Friday, 27 December 2013

A Concrete Meccah: 96 Hours in Berlin

Land of the estranged, notoriously darkened figures cloaked in webs of cigarette smoke and European allure darting through silver streets: admittedly initial expectations for the hub of German culture was a little adventurous but I was lustfully hungry for cultural enrichment. Devon had worn me down, hedgerows sullen- I yearned for a retreat from normality.
We departed at a meagre 11pm from Tiverton parkway train station headily catching a train into Exeter to spy our entourage of the next few days when Louis and I made the executive decision to sensibly stop off at The Imperial for a night cap, quick woozy brew to keep our spirits high for the ominous journey to the East as we eventually bundled onto the back of a coach to Gatwick, ticked off the register and told to 'mind your language'.
What followed, through a thick fog of gross fatigue, inebriation and perpetual nicotine fixes from hanging round the back of the group as we entered Berlin after concluding our intrepid embark, fending through customs and other such airport jargon was a rich Eastern melange. Though not quite as rose tinted as my minds eye, skies were heavy and sheet white omnipresently. The sheer vastness was what struck me first, the sheer velocity and magnitude of German architecture- looming sheets of stagnant grey concrete, splayed luridly in graffiti tags, scattered over all manner of buildings and previously bare faces. It felt barren, sharp and a cold juxtaposition of old and new architecture; all with the unanimous intention to astonish- the 'Reichstag' gloriously ancient though with the recent acquisition of a glass dome. In the evenings we explored aptly put as a 'PG-13' segment of the nightlife in Alexanderplatz. Dipping our toes fleetingly in a gay bar the size of a larger than average postage stamp we poked our heads through of the doorway (the frame of which brandished a 'We Welcome HIV Positive!' sticker) inhaling a musk of an enclosed carcinogenic smog (-it's Berlin darling, you smoke indoors) and glancing a few withered revellers we made a hasty dash to a local bier garten- the likes of which are abundant.
The big American chains are prevalent on the high street, a startling reminder of globalisation as you stroll past the fourth consecutive Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks, the gag starts to wear a little thin. The Markets, though stunning are inevitably an almighty tourist trap and one can't help but be irked to compare to Exeter's own 'authentic German Christmas Market'. Here Gluhwein flows freer than water.
Given the 'History' facade of the trip we pay a visit to several local museums, Berlin wall commemorations and Sachsenhausen concentration camp to gain a contextual perspective to the city. What strikes many of us is the realisation of the relevancy of events in the relative recent time frame in which the Holocaust happened and the extent to which it still affects generations today. The image of the Nazi Medical chamber in Sachsenhausen is one that shall be indelibly engraved in my memory. The clinical labortory perfection of the room was silencing. Tiled entirely in white, two white glass cabinets stood at the rear with two operating tables in white on either side of you as you entered the chamber. One couldn't help but be persistently consciously aware of the mortuary beneath your feet, and the intense isolation and sparseness of the camp truly emphasised the tremendous number of those captured.
A city once divided, the astonishing history to the city of Berlin given the cultural, social and political shifts over the past 100 years gives for an intriguing and maturing voyage, and having ventured from my mild Devonian home I found myself cursing the wind at having missed out on the Dali exhibition. There's no chance in hell I'll ever get to see that in bloody Barnstaple.
Mark my words Berlin, this isn't the last you've heard from me.

All images my own.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Good Day

Today has been a good day.
Owing much to overcoming the toils of procrastination. I have finally triumphed in the face of laziness and got my first published article!
My previous post 'The Look vs. The Hook' is just that, and today was published in Exeter's own Express and Echo weekly local paper.
Making a hasty dash to Co-op following a rather flustered flute lesson (last ever, I'm hanging up the metal pipe following considerations of Grade 8 Jazz; a daunting feat) I snatched up a copy, casting a pound at the cashier and indistinguishably mumbling something about having an article in it to the facially sagging older woman before upheaving my small woodwind burden and sprinting over to the college 'Tower'.
Still incredulous, I insisted on purchasing an additional 'safety' edition much to the reluctance of my trustworthy accomplice Louis, fist pumping.
We commence an expedition to Berlin on Tuesday and in light of todays events, I am left in suitably high spirits.
Still bloody beaming.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Billy Bragg @ Exeter Great Hall, support from Kim Churchill

