Daily Archives: May 18, 2014

Light at the End of the Tenner by Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves (Burning Eye, £10)

Light at the End of the TennerAlready a local legend on the performance scene, Mulletproof’s first full-length collection stakes an immediate claim to cool based on the cover alone. A striking image by Mark Dickson is capped with this quote from Jim Bob (of Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine fame): “Like finding a great lost Roger McGough collection in a box in the loft.”

It’s a good call: the poems on offer here are as grounded in reality and conversational in their aesthetic as anything by McGough. But the ghost of Adrian Henri suggests itself in ‘Wings’, ‘The Love Tree’ and ‘It’s No Longer Tomorrow, Yet…’ – the latter the most nakedly experimental piece in the collection. In fact, Light at the End of the Tenner is thronged with ghosts: Soviet cosmonauts, rock ‘n’ heroes, suicidal comedians, B-movie casualties, and Jimmy from Quadrophenia riding Ace Face’s Lambretta over the cliffs and into eternity.

 Mulletproof’s subjects are certainly eclectic. From a geriatric Elvis swapping Graceland for a trailer park to deer armed with Kalashnikovs squaring up to their erstwhile hunters (“no more roof rack mortuaries / or tailgate processions // just the sun shot green canopy / and the assurance of a fair fight”), the poems bristle with attitude as they blaze their way through half a century of pop culture, span the globe and (quite literally) shoot for the moon.

But Mulletproof’s hometown is always the anchor. ‘Radford Road’ is an impressionist portrait of Nottingham in all its on-the-streets glory, while ‘Rammel Nitrate: Nottinghamshire Kisses and Laced History Lessons’ whizzes slap-bang through the county’s history, picking out a through-line of what made it the place it is today, while ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Rumour’ sees Alan Sillitoe’s racing-throwing anti-hero eternally on the run.

Clocking in at a chunky 116 pages (steroid poetry in a culture where most collections barely tap out at half that length), Light at the End of the Tenner captures on the page what anyone who’s seen Mulletproof live cherishes about the man: flair, fury and flippancy in roughly equal measures.

 Neil Fulwood


North Korea: state of paranoia by Paul French (Zed, £12.99)

NorthKoreaIf I was offered a choice of two weeks in a caravan in Mablethorpe or an all expenses paid fortnight in Pyongyang it would be a hard choice, but for a tiny group of British communists Mablethorpe would face instant rejection. Surprisingly, even now, the intellectual descendants of those who checked out the weather report on Radio Moscow, pored over tractor production statistics in Ukraine, took the side of China in the Sino-Soviet split, struggled with the pronunciation of Enver Hoxha when it was time to move on to Albania believe that North Korea, run by a hereditary dictatorship, is a socialist paradise. Even after Kim Jong-un offed his uncle that’s OK by them. The number of such people – followers of the “Juche” theorie of Jong-un’s granddad – is tiny, but a lesson to us all in showing why we should avoid hitching our wagon to some foreign state about which, really, we know nothing.

Anyone reading Paul French’s book on North Korea must surely despair that anything good can come out of this. He analyses the history of the regime, its changing fortunes (prior to mass starvation, it was actually doing quite nicely), its armaments, economics, the possibilities of reform and its relationship with the outside world. The three countries that matter to it are, of course, South Korea, China and America. The big issue is nuclear. Feeling constantly under threat, and in need of a bargaining chip, North Korea has armed itself to the teeth. Most countries do, but perhaps the lesson of Iraq is that such rogue states feel that they do need weapons of mass destruction to protect themselves. Or is the nuclear option simply a bargaining chip to ensure that the hateful West continues to bail out the country by giving aid?

Paul French tells us all that we need to know about North Korea, but one line stands out: according to the Seoul government North Korea (or more correctly the Democratic Republic of People’s Korea) need only reduce their arms spend by 5% to resolve the country’s food crisis.

Ross Bradshaw