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April 14, 2007

Saturday Cooks

Antony Worrall Thompson just used the phrase “See you in a bizzle.” The world’s going mad.

July 25, 2006

"If it's worth the wait…

Writing about web page http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B000H30A1Y/202-5359222-8325448?v=glance&n=229816

Woo hoo! After an entire year (well more like 16 months) of waiting the debut album of The Five O'clock Heroes, Bend to the Breaks, finally has a release date of 11th September.

Well I'm excited.

July 22, 2006

Who needs Glastonbury?

Spotted this unfortunate headline in the newsagent's this morning. Seems inquests are where it's at these days. Sadly the article does not go on to say exactly how much the inquest 'rocked', but the fact it got the front page suggest that it must have been a lot.

April 03, 2006

Now you can't find nothing at all, If there was nothing there all along

So I watched the 20th anniversary edition of E.T. the other day. For anybody who doesn't know, this classic film was re-released four years ago (I think) with a couple of new scenes and some re-done special effects. The problem was, at the time I didn't know that I was watching the new edition, until I realised that I was watching a sequence that I had never seen before. Not a problem I thought, it's been a good ten years since I've seen this film all the way through, maybe I just forgot that this bit even happened.

However pretty soon I realised that this was the new version. And the reason I knew this was because the CGI that had been added to the film didn't look right. For the briefest of moments E.T., staring into a bathroom mirror, looked like he had just fallen out of The Incedibles.

Spielberg himself has stated that his intention with the new version of E.T. is not to change the story of the film in any way, but just to produce the film that he would have liked to have produced in 1982. Now I have no problem with this. If he was forced to cut a sequence because the technology of the time would not let him realise it realistically and he wants to re-instate this sequence then that is fine, providing that it is done properly.

Several changes have been made to this film, many of which are completely unnoticeable. These invisible changes should be applauded. They are unobtrusive, however when brought to the attention they do add a dimension to the film that might be seen to have been previously lacking. However there are other moments in the film when the changes that have been made are glaringly obvious.

Everybody knows that this film was made in the 1980s. Therefore any effects that obviously date from a later period are jarring. This can be seen in the sequence when E.T. creates a 3D model of the solar system in the bedroom and also in the newly re-instated sequences. Spielberg wanted to add subtelties to the creature's face in order to display more emotion than was possible in 1982. The intertion was to not produce any effects that made the audience realise that they were not watching the original film. The problem is that it frequently does.

The story is the same. As far as I can see there are only two new scenes (others exist but Spielberg was going to remove these at the time of the original), and these do not effect the plot in any way. However some of the CGI changes did draw attention to themselves. E.T. was never supposed to look like a man in a suit, but now he looks like a computer generated image. At least before this version you knew something was there.

This brings up the debate of remastering and re-issuing. I agree with Spielberg. If the director wanted something that may have been impossible at the time then a new version is acceptable, as long as it complies with the original viewing experience. If at any point the viewer notices that something has changed then the update has failed. Using Star Wars as an example, correcting the light sabres is appropriate, replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen is not as it instantly becomes a different film.

Clearly the three Star Wars films released on DVD and video recently are not the same films that were released from 1977 onwards. There is no problem with this as long as the originals are still available, which they are not. Similarly with E.T., Spielberg has attempted to update the film to do things that he could not do in 1982. The film, in his mind, is the same. However the moment that I realised that I was watching a different film to that which I was used to seeing demonstrated that this update had failed.

Anybody new to the film will obviously not see any problems and will, hopefully enjoy it as much as I, and many other people, did during the 80s, however, everytime I come to watch the DVD from now on I can't help but be made aware of the fact that although it looks almost exactly the same, this is not the same film that I am used to. Rather than ehancing the magic Spielberg has, unfortunately, managed to reduce the magic because everytime I see something that is different it pulls me out of the film and as a result continually makes the film appear to be a fiction and therefore unbelievable. As a result the film falls flat, which is a shame because it is one of the greatest childrens' films ever.

Na, na na naa, na na naa naa naa!

Knight on the town
Big Bad wolf
Revenge of the king
Die for love
Diktator of the free world
Grateful when you're dead/Last farewell
Shower your love
6ft. down

Hey dude
Super CB operato

108 Battles (of the mind)
Hollow man Part 2

Oh yeah!!!

November 23, 2005

'We always came back to the song we were singing'

Ok. Everybody. Now. Go to www.radio.warwick.ac.uk/singleoftheyear and vote for your five favourite singles from the last twelve months. We'll be playing the top 30 songs next Wednesday from 1p.m. on RaW and also live in the Market Place.

