May 14, 2010

kitchen warfare

There's been drama over a kettle. My friend Chris asked me to write a short story about it. I put in big words he didn't understand and a fuckton of alliteration.

-------

We were two thieves, dancing in the shadows of the deserted kitchen, trying to evade that thin corridor of light that shone through the small sliver of glass in the door. We didn't hold guns in our hands, but mugs of scalding hot tea, trying not to spill them as we laughed in the clinical brightness of the cooking area, where the off white appliances were splattered with the deep reds of chilli and curry, cooked carelessly before the evening began. With our mission accomplished - the successful surveillance of the kitchen for the safety of our brethren - we snuck out with our bounty swiftly, locking the door behind us as if we were never there in the first place.

They'd never realise a thing.

It all started when the maths people from upstairs took their kettle to Rootes. This in itself was a ridiculous notion, considering maths people are a solitary bunch, who with the exception of my compatriot, do not have any friends other than the cold, hard, emotionless numbers that stare back at them from the page, mocking them for their choice of such an endeavour. The maths people, of all people. Through a devious forgetfulness and an understanding of trust, the drama boy came down to borrow ours, then leave it upstairs, absent-mindedly sipping coffee from his enormous mug inscribed with Shakespearean innuendo whilst reading Byron to himself. A conflict of classics; he didn't know how accurate he was. In the end, we told him to go elsewhere - I can't be doing without my fix of green tea and lemon in a morning - and well… it resulted in this.

This, being a shirtless boy standing in my kitchen using our toaster. A shirtless boy, with carefully dishevelled hair, who I didn't know. This was a betrayal. This was all out war.

It seems like nothing, right? Well, it wasn't. It was a clear statement of territory - 'I can use this toaster if I fucking well want to and nothing will stop me.' I had to do something about this. I began plotting; how best could I strike back? It clearly wasn't with maths pictures and a poor example of a giraffe. It may have been the maths people who started it, but I doubted it would be them to end it. I realised that we had one weapon they didn't - keys. Oh, how security matters these days. After that initial affront, I did my washing up, left and locked the door behind me. No way in. I heard rattling and voices. Strike one, completed. To really piss them off, I decided to go and get a cup of tea… and lock the door behind me. No lights, nothing. Guerrilla tactics. They wouldn't know who they were dealing with, but they would know there was no place for them here. My partner in crime followed me, eager for revenge - he was a recent convert to our side - and that's where we stood, in our pyjamas, enjoying our vindictive cups of tea.

Home safe, I heard frenetic rattling of door handles. The crown jewel - their kettle - was still ours. Whoever said that stealing could never be justified?


May 10, 2010

10.5.10

It seems like one step forward, two steps back; finishing the big portfolio today to find that I have yet another 3650 words to go before the constraints of coursework are no longer, and all for Monday. It seems as if I will have to lock myself away in my room for three more weeks, reading away and noting down all I can so that I can pass five hours of my existence which mean so much. It seems as though I'm fucked, but really, I know I'm not.

It's been an interesting start to term; two modules end and we choose two new, projects begin and continue, I discover how much of a cynical/pretentious twat I can be. And all between episodes of Dexter and slices of lemon drizzle cake, neither of which are aiding my figure, but certainly feeding my imagination. I meet and greet with rock stars and remember just why I do this in the first place. My guitar still sits idly in the corner, begging to be let out. In three weeks, it won't be left alone.

Today is my sister's birthday; she's seventeen. Seventeen years ago (I doubt it was to this very day, maybe a couple after), I stood in a hospital ward, charming all the doctors and nurses with my little herringbone suit and updo as styled by my grandmother. I stood next to my mother's bed, saw a new baby and wept, because I knew that I was no longer the only one. Only now I realise that it was in fact with joy, not sorrow as I first imagined it would be. I'm not sure how life would be without my sister, but one thing I know is that it would be far less funny. That girl needs to go into standup, she's still got me in tears.

I know that now it's time to race the dream. Sadly, it's less romantic than Mat Devine first described, but more buried in books, swimming in sheets of paper and consuming cups of coffee en masse. Not for the caffeine, you realise, but the cliche.


