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Made in Shoreditch

I also contribute a weekly column to Made in Shoreditch magazine called 'Old East End/New East End', where I look at the relationship between the East End of old and new, looking at the changes and the stalwarts in landscape, residents and culture, focussing on one street or district each week. You can find it here.

Keep Revenue & Customs Satisfied - Happy Mondays @ The Roundhouse, Camden

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Contrary to the previous night at the Hammersmith Apollo, The Happy Mondays were in fine form at Camden's Roundhouse last Thursday performing a storming set. Kicking straight off with 'Hallelujah', the Manchester party animals went straight for the jugular, careening their way through their majestic back catalogue.

Modern Day Mondays

Shaun Ryder moves around even less than he did before, but this did not detract from the band rolling back the years and creating a proper Christmas carnival. The gobbledygook artistry of Ryder's lyrics could just be made out through his nasal Manchester drawl with his slight slur (brought on no doubt by years of inebriation) evident and indeed adding to the pageantry of it all. Bez danced on a handful of the songs played, seemingly no longer able to do the full set now that he's not bacchanalian and mashed from MDMA mortification. The band sounded tight and together, with Paul Ryder's funk style bass cutting through the house tinged grooves and distorted, loose guitar phrases perfectly - abetted by the encompassing acoustics of one of London's best venues.

The Mondays played to their strengths throughout the gig. Rowetta, in fine fettle and voice, wore a fantastic Mrs. Claus suit and Ryder stood almost immobile to create a great visual against all of the motion around him. Dedicating one track (I cannot remember which one exactly) to "the good people at Customs and Excise" and ironically calling Bez a "slim, good looking, handsome coont", Shaun Ryder played the working class jester adeptly between songs and kept the crowd engaged.

Bez and Shaun Ryder in their pomp

An inspired version of '24 Hour Party People' brought the house down and had the crowd raving like it was 1989 once more. The Mondays worked the audience perfectly and the night was a true success. Encoring with 'Step On' - Rowetta once again showing her voice still holds up on the "he's gonna step on you again" parts - was the only way to go and once finished the band left in an almost seraphic manner, clearly far more sober than they once were.

Keep the Customers Satisfied! Paul Weller @ Hammersmith Apollo

Friday, 28 December 2012

Last Wednesday I saw Paul Weller headline the Crisis charity's Christmas benefit gig at the Hammersmith Apollo. As I gaily anticipated the evening's festivities in The Swan pub just up the road from the venue and mulled over what he might play, what he might omit and what he should play in my head I could not have expected such a listless set list as the one which was to come.

Indeed, I had been forewarned by a couple of people that he would more than likely pack the set heavily with new material, but I could not have foreseen how much of that stuff he would throw in (or how badly it translates live). Weller started the set with the frankly retroactive 'From the Floorboard's Up' from 2005's As is Now in emphatic fashion with gusto and energy in equal measure, leading to a joyous, high octane response from the rather large audience in the West London auditorium. Having done so he raised my expectancy of the evening's potential tenfold and for a little while I was still full of that same hopeful postulation until we got about three quarters of the way through.

As I nipped out for a cheeky cigarette with my brother, I assured him that Weller was sure to play his older, and bluntly better, material in the second half of the gig and so now was a good time for a smoke (this was roughly halfway through). Oh, how we looked forward to hearing 'Down in the Tube Station at Midnight' from the Jam period of his career and something from Stanley Road and even a Style Council number might go down well we thought, but alas it wasn't to be.


As we resumed, Woking's most famous son cranked out a thumping rendition of 'Strange Town' and lifted those of us in the upper seating enclosure to our feet to dance. A rapturous, emotive applause went up at the song's summit, leading me to believe we would surely be treated to more of the same now that we had endured a load of sprawling self-indulgence from 22 Dreams and Sonic Kicks. As it was we got another half-hour or so of the new stuff before The Modfather exited stage left. During the encore we had to endure Emeli Sande for a duet and then, finally, we got a decent rendition of 'That's Entertainment' with Bradley Wiggins rather needlessly helping out on rhythm (he's a better cyclist than guitarist) and, of course, as is his wont these days, getting his mug in for some attention and milking the summer of 2012 for all it's worth.

My overall feeling at the end of the gig was one of indifference to what I had just seen. Paul Weller seemingly doesn't know how to keep a paying audience engaged. Looking downwards into his Telecaster and riffing against a backdrop of Dadrock soul instead of firing into a few classics and giving his fans a good time is not how to do it. By all means play some new stuff, but remember where your bread is buttered and keep the customers satisfied.

