Sunday, 29 November 2009

Album - Miike Snow

This album really shouldn't be my sort of thing. Three blokes playing keyboards, no incessant dance beat to keep me interested and not a raking guitar in sight. Couple that with the fact that I accidentally came across the band at V Festival of all places and it just shouldn't work.

To make things even worse, 2 of the chaps are better know for their production exploits in the pop arena and amongst other things co-wrote 'Toxic'.

What makes the album work, is that its packed with memorable tunes, chorus's and easy access is granted through the addictively catchy single Animal. I'd heard this song prior to the V Fest gig and with the added live and loud drum sounds it was even better. There must be 300 remixes on the web but the album version is definitive for me.

From here on in it's tune after tune in a Beautiful South meets Darude fashion, sure you can hear the remnants of their chart music in the background but there is virtually no filler on this album.
12 tunes 12 songs 12 things to go back to and no skip button required. Perhaps this is the answer to the current downloading 'the hits' issue ie no one buys an album anymore. If every song were as good as the first single then the album would sell.

Of course its not all as good as 'Animal' but it'll last in the car stereo or on the MP3 player for a least a couple of months. What's more your girlfriend or boyfriend or mum will steal it after that and at least you can turn up to see one dance band at next years festivals.

Good value all round, anyway give this 20 seconds

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Guest Review - Morrissey 2006


The last time I critcised Morrissey in public was after The Smiths ill-fated gig at Preston, when a blood stained Moz stormed off stage during the first song. As a disgruntled fan I

aired my views on a local radio phone-in which the great man heard and quoted verbatim on the Janice Long Show. Quite a claim to fame that has not deterred a review of this, the final leg of his three nights in Manchester.

The Bridgewater Hall is acoustically wonderful, aesthetically beautiful, but as a venue for rock n roll it is about as lively as the Southern Cemetery. Previous Morrissey homecomings have been evangelical affairs but in the sterile home of the Halle Orchestra only the grasping front row could claim to have been touched by the hand of God tonight.

Misjudgement has lingered around Morrissey since the 90s and the choice of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as his entry music is greeted with boos and jeers. A deeply unpopular song round these parts, the pallid arena is suddenly turned into a football stadium as the association with arch rivals Liverpool proves a red rag to the Red Rags in the audience. Sadly this moment represents the energy peak of the evening and it’s all downhill from here. Non-plussed Morrissey has a dig at the audience for failure to appreciate the history of the song and later rebuffs the drinking classes who couldn’t be bothered to watch his chosen support acts. Perhaps he doesn’t understand his audience if he thought a scouse anthem would be greeted with anything other than derision. A fairly basic mistake for a Mancunian legend.

The next eighty minutes sees him deliver a mixed bag. Certainly there are moments of brilliance when, gliding like Vegas crooner in his flowing shirts and polished shoes, he reminds us of just how good his work can be. First of The Gang to Die, his best song in nearly twenty years, leads in to Still Ill, but when he sings “it just wasn’t like the old days anymore” he is so right. It wasn’t like the old days at all and the rest of the set meanders on taking us through the generally tedious Ringleader of The Tormentors. A blast of The New York Dolls’ I’m a human Being and the glorious How Soon is Now briefly spark life into the show, but the evening is enveloped in a flatness that never gets shaken off. Suedehead and other favourites are left ruefully in the dressing room and the night fizzles out long before ninety minutes are up. “He’ll be off to his hotel for a coco now” observes one fan. Perhaps they know him better than he knows them.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Drunken Stalking of The Young Republic

It wasn't supposed to be like this, maybe one gig in Coventry and then one in Middlesbrough the following week........ just to see if they change the set.

The fairy gods in the sky had other plans though and conspired to present four opportunities to see the band, any of which would have been both rude and churlish to turn down.

Monday evening and for the second time in a few weeks I found myself mid motorway heading towards the soon to be legendary Brudenel Social club. The last gig I'd attended here was Slow Club and as per the recent review they were fantastic, so hopes were high. I guess I must have ranted on so much about The Young Republic (TYR) that Pam was quite keen to see them and I'd also managed to rope in 3 other pals. The Slow Club gig had been rammed so we turned up early to be sure of a decent spot, and we literally could have picked any seat in the house. I'm really not one for criticising up and coming bands or their management, especially as I probably have scant detail of what went on and little understanding of the difficulty of touring a band from the US....But Brudenel Social club is surrounded by student accommodation. No one except students and sad old ex students would feel comfortable in there, so why book a band to play the Monday night of half term.....

This is a slight aside, but through work I met the girlfriend of the tour manager a week after the shows............I so nearly put my foot in it, but unusually kept my gob shut at the right time.

Including girlfriends of the support band and a few other ageing folk like us the audience numbered about 20. As it was so empty I managed to get Rosie a signed T Shirt really early on and actually had a coherent conversation with Julian from the band. Pam had offered to drive after the gig so this level of coherence was soon abandoned especially at £1.80 ish a pint for cider.

