Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Re-Rewind The Crowd Say Bo Selecta
I saw Elbow at London's Brixton academy on Friday. Sorry I've only mentioned it now, but I've only just got round to it. Anyway, let's get the support band out of the way, the quite delightful Mew. Sadly we only caught their final song, due to being detained at the bar. Luckily, it was a long and wonderful noisey jammy wig out of epically beautiful, psychedelic proportions that managed to be both very loud and intricately delicate at the same time. Lots of reverb, lots of hairs standing up on the back of necks. Should've got here earlier. And I need a wee. Stupid bar.
Then Elbow come on, fronted by certainly one of the most affable men in pop, Guy Garvey. Surely voted "Least Likely To Front Medium Selling Rock Act" at school, he is a breath of fresh air. He has a walking stick. He waves it around. He sings like some smooth throated angel over 3 albums worth of gems. They chuck out my personal fave, 'Fugitive Motel', early in the set with the kind of gay abandon that shows how confident and talented they truly are. With "Forget Myself", they close an unforgettable night (clever, eh?) and we brave the cold outside with a coat of pure wonderment. Most underated band in Britain? Tonight it's difficult to argue.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
1. M83 - 'Moon Child'
2. Brian Eno - 'An Ending (Ascent)'
3. DJ Shadow - 'The Number Song'
4. Four Tet - 'Spirit Fingers'
5. DJ Shadow - 'Mutual Slump'
And lots of other cool things I didn't recognise, wasted as incidental music. Still, good to hear them...
Primal Scream - 'Keep Your Dreams'
Primal Scream. The Jesus and Mary Chain. The Stone Roses. My Bloody Valentine. David Holmes. New Order. The Chemical Brothers. They're all represented on 2000's Xtrmntr, in some way. And luckily there are just enough cooks to prepare one of the finest broths in recent history. The album is a masterpiece from one of the most hit and miss bands in the world. When Primal Scream are on form, they're amongst the best. Screamadelica changed British music forever. Vanishing Point is arguably even better (I would certainly argue for it.) But they've also produced some terrible dirges in pursuit of some rock n roll grail. And let Kate Moss sing. But all is forgiven. They have, after all, taken a hell of a lot of drugs...
'Keep Your Dreams' stands out for me as a moment of reflection on an otherwise speedfreak paced album. It's the kind of delicate and woozy song that Bobby Gillespie's fragile voice handles perfectly. David Holmes' production is at once childlike innocence and intoxicated euphoria. The lyrics are of the understated "Hey kids, don't sell your soul" variety, but it works perfectly. Sounds pretty good if you've been up all night. Not that I have. Mum.
The first album track to appear as hidden gem, but almost certainly not the last. A perfect tribute to a band who've produced some wonderful albums. Is that the time?
Money For Nothing
Well, you'll be pleased to know that I took a stand for what i believe in. And what i believe in is that paying someone off is usually the quickest way out. So now you can Comment away without fear of them dropping off the edge of the blog in a few months time. Breathe easily, my friends, for all is well. (Also, you won't get exposed to ads any more, apparently, so we're claiming back the space! Rock on.)
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Public Service Announcement
More importantly, some lovely new additions to my faves down the right hand side. My good friend Dave has started a blog to document his battle against liver disease, which I think is a great idea. Good luck with everything Dave, obviously. People who know him through me do check it out and send your best wishes!
Other mighty fine additions include blogs I've been a fan of for some time, but just been lazy about sticking them up. So, high fives all round for Umugore, The Art Of Noise, Betty's Utility Room and Troubled Diva. Let's keep it futile.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Ok, so welcome to an insight into my world. I shop at charity shops. Regularly. Now, I'm hoping we're all beyond the stage of pointing at me and yelling "Urgh, fuggin gypo!" Are we? Good. Not for clothes, I must confess. That does still strike me as a little...well...icky (I know, I earn enough to be that much of a snob. But I'm only being honest!) No, my poison is that big stack of records hidden in the corner under the Jilly Cooper novels. Oh come now. Don't act so surprised. Yeah, ok, fairly predictable, but few things give me more pleasure than filing through a load of battered old vinyl in some forgotten corner of the PDSA shop.