October 14, 2005

"I know squirrelys didn't chew the wires

We have internet. Finally. Buckaroo!

September 19, 2005

Wolves at the door

I always forget how much work is involved in moving into new places. Last week I spent pretty much the entire time sorting out all kinds of new house things; previous tenants' unpaid bills, setting up new accounts with gas, electric and water companies, cleaning out the washing machine and finding out that the output pipe was blocked, unblocking the output pipe, mopping up a mini flood after a heavy rainstorm and getting the landlord out to fix the kitchen roof, the list goes on and I haven't even started to clean the place up yet or take an inventory of basic things that are needed.

Took a short break to come home for a friend's 21st this weekend so am taking advantage of the internet as much as I can (our house as yet doesn't have a phone line and bt are being very annoying and costing me a fortune in phone calls trying to set one up) but it's back down to it tomorrow. Just finished making a CD of my most listened to songs at the moment for my drive down. For anybody interested here's the track list:

  1. Sofa Song – The Kooks
  2. Head Games – Five O'Clock Heroes
  3. All Mapped Out – The Departure
  4. Just Another Love Song – Dead 60's
  5. Fire in Cairo – The Cure
  6. Naive – The Kooks
  7. Picky Bugger – Elbow
  8. Biggest Fan – Brandon Benson
  9. What If – Coldplay
  10. Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
  11. Pin Me Down – Luxembourg
  12. Matchbox – The Kooks
  13. Life and How To Live it – R.E.M.
  14. Mirror in the Bathroom – The (English) Beat
  15. Spit it Out – Brandon Benson
  16. Flavour of the Month – The Posies
  17. The Coast is Always Changing – Maximo Park
  18. White Girls – Five O'Clock Heroes
  19. We Get Low – Dead 60's
  20. Eddie's Gun – The Kooks
  21. Leaders of the Free World – Elbow
  22. Blood – The Editors
  23. Swallowed in the Sea – Coldplay

August 30, 2005

It could make a million for you overnight

Follow-up to Did we miss anything? from Erm... oh ok

Having written my review of Murmur (below) I was taken to thinking of other influential musical artefacts and came to the conclusion that the Beatles' single Paperback Writer / Rain is quite possibly the most important single ever released. Let me explain why:

Released between Rubber Soul and Revolver this single marked the start of the Beatles ascent into psychedelia. All of their most progressive and inventive music would be created after this point.

This single, particularly the flip side Rain, marked the real beginning of musical experimentation. Although hinted at earlier, the feedback at the start of I Feel Fine is the first know occasion of recorded feedback on a record and the Sitar on Norwegian Wood being another first that would later influence The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones greatly, it is this record that has two major 'firsts'. Rain is the first ever record to feature a tape-loop and is also the first use of having tape played backwards on a record, two techniques which have become common in music today (try and imagine Missy Elliot's Work It without the backwards bits).

The second major 'first' is the two music videos that were made to accompany the two songs. Although the Beatles had made promo clips earlier these were mainly performative or weren't made specially to promote the single (the films A Hard Days Night and Help could be seen to be a series of music videos strung together by a thread of a narrative). The clips for Rain and Paperback Writer are in colour and are not just performance pieces.

Aside from this is the obvious influence of the sound of the record. Listen to Rain and you can immediately see where the Oasis 'sound' came from; Lennon sneering and snarling the lyrics decades before Liam made this type of delivery his trade-mark. The drumming in this song is perhaps, along with Strawberry Fields, Ringo's finest and most complicated drum pattern. McCartney's bass floats throughout the piece and is one of his most distinctive and interesting bass parts. The two guitars chime throughout.

It is not the greatest single the Beatles ever released but it does show the band at their tightest (all their instruments play distinctive, different and yet complimentary parts that constantly sound like the songs could tear themselves apart at any time but are never allowed to. In the instrumentation of Rain you can hear the Beatles starting to go their separate ways and break out of the cosy 'Fab Four' image that they had stuck to for half a decade). Whether it is the most influential single is a matter for conjecture but I can't think of anything that fits the spot better. What does everybody else think?

August 27, 2005

Did we miss anything?

5 out of 5 stars

It had to happen. Most people who know me are probably aware of my rather over enthusiastic love of R.E.M. and any regular readers of my blog can't have failed to notice 2 overly long gig reviews and numerous references. However I felt the need to write something more substantial, and a 3 hour car journey has provided just the inspiration.