Irrespective of the low attendance or perhaps because of the wide open spaces the band seemed to group together as a tight unit reminiscent of The Waterboys in the Fisherman's Blues phase. Interactions between members were frequent and it seemed to me they were creating the songs as they played. Sections of The Alchemist were played at a furious tempo and the violin solo really was special. Thankfully someone in the audience called for 'one more tune' and we were treated to a Beatles cover.

After the gig Julian and drummer Logan came over to say hi and thanks for making the effort, I'm pretty sure that I was tipsy and 'disgusted from Manchester' at the lack of attendance. I'm also pretty sure that I said I could do a better job, sometimes I should stay sober.

Part 2 of the adventure takes place on Thursday night in Dulcimer Folk Club on the outskirts on Manchester. It's 20 minutes from home and we had nothing else on, so myself and my 13 year old daughter headed over to the gig. On arrival it's most definitely 'a bar', with the gig in the upstairs room, I'm a little apprehensive at this point thinking Rosie may get turned away for being too young. I needn't have worried, she marched through the 3/4 full bar as if she owned the place and then made friends with the bloke on the till.

This was looking better though, it was packed enough that we couldn't see from the back and were ushered to the front just so child could see. Despite dubious billing of the support bands, local lads get billed higher than they really are, local band Petty Thief were on stage as we sat on the floor two yards from the front. They did a decent few tunes of folk indie to fairly rapturous applause from the audience, being totally sober and somewhat astute I quickly spotted the big local turnout. And true to form as the band finished the upstairs bar emptied and the locals went off to chat to their favourites. Why would they not stay to watch the other bands? Major good result though as a couple of chairs in row two previously occupied by grandparents became free.

I'm not going to write too much about 'Don't Move' who were on the whole tour with TYR except to say

Top musicians, particularly the bassist
Singing was good
Seemed like really nice people when we talked to a couple of them
Sounded a lot like The Monochrome Set - this is a good thing

The Young Republic appeared next about 4 yards in front of us, not much use if you are trying to play down your stalking credentials.

As in Leeds just one tune off the first album, a couple of new songs and unlike Leeds they played Tidal Wave (at the request of the support band). Another good result as it's Rosies favourite tune on the album and it works brilliantly live, so much so I could feel the cost of violin sessions appearing beside me. 'How come no-one told me you could get electric violins when I was eight'. My mouth said 'I'm sure we did' my head thought 'because I like my ears too much'. Anyway in the cramped space the playing was fantastic and regular accidental playing of the symbol by Chris with the base guitar was a bonus.

The following night

Friday had potential to be a big night and so it proved, the gig was in Middlesbrough at The Westgarth Social Club about 200 yards from where I grew up . I'm mentioned this to my gran a couple of weeks previously, to which she responded 'oh your grandad was a bookies runner in there and he's still banned'. He's been dead for about 35 years so whatever he did it must have been extraordinarily spectacular. Perhaps he lead a racehorse over the snooker table.

When you are catching up with old pals and a mate from work and again the alcohol prices are so low and your current favourite band are playing, then the consequences are somewhat inevitable. Some bands get to be 'Big in Japan' unfortunately TYR must have had their mapbook upside down in school lessons or maybe the town was hidden by the smog but 'Big in Middlesbrough' is not a phrase applied to many bands. I'm pretty sure the last one was a band called 'Bomber' in which my uncle Norman (Nosher- as he was known then) played drums circa 1971. If anyone reads this and knows him then take it from me , he prefers to be called 'Nosher' still.

This was the fourth TYR gig in Middlesbrough and had drawn in about 250 people so the atmosphere was miles better. The band acknowledged the support by playing about four songs off the first album all of which went down a storm with the locals. The second half of the set comprised mostly of the new albums noisier songs and was absolutely blinding, despite having a grumpy mate beside me who wanted more of the old stuff. Now grumpy Craig had also laid himself a time bomb last time we saw TYR at the EOTR festival by complaining that they did too many covers and he hated bands doing covers. For the encore Julian announced 'we are going to play the full Beatles rooftop set and 'see how it goes'. Well it 'goes' fucking brilliantly and even half inebriated I could spot a note for note rendition. Craig was speechless. Possibly his favourite bit of his favourite band covered perfectly.

I'd just about laid low enough to get away with the stalking thing again but made a mistake of going for a piss, just as I was leaving Julian walked into the loo's and give me a very strange 'stop following me look' in my defence I was in the loo first!

When Saturday Comes

Then to the final gig in Newcastle, except my day started with a slight hangover and we were off for pre football match drinks at 12.30....oh good. Today's plan then was to drink, go to the Boro match, half time drink, meet in the pub for post match drinks, get a minibus to Newcastle for pre gig drinks then gig and more drinks. We were in trouble early doors. Pals from the northwest (away fans) had joined us for the day, drinks, music, football and mates and now a bus tour. Add to that meeting a long lost cousin at half time at the football who also ends up on the minibus for the full session and this was going to be messy.

It was Halloween too, and so an official party night.