Why? Two words, my faithful companion: hunter/gatherer. In this modern world of mobile phones, Nathan Barley and Chocolate Coke, there aren't many opportunities to don a loincloth, clutch a spear in hand and kill some defenseless animal (I tried it once in Luton and was slapped with an ASBO for my trouble. I even had to hand back the scalps. Well..ok... the fake Burberry caps and hoodies. More on that later.) I can't even pop down to my local stream and pan for gold. You're more likely to turn up condoms and pogs (remember pogs?) The only place to go out and hunt is in the culturally acceptable world of consumer culture. Well, nuts to that! Charidee it is!
It's all about the thrill. You're leafing through the Mantovani records, Matt Monroe, Top of The Pops 76, Peter Frampton Comes Alive, Alison Moyet, Handel's Messiah and the South Pacific soundtracks you find in every store, and then you'll happen across something great. Well, sometimes something just ok. But sometimes something really great! And it'll be 50p, or at worse £1.50. Hey big spender. Sure you can buy Human League's 'Don't You Want Me' for a quid off Itunes, but for half that you could get the whole Dare album with artwork and all. I often go on huge missions in my regular stomping grounds, picking up 10's of records. Ok, I might spend 30 quid, but I'll get an armful of vinyl, rather than 2 LP's from HMV, innit? And it's all for charity! You're practically buying Karma! Or in some cases, 'Instant Karma' by John Lennon, original Apple 7 inch, for £2. Bargain!
Anyway, that's what i done did today. Here are some of the best bits of what i done boughted:
1. Vic Reeves - 'Born Free'.
2. Altern8 - 'Activ8 (Come With Me)'
3. The Shangri La's - 'Leader Of The Pack'
4. Paul McCartney - McCartney II
5. Roxy Music - Avalon
6. Miami Sound System - 'Dr Beat'
7. Various - Top Gun OST
8. Genesis - Abacab
9. Shalamar - 'A Night To Remember'
10. The Housemartines - London 0 Hull 4
11. OMD - Architecture And Morality
12. Earth, Wind and Fire - I Am
13. Fleetwood Mac - 'Everywhere'
14. KWS - 'Please Don't Go'
15. The Wonder Stuff - Never Loved Elvis
Fantastic! The only genuine disappointment was Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. Now, the first couple of minutes that we all know is great, no question, Exorcist, creepy, cool, DJ Shadow sampling genius. But after that it goes into this wanky rubbish that no normal person could possibly enjoy. Wubbish. Still, worth one piece of poo for 15 undeniable nuggets of gold.
So yeah, i do a lot of work for charity, but i don't like to talk about it. If you like the odd record, why not pop into your local charity shop and see if you can spread the love? Just don't do it round my way or I'll take you down. This is my patch, mofo. If I find you bent double over a stack of records that should rightly be mine, I'll batter you with Fairtrade products or one of those cheap CD rack things. Whatever comes to hand. Just so you know.
But the music obsessive cannot live on Charity record purchases alone. As the list above makes patently clear, if you want something upfront, new, or vaguely cool, it's back into shiny corporate reality, or dingy backstreet underground. So alongside them lot what i done bought with the charity, I also headed to HMV for 1 single. A single with political clout, a single with attitude, a single with a message.
Lady Sovereign - 'Hoodies'
Hell yes! The chav strikes back. And about bloody time too. The S-O-V is one of the most divisive artists out there. She's marmite. Well, except she's white, innit? And brutal. And sharp. And very witty. And there ain't many people writing songs like she does at the moment. Wot U Call It? Well, I suppose grime (yuck), but it's hip hop, really. She's rapping over a racket. And it's wicked. So much UK stuff is so dull and worthy, but she's just right on the money, every time. She doesn't apologise, and she doesn't care.
And... I know this is probably a bit wrong, but I quite fancy her too. Ch Ching.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Injected With A Poison
Last boasting about Prague, I promise. You can view Toby's pics here and mine should follow very soon here. Far more painless than sticking them all on here, I'm sure you'd agree... I have some random and somewhat confusing videos from my mobile, too, but unless there's unprecedented demand to see them, I'll leave them there for my own amusement. Anyway, time for just one last pic of possibly the greatest discover of our journey to the mystic East (of Europe)...
