All entries for December 2005

December 30, 2005

Snow, Glorious Snow, White And Crisp And… Where?

Everywhere in the country people are rejoicing at the snow! It falls in fluffy white clumps, enchanting children and trapping road-users . The weathermen and women smile as they give us more news about more snow, and everyone runs out, ecstatic at the fact that most of us appear to have days off. People sledge and build snowmen and throw snow balls and take pretty pictures to send to the BBC website like the one below by Richard Hodgkisson (crediting my sources like a proper student).

So what's it like in Cheshire?

It's not snowed here once.

It's been frosty, it's been cold and overcast and slippy and the roads aren't working properly and we're all catching colds. But snow? Apparently there was some last night. Although that might have been rain as it lasted 2.6 minutes and didn't settle. And no one actually saw it.

They said we might get some today so I awoke this morning ready to join the nation in bobble hatted snow hurling fun, threw my curtains open… to see the drizzle. Gone was the white layer of the frost. Gone was any hope of snow, even if it does fall, settling on the sodden earth. My sources report snow in the souh, in the midlands, in the northeast, in Scotland, in Wales. But the northwest? No, we don't get snow, we get rain. Rain, rain, rain.

Rain.

I hate Cheshire sometimes...


December 29, 2005

That Crisis

Follow-up to Crisis, What Crisis? from Hollyzone

Manchester United 2 - 2 Birmingham City

On comes Ole Solskjaer with mere minutes to go and Man Utd desperate for a goal… and he doesn't score in the last minute.

Ok, now I know there's a crisis.


December 28, 2005

The Worst Britons Ever

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4560716.stm

Sod those boring lists that appear in their droves at this time of year, here's a proper list. The Ten Worst Britons Ever!

One per century and chosen for a variety of reasons, I think this is one of the few genuinely interesting lists published recently. I would. I'm a historian and a waste of space. But it is a fascinating set of characters and reasoning.

I wil point out now that I'm an early modern/modern historian and haven't really got much indepth knowledge about anything predating 1600. Hence the first few get the benefit (ahem) of my opinions but the others don't (barring one). I am recognising my limits before I shoot my mouth off and make a fool of myself. This is a novelty as we are all aware.

1900 to 2000: Oswald Mosley (1896-1980)
He wanted to sell us to Hitler, was a racist, a fascist and an all round nasty guy. He was also good at one thing which appears to be a major criteria on this list – he divided the country. I know that members of my own family were on opposing sides over him, some were in the fascist party and some would go out and pick fights with the fascists.

It's quite a political choice. It's certainly very "right-on", picking someone who we, as enlightened 21st century types and all that, should be opposed to. He didn't do anything personally which was as bad as some of the others on this list, but he stood for something pretty bad.

Of course this asks whether we should have put the likes of Edward VIII on the list for being the potential fascist monarch had Germany won WWII?

1800 to 1900: Jack the Ripper
We don't even know who he was and he didn't kill as many people as a lot of later killers (though they were pretty gross killings). He might not even have been one person. But he's a symbol. A proper 'bad' Briton because we can attach any number of beliefs to him, he's an utterly unknown entity and therefore can be held up to represent what we like.

The century had other villians. The exploitative nameless hordes who Dickens was fighting through his literature, the slave owners of the start of the century, the men (including Kitchener) who invented the concentration camps of the Boer War. But none hold the power of the Ripper despite the lessons to be learned from them being greater. If Mosely is a good political choice, then the Ripper is a folklore choice.

1700 to 1800: Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)
A regional villian. The English (and to an extent the Welsh and Irish) have few reasons to dislike Cumblerland but for the Scottish he was a symbol of all that was done to wrong them. In a millennium in which the two biggest of Britain's countries were often to be found slaughtering each other (and stealing each other's sheep), Cumberland is arguably one of the cruellest of the oppressors, especially as he was acting in a supposed period of Enlightenment.

4. 1600 to 1700: Titus Oates (1649-1705)
A little unfair I think. Oates started a rumour which lead to Catholic persecution but he was a drunk and a lot of important people (including the king, Charles II) didn't believe him. But he fulfills the divisiveness category that is a feature of the list.