I honestly have little recollection of the gig other than the dancing and singing woohoo that's great stuff. The snippets I do have are

We had sausage sandwiches somewhere close
Richard mate nearly died climbing some steps
The bands got dressed up as monsters
Nearly half the audience were from our bus
Carl cousin got as trashed as the rest of us
We asked the band if they always had 40 velvet chairs on the backstage'Rider'
The whole set was changed round
They only played one old song
Even Kristin looked scary

They finished with the most perfect version of Ghostbusters
We drunk more outside on the smoking balcony and I didn't smoke
I had a very drunken conversation with at least 2 band members

I have no recollection of the shite I was talking and if anyone ever meets them please apologise for me as I'm sure there must be a restraining order by now. In conclusion the new album is fantastic and I think it sounds even better live.......... and never go drunken stalking a band as it freaks them and your liver cries for a week.

I still reckon I could do a better job of booking gigs though, tequila or no tequila

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event - Manchester Ritz

Apologies for the delay in this gig review. The normal trick is to get home slightly tipsy and write the review immediately thus ensuring millions of hits on the site the next morning and thereby entertaining everyone with incoherent nonsense. In this case it's almost certainly a good thing that I collapsed into my bed rather than foist late night rantings on anyone.

There are two distinct types of gigs in my head, the ones where you can appreciate the musicianship and more often than not these tend to in smaller venues and are often acoustic. There is an exception to this, which is the early afternoon bands at festivals where the same thing can apply. The second and as anyone who knows me can testify my favoured option, is the full on band with drunken singalong 'how great is this?' behaviour.

This gig was always destined to be the latter rather than the former as I was meeting an old pal for a 5pm drinking start. We had a brilliant three hours of drinking heavily and talking bloke nonsense before staggering off to the gig. Just so you understand the caliber and depth of conversation the only useful conclusion we came to is; that blokes don't need any new clothes after the age of 40 (Ever) provided they don't change size. ok a sex change could change things too, but I don't recall that part of the conversation.

We met other pals outside the venue and promptly lost them as we had our beer and bar priority heads on by now.

Full enough but not too packed the perfect combination, enough room to get comfortably to the bar and back, swaying space and 12 yards from the front..ideal. The Ritz isn't a massive venue but a little imagination had created an excellent stage set, drums raised atop of a set of stairs rear mid stage and then two huge white light panels below on either side.

Silhouette guitar playing shapes and curvy silhouette girl shaped violin playing kicked off the show with feedback at two pegs below uncomfortable.

From the end of the instrumental the band played every song on the album with confidence and swagger, even I could tell they'd played an awful lot of live gigs lately. It was the third time in Manchester in 12 months, at least a few other people had missed the first 2 shows as we were informed that audiences had grown from 6 to 200 to about a 800 at this gig...that's a wild guess.

I'm sure the sound was fantastic and the playing virtuoso, but more importantly they played all the songs I know and we got to sing and dance. There was a Springsteen cover,a Lou Reed cover and they played a couple of new songs that went down a storm. They even threw in a couple of shortened Smiths covers during the encore tune as homage to their favourite Manchester band (cue even louder drunken singing). On top of this they looked like they were having a great time and that they appreciated the support of exuberant crowd.

Listen to the album, make an effort to see them at a festival next year and lets hope they play Manchester a few more times. Good band top night out.


Friday, 13 November 2009

One for the Weekend

Now this ancient idea is stolen off other people who stole it off other people, as encouragement for folk to feel confident about dipping a toe into the hot waters of commenting, I’m going to introduce One for the weekend. Don’t worry it’ll last two weeks as it needs a touch of preparation.

The idea is, one of us rambles on about some nonsense or other that has happened that week or is about to happen and then asks some astute questions. Any passing drunk over the weekend can then add slurred and hopefully splendidly funny answers. Inevitably a couple of rules need introducing just so they can be dashed on the rocks immediately.

Firstly please sign in or at least sign your name at the end of the reposte,

Secondly its compulsory to post your response to the questions BEFORE commenting on the previous works of genius. And finally don’t be a knob or be mean.

So having had my bout of pig flu and given my dollops of blood for checking I’ve had the all clear, with a bonus sticker of ‘your liver count is a bit lively’. Last time this happened about 2 years ago I got completely shedded at a Christmas party and made it home about 1pm the next day. This time I thought great, virus gone feeling sparky a bit of Big Picture wouldn’t go amiss. It’s hardly my fault that the drinking party Gods have conspired to fill my next 6 days and nights with temptation.

So the last two nights have been Beechy stays over and that’s always bad for booze, followed by a 5pm start for a gig at The Roxy last night. And so in my woozy state I’m going to publish this before I head off for a works team drinking party in Knutsford. Then my folks arrive for 2 days and my dads never been shy of a pint and then Monday and Tuesday night are ‘out on pre Christmas business’.

If everything gets a bit disjointed in these parts you’ll now understand why.

And so to the first Four for the weekend

1) Your greatest drunken party moment?