What's that, I hear you cry? Coke? Perhaps Diet Coke? Maybe with some sort of spirit added? Way off! Coke with Lemon? Diet Caffeine Free Coke? No! Still wrong. That is Chocolate Coke! I'll say that again. Chocolate Coke! Coke flavoured like Chocolate! It's great! No free refills, but worth the extra expense. Well worth travelling halfway across the continent to discover!
Anyway, such cultural musings aside, time for a final word on the whole affair: an inevitable 'Tunes for the Holiday' list. These were songs that we either heard wandering around the streets, saw on foreign music telly, bopped to in the clubs or kept randomly popping into our heads. Hence the somewhat random list...
1. Beastie Boys - 'Ch-Check It Out'
2. Underworld - 'Born Slippy'
3. E17 - 'Let It Rain'
4. Nick Holder - 'No More Dating DJs'
5. Tony Bennett - 'Winter Wonderland'
6. Sophie B Hawkins - 'Right Beside You'
7. USA for Africa - 'We are the world'
8. The Beatles - 'Back in the USSR'
9. Afroman - 'Cos I Got High'
10. Colour Me Badd - 'I'm Gonna Sex You Up'
11. Naftule Brandwein - 'Nifty's Freilach'
12. Green Day - 'All by Myself'
No, I'm not sure why either...
Monday, November 21, 2005
Woo-Hah! Got You All In Check
So here I am, back in Blighty from the Czech Republic. Had a wonderful time in Prague on my use-it-or-lose-it holiday trip. I'll try not to go too over the top, as I'm sure those of you reading this at work want to rip out my throat, but I'll post up some of the best pics we took and some of the less self indulgent video footage soon. I should start by saying it was pretty chilly. In fact, very chilly. Cold. Proper cold. Did I mention it was cold? But it was no bad thing. Kept us moving, at any rate. We did some proper culture, enjoying the castle, the Jewish quarter, many museums and cultural treats. We also went up a really tall TV mast, and looked down on the city from a good 100 feet up (I was also slightly pooing my pants, suffering from quite acute vertigo.)
Then there was the nightlife. Some of the best food I've ever tasted. At one restaurant i had caviar to start, and then the most amazing sirloin steak i've ever had. And it came to about 6 pounds a head, or something ridiculous like that. And then the bar and club life... Cheap booze, friendly staff, cheap booze, great atmosphere, cheap booze, excellent service and booze that was cheap. We visited a 5 floor club, with a different genre in ever room, from rnb, to pop dance, to cheese, to hard house, to a funky chill out room. With cheap booze. Then we came out at 4:30am to find the whole city under an inch of fresh snow which continued to fall as we skipped pack to the hotel with glee.
A great hotel it was too. The Seven Days Hotel, if you're thinking of going yourself. With a minibar we could actually afford to raid every so often at that. There was a fitness centre that I visited once, but they were playing James Blunt, so I changed my mind. So while we relaxed after a long day, it was TV tuned to BBC World or German MTV, with some class Eurodance and classic rock. Also, catching the Simpsons dubbed into Czech and shamefully recounting the original English back over the top from memory. Then back out into the chilled streets, past the sausage kiosks, discovering that Cabaret bars in Prague are very different from anything Liza Minelli was used to. (We didn't indulge, despite the startling offer of free booze all night, and genuine gingers. More of a stag night thing, really...)
More silly pics and random bits to come, I'm afraid. And I'd imagine my cohort, El Tobester, will be posting similar mischief on his blog soon, too.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Check It Out
See ya soon. Apologies for any typos, i have been drinking.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
The International Language Of Screaming
So here we are... All set to leave on a jet plane. Except i'm actually stood on a train platform in North London, as the British transport system deals me one final (please!) insult before i escape. Joy. Perhaps the diet of jittery rock n roll being served up by my mp3 player isn't the best thing for my nerves, but it's hard to argue with the Von Bondies, Bloc Party and the Super Furries at 7am.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds
So i'm stood waiting to get cash in the bank to get my foreign currency to take on holiday as the post office wouldn't take cards. Handy! Anyway, stood listening to people's ringtones going off. The normal nokia one makes a regular appearance, and also disturbing renditions of classical music. One wonders what Vivaldi would make of his masterworks being reduced down to a series of piercing beeps. Like reading a novel in binary or something. I'm up next, see ya later!
