All entries for August 2006

August 30, 2006

Leeds Festival 2006 – Sunday

Sunday 27th August 2006

6.27 Awake with a start from a really really strange dream in which I was trapped by a line dancing demonstration by Hilary Clinton’s 2008 presidential election team. Fall alseep again in attempt to forget.
9.20 Awaoken by the people from last night who have woken up and decided to restart shouting names at random. Every third name is “Hermoine”. Hermoine doesn’t reply.
11.10 Time to dismantle tent.
11.18 It wasn’t this hard last year.
11.24 Get in the bag! You fitted earlier, you bastard!
11.28 Done. Grr. To the arena.
THE 747s (NME Stage) Nice harmonies but live they just seemed a little blah, although it seems like the tent might have done them a disservice.
GIANT DRAG (NME Tent) This is no slander on their music but even during their good tracks like ‘This Isn’t It’ I, and most people there, were waiting for the songs to end so Annie could start talking again. Funnier than most of the contents of the Comedy Tent, she drawled a serious of insane proclamations including one about Chris Issak which could only be described as highly libellous. And yes, the music was pretty good too. Jeez, is music all you people think about?

13.59 I wonder what the football results were? I would ask but around here I think asking how Manchester United did is a one way ticket to a bruising.
14.02 That lamp onstage looks familiar.
14.02.06 Hang on! I own that same lamp! It’s from Ikea!
14.02.45 And that’s not a keyboard stand, it’s an ironing board.
RUMBLE STRIPS (Carling Tent) Ramshackle, brassdriven fun. They played to a slightly unfairly small crowd which was a bit of a bummer.
TILLY AND THE WALL (Carling Tent) Twee but tuneful indie from a band with more good singers than is the norm. And the keyboardist was good… and um… the bassist had a nicely OTT dress… ok, look, there’s no way of not mentioning that they don’t have a drummer, they have a tapdancer! Yes, a woman with fast feet kept the beat. There will never be a review of them which cannot mention this but it sure beats watching someone swathed in shadow, behind the band, hitting things.
BE YOUR OWN PET (NME Stage) Mmm, tricky one. When they’re good, they’re very good. Doubling up ‘Bunk Trunk Skunk’ and ‘Damn Damn Leash’ was a stroke of genius, even if the whole thrilling punk squawk of the two probably just scraped over three minutes. Excellent. But when it didn’t work it was just shouty noise. Of course they are younger than almost everyone else in the world so they’ve got time to grow. Not too much though.
THE FUTUREHEADS (Main Stage) Ah, excellent, the’ve been at every festival I’ve been to in the last three years and this was the best show yet. There’s something pleasingly heavier about the new songs, whilst the older ones are poppy joys. I remain sceptical that they are four people though, there’s no way anyone could be that tight without being controlled by a central mind, surely?
14.20 There’s quite literally a pile of unconscious girls by the Main Stage.
14.33 Huh? Is that burger van really playing Boney M? Do they have any idea of where they are?
DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (Main Stage) Ok, this is strange. Two years ago here I saw the Libertines without Pete. That band was virtually identical to the DPT which are onstage before me, yet two years ago they were better, more exciting, more thrilling. This seems a bit… unmagical. They do have some great moments but it doesn’t quite work overall. Nice Union Jack sling though.

Photo from BBC

THE FALL (NME Tent) Classic Manc indie/punky/rockandrolly mumblings from Mark E Smith who isn’t too grumpy. At least he remembers the words to the songs, something he doesn’t do at Reading I hear later.
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH (NME Stage) Somehow Alec’s vocals are even less clear than on record. I’m not convinced he uses any actual words for the first three songs. It matters not as the second one, ‘This Home On Ice’ is a fantastic singalong and a weekend highlight. Excellent all round and works well with the chunky live sound.
18.48 The Carling Tent crowd aren’t the crowd I’d expect to see a The Organ gig. Something’s afoot.
19.01 Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo! They’ve cancelled and ben replaced by The View. I try to get excited but can’t and wonder off outside…
19.02 ...where it’s raining. Heavily. Ominous.
19.03 What makes it worse is that I’d rather be in a tent in this rain but it’s Jet in the NME Tent who I’d rather remove my ears than endure. This is really unfair as at this time yesterday I missed Howling Bells because they clashed with Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Why couldn’t they play today?
19.09 Wow! A portaloo with loo roll! However there’s racist grafitti in it and I can hear Jet, so it’s not perfect.
THE STREETS (Main Stage) I only catch the end of his set but I wish I’d caught more. It looked like it had been fun and Mike Skinner comes across onstage as a nice guy. Next time…
ARCTIC MONKEYS (Main Stage) They are good. Let no one tell you they’re not. They are not, however, the best thing of all time ever, and seem a little unsure of what to do in front of such a huge crowd. Perhaps I was undone by hype and subconsciously expected more. But what I got was a damn good indie rock and roll show. And who can ask for more?

Photo from BBC

MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSE (Main Stage) And with the last kick of the game comes the bets goal yet. Oh wow. Lights! Fire! Aliens! Supermassive prog sized uber riffs of joy and doom and it was absolutely amazing. Every song was ace, the audience loved it and the histrionics, the solos, the very over the top spectacle was so different from nearl everything else I saw this weekend that it was like having a really sweet, tasty pudding after a lovely yet savoury roast dinner.
WoooOOOOooooAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, indeed.

Photo fom BBC

What happened next is a bit of a farce. My lift (mis padres) had arrvied at about 22.30 at last year’s festival and I’d left the last act, grabbed my dismantled tent and met them at just after 23.20 and we’d tootled home to bed. This year they went to the cinema first and at 23.05 rang to say they were an hour away. By this stage it was raining heavily and my trainers had let in water on both feet. I had no tent to sit in. In desperation I hid in a welfare tent.