5 of the Best - Home

Monday, 19 November 2012

I've recently moved into a new home back down in London. Clearly apathy has taken over my ability to conjure up anything mildly relative to what's actually going on in the world, so here's 5otB to do with home.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Our House: I had to, didn't I? This absolutely magnificent confection of a song is stuck in my head due to Grand Designs being on the box 24/7 (the sponsors, B&Q, use it as their sponsor's advert song). David Nash's simple harmonic movement offset by the dreamlike vocal melody and lyrics which force home that idyllic, faux aspirational nonsense Channel 4 seem to love all work to create a song which is half social parody, half Beatles-esque pop perfection.

Our House

Simon & Garfunkel - Homeward Bound: Paul Simon's dreary-cum-happy ode to being back in New York when stuck at a listless train station in Northern England should resonate with anybody who has had the misfortune of being stuck in such a pickle. Up there with S & G's finest.

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues: In truth, this song does not need my endorsement on a post on a blog read by a handful of people. Its power, influence and place in time are cemented whatever I say, however, when one is trying to place homey imagery and the sheer poetic chaos of it all, one need look no further. The basement, the pavement, the bed, the alleyway, the raw wonder of the Beat-cum-Eliot-cum-Blues-cum-Guthrie brutality of this song's lyric and musical signifiers throw caution to the wind and stupefy anybody faced with it.

Dylan at his mercurial peak

Sam Cooke - Bring it on Home to Me: Sam Cooke's voice against the sound of a pneumatic drill ripping through a pavement while somebody rubbed sandpaper against one's cornea would still delight, soothe and dumbfound. Against this song it does all that and more. Yeaheyah.

Tame Impala - Music to Walk Home By: Tame Impala are one of my favourite bands of 2012. Their '66-'67 era Beatles style with a modern inflection has a trippy, throwback-yet-relevant appeal unlike anything I've heard in recent years. This song, much like Lonerism, the album it comes from, is a superb, psychedelic ride that nobody could want to get off of.

Music to Walk Home By

Outstaying One's Welcome

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Watching The X Factor last night, for the first time this series, I could not help feeling that the show really is now like an unwanted homeless guy asking for change as you puff away outside a local boozer. It thinks it is far more entitled to your money and attention than it actually is and it hangs around, begging for your hard-earned until you move away (or, in the case of The X Factor, you stop watching - which it seems lots of us have done). It even has the tired, sad narratives before each talentless buffoon sings for their supper (this analogy works on many levels, I know) all the while expecting you to invest in it monetarily by paying over a quid's premium to vote on who stays. OK, so it doesn't then ask if it can steal one of your smokes once you shoo it away, granted, but then again, the homeless guy doesn't want over an hour of your Saturday night to listen to his wretched tales or warbling singing, but just half a minute or so before donation.

Simon Cowell - It's all in the marketing!

Indeed, The X Factor has become a lot less relevant (to use a phrase so favoured by its creator, Simon Cowell). Apparently it is suffering in the ratings stakes, which would affirm the aforesaid statement, and it may lose out to Strictly Come Dancing - always a pointless Saturday night event, at least The X Factor had its moment in the sun - this year overall. I think without Simon Cowell it is just not as entertaining personally. Yes, he is devoid of the slightest thread of moral fibre and says "look" before uttering a statement way too much, but the guy is bloody charismatic - like it or not. Playing the 'bad guy' and talking straight, Cowell gave the show a likeable villain; like a Jimmy Conway of Saturday night TV. Now he's been replaced by that absolutely personality-devoid fat bloke from Take That and, quite frankly, this is not satisfactory.

Anyway, back to the point. The X Factor has gone on for too long. Not content with taking up the whole of  every winter this side of 2004, it has now become a straggler of the worst kind. Maybe, the formula has just proved too, well, formulaic. The weird act who cannot sing (for this see Wagner and Jedward in the past and Rylan this year), the rags to riches story (for this see singing binman Andy Abraham and struggling single mum Rebecca Ferguson in the past and North East lad James Arthur this year, who amusingly mis-spelled insane as inane when tweeting in reply to Jermaine Defoe tweeting about him - see it here) and the stupidly named groups (previously see 4Tune and the hilariously lazily titled Girlband and District3 this year) have all begun to grate harder than a freshly-bought 'Ped Egg'.

