Things of the Day

Dragontears, Roa and the Rabbit fight back

NOVEMBER 28th 2010

 DRAGONTEARS: Turn On, Tune In, F**k Off, Dragontears album cover the third in the trio of Dragontears albums has just come out (on the Bad Afro label), the final part in the trilogy from the very psychedelic outfit from Denmark. Featuring members of Baby Woodrose and On Trial and driven by main man Lorenzo Woodrose, Turn On, Tune in, F**k Off follows on from the debut 2000 Micrograms From Home and 2008’s Tambourine Freak Machine. This, we’re told, is the last album from Dragontears, and that from now on “the freakier and more experimental parts of Lorenzo Woodrose’s song-writing will be incorporated into the music on future Baby Woodrose albums”.  We’re told this is the nearest Woodrose has got to a concept album, the loose theme is ‘doomsday’, the album is laced with conspiracy theories, the coming of the raven and the end of transmission, a gloomy look at things to come (or things already here?), gloomy looks to a not too distant future dressed up in bright swirling psychedelia and question-throwing space rock swizz 'n fizz. 

Bits of classic Hawkwind, hints of The Doors, and in some of that psychedelic paranoia and claustrophobia that can found in destructive darkness of The Brian Jonestown Massacre amongst others. No mere psychedelic heard-it-all-before clone band just fuzzing up a good sound here, no - there's depth, there's soul, there quality to hang on to and fly out there (or down there) with. Some of that dark foreboding psychedelia that Psychic TV could throw out there when they're on the right stage at the right time. Psychic TV never really nailed what they have in a recorded state, Psychic TV were more about the event, the naked bodies on Beltane and such, Dragontears, without ever quite engulfing like PTV can, have made here the album you kind of wanted Genesis P. Orridge and company to make.

Turn On... isn't radically experimental, it isn't really that radically different, they aren’t taking any massive musical risks, what this is is a spot-on psychedelic rock album produced just right. There's a crisp clarity here, a fresh feel that invites you to ride in their slightly dark world, to hold on to everything for soon you're going to have to let it all go. Everything remains very definitely within the framework of songs, no psychedlic jams or self-indulgent meandering here, just solid psychedelic rock done just right, even the fourteen minute slices of dark doom-laden colours of the foreboding with acid-drenched guitar layers and lyrics in Danish are lean and to the point; two songs sung In Danish, the other four in English. All very retro, yet all very now, all the things to come, all pigeon toed orange peel and hearts that smell of burning plastic, ejaculating atomic waste, all freak our acid guitar and two-tongue talk, carefully weaving musical fabric; swimming on your one world blood (and other misheard lyrics), swinging for a higher plane, caught on surveillance tape, Taxman basslines, Doors fuzz, Hawkwind flight, paranoia, dispose of your position, there ain’t no saviour to set you free, no salvation, you’re killing your brother in the name of religion and the raven is coming

roa Hackney RoadAnd meanwhile, while we were locked down in our leaf-filled bunker, just down the road a giant rabbit was under threat. Seems Hackney council deemed Roa’s twelve foot high rabbit, a piece of street art described as 'a thing of beauty' by the owners of the Hackney studios and café called The Premises, the place where the rabbit can be found, a blight on the local environment 

Seems the distinctive piece of art, on the wall of The premises, was under threat of being painted over. The piece was painted by Roa last year after the building's owners had granted him permission to create the piece. It appears The studio, had been served with a removal notice by Hackney council, warning that unless they "remove or obliterate the graffiti" within 14 days, a council contractor will paint over the wall and charge them for the service.
   "It's quite the opposite of what they're saying it is," said Premises person Julia Craik (via The Guardian). "It's not a blight, it really adds to the local area. If it was some horrible graffiti then they'd have a point, but it's a thing of beauty in Hackney Road, which is not the greatest area in the world. Among the bingo halls and shops you've got a really nice artwork, which really adds something."