April 16, 2010

I know fuck all about politics.

Originally posted on www.twobeatsoff.co.uk.

It's true. I am nineteen years old, have been legally able to vote for a year and what did I do last time we had any form of election? I closed my eyes, whirled my finger over the page and picked anyone who wasn't right wing. I ended up voting for a wide variety of candidates, ranging from the Green Party to the Socialist Workers Party, and when my mum asked me why, I just shrugged and said "why not?"

The biggest election I've ever faced is coming up and I still don't know who I'm going to vote for. We can honestly say these days that the three main parties are so close together in what they believe that it makes it damn near impossible to pick out of any of them. So I probably won't. I know for damn sure I am not voting Conservative because all they care about are the rich and David Cameron's face is so ridiculously shiny that according to my friend Holly, it makes him look like a Thunderbird. I'm sorry, but I don't want a man who looks like a puppet leading our country. For a start, who's pulling the strings? Labour haven't exactly done our country proud in the past eight years or so and a vote for the Lib Dems is essentially wasted considering they won't get anywhere. Well, I suppose the latter point is changing - Lib Dems are currently leading in the polls - but purely because the public are fed up with the other two parties' bullshit. The expenses crisis has caused the public to lose faith in the government as a whole - if we hadn't already - and made it insanely difficult to choose a party based on their integrity. I suppose that the one good thing about the expenses crisis is that it's put everyone at rock bottom and they all have to establish themselves over once again.

This is also the first year where I've actually had anything to do with any issues - the Digital Economy Bill directly affects me as the owner of my own domain name and being a university student, I'm not going to vote for anybody who agrees with fee raises and cuts to education. However, it's the DE bill that really has me pissed off, and guess what? Virtually every major party supports it. As the owner of a domain name, I go through a company called Nominet (which I suppose is the real owner - I just kind of borrow it). However, the government intend to change this so that they control all the domain names, meaning they have access to all my records involving my website. More records under government control just mean that they have more records to get stolen or lost and then kaput, my identity's stolen and I'll be known as Ripper forevermore because I'll have nothing else left. That might be a bit overdramatic, I realise, but worst case scenario, that's what'll happen! Also, if they don't like any of the content of my website, they could easily cut off the domain name, leaving the website, as a whole, inactive. It's a bit too Big Brother for the UK to pull off, and unlikely to happen, but the possibility of censorship in this case still exists, and that is something I am not willing to accept. Not to mention the rest of the bill - torrent sites being shut down due to over-paranoia, ISP's to watch download amounts more closely, radio becoming digital (which is a waste of time) and so on so forth. I don't illegally download - not any more - and therefore, this affects me less than many people. That said, we surely should be allowed a conscience? The music industry survives no matter what, due to overpriced concerts and merchandise, and that's something you can't download. Same with the film industry - to watch a 3D film, you've got to have some high spec equipment or go to the cinema and pay over the odds for it, and you will buy popcorn because that's the done thing, resulting in tons of profit. Nobody pirates video games except PC games and DS games because it's extremely difficult to do it to the latest generation consoles. It's a stupid bill written by people who just don't understand the new technology - no matter how many Twitter accounts they have to try and convince us otherwise.

I'm still going to go with my 'no right wing party' policy when it comes to voting. The Conservatives will always be looking out for the upper and, somewhat less so, middle classes, no matter what they say. I will most likely benefit from this if they get voted in - my family are typically middle class and are likely to benefit from Tory policy, and believe me, my mother will be voting for them and my dad probably would if he gave a flying fuck about politics, not to mention my grandparents. Personally, I don't believe in screwing over the working class just so I get taxed less. Things may change as I start earning money, but I realise that I could be in that working class, my parents once were and my granddad would be turning in his grave if he knew I voted Tory. The BNP are a fucking joke and we need to get rid of them now before it stops being a joke and becomes a twisted reality. Thinly veiled disgusting racist policies which need to be abolished for the good of everybody. As an email I received from Hope Not Hate states, we didn't fight Hitler to have the country run by these assholes. With the government heading more and more towards Europe (which I'm not averse to - it's nice to be involved) and the BNP representing us… what hope do we have? If nothing else, we need to save some face. UKIP are the same as the BNP without the anti-Semitism, but man, do they hate those immigrants! To everyone who hates the immigrants because they're supposedly taking all our jobs - they're taking the jobs that you refuse to do because you're lazy and demanding. I can't say that I'm any different - I wouldn't want to work half the jobs the Eastern Europeans who live in my town are doing, but I have got a fucking ton of respect for them for doing those jobs and just wish I shared their work ethic.

