Arts and Entertainment

A sideways look at the world of music

My Fantasy Band: Foe

Guitar - Stef Ketteringham
On guitar I've got a guy named Stef Ketteringham, from a band called Shield Your Eyes.

Pulp, Brixton Academy, London

"Do you remember the first time?" Jarvis Cocker pleads on Pulp's opening number? I do. As a gob-smacked audience member witness-ing a libidinous Cocker perform "Underwear" – one of Pulp's best live numbers and sensational tonight – on TV's The White Room in 1995, on a bill shared with Portishead. Forget the dismal Blur vs Oasis debate, the two P-bands were the most spine-tingling acts to emerge from these shores since The Smiths. If Portishead evoked J D Ballard's dystopian science-fiction, then Pulp were more reminiscent of Alan Sillitoe's kitchen-sink dramas, particularly Tom Courtenay's lanky rebellious teen in The Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner. Only with added smut, oodles of added smut.

I'll Be Your Mirror: Portishead, Alexandra Palace, London

Portishead's 1994 debut, Dummy, was so perfect it almost instantly became a cliché, a cul de sac they only escaped with 2008's aptly titled Third. But on the first night of a festival the Bristol band curated and headline, they dig deeper into songs it had seemed would bury them, expanding their sonic terrain of scratched hip-hop, vintage vinyl spookiness and Cold War spy movie cool, Billie Holiday and John le Carré.

Album: Lamb, 5 (Strata)

Lamb used to feel like the most infuriatingly middle-class band in existence: a Portishead for people who were scared of the dark, a proto-Dido to provide ambience at dinner parties.

The award that isn't always a sales success

You don't have to be a Mercury prize winner to drift into obscurity – but it helps. The 2009 winner, the rapper Speech Debelle, and Ms Dynamite (2002) are examples of winners whose commercial prospects dived after their moment of triumph.

Portishead struggle with new songs

Portishead find it "hell" making music.

Music & Me: When Saints Go Machine

When Saints Go Machine produce ice-cool shimmering pop that belies their tongue- in-cheek moniker. Signed to hip dance label !K7 records, expect to hear a lot more of the Danish foursome’s stunning songs this summer. Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild took time out to answer our questions.

Caught in the Net: Everything in immoderation

It's five years since Sufjan Stevens released his epic masterwork Illinois.

Caught in the net: Portishead chase forth

Given the three-year gap between Portishead's first record and their second, and the 11 years between album two and their third LP of new material, the emergence of new music a little over a year after 'Third' was released, displays admirable productivity for the band. OK, it's only a single song, not a full album, but still.

Portishead's release new single in aid of Amnesty International UK

Given that there was a three year gap between Portishead's first record and their second, and a whopping eleven years between album two and their third LP of new material, the emergence of new music just a little over a year after Third was released, is admirable productivity for the band.

Police shut 25-mile stretch of motorway

Police have closed 25 miles of the M5 in Somerset after a car hit an electricity pole.

Postal strikes hit 44 depots

Postal strikes will hit large areas of London and southern England this week. Postal workers will stage one-day strikes at 44 depots across south-west London, Essex and Bristol today, with further strikes expected later.

Album: The Horrors, Primary Colours (XL)

When The Horrors' debut Strange House was released in 2007, I described it as sounding like something you might end up with if you were to hold a Goth Idol talent contest.

Letters: Brave women of WW2

'Auntie Mary', and Bulldog Drummond, to the rescue
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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?