In the welfare tent I met two people who had come with no tents and were just making friends on site and sleeping where ever they could. Both exceptionally romantic and quite quite crazy was my thoughts on the matter. But they were good company trying to salvage one single cigarette from the soaked papers and baccy they had.

Just after midnight my parents called and told me to go to the pick up carpark as my dad would walk there and meet me then we’d go and find mum in the car. I was there within moments and was lucky. It was rammed. The cars weren’t moving and if mum got onto the site we’d take literally hours and hours to get out again. So the onyl fair choice was I had to walk to the road where she was, meeting dad en route, and do a u turn to escape. It took over 45 minutes and must have been at least a mile and a half in pouring rain, with heavy and awkward kit, and leaking shoes. No wonder I had flu like symptoms the next day.

But I’m not moaning. It’s just one of those things and for once it worked, we got home at about 2.00 which wasn’t too bad. Next year they’re gonna have to get the earlier matinee performance…

Quotes Of The Day

Annie Hardy, Giant Drag “Don’t set tens on fire and burn people’s faces. Instead, you should open their tents a little, stick your penis in and pee on the person inside. They won’t like it, but they won’t need to go to hospital.”

Annie, again After spitting on the stage repeatedly and phlegmily “Tell the next act to be careful not to slip on my lungbutter.”

This entry has been published using WB’s new Schedule feature to publish entries without me having to be awak to publish them myself. Hopefully it will go up at 23.05…


Leeds 2006 – Saturday

Saturday 26th August 2006

10.12 Is it time to get up?
10.13 Yes.
10.45 The Guardian stand are selling Guardians with free cameras. How nice is that?
11.15 Why are the people in the next tent screaming so much?
11.38 To the arena… slowly.
FIELDS (NME Tent) Delayed by half an hour for no apparent reason but despite being armed with the folkiest instruments on show (12 string guitars) they were loud for a folk band. Pretty good stuff. The keyboardist also struggled on bravely despite having a cold after the band tourbus left her behind at a service station for an hour in her pajamas. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah. They also handed out free CDs which was very nice of them.
13.31 Someone’s got a stick with pictures of Monty Panesar and Fieldmarshall Monty on it.
THE LONG BLONDES (NME Tent) A big crowd for this band and the deserved it. They were stylish, witty and inspired more than a few crowd surfers. How the music industry took so long to sign them is a sign of either cloth eared ignorance or blatant sexism.

SCISSORS FOR LEFTY (Carling Tent) Missed some of their set due to the NME tent being totally out of sync with the listed times but SFL were a bit erratic. They had one truly great sounding song, one which was, frankly, arse, and the rest were a little uncertain. Energetic but hard to say if they’ll amount to anything.
FIELD MUSIC (Carling Tent) Oh, the joys of instrument malfunctions. Unfortunately Field Music just couldn’t overcome them and the set was stilted altough there were flashes to suggest that they might be capable of better. They also complained that their completed new album isn’t out until January. It’s just not going their way at the moment, really.
15.29 There’s a banner over there saying, “Don’t worry, mummy’s here”. No she isn’t, she’s watching this on TV at home.
GOGAL BORDELLO (NME Tent) Talking of my mum, she told me I have to come and see these guys. Cheers mum. Gogol Bordello were ace. There must be somethin innate about this sort of self proclaimed “gypsy punk” as the audience, even those who clearly had never heard them before, were well up for it. Thanks to the mad people next to me who included myself (and as many other audience members as they could grab) in a massive Russian dance to most songs. The madness was only eclipsed by the masness onstage.

16.10 Why do all those branded beach balls keep landing on me?
16.11 Oh, I’m stood next to a man with an Irish flag, that’s why.
16.12 Mmm, beer shower. Clearly anything raised above head height is a fair target. Why anyone would sit on someone else’s shoulders is beyond me unless they are yet to have this epiphany.
16.13 Funnily anough the man with the Irish flag is really Irish. And he’s off to the bar. Hurrah.
PEACHES (NME Tent) In which a 30-something Canadian stomps around stage talking about her sexual prowess whilst removing her clothes yet not appearing to be wearing any less than she started with. The power of layers. Peaches is inexplicably good though, her band are pretty damn good, and not even the inflatable penis seems crass. For the second time this weekend, I am more impressed than I thought I would be.
THE SUNSHINE UNDERGROUND (Claring Tent) Another big-ish crowd in the small tent for these dancey indie types. And again that New Rave tag is bollocks, this lot are simply The Music but a bit more focused and with less OTT songs. This is a good thing. Cowbells a go go.
18.13 I set off for food and decide to give in the to smell of the noodles and try them.
18.18 Damn my unreliable nose, these are clearly inferior to the crepes. No wonder the crepe queue was bigger than the noodle queue.
*BELLE AND SEBASTIAN (Main Stage)*Missed a bit of their set and it’s my bad. The indiest of the indie, turns out B&S are one of those bands (like Super Furry Animals or Ash) who you’d never think of as being the soundtrack of your life but you’ll be gobsmacked by how many of their songs you know. In any case they’ve been together long enough to know how to put on a good show and the girl pulled out of the crowd for ‘Jonathan David’ looked like all her dreams had come true.
18.43 Futher to the big hair comment of yesterday I want all people wearing tweed banned from blocking my view as well.
19.06 The people next to me seem to be arguing in Welsh. I think it’s Welsh. It’s phlegmy and they’re using English words for any concept or invention which is less than 150 years old. That’s Welsh right?
YEAH YEAH YEAHS (Main Stage) Ok, first things first. Karen O is dressed as one of my mum’s cushions. And she’s molesting a bemused and slightly scared looking cameraman. And my god, these are tunes of immense size and power. How the hell they came up with ‘Date With The Night’ I’ll never know but it sounds as huge and I always hoped it would. Rather curely her hairband gets stuck in her hair during ‘Phenomenon’ and she giggles her way through somehow.