This century is in fact a tricky one to deal with. A lot of people (including the never-normally-united hardcore Royalists and Irish) would probably name Cromwell as a bad Briton for his overthrow of the monarchy and his oppressions in Ireland. But some (British) Republicans praise him as a good example and he gets a statue outside parliament in London so it might be bad form to condemn him. Equally his opponebnt Charles I was a quite spectacularly rubbish monarch – he was useless, arrogant and borderline despotic at times. The Irish could equally name William III as a villian though that's a borderline case as he was Dutch despite being king of England and Scotland.

1500 to 1600: Sir Richard Rich (Lord Rich of Leighs) (1496/7-1567)
An interesting and somewhat obscure choice, Rich was a constant self promoter and turncoat who was operating at a time of turbulence and chaos. He probably deserves the title for his repeated treacherousness and general nastiness.

And he has a silly name.

1400 to 1500: Thomas Arundel (1353-1414)
Persecuted the Lollards who turned out to be quite sensible religious reformers. Religious persecution = bad.

1300 to 1400: Hugh Despenser (The Younger) (died 1326)
Played the fourteenth century politics game by having enemies killed and acquiring land unfairly. Got his comeuppance.

1200 to 1300: King John (1167-1216)
A very trad villian though possibly not much worse than other monarchs who killed rivals or ruled badly. I'd like to know more about him because I feel his century might have other villians beyond this one which we (to be honest) are most famillar with from the stories of Robin Hood.

1100 to 1200: Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (c.1120-1170)
Bad bishop? Often seen as a wronged man, his murder apparently brought Henry II out in fits of remorse despite the survey chosing Becket for causing divisions by arguing with Henry. This is the first time I've heard a negative overview of him although (as I've said) I'm no medevialist.

1000 to 1100: Eadric Streona (died 1017)
Betrayed Britain to the monarch with the funniest name ever (if you're immature), Cnut. Wonder if he wore FCUK?

I think, as with a lot of things about history, this says a lot more about the present than the past. Would these have been the villians a century ago? Will they be the villans in a century's time? The verdict appears to be racism and stirring division (especially religious division) is bad, with dishonest (or rather unsporting) self advancement another bad sin. So in the end, have a stiff upper lip, don't argue in public and stop being overtly in it for yourself to avoid the list. That's the most British thing I've heard in ages.

bq.They say the next big thing is here/That the revolution's near/But to me it seems quite clear/That it's all just a little bit of history repeating

It's my blog and I can quote Shirley Bassey if I want!


December 25, 2005

Festive?

Merry Christmas.

Every single radio in the house is playing a different Christmas song. All I want for Christmas is a little quiet...

The good news is that we have family and food. And later, sleep.


December 22, 2005

Crisis, What Crisis?

Ok, just to clarify, Manchester United are second in the league with £500 million of debt trailing only a team which has billions of pounds spare. We are in the FA Cup and the League Cup semis, the latter having been reached safely and without any scares. We have two of the top scorers in the league so far this season, including the actual top scorer in Ruud van Nistlerooy. We pull in crowds of over 65,000 regularly at home. We've actually beaten Chelsea this year.

  • Arsenal are twenty points adrift and stumbling.
  • Everton have forgotten how to defend.
  • Newcastle have only just remembered how to score.
  • Bolton aren't as tenacious as last year.
  • Even Chelsea have been derided for being dull and not living up to their undoubted potential.

Yes, I am aware that we've had the Roy Keane saga (I was with Keano on that one) and are out of Europe (ho hum) but seriously, how the hell are Man Utd in crisis? I don't get it, I just don't. The only teams which are having better seasons than us are Chelsea (big surprise), Liverpool the European champions, and Spurs, who can be said to be having a great year by their standards but are still not doing as well as us. It's not even answered by my usual not-paranoid-because-they-are-out-to-get-us belief that everyone hates Man Utd and wants to write nasty things, this goes beyond that into the realms of the tabloids trying to create a self fulfilling prophecy of our downfall.