So that leaves the left wing then. Labour? Probably not. The Labour Party now aren't the Labour Party that my granddad supported all his life. The Lib Dems aren't massively left wing but seem to be far more reasonable at the moment. I'm quite upset that I missed the leaders' debate on ITV for the pub (too much Coca-Cola makes for an excessively hyped up Ripper who knows even less about politics) because I'm sure that it could have aided my decision. If I vote for anything too left wing I know that it will do nothing because hardly anyone else will, and more to the point, I don't exactly know their policies. The Green Party seemed like a likely bet until I discovered they were against stem cell research, which I find ridiculous.

It seems like I'll be doing the same trick I did last time - close my eyes and hope for the best. Unfortunately, this isn't the best way to go about it. I did try voteforpolicies but it told me I should vote for either Labour or the Lib Dems so that didn't help very much. From the looks of things, the Lib Dems are indeed my best bet, but will they actually change anything if they get into office? Or is our country just fucked whoever gets in?

Or, you know, we could have a zombie apocalypse. That would make this seem like nothing more than a bad dream.


April 09, 2010

spring ramblings

Might expand the idea of a spring zombie apocalypse somehow... we'll see.

I think I'm on a sugar rush -

Too many Easter eggs, not enough vegetables

And if a rabbit is the symbol of Easter now,

Shouldn't we be eating carrots instead of chocolate?

I guess carrots wouldn't fly with the kids…

Or maybe they would, but across the dining room

And not into their mouths.

And how did it get to be spring so fast anyway?

Just yesterday it was snowing up north.

Like that was worth a four day visit;

To watch my idiot cousin drone into a microphone

On Rock Band - it's not even fun without my friends.

Has anything been reborn yet?

I'm not seeing any zombies rising from the grave

Or the second coming - not even any daffodils yet.

Although I suppose there is new life;

My baby cousin Beau, who is actually a boy

And will be known as Frank by me,

And I saw some lambs on my travels through the country.

And now the sun is out along with everyone else

But myself, because I've got a winter's cold right now instead.

To me, I guess seasons just don't apply.


March 18, 2010

slam poems

Two of the poems that I wrote for the slam on Wednesday. I want to edit the other one and put it in my portfolio, hence it not being posted.


Squirtle, I Choose You!

When I was a kid hanging out at school,
I liked Gogos and Pogs, but do you know what was really cool?
Pokemon was the best and everyone knew
That the favourite of the class was in fact Pikachu.

But no way! Pikachu isn't the one for me
They're cute but against a Diglett, they wouldn't be happy
I want something tenacious, fun, a Pokemon with flair;
I'd choose a Squirtle - let me hear a 'hell yeah!'


Squirtle's adorable, and he's got tons of style,
He'll hit you with 'Water Gun' and an impeccable smile
He can use 'Surf', which is better than 'Flash'
And he was far too cool to hang out with Ash.


Sandshrew? Not a challenge. Charizard? They're screwed.
But a Bulbasaur might put him in a bad mood.
Against fire, ground and rock, Squirtle is the king,
But electric and grass just aren't his thing.


Even Squirtle's big brothers are pretty sweet -
Wartortle and Blastoise are Pokemon I wouldn't like to meet
If I were a Charmander or a Geodude;
Blastoise would swiftly win the fight and enjoy some Pokefood!


I love my Squirtle; he's my number one
I don't think I'd ever want another Pokemon
(excluding a Hitmonchan because they know kung fu)
So Squirtle - I choose you!