Photo from NME.com

19.37 They’re playing The Killers’ ‘All These Things I’ve Done’ from the massive, loud stage speakers. Despite this the audience is singing it badly out of time with both the record and each other. Pay attention choir!
19.48 The people next to me have drawn everyone’s attention to the fact that the Carling papr cups they’ve been served beer in have the Download logo on them. The organisers are useless.
19.50 Colin Murray introduces Chris Moyles who introduces Peter Kaye who introduces…
KAISER CHIEFS (Main Stage) They came dangerously close to overegging their performance with gimmicks and sometimes forced audience interaction, but with a hometown crowd they were never going to lose. Funnily enough, where the album loses steam, live the songs work so much better despite not sounding too dissimilar. It’s hard to say why.
21.07 Festival Highlights footage plays on the big screen. The crowd watch halfheartedly until a girl on screen says “I love the Reading Festival”. Cue mass booing.
21.08 Biggest singalong so far… for the Match Of The Day theme tune.
21.09 Even bigger singalong for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Includes mass moshing. Best song ever clearly.
FRANZ FERDINAND Again, there’s a slight hint of drawing things out to fill the time slot but they carry it off. Borderline preening and strutting are welcome when the songs are good. The massed ranks of drummers at the end was a nice touch as we played “which band are they from?”. All told, a good headlining set.

0.38 Fall asleep to the sound of the people in next tent shouting names at random.

Photo from BBC

Quote Of The Day

My brother Drunk “George Alagiah looks like a Welshman.”

Cymru!


August 29, 2006

Leeds Festival 2006 – Friday

Friday 25th August 2006

6.00 Why are people shouting? Go away, I'm trying to sleep!
10.50 Mmm, tinned Lidl tuna salad for breakfast. Oh, I wish I had a croissant. Or toast. Or anything really.
10.51. Retraction: the Lidl tinned tuna salad is the nicest tinned tuna salad ever! Who'd have thought it?
11.15 First toilet trip of the day. My sinuses are permanently scarred.
11.30 To the arena. In previous years security on the first day has been overly officious and has delayed people getting in by up to an hour. This year the queue goes really quickly and I'm in within ten minutes. Congrats on the much trumpeted new security company.
THE MARSHALS (NME Tent) First band, playing generic indie rock but not making too bad a fist of it. Certainly a pleasant way to start the festival although the guitarist's hair seems to have been inspired by Dave Hill from Slade, crica 1975…
12.35 Big hair should be banned. Or at the very least those who insist on having big hair should be banned from standing in front of me.
METRIC (NME Tent) Ah, the mildly hyped Canadians appear to a larger than usual crowd for this early time slot. They just about justify the hype, certainly the singer is hyperactive and charismatic enough whether she's bounding around stage or assaulting her keyboard. The guitarist looks a bit like the singer from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Photo from BBC

13.15 Right, I'm going to do the impossible and meet someone I've arranged to meet, namely Moz. However I've been looking for ten minutes and, unless he's turned into a teenage girl with a pink rucksack, I've not found him.
13.20 Found him.
TAPES 'N' TAPES (NME Tent) Not too convinced to start off with, it all seems a bit generic. However they get better with each song, seemingly as a result of each song being less and less like you'd expect indie to sound. The guitarist is too far away too see what he looks like.
FORWARD RUSSIA! (NME Tent) Moz askes me before they start to describe what they sound like. The best I can come up with is the drummer wants to be in Franz Ferdinand, the guitarist (who looks like fuzzy felt) wants to be in the post punk 1980s, the singer wants to be in At The Drive–In and the bassist just is. As it happens this is a fairly accurate description as they do very loud, very frantic disco beat indie punk and get away with it by playing in front of a home crowd. Not bad.
DRESDEN DOLLS (NME Tent) Ah, the band both me and Moz have been informed we must see. Well, fair play to those who told us to do so as they were great. Just a hugely talented drummer, a hugely talented pianist/singer, and the you have the only band capable of excellent covers of both the Kaiser Chiefs and Black Sabbath. Their own stuff, so–called cabaret–punk, is awesome too. They don't have a guitarist.

HOPE OF THE STATES (NME Tent) Apart from not playing 'Sing It Out' they don't put a foot wrong. Any band who indulge in instrument swapping are already destined to please me. Also, sod guitarists, violinists are the way forward on this evidence.
16.51 My poor sore feet. I've been stood up for nearly five hours.
16.55 I'm not sure but I think I just saw the ghost of Mo Mowlam.
17.17 Shit, it's raining.
17.30 It's stopped. Now stay stopped, you bastard.
17.35 Mmm, crepe of joy. Food of the gods.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (NME Tent) I suspect there are few BSS fans in the tent as there's disappointingly little crowd reaction, and no one knows what's going on. Epic indie rock, you gimps! Epic of course being the only way to describe the number of people onstage…
18.42 Someone's dropped their payslip on the floor of the Carling Tent. I don't look at the size of the pay packet as I have no money and seeing someone else with cash with bring out the raging communist in me. Down with capitalists. Crepes for all!
KLAXONS (Carling Tent) Well now, the latest NME hype band, the so–called leaders of 'New Rave'. I stand before them and adopt my best 'impress me' pose. Kind of hard in a crowd this big of course. And the first song does nothing to make me any less sceptical, it's just a noise. But then something happens. They play the rest of their set, and it's not rave at all. Rave is a boring one dimensional drone which you need to be on drugs to enjoy. This is great, it's indie you can dance to, but done really really well. It helps that the crowd are up for it too. New Rave is the emperor's new clothes and this lot deserve better. They could be big.

