All entries for June 2009

June 30, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Franz Ferdinand, Manchester Academy 1, 6th March

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

Does music have to be deep? Does it have to move your soul, touch the feelings we all have? Does it have to matter? It’s a strange question, but a relevant one when talking about Franz Ferdinand, the indie band who manage to make pure pop music.

It feels somewhat unfair to describe Franz Ferdinand as music entirely for the feet, which bypasses the heart totally and the head mostly. For this is exactly what they do, and yet it feels almost rude to talk about their effortless, soulless brilliant music in such terms. Is the world of the music lover so saturated with worries about integrity and ‘reality’ in music that it’s hard to recognise simple brilliance?

For many indie fans the way around it is to like pop groups, like Girls Aloud or Sugababes, which represent something different to their beloved main genre of skinny boys (and occasional girls) wearing tight jeans and artfully crap hair. These pop bands are manufactured by record labels or via TV shows, which places them apart from the supposedly organic bands which sell mere fractions of their sales but who are seen to ‘mean it’. In this clear differentiation the indie snob can feel safe listening to music which doesn’t come from a heartfelt, emotional place but a considered, tactical place where the consideration is others, not the musician doing it for themselves, because “they have to write these songs and it’s just nice when others listen”.

But Franz Ferdinand are an organic indie band who dare to be different. They’ve never hidden their intention to “make girls dance”. They don’t care that their songs are made for others, to fill big venues, not to languish in small venues playing their hearts out. It can be disorientating. It also shows that worrying about the integrity of music is a useless venture.

After all, the Manchester Academy is a big venue, full on this night, of people who want to listen to Franz and their precision engineered dancefloor missiles. They’ll be listening with their feet of course, not their hearts. It’s evident on Franz’s new album, Tonight, that the flirtation with purely heartfelt tracks on the previous album, You Could Have Had It So Much Better With…, have been largely discarded. Now all emotions are bolted onto grooves and synths. And live is the best place to experience these songs.

Not my photo, but from this quite nifty album by a much superior photographer from that night.

It’s not unusual for songs to sound better live, but for them to sound better whilst still sounding almost exactly the same as the recorded versions is a little odd, but it’s something Franz have always done well. They are a tight live act. Very tight. Erring on the side of slick, and they pull it off but sometimes only just. The charm of the group helps. Twirling around the stage like giddy schoolkids, despite being old enough in some cases to have school age kids, showcases their energy. Alex Kapranos in particular has a grin which can be seen across the whole venue.

And then there was dancing. Lots and lots of it! It’s no surprise. If listening to Franz on record can get a little samey after a while, live it means a giant party atmosphere as most of the audience were well willing to join in the almost rave-like atmosphere. It’s a shame that their most overtly rave moment ‘Lucid Dreams’ was shorn of it’s epic techno coda. It would have gone down a treat in this place on this night. And what are Franz if not the soundtrack to a night out? A perfect place and a perfect time for a band who appear to have planned this perfectly.

It can never be love. But it can be fantastically lustful.

June 24, 2009

Economic Migrants Who Seem Familiar

Writing about web page

Oh no! Economic migrants fleeing a nation with a stymied economy are coming to Britain in large numbers! Who will protect us? UKIP? The Tories? The B*P?

Oh wait, these economic migrants are Brits returning from Spain because the economy there is buggered. Guess that won’t arouse any ire in the tedious tabloid media despite it having exactly the same effect as Irish/Caribbean/Indian/Poles (delete depending on which decade you are feeling outraged in) arriving in Britain for economic reasons. No, these people will get treated fairly and even-handedly, their reasons for going abroad understood (they were economic with a hint of looking-for-nicer-weather) and their return handled sympathetically as an attempt to get through a tough time. Of course if they did have the termacity to be Polish it would be tabloid hysteria as far as the eye can see. Mind you, “the Poles are going back to Poland now anyway, so we’ll need to find someone new to complain about.”

Nothing like media inconsistency dipped in mild racism to rile on a Wednesday morning. Just wanted to vent.