2) The funniest thing that’s ever happened at a house party you attended

3) Best place you’ve fallen asleep or woke up after drinking

4) Favourite comfort food for hangovers?

That’s an easy start to proceedings and I’m counting on the usual suspects to kick this off, but anyone else should feel free to pitch in.

It’s nice to know you’re there.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Album Review- The Twilight Sad- Forget The Night Ahead

The thought of dogs eating their own faeces (as described on these pages) and, in the same breath, the latest Arctic Monkeys album, inspired me to write this latest review..
Combining Interpol's dark meanderings with Mogwai's tempestuous thunder is a description of a band's music that only ever existed in my head. However, not only do The Twilight Sad sound like this, but they then go and top it by writing obscure, slightly macabre tales about televisons being too loud, becoming a prostitute, and making sure not to spill any blood before dinner, to name but a few. They are straight from the Arab Strap school of depicting seedy Glaswegian nightlife, all delivered courtesy of James Graham's thick Scottish burr.
Reference points other than the ones above lie mainly in the Creation records camp of the early 90s, with the coruscating guitars of The Telescopes and the tumultuous rhythm section of Swervedriver coming to mind. I can only begin to wonder how this might all sound live. But it is not just all about the colossal sound. There is an eloquent sentimentality to the songs, despite some of the subject matter, and it is this articulate suggestiveness that carries the emotional depth of this album above most instrumental post-rock output, and firmly into the box I've marked as Top 10 albums of 2009.
Opening 3 tracks "Reflection of the Television", "I Became a Prostitute" (which is worthy of anyone's attention based on the title alone) and "Seven Years of Letters" are an awesome start to proceedings, and although this level of intensity couldn't possibly be maintained throughout the rest of the album (or else the band and its listeners would have had to go and have a lie down in a darkened room for an hour halfway through), the gorgeousness of the chorus in "That Room" is enough to make an overgrown man weep...
8.5 out of 11

Monday, 9 November 2009


This week I had a memorable or absurd experience. Our office was sent off to a workshop called “Motivation a la fish” and yes, it was fishy.

The coaches of this course were Dutch and we were divided in three groups :

First group was for the German speaking, second for the French speaking and third for the English speaking. It seemed someone pulled for me the lucky card, because I was in the English group as only one with the management. Great – just great – I tried to switch into another group inconspicuously of course by walking and speaking with the Frenchs, but well it was noted and the big boss called me back “ You are with us. Come on, that will be a really fun”. Shit, I thought and again shit …

Our coach for the English group introduced herself with a singing “Good Morning, I am Marlene and I will lead you through this fantastic day” – I think, she was half stoned and forgot to put real clothes on when she left her hotel room as she was dressed like a very old cowboy girl with white cowboy shoes and a strange brown skirt.

I won`t mention the top now that would go beyond the scope ….

After sticking our name tags on our breasts and introducing ourselves, we started with the first motivation game: Running around the room and trying to hit the other person with a balloon on the head. I had to ask her again: “Sorry, what shall we do?” and then she said to me:” Yes, you are a bit scared now, but do not worry it will help you with your motivation”

Well, she was really stoned and I thought, alright I have the permission to hit someone from the management on their heads. I had such an experience before in school. We played football teacher against pupils and what happened was by accident and it was really an accident I tripped my art teacher up. He fell so badly on his big belly that he had to leave the field. Well, I got a lot of applause and later a beer, but my next art mark suffered after that.

Well,Marlene turned on the music a bloody Britney Spears song “ do it one more time ” or so . and then shouting happily into the room “Let´s go and run”. I just stood up and didn`t move with my green balloon , because this was insane. Of course, Marlene came up to me and said I should join in and not to be scared. Yes, dead right I was scared of her and her stupid games.

Cowboy and Indians

Next task was to build little groups and find key words for choose your attitude, be there, play and the other one I forgot…it was something with to be focused on …

Took all groups nearly an hour to find words put them in order and discuss it – my motivation after this – please let me go home now!

Suddenly Marlene clapped her hands and said:,Come on all outside we have a little surprise for you!” Brilliant, probably we are playing hide – and seek and I just can disappear – super, now I felt a bit motivated,but this only lasted a second as it turned out we all had to come together for a group pic. Oh, God, this as well….and I had to stand in the front of all with a big fish in my hands…I tried to cover my face with the fish, but without success they waited for me until I was in the right position.

The resum̩: I cannot recommend it at all Рdidn`t motivate me РI was very tired after itРeven my son said to me: You look a bit sick, this training day wasn`t good for you, Mama! Рa nice try

A training day with David Brent is more likely to work

Click on this

You know what I mean

Dog Toilets

I got one from Argos a few years ago. Or The Argos as it seems to be called these days. It was made of green plastic, not much bigger than a bucket and you had to bury it in your garden with just the lid above ground level. Chemicals and drainage holes in it were meant to magically make the contents dissolve and disappear. No doubt reappearing some months later in Australia. That would be a surprise for them, when digging the vegemite patch.