Sure, we're not a preeminent power these days. But we're not struggling, it's not like last time when, five years after winning the European Cup we got relegated to Division 2. And if you really want my opinion it is this – our three mistakes were failing to replace Schmeichal until now, selling Jaap Stam, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer getting injured just when we needed him the most (i.e. all the time).

If you're going to comment then either leave constructive criticism or, if you must take a pop at Man Utd, please write something witty, original and interesting. I have heard most anti-Man Utd stuff before and won't get wound up. Being a true fan is seeing the need for criticism sometimes, but I'm also intolerant of pathetic losers who just flame Man Utd.


December 21, 2005

Holly's 2005 Musical Charts – Tracks

And still she rants about music...

This was meant to be a simple top twenty. But then I got stuck. I realised a lot of the best songs were by a very small number of bands. This made the list look a little unrepresentative of what's really made me listen this year. Maybe I'm just worried I'll look like a musical ghetto, where kids with guitars roam free taking potshots at any interlopers who prefer something a little different. That's not how we run the Hollyzone. So there are two lists, one of the twenty best and one with the twenty best where only one song is allowed per act. Choon!

Twenty Best Songs (one track per act)

  1. Arcade Fire - 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)'
    "And the power's out/In heart of man/Take from your heart/Put it in your hand"
  2. Bloc Party - 'Pioneers'
    "So here we are reinventing the wheel/I'm shaking hands with a hurricane/It's a colour that I can't describe/It's a language I can't understand"
  3. Athlete - 'Wires'
    "First night of your life/Curled up on your own/Looking at you now/You would never know"
  4. Elbow - 'Leaders Of The Free World'
    "The leaders of the free world are just little boys throwing stones/And it's easy to ignore till they're knocking on the doors of your homes"
  5. Franz Ferdinand - 'This Boy'
    "This boy's so spectacular/Not a boy but a wealthy bachelor/Yes I am spectacular"
  6. Hard Fi - 'Cash Machine'
    "No no this can't be right/I live an honest life/It seems like sometimes/You don't cross the line/You don't get by"
  7. The Rakes - '22 Grand Job'
    "This girl from work looks alright/But the lights are too bright/Bloke in sales likes her too/What am I supposed to do?/But he's earning 28/And I'm on 22"
  8. British Sea Power - 'Please Stand Up'
    "It seemed as if the streets had melted/It seemed as if the air was scented/I wish all of time could be like this"
  9. Idlewild - 'Love Steals Us From Loneliness'
    "Every step takes a beat of your heart/Through a city that's falling apart"
  10. Editors - 'Munich'
    "People are fragile things/You should know by now/Be careful what you put them through"
  11. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - 'This Home On Ice'
    "Should I trust all the rust that's on TV?"
  12. Arctic Monkeys - 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'
    "Stop making eyes at me/I'll stop making eyes at you"
  13. Maximo Park - 'Apply Some Pressure'
    "You know that I would love to see you Next Year/I hope that I'm still alive Next Year"
  14. Girls Aloud - 'Biology'
    "Were gonna cause a controversy"
  15. Audio Bullys and Nancy Sinatra - 'Shot Me Down'
    "My baby shot me down"
  16. Kaiser Chiefs - 'Oh My God'
    "You work in shirt with your name tag on it/Drifting apart like a plate tectonic"
  17. Kelly Clarkson - 'Since U Been Gone'
    [The lyrics are a bit crap to be honest, it's more the principle of the bellowing style of singing that's fun]
  18. Sons And Daughters - 'Taste The Last Girl'
    "Hes a genuine boy with a guilty smile"
  19. Royksopp - 'What Else Is There (Thin White Duke mix)'
    "The flashlights and explosions"
  20. The Strokes - 'Juicebox'
    "You're so cold"

Honourable mentions to Doves' 'Black And White Town', Sugababes' 'Push The Button'. some dance tune I never found out the name of which had the lyric "you're poison running through my veins" and, big surprise, the one which nearly made it – Oasis 'The Importance Of Being Idle'. I'm no Oasis fan but this was good stuff, a bit more inventive than usual and bam! A damn fine tune which got to number one.