I've always loved Murmur, however it wasn't until this afternoon that I realised just how great this album is. I like all of R.E.M.'s albums and they are the only band that I can honestly say that there are no songs on any of their records that I dislike, so you could be forgiven for thinking that my claim of how great this album is is biased and simply a result of my enthusiasm. But re-listening to the album twice in a row it really hit me just how important this record is to music in the last 20 years. The fact that 2 books have been written about it and it recently featured at number 87 in Uncut Magazine's list of the 100 greatest icons not just in music but in film as well is testament to its importance in modern music. I'm not sure how long this entry will drag on for but I have quite a lot to say so I apologise in advance if this becomes self-indulgent and turns into an entry which is only of interest to me but hopefully this won't be the case.

First off I can't understand how anybody, music lover or not, doesn't like R.E.M. There are people who describe them as boring or depressing or unoriginal. If you are reading this and any one of those things applies please do yourself and me a favour and go out and buy this album. People who think that this band make depressing music are severely mistaken. Whenever I ask why I get the usual answer of "well Everybody Hurts is a really sad song" or something like that. I just find this incredible. Besides the fact it is one of the most uplifting songs ever recorded it isn't really representative of R.E.M.'s catalogue. As for being boring and unoriginal, again listen to Murmur; it is clear that it has many influences and imitates several other pre-existing sounds but it also creates much that is new and has itself been much copied. Just listen to the Bloc Party album, try and isolate what is original about that album and then go and listen to Murmur and you'll find exactly the same thing. This album is the blueprint for all the current indie bands, whether this is direct influences (Elbow cites Murmur as a major source of inspiration) or simply through the evolutionary processes that result when a good idea is taken and developed. Listening to this album today made me realise just how 'new' it sounds.

Before I continue I must make it clear that Murmur is not my favourite R.E.M. album, that honour goes to Out of Time, but I do think that it may be their best and certainly their most important. Let’s begin with a bit of history. Great albums always have good stories behind them and this is no exception. Four young guys with vastly different backgrounds and birthplaces converge on the college town of Athens, Georgia. Peter Buck meets Michael Stipe whilst living in a derelict church and working in a local record shop where Stipe buys all of the records that Buck had set aside for himself. They become friends and decide to try and write some songs. Stipe can’t play an instrument and Buck is no expert on the guitar but they manage a few simple compositions. Meanwhile Bill Berry and Mike Mills are busy hating each other; Berry the local bully to Mills's nerd. Until the moment that is when they both unknowingly show up to a jamming session with a mutual friend, at which point they develop a firm friendship. The two duos play in various groups (Mills and Berry in a band with Police drummer Stuart Copeland’s brother Ian) before a mutual friend introduces Buck and Stipe to Berry. Stipe likes Berry’s eyebrows so asks him if he wants to form a band. Berry agrees as long as Mills tags along. They agree until they meet Mills who is too drunk to stand up. Eventually they do rehearse together, the drummer and bass player being clearly more experienced than the singer and guitarist and the band make their debut under the name The Twisted Kites on 5th April at the birthday party of the same friend that introduced them. The set includes at least 8 original songs and cover versions such as Patti Smith’s Gloria, The Velvet Underground’s There She Goes Again and The Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen. They are a huge success and start playing the local bars in Athens and in December 1980 support The Police. They eventually manage to record a debut EP and a single which they use to market themselves; by this time they are a big hit as a live band and Chronic Town the EP is an underground hit, especially in England. The band is finally signed to IRS after record company boss Miles Copeland does a swap with his brother Ian. Miles signs R.E.M., as they had now become, and Ian signs the all-girl group soon to become known as the Bangles. With influences ranging from The Sex Pistols to Abba via Patti Smith, Television and the Beach Boys and with over 40 original songs already written the band enter the studios and this is what resulted:

The album begins with some almost inaudible crashes, thunderclaps and radio feedback which gradually get louder before Berry’s metronomic drum beat of Radio Free Europe erupts along with Stipe’s mumbled vocal: ‘Beside yourself if radio’s gonna stay’. It is clear from the very start that every instrument is treated with the same emphasis. The drums and bass are brought up in the mix, and the vocals and guitar are taken down so that everything plays on the same level. This album more than any other uses the voice as an instrument, many of the lyrics being almost inaudible, flowing in and out of the guitar licks and drum beats. It is the perfect opener, and why? Because it’s so restrained. This could easily be a thrash rock record replicating the violent energy the band unleashed on stage. But what makes this band so special is that right from the beginning of their career they fail to fall into any of the traps that so many other bands have fallen into when trying to record songs that they have perfect on the stage. Those bands in effect go into the studio and record a live album; the problem being that all of the energy is in the performance and not on the record. With this band all of the energy can be heard loud and clear right from the word go. They hit the perfect middle ground, this is not a live album which loses all the energy nor is it overproduced to the point where the excitement is lost (the first Smiths album is a distinct victim of this; the original demos producing a much better collection of recordings than those eventually released).