Girlband - Wordplay wonder women

Like a recurring wisdom tooth problem, The X Factor is now an unnecessary pain in the molars we could all do without. Nevertheless, it will be the talk of that other pointless mass-marketed tripe medium; the tabloid. Nonetheless, cretinous Facebook friends aplenty will vent their disgust at Tulisa's comments about Kye Sones (what kind of bloody name is that?) and Louis kicking out some unfortunate wannabe. Regardless, culturally-bereft TV shows like ITV's lame breakfast show Daybreak will run features on who stayed and who went each week.

The X Factor has run its course, but you can be sure that Cowell and ITV will want to squeeze every last penny out of it. Instead of calling it a day to keep the show's place in televisual history unquestionable, they will run it and run it until it becomes about as wanted as another Only Fools and Horses Christmas special or another of Jeremy Clarkson's publicly-declared viewpoints. Those with good artistic sense, like Ricky Gervais, know how to say no to another series of something which has proven to be a huge hit just because it will pay well, however, the team behind The X Factor will take something which was a previously-enjoyable cultural phenomenon and turn it into television as Chinese water torture. Only when it becomes completely unprofitable will they stop.

The X Factor is dead, however it will live longer and longer in a vegetative state rather than doing the decent thing and buggering off I fear.

This kid must have been wishing these two would bugger off I imagine also.

The Cynic

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

I've often heard folk tell me I'm a cynic. If, for instance, I question the conventional wisdom on a given matter - like 'politicians go into politics for the right reasons to begin with' or 'Islam and Christianity are peaceful religions' - I generally find some eternal bloody optimist telling me that I've got a cynical view of the world and that I should not be so inclined. Well, bollocks to that.

Usually I distrust memes, but...

The cynic is a much maligned character in social circles. If one attends a party where some annoyingly smug chap happens to be drawling on about how wealthy he is, one may be inclined to question if said chap genuinely is so loaded - for if he were, why would he need to be reassuring us (himself?) that he is so? If this is one's reaction, he or she will be faced with a "you're so cynical" or "why can't you just take things at face value" type of reaction. However, it is my belief that we must always question.

Western philosophy and science are built upon the very foundations of what most people pseudo-sagaciously term cynicism. The idea of taking things at face value didn't work very well, for example, when the pious were the ruling elite. Galileo built a telescope which contradicted the Christian theory of a higher power to some degree and was thus punished with unnecessary severity for his actions. Darwin kept The Origin of Species locked away for twenty years due to his concerns that going against the church might not be the most mortality savvy idea. In not accepting the given word as definite, and probing to find out more Galileo and Darwin were acting, in the eyes of the eternal optimists, in a rather cynical fashion were they not? Would anybody reasonably suggest that Galileo's or Darwin's actions were worthy of a term with negative connotations? To the latter I would suggest (and hope) not.

Teenage Fanclub - Song to the Cynic

If there is a major flaw in the blase use of 'cynic' as a term (and there is) it is that it applies something negative to something that is undeserved of such action. Something which has recently triggered this irked riposte you are reading to that very labeling happened to me not too long ago. For the job which I am currently doing, I had to take a personality test (yes, the corporate powers that be now want to know if you'll fit in to their ideology before they rob you of your time and soul for a measly financial reward). While it seems that I am not a pathos-worthy schizoid with a semi-maniacal outlook, the test did flag up that I have a 98% distrust of others complex (quite how one can put a number on such a trait I don't know). In other words, it showed up that I have a cynical outlook on human beings and their potential actions. I would, to some degree, agree with this - especially in the context of the questions that the test asked. Upon being asked whether or not I think a worker will slack off when the boss isn't looking or whether or not I think a boss will screw an employee over if they can get away with it I answered yes (note: this wasn't the exact wording of the questions or answers, but they were words to that effect). I stand by this. Having been screwed over before by bosses before and having slacked off when a boss wasn't looking before I think I made the right choice. I would imagine that most people would answer these questions in the same way, provided they were being genuinely honest.

The point here is that humans do questionable things or things they should not do every single day and with this being the case, some of us wise-up and realise that if it has happened many times before, there is a good likelihood it will happen again and, as such, we must scrutinise and act with vigilance. It would seem others, however, are flatly happy to be trodden on, so long as their world view of "everything is perfect, nobody will ever try to do something nasty to me" can stay protected. While I do concede that this is a nice world view, in fact, it is one I would love to be true, it simply is not.


Contrarians like the late great author and journalist Christopher Hitchens and his prosaic idol George Orwell often wrote in a style that to the eternal optimist would seem cynical. With that in mind, I'd like to say that I would rather be a Hitch or an Orwell than be anything like those pie-in-the-sky dreamers.