And pleasingly those of these which were singles got good chart positions. The onset of downloading counting to the charts has apparently boosted the chart positions of non-major label pop, most likely because legitimate downloads are the domain of people with credit or debit cards, i.e. mainly people over 16. Thus the Stereophonics' 'Dakota' (another great return to form by a band I'd lost all faith in) got better charts positions week after week on download sales.

I don't know how much it will continue to matter. If majors find they are losing ground on the charts then most likely they will concentrate on their new found cash cow – ring tones. Just as the charts look like they might be bringing bands which deserve a shot to the forefront, the industry's big players might be about to cease to care. Hopefully this, and the slow death of Top Of The Pops, won't destroy this new found atmosphere.

I've had enough of faceless dance acts appearing with drably choreographed female dancers on _CD:UK,_ let's invite on Rammstein to set each other on fire to Gothic German metal, or let PJ Harvey loose in the BBC wardrobe and see what she comes up with (it'll be amazingly cool no matter what). Sod the old ways. Just let's keep the new ones in the public eye.

And because some bands make more good songs than others, here's the twenty best with any pretence of fairness removed.

Twenty Best Songs (no limits)

  1. Arcade Fire - 'Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)
    "Is it a dream/Is it a lie?"
  2. Bloc Party - 'Pioneers'
    "We promised the world we'd change it/What were we hoping for?"
  3. Bloc Party - 'Banquet'
    "And we don't read the papers/ We don't read the news/Heaven's never enough/We will never be fooled"
  4. Athlete - 'Wires'
    "Running/Down corridors/Through automatic doors/Got to get to you"
  5. Arcade Fire - 'In The Backseat'
    "Alice died/In the night/I've been learning to drive my whole life"
  6. Elbow - 'Leaders Of The Free World'
    "Your mum don't sleep/And the friends you keep/I didn't raise a thief"
  7. Bloc Party - 'Two More Years'
    "I said of course we could never make this love last/The only love we know is love for ourselves"
  8. Franz Ferdinand - 'This Boy'
    "I want a car"
  9. Hard Fi - 'Cash Machine'
    "There's a hole in my pocket"
  10. Arcade Fire - 'Wake Up'
    "We're just a million little gods causing rain storms/Turning every good thing to rust/I guess we'll just have to adjust"
  11. The Rakes - '22 Grand Job'
    "Talking shit with my colleges/Did we do the same degree? "
  12. British Sea Power - 'Please Stand Up'
    "There's no point in asking/It wasn't enough"
  13. Franz Ferdinand - 'Do You Want To'
    "Well here we are the Transmission patry/I love your friends/They're all so arty"
  14. Idlewild - 'Love Steals Us From Loneliness'
    "You said something stupid like/Love steals us from loneliness"
  15. Editors - 'Munich'
    "It breaks if you don't force it/It breaks if you don't try"
  16. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - This Home On Ice
    "All that we had salvaged from the fire/Was a waste of time"
  17. Elbow - 'Forgot Myself'
    "Hes so mercifully free of the pressures of grace/Saint Peter in satin hes like Buddha with mace"
  18. Arctic Monkeys - 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'
    "Dancing like a robot from 1984"
  19. Maximo Park - 'Apply Some Pressure'
    "What happens when you lose everything/You just start again"
  20. British Sea Power - 'Larsson B'
    "You had twelve thousand years/And now it's all over/Five hundred billion tonnes of the purest pack ice and snow"

And of course there are twenty thousand other songs I've liked or hunted down or gotten off my friends to listen to over and over. There's the ones which sound good in a club, or perfect live, or where you have to sit down and really take them in (hello, Sigur Ros).

So in conclusion the best song of the year had a sad Canadian half singing half crying whilst his crash helmet wearing mate gets attacked by the rest of the band; a hyperactive man on drums whacking the crap out of those highhats and indeed everything else; a grumpy Manc on acoustic guitar spouting one liners at the audience between songs; a curiously anonymous man on keyboards; a taciturn Scot on bass; and the singer out of Sons And Daughters because there aren't enough women on this list and she's bloody cool. And Kim Deal from the Pixies for the same reasons, and also because when she forgets how to play a song it is warm, witty and endearing rather than pissing annoying. This is the way to the best song of the year or a total mess. Or both.

With added owls and other fauna .