A discordant piano can be heard accompanied by distant, distorted and echoing vocals as Stipe repeats ‘Take a turn / Take our fortune’ in the introduction to Pilgrimage. As the volume grows another couple of tricks are pulled out of the bag. One of the most effective techniques employed on this album is the doubling of instruments. The discordant piano begins playing a six note sequence. This same six note sequence is picked up by the bass, the two instruments being indistinguishable. The drums come in filling the spaces in the music and as Stipe begins singing Buck’s guitar also plays the same six notes in time with the bass and piano creating one huge rhythm section. The verse as a result is quite sparse however this makes the chorus extremely effective; heralded by Berry’s double quick drumming the piano, guitar (Buck switches to acoustic for the chorus) and bass split apart producing a chorus with incredible depth and subtlety before once again reverting back to the six note cycle. It is a very unusual song and probably my favourite on the album.

Next up is Laughing the most conventional track so far. Beginning with a winding bass line and almost reggae like drum beat the song builds throughout getting apparently louder and more complicated. The opening three songs demonstrate the diversity that is to follow on the record, this song conforming neither to the straight forward rock of Radio Free Europe nor the strangeness of Pilgrimage.

The next trio of songs continue in a similar way. Talk About the Passion begins with a trademark Buck guitar arpeggio (the influence of Byrd Roger McGuinn showing through). Again Buck switches guitars for the chorus. For the fist time the drums are relegated to their usual position of providing a rhythm. The album appears to have finally settled on a ‘sound’. Until, that it the opening of Moral Kiosk, one of the strangest cuts on the album. The discordant guitar chimes are joined by a suitably wild bass line whilst the drums and vocals whirl through the gaps. As the song approaches the chorus the most incredible moment on the album occurs. Whilst Stipe sings ‘So much more attractive / Inside the moral kiosk’ the song achieves brilliance by enabling the listener to hear a melody that none of the instruments actually play. The drums tap out the rhythm between which the guitar and bass play amazingly complimentary parts which somehow create a third series of notes which fit between the notes the two guitars are playing. It lasts no longer than a couple of seconds but it is spellbinding.

The final song of the trio (and of side A if you have a tape / vinyl) is Perfect Circle. The first, and only, true ballad on the album. Every aspect of this song combines to create a perfect song. A song written by the drummer! How many bands can claim to have a legitimately equal division in song-writing credits between its members? Well this one can. Again the doubling of instrument, this time two pianos played simultaneously by Mills and Berry form the basis of the song. Berry tells how during a tour he was looking out of the venue at twilight and watching some kids playing the last game of touch football before dark and the moment brought him to tears. He asked Stipe to convey this moment when writing the lyrics and as Berry says “There’s no football in there, no kids, no twilight, but it’s all there.” Unlike most of the other songs on Murmur the lyrics are up front in the mix and are fairly intelligible which is a bonus since they are the best set on the record.

Then there is Catapult, possibly the weakest song on the album. It isn’t a bad song, just ordinary, although the guitar part during the bridge is another great musical moment on the record. Next up is another trilogy of songs; Sitting Still, 9–9 and Shaking Through. Sitting Still is another highlight of the album. It is an up-tempo rocker and probably the song that could be said to be most ‘typical’ of the album. It has mumbled lyrics, a strong, clear drum part and jangly guitar. Only the bass part deviates from the norm, providing a much punkier, straightforward backbeat than elsewhere on the album. The chorus is sung with such enthusiasm by Stipe it is difficult not to sing along and the backing vocals provide tight harmonies.

9–9 is the strangest song on the recorded by some length. All of the instruments seem to be playing totally separate parts which if heard individually would seem impossible to fit together. Yet it works. The stop/start of the verse giving way to a more even flow during the chorus. The vocals are perhaps the most indistinct on the album. It is songs like this and Moral Kiosk that Bloc Party could easily pass as their own. Shaking Through is another up-tempo song that shares many similarities with Sitting Still.

Between this song and the next there is a short musical interlude which neatly separates the previous three serious songs from the song that is to follow. We all know that R.E.M. can do pop very well. Shiny Happy People is so bubblegum that the band themselves have disowned it. Stand and Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight are two other radio-friendly tunes which the band wrote with their tongues firmly in their cheek (during their world tour in 1989 Stipe introduced Stand by placing it alongside the theme tune to Chariots of Fire as one of the greatest pieces of music ever written by man). We Walk is a lot of fun. Its playful guitar part is complimented by the simple lyrics. It is a relatively forgettable song but serves to break up the seriousness of the rest of the album and demonstrates a clear sense of fun before the finale, another fast rocker called West of the Fields. All of the instruments propel the listener through the song to the chorus, the lines being shouted by Stipe and echoed by Mills and Berry. An uplifting middle 8 returns us to another frantic verse and final chorus which ends on a hanging note doubled by the guitar and an organ. It is a great way to end the album and as with almost all of the R.E.M. albums that followed leaves you wanting to go straight back to track one and start all over again.