A fresh December eve, accompanied by an intrepid father though quietly brimming with nostalgia fuelled ecstasy no doubt stemming from our freeloading musical bounty having won a pair of tickets from an email draw in low budget Devon music freezine, we drifted through flocks of receding hairlines. I felt veritably marginalised. Finding myself a sensible seat and fittingly offered half a cider we were greeted with bare footed, whispy haired ozzie Kim Churchill; singer song-writing one man band, harmonicas brazen and brandishing his guitar with arachnid type dexterity authentically concocting an auditory aperitif, convincingly clad in an open necked denim article. A quivering halo of locks empasionately bobbing as vocals broaden. He offers an ultimatum- ‘acoustic contemplation on the concept of rage’ or a ‘psychadelic rock’ umber, a delirious interjection of ‘DISCO!’ from a swaying punter to a hearty middle class chortle confirms the latter in a notably un‘psych’ed rendition. A driving outback spin on Dyaln’s ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ seduces his observers to sporadic  standing ovations and a pat on the back from a paternal Bragg. Indicative of the age, a flurry of Samsungs and HTCs protrude from the sea of middle class parent’s pockets, proclaiming to their followers of their CONCERT. GOSH HOW YOUTHFUL OF YOU! I catch mutterings of ‘real ale festivals’ and patiently press a stress inducing game of Candy Crush. Bragg enters in a wake of polished angsty triumph, ‘Nobody Know Nothing Anymore’ sets the tone, we are subservient to your ideological preachings. He sings of cyber surveillance, scientific progression and inequality with an Americana undertone (to which he informs us is ‘country music for people who like The Smiths’) with a peddle guitar prevalent. Famed for his patriotism he is soon to declare an adoration of the archaic British brew, aptly namedropping his associate Morrisey as a fellow lover of a cuppa to soothe the vocals. Sporting a newfound speckled grey fuzz of facial hair and an all American Cowboy shirt he admits his boots are ‘a little bit pointier than before’. The anedcotes however one could have checked off a premeditated list- Syria, Twitter, the SNP, the glory of the old school protest songs (a suitable nod to Woody Guthrie) alongside Tory cynicism, Socialist cries of DEMOCRACY FOR THE PEOPLE , globalisation, radicalism, THATCHERITE BRITAIN and gender constrictions with ‘Sexuality’ dedicated to recently forthcoming Tom Daley. He trails the nouveau, grinding to a halt at a surprisingly delightful Kraftwerk infused ‘New England’ with a verse dedicated to fated Kirsty Maccoll. He emerges for the encore rehydrated yet furrowed with poignant news, after a stomping ‘There is Power in a Union’ he addresses the crowd. ‘Tonight we have lost a father.. Nelson Mandela, I’m sorry to have to tell you’ to which spectators let out protestations, ‘NO!’ followed by cannonic sharp inhalations of breath, it’s a suitably moving tribute and one that defined the night to be engrained in the memories of many. As a product of 95 I felt somewhat disparate from the wave of songs condoning 80s political oppression and the multitude of his nostalgia wading followers. Regardless, Bragg’s ideological groundings are undeniably relevant to today’s society and his aptitude as a song writer and performer is formidable, even 30 years on from the release his first album.

Monday, 9 December 2013

'Holy Shit' Album Review for A2 Language

Yannis and co. Trot boldly onto album three

*  * * *
Elinor Potts


In a haze of almost Win-esque vocals, Yannis initiates the turbulent expedition of Foals’ ambitious third album in a flurry of interweaving guitars.  This veritable melodic smorgasbord is an intrepid exposition into what many deem to be the their breakthrough album, seminal to 2013 (though recently grappling for the formidable Mercury prize snubbed to by none other than blub-stepper James Blake in the woozy, bluesy wake of Overgrown). From their math rock roots the Oxford bred collective shuffled onto the scene in 2005, clean shaven with a fresh faced penchant for similarly clean cut guitars. Beards a bit longer, minds a bit darker, after cult ballad Spanish Sahara of 2011 dropped there was always going to be an over-hype for the infamously tricky third album.