I may well be a cynic or a pessimist or have an unreasonably distrusting view of people, but, quite frankly, I could not care less if this is the case. In fact, I celebrate it because it makes more sense than believing in unilateral goodness amongst others.

Music in Review: The Clash

Monday, 1 October 2012

For the first of these backward-glancing features I shall review the early music of the revered punk-cum-rock-cum-reggae behemoths; The Clash. From their eponymous debut album - a punk classic of three chord angst built from the garage rock model with political aspirations and London imagery in equal measure - up to the more polished faux punk of Give 'em Enough Rope, I will dissect, scrutinise and critique the early musical content of a band who truly understood that every facet - image, politics, music and ideology among others - of a band is fundamental to their legend making.

The Clash - roots rock rebels. 

Early period (The Clash, Give 'em Enough Rope and early singles) - If The Clash had faded off into the sunset after their first two album releases and never made another record, they still would have gone down as one of , if not the finest punk bands to have emerged from the '76 - '77 brigade.

Straight from the bat, the explosive first single, White Riot, aggressively called white youths to riot like their black counterparts with Strummer asking"are you taking orders?" spikily. The simple a chord/d chord rhythmic blast of ferocious punk hits the desired spot (the jugular) and its parent album, The Clash, performs a similar trick. The album has points which lull the listener into a false sense of security - see Mick Jones's softer vocal approach or the break down section in Police & Thieves - only to throw an expert sonic uppercut as one settles - see Strummer's growled, snarling vocal attack or the lead back into the fight scene-worthy crescendo that spills out of Police & Thieves's break down. The first run of singles (from White Riot to the majestic White Man (in Hammersmith Palais)) and that eponymous first record showcase the sheer dynamism and force The Clash had, while also showcasing Mick Jones's melodic touch and the substance and brutality of Strummer's poetry.


On their second album, 1978's Give 'em Enough Rope, The Clash decided to bring in Sandy Pearlman on production duty. The result was a slightly watered-down outcome which the band's record label, CBS, thought might break The Clash in the USA. It did not have the desired effect.

Certainly, the album sparkles at points, none less so than in the swashbuckling devilry of Safe European Home, but at too many points it fails in its objective - to bring true London punk to the world - by failing to indeed be true London punk.

As a whole, this period of Clashology proves to be a focal point. Without the lessons learned from this early education, one would struggle to grasp where they were coming from on their undoubtedly more intriguing work later on in their tenure or indeed how they got there.

60 Years of NME, New The Thick of It

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

NME is 60. The magazine which started out as a 'music newspaper' back in 1952 has gone through plenty of changes in its tenure - from newsprint to glossy, from creating and being involved in The UK Singles Chart to being all about niche, hipster cool. One might say the NME has changed its facade and rhetoric more times than Bowie in the '70s or Madge in the '80s.

It is now an institution, whether you like it or not. Personally, I feel it's become unnecessarily hip-focused; placing spotty bands without deals on a pedestal which they may not fulfill, however, it has helped numerous acts go on to become institutions themselves - and in this regard it should be lauded.

Certainly, the measure of the influence the NME has on culture is incalculable. That it came up with the idea for the UK Chart would alone cement this, however, even some of the more inane features such as 'The Cool List' and the endless '100 Greatest...' polls it conducts have an effect - reflecting the modern day need cyclical trends and canonical cobblers pertinently.

Tucker about to blow

Aside from this, a quick note of admiration also needs to be expressed on the new series of The Thick of It. It is superbly observed, written and realised political satire and in my view is the funniest thing on the box at the moment. The Coalition and Shadow parties seem almost too real in their strategy and I'm waiting for Malcolm Tucker to blow and scream at someone - probably Nicola Murray - in his own menacing, marauding fashion.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The start of autumn is always a particularly saturated period within the arts. With those cash-rich student folk going back to University, the kids back at school and Christmas on its way (CD, DVD and book sales about to soar) it seems as if we're thrown a fuckload of cultural clutter at once. However, it is, purely by numbers, usually a period that throws up some top-notch music, film and literature.

As such, this autumn is no exception. Yeasayer have released their superb new electro-prog wonder; Fragrant World - a magical, whirlwind tour through part-Pierre Schaeffer cut-and-paste jitters, part Beatles-esque melodic realisation. As a record it works on the music-as-art level necessary for its captive hipster audience as well as finding a balancing mechanism in its approachable nature.