Moments In Love
Anyway, praise be, etc. Sorry for not plugging it earlier.
I Should Be So Lucky
In my imagination there is no complication, I dream about you all the time. In my mind a celebration, the sweetest of sensation; thinking you could be mine. In my imagination there is no hesitation, we walk together hand in hand. I'm dreaming you fell in love with me like I'm in love with you, but dreaming's all I do. If only they'd come true.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Tiffany - 'I Think We're Alone Now'
Oh, come on. Be honest. You have to be a pretty cynical soul not be excited by that drum intro. The synthetic slap bass... And then...
"Children, behave. That's what they say when we're together..."
Has there ever been a more perfect opening line to a song about illicit adolescent love? The only song that comes close is The Beach Boys - 'Wouldn't It Be Nice', which is quite simply the best song about adolescent love. Ever! But Tiffany has more of edge. It's a little bit naughty. It's cheekily suggestive. And utterly irresistable. Someone told me that it was a cover, but I forget who did it originally. Tiffany is this song, and this song is Tiffany. Her rein was short (only the committed remember 'Could've Been'. Fewer still remember 'Radio Romance') but her legacy is surprisingly long lasting. She promoted records by performing in malls. Avril Lavigne and the New Radikals were certainly paying attention...
'I Think We're Alone Now' is one of those songs that gets played at a certain stage of an evening. That time when people are happy/drunk enough not to care about being cool. Everyone knows the words. Caution is thrown to the wind. Grown men holler the lyrics to the sky. Everyone goes a bit crazy. I've played it out, and every time I'm amazed by the reaction. People just don't get sick of it (in my experience at any rate!) Perhaps, it will outstay it's welcome. I don't remember it from first time round, so the generation beneath me must be completely confused by it. (Some of today's 18 year olds weren't even born when it was released.) Or maybe it'll cross over into that hallowed VIP area of a DJ's record box, where only the most durable records stay. Forever!
Pop music at it's best.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The Man Who Loved Beer
You'd think after drinking for the best part of a decade, I'd have worked it out by now, but noooo. Free beers + expensive beers = lots of drinking. I've discovered that the least convincing phrase I can say is "Oh, just one more then." The most dangerous thing is a bar with waitress service. You just sit there! And they bring you beer and chips and anything else you desire! (So long as it's alcoholic or snack based. Or the bill). So there i was at closing time, complimenting my friend on her Ipod playlist, as the bar staff were putting the chairs up on all the other tables and telling us at 5 minute intervals that we had 5 minutes left to drink.
"I know my rightsh, we can drrink til 20 past! Sthe law! In fact, cosh we had chipsh, we get an exshtra 10 minutesh!"
Pushing it a little bit. Then the woozy tube right home and an ill advised decision to try and cook a 5 course banquet, which was scaled down to soup and bread. Thank goodness i ate something though, or my pain would have been magnified by ten this morning. To give you an impression of how I'm feeling, I just tried to lean forward and rest my elbows on my knees, and missed, causing my head to hit the desk. Thunk. Ow. OwOwOw. Urgh. Thankfully I have nothing planned for the rest of the day. Hope you're feeling somewhat better than I do.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Some tunes i decided to randomly put on this evening whilst playing with my new record decks, all of which are quite wonderful.
1. Talk Talk - 'Talk Talk'
2. Kim Wilde - 'Kids In America'
3. The Dream Academy - 'Life In A Northern Town'
4. Astrid - 'Modes Of Transport'
5. Steve Miller Band - 'Abracadabra'
6. Hot Butter - 'Popcorn'
7. Kraftwerk - 'Computer Love'
8. Tiffany - 'Could've Been'
9. Lauren Laverne - 'I Fell Out Of A Tree'
10. Simple Minds - 'Don't You (Forget About Me)'
Closing there with one of the many songs I want played at my funeral! (Boy am I gonna regret saying that if i get hit by a bus tomorrow...)
