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 Why music and politics are inseparable, and let’s be thankful for that

 

fizz

 

Don’t worry, the purpose of the above pic will soon become apparent.

I often hear that music and politics should remain separate. I snigger at such a concept; as if they have EVER been separate. Those proponents may as well take the next logical turn in their impotent argument and suggest that drugs and pop have never taken the same fork in the road.

Without some form of statement, music would have become as relevant as the novella, or Spanish mime.

Every turn in society has been reflected in the music of the day, from medieval folk to early jazz and blues, to punk and beyond. In some societies it is one of the few ways of telling how brutal life is.

It is often to the United States that I look to for examples, and I expect with a Trump administration, the ground will become fertile for an upsurge in angry, potent protest songs. Some have already taken the cue, to record the inane but irresistible FDT (the DT is Donald Trump so you can work out what the F stands for).

It has, after all, been a long tradition in the Land of the Free.

Racism and civil rights

In 1939 Billie Holiday recorded Strange Fruit, a song written by Abel Meeropol after he saw a graphic photograph of two black men hanging from a tree. In his lyrics, and in her take on it, Meeropol and Holiday were decrying the lynchings and unfettered racist activity taking place in the American South.

The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s led to Aretha Franklin demanding Respect and Curtis Mayfield’s epic song of hope, People Get Ready. Bob Dylan wrote one of the greatest anti-war songs of all time, Blowing In The Wind. They would all be heard on civil rights and anti-war songs of the decade.

Beyond the US, songs have been the engine behind the great social movements. Nigerian legend Fela Ransome-Kuti invented Afro Beat as a way to protest the oil company regime, and 1977’s febrile Zombie railed against his country’s military dictators.

In South Africa, Chile, and Brazil music has been at the forefront of the fight against apartheid, military rule and oppression.

Reggae’s fight against injustice, in Jamaica, the UK and around the world requires a boxset in itself, but here is just one example, and it is not a song. At the One Love Peace Concert in 1978, Bob Marley brought the leaders of Jamaica’s two main political parties on to the stage and corralled them into a three-way air-high handshake. “At that moment, everybody was one,” said Edward Seaga the then leader of the opposition JLP.

Without politics there was effectively no such thing as roots reggae in the 1970s. It shaped the genre and gave it its identity. Hard to think now of The Wailers without Get Up Stand Up.

In my adopted New Zealand post-punk outfit Blam Blam Blam exposed the “she’ll be right” head-in-the-sand attitude. There Is No Depression in New Zealand was released in 1981, as protests and police reaction raged, as the offensive Springbok rugby tour exposed deep divisions in Aotearoa. The title virtually explains itself.

I could go on. And on. And I haven’t even touched on punk, These are songs of anger and passion that are heartfelt and, as such, hated by the corporate music industry. It doesn’t sell, they believe. Just give the masses their fill of sex and more sex and they’ll be happy.

It should also be noted that these weren’t movements and artists that embraced politics for the sake of it, to be an upstart, and to get under people’s skin. Politics came to them; if you’re seeing people being bashed or starving, you say something, you stick up for those less lucky than those who can afford a drum set.

Which is not to say that all songs written with a grievance are sublime, but let’s not dwell on the stinkers, at least their heart was in the right place. And no-one is as naïve to believe that it is all of a just cause; alas there is a strong anti-socialist element in country and western music (Okie From Muskogee) and a fascist skinhead scene, although it would be overstating reality to describe this odious sect as a threat beyond a few hundred numbskulls.

Personally, as a teenager, I was taken by a Billy Bragg song. Bragg is often as predictable as the main ingredient in a treacle tart, with his stating-the-bleedin’-obvious go-the-wee-man lyrics, but I love There Is Power In A Union – because there is. The union is the backbone for the downtrodden worker, and Bragg articulately explains why.

“The Union forever defending our rights/ Down with the blackleg, all workers unite/ With our brothers and our sisters from many far off lands/ There is power in a union.”

What a fizzer

Now, pray tell, what, Mr Porky, has Bucks Fizz, those archetypical purveyors of glossy, garish New Romantic-era sugar, have to do with all this.