First letdown was that my dogs refused to defecate in it. In hindsight if they had been capable of being trained to do that I'd have let them use the inside toilet and saved myself the job of digging a hole.Second problem was the quantity of waste that my two medium sized mutts produced. God knows who else was feeding them but the Dog Bog was full to the brim by day two. You would have needed concentrated sulphuric acid to dissolve that lot. And I was fresh out.

I toyed with the idea of buying a few more of them and littering my lawn with them, but the thought of Princess Di paying me a visit in full minefield costume was too much to bear.I finally got rid of it later that day after looking out of the window and seeing one of the dogs feasting on its contents before grinning at me with brown teeth and lips.

Classic Car Mart

It’s a magazine and I like magazines. They are ideal for when you want more articles than you get in the newspapers, but you haven’t got time for a book. When I was working in Orkney the newspapers were delivered by plane and then boat. Not surprisingly they often didn’t arrive at all and so I would usually fill the gap by selecting a magazine from the limited selection available. It wasn’t so bad at the start of a month; I could generally pick a music or a sports magazine. If the weather had been poor for a while though I would often, in the search for something I hadn’t already read, find myself buying stuff like Exchange and Mart or Practical Fish Keeping. Once or twice I even bought a woodworking periodical and, if I learnt little else over the seven years I was there, now have a basic knowledge of turning out spindles to show for my time spent in Scotland.

These days I tend to limit myself to a couple of music magazines, although I did buy FHM recently, purely, or not so purely actually, to have a look at the blonde girl from Gavin and Stacey in her smalls. Actually, I wasn’t quite brave enough to buy it by itself. I’m of the age now where I reckon that buying a ‘lads mag’ is as inappropriate as buying Fiesta or Escort. For younger readers, they aren’t motoring magazines. That’s assuming that they still exist in the age of the internet. Anyway, I bought FHM in a twin pack with Q magazine, which seems much more suitable for a man of my age. At the checkout, the woman picked the twin-pack up, looked at the cover, looked at me and looked back at the cover. I was just about to point out that I was a contractor working away from home and if I wanted to while away my evenings looking at scantily clad young ladies, well, that was my prerogative. But no, she was looking at Q rather than FHM.

“Oooh”, she said, “He looks just like you.”

I hadn’t paid much attention to the music magazine, but on current form assumed that this months cover star must have been some octogenarian singer making a comeback or more likely the autopsy photos of Glen Millers recently discovered corpse, which, I suppose, serves me right for paying too little attention to my grooming routines and for buying diet-porn at my age. I was wrong though, it was that bloke out of Arctic Monkey’s who coincidentally also appeared to be in need of a trim.

I raised my eyebrows and modestly responded to the woman who was obviously only working on the checkout because her eyesight was too poor for her to be entrusted with restacking the shelves with “Maybe his Grandad” to which her shrugged reply of ‘Yes, I suppose” wasn’t really what I was hoping for. Every Little Helps, my arse. Still, it could have been worse; she could have said that it was his spots rather than his hair that prompted her comment.

Anyway, all this is leading up to my most recent magazine purchase, Classic Car Mart. Part supermarket checkout impulse buy and part grand plan to replace the junk in my garage with yet another comfort blanket of something from my youth. I’ve been fancying getting an old MG, ideally similar to the one that I had twenty odd years ago before children made a company car with four seats and a roof seem a more sensible option. Did I ever tell you about when my MG’s windscreen shattered? Of course I did. But now I’m going to tell you again.

It will have been about 1987 and I was driving up the M1, coming home from London. The weather was poor, it was a grey winter day, with a wet road and a steady drizzle. A little too wet to be described as inclement but not quite pissing it down. I was taking it easy at about 70mph in the middle lane, when the lorry in front of me flicked a stone up which hit my windscreen. I actually saw the stone coming towards me and flinched by way of reflex like you do when a bird gets close, or even an empty crisp packet. By bird, I meant the feathered kind, but I suppose it works for the other kind too, which would explain why a man of my age is still gawping at pictures of scantily clad actresses in magazines rather than spending his time at home pretending to listen to a wife’s complaints whilst quietly fantasising about divorce. Or murder.

Windscreens weren’t as good in those days as they are now and it shattered, but stayed intact. Good in one way, but absolutely useless for seeing out of, a quality I’ve always prized in a windscreen. I managed to slow down and carefully drift across to the hard shoulder. I got out, intending to walk to the emergency telephone, but the rain had got a bit heavier so I got back in again and drove there instead, with my head stuck out of the side window like Casey Jones on the Cannonball Express. I resisted the urge to sing the theme tune.