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Candle In The Wind '97
Right, I should preface this very clearly by saying that I am not a Royalist. That said, I'm not going to storm the gates and burn them at the stake. I think Charles is alright really. Bit of an arse, but his heart's in the right place most of the time. I'm sure they're nice enough people. Sort of. I just don't like being a 'subject', and I also dislike the air of superiority. In the same way that I am no better than anyone else because I was born white, male or British, they are not better than I am by virtue of blue blood. But they do a job, and if you like them, good for you. That's that sorted out. Vive la revolution! Oops, sorry, God Save the Queen! (Jones/Cook/Lydon/Matlock) Anyway...
Diana. Oh yes. I'm going there. Don't try and stop me. Watched the always wonderful and enlightening Arena on BBC 2 this evening, which looked back on the Panorama interview with The Princess Of Wales a decade ago. And fascinating viewing it was too. Firstly because at the time, people genuinely thought it could've spelt the end of the BBC, or the monarchy, or perhaps even both. Secondly, it changed history. As someone said, in 100 years it will be looked back on as a key moment in our culture. But more than that... 8 years or so since Diana died in a car crash, it seems almost alien looking back at how obsessed the world was with one woman.
Now, BBC 2 is kindly replaying the original interview in it's entirety as I type. And... well, it's just brilliant public relations, isn't it? An immensely wealthy, powerful woman making bambi eyes to Martin B to score points against her husband. I am watching this right, aren't I? I mean, I'm not making light of her problems, but it's clear she's using them to her own advantage. There is certainly a naivete in the way that she used the interview, but her intent is clear. But for some reason, this woman could do no wrong at the time. Everyone adored her.
It's just weird. I was sad when Diana died, but that probably has more to do with my own issues with death, and sympathy for the kids. I don't like seeing people die, but I remember feeling actually rather uneasy about the public outpouring of grief at the time. And even more unhappy about the fact that if you weren't grieving and weeping and thrashing around, there was somehow something wrong with you. It was almost like a competition of who could be most upset. Outside of school, I was working at a local newsagents. And i was behind the counter on the morning the news broke, and was there to greet people who'd just read the news on the front page of the papers. And of course they all blamed the press for it. And then bought the paper! Well, duh.
But the juggernaut of national grief just rolled on forward. Everyone seemed to attach their own problems to her, and when Diana died, many felt they'd lost a part of themselves. I must confess, this is something I still struggle to understand. Here was a woman living in incredible oppulence, who took the whole "woe is me, my golden crown is so heavy" approach to baring her soul, and used the media to her own ends. Yes, she did untold good for charitable causes. That i do not question. But, let's be honest, it's not like she had much else to be getting on with. It hardly makes her a saint. But she took up this incredible place on a pedestal in the public conciousness that noone else has even come close to occupying since. For several weeks it was as if the whole world had gone mad. But does anyone outside of the readership of the Mail and the Express care any more? Or did we get it out of our collective system? It just feels a bit suspect that she seems to have vanished so quickly from the minds of those who were so grief stricken at the time.
It's strange thinking how different the world would be had she lived. Charles and Camilla certainly could not have married as easily as they did. The public certainly wouldn't have accepted Camilla in the way that they have. And there would still be definite questions about whether Charles could be King. I personally don't think there was a conspiracy around Diana's death, but it certainly hasn't done the Royals any harm. Quite where the public's loyalty to Diana is now is a good question. Is everyone a little embarrassed about our collective loss of dignity? I don't know. Maybe I'm being overly cynical. Perhaps it's better to let sleeping dogs lie.
But i still vividly remember my A Level English teacher talking to us in the days after Diana's death. As he surveyed the papers we'd all bought in to discuss, his words stuck indelibly in my mind: "I've never seen anything like this in my life before, and I sincerely doubt you ever will again in yours." I'm sure I'm not the only one who looks back on that time as if it was a dream. My Mum and Dad had JFK. I guess I'll always remember walking into Balfour News at 8:30am on Saturday 31st August and reading "DIANA DEAD" in huge black letters on the front of the Daily Star.
Monday, November 07, 2005
She's In Fashion
Ok, while I'm in the mood here's something that I am genuinely curious and confused about: Fashion.
