the world and people are wearing T-shirts,” says Eddie Zammit, founder of the biannual magazine “T-World”, which launched last year. As a creative director for Melbourne-based design agency Grin Creative for the past 10 years, Zammit has art-directed more than 20 publications while collecting 673 T-shirts and filling a filing cabinet to the brim with carefully archived tee research. Zammit is committed to entrenching himself in T-shirt culture. Currently distributed in six countries with a print run of 5,000, “T-World” is set to increase its reach to 20 countries by next issue. With its rising popularity the magazine is set to go XXL.
01 Richard Hawley — Lady’s Bridge
The Lady’s Bridge over Sheffield’s River Don is a witness to the success of that city’s steel industry, and its subsequent decline. The result has been acrimony, poverty and the formation of Pulp, with whom Richard Hawley played in their late-90s heyday. For Hawley, however, Lady’s Bridge now stretches across the Mississippi where depth, sureness and lustre lie in the old mud. A sense of grand flow accompanies the metre and melody of these 11 tracks in which country and rockabilly underpin smoky ballads, love songs and lullabies, while Hawley’s emollient baritone marries Morrissey and Scott Walker in Memphis.
02 Nick Lowe — At My Age
The blues laid the law: “Thou shalt sing about love and heartbreak until thine guitar string breaks.” And who was Nick Lowe to argue? Since 1994’s The Impossible Bird the old master has been crafting his own canon of blue-eyed soul and slate-eyed blues, under the leaky umbrella of “The Brentford Trilogy”. This, the fourth, is another effortless, touching confessional on wine, women and blame: an old man’s record that everyone younger, by even a day, could learn from.
03 Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight
Original fans might hate to admit it, but Rilo Kiley are big. Their canny country rock has cropped up on talk shows, snuggled up to Coldplay at the tops of bills and become a fixture soundtrack for high-end US drama. And on Under The Blacklight, they sound big, too – brilliantly so: sun-soaked power chords, synth workouts and strutting choruses headline the regular fine print’s witty lyricism and folky flourishes. Whether the band want to be a Fleetwood Mac for the iTunes generation is another matter.
04 Fujiya & Miyagi – Transparent Things
There is something in the futuristic electronica of Fujiya & Miyagi that conjures up a high-speed “Bullet Train” ride through the foothills of Mount Fuji. Hushed vocals ride the modern funk of their metronmic rhythm section but they’re much cheekier than Air. The lyric “pixellated scraps of jazz mags in your headlights” loops through Ankle Injuries as if it were a haiku. And their name? It’s a sham based on a turntable brand and Pat Morita’s character from The Karate Kid.
Five more record recommendations for October:
01 Asobi Seksu – Citrus
02 The Broken Family Band – Hello Love
03 Cherry Ghost – Thirst for Romance
04 Nighthawks – 4
05 Tunng – Good Arrows
01 Get Smashed — Sam Delaney
Sam Delaney’s roaring portrait of London’s world-leading advertising industry in its late 20th-century heyday makes building castles on sand seem a pretty sound idea – better that than champagne, cocaine and hubris, anyway. Or, at least, that’s what he says.
02 The Architecture of Parking — Simon Henley
While it might seem a subject fit for banishment to the fringes of the internet, from Ginza to Gateshead car park design has produced some of the most daring, highly evolved buildings the modern world has seen. Henley’s book is an enthusiastic lesson on an overlooked form.
03 AK 47: The Story of the People’s Gun — Michael Hodges
During the Second World War, an inventor named Mikhail Kalashnikov was injured by a Panzer shell. During his recuperation, the 22-year-old vowed to invent something that would end fascism for good. The result of his tinkering was a rifle with only eight moving parts, that was tough enough to be buried in mud and fired immediately upon excavation and became renowned worldwide as a totem of liberation, anti-colonialism – and, unfortunately, new extremes of fascism. Hodge’s fascinating tale of how a gun became an icon is fittingly sympathetic to the man who later said he wished he’d invented a lawnmower.
04 Everyman’s McLuhan — W Terrence Gordon, Eri Hamaji & Jacob Albert
Marshall McLuhan was the cultural commentator who coined “the medium is the message” among other aphorisms that invite sage-like nodding followed by private puzzlement. Here his epigrams are explored in a riot of photography, typography and graphic design. But if the medium is the message, surely this book should be a podcast.
“Somewhere in this city,” says Sohrab Mohebbi, “there is a grown man, who gets dressed in the morning, kisses his wife goodbye, and goes and sits in an office and gets paid to decide that my band can’t play in front of 30 of our friends.”
It’s not easy, being a rock group in Tehran. Mohebbi, 26, is the singer in 127, probably the best-known alternative group Iran has produced.
Since forming in 2001, the six-piece band (backing vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and trombone), have played in the US and Europe, and will shortly release EP Magnitizdat on the independent Swedish label Phisteria. At home, however, they’ve played 10 shows in their seven-year history.
“It’s not exactly illegal to be in a rock band,” sighs Mohebbi, “but if you want to play, there are problems.” All musicians have to register their lyrics with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Mohebbi doesn’t see why he should, and doubts that his bleak, sarcastic, Dylan-influenced English lyrics (sample titles: My Sweet Little Terrorist Song, Perfect Esfehan Blues) will find favour with the men at the ministry. Bands also need permits to play concerts, which 127 are denied.
Then there’s the lack of studio access and the difficulty of disseminating anything you do record. MySpace is blocked in Iran; 127 owes its presence on the site to a friend in the US. “This is a country,” says Mohebbi, “where they won’t broadcast images of musical instruments on TV.”
Mohebbi concedes that there are some advantages to 127’s situation. He enjoys, as his counterparts in the West have not since the 1960s, the thrill of participating in a genuinely transgressive rock scene.
Magnitizdat is released 27 August, 127band.com