It wasn't this sort of klaxon.

19.43 Mmm, Nepali corn on the cob. At £2 a cob, this could be the most cost effective food on site.
19.44 Bloody hell, Brian Molko's bald!
PLACEBO (Main Stage) In which Placebo do a set in which they sound exactly like they do on record. But I mean that in a good way, they always do and it's a big enough crowd pleaser for this time of day.

Photo from BBC

21.00 The tent DJ plays 'Milkshake' by Kelis. Indie kids, emo–ers and assorted others dance awkwardly.
21.29 Hi Sophie, didn't know you were here. Random spot one.
HOT CHIP (Carling Tent) That'll be geeks with laptops then. Like Kraftwerk if they were students at a provincial university (say, Warwick) Hot Chip manage to improve some songs live but make others seem a little less exciting than they do on record. It's a strange inconsistency, but in the end it's a good set.

Photo from NME.com

22.26 There's a naked man balancing on his mate's shoulders. Poor mate.
MAXIMO PARK (NME Tent) Ah, the northern headliners at the northern leg. The tent is rammed so I perch on the metal railings just outside and am rewarded with a really really good view. Lucky thing as Paul Smith must be watched carefully as he falls all over the stage, reads a book, and generally poses. In what appears to be a trillby. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but watching and listening to Maximo Park is like seeing Pulp reincarnated. We need this in our lives.
23.02 Stumble home to bed. No stamina. I suck. So glad I have these ear plugs…

Quotes Of The Day

Amanda Palmer, Dresden Dolls (Introducing a cover of Kaiser Chief's 'Everyday...') "Ok, I want you to dance and clap. Do what British people do… throw beer at each other."

Paul Smith (Maximo Park) (Removing his ear plugs) "I was trying to protect me but hearing but I'm going to go deaf with the rest of you. Who wants some more deaf?


Leeds Festival 2006 – Thursday

Ah, the Leeds Festival, a chance to see bands, stand in a field and indulge in the ritual group shouting of "BOLLOCKS!" Truly I have no greater purpose on this earth. Here follows a true and only mildly hyperbolic account of how I came to have sore calf muscles, a bad cold and a head full of the music. Yes.

Thursday 24th August 2006

The plan was quite simple, get up and be ready to leave for 11.10am. We'd then arrive gracefully and set up our tents before drinking fine ales and recounting stories of a convivial variety. My brother, henceforth referred to as Kyle, as this is his name, thought that 9am would be a good time to get up.

9.15 I am aware of the time but am undecided as to whether I want to get up. I don't.
9.30 Just five more minutes.
9.45 And by five I mean fifteen. But I'm up. Just.
10.15 Time to try on my festival shoes, my Doc Martens boots which I don't seem to wear that much for some reason.
10.15.30 Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, the PAIN! Ok, that's why I don't wear them! They hurt.
11.30 Richard, our driver, has arrived and we set off. Hurrah! Now we can sally forth into adventure.
12.45 We are making quite excellent progress.
13.05 Bollocks. Traffic jam of doom.
13.24 More doom.
13.42 Doomy doomy doom doom. Have we even moved since 13.05?
14.36 We throw good manners to the wind and cheat by driving in the wrong lane and going round roundabouts several times to get ahead of the queues. It's unethical but when you've been in the car this long ethics are void.
15.15 We're here! We set off to find the tents that the people who arrived earlier set up.
15.15.10 Where are the others?
15.20 Not here.
15.22 Still not here. This is a big arsed campsite, as this photo that someone else took shows:

I wish I hadn't left my camera in Somerset.
15.41 Seriously, where are they?
16.10 Oh, here they are. Right in the middle of the most crowded campsite. At least you can't smell the toilets from here. Anyway, time to erect tent.
16.25 Done. My slowest tent erection time in years. But at least, unlike Kyle and Richard, I've managed to erect my tent successfully and without delays caused by trying to use components from two differently shape tents. They respond by nicking some of my tent pegs.
16.40 Yey now I have a Greek flag. Kyle points out that a nearby tent to us has the phrase "Greeks get out" written on it in gaffa tape.

17.30 Back to the car for the rest of the stuff. I have my evil Doc Martens and a bag of food. Kyle and Richard have about 28 bags. Each.
19.23 Walk past a tent which is making Street Fighter noises.
19.40 Go to arena for the lowkey first night entertainment. There's a band on in the Comedy and Cabaret Tent. They're called the Quiet Kill and spend the five minutes we watch them ending a song. Or maybe that is the entirety of the song. Or the entirety of the set. Just big, cymbal landen endings. Whatever it is, it's shite so we leave.
20.57 The men in the next gazebo are singing pro–Lancashire songs. They'll be lucky not to get set on by the locals if they keep that up.
22.10-22.25 Search for extra blanket. It's freezing! However I am wearing my torch glasses (like the Orbital wore) and have a great time watching the people I walk past look on in amazement. Or fear. Comments include "It's the Terminator", "Mind the headlights", and one somewhat fearful girl saying "It's coming right for me".

The Orbital glasses in action... on the Orbital.
22.31 The people in the next gazebo have assigned most of our group new names. I am R2D2 for the glasses. There's also Anastacia and Pete Doherty. If this was for real that would be a good party.
22.45 Knackered. Bed.