ROA has risen to prominence over the last two years after starting out painting animal forms in a disused warehouse close to his native Ghent, in Belgium. His work can be seen in Manhattan and Brooklyn, in New York, and across Europe from Norway to Italy, while an upcoming commission will see him travel to Sao Paulo, in Brazil. His first solo show in the UK was staged at the Pure Evil gallery in Shoreditch, east London, earlier this year, and he has had exhibitions in Paris in the last 12 months.
Charley Edwards, who runs the Pure Evil gallery, told the Guardian: "It was the most successful show we've ever had in terms of people coming. You could hear the gasps as people walked in and saw his pieces. Banksy's obviously more famous, but I think ROA's work at the moment is really pushing it". 

Edwards was with ROA when he painted the threatened rabbit, and described it as typical of his work. "He talks about repopulating the city with animals and bringing them back into the city," Edwards said. "I think people really, really dig the rabbit – there's a certain character to it that people just love."

Hackney council said in a statement: "The graffiti ... is clearly visible from the road and, whilst it is not the council's position to make a judgment call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney's streets clean. As part of our enforcement policy, which is informed by Defra guidance, we initially contacted the property owner on an informal basis and offered advice, including what they needed to do if they wished to retain the piece of graffiti. This was followed by a letter and another visit to the property before the removal notice was served. However, we are currently holding our enforcement action to allow the owner a further opportunity to seek planning advice about retaining the piece."

Craik said she had replied to Hackney council in writing after receiving their letter this month, but was yet to hear back regarding the fate of the rabbit. "It could happen at any moment," she said. "We're constantly thinking 'are we going to come in tomorrow to no rabbit, and a massive bill.'"

Last year, Hackney was criticised after it painted over a Banksy cartoon of the royal family that had been present on a block of flats for more than eight years. In October 2008, Westminster city council removed a mural from Newman Street, in central London, after the council's deputy leader, Robert Davis, said keeping it would be "condoning" graffiti.
Other councils have adopted novel solutions to deciding whether or not a piece of graffiti should remain. Sutton invited residents to vote on whether a Banksy should remain. More than 90% of respondents wanted it to stay, but the mural was defaced by taggers before the vote closed.

Mark Rigney, who runs a walking tour featuring ROA's work, said: "Hackney council should realise that this art movement is a huge tourist attraction and people are crossing London and the globe to see the art upon the streets of Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets, areas which are often referred to as the epicentre for London street art."
And so the street art blogs started shouting, the Facebook and Twitter campaigns kicked in, how could anyone not like the rabbit? It makes us smile every time we pass it.

John Hegley even wrote a poem, 'very lovely and like a Haiku in its short simplicity':

This rabbit
can we grabbit?
If it disappears
it won't be into a hat.

Let us hope that
Hackney Council has ears.

John Hegley

...and thankfully the campaigns worked and we shall continue to smile, the rabbit was reprieved.  “Town hall chiefs have been forced into an embarrassing U-turn in the row over a giant graffiti rabbit on the wall of a world-renowned recording studio in Hackney Road. Hackney Council has officially withdrawn a threat to remove the 12-foot-tall painting on the side of The Premises Studios and Café after more than 2,000 people signed a petition in protest” reported the Hackney Gazette 

The Premises wrote this on their website on November 8th:

Hackney Council Back Down over Giant Rabbit
Hackney Council have officially withdrawn their threat to remove the painting of a giant rabbit on the side of The Premises Studios.  More than two thousand people signed a petition in one week objecting to the Council’s enforcement order.
The 12ft giant rabbit is one of several spectacular pieces of street art that have appeared in the east end of London by internationally renowned artist ROA. Last year Hackney Council caused widespread outrage by painting over a large Banksy artwork in Dalston.

The petition to ‘save the rabbit’ received an astonishing amount of public support in a short period of time. At one point names were being added at a rate of one per minute and the topic trended on Twitter. Local artists, schools and residents all lent their support to demand that Hackney Council drop their threat to the painting.

“We’re delighted that Hackney Council have recognised our campaign and we’d like to thank everyone for all the amazing support and work to help save our rabbit” say the Premises owners Julia Craik and Viv Broughton. “It’s a beautiful piece of street art that everyone loves and we’re very glad it’s here to stay.”
Thanks again to everyone who has helped us – this shows that with public support we can really change things – a great result!
Julia Craik none of them.