The good news was that in a rare moment of sensibleness I had joined the RAC two days earlier during my journey South. The bad news came when they informed me that I was covered for just about everything but windscreens. Wonderful. They would, however, put me in touch with a local garage. The garage was great, they were more than happy to fix my thirteen year old car, but would have to order the windscreen in and it might take a few days. A few days? I had stuff to do. I couldn’t sit around somewhere near Nottingham whilst they kicked my tyres. So what to do? Simple, just knock the windscreen out and drive home like one of those stock car blokes. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

I know this sounds like a bad situation, but it did have its good points. Knocking all of the shattered glass out of the windscreen with a jack handle was particularly satisfying. I enjoyed it that much that it took enormous self control to resist carrying on and smashing the side windows and the lights too. Passing motorists must have thought that it was Basil Fawlty on the hard shoulder. I got most of the shattered windscreen out, but unfortunately the sloping angle meant that almost all of the broken glass fell into the car. It did add that element of danger to any romantic liaisons in the car over the next few months though. There’s nothing like the threat of having your bare arse jabbed with a razor sharp sliver of windscreen to cool your passion. Or to spice it up I suppose, depending on your preferences.

Anyway, windscreen gone, I set off. It was easy enough, at least it was until I reached about fifteen miles an hour, at which point the soft top roof of the MG bulged outwards and threatened to either rip off or to lift the car off the ground. I had to stop and put the roof down. This seemed to solve the problem and I was able to drive off again, feeling slightly ridiculous at the idea of driving with the top down in the rain.

Once I got beyond 30mph it was hard to see with the wind in my face, so I put on a pair of sunglasses that a girlfriend had left in the car. Just as well really, as once I got beyond about 40mph, the remaining bits of glass that were attached to the frame of the windscreen began to work loose and hit me in my face. I didn’t get much beyond 40mph, which provided great fun for passing motorists, quite a lot of whom made a point of gesturing, Gareth Hunt coffee ad style, at the poser in the sports car who had the top down in the rain and drove in the slow lane wearing women’s sunglasses. I don’t suppose they noticed that the windscreen wasn’t where it should have been, but was mainly embedded in my forehead. I got home a few hours later and on removing the sunglasses looked like a negative of a panda, albeit one who used a cheese grater for exfoliating.

And so that’s what I want to do again, drive a fun car, not lacerate my face and Classic Car Mart is going to help me. It has some great stuff in there, plenty of MG’s, some Beetles, which would allow me to bore the arse off you a bit more with the tale of when my wheel fell off and a whole scrap yard full of Rolls Royces and Bentleys which should be highly beneficial next time I want to visit the supermarket and pass myself off as an ageing pop star.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Daniel Kitson at the Union Chapel, London

I’m quite fussy about comedy, some might say a little bit precious, but that’s because it’s something that I care about. If people are going to set themselves up as comedians then they have a responsibility to be funny. There is so much crap about though, not just material that isn’t funny but stuff that’s dull, lazy, or sometimes just offensive for the sake of it.

I’d been tipped off about Daniel Kitson about a year ago, but hadn’t been able to see him up until now. He doesn’t do telly these days, so it’s live or nothing. I’d been on his mailing list for a while though and the snippets that I’d read gave me a bit of hope that he might be worth seeing. A last minute gig announcement in London coincided with the Boro giving their own dull, lazy and offensive performance at Crystal Palace and despite the tickets selling out within a day, I got one this time.

He didn’t disappoint, his material was highly personal and all seemed true, without even a hint of exaggeration for comic effect. This is important to me too. If a routine is based upon lies or embellishment, it’s worth much less. His routine was also on a subject close to my heart, death. Or rather, how do you function with the knowledge that whatever happens in your life you will eventually die?

If you are going to talk to a roomful of strangers for close on a couple of hours, you may as well talk to them about the important stuff rather than take the piss out of the appearance of teenage Olympic swimmers or do impressions of handicapped kids.

Interestingly enough, a lot of Kitson’s material dwelled on the recent death of a relative with Downs Syndrome. However, he told us how much he had loved her, how they had laughed at her during her life and it was done with such affection that it was a world apart from the meanness of, say, Frankie Boyle. In fact, it was as far apart from the likes of Boyle and Jimmy Carr (whose act I have always felt you could reproduce simply by monopolising the crackers during Christmas Dinner), that it seemed further than the difference between the likes of Bernard Manning and the first ‘alternative’ comedians.

There’s a certain vulnerability about him too, possibly partly due to him having a stammer, which sets him apart from the arrogant ‘edgy’ pricks that pollute my world. You know who they are. Anyway, my advice is get on his mailing list and watch out for ticket announcements. He has a large following, so they tend to go quickly.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Shared wealth from The Sticks

This is a selection of the things I have listened to or seen over the last couple of months; handily classified in our new evolving style.

Excellent and worthy of Fanboy stalking:

Pearl Jam – Back Spacer:

Their best album in a decade. Eleven songs in just over 36 minutes, and the first four in just over ten. Classic rock / punk rock hybrid from a band simply having fun. They really have got it sussed nowadays: own studio, own merchandise organisation, they manage themselves…when they’ve recorded a new album they simply shop it around the labels to see who’s most prepared to promote it, then go with them for a one album deal (they keep the Masters, naturally). And they still sell out arenas.

They aren’t the only ones, but they record all of their concerts and stick them on their website for purchasing and downloading. And with every concert ticket you get an access code so that you can download the concert afterwards for free. Also, when you stick the new album in your computer you get to choose two concerts to download from the last couple of years.