June 18, 2009

Looking For Eric Sequels

Writing about web page

One of the more unusual recent films (as in there are no giant killer robots at all) is Looking For Eric a film about a postman called Eric, whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Eric Cantona, the second best no.7 United ever had (come on, Best shades it) and certainly the most entertaining Frenchman to play football in England ever (yes, more than Theirry Henry) comes to visit him. Eric Cantona in this film gives advice in a cryptic-poetic way, delivered in a thick French accent, with a hint of enigma and mystery to him. “I am Cantona” he reminds us.

Now in this day and age of franchises left, right and centre, this project clearly needs sequels! So here are some proposed sequel ideas. Feel free to take the ones you like and give me half the takings. I’ve decided that it’s best to tailor them to other clubs, as we cannot let Manchester United hog the limelight.

Looking For Shearer

Alan is a down and out pub landlord whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Alan Shearer has come to visit him. After an initial mix up, in which Alan Shearer assumes Alan is a defender and elbows him in the head, Alan Shearer sets about giving bland and insight free ‘advice’ which inspires Alan to take his shirt off in very cold weather and support Newcastle United. Warning – film does not have a happy ending.

Looking For Carragher

Jamie is a down and out-of-work docker whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Jamie Carragher has come to visit him. Jamie Carragher may or may not be offering Jamie some fantastic advice on how to sort his life out, but it’s almost impossible to tell as he has an accent thicker than Cantona’s French one. Subtitled.

Looking For Zola

Jonny Francis is a down and out city banker whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Gianfranco Zola has come to visit him. Gianfranco Zola teaches Johnny Francis that he used to be likeable before he got too much money and started making everyone else’s lives harder. Johnny Francis gives up his job in the city to become an East End Cockney barrow-boy. He ends the film really popular again, only for the cliffhanger as the city bank ask for him to come back… Contains scenes of wealthy bankers some viewers may find offensive.

Looking For Steve Bull

Stephen is a down and out Wolves fan whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Steve Bull comes to visit him. Stephen learns from Steve Bull that it’s not always necessary to be famous to be a hero to lots of people in the Black Country. Stephen takes up the challenge, and wins Black Country Idol, a regional pop contest. He becomes a huge hit in Wovlerhampton, has minor success in Dudley, and is never heard of by anyone outside of the area. Warning – this film contains parochial humour.

Looking For Louis Saha

Lewis is a physiotherapist in Liverpool whose life is a mess. In his time of need he starts to hallucinate that Louis Saha is injured again and needs his help to get him fit enough to walk from one side of the room to another without shattering into thousands of tiny fragments. Lewis tends Louis Saha back to health and sets him loose on football. A few days later Lewis gets the call that Louis Saha is injured again. Lewis then realises he is not hallucinating and is, in fact, trapped in an endless Groundhog Day style reality. A documentary.

June 17, 2009

Really Bad Poster #4 – Visit Salford

randoms 3

Not a bad idea in theory but… let’s just say there are a lot of extreme sports which involve risk to life. None would be as dangerous as walking through Salford dressed like that. The running shoes might be useful, mind.

Visit Salford. Just don’t dress like a twat.

June 16, 2009

Football Fixtures Link

Writing about web page

Just wanted to signpost this brilliant BBC football blog post which talks in some depth about the issues and tribulations surrounding the compiling of the football fixtures.

I’m really curious to see the full list of teams who are linked to other teams and why.

EU Myths

Follow-up to The Internet Ranter's Worst Enemy – Fact Checking from Hollyzone

After the recent EU elections in which the people of the UK split into three camps (those who couldn’t be arsed to vote, those who voted with all the enthusiasm of a catatonic sloth, and racists) I’ve decided that my indignation at the general failure of humans to fact check needs to be focused on something more European in flavour.

I do love EU myths. Some are hilarious, and usually involve banning something which is contributing to the British obesity crisis. Some are deeply worrying and involve people baring their prejudices against those with the gall to be slightly different to them. Some are clearly driven by an almost demented dedication to not noticing that the world has moved on, and usually involves older folk getting very het up about the metric system even though most children these days would struggle to tell you how many pounds there are in a stone.