Land of Make Believe was a No.1 hit in the UK and throughout Europe in 1981 with the band performing a well-choreographed routine on Top of the Pops as it blended in with the Festive Season.

The reality was somewhat different as writer Peter Sinfield later revealed it was an attack on Thatcher’s Britain and the burgeoning, callous neoliberal politics of the time.

“Something nasty in your garden’s waiting/ Patiently, till it can have your heart
Try to go but it won’t let you/ Don’t you know it’s out to get you running
Keep on running/ They’re running after you babe.”

Dissecting this particular verse I can imagine the garden being the green and pleasant land, England’s garden, and that something nasty is all sorts of horrendous policies that subsequently destroyed communities across the country.

So, a four-pieced remembered primarily for a Eurovision act that involved the skirts of the two female singers being thrown away, were in fact a weapon of insubordination. Fancy that.

 

 

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The end is high

 

Alas, it is time to draw the curtain. Porky’s Prime Cuts reared its ugly head in February 2009 by an editor awash with ideas and enthusiasm.

Now, those ideas are drying up, and time isn’t as plentiful to write due to the usual, mundane matters like work, parenthood, and avoiding the Jehovah’s Witnesses. So we’re putting this baby to bed.

The blog has been a wonderful opportunity to spew forth about our love of music and culture, to talk to great bands and write in a way that wasn’t really being expressed anywhere else on the net. It was passion but not as fashion. To us there were no boundaries to hem us in, and we would happily go from agit-punk to Womad in the same week.

At the time of starting the music press was in a moribund state and the online media scene was pitifully poor, written by people with a love more of themselves than of the subjects they attempted to write about.

Eight years on, and the music is press is in a moribund state and the online media scene is ….

The more things change the more they remain the same.

But none of that really makes any difference to this blog. In our own little way, we established our own little empire. Without money or a large team or the technology we set out our stall early and kept it there. We’re immensely proud of everything that’s been written on this site, and there isn’t a word, photo or headline I regret putting up. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and shares. It’s been a success on a small scale, but my own personal satisfaction is what matters above anything else.

I have one more piece to write and that will be up here very soon. The site will remain online for posterity.

Craig Haggis, aka Porky

 

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Albums of 2016

David Bowie: Blackstar 

Blackstar once again reveals the marvellously attentive nature of Bowie, and his Bowiefrighteningly surreal ability to move one step forward each time. It’s reminiscent of many of his post-Tin Machine albums: beguiling and intriguing, caustically prescient; it pushes the envelope once more.

The ten-minute title track is nothing short of magnificent, not a second overlong, but mightily weighty in its telling of a barbaric action.

As with The Next Day, the eternally-dubbed comeback album, Blackstar offers numerous snapshots of Bowie the groundbreaker, the man who changed direction at regular turns. It would be stretching reality to suggest it is a masterpiece, but it has a satisfying feel to it and with every listen offers more intrigue and clarity.

 

Horse Party: Horizons

Horizons is a 13-track mop-up job on R*E*P*E*A*T Records, that collects two 7”singles, various download-only releases and an unreleased track.

As the album progresses the mood gets darker (“we could drown if you like”) and there’s a feeling the frenetic, buzzsaw format is gradually being dispatched.Horizons

So, Out of Sight bristles with pugnaciousness, its corruscating lyrics aimed at someone with faults aplenty.

I appreciate relatively new acts releasing compilations so early in their careers; much of this is hard to get, spread over five separate issues in various guises plus an unreleased track I would have to assume wouldn’t see the light of day otherwise.

 

Mouse Eat Mouse: Toxic Tails

The Glesga duo have been awa’ in their hidey hole in the corner of the hoose, nurturing a path away from the trap and into the cheese factory.

But they’re oot the noo: CD Shade has his wordsmithery hat on again, for the follow up to the much-lauded Mair Licht (2006) and the more subdued Woof from 2013.

Toxic TailsThis self-released album comes in the midst of a British Conservative government intent on pursuing class war, and follows the defeat for the separatists in the Scottish independence referendum (at least in the short-term).