December 20, 2005

Holly's 2005 Musical Charts – Albums

Ooooh, I love a good end of year collection of lists.

I intended to write a top ten albums and a top twenty tracks. In the end I couldn't contain myself and wrote a top twenty albums and two top twenty track lists (which get their own entry avec explanation). Was it a particularly good year this year? Well yes and no. As has been often said, I err towards guitar bands but never intentionally close an ear to other stuff. But there were no rap albums that particularly inspired me, very little really consistently good dance (I think Mylo's album came out last year but I could be wrong) and a general sloppiness in pop. It's been the case that the boys and girls with guitars have been consolidating the bizarre takeover that dates back to roughly the middle of 2001.

Much as I dislike bowing to NME unconditionally, it probably was largely due to their obsessiveness over the Strokes, White Stripes and (dare I say it) the Libertines which is responsible for this state of affairs. Bands are being signed which would not otherwise have had a look in. Think back to 2000 and which of the albums of the year from the list below would have been released in that environment? Possibly Kaiser Chiefs as it is the most unashamedly 'pop' of the bunch, and probably Elbow, Doves and Sigur Ros if only because they make a sort of music which exists outside of fashion, more mature and thoughtful. But that's four out of sixteen. Even the token dance album, The Go! Team, is so much better and so different to the generic, dull trance craze of 2000 that it's unlikely it would have made it. In their case we can thank the Avalanches not the Strokes but what year did Since I Left You come out? 2001.

Anyway, four years later we're in a state where intelligence in music is no sin (a personal bug bear, I hate anti-intellectualism) and a bit of ambition is now allowed and justifiable. A place where, I think anyway, it's more relevant music. The songs are speaking to me in a volume which I've not really felt since the mid-nineties when stuff like 'Design For Life' and 'Waking Up'* was lyrically pertinent and musically brilliant.

So shut up 'cos I'm right and you're not. And if you'll believe that, you'll believe anything, nothing is more important than having your own opinion and I'll probably only get angry if your list is identical to mine or contains crap. And we all know who I mean when I say that…

Top Ten Twenty Albums

  1. Arcade Fire - Funeral

    Could anything more perfect be imagined? From the moment Housemate:Katie barged into my room and forced it into my CD player it has been love. I almost never fall in love with a song first time. But I did with all ten. Recorded in a bucket by angels from Texas, Canada and Haiti. Often I um and err about my annual favourite. This year, no arguements.
    Sheer Beauty Award

  2. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

    NME hype band in justified accolades shock. Yes, it is as good as they think. Possibly better. Those are damn fine lyrics and it's nice to see one of these new arty rock bands having some sonic ambition beyond sounding like they were recorded by a half deaf moose on crystal meth. Sounds and lyrics explode across the room. Very very danceable.
    Intelligent Music Award

  3. The Rakes - Capture/Release

    Funny? Oh yes, it's in the way he sings, like he's terrified of the modern urban graduate experience, but can't escape. Slightly worrying for a soon-to-be-graduate but shit happens, eh? Loving the spikiness.
    Spiky Music Award

  4. British Sea Power - Open Season

    Bonkers. Utterly bonkers. Who sings elegic songs about icebergs? Seriously. Well these nutters do, and do so with bug eyed passion which is always helpful. Ace bass (always important).
    Madmen Loose Award

  5. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better

    I do think this is as good as the first. No, I think it's better. So that's a minority view but everything is bigger here. Bigger soundwise, more ambitious, more adventurous. Could we really have had it better? Maybe… but not this time.
    We've Not Cocked Up The Follow Up Award

  6. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

    The weirdest, most outright insane album of the year. Scary man sings inaudible paranoia about modern life to the most inventive explosion of conventional instruments I've heard recently. Like Arcade Fire only in that you can't really compare them to anyone else.
    What The Actual? Award

  7. The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike

    Ok, so it was sort of released last year (I am a cheat) but this was it's year. Excellent album in that you can give to anyone as a present and they will enjoy it. Or at least they will if they've got a soul and the desire to smile once in a while. Something new on every listen.
    Smile Like You Mean It Award