August 20, 2006

Two Years?

Intercepted message from two government departments, recorded this morning, 20th August 2006, using an mp3 player with a microphone built in.

Personally I find it hard two believe that after two years this blog has still not been shut down and its owner thrown in jail for a bazillion years. The crap which she writes has been polluting the impressionable minds of our youth for two long, and she has been sparking debate amongst people who would otherwise have allowed their brains to cease to perform higher functions thus making it easier for the Evil Conspiracy Which Wants Two Rule Us AllTM two do so.

Hollyzone must be stopped!

If we act now we can possibly stamp out this danger but it could well be two late. Two years have passed now and already she is more powerful than we hoped… in fact we had money on her losing interest within a month and a half.

But now it might be two late.

It is two late. It's been two late for a long long time...

Mwhahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!


August 18, 2006

Have A Nice Day (You Twat)

We don't do service in this country. To the extent that when Brits in America are told by staff over there to "have a nice day" they are, in the most part, immediately consumed by a curious combination of paranoia and loathing – how dare these customer service drones lie through their teeth at me! What do they want from me? The answer rather obviously is your money with the minimum of hassle.

But at least it's expected over there. Here it just sounds absurd, the bored teenagers in the service sector don't care if you have a nice day or not and who can blame them? They're paid peanuts and can probably be divided into two groups – those who've been ASBOed with any consideration for why they are doing the things which get them ASBOed (maybe due to lack of opportunity or something to do), or they've just got their GCSE/A level results only for a bunch of sanctimonious pricks to come along and declare that the exams are so easy now that there's no point praising the youth of today regardless of the fact that they've been through a stressful exam period. Plus most of the sanctimonious pricks can't even program a video machine nevermind tackle the vast array of real life devices which youngsters master so easily.

Rare are the people in this country in service sector or face–to–face with the public jobs who can muster a bit of life into how they speak.It does make life a little nicer when you do encounter them though. Earlier I was on a train which bombarded us with the usual bored sounding drivers and guards (can anyone make the somewhat neutral word "tickets" sound more depressing than a train guard?) when the train shop assistant piped up.

Lawks–a–daisy guv'nor, 'e was a right Cock–er–nee geezer.* Bantering away he talked up the one remaining hamburger in the shop before showing a tremendous insight into the human soul by offering a train full of Friday travellers, many clearly office workers, a nice cold beer. He signed finished with the wonderful insistence that he "looked forward to serving each and every one of you lovely people, though don't all rush now as I've already got quite a crowd here". Glancing around the carriage I noticed that those people not connected to their iPods were smiling at the monologue. The gruesome reality of shouting children and the annoying laptops (declaring "You've got mail! It's not Spam!" in a false "Have a nice day voice") soon dragged everyone down to the level of mild sociopathology, but it was nice to hear someone who seemed to give a little more of a damn about us than everyone else in the service sector.

Would it be better if more people did this? It could make it less special to hear more genuine bubbliness. It's also asking a hell of a lot of people on £5.05/hour when a house costs £150,000 in a crap area. For it to work the customers would have to be nicer… which they won't be as being rude to customer service drones is the only legitimate opportunity to be rude to people to their faces these days (it seems), and there's a slightly unhealthy catharsis attached to this by the majority of people.

When I worked in the service sector I didn't find £5.05 enough to make me want to be different all the time. Sometimes I would be nice just to confuse people. It works particularly well on the unreasonably angry people, the niceness just stops them in their tracks. Thinking about it, it's probably best to keep charm, wit and individuality in reserve for these moments…

*I noticed he had a strong east London accent.


August 10, 2006

Calcio – The Most Interesting Book A Football Fan Can Read Today

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

I don't normally write reviews, but I don't often read non–history books and I know people don't really want to read about history books. But Calcio: A History Of Italian Football by John Foot is my current read and it is exactly described in the title of this article – it is the most interesting book a football fan can read today.

Like watching Fight Club or The Sixth Sense when you already know the ending, Calcio makes the perfect companion to the current troubles in Italian football. Names which anyone following the hilarious exploits of Juve, Lazio, Fiorentina and Milan will recognise keep popping up in curiously prescient scenarios, from long standing rumours of Juve's power of referees to the schemes and history of Luciano Moggi, the man behind much of the current crisis.

At 500+ pages it seems daunting but it's been written in nice, easy to digest, chapters which present things thematically. As a follower of English football it's also interesting to see how Italians stories meet English ones – from the failures of most British players who went over there, to the fact that Italians regarded England as the big rivalry for a long long time, they are worse at penalty shootouts than we are, and think England cheated in 1966.

I'm not very good at reviewing books so just go and read it, ok?


August 03, 2006

Premiership 2006–07 – What Will Happen

Hi everyone, welcome to Hollyzone's Completely 110% Accurate Football Season Prediction ArticleTM which will tell you exactly what's going to happen in this season's footballing action. Just find your team (or one you hate) and bask in the knowledge that you can impress friends with your seemingly psychic tips on what will happen. William Hill and Ladbrokes are quaking in their boots as we speak!

Arsenal

After being hit by several major players retiring, or just becoming old and shit, Arsenal decide to only employ players born after 14th April 1987. Led by "Old Man" Theo Walcott, the squad do surprisingly well for most of the season, especially from Boxing Day onwards, a fact which is attributed to the entire squad getting new boots off their mums for Christmas. Unfortuntely Arsenal have to forfeit several games in April and May due to the heavy workload of the squad's GCSEs.

Arsene Wenger fails to see the entire season.
Final Placing 6th.