Mouse Eat Mouse’s frontman CD Shade is a Rabbie Burns-inflected writer and vocalist, a bald eagle of a colossus, whispering or bellowing the lyrics with an innate passion lacking in so many X-Factor lite-ish acts.

Toxic Tails is a monologue of writing, a journalistic inspection of the modern British state, and, in consequence, places and people way beyond the seas and coasts of the Isles. Fat cats beware: these mice are fucking angry.

Get Toxic Tails from bandcamp:

https://mouseeatmouse.bandcamp.com/album/toxic-tails

 

Alun Gaffey: untitled

Alun Gaffey, as we’ll call it, is a curious fusion of pop, electro and Tom Jones’ B-sides. Palutyllau possesses a distinct nod to the 70s funk and soul influences he so beloves: Sly and the Family Stone, Chaka Khan, Roy Ayers et al.

Yr Arfon pounds with early 80s hip hop beats, and New Romantic excitement.Gaffey

Sandwiched inbetween those is a track about dinosaurs (either in the literal or the metaphorical sense) Deinasoriaid, a glorious frolic in indie-pop with a clear acknowledgment of the genius of the Super Furry Animals. There’s the same Godlike pop sensibilities on O Angau, the free-form, jaunty jumpabout the Welsh seem to love (am recalling 90s bands like Topper and Big Leaves, both far too good for the ignorant London press).

It’s an extraordinarily diverse album that features guitar, claps, samples piano, drums, bass and drums, and “ayyb” – all played by Gaffey himself recorded entirely in south Cardiff. Themes include paranoia and alternative living.

 

Sulk: No Illusions

Sulk are part of a new wave of revivalist bands, their ears attuned to shoegazing, Madchester and Britpop.

From the first minute of Black Infinity (Upside Down) I’m detecting the shimmering guitars and slide effects of Slowdive, which these days is actually a compliment.Sulk

The silky vocals of Jon Sutcliffe and the reverb-drenched bass remind me also of Towns, who’s debut album has been reviewed on this site, as well as an act of about five-six years ago, S.C.U.M.

While Sulk take from the above scenes, and beyond, this is less a nostalgia trip but a hand-in-hand jaunt alongside the new psychedelia, or a pioneering mini-genre that, quite frankly, is too esoteric to even have its own label.

 

A Blue Flame: What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remains.

Richard Stone is A Blue Flame, and he is possibly Leicester’s biggest musical export since … ahem.

a-blue-flameIt has lush 60s melodies that remind me of Bill Pritchard, another doyen of English sensibilities, who may not be a name that immediately springs to mind, but he is relatively well-known in Belgium. Which is more impressive than you might think because there’s two of them.

A Blue Flame are adept at stringing together tales of everyday mundanity and pleasures, with a dashing, neo-orchestral strumming of guitars and gentle clang of drums.

Marlborough Park Avenue is a daydream into a perfect, ice cream-kinda day. I uttered a hearty laugh at the line “I found An A-Z missing the index”, but Stone was clearly so stunned by his own cleverness that he mistakenly repeated it a few times.

 

Cate le Bon: Crab Day

I love this album. That in itself is probably good enough to entice you into Le Bon’s world, but I don’t have time to write about it myself.

So here’s a review lifted from The Guardian.

“After third album Mug Museum, Cate Le Bon has turned the last of her pottery-wheel twee and, on Crab Day, creates a springy rubber-band-ball of angular guitar, squalling saxophone and elastic basslines. Single Wonderful, for example, sounds like it has popped out of a Warhol Campbell’s soup can.

Mostly, though, the album has the eccentric air of an am-dram troupe who have raided the dressing up box, hopped in the camper van and escaped to the seaside to make their own fun. It’s cacophonous but also whimsical, thanks to Le Bon’s detached narration.

She sings abstractly about coathangers and yellow blinds as if sitting on her own luminous cloud. It’s best on tracks such as We Might Revolve, on which her thrilling, tightly wound post-punk guitar is glazed by her Nicoish impressionistic vocals, or What’s Not Mine, the incessant marching drums and customarily quirky xylophone offset by a sweetly sung airiness. Long may Le Bon continue to weird up the rulebook.”