  8. Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger

    Literate pop (yes, it is pop) continues to flow free and happy throughout the western hemisphere and Maximo Park are contributing. Even the more generically "indie" sounding songs on here have, after a few listens, more depth than the Indian Ocean. And regional accents are cool!
    It's Dead Good Like - Geordie - Award

  9. Editors - The Back Room

    The British Interpol, which is a bit rich considering how desperate Interpol are to be British themselves, this lot are the gloomy yet curiously optimistic masters of echoey guitars and pragmatic doom-mongering for 2005. Dance is a jerky but mopey way.
    Doomy But Roomy Award aka, Hear My Guitar's Echo Pedal Award

  10. Elbow - Leaders Of The Free World

    These songs burned so slowly into my brain that I almost didn't realised how much I loved them. A tribute, warts and all, to Manchester and its many and varied foibles. Occasionally induces homesickness, but in a good way.
    Ay Up Our Kid Award

  11. Hard Fi - Stars Of CCTV

    Disparagingly referred to as chav indie in the Boar, this is better than that name suggests. The snobbery is misplaced as this is not an unabashed celebration of the modern working class life, but an attempt to find the good and accept the bad in it. At times it sounds like the score to a film on the matter rather than a rock album. This is a good thing.
    Urban Soundscape Award

  12. Kaiser Chiefs - Employment

    Palls a bit in large doses but in smaller ones it is pure pop perfection from people who aren't ashamed to be both clever and dumb. A more detached version of the Britain which so terrifies Bloc Party and Hard-Fi, but the detachment doesn't mean you cna't imagine what it must be like on a Friday night in town.
    Blurry Vision Award

  13. Doves - Some Cities

    Another ode to Manchester but with the added melancholy dictated by having lived in its bitch commuter towns and the desperation to get out that inhabitants of lively places, like London, just cannot understand. Optimistic and bruised is a good description. Pushing at the boundaries of what can be done with guitars and a bloke who can only really sing a little bit, is another. Both are relevant.
    I Remember Why I Left Home Award

  14. Sigur Ros - Takk

    As my brother (who I would never have had down as a Sigur Ros fan three years ago) said there are two ways of enjoying this album. Either let it wash over you as a background noise which genuinely does calm the savage beast. Or actually listen to it in which case the evocative wooshes and pings drag the listener to somewhere altogether more spooky but reassuring.
    Ice Cave Award

  15. LCD Soundsystem - LCD Soundsystem

    Dance music is dead, long live music you can dance to! As arch and funny as most music is flat, here was a chance for indie kids to actually shake those arses. Infectious and generous, you get two good albums for the price of one with this.
    LCD Soundsystem Are Playing At My House Award

  16. Sons And Daughters - The Repulsion Box

    Scary Scots do songs about murder and sleazy sounding encounters in dark dark alleyways. Perfect for those who want to feel a little bit wrong. Also the best use of a mandolin since R.E.M. and possibly ohne of the sexiest sounding singers around.
    Don't Look Behind You Award

  17. The Departure - Dirty Words

    Preening and a little calculating with erratic single choices… but still a promising debut. The most overtly early 1980s sounding of the new post punk bands but they had the charisma to carry it off. Also get bonus points for playing Warwick.
    Looking Good For Album Two Award

  18. The Features - Exhibit A

    Almost totally overlooked, this was angsty but self assured indie which lashed breakneck tunes to a decent keyboardist, something which a lot of the other albums of the year lacked. The singer sounds like he can't decide whether to cry or scream which is always good.
    No One Else Cares About Them (Wrongly) Award

  19. Hot Hot Heat - Elevator

    Nothing as brilliant as bandages but few can match that, this was more hysterically vocalled stuff with a danceable beat driving it on. They've also, it seems, learned how to do the slower songs well which has opened up some interesting new avenues and some good tunes.
    Best Canadian Band Which Is Actually Mostly Made Up Of Canadians Award**

  20. Mercury Rev - The Secret Migration

    More conventional than their last effort but no worse for it. Ever-so-slightly off kilter pop shot through with enough self awareness to save it from being po-faced mumbling.
    Tree Huggers (cos trees hug back in our world) Award

As ever there are albums which just missed out. The National's Alligator is nice and mellow but lacks a killer track; Clor's Clor was very funky and promising but only really came alive in concert; System Of A Down were quite unlucky to miss out with both albums but this could be because I came to them late in the year; and Athlete's Tourist was coasting albeit on the back of a couple of wonderful flashes of brilliance.