First track Interlude is a well-crafted tribute to those earlier guitar counterpoints of Antidotes and textur-alised with the classic Foals’motif. Inhaler proceeds, leaving a funky trail in its wake. Their decision to incorporate a more neo-funk element evident from live clips from late 2011, experimenting with the crossing of musical territories with ‘O Funk’ and‘Krakowfunk’ shabbily surfacing on YouTube. ‘IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE’ he wails at your cochlea, a grittier tone, with driving festival ambience, ‘I shimmy and shake, I wake and bake’ that despite proclamations of curbs in collective weed consumption, his is a blatant nod to drug culture (-or a newfound vocation in early rising culinary exploration?)

 Arguably an unrepresentative first single of this venture to the mainstream defiant pop ballad ‘My Number’ slinks light-heartedly behind- a defining mainstream anthem, projecting Foals further into the public eye. Injections of ‘Oooo’ Beyonce style-y backing administer an undercurrent of sass from the suburban ass-jigglers.

A slower affair, the Chelsea favoured ‘Bad Habit’ is tainted by the visual acquisition of twenty something Cameron hailers and twenty something awkward pauses dragging our hoofed collective further into the pitiful abyss of Grazia flicking primetimers.

‘Come this way’ Yannis beckons you, underpinned by booty shaking bass one can’t help but fall amorously into the musical embrace as he breathes down your neck ‘every time I see you, I wanna sail away’.

The solo Indie serenade ‘Late Night’ is a sort of Spanish Sahara take #2, an auditory time warp of the 2010 infamous video as you gaze out over a vast expanse of stagnant water, blubbering. A nod to Two Steps Twice, epic guitar solo storms, a love child conceived in the womb of rehabilitation, fated for muddy fields. You can almost hear the future yelps of pretentious new disciples; ‘I’m totally into the old school The Foals’ holding only this number to their name. It builds in an expansion of melodic satisfaction as Philipakkis makes sweet audio love.

You’re plunged further into a grotto of heavenly noise as ‘Out of the Woods’ emerges, the runt of a pedigree litter much to the fault of its psychologically harrowing video and with quite possibly the best goddamn use of glockenspiel synth since the dawning of time. It makes you think that after 29:50 minutes of incessant groovin’ you’ve almost certainly acquired RSS in your right foot.

They’ve come a long way since 2010’s Total Life Tour. As a 14 year old punter caught in a primary midst of groggy rockers and stale ale, the first encountering of haphazard musical enlightenment was nothing short of monumentous.

A brew of angst driven dystopian lullabies whilst perpetuating the Math Rock influence in playing ‘Cassius’ and set staple ‘Two Steps’ with characteristic guitar solo that has frontman clambering the crevices of the Brighton Dome. Juxtaposed by their Reading 2013, this performance displayed a wizened head-down spectacle, drawing in flocks of pilgrims stretched over sparse Reading fields, a bona fide Meccah to those immersed in the Indie sphere.

 There is a definite musical cohesion to this record, intertexture prominent and crafted with loving hands. Bold use of strings and a fluidity of synths that rears its head as the record begins to round itself off and adopts a more pensive, contemplative stance. More filler less killer- anyone tells you this is their favourite is a foot-kissing toe-tapping ultimately bland imbecile.

IS THIS A CONDONATION OF CLASSICAL ORCHESTRATION? I have scrawled in my notes on proceeding ‘Milk and Black Spiders’ it’s not quite a Muse but it’s a definite third album act of pomposity leaving auditory voyeurs frothing at the mouth. ‘I’m an animal just like you’ he assures in a cursive tones, breathing sultry air over that recurrent riff. Thereon follows the descent to desolation ‘I’m falling, deeper down I go’ he says whimsically to prevalent string orchestration and near tribal percussion in the penultimate Stepson, as Moon boasts tenacious lyricism from our enigmatic facially furred Cypriot. It ultimately concludes on a polished, glassy Sigur Ros note making for an overall emotive, synthesised melange of dominant triumph, all guns blazing.

Peaks and troughs, of emotion, turbulent this is a veritable voyage leaving one breathless and gripping the seatbelt for dear life. A triumph regardless, teetering on the conceptual, still an astonishing feat of achievement in this age of hashtagged, Internet frenzied, TV roused audiences.