They are also one of the bands that support my theory, which is:

All the best bands change their live sets from night to night.

I think this is even more important now that set lists, BitTorrent bootlegs and YouTube clips are all over the Internet. Don’t you think it’s crazy to spend £50 to go and see a band knowing exactly what they are going to play and in exactly what order? And with the live circuit being so important to band’s livelihoods nowadays, you’d think they’d make an effort. You’d think it would stop them getting bored. Wouldn’t you rather go to see a band and be surprised?

And it’s nothing to do with the size of the band or the production. I don’t know about the Green Day tour (though I could easily find out, if I was interested), but the two biggest touring bands in the world – The Rolling Stones and U2 – mix up at least part of the set each night.

Oasis, of course, could never be arsed. And neither, for that matter, could my old favourites Van Halen.

Richmond Fontaine - We Used to think the freeway sounded like a river: Nothing initially very striking about the music – standard Americana – but the best lyrics ever. Each song a vignette about some of life’s losers. Late night music. The singer writes books as well, which really isn’t a surprise – his lyrics read like plots.

Soulsavers - Broken: The band started life as a couple of DJs and they drafted in the odd singer, but now it’s turned into one of Mark Lanegan’s many bands (Screaming Trees; QOTSA; Lanegan & Isobel Campbell; The Gutter Twins; …a solo band). Surely the noughties version of Johnny Cash? Slow burning rock and generally about hellfire and redemption (though there seems to be little of that going)

Shearwater – Rooks: Knew enough about them to mark my card at End Of The Road festival and was blown away by them. This is their last album and it’s probably my favourite of the year. A bit Talk Talk, a bit Radiohead, a bit folky. Shearwater was originally a side project for members of Okkervil River, but ended up getting bigger. So one of them stayed with this band and the other stayed with Okkervil River

Jason Isbell – And The 400 Unit: Isbell used to be a member of The Drive-by Truckers and he always caught the ear as he tended to write songs whilst the others wrote excuses to have guitar duels. Having said that, his first solo album was pretty dull. This is much better. Americana again, but good lyrics, melodies and choruses. Isn’t that what it’s all about, really?

Eagles Of Death Metal – Anything ‘Cept The Truth: The first song on their rather average “Heart On” album. Like the best Rolling Stones meets the best QOTSA. Worth downloading and then playing really loud

Monsters Of Folk: A jokey title for a band formed by Coner Oberst (Bright Eyes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and M. Ward. Kind of reminds me of The Travelling Wilburys, - which might, or might not, seem like a good thing to you

Some films worth seeing:

The Damned United – much more affectionate than the book

State of Play – apparently based on a British TV series

Looking For Eric – Can’t tell what Cantona is saying half the time, but still a great feel-good film…with the ending filmed near where I used to live in Worsley!

In The Loop – Film spin-off of “The Thick Of It”, but even funnier. Some of the cast here play different roles but Peter Capaldi reprises his role as Malcolm Tucker

The Wave – German film about how a teacher embarks on an experiment to show his students how easily a dictatorship could rise

Arctic Monkey’s-like in it’s Shite-ness:

Muse – The Resistance: As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m a big fan of this band – indeed they are one of the best bands I have ever seen live (do they change their live set nightly?). They have always of course been eccentric – it’s been one of their strengths - but this is overblown, sub-Queen bollocks. No chorus’s except for the first single where they steal “Call Me” (and the Dr Who theme tune)

The Dead Weather – Horehound: Jack White is starting to over-reach himself.

Transformers 2: I was stuck on a plane, what was I supposed to do? Stars Megan Fox, though

Just average:

The Black Crowes – Before The Frost: Can do much better. But the disco song is quite good

Archie Bronson Outfit – Derdang Derdang: Kind of reminds me of Franz Ferdinand, but gets repetitive

Boxer Rebellion – Union: Supposedly a new Bends-era type Radiohead, who caught my ear at Glastonbury. Dull.

Okkervil River – The Stand Ins: The highlight at EOTR, but I find it all a bit too arch and Noel Coward or Divine Comedy like. I wouldn’t be surprised if Paul likes it

7 World’s Collide – The Sun Came Out: Charity record with members of Crowded House, Wilco, Radiohead, Johnny Marr and KT Tunstall. They all got together in New Zealand in January to write and record an album. It’s all very nice and everything, and all the money goes to a good cause. But it’s all just a bit boring


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Akira the Don - I Am Not Dead (YEAH!)

Zombies in music, old skool at that, dead as a dodo. AK's future is metaphorically frozen garlic bread and in a world where the music goldrush is ending as suddenly as it began, he's the great white hope.

While panic stricken executives in the majors reread 1984 and attempt to bolt flapping holes where gates once existed, some folk read the Strummer rulebook and get off their arses. If you find something you love doing, you have fun and you are ingenious enough to create income streams you'll probably be ok. AK does all this and he makes great music.