Street Chant: Hauora

These Aucklanders (two gals and one lad) are, like two of the acts above, slow to release material, this coming nearly six years after debut Means.

They make a lovely, feminine racket and at its core is their declaration that they are different. The title reflects the unique Maori philosophy of health.

Hauora retains the sneery, snotty nosed approach that drove Means but adopts vulnerability in highlights like My Country, One More Year and run-down-Auckland-flat-life anthem, Pedestrian Support Lead.

There’s a shoutout to massive (for NZ anyway) shopping centre Sylvia Park on a bar rhymed with Sylvia Plath, only adding to the band-next-door charm that oozes through the cravats of each track leaving you wishing you were their best friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THINK LOCAL, ACT GLOBAL is the mantra of single-issue activists. And it should be the slogan Richard Stone writes on his hands every day as he sets about to make his name more meaningful than a natural-made object.a-blue-flame

Stone hails from Leicester and his debut album gained a lot of airplay on BBC Leicester and in other city and county-wide outlets.

Now he has an umbrella to work under: A Blue Flame. And a second album What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remains. The rest of the UK and Europe beckon.

It has lush 60s melodies that remind me of Bill Pritchard, another doyen of English sensibilities, who may not be a name that immediately springs to mind, but he is relatively well-known in Belgium. Which is more impressive than you might think because there’s two of them.

A Blue Flame are adept at stringing together tales of everyday mundanity and pleasures, with a dashing, neo-orchestral strumming of guitars and gentle clang of drums. The Girl Inside of You is the perfect example of this modus operandi, evoking days of watching “The Great Escape on the TV screen” as it builds to a crushing crescendo.

From God On Down sees the band dip into reggae, and it sounds like one of the few UB40 tracks they wrote themselves after 1989. But Out There Somewhere is the kind of grinding full-on indie rock Porky can lap up all day. Mindless chanting and brief verses, what more do you need?

Marlborough Park Avenue is a daydream into a perfect, ice cream kind of day, of which there isn’t many in England’s East Midlands. I uttered a hearty laugh at the line “I found An A-Z missing the index”, but Stone was clearly so stunned by his own cleverness that he mistakenly repeated it a few more times.

I won’t pretend that What We’ve Become … is in any way a trendsetting work, but it works in such magnificent influences, deft lyrics and the sound of small town, housing estate England that makes it irresistible.

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PORKY HAS BEEN instrumental in the creation of the latest, 45-page, issue of the above, many years after No.7 was issued.

This is part of the introduction by Shabbir:

“This issue contains an article on ‘Legends of Indie’ and Live Reviews from 2016. We also include album reviews, looking at ‘Days Run Away’ and ‘She Paints Words in Red’. We assess Terry Bickers work with Peter Fij. Also included is a detailed, updated Discography of the band and Guy Chadwick’s solo work, plus more.”

HoL 2013

To see more of this please go to
https://www.facebook.com/TheHouseOfLoveOFFICIAL/
To obtain the zine in a pdf format email Shabbir at

shabszy@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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ALONG WITH Primal Scream, the Happy Mondays were the last gang in town. You could argue that The Libertines should be included but internal issues voids their claim. The Glaswegians and the Mancunians were bands that worked, and perhaps more importantly, partied very hard together. It was an example set by The Clash and The Damned: a tightly-formed unit that fought against the world.

It was with such thoughts that I listened to the Happy Mondays’ second album for the first time in a few years, and I have to admit, it was with high anticipation that it would sound horrendously outdated.

Bummed

An album recorded as Manchester hadn’t adopted the mad yet, at a time of the burgeoning rave-indie scene, surely would have been superseded fiftyfold by the immense technological wizardry available since 1988.

But it hasn’t, and that’s testament to Shaun Ryder’s jack-the-lad tales of larrikins, layabouts, lager louts and other assorted detritus that permeated his life around Manchester, to a backdrop of wah-wah effects, the new dance culture as well as traditional drums’n’guitars’n’bass.

Prior to Bummed, the Happy Mondays had been a jobbing band largely around the north-west of England. Even in 1987, they could be caught third on the bill behind the little-known Head and madcaps extraordinaire, Stump, at student gigs. They’d been around for about five years with a few ill-produced EPs and a middling debut album behind them.