Hats off to Senor P. and the gang.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Look vs. The Hook



'In my opinion the image of a musician counts on everything. You can have very generic images for certain genres for example pop punk is always looking very American, ¾ sleeve tops with colourful hoodies skinny jeans and vans, where as you look at the new artists coming into the more mainstream pop they could be dressing in things you may see in river island or they could be completely alternative, an example of this could be The 1975 they dress with the style of their music. I often also think the style of music they are producing changes their image, Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco are great examples.’ 
- Chris Wormald, Devon based singer /songwriter
How much of what we listen to is governed by how the band looks? If not subliminally, think about it. Take contemporary Heavenly collective Temples in a glitter splayed T-Rex smog of ringlets. Then remove the heavy weighting on their outer layer and what remains is still a heady melange of neo-psych. Not always the case. I’ve been giving this some thought and have drawn the conclusion from a lot of deliberation peering down lipstick tainted coffee cups on, clenching throbbing ears on the lengthy commute from college that so much, too much of the music that we engage with, irrespective of genre is based on the superficial and artificially manufactured exterior of musicians, which is turn sways significantly who and what we deem to be bona fide exemplars of music. It’s primal, it’s false and it’s morally corrupt.

Take the saccharine soaked, bleached leers of One Direction and irrespective of their cultural and social significance, the mass pumping of mundane lyricism and god-awful X-Factor legacy, hailed as prodigies by throngs of the prepubescent. Now remove it and perceive their music as a solitary construction. That’s what I believe the true essence of musicianship should be established on. The grounds of genuine exemplar works of noteworthy accolade, experimentation, poignancy of lyricism in the face of adversity. A kind of communist approach I suppose, musical equality goddamn it I’m calling for a revolution. No Brand mind, I have a proposition (I’m a little taller and my hair, though unkempt, is far from the mane of secrets).

I’m not saying that the individual eccentricity of appearance is negative, god no. Yet all so often it would appear that much of what is driven in popular culture is peculiarity lacking in substance and concrete depth. I’m talking Miley, I’m talking raging feminists hurling fists at screens when they accidentally flick to MTV. So much of the forsaken popular media culture is reliant on outward looks. And for what? More pedantic sales of humdrum monotony and sell out tours to psychologically warped individuals.
If Miley Cyrus (and I quake as I type its name) dressed still as she did in 2009 would anyone give a shit? If controversiality sells and meaningless unconventionality is the mark of a good album then I’ll be damned. Call me a fool, but my distaste is not superficial.

'I think that image plays a very important part of the music that I listen to because it gives me an identity and a social group to be part of. I often see a photo of a band or artist and make the decision to check out their music because I can deduce from their image that I may be interested in their music. Image can also have an impact on determining genre and so I can see if a band play music in a style that I like just by looking at them’ – Leo Braukmann Pugsley, Devon based Singer/ Songwriter

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Temples/Telegram @ Exeter Phoenix