Aston Los Angeles Villa

Aston Vila start the season with new owners after being bought by the men behind the LA Lakers. Like the Lakers, Villa are moved to LA from Villa Park which proves a nightmare to their fans but quite nice for Roman Abramovich. In November club captain Gareth Barry leaves after receiving an offer of a major role in Pirates Of The Caribbean 3. LA Villa narrowly avoid relegation on the last day after a special effects packed final match against Bolton although there are claims that at least three of their four goals are CGI.

Roy Aitken is replaced by Robert De Niro in October.
Final Placing 17th

Blackburn

Blackburn celebrate pesuading Liverpool to sign Craig Bellamy by being linked to other such nice, calm, not sulky players like Nicholas Anelka, Christian Vieri and Angelica from Rugrats. Eventually they don't sign any of these players and instead settle for signing the entire Australian national team… which considering Vieri spent many years in Australia makes him seem like the perfect Blackburn player does it not?

Mark Hughes gets mistaken for David Hasslehoff and the tanned American student hero spends February on the bench at Ewood Park until someone spots the switch.
Final Placing 5th

Bolton

Having not got the England job Big Sam "Allerdyce" commiserates himself with eleven new free signing all aged over 32. When they play Arsenal the average age of the players on the pitch is 25 despite there being no players on the pitch actually in their 20s. Eventually in his remorseless pursuit of the most modern methods Big Sam has his entire body replaced with cybernetic implants. This still does not get him the England job even though Steve McLaren leads England to four 8–0 defeats in his first five games.

Stelios Giannakopoulos and Jussi Jääskeläinen come to blows in May about who has the harder to spell name.
Final Position 9th

Charlton Athletic

Charlton announce they will be taking on their most successful team in years and set them up for new challenges. As it turns out this means they are going to mostly use their women's team instead of their men's team in the Premiership. Incredibly they are top of the table until mid–November at which point the FA rules that it is ok to kick girls. The following day Steve Sidwell, playing for Reading, is the first player to actually tackle a Charlton player. Unfortunately the player he tackles is Hermann Hreiğarsson (one of three players who has been wearing drag all season to get a game) who is hard. Sidwell suffers a broken foot.
Final Position 12th

Chelsea

After buying every single footballer in the entire universe, Chelsea are forced to loan most of them out to cut a wage bill higher than France's GDP. Unfortunately an overzealous administration means that on the first day of the season too many players have been loaned out leaving Mourinho to face Manchester City with just Cech, Terry, Ballack and Drogba. They still win 2–0. A reshuffle of the squad eventually sorts the situation out and Chelsea proceed to win the league comfortably only losing to Manchester United and Reading. They fail to win the Champion's League after being forced to play a good team.

Mourinho sulks for a whole month in June after failing to win Most Annoying Manager in the league – "I am the best and should win everything", moans the Portugese sore loser.
Final Position 1st

Everton

Everton decide to perfectly replicate the previous season and do so, winning exactly the same number of games, with exactly the same scorelines. This however means they are forced to forfeit six games after refusing the recognise that Reading, Sheffield Utd and Watford are actually in the Premiership.

David Moyes… is.
Final Position 14th

Fulham

After drawing 0–0 with Real Madrid, Fulham are immediately made the bookies favourites to win the league, the FA cup, the Carling cup, the Champions' League, the UEFA cup, the Ashes, the Six Nations, the Ryder cup and at least two BAFTAs.Manager Chris Coleman tries to play down expectations by running around west London screaming "we're all going to DIE!" after watching Armageddon on DVD. In the hype no one notices a massive £8m bet being put on Fulham to finish 13th by a Mr A. al–Fayed. They eventually finish 13th. No one at Real Madrid returns their calls.

Chris Coleman eventually calms down after being shown Notting Hill.
Final Position 13th

Liverpool

After a long series of negotiations it is decided to move Liverpool's Champions' League qualifier with Maccabi Hafia for reasons of safety. The game eventually goes ahead in Doncaster with the relieved Israelis saying they were terrified at the thought of going to the City Of Culture 2008. "They might make us watch Ken Dodd" said one Hafia fan, "Much scarier than Hizbullah". Liverpool then spend the rest of the season teaching their players to speak Spanish, leading to 90% of the squad getting A*–C in Spanish in their GCSEs. Stephen Gerrard gets a A** because everyone besan su vago. Damn, now I'm doing it!

Liverpool's love affair with the media will continue with all the intensity of Sven Goran Ericksson meeting a new secretary.
Final Position 3rd

Manchester City

Another season of hard grafting although the defensive problems appear to have been solved by the news that club captain Richard Dunne has had his 'rock of defence' reputation taken seriously, and has now been carved into the shape of a deity in an Amazonian religion. It is hoped that the worshipping tribes people will create enough distraction in the penalty area to ensure City do not leak any goals as opposing attackers risk a dart to the neck for upsetting the deity.

It is estimated that in the coming season there will be approximately 4,680,000 uses of the popular claim that more Mancunians support Manchester City than support Manchester United. This claim has yet to be proven by anyone with any scientific methods.
Final Position 15th

Manchester United

Building on their second place last year (which for any other team would be a good result but is clearly the worst thing of all time ever if you're Manchester United) Manchester United were hit by a series of internal problems as manager Sir Alex Ferguson fell out with everyone at the the club, most seriously with striker Louis Saha (for not liking Ribena), midfield duo John O'Shea (for preferring West Wing to Lost) and Paul Scholes (for having small eyes), as well as defender Rio Ferdinand (for taking the hat piece in Monopoly), club mascot Fred the Red (for being fictional), owners the Glazers (for being American), celebrity fan Mick Hucknall (for being responsible for Simply Red's back catalogue) and Lord Byron (for being dead).