And then there were those bands who messed up. What was with the new Idlewild album? The lead single, 'Love Steals Us From Loneliness' was really really good, possibly one of their best ever. But by-and-large the rest was a let down, all wannabe R.E.M. when Idlewild were better because they weren't trying to be R.E.M., merely influenced by them. And The Bravery were a letdown after a couple of good singles, their album turned out to be no substance and not as much style as they thought. Their spat with the Killers was hilarious though as the Bravery are a more exaggerated Killers, more eyeliner, more preening and more painfully average away from the obvious singles on the album. Though I reckon the Killers might be able to pull off a good second album, I really doubt the Bravery can.

So it was a good album year in which I once again caused my mother to ask "Don't you think you have enough CDs?"

No.

*By Manic Street Preachers and Elastica respectively, these are also my favourite and second favourite song of all time.

**The main Arcade Fire members are Texan and Haitian.


December 19, 2005

Hometown Arms Dealer

Should my parents really wonder why their children have such an affinity to really loud music? Should they not notice that it's all their own faults?

Having returned from a not hugely unsuccessful shopping trip to Crewe (glamour capital of absolutely nowhere on God's green earth) with mum, thus making me complicit in her skiving work, we encoutnered a high volume barrage of sound courtesy of my brother's rather large boombox. Mum ordered an immediate turn-down. "Think of the neighbours". The neighbours always played loud music when they were younger. They went to Glastonbury in a camper van. They were the coolest neighbours ever.

But within 10 minutes of the turn down the boombox was cranked back up. Only this time it was mum's chosen song and not Kyle's. Would the neighbours (wree they to care) really notice the difference between very loud System Of A Down and very loud Futureheads? It's a bassy boom though the walls is it not?

It's all my own fault for supplying the Futureheads CD. Thus I deal the weapons that keep me distracted.

Humour, intellectual debate, wit, good photos... Not commonly found here but all normal Hollyzone services have been suspended pending the location of Holly's inspiration. Please ask at the information desk if you have any further queries.

I hate the way my parents' computer crashes at random intervals.


December 17, 2005

Inside The Window And Out

Got fed up with the dark city background on my blog also being the actual real view out the window so I have switched to a more summery(ish) style for the next few months. Just one thing, can any CSS types tell me how to get the entry title to appear in blac even when they are links as I can't read them properly and would really like to. If possible I'd prefer the date and links in the sidebar (the favourites and galleries etc) to appear in #C874602.

It would also be useful if the jpeg in the title bar didn't repeat.

I can publish the CSS I used on here if anyone needs it to help out.

Thanks in advance.

Must learn to be computery so don't need to rely on others...


December 14, 2005

Irish Song For Europe – The Solid Gold Hit

Follow-up to Irish Song For Europe from Hollyzone

Here it is. The Solid Gold Winner of Eurovision if only they are brave enough to take the chance on this humble masterpiece. Obviously I can't write the music on here but there are notes to give you all a good idea of what to expect from this work of brilliance. Enjoy and vote for us (if you are resident outside Ireland in a competing country).

Intro - Soppy strings swirl around and woosh. Shot of an orchestra of unnecessarily skimpily clad female string players. The lead singer smugs* onto stage and smarms* at the camera. Orchestra explode into a stupid overwrought swell.

Mr Smug croons out the first bit in a smary voice which is halfway between a twee Irish brogue (a word which is never used with any other accent you'll note) and a mid-Atlantic generic pile of arse.

"The MPs are TDs which kind of sounds like VDs/But we don't have much of those 'cos we're Catholic,
Our chief export is people/The English think we're simple/I'd like them to explain all those Irish wits."

Crash of 1980s style stadium drums pounding out a soulless, funkless hammerbeat which has no purpose other than to sound big and empty at the same time moving at a pace of less than 11 bpm. Like a Phil Collins song.