Actually, hand on heart, I’m not sure how many pounds there are in a stone. I think it’s fourteen but I’m not sure. Kilogrammes are much more logical.

This is really only a surface stratcher of a post, but if anyone can suggest to me some suitably insane EU stories for us to look into together that would be nice. Obviously some are true or have a basis in truth, as this interesting BBC article demonstrates but many involve so much grabbing of the wrong end of the stick that the stick itself is feeling extremely violated right now.

On nom nom.

I personally like the “vegelate” myth which suggested that the EU would force Britain to rename ‘our’ chocolate “vegelate” because it has vegetable fats in it. In fact the truth is that this was a name created by the French, seemingly in a bout of snootiness which belies their Francophone association with Nestle, purveyors of poor quality chocolate. It was never intended for the UK to have “vegelate” enforced on it.

However what the story does teach us is when faced with an opportunity to have verbals with the French or become paranoid about the EU, most British tabloids will become paranoid about the EU. Sorry France, not so scary any more, unless the rest of Europe’s with you…

June 15, 2009

The Internet Ranter's Worst Enemy – Fact Checking

I recently encountered a ranting gentleman on the internet who seemed most vexed by his apparent and sincere belief that Britain was “officially the most crowded country in Europe”. It vexed me because what sources had told him this officially? So I did what seemed reasonable, I went to that great underused resource, The CIA Factbook. I like the CIA Factbook. Whatever you think about what their dodgier operatives get up to in secret rendition spots, the CIA make a damn good Factbook.

The Factbook told me that Britain has a population density of about 250 people per square km. That sounds like… well, it sounds like a number. There’s almost certainly many more than 250 people in the square km around me. I can see a couple as I write. They are running away from the hailstones.

As I read this I wondered about the rest of Europe. Specifically my instincts drew me to the Netherlands. I had a gut feeling. So I did the sums with the Factbook and the Dutch population per square km is… 402. Now I don’t know about you, but that seems to be higher than the UK’s. Quite a lot higher. About 50% higher some might say.

Maybe the ranting man on the internet was right and Britain is Europe’s most crowded country and the Netherlands has been evicted from Europe! I have to admit, I missed that bit of the news. Or maybe Mr Ranty Man was, y’know, wrong?

He also ranted about how the Scottish parliament’s ability to set better healthcare conditions in Scotland was a symptom of an apartheid against the English because they were being denied devolution, so I suspect his logic was not the most sound. I don’t think he was too pleased when I pointed out that the English were offered some devolution in 2004 but the initial referendum in the NE returned a 77% No vote. Whilst that devolution wasn’t what even devolution proponents wanted, there’s no ambiguity in No, governments just assume it’s a total No, even when, as was the case, they actually want English devolution.1

Lots of people rant on the internet using ‘facts’ and stories which don’t actually tally to that dreaded entity Real Life. I was reminded, when talking to this ranter, of every paranoid Christian loon’s2 favourite perceived attack on Christmas, Birmingham’s Winterval which supposedly constituted an attempt to make Christmas non-Christian but actually was no such thing at all. It was a marketing campaign running across the whole of winter, aimed at getting people to visit. The Christian element was as prominent as you’d expect from the nation’s biggest religious festival and the organisers remain pissed off about being misrepresented to this day.

Perhaps we live in an age where facts aren’t encouraged. I suspect this to be the case, every hysterical hearsay is given a special weight on the internet and in ‘Speak Your Brains’ obsessed media. With a History background this appals me a little, as checking to see what you’re writing is true is really rather sensible and the best way to get a History degree.

It’s nice to pick people you don’t agree with apart using pedantry, but it can reduce the argument to an exercise in humiliation which will not win converts. I’m happy to listen to people I disagree with if they’ve got their facts right.

I suspect I shouldn’t be arguing on the internet.

1 The other interesting angle on this is that the Irish were offered a form of government in 1921 which they weren’t really so keen on (still kow towing to the King being part of it) but they worked within the system to change it.
2 Not to be confused with normal, non-ranting Christians.

June 2009

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