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March 27, 2011

30–day Song Challenge – Day 1: Your Favourite Song

So this meme has been doing the rounds on Facebook, and while I don’t normally do this sort of thing, I figure I should as a) I’ve been slacking off on writing far too much of late, and b) I still need to better at writing about music.

Still, it’s taken about a month to finally get started, am slightly confused at who thought having “your favourite song” as the first one would be an easy one to start with. It’s like asking you to pick your favourite child. Or most hot woman. It varies based on mood, and I’d always feel guilty picking one song over all the rest.

So I cheated and looked at the most played song on my iPod, and it’s this:

Frank Turner – Love Ire & Song

It’s actually sort of appropriate as that one song, while I wouldn’t say it’s my ‘favourite’ per se, sums up a lot of what I love about music. Musically, it starts with a solo singer-songwriter on guitar playing a nice little folky melody, before bringing in the piano, then the drums, and the bass, and the electric guitar, until it’s a full on sing-along rock track. My musical tastes do generally swing between those two extremes: solo singer-songwriters to full on guitar-based rock. To get them both in one song is handy.

I also love the sheer usefulness of that when the song is performed live. When Frank Turner plays with a band, he’ll always do a solo section in the middle, where the band leave, and then you have the awkward pause as they come back on for the rest of the set. Not with this song! Now they slowly sneak back on throughout the track and it all flows together seamlessly. For some reason, I really like that.

Finally, the lyrics. It’s an angry song, but one about hope. It’s about trying to make a difference in the face of adversity, as what’s the worst that can happen if you try? It mixes a certain cynicism that I can certainly relate to with an optimism that I aspire to. It says that you can still be a cantankerous old bastard and try and make a difference without being a hypocrite. It appeals to two different sides of my personality, and offers a way to unify them. Which is handy.

July 30, 2008

That Russell Brand Incident

I wasn’t going to bother blogging about this. I figured it’d pass but it seems to be turning into one of those stories that will not die so here we go…

I used to be a Brand-hater. He rose to fame and was associated with Big Brother, which put us off on the wrong foot. He was all over the tabloids shagging everything that moved, which didn’t help raise my opinion of him at all. And he played this ridiculous crazy character that was clichéd and over the top.

But when I actually stopped to pay attention for a little while, listen to some interviews and watch some of his documentaries he actually appeared as an erudite, smart, intelligent man. His comedy still wasn’t really to my taste – there were some decent jokes but too much of it relied on the entire cult of personality he’s built up. It’s sometimes funny when it goes somewhere interesting but gets tiresome when it’s focused on his ‘winkie’. Nevertheless it seemed obvious to me that he wasn’t some sort of moron. He’s a smart guy.

Which is why this was so depressing:

If you don’t want to watch it all, I don’t blame you. It’s rubbish, actually. Horribly poor and lazy as comedy before we get to anything else. Basically, he reads about a newspaper story involving a sexual assault, and calls the emergency police response number for witnesses or people that may have seen the attacker and prank calls them.

It’s a retarded thing to do. Not because it’s bad taste like Jon Gaunt accuses him of, that I can live with. There shouldn’t be taboos in comedy over things like this. It’s retarded because it’s prank calling the emergency services, meaning that some poor person who’s been attacked or might have important information about a crime or such can’t get through because he’s busy making a joke. You don’t prank call the emergency services. You just don’t. Because you never know when you might need them and you wouldn’t want the ambulance to turn up 5 minutes too late to save your leg next time you have an accident.

Still, it was a stupid thing to do, but he wouldn’t be the first comic to do a stupid thing on stage and won’t be the last. He’ll apologise, it’ll blow over and that’s that right? Except not, as the apologies started coming out. First on his Radio 2 show where he goes on a brilliant and entirely correct rant about how the likes of YouTube allow certain things that are said at comedy gigs to be taken out of that context and hence appear more offensive than they should be. About how he didn’t expect anyone linked to the assaults to be there in that room, and if by some small chance they were, he’d have explained what he was trying to do by joking about it and apologised for any offence caused. About how he rightfully hates how the media get obsessed with being offended on someone else’s behalf, even though that someone would never have heard the joke if they hadn’t increased it’s audience from 200 people in a comedy club to 2 million people in a national newspaper. It’s all completely right, and again proves that he’s someone with his head stuck on the right way around and that knows what he’s talking about. It does of course, utterly fail to address the number one criticism from most people: that he was prank calling the emergency services. Wasting police time. It’s a crime, and rightfully so.