Everything about the album is special. The album cover is mysterious; an area of land in Georgia covered in kudzu; a Japanese weed that spread at lightning speed. The track listing on the back of the vinyl is out of order and the type face difficult to read. When IRS asked for a lyric sheet to be included, Stipe took his favourite lines from songs, some of which weren’t even on the album and arranged them in the form of a paragraph and presented them to IRS who decided a lyric sheet was not needed after all, beginning a tradition that continued up until 1998’s Up. The videos that the band were forced to make to accompany the singles are extremely oblique; if they were going to have to make videos they wanted to make them their own way and not pander to the marketplace. In fact everything about Murmur is geared away from the mainstream. The band wanted commercial success but only when the public were ready to receive them and as a result they lost none of their integrity and were able to make great records which sold reasonably well with very little pressure from the record company.

Nothing like this album existed in America at the time. In 1983 the era of punk was over and the American music industry was swamped with British synth-pop bands like Haircut 100, the Human League and Soft Cell. Murmur (an appropriate name given that at least three of the songs on the album deal with trouble communicating and the lyrics themselves are mainly murmured) filled a gap in the music scene both in America and in England. Joy Division had come and gone, U2 had not found their feet yet and were still trying to put their own spin on the Joy Division sound and the Smiths (the British equivalent of R.E.M. critically, culturally and musically) had yet to reach their full potential. This album became the only real alternative to the dying days of disco, the new wave and the new romantic, synth-pop movement. It was indie and there was very little else around like it at the time. This is the music that the Kurt Cobains and Eddie Vedders of the world were listening to and were inspired by. Only now is its influence really being felt as bands like Coldplay, Elbow, Wilco and Idlewild amongst others cite R.E.M. and particularly Murmur as major influences. In my opinion it still stands (alongside the Smiths’ The Queen is Dead and The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa) as the most important rock album of the 80s coming as it did at a time that was crying out for experimental, energy filled music to fill the gap left by punk.

So I would suggest you follow the link above and buy yourself a copy of the album to sit on your shelf alongside your copy of Automatic for the People (which you bought when it came out), Monster (which you bought under the mistaken opinion that this was a stagnant and unexperimental band, expecting Automatic vol.2, and as a result only played it once) and Greatest Hits (which isn’t). Sorry to take up so much of your time and consider yourself informed.

August 24, 2005

Surely you're happy it should be this way?

Just a quick entry to say Happy Birthday to my blog. As of yesterday it joined the ranks of the old.

For anybody interested it is grim and rainy in Leamington and there is one less £5 shelf in Fopp; it's a bitter/sweet day.

August 21, 2005

The world crashes in, into my living room

If the Bucket family from Charlie/Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are really as poor as they make out how can they afford a TV licence?

Also how could Everlasting Gobstoppers ever make any kind of commercial sense?

Drift gently into mental illness

Well the lethargy has set in. I have plenty of work to be getting on with but for the first time this holiday I really can't be bothered. At the moment I don't want to do anything at all, and that includes lying around doing nothing. I really am decidedly discontent at the moment. There's nothing that I want to read, nothing that I want to watch, nothing that I want to listen to and nothing that I want to do but I still want to do something. I think I'm just biding my time till September; that can't come soon enough. I keep picking my guitar up but since I don't know many songs that gets tedious after a while. I wish I'd had time this holiday to get a job, at least then I would have something that I had to do during the day but since I've only been free for 3 weeks this entire holiday and a good portion of that has been spent doing dissertation preparation that hasn't really been possible. Thusly I also have no money.

Is Russia considered to be part of Europe or Asia? I did A-Level geography and am still unsure about this.

Also sitting around so much makes you think about things, mainly things you don't really want to think about and that just makes it worse. I remember a time when the holidays were the best bits of the year. Now I enjoy seeing my friends and family back home but after a week just want to be back at uni, I miss it too much.

To sum up exactly how I'm feeling at the moment I think I'll borrow a line from a Woody Allen film I was watching for the umpteenth time the other day: "I know exactly what I think about this, but I can never find words to put it in. Maybe if I get a little drunk I could dance it for you."