"If there are nine million bikes in Bejing/The there's ten trillion Irish in Britain/And they pretty much all support Celtic sometimes,
And the Dubhs mock the Corks mock the Kerrys knocking Sligo/And you would too/We love the EU."

Orchestra spazzes out as one. Guitars and bass kick in with stadium drums. More instruments than you can throw a stick at explode in major chords with only one dimished minor partway through the chorus to add false pathos to proceedings. Cynical.

"And we really could do without Eurovision/We can't afford to host it,
But they always vote for us 'cos we never piss them off/I think it's time…"

Song suddenly halts. Singer smarms into the camera and unleashes a genuine Irish twinkly eyed look. The female viewers across Europe cream themselves as one. Ireland now has the straight female and gay male vote but must ensure the camera gets some more of the scantily clad string ladies or the males will vote for the comedy German or the Ukranian woman in a leather thong. Lesbians don't watch Eurovision. They have more sense.

The deranged wall of sound dies down a little for the second verse.

"We got the floozy in the jacuzzi /The stiletto in the ghetto /The tart with her cart /Oh Dublin city!
We've never won a war/We've never lifted the World Cup/All we have achieved is Eurovision."

"If there's eleven Englishmen on the football team/Then there's eleven billion Irish on TV/And they all travel east sometimes to flood the UK,
And the English oppress the Normans oppress the Celts who simply moan/And you would too/We love the EU."

Chorus repeats with even more OTT music. Several string players die from over exertion. A second drummer is introduced to stop a similar fate afflicting the first as drummers are rare and Ireland is not populous enough to produce enough drummers to sacrifice one a year to Eurovision.

"And we really could do without Eurovision/We can't afford to host it,
But they always vote for us 'cos we never piss them off/I think it's time…"

Middle eight is accompanied by a guitar solo which clearly rips off U2's Edge, a series of trad Irish instruments and a children's choir. 43% of UK viewers kill themselves in order to make it stop. It doesn't. This bit is so over-emoted by the singer that he has a hernia. The bits in bold are sung by the choir.

"Just please!/Don't let us win!
Dear God!/Don't let us win!
Oh no/Don't let us win!
Don't let us win!/Don't let us win!
For all that's sacred/Don't let us win!
Stop stop stop/Don't let us win!
Don't let us win!
Don't let us win!
DON'T LET US WIN!!!11!!oneone!!"

Back to verse. It'll be over soon.

"If there are x Irishmen and women on this stage,**
And 3.5 million watching at home/Then we'll all be tuning into the BBC coverage,
Cos they nicked Terry Wogan/nicked Graham Norton/nicked Ronan Keating,
If you do/We'll love you"

One last chorus but the horror isn't over yet.

"And we really could do without Eurovision/We can't afford to host it,
But they always vote for us 'cos we never piss them off/I think it's time…"

Because now there's a keychange. This immediately kills anyone listening who has any taste and decency. In 1978 this effectively meant the only survivors were the act themselves plus the weird presenters because there are always weird presenters. Oh, and Terry Wogan, but he's actually deaf hence how he copes with it year on year.

"And we really could do without Eurovision/We can't afford to host it,
But they always vote for us 'cos we never piss them off/I think it's time…"

Outro of big choir infected swooing epic music and intentions. It's nearly over.

"I think it's time we got the a-bomb/Invaded Lebanon/Slept with your mum/Got wasted on rum/Asked about your bum-chum/Insulted everyone/Cos we don't want/We don't want…"

Uber crescendo.

"To"

Get more uber.

"Win"

This last word is dragged out to inordinate length. The singer sings as many notes as (in)humanly possible as veins pop from his head and run off to form solo projects. The children's choir runs loose across stage in a way which is cute in theory but in practise causes the runts to panic and rip several slower moving orchestra members apart. The gizzards, feral choir children and over-emoting, over-smarming, over-wrought singer are showered in glitter.

Phew.

And that's my contribution to posterity.

Now read this because it's way funnier than what I just subjected you to.

*It's a verb now.

**Where x is the number of people involved who have survived the middle eight. We expect a casualty rate of about 38%.


December 2005

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