For the recording session, the band was moved to a humdrum town in East Yorkshire, Driffield, partly in a bid to keep them away from unsavoury sorts that hung around the act and their resulting distractions. It didn’t work, as parcels of treats kept arriving, and the band partied like it was 1988. There would be days when nothing happened, and the producer Martin Hannett was said to be perpetually drunk. Nevertheless, somehow, the band completed the album, and, unlike later releases, appears unaffected by the wanton debauchery and irresponsibility.

Ecstasy was working its way into the systems (literally) and the music of the time. This may well have given Ryder new insights as he scribbled out the lyrics, with songs such as Moving In With sounding like a stream of (un)consciousness as he gets carried away.

“You got four muddy pigs in the flat downstairs below/ Stomping at the door he says “Why you so slow?”/ Got a schizophrenic acquaintance patient no place to go/ Stuck with his dick through my Afghani window.”

The subtly-titled Brain Dead was about an odious oaf, a waster of the highest order, loathed by everyone, except for his mother, a “Grass sliding, slasher Brain dead fuckup.” You get the picture.

I have to say that this is my favourite track of the ten. Kicking off with a curious shout of “You’re rendering that scaffolding dangerous” it mutates and mangles its way through a sad story of an utter half-wit, a screw-up with awareness issues to a gloriously driven backbeat of delicious whoops and bleeps.

And yes, that does mean it tops Wrote For Luck, but only by the musical equivalent of a hundredth of a second in a 100 metre race. The longest track at 6:02 it ticks along perfectly, building to a crescendo midway. There isn’t a great deal to WFF as it was dubbed and called in its reissued, remixed form a year later, but its simplicity is its success. It was a trailblazer for bands like the Primals, Flowered Up ad nauseum.

Bummed 2

The full set of images that awaited the purchasers of the vinyl edition.

Then there’s Fat Lady Wrestlers, a title that would find itself subject to a barrage of abuse on social media if written in 2016. It’s a more restrained track, but excellent nevertheless, reminiscent of something from the third album, Pills’n’Thrills’n’Bellyaches.

Why the humdrum Lazyitis was ever included is a mystery as it sounds out of place, but you can’t have the icing with the cake. Bummed is an album that remains a proud part of the elite group of collections I possess; it wouldn’t ever be surpassed, even if Pills’n”Thrills was the radio-friendly unit shifter. But then we kinda know why such albums sell so much.

 

 

 

 

 

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THIS IS A SITE that tends to stick to music, but today I digress given the momentous events over the past week.

As the entire world now knows the vote was 52-48 percent in favour of leaving the European Union, with working class areas most virulent in voting to get out. It’s being regarded by some as a swing to the right, as a victory for the right-wing UK Independence Party, for Little Englanders and racists and fascists. To an extent it is a victory for the odious likes of Nigel Farage, the right-wing elements of the Conservative Party, and those who want to live in a land called 1957.

But that only tells part of the story. People voted to leave for all sorts of reasons: immigration, to hurt the establishment, disgust in the way the EU imposed horrendous austerity measures on Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and decades of being let down by neoliberal politics.Brexit

This was England and Wales’s chance to hold two-fingers up to the establishment in the way the Scots had enjoyed doing in the 2014 independence referendum. When you have no money how on earth can you support a system that rewards the rich and the middle class and punishes those cruelly sidelined by unemployment or forced to work two jobs just to pay the electricity bill?

Neoliberalism is the system that wants rid of unions, church-based communities, laws that stand in the way of ‘competition’, human rights, privacy, and that pesky thing called the environment. They are all obstacles to growth and individual wealth.

It’s a battle being fought around the world: from Cuba which is gainfully trying to maintain its socialist system in a sea of capitalism, to New Zealand, where the “quarter acre dream” – home ownership – is rooted in the entire fabric of a once near-egalitarian society, but is now a distant pipedream for many.Brexit 2

Multinationals are in every suburban shopping parade, and tinned tuna is but an aisle away.