The art work for Yeasayer's Fragrant World

Loopers looks as if it will be a sensational film - just from the trailers alone. If it lives up to its critical billing of 'This year's The Matrix' it cannot go wrong commercially either. The Sweeney, however, may be one to miss. Upon seeing it last night, all I was left with was a feeling that I could have just watched the second half - without the love triangle nonsense - and still caught the gist of it. That said, it is watchable.

Will Self's Umbrella promises to be a psycho-geographical tour of the labyrinthine web of terror that is my home-town and residence again; London. Self pours out canon-worthy brilliance every couple of years, so never mind Fifty Shades, Umbrella is the literary event of 2012.

Stuff What's Happening and That...

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

After a brief hiatus - due to a number of things which are far too tiresome to go into here - I shall begin updating this old blog again! Anyway, I thought I'd kick off with a few things going on in music and the arts, so here we go.

Sir Peter Bazalgette has been appointed as the Chairman of the Arts Council. Bazalgette, who owns TV production company Endemol (the makers of such artistic programs as Big Brother and Deal or No Deal), will take up his role at the end of January and will work two days a week for £40,000 per year - which is not a bad pay rate by anybody's standards. Sir Peter said of his new role: "sustaining our vigorous arts and cultural sector is admittedly a challenge, but one I greatly look forward to". (Full story here)


Former Beatle Paul McCartney is to be awarded France's Legion of Honour medal on Saturday. The distinction is the highest available in France and was set up by Napoleon Bonaparte to award notable figures. Macca will join Clint Eastwood and Liza Minnelli as an awardee. (Full story here)

Finally, today would have been Freddie Mercury's 66th birthday and in conjunction with this the NME blog has a 'rank the albums' post up, purely because they love an inane poll. In at number 1 is News of the World while down at number 15 is Hot Space. My personal favorite, A Night at the Opera, came in 3rd place. (Full list here)

Holograms of Dead Rap(ists)pers, Cowell a Gay? What a Month

Monday, 23 April 2012

I've not posted for a while due to being under the cosh, so to speak, with other stuff. Anyway, this month has seen all manner of pointless celebrity tittle-tattle (no change there then), especially that involving Simon 'make me famous Max Clifford!' Cowell, an awful show called The Voice on BBC 1's prime-time Saturday night slot seems to be garnering much attention and something which I don't know what the hell to make of yet happened at Coachella involving a 2Pac hologram.

Cowell looking just a tad smug

Firstly, to Cowell. Questions abound as to whether he's gay or not and quite frankly, who cares? It's clear that with BGT struggling against the aforementioned snore-fest, The Voice, and The X Factor doing badly (comparatively to recent years of domination) in the ratings last winter, he needs a little publicity. In comes the 'unofficial' biography. This has Max Clifford written all over it. Next.

The Voice is an absolute chore to sit through. I really do not get it to be honest and have had quite enough of 'talent competitions' and all the ugly, vaudeville aspects of them now anyway. It is mildly better than BGT, however, and The X Factor in fact, which is just ridiculous now.

2 of America's Most (un?)Wanted back together again

Finally, on to that 2Pac thing. It was astounding to see on Youtube, I cannot imagine how good it was live. I do, however, find it all a little weird. Just let him go. 2Pac was a phenomenal rapper, but the quasi-religious status he holds in rap circles is mental. Was this what Christians kept telling us would happen at Easter? It certainly feels as if 'Pac has been venerated to messianic status. He was also a bit of a dick when he was alive (a lot like the God that binds believers to praise him, I suppose, or in fact the believers that do praise him, I suppose). He was a convicted rapist who glamourised killing for its own sake. He wasn't the messiah, just a very naughty boy.

There we go, that's the month wrapped up for you. Off you go then...

Gallowaywi'ya!!! - 5 of the Best Scandalous Songs

Friday, 30 March 2012

I absolutely cannot believe that the people of Bradford West voted in George Galloway - him of Celebrity Big Brother fame who pretended to be a cat - in last night's by-election. My disgust is such that I see this as, in fact, a bloody scandal! With this in mind here's 5otB scandalous songs for you (and don't even think Mis Teeq are included).

Eminem - Kim: When I was a lad Eminem was just about the only interesting mainstream pop star (don't even think Mis Teeq would be included here either!) and this song, with its honour killing theme (Galloway probably loved it), caused quite a stir when it appeared on The Marshall Mathers LP. Not just scandalous, but downright outrageous.

Eminem - Kim

Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen: It's hard to think of a song that has caused more of a stir and backlash in the history of popular music and anything that gets up the nose of Royalists is good for me.