Catnarok

"I can haz cheezburger?" he said with a tap
And I saw him smiling up from the doormat
The name of that adorable cat who's a little bit fat
Is the great and honourable Happycat.

Now you're thinking it's all safe (and that
is a common effect of Happy Cat)
but I can hear overhead a pitter-pat
of the Ceiling Cat going LOL WHUT THAT

Although mighty that Ceiling Cat may be,
Happycat would be a better friend for me.
He's smiley and chubby and cuter than he,
The Ceiling Cat, who I honestly find quite creepy.

I think that what I need to cope
is a cat that spies like a periscope
when you feel a need to grope your rope.
The Lolcat Bible says THIS CAT BE DOPE.

Well, you know what Ceiling Cat? Screw you.
Happycat here is pure and true.
He might have maded me a cookie then eated it too,
But he brings the lulz and doesn't watch you poo.

That's kind of hard for me to replicate
But the truth is here to inundate:
We know you've got no chance to fornicate
So Ceiling Cat is WATCHING YOU MASTURBATE.

Lol wut?


February 25, 2010

why 'trainwreck' matters

Originally posted on www.twobeatsoff.co.uk. Go check it out, bookmark it, tell me what articles I should write.

It was the year 2005. I hit up a random music blog in the hope of finding something new, my listening habits being diluted and destroyed by a teenage obsession with Fueled By Ramen. I wanted something visceral, something destructive, something that had a little bit more than 'I want to fuck you and hope you want to fuck me too'. So, clicking the post-hardcore tag (I was getting pretty into At The Drive-In and Circa Survive and thought that it might be a good bet), I stumbled upon an album entitled 'Trainwreck' by Boys Night Out. I vaguely remembered the name - they'd been reviewed in Kerrang! for their debut - and the cover looked pretty awesome. I wasn't quite aware what was going to happen. But as soon as I unzipped that album and listened to it through, I knew that I had discovered a musical masterpiece.

The thing is, 'Trainwreck' is the only good Boys Night Out album. Their first album, 'Make Yourself Sick' isn't anything to shout about. Their self-titled, which came after 'Trainwreck', is fucking awful. It defies all logic, but there it is - 'Trainwreck' is potentially one of the best albums ever written, and it comes from a less than average band. Perhaps it has something to do with the appearance of Kara Dupuy, their short lived keyboard player/backing vocalist, which added a completely new dimension to their sound. Or maybe, it has to do with the fact that 'Trainwreck' is a concept album, and a pretty screwed up one at that.

Coheed and Cambria officially stole the spotlight when they released 'The Second Stage Turbine Blade' in 2002, and subsequent albums all based upon an absolutely crazy comic book world (of which comics actually exist) which would take at least another article to explain. Curious? Go here. But either way, the world of Coheed and Cambria and their children captivated the 'alternative' listeners, to put it simply. It was like nothing we'd ever heard before. Concept albums were relegated to power metal and prog rock, and here was something that… rocked! The Coheed revolution sparked a few other fantastic concept albums, including the first two Armor For Sleep albums, but that also requires another article to discuss and perhaps one day, when I write a book on the rock scene in the 2000s and how much it equally owned and sucked, I'll go into greater depth. But we're here to talk about Boys Night Out. And well… 'Trainwreck' is pretty incredible, and certainly the best of all the concept albums that began to spring up in the scene.

The story isn't too complicated, but insanely fucked up. In essence, the main character, The Patient, has excessively violent nightmares which one day, spill over into real life, and he kills his wife in his sleep. After a murder trial, he is declared insane and sent to a mental hospital in the hopes of rehabilitation. A brief stint makes the Patient believe he's getting worse by being in there and he's ready to leave, so the Doctor releases him back into society where he retains a massive sense of guilt and cuts off his hands to prevent himself from killing anyone again. And this is told in the most graphic of ways. Needless to say, he goes back into hospital and is given a shit ton of drugs, and ends up writing this song in his head which becomes the key part of the album - he just can't get it out of his head and it drives him further into insanity. He convinces the Doctor to let him have friends over and kills them so he can see his wife again and try and finish off the song. Oh, and she's the one singing this song in his head, to make things even crazier. So, to finish the song, he either has to kill the Doctor or himself, and well… it isn't the Doctor who ends up as a bloated, overdosed corpse. Yeah.