But neoliberalism is creaking at the seams. It isn’t in any way sustainable as the resources are not never-ending. The rising temperatures will mean the mass loss of land and farmland. Ad nauseum ad nauseum. A system that benefits the few at the detriment of the many is clearly limited in its ambition, and lifespan.

The village idiots rise up

And so back to the island group that stretches from the Shetlands to the Scilly Isles. The referendum campaign descended into propaganda and lies, and the Labour MP, Jo Cox, was murdered in the street.

When the result was revealed all hell broke loose. Xenophobic and racist attacks multiplied, a second Scottish independence referendum is a strong possibility, David Cameron resigned, Nigel Farage looked smug, the markets dived and there was even ruminations about a unified Ireland.

The resignation of Dodgy Dave was no shock: he who lives by the sword etc etc. But the turmoil that enveloped within the Labour Party has been. Here was a chance to hold the divided Tories to account; instead it turned on itself.

The venom from self-important Labour MPs who are clearly detached from the ambitions of their membership towards the democratically-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn (on a bigger mandate than Tony Blair achieved) was overboard and vindictive.

The bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party comprises people parachuted into safe or marginal seats by Blair and his ilk, and they generally lean to the right. They have never viewed Margaret Thatcher as the destroyer of communities, rather as someone who did what she needed to at the time.

They know nothing of poverty, injustice or working so hard you can’t spend time with the kids and are worried shitless about the loan repayment. Blair’s governments did little to reverse the destructive laws introduced by Thatcher or to create a more equal and just society.

Corbyn, and his loyal lieutenant John McDonnell, are cut from a different cloth: they attend rallies and demonstrations while their fellow MPs talk to property management companies about renting out the second house. No wonder they are hated in the Westminster Labour bubble: they actually stand for something. And goodness, it’s called things like justice, peace, unionism and a decent living standard. Gosh, Tarquin, isn’t that a bit like … socialism. Oh, I don’t think I like the sound of that, it lets children have fruit for free.

In his brief time in charge Corbyn has:

  • Fought back against vicious Tory policies and forced them into significant reverses, such as converting schools into academies and cuts to tax credits.
  • Boosted the party membership by tens of thousands.
  • Won four by-elections, three of them with increased majorities.
  • Won the May council, mayoral and assembly elections.
  • Proved that being honest and upfront can win people over.

A coup d’etat

As I write Corbyn is “holding on” apparently. 172 MPs voting in a no-confidence vote against him, with 40 in favour, isn’t, it has to be said, massively encouraging. The largely unknown Angela Eagle is expected to face off against him in a leadership spill her wing of the party hopes to institute. Another nonentity Owen Smith is also intending to do so.

And all because they say Corbyn didn’t push the case for Remain hard enough. Unlike another anti-Corbynite, Gisela Stuart, a hardline Brexiter who devised the misguided slogan about diverting 350 million dollars per week from going to Brussels into the National Health Service, and who shared a battle bus with Leave leader Boris Johnson and UKIP’s Douglas Carswell. She even appeared on a national television debate stating her case. That’s what I call party loyalty.

Bastards

Gisela Stuart, Douglas Carswell and Boris Johnson on the campaign trail

 

But the European battleground is merely a ruse: This is a coup planned well in advance. They wanted Corbyn out, and have waited for their opportunity; and thankfully for them it came days before the Chilcott Report into Blair’s unnecessary war in Iraq is finally released.

Ah, so here we are again, the spectre of Mr Blair hovering over the party like a father in prison for murder. This is a contest for the soul of the party, and of neoliberalism itself. Lose the leadership election and the Blairites will claim Labour is consigned to “electoral liability” for decades.

The reality is the legacy of the 1997-2005 Labour governments will be eternally tainted by the Iraq war, and those MPs who supported the war and were involved in the government of the time have some explaining to do when the report is out.

But it’s also a little more. Those 172 MPs want a party with limited membership, a party controlled by MPs, a party ruled by a clique of those at Westminster, a party where the union backers are largely silent and a party that’s pro-business and for “the aspirational classes”.

A leadership contest won’t settle this ideological warfare; this is going to keep on going for years, if not decades. Someone needs to bang some heads together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJj0qBQez2Q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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