Under a heady torrent of rain, we trundle to Exeter’s very own Phoenix Arts centre under the blanket of October post-fest-melancholy, optimistically clutching glitter in clammy hands. Accompanied by my friend, a similarly budding punter, we are rural voyeurs to Kettering’s very own ‘Temples’ on the penultimate date of their tour, fresh faced neo-psyching in a 60s retro-prog melange of sparkles and tangles.
James divulges to us whilst shuffling, semi shrouded under an impressive gravity defying contortion of dark ringlets underpinned by an exclamatory streak of signature silver under each eye. He remarks on our own and the seeming cult following of James miniatures in this eves crowd.
‘I nearly didn’t make it tonight, my voice was nearly out’. Honey and lemon? ‘Yeah yeah! You’ve gotta go easy on yourself, don’t burn the candle at both ends’. Not quite the envisaged rock and roll lifestyle Mr. Bagshaw?
Having formed but a ‘year and a bit’ ago the sheer escalation from dingy 100 capacity venues and pubs to headline tour is a progression they themselves don't seem to have anticipated fully. Bagshaw confesses the bands label, Heavenly Recordings (think Charlie Boyer, Stealing Sheep) have Brixton Academy visions of 2014. Happily signed, Temples settled briefly with Columbia records- home to Indie giants Peace, before moving with Heavenly, and Telegram, as they smugly tell us, worked to antithesis infact turning down Heavenly’s offer.
Though modestly introvert, Bagshaw still resides in his parents’ house, having converted his bedroom into the band’s studio. Asking their opinion on NME I receive a pensive pause.
‘To be honest, It’s great to have them backing you, you just want them on your side’ says Telegram bassist Oli Paget-Moon slouched on the door frame as James nonchalantly fondles a floral lighter ‘mate you’ve had that all tour’ he provokes. Here is a band with enough flair to brandish the odd flowery number and uphold an enigmatic stage persona.
Temples wear their influences on their sleeves, the usual comparisons to the Beatles, T Rex, as well as a love for Bowie (of which we had a confirmational discussion as to the subjective pronunciation, I was put straight.) no doubt as a by-product of being the godfather of stage slap.
‘I’m really into MC Hammer..’ he continues followed by the raising of eyebrows to which Oli swiftly interjects with a confessional proclamation of adoration for late 70’s and early 80’s disco to eyebrows nearing hairlines. A disco infused Telegram record then? ‘Well we have one track we haven’t recorded or played live yet that’s quite disco’. This just took a totally unexpected turn.
Yet despite Temples frontman’s initial impression of seeming introversy there’s more to the man than meets sparkling eyes. There is a cynicism, the typical anti-X Factor spiel as well as a disliking to contemporaries- Peace.
'You heard Lovesick?' he says turning his head slightly askew in inquisition. We nod, a mutual distaste owing much to the pressure of large labels in requiring specific categorical songs- disparate from that of early Delicious EP- defining California Daze a mark of raw beauty. Feisty.
‘People need to listen more with their ears than their eyes’ he chirps, curiously if not hypocritical, is the band not the epitome of effortlessly enviable indie? No, I express, it is more melody oriented than all else, it may not be a brawling live affair but there’s more than enough melodic tomfoolery to enthuse you throughout. We probe further, musical collaborations on the horizon? ‘we’ve actually been speaking to Melody’s Echo Chamber (hazy French psych collective) and Tame Impala about doing something together for Record Store Day’ and I sense my colleague stifle a cry of ecstasy.
In a perpetual state of writing but with the album recorded and currently being knitted together deep in the hub of Bagshaw’s boudoir set for release in February 2014, 2013 has certainly been a phenomenal year for Temples. Similarly for Telegram in rising through the ranks of the alternative sphere with debut single only officially released a month ago, no doubt thanks to the backing of Marc Riley on his Radio 6 slot.
It may not have been a riotous performance, but a blissfully enjoyable live show from one of the scene’s most promising bona fide talents and for me, a fourth time lucky as foot-tapping spectator. Reet little cracker.

Tribes: Baby ( another blast from the past )

Debut album 'Baby' from Camden based grunge-rock band Tribes provides a refreshing new breath of guitar music with prominent American guitar influences hinting at that of Nirvana and The Pixies and fronted with the rugged vocals of lead singer Johnny Lloyd.

Tribes themselves formed in early 2010 posting numerous singles free to download via their MySpace and released their debut LP in January 2012. This was shortly followed by the announcement of their big break in supporting Azealia Banks, Metronomy and Two Door Cinema Club on the NME Awards Tour 2012.

The album itself is a passionate teen-grunge collective of nostalgic 90's reminiscent guitar solos alongside the band's hazy nonchalant exterior consisting of hacked off 'thrift-store' t-shirts and unruly black locks sported by band members and fans alike.

Initial track 'Whenever' followed by 'We Were Children' soundtracks the idea of teenage rebellion and youth, their sound again strikingly similar to their musical influences with guitars featuring significantly, back dropped by Lloyd's heavy vocals evoking aggressive passionate memories of juvenile angst. Track 'Sappho's lyrics almost mimic that of The Kinks 'Lola' telling of a transvestite and drunken consequences, the music video seeing Lloyd and his fellow band mates donning similar attire.

The idea of loss of childhood prevails throughout with 'Himalaya' boasting Turner-esque vocals and melody until optimism is stunted at 'Nightdriving', a song they first released online in early 2011 in memory of Charlie Haddon formerly of Ou Est La Swimming Pool who passed away at a young age whilst performing at the Belgian music festival ‘Pukklepop’.

Clearly Charlie's untimely passing struck a chord with Tribes as this mournful contemplative track serves as a chilling reminder to the fragility of life, though unparralled to earlier recordings of the song as the album version somewhat glosses over the raw emotion conveyed in the early vocal.