It sounds like something out of a comic book, although it's not imitative of the Coheed stuff at all. And whilst the story itself is compelling, it's the music and the way that it interacts with the story that really shines throughout. Opening track, 'Introducing' is chilling to the bone, opening with muted guitar tones and a voiceover provided by the Doctor. Unlike the rest of Boys Night Out's material, it's relatively sedate for the most part, despite being excessively dark. The screaming is limited, and this really aids the album, by providing just moments of anxiety and paranoia. Kara's vocals on 'Relapsing' as the Patient's wife are the high point of the album and fit perfectly in a wonderfully tender, yet haunting song. It's ridiculously romantic - the acoustic guitar alone sends shivers down your spine - but you can't deny the underlying feeling that something is very, very wrong. The soft tones just don't seem right straight after one of the most intense and metallic songs on the album ('Purging'). This is a reasonably common theme throughout the album, and a lot of the time, the darkest moments are juxtaposed with the most melodic and calming riffs.

And that's the beauty of 'Trainwreck' - it can completely knock you sideways when you aren't expecting it. It's also ridiculously catchy in places that shouldn't be; for example, in 'Composing', the lyrics "So come over to my house/Catch up over dinner/We are having strychnine and sirloin/Port wine and paint thinner" are sung in the most upbeat and awesome way. I can't convey it with justice via text, so you'll just have to go pick up the album and find out for yourself.

But why does 'Trainwreck' matter so much? It's fairly unknown, virtually impossible to find within the UK and didn't attract much of a fan base. However, it's one of the biggest influences to me as a writer. Upon first listen, my thoughts were "Fuck, I wish I could write something as incredible as this", and not from a musician's point of view either. The story is one of the most compelling and haunting I've ever come across and if I can think of something anywhere near as original, then I'm onto a winner. It's also proof that concept albums can transcend the banal (read: The Black Parade) and the metal to combine both great music and a great story, which unfortunately, doesn't really happen any more. The post-hardcore concept album reached its height at 2005-2006 with Circa Survive, Coheed and Cambria, Armor For Sleep and Boys Night Out. Therefore, 'Trainwreck' matters, not because it stands alone, but because it's timeless, unlike the latest Armor For Sleep album, it's got a definite and individual story, unlike Circa Survive, and it's easy to understand and appreciate, unlike Coheed and Cambria. That's not to say that a concept album needs to be viewed as a concept album - it's easy to appreciate them on a purely musical basis, and it's very easy to do that to 'Trainwreck'. But 'Trainwreck' simply stands apart from the rest of the crowd and provides a musical experience like no other.


February 20, 2010

we dream in stereo

We walk these streets like we've got nothing else, nothing else but the tarmac beneath our feet and a burning sense of the 'fuck you' that we got from our mothers. What was it she said to us all that time ago? "Never back down, never take any of their bullshit, and most importantly, never let them take you alive." We like to think that's how we've lived our lives these past few years. It's nothing but a warzone - different factions reign supreme in this broken town and you better watch who your friends with. We stand apart, perhaps at our own risk, but we do and we do it well. The streetlights are our prophets and we follow them to the letter, never straying from the path. You don't take a right turn at the end of the road or you find yourself in hell, and whilst we're not exactly saints, we're not quite ready for that just yet.

We dream in stereo, making sure that everyone can hear the new sounds. We didn't stay in this place to be like everyone else; we stayed to make it something better. We stayed so that you would know that there's something more - so that you knew there was life in this abyss. To leave takes courage which most people don't have. False bravado found in the public houses that litter the high street is not courage, no matter how you want to play it. We left and we found our way back, some way or another, to let you know that there's a world out there and you probably should join it, instead of staying stuck in your ways and on your path of self destruction. We found a different state of mind. Not one of enlightenment but one of progress, one of hope, one of fearlessness. We are fearless because we refuse to be like you. We refuse to wear your rose tinted glasses that tell you it's safe here. We refuse to not think. We refuse to not believe.


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