There's a deep well of here say lurking on the internet about Mr AK Producer turning down the Yankee Dollar when the opportunity to resuscitate a dying west coast rap scene presented itself. Pretty cool saying no to the dudes with guns.

And back in Blighty in a London flat, AK set about creating, music , cartoons, art, T Shirts, gigs and movies. It's only a timing issue and the events will surely follow.

Everything is available from the oneman online emporium

Akira the Don Website - Including Hi-tops and loads of free download mixtapes

All three of the physical CD's are worth buying, ok it's the past doing the future now but really go retro and buy them.

I Am Not Dead (Yeah!)

Older people (those that switched radio station) may be perturbed by non physical product but I'm sure a local teenager can reassure you.

The 7 track EP comes in a zip file together with artwork for old skool CDs. Its a certified zombie work of art, there's a clue in the titles

I Am Not Dead (Yeah!)
It Could Never Happen Here
Aim For The Brain
The Day ODB died

marketing mayhem ensues with a 5 minute zombie movie made with his pals, be honest you would if you could and 'hand crafted PDF with all the lyrics'.

Or you can get the whole thing with a mint T shirt.

I love the fact that all orders and emails are personally dealt with and any money goes straight to the artist. My pack of goodies arrived with extra signed poster and chewy sweets, it's like buying a Whizzer comic and the xray spex attached to the cover actually work.

There is a postscript to this, I had half written this when at 46 seconds into the video this happened.

Clearly I had the inside track.

What's not to like, zombies are fantastic

Broke the world record too, go buy something before the bad guys arrive..


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Album - Hockey - Mind Chaos

One of the reasons I bother my arse to write here is to counteract some of the vitriol published in the music press .......even if its only in my head.

I stopped buying the regular press a couple of years ago as a private protest to meanness and blatant lies, as Billy said 'don't encourage them',OK he was talking about politicians but the principle is the same.

And so to Hockey a band of nice young men who probably haven't even considered the remote as a suitable projectile, let alone a TV. Mind Chaos is their first album and its chock full of hummable tunes, nothing wrong there you may think. Well according to the music press and I'm paraphrasing out of laziness;

'not a credible band' 'poorly dressed' 'not as good as MGMT' and 'lacking substance' 'a bit lightweight'.

For my part I just like the songs, my kids like the songs and my wife likes the songs. It's a bit like a dancy A-ha with classic 2009 production beats and bleeps added to a serious amount of funky bass. If you liked Hot Chip you'll probably like it, if your inner soul requires a crescendo of guitars for breakfast then just download the one tune.

Too Fake is an absolute belter though - Wallop

Talking of guitars for breakfast Richard, you need to bring Silversun Pickups out of the darkness.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Album Review- The Longcut - Open Hearts

Paul introduced me to The 'Cut (to give them their abbreviated title) about 4 years ago. He lined up "A Quiet Life" one post-Christmas drinkathon with his usual refrain "You're going to love this!" 4 minutes later, after a turbo-charged, frenetic wig-out of a tune, I was hooked.

I quickly discovered that this Mancunian 3 piece had a unique dynamic about them, as I saw them support Nine Black Alps in London a couple of months later. No, it wasn't that they were actually a 4 piece, it was that the drummer was also the full-time singer..and occasionally dabbled on the keyboards as well. With mic and keyboards front of stage, and drumkit back of stage, most songs were constructed in such a way as to allow Stuart Ogilvie (to give him his name) the chance to travel between the two without having to run (and potentially have a nasty on-stage accident). The best result of this was the sense of anticipation one felt as you waited for the vocals to drop out, Stuart to leave the mic, head for the stool, and fire up the drums. Or, in the case of "Gravity in Crisis", the other way round;

Gravity in Crisis live in Manchester

So, after disappearing into the studio a couple of years ago, they have finally emerged (blinking into the sunlight, naturally) with a real chameleon of a second album. On the plus side, "Open Hearts" is so bristling with so many good ideas that surely at least one of them should get a spot on Dragon's Den. As well as containing several tracks with their trademark combination of electronic beats and echoey, monotone vocals, followed by a breakdown, and then an outro of tight, frenetic drumming and blitzkreig guitar ("Tell You So", "Mary Bloody Sunshine", "Boom"), there is also a far dancier element to other tracks, with "Something Inside", "Evil Dance" and particularly the title track standing out, the latter morphing almost into pure house after a Joy Division/Cure opening. Elsewhere, The Fall, The Wedding Present, New Order, At The Drive In and Fugazi should also get honourable mentions.

The only issue with such an album is that, to these ears, it doesn't really know what it is or where it wants to go, so you end up feeling a little bit dazed and confused. This may have been their intention, and if it was, then "jolly well done you, chaps", but maybe it could have done with some more focus on the whole album listening experience thing, although Shuffle will urinate all over that particular bonfire at any time anyone desires. The Luddite in me wishes the album contained more of what alerted me in the first place, the muso applauds them for creating a work of such lofty ambition. I will watch with interest to see what they do next..and hopefully it won't be to write me a snotty e-mail.

Score 6.5 out of 11