Despite all this Manchester United still finished second after giving Chelsea towards the end of the season… by creeping up behind them and going "BOO!".
Final Position 2nd

Middlesborough

After having it pointed out to them that they quite often beat big teams, Middlesborough started the season with a new strategy – to beat everyone. Within three games this had been abandoned as "boring" and the more exciting, relegation dodging plan was adopted. However in this neverending pursuit of exciting football 'Boro neglected to notice that just because it is exciting to see Arsenal beat you 27–0 the league placings aren't decided on excitement levels and 'Boro went down with a goal difference of –3, much of it a result of their shock 73–0 defeat of Chelsea.

Gareth Southgate later appeared in a self depracating advert for Pizza Hut which joked about those 27–0 defeats.
Final Position 18th

Newcastle United

Deprived of Alan Shearer and Sunderland, Newcastle spent the entire season looking around, saying "who are we?" and having existential crises. "All great art, and today all great artlessness, must appear extreme to the mass of men, as we know them today." asked Kieron Dyer in homoage to Alexander Trocchi. Quoting Sartre, new signing Damien Duff added "Acting is a question of absorbing other people's personalities and adding some of your own experience" to which Jean–Alain Boumsong added "I think therefore I am… except I don't really think much, hence why I am rubbish".

Former star Alan Shearer is believed to called the whole atmosphere "a load of bollocks".
Final Position 7th

Portsmouth

With their lovely new cash injection from baby Abramovich, Alexandre Gaydamak, Portsmouth set about emulating their west London rivals by attempting to buy everyone. Unfortunately everyone had already been bought by Chelsea. Instead Gaydamak invested several million pounds in moving Fulham down to the coast so Portsmouth could have Chelsea's local rivals if not their success and players. New manager Joe Simon Rinio (say it aloud) said he was the best thing since sliced bread and that within the next seven or eight decades Portsmouth would be challenging Real Madrid for the Champions' League. Real were said to be "sceptical".
Final Position 8th

Reading

The Championship champions were in their first ever season in the top division and duly spent the whole year admiring the view and cooing about how nice it was up there, although the air was a bit thin and the other teams were a bit good sometimes. In fact it wasn't like the Championship, was it Steve? It was different back there, oh yes, you used to travel to much less nice stadiums than this. Stadia? Is that the fancy word you use in this division? Get you. Well, it's all very nice up here, and look! There's Frank Lampard, let's go and ask for his autograph, do excuse us.

It's ever so exciting.
Final Position 16th

Sheffield United

Despite being able to piss on Wednesday from a great height, United were unable to maintain much presence, partly due to the fact that their manager was roughly 3972 times more interesting than the rest of the squad put together. Whilst Neil Warnock managed to piss off more people than Jose Mourinho, in full tapping up mode, at a convention of Arsenal supporters, his players didn't do much at all for the whole season, pausing only to demonstrate… something… we weren't reall paying attention at the time sorry.
Final Position 19th

Tottenham Hotspur

After having keeled over en masse with the squits to lose the fourth spot to Arsenal, Tottenham have employed much stricter culinary regimes which involve the use of White Hart Lane as an organic farm with animals being moved on match days, rather like how they move the cows off the Glastonbury site whenever the festival is there. Describing his new role as head chef, Didier Zokora said "It is better for one of us to cook as we do not want to poison ourselves, do we?" as he poured out the pan of boiling hot baked beans which club waiters Robbie Keane and Calum Davenport took out to the rest of the team. Reports that Young–Pyo Lee's "Fido Surprise" was the most popular dish have been denied.

Martin Jol has two brothers called Cock and Dick Jol. I am not making this up.
Final Position 4th

Watford

Are you ready, are you ready for love?

Yes I am

Are you, are you ready, are you ready for love?

Yes I am

Are you, are you ready, are you ready for love?
Final Position 20th

West Ham United

With the news that they are now the least hated team in London, West Ham began a hearts and minds campaign aimed at winning the hearts and overloading the minds of their opponents. By incorporating magic eye images into their shirts and advertising hoardings, West Ham were able to leave opposition players stood stock still trying to work out if it was a boat or a pigeon they were meant to be seeing, whilst Marlon Harewood used the distractions to become the league's top scorer. Unfortunately they were unable to use their plans away from home and wibbled around in midtable as a result.

Manager Alan Pardew commented on the season that "it wasn't a boat or a pigeon, it was a picture of Bobby Moore all along".
Final Position 10th

Wigan Athletic

The underdogs who always get away with it. Despite a lack of evidence Wigan ended the season suspected of being behind a series of bank raids resulting in millions of pounds being stolen. Announcing the signing of Ronaldinho in January for a British record £50m, manager Paul Jewell denied any actual armed robbery was behind the Brazilian's signing, saying "he liked the irony of a landlocked town having a pier and had play for us".

Despite spending the entire year trying to leave, Pascal Chimbonda was still a Wigan player at the end of the season.
Final Position 11th


August 02, 2006

1990s Most Influential Music?

Whilst browsing the big black CDs in my parents' house (I think they call them 'vinyl') a thought crept up on me from behind and stole my socks – the 1990s, eh? Who was the most influential band?

Yeah, it's been six and a half years since it ended, possibly a little too early to assess its influence, but I think the 1990s might be turning out differently than those who lived through it thought it would. I wondered, amongst those big black CDs and missing socks, who were the most influential British bands of the decade? The conclusion was a little surprising. To my mind, looking at music today, it looks like being a competition between Radiohead, the Spice Girls and Pulp.