Dead Kennedys - Kill the Poor: This caused a reaction, but only because people mis-interpreted it. Kill the Poor is actually a protest song, not a manifesto on how to eradicate the less-wealthy members of society. It's also a fantastic, energising cult-punk classic.

Dead Kennedys - Kill the Poor

2Pac feat. Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg and YDG - All About You: "Is you sick from the dick or is it the flu?" - just one of many foul, filthy lyrics which litter this gangsta rap dream of a scandal. Really, much of 2Pac, Snoop or Nate's output could be up here, especially Nate's I Need a Bitch.

Mis Teeq - Scandalous: Just kidding!

Blue Collar Pop - and How it Keeps You Down

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Anybody who knows me well will know that I'm a big John Lennon fan. Indeed, Lennon, for me, is as good as anyone who's ever committed to songwriting. A natural melodist with sharp lyrics (though his early-Beatles stuff may not have realised this as well as his later work with the fabs or his solo stuff), Lennon was the conscience of popular music in many ways.

Working Class Hero, perhaps Lennon's greatest lyric, highlights exactly what I'm saying. Working with a simple harmonic movement (Am, G throughout), Lennon adds in the hammer-on on the d string for a melodic touch and the vocal melody to the track is very engaging. Besides this though, as has been said, the lyric is its most engaging feature. As a polemic which actually holds its audience (the working class) to account and tells them that they are their own worst enemy by allowing themselves to be "doped with religion, sex and TV" and thinking they're "so clever and classless and free", Lennon's song tells them exactly why their plight is so.


Lennon never shied away from anything - war, love, hate, cold turkey - but by pointing out the problem instead of just venerating a lifestyle which keeps the working classes down he pulled something off which many do not: he gave his subjects a solution i.e. stop being doped by these identity forces and react.

Many other lyricists, whom when depicting the plight of the working class, miss out on this. For instance (and as much as I love his music and lyrics), Bruce Springsteen's poor, polemicist posturing gives many working class Americans a hero and a champion, but he is often somebody who champions their way of life by just saying he is a blue collar guy. Springsteen, however, does "stick it to the man" in many ways and therefore is merely the tip of the iceberg and far less of a problem than others.

This one both contradicts and backs-up my point - just listen! It's a great tune too.

The real problem comes from bands and artists such as Oasis, The Streets and The Enemy whom all promote a working class ideal and aesthetic in their song lyrics without ever pointing out that monetary hierarchy is succinctly unfair and that forces beyond them are keeping them down (like millionaire pop stars giving them identifiable working class heroes, for example). O.K. then, "day-by-day there's a man in a suit who's gonna' make you pay" in Oasis could be argued to go some way, but it still misses the point really. The Streets and their "total result of a holiday" and The Enemy's resignation that "we'll live and die in these towns" absolutely vindicate my point. Through promoting the blue collar hardships as something to be proud of, these artists manage to, in fact, keep the working class down.

The Streets' Mike Skinner

Maybe as good a place as any to look is Morrissey and, subsequently (given that Moz may be his biggest fan), some of the poetry of John Betjeman. Along with Lennon's Working Class Hero, Morrissey's scorn in the line " a double bed and a stalwart lover for sure, these are the riches of the poor" and Betjeman's downright indictment, particularly in Slough, one of his most famous poems, provide a chance for introspection within the working class. Sadly, the "jumped-up pantry boy, who never knew his place" may never realise this, because while it was being explained to him he merely said "shut up, Dry Your Eyes Mate's on".

Some Stuff What I've Enjoyed Recently

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

QPR: The Four Year Plan - Really cool BBC documentary about the finest football team the world has ever seen. It highlights the disparity between the seemingly off-hand, clumsy and harsh Briatore administration and any manager forced to work for it. The ending also brought back some great memories from last summer's promotion.

The Artist - Though essentially a throwback, The Artist breathes some new life into silent film. It's an interesting story, well-conveyed and acted out with a breathtaking soundtrack. Not sure about the Oscar though, just because I enjoyed it, it doesn't make it better than other noteworthy contenders.

The Artist

Freakonomics - I'm late to this one, I know. Huge when it first came out in 2005, this book so brilliantly explains the answers to quirky questions in an economic (pun intended) way. Lucidly-written with well-thought-out content it is a must if you haven't read it already!

Blonde on Blonde - One of Dylan's best albums, I've really been getting back into this recently. I've always loved You Go Your Way (and I'll Go Mine), but my eyes have been re-opened to the magic of Visions of Johanna and I Want You once more. Stunning album.