Hopefully I can uplift this somewhat uncharacteristically emo entry by asking what everybody's three favourite songs are at the minute. These can be old songs or new songs, jut whatever 3 songs you are playing most at the moment. Here are mine:

1. Head Games – Five O'Clock Heroes (even 3 months after its release this is still my favourite single of the year)

2. Pin Me Down – Luxembourg (sounds like a cross between melancholic Erasure (The Circus, Ship of Fools etc) and Brian Eno era Roxy Music (it almost turns into Do the Strand at one point) but modern)

3. Unsatisfied – Nine Black Alps (still probably my favourite on the album which is well worth checking out and much more than a Nirvana tribute album as some have made out. I may get round to reviewing it at some point)

Your turn.

August 07, 2005

Its been a long time (but now I'm coming back home)

It's been a month since I last posted. Man where does the time go.? It's been a busy few weeks mainly involving a significant lack of internet access due to 1. working on a film and 2. being on holiday in Italy. Rather than bore you with a full description of the last few weeks here are a few observations:

1. Driving in Italy is a nightmare. They have such an intricate set of rules that it actually appears that they have none. Either that or they don't actually have any rules at all, although the sign on the side of a mountain road that said 'Give way to oncoming, overtaking traffic' would suggest otherwise.

2. There's a town near Sorrento called Crapolla.

3. Working on a film is every bit as difficult, tiring, chaotic and fun as I thought.

4. The new Coldplay album is better than I thought it would be.

5. But isn't as good as it should be.

6. I have a huge list of music that I really want but haven't the money to buy.

7. Mickey Blue Eyes is actually a good film and may actually be useful for my dissertation next year.

8. I have absoluely no idea how I would go about licencing a music video clip to use in a documentary I am making without spending lots of money on both the license and on an agency to help me get the license. If anybody has any ideas please let me know. I only want to find out how much it would cost me but even finding that out is apparently going to be expensive. And even if I can afford it how the hell do I go about obtaining the clip?

9. For the first time in living memory I have more pairs of shoes than I know what to do with.

10. It's the summer holidays and I'm actually enjoying doing preparation work for next year.

11. Apparently the first series of the Sopranos is good but the menus won't work on my DVD player so as yet I can't verify this.

12. In 16 days it is my blog's 1st birthday.

13. My bedroom is in exactly the same state as is was in my very first blog entry.

14. Some things don't change.

July 06, 2005

The passing of time and all of its sickening crimes

So with the exceptionof my, perhaps somewhat hasty, comment last Saturday I haven't added anything to my blog in a while which is a shame because a lot has happened in the last few weeks. I am not sure whether I am going to approach this in ne long entry of several more digestible ones. The latter will brobably be more likely. But I'll just write till I'm bored.

So as a quick recap – I had the mumps and although not infectious anymore I was still somewhat weary when I embarked upon my rather exciting weekend. Here's what happened:

Thursday – Shall and I ventured into Birmingham to see the Dead 60's supported by the Kooks. It's always a bonus I find when going to a gig when the support band are actually good and the Kooks are definately a band to watch. Even with technical trouble they still made a good impression and I want the lead singer's trousers. The Dead 60's were really good as well, making great use of a siren and a cowbell; the lead singer really working the space. Altough the quick-fire set was incredible it was the encour of You're Not the Law that really impressed. After they finished we went next door to the Bar Academy for a drink or two including a cameo from the Kooks guitarist who Shall had interviewed earlier. Overall a good evening even though I didn't have a clue where I was when I was driving home until I arrived back in Coventry absolutely nackered.

Friday- The day I'd been waiting for for some time. Left Coventry at 10.30ish to drive back home to see R.E.M. at Old Trafford Cricket Ground. Although they had been good in Birmingham in February I had hopes that the hot weather and the outdoor venue would really enhance the performance. And it did. Supporting them were Idlewild, The Zutons and Feeder, a mini-festival for £35. Idlewild were better than I though they would be but sounded just like the records, The Zutons were great, clearly having a fun time, and Feeder were… well Feeder. They got the crowd going but their slow songs killed the mood and their best known songs are clearly the ones that the band least like playing although they did throw in the riff from Everybody Hurts during Just A Day.

