August 24, 2005

Surely you're happy it should be this way?

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

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


August 21, 2005

The world crashes in, into my living room

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

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


Drift gently into mental illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your turn.


August 07, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Some things don't change.


July 06, 2005

The passing of time and all of its sickening crimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encour:

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

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

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

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


July 02, 2005

Children of the Revolution

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

June 15, 2005

The next few days

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

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

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

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

Sunday: Rest and probably quiz.

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


June 10, 2005

So near…

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

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

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

Great.

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


June 09, 2005

Chav watch

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


June 06, 2005

Maximo Park – A Certain Trigger

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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