'Nightdriving' here sees Lloyd adopt a semi-philosophical nature questioning religion and life again continuing the theme of youth due to the inquisitive nature of young people. This solemn air is then curiously pierced by 'When My Day Comes' a driven yet formulaic song telling of youthful positivity and ignorance with memorable empowering chorus and similarly guitar driven. Another influence is made apparent in 'Alone Or With Friends' as the band embrace a slower tempo and a more stripped back production initially opting for acoustic guitar and synthesized vocals suggestive of some late Beatles work and acting as an uplifting reminder to their eclectic musical repertoire and ability.

Having witnessed Tribes' gradual rise to mainstream radio play their work seems to have progressed significantly to a more unpretentious, matured and defined sound contrasting their earlier performances which possessed a slight flared arrogance (having myself attended one of their gigs in late 2010 whilst they were supporting Mystery Jets) they seem more secure in their genre as their album assembles a glorious array of their musical capability.

So for anyone who's a fan of rousing lyrics delivered in a flurry of electric guitar and impressionable teenage passion then Tribes are definitely one to watch. 7.5/10

'A Creature I Don't Know' Album Review, forgive my year 11 informalities, circa 2011.

Laura Marling’s bold venture into the realms of the ‘difficult third album’ territory are proving to be very sound; genre mixing and mingling with the likes of Rock, Blues, Country and Jazz in an eager bid to discard the typecast of the ‘Nu-Folk’ genre she herself established alongside Marcus Mumford, King Charles and Johnny Flynn in her first two albums- ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ and the BRIT award winning ‘I Speak Because I Can’.

‘A Creature, I Don’t Know’ shows much promise, the opening track ‘The Muse’ flaunts a mellow and slightly atonal melody, Marling’s vocals embracing the piano whilst purring lyrics of ‘the beast’; an ongoing theme throughout.

‘I Was Just A Card’, seemingly innocent soon dissolves into a whir of emotions leading into nostalgic medley ‘Don’t Know Why’ and ‘Salinas’, which rolls into a relaxed Blues-y lull towards the end, showcasing Marling’s extraordinary ability to merge genres. This is preceded by bittersweet ‘The Beast’ showing her darker side as the Rock element to the album is exposed, rearing its head at the solid use of electric guitars and drums as she echoes cursings of ‘The Beast’.  

‘Night After Night’ then follows with stripped back murmurs of crazed adoration and lust ‘Darling I loved you, I longed to become you’ as the tone is pierced with the chorus ‘Would you watch my body weaken, my mind drift away?’ heartbroken, this is Marling at her best.

Towards the end of the album ‘Sophia’ finally emerges with a memorable tune spiralling into Blues-y ambience, again, with an upbeat and positive air to it whilst finally coming to rest at ‘All My Rage’ which proves to be uplifting with the air of a sea shanty finishing the record on a light note.

Her live performance is that of a matured and dedicated musician whilst only being 20 years of age, her attitude seems calm and collected yet pleasantly surprised at the attention she receives for her music.

Having seen her myself at the ‘End of the Road’ Festival; located in Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset, the show itself proved to be a highly enticing and captivating performance in a stunningly intimate rural environment buried deep in the heart of Dorset. Overall, a pleasantly refreshing spectacle despite not fully interacting with the audience, she has the crowd hot on her heel and as a spectator it is a truly breathtaking experience.

All in all, ‘A Creature, I Don’t Know’ boasts a broad eclectic range of genres and musical competency from an artist who with no doubt will endeavour to produce more records of equally high quality in years to come, a definite must-listen-to.  9/10

Exeter Cavern Café- 100 Word Review

Furrowed deep under the cultural epicentre of Exeter resides a dormant lodger. Cavern café, the Spiderman of the West country; mung bean favouring vegan café by day, full throttle vivacious punk/rock venue by night. Student prices with toilet facilities one might be excused for mistaking for those off ‘Trainspotting’. Neither can one fail to notice the dwindling light fixtures nor the tentatively clinging residue of human sweat to terracotta ceilings lingering from a previous eve of revelry. Cheap milkshakes, grubby stubble and smear-clean oil cloth surfaces, this inverted werewolf is a comedown Mecca, though affectionately pivotal in social circles. It’s an acquired taste.