I know that there are a lot of R.E.M. sceptics around but there is absolutely no way in which they can be compared to the support acts. Although the three warm ups, the Zutons in particular, had been good they might as well not have played because the moment the band arrived on stage and the opening notes of I Took Your Name rang out the previous 3 hours of entertainment were quickly forgotten. With 25 years of touring experience behind them this is a band that are as alive and energetic as they ever have been. It's testiment to their live performances that having already seen them twice before they played 7 songs that I hadn't seen them play before and only one of those was from the last album. I was stood about 4 rows from the front so had a great spot. Here's the setlist and some photos:

1. I Took Your Name
2. Bad Day
3. What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
4. The One I Love
5. Electron Blue
6. Driver 8 (One of the Highlights)
7. Drive
8. Wanderlust
9. Animal
10. Leavin New York
11. Everybody Hurts
12. The Outsiders
13. Elecrolite
14. Me In Honey (Another great moment)
15. I Wanted to Be Wrong
16. Orange Crush
17. Walk Unafraid
18. Losing My Religion


19. Imitation of Life
20. The Great Beyond
21. These Days (The best moment in a gread set)
22. Leave (This was added to the setlist during the break)
23. Nightswimming
24. I'm Gonna DJ
25 Man on the Moon

Saturday – Left home at 11 to return to Coventry for Jimmy's BBQ. It was so hot and there was much food and drink:

There was also a football match. Rehydrating yourself with Carling is not a good idea especially if you intend to go out in the evening. I failed and ended up back at home by 12.30 but it was a great day.

Sunday – More BBQ madness this time at Dan's and involving Togas. Another fun afternoon which ended at the RAG quiz in a sweltering and cramped Cholo.

July 02, 2005

Children of the Revolution

Elton John + Pete Doherty + T.REX = absolute genius

June 15, 2005

The next few days

Well after 5 days of boredom, swelling, soup, tiredness and being indoors I finally am a) not contagious and b) actually feeling well enough to do things. So here are the things that I hope to be doing in the next few days:

Tomorrow: Seeing Personal Tutor to sort out the exam I missed and then going to see the Dead 60's in preperation for…

Friday: Driving home to see R.E.M. at LCCC. Should be a great day especially since for £35 I get to see Feeder, Idlewild (no too bothered about these two), The Zutons (saved me buying a Final Fling ticket) and the best band on the planet for the second time this year.

Saturday: Hurry back here in time for Jimmy's BBQ and whatever other nocturnal acivities everybody has planned.

Sunday: Rest and probably quiz.

Now the big question is how may of these will I actually achieve.

June 10, 2005

So near…

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

So the list of ailments as it currently stands in our house:

Rachel: Nausa, nose bleeding and exam anxiety
Han: Coldy things involving lots of snot and stuff.
Tom: Sore throat and generally not quite wellness.
Adrienne: Sinusitis
Me: Mumps


(If I've missed anything / made the wrong diagnosis please amend where relevant)

June 09, 2005

Chav watch

Whilst revising The Third Man last night Han and I thought we might have spied the original chav (or charv). Complete with burberry ball and fur-lined parka here is the young sprite who goes on to lead a mob which attempts to hunt down the main character:

June 06, 2005

Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger

5 out of 5 stars

One of the things I love (or is that love to hate?) about the music industry is their continued ability to latch on to the next-big-thing and stick with it just long enough for a wave of better bands to slip under the radar. The Bloc Party album was the darling earlier this year, and quite rightly, it being one of the best albums out so far this year. Since then there's been the Kaiser Chiefs (an excellent album that i haven't played for weeks and, surprisingly, am not missing in the slightest) and the Bravery, both decent bands but in terms of enduring quality probably not contenders for the 'best album of the year' stakes no matter how much fun they are. As a result of these albums, plus the return of such chart-friendly though frankly rubbish acts such as The Stereophonics and Feeder, smaller bands such as Nine Black Alps, The Departure, the Paddingtons, Tower of London have been virtually ignored by the record buying public. For me this has both positive and negative aspects. Firstly I feel sorry for the acts who don't get the exposure, but I am simultaneously smug at being able to talk to my friends back home about bands and have them not know who I'm talking about. Every now and then a band comes along that deserve to be huge but deep in my heart I want them to remain my little secret; as a result no radio overkill, no stragglers who pretend to have known about the band since they formed and no selling out. Sadly I think I might be too late for Maximo Park.