Firstly let me explain why other major bands are absent. Oasis and Blur hold the iconic status for the decade. But who did they really influence? Many bands talk of their love for Oasis but very few sound anything like them, those that do are the likes of Proud Mary or Hurricane #1… who? Exactly! Those bands now who remind me of Oasis aren't all that inspiring – Kasabian lack their wit and diversity (yeah, I know I'm using "diversity" to describe Oasis) but have the attitude, others claim to love Oasis but sound nothing like them. Blur have also got very few real groupies. The Dears and Kaiser Chiefs are the only two I can think of, taking very different parts of Blur's catalogue as their touchstones ('This Is A Low' and 'Parklife' respectively). But who is today's most Blur–like act? Graham Coxon probably. Mmm.

It's the same with a lot of 1990s bands, loved but it's hard to hear their influence in bands at the moment – The Verve, Catatonia, Super Furry Animals, Manic Street Preachers, none have had succesful followers, merely bands who say they liked them who sounds very little like them (would you ever guess that The Automatic are big Manics fans?).

It's broadly true in pop as well. Cheesy dance music, rave and techno don't sound much like the dance music we have today. The charts just lack the identikit trance songs which flooded the late 1990s. And don't say Take That to me. Boy bands are not a 1990s creation, New Kids On The Block were definitely late 1980s.

So, Radiohead, the Spice Girls and Pulp… the UK's most influential?

Radiohead

It's actually Coldplay's fault. But they did take advantage of Radiohead forcing open the door to sensitively voiced boys with guitars to sing about feelings. The Bends is responsible. In itself this is not bad thing, The Bends is great and so is some of Coldplay's better stuff. But Coldplay showed record companies that this sort of music could sell and sell without turning the band into paranoid electronica freaks. Look at what record companies throw at us now. It's not hard to see how you can get from 'Fake Plastic Trees' to James Blunt. All it requires is all enigma, originality and sharp edges being removed, which is what big record companies do. They declaw innovation to make it safe for the mass markets and a hell of a lot of music in the supermarkets today is declawed Radiohead.

The Spice Girls

Doesn't it say a lot that Girls Aloud not One True Voice are the Popstars: The Rivals survivors? It's not really about gender. It's the style of music, where boybands spewed ballady bollocks all over the charts, the Spice Girls usually opted fot the more upbeat music. Sound like anyone in the charts? Girls Aloud? Sugababes? It was a natural response to indie going pop with Britpop that pop had to raise its game, be more upfront and interesting.

If those lessons were partially forgotten in the late 1990s/early 2000s it was because indie lost its poppy edge. Since indie got back into the charts we've seen the rise of Girls Aloud and Sugababes, as well as increased interest in American versions like Destiny's Child/Beyonce and Gwen Stefani's solo career. Yes, American music tastes do impact over here but there are a lot of American bands and pop acts which succeed over there and fail to get big here (Dave Matthews Band, 98 Degrees, All American Rejects) most likely because they just fail to suit the mood of the British markets.

Pulp

They're getting a lot of attention at the moment as a couple of their albums are being reissued, and the music scene in Sheffield has woken up. Less influential than Radiohead and the Spive Girls, but Pulp seem to share a lot of modern indie's main features – a late 1970s/early 1980s indebted music, regional accents, lyrical astuteness, and an increasing disregard about what's cool and who's an outsider. Whilst Maximo Park are the closest to Pulp, you can hear obvious influence in The Futureheads, Arctic Monkeys, Young Knives, Franz Ferdinand. And whilst Liam Gallagher seems more a parody of himself each day, Jarvis Cocker is still lucid and relevant in interviews.

So that's my thoughts. I'd like to know what others think, of course.


August 01, 2006

A Leash For Your Deputy

You can wibble all you like about Tony Blair and his seeming idolising of Maggie "fuck off and die poor people" Thatcher, but I can reveal to you all that careful psychological profiling carried out by Hollyzone (on a delayed train no less) has concluded that Blair does not hold Thatcher has his guiding light in all areas.

Ok, he does a bit. But there's also clear evidence of the influence of Julius Caesar. Sadly this has not yet extended to a hilarious invasion of France, but the influence is rather in the manner of learning from Caesar's mistakes than copying them. It's simple. How much of Brutus do you see in John Prescott? Not much? Very little? Bugger all? All the questions being asked about why the hell Blair is keeping Prescott on are answered when you consider that history has demonstrated the danger of leaving someone with any degree of ambition or competence in charge of your kingdom whilst you go away. Richard I saw John attempt to seize control of England whilst he was on crusade. Caesar got the sharp end of Brutus's objections. Beware the deputy.

I like Prescott in some ways. I like how utterly working class he can be when he forgets his position, lashing out and speaking nonsense despite knowing (in theory) what he thinks he's talking about. It adds a human dimension to the political machine. The news that he had an affair didn't bother me, it happens. What bothers me is when he orders building on the green belt and can't sort those goddam trains.

But whilst everyone else scratches their heads at the staying power of the man from Hull with lightning reflexes (at least when presented with wearers of appalling mullets throwing eggs), Blair grins, knowing that Prescott won't do anything in his absence like run the country better or try and cease power. He is the perfect leader, in the manner of self preservationist leaders who wish to maintain their positions. Prescott is the perfect dumb cypher, a man whose abilities would never allow him to rise to such a height under his own steam, but whose status as a kind of vacuum of ideas means he is the safest pair of hands around to ensure Blair's position. However as MPs and government are meant to be elected to represent not rule us, this does seem a bit morally dodgy, as if Blair places preserving power over the good of the country. But surely that's not true is it Mr Caesar?

I mean Blair. Damn.


August 2006

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