Now, I don't quite get this. I'm mainly addressing this to female readers, as fashion's generally directed at and consumed by women, although I'm curious about the male point of view, too. Here's my overiding problem: why try and look like everyone else? Why the obsession with all having the same look? Isn't the whole point about trying to be individual? Why go out and buy something just because someone decrees that that's what you have to have? It genuinely confuses me. I'll be honest, I have no regard for fashion, I just buy what I like the look of. Luckily as a boy, I can get away with it (er, I hope I can, at any rate).
I just get utterly confused by the sheeplike desire to have birkenstocks or pashmenas or gypsy skirts, or whatever else the fashion nazis proclaim to be the next big thing. Who gives a fuck? Or am I missing something quite fundamental? I can just about understand the whole "give it your own twist" thing, I would just resent someone in an ivory tower telling me what i can and can't wear. (Other than socks and sandals, that is a crime.) All that said, I'm still painfully aware that women are still largely judged on appearances in a way that blokes aren't, so please correct me if I'm wrong. I. Just. Don't. Get. It!
Top 10 reasons for why I haven't updated for ages:
1. I'm so very tired.
2. I need a holiday (only 4 days away from one now!)
3. I've been dead busy, honest!
4. I bought myself record decks and have been playing with them a lot.
5. The dark nights have darkened my mood in the evenings when i traditionally post.
6. I'm also less active at that time, as i've stopped stuffing myself with sweets and chocolate.
7. I've had a crappy cold that just. will. not. shift.
8. I've been in a narky mood, probably thanks to SAD.
9. My inspiration has dried up. It'll come back soon. This is the first sign of just that.
10. A lot of the debates in my head are a bit too personal to be posted up here.
I can only apologise for the lack of action here. It's somewhat ironic that as my life becomes more active, I have less time to document it. The overiding factor is the combination of the top 2 reasons. For various reasons, I haven't had any leave from work for ages, and it started taking it's toll over a month ago. Mercifully, my wait is nearly over, as this week is the last one before 2 blissful weeks off. I'll be heading East to Prague for some European mischief, which I'll be sure to tell you about when I get back (That said, in these crazy modern times, I'm sure the hotel has internet access. Then again, I intend to be far too busy. We shall see!)
And I'm sure you're all politely intrigued about reason no.10 as well. Well, let's just say I've had some internal issues to weigh up. And they're still being weighed as we speak. It's more of the 'what does it all mean?!' kinda thing that I brought up a few posts ago. Love, work, religion, death, destiny, they've all just been bubbling away under my increasingly wild hair. I find there's something about the end of the summer that makes me confront these things. Or at least the end of this summer. Because, Glastonbury aside, it didn't feel much like a summer to me. I don't mean that in a boo hoo, poor me way, but I have an awkward relationship with the summer at the best of times (trying being ginger in the sunshine, tain't fun), and this summer... felt melancholic. Living alone certainly doesn't help; that I'm discovery mightily quickly. And I'm not alone in that (I read a report on BBC News Online about more people living alone. Girls love the freedom it affords them, whereas boys suffer without anyone to talk to at the end of the day, or to organise them socially. Something borne out by conversations with many of my single male pals!)
I'm reluctant to indulge myself too much with personal revelations, simply because I'm a private person. And there's nothing that bores me more in other people's blogs than "woe is me" posting. So looking to the positives, I haven't eaten chocolate or naughty things (booze excepted, sadly) since my post over 3 weeks back, declaring my desire to improve my lifestyle. I must confess to not having actually noticed any positive improvement in my state (I still feel crap, I haven't lost any weight!) but I'm banking on this just being a delayed reaction. So my gym kit is packed for tomorrow, and I'm already looking forward to the salad I'm having for lunch (honest. grumble..) I shall keep you up to date. I'm hoping to go to Christmas, and beyond.
Anyway, I hope that makes up for the inactivity of late. I shall try and post stuff up over the week before I head to the airport, with a scant disregard for my own contempt at cheap flights. It seems my new creed is in fact hypocrisy. Still, I'm in good company. See ya later.
Saturday, November 05, 2005
Bridge Over Troubled Water
(This was originally sent from my mobile, on a train heading south, but for some reason it bounced. So here it is restored!)