I won't try to pretend that I was there from the start although there are certain people who can probably say that. But I was still there way before the album came out. I'm not entirely sure how much exposure Maximo Park are getting on national radio, certanly their album wasn't in the Top 40 last week, however it can't be long before they skyrocket because this album is superb. On first listen you hum along trying to second guess where all of the songs are going and almost every time you fail. The singles 'Apply Some Pressure' and 'Graffiti' are the obvious highlights on first listen but this is only because you have heard them before. Once it's been through the player once play it again straight away. After 2 listens 'Graffiti' suddenly disappears from the album; I tend to skip it, I've got a bit bored of it. It''s taken 3 weeks for it to finally sink in but here goes:

'Signal and Sign' begins with a drum beat that sounds a little bit like Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk' accompanied by a 'Dont Fear the Reaperesque' guitar riff. But then the heavily accented vocals burst out and the song becomes something totally different. It is the perfect opener setting up the stop-start, organ filled rock that is to follow. In a 'playing-it-safe' kind of way the two big singles are up next. 'Apply Some Pressure' is simply incredible. Maximo Park have perfected a structure which splits many of their songs in 2; you get a verse, a chorus, a verse, a chorus, a second chorus, a chorus, a second chorus and then the verse again so you basically get 2 songs in 1; a very good song building into a great one that stands up to at least 9 weeks of continuous listening. The album version is marginally different to the single version but this is a bonus. Then there is Graffiti, a great song to sing along to or to hear on a night out. Extremely catchy as well. For me it doesn't stand up to as much repeated listening as a lot of the album but then I have been playing it to death for weeks. Probably the album's selling point and it just shows how good an album it is that it is far from the best song in the collection.

'Postcard of A Painting' is a very minimalist song. At 2:15 it doesn't have a great deal of time but manages to say a lot. It has some great lyrics and is just a gnerally good song bridging the gap between 'Graffiti' and current single 'Going Missing' which sounds almost like a rewritten version of Apply Some Pressure, having the same type of structre. But it isn't. Which is good. Another catchy song which starts out being one thing and then turns into something else.

Although a very good album up to this point it is with 'I Want You To Stay' and the two song which follow it that the album really heats its peak. This song is incredibly subtle and as a result it's magnificence isn't immediately apparent but the lyrics are particularly well crafted, particularly the refrain "Nothing works round here / Where cranes collect the sky". With the following song, 'Limassol', the record moves up a gear and it is perhaps for this reason that 'I Want You to Stay' appears to have been overshadowed. 'Limassol's' frantic guitar grabs you by the collar and is the musical equivalent of a ride on the Waltzers; out of control one moment and then suddenly slowing for a refrain that sounds almost like Ocean Colour Scene but cleverer. The highlight is the moment when the song builds into a cacophony of noise before the riff breaks out and tears the song apart again. Blinding.

Then comes 'The Coast is Always Changing'. At first this sounds like the most poppy song on the record, the guitar chimes sounding worryingly familiar, until the first chorus. The melodies in this song are just amazing. This song again uses the 'Maximo Park Song Structure' (see Apply Some Pressure) to create what is at the moment my favourite song on the album and one of the best tracks of the year so far. It sounds so sentimental and heartfelt without sinking into cheesiness in any way. Truly brilliant.

The next three songs change the tone once again. 'The Night I Lost My Head' is two minutes of upbeat songwriting that is for me the weak point of the album. Not that it's a bad song it just doesnt really go anywhere, the only time that this can be said in this collection of songs. 'Once, A Glimpse' pulls it back on track with it's frantic chorus and Whipping Boyesque guitar sound, without pausing for breath.

"Now I'm All Over the Shop" begins by sounding like the most unacomplished piece of songwriting on the record until about the 5th second when it all makes perfect sense with another magnificent refrain which again turns into a rip-roaring chorus. Rapidly becoming one of my favourite tracks on the album.

The penultimate song, 'Acrobat', is far and away the most untypical track in this collection. It basically involves what sounds like a synthy sound wash and drum machines over which the vocals are spoken, apart from the beautifully incongruous chorus "I am not an acrobat / I cannot perform these tricks for you". It sounds like a cross between Air and R.E.M.'s song 'Airportman'. The only complaint here is that it should be the last song on the album. Not that 'Kiss You Better' is a poor finale, which in some ways it is, but the pacing of the record has been changed so impressively by 'Acrobat' that it is difficult to get back into the flow of the uptempo guitars for little more than two minutes, even if it is the most lighthearted cut on the album. It is highly enjoyable but should probably have been slotted earlier on in the record; it ends too suddenly.

This album is a fantastic piece of work and a brilliant debut. Whereas The Bravery and the Kaiser Chiefs appear to have very little potential for progression Maximo Park look set to be around for a while. Five stars may be slightly generous but four sars would be harsh. If you like this album I would suggest R.E.M. debut album Murmur, the drumming and melody patterns are quite similar in style if not entirely comparable.

One tip for the future. Get ready for The Five O'clock Heroes. Hopefully they have an album coming out sometime this year and if the two singles that have already been released are representative of the album then it's going to be amazing. And since we reviewed their first single on RaW a month before it was released I can say that I was there at the start. Let's hope they live up to my expectations. But until then there's Maximo Park and in my opinion this is the best album so far this year.