So benefit of the doubt again, maybe he’s trying to play down that element, it is very embarrassing and after all the likes of Jon Gaunt attacked him from enough angles that he could rail against the rest of it, ignore the bit where he actually screwed up, pretend it never happened and just never do it again.

Asked if he would do it again, he said: ‘Who knows, possibly. You can never rule that out, that’s the nature of spontaneity, things just sometimes happen.

For fuck’s sake.

I can’t believe he’s not smart enough to understand why people are angry that he prank-called the police. I just can’t. Because he’s not. So I don’t understand what the hell is going on here? Is he milking it for publicity because he hasn’t shagged enough movie stars this month? Is he trying to create some bad boy image for himself? Or is he trying to play the “I’m too dumb” card, pretending he can’t see what’s wrong with it until the interviewer finally calls him on that specific element and he has some sort of ‘revelation’ and apologies for it. But none of them have yet.

I’m confused, I really am, but I’m definitely swinging back to my initial position of hating Russell Brand and this time I feel justified.

March 25, 2008

Funny Sarah Silverman thing

Apologies for a second video post in a row but I found these hilarious. I have mixed opinions on Sarah Silverman but these are very good. You’ll get the most out of them if you watch them here without going to YouTube as the title gives away the punchline.

March 20, 2008

Happy Birthday War

5 years on. 4 years 10 months since ‘Mission Accomplished’. Our soldiers still dying. Iraqi civillians still dying. No good ‘end’ in sight beyond just packing up and running if the next President has the balls to do it. And all predicated on a provenly false premise. To quote every character on HBO’s The Wire: Shiiiiit.

Mitch Benn – Happy Birthday War, out as a single on iTunes sometime in the next few days.

Chris T-T – A Plague On Both You Houses from 9 Red Songs The new album, Capital set against the backdrop of the war in London was released on Monday.

James – Hey Ma, from the forthcoming album, Hey Ma

March 07, 2008

The most incongrous thing of the year: Kate Nash and Billy Bragg at the NME Awards

Anna covered the NME awards in some detail but I want to discuss just a specific 3 minutes and 41 seconds of them.

Start by watching this so you know what the hell I’m talking about

What the hell?!

And before all the millitant Kate Nash fans start hitting me (incidently, why did no-one tell me she was pretty and played piano?) , I actually sort of like it, but it’s weird. Here’s a list of what’s odd about that video:

First the entire concept of Billy Bragg at the NME awards is just funny. I wish I was a fly on the wall for the meeting when someone asked Billy if he wanted to do the NME awards.

The start of the video, you hear Nash make some strange noise before making a comment about “Cribs” (it’s actually “The Cribs” Kate, but you’re only dating the drummer and I have Wikipedia and Google) then Bragg makes a comment and she does that laugh you do when your parent says something embarassing that’s meant to be funny.

It’s clear what they wanted to do was a cover of Bragg’s A New England, but realised that would confuse the hell out of the kiddies so decided to do a “mash up” (eugh) of that song and Foundations. Except it’s not, because they don’t fit together at all. So what you get is a verse and chorus of Foundations with Bragg playing a couple of notes before an awkward transition into the A New England duet, in which if you listen carefully, you can sort of hear cheers as Bragg starts singing, like you get when Lulu starts singing on Take That’s Relight My Fire. Except 90% of the audience hasn’t heard of Bragg, so it’s clearly set up. And then it seems like they’ve changed thier mind and put it as low in the mix as possible.

So we get to A New England and by accident or design Nash doesn’t have the words exactly right, and they stick to the original lyric rather than the slightly tweaked ones for a female voice from the Kirsty MacColl version. And the MacColl extra verse is missing entirely (despite Bragg performing it whenever he does the song live), although that’s probably the best for taste reasons. Or that would have made the thing too long for the NME generation.

Then the chorus… and even though I really like Billy Bragg, harmonies (or indeed, singing in tune) were never his strong point! It’s a little painful, but you eventually get used to it.

Then in the second verse Nash seems to be unable to stop herself laughing at singing “It’s wrong to wish on space hardware” and I don’t think she’s laughing at how funny singing it as “space ‘ardware” sounds.

The way it’s filmed is funny too, Bragg is filmed like he’s Liam Gallagher, all arty and cool camera angles to make it seem like he’s ‘hip’. The lighting and backdrop add to this, it’s presented like he’s one of those deathly serious indie band front men when he’s mostly just laughing and joking about.

And at the end Bragg doesn’t point out that he’s from Barking, Essex.

As I say, I do sort of like it, but it just feels like it really shouldn’t exist…

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