Blonde on Blonde

Cut Off

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

I meant to write this post last week, but I didn't. The problem was I only had local access to the internet for a couple of days for some reason. Anyway, the problem's been resolved. You could say I was cut off. Just like poor old Adele.

Well, it was terrible wasn't it? No? No, it wasn't. I'd rather listen to Blur than a girl who, though a lovely singer, when speaking sounds like an extra from TOWIE. It's not just the tone either, the content was moronic. "Ar'm sow praaad to bay British" said the Brit School's most successful alumnus. She went on to talk about "flyin' the flag" and other such Nationalist nonsense and quite frankly, I've never been so happy to see James Corden's otherwise slappable mush appear to cut her off.

Adele, in far more sombre-looking mood

After her snooker hall philosophy had so insightfully enlightened us and Corden had stopped her in her tracks, she gave the finger to some Brits execs (or whoever they were) and 'bowled-it' off, so as to complete the full-on stereotypical East-End barfly image.

What was I then greeted with? Ray Winstone's presentation for Blur's Oustanding Contribution Award. What next? Phil Daniels and Damon Albarn 'bowling-it' down the stage to Parklife arm-in-arm. Oh.

Couldn't they have played more of the Pavement-inspired later stuff? Never mind, Blur deserved that award. Adele, dare I say it, deserved hers. Maybe she should just say thanks and smile next time... Maybe not, though. It wouldn't be Adele would it?

Lovely version of a great song

Anyway, 21 is now a bigger-selling album in this country than Jacko's Bad, so that should console her in her anguish. If not, why not go to the cashpoint and press 'balance' Adele?


Monday, 20 February 2012

New York’s Firehorse present an interesting mix of radio-consciousness and, in fact, commercial savvy withslightly leftfield sonic leanings. Like an amalgamation of the Yeah Yeah Yeahsand Kate Bush, theirs is a sound which fizzles with uber-cool pretensions, but a melodic sensibility that suggests a pop leaning and a love of well craftedcounterpoints.

Lead singer Leah Siegel has thealluring visual aesthetic that could break the band with a mainstream audience(one which, these days, is seemingly obsessed with those that look ‘cool’). Thevideo for new single Our Hearts projectswhat could well be a new ‘star’ in full force as she dances around, glancingeffortlessly with no shortage of sexual appeal at the camera. Her voice sinkswith breathiness at points and swaggers with knowing confidence at others,providing the listener with an interesting mix of part-emotional vulnerability,part-showgirl idiosyncrasies.

Leah Siegel

The deftness of their approach isreally highlighted in the weepy If YouDon’t Want to be Alone, which accompanies an advert for the TopsyFoundation’s advert on reversing the effect of Aids on human lives. This songin particular, with its sparse, reverberated rhythm guitar and call to poignantrationalising could well break the band.

What we seemingly have, then, isa captivating front-woman leading a band with thought-arousing sonic leaningsagainst songs catchy enough for airplay. It seems as if the World really couldbe Firehorse’s oyster.

Our Hearts

Pledge Music

Thursday, 16 February 2012

If you don't know, then get to know about Pledge Music. It's a fantastic site where you, yes you, can pledge money for music projects you deem worthy of your hard-earned. The idea is simple, a trailer or pitch-style video or a bit of blurb explaining what they want to do is uploaded by a Pledge member onto the site and you can buy into it to help fund recording costs etc.

It's not limited to music per se, in fact there are some wonderful trailers for documentaries and the like on the site.

For fees which, in fairness are really not that high, you can own mementos and the like from the projects and the money is used for anything from travel and expenses for the artists, to recording costs.

It's a really great way to cut out the necessity of a major record label and by pledging you can be a part of something that will in turn exist for many years to come; a finished product.

The link for Pledge Music's site is here and to follow on Twitter click here!/pledgemusic and obviously click 'follow' on the page.

What Happened to Oranges at Half-Time?

Monday, 6 February 2012

So, I've just watched the grossly over-the-top Madonna half-time show on Youtube and now need a bucket. Granted, Like a Prayer is a bit of a tune and for a woman in her nineties she looks good, but who cares? That was disgusting. I hate Nicki Minaj and I hate LMFAO and I hate Madonna trying to appease people her boyfriend's/daughter's age by appearing with these people.

American Football is the worst sport ever anyway. It's basically how Wimbledon used to play in the '80s and '90s in our humble little game of Football (watched and loved by everybody except most of North America), only with stopping the clock every two seconds. Get the ball up-top a.s.a.p. and a big lad up there will do the rest with a few shoves.


Anyway, besides the fact that it's a terrible sport with no real discernible point, American Football's major event, The Superbowl, is one disgusting reflection of the ugly, cynical and daft World we happen to inhabit in the West. The half-time show, then, is its coup de grace on Mankind as a whole. The WWE calls itself 'Sports Entertainment', which it is, meaning it's some athleticism with a bit of showmanship and storyline etc. That's fine, I like wrestling because of that. I know what I'm getting. American Football, and especially the Superbowl, is just a fraud.

Madonna's show was a joke. M.I.A.'s petty rebellion - boring. Cee-Lo Green - one trick pony. Nicki Minaj - worthless. LMFAO - what? 'World Peace' in big gold letters on the pitch of the major sporting event of the World's biggest war-mongerers since my ancestry decided to go on a colonisation binge under Vicky - just a bit fucking stupid.


What was the point of all that pseudo-ancient Rome nonsense? Whose idea was it to have Madge cartwheeling in a mini-skirt? The whole thing was just really ugly and shameless and, yes, I've seen the Clint Eastwood advert. What a piss-take. A multi-millionaire telling America to get off its arse basically - kill me now.

Brentmeister General for Xmas No.1 2012

Monday, 23 January 2012

Today I am starting a petition. I'm going to get as many people as possible together, starting from now, to get David Brent's rock classic Free Love Freeway to Number 1 on the British Singles Chart at Christmas of this year. If you like this idea, read on. I have a plan.

Chilled out entertainer at work

First off, I'm going to start a Facebook page and a Twitter account for it and garner as many people as I possibly can.  I'll keep everybody updated through this blog and a separate one which I will start and together we can do it.

Once enough people are in place I will contact Ricky Gervais and ask him to release the single, but first I need people, and lots of them, to help me do this. If we can get enough support, there is already a recorded version in place with Noel Gallagher on backing vocals which could go on release 2 weeks before the Christmas chart on Sunday 23rd December. The plan is then to get everybody out into their local HMV or onto iTunes or whatever to buy it in the week running up to the 23rd.

If you want to join the Facebook page the link is here and to follow on Twitter the link is here.

We have roughly 11 months to do this, so get involved!!!

Remember: the love is free and the freeway's long.

5 of the Best: The Smiths

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Since getting the Complete box set for Christmas The Smiths have been playing more often than even usual in my home. With one of the greatest guitar bands to ever surface from Britain in mind, here's 5 of their best.

The Smiths

Half a Person - Everybody was 16, clumsy and shy at one point and Morrissey's superb lyric in this song, coupled with a nostalgic, sad and touching arrangement make this one of the best, let alone theirs.

Ask -  "Writing frightening verse to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg". It doesn't get much better than that. This song so wonderfully counteracts all of the 'miserable' tags applied by lazy types with no facets to their musical taste other than "if it's about a night out I like it, if it challenges me, no thanks".


Bigmouth Strikes Again - Johnny Marr's breakneck rhythm playing and surging, single string leads make this song one of the guitar performances of the eighties. Far simpler axe-work than the stuff on Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others and the like, yet no less stupefying, it is, frankly, a masterpiece. The Morrissey bits are not 'alf bad either.

This Night Has Opened My Eyes - A dream-like work of textural space and total catchiness, this song finds Morrissey floating a breathy, sumptuous vocal over the top of some really great stuff from the rhythm section and almost unfathomably ear-catching guitar work from Marr. Marr's philosophy of playing as a whole band with one guitar is at points on full display and at others out of the window. Fantastic song.

This Night Has Opened My Eyes

This Charming Man - A song that defined its era with lyrical dexterity, simple harmony and a rather intricate, instantly recognisable  riff that, as Noel Gallagher puts it, "even Johnny Marr can't play that properly anymore". Probably The Smiths' London Calling or Losing My Religion, yes, but also one of their best efforts.

The Annoying Din

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The builders are in next door. Their constant banging, awful radio and flatbed loading and unloading seem to be trying to cut through my records with alarming zeal. This is, as one can imagine, fucking infuriating. The most infuriating part of all, however, is the Geordie foreman, who seems to marshal the troops by speaking as loudly as he possibly can. It's as if the North Eastern Public Speaking Championships are going on right outside my thin-walled 2 bed Manchester apartment.

Add to that the chav-wear shop 2 doors down who insist on blaring JLS, Example and Ed Bloody Sheeran at full blast and the rattle of traffic spinning through Central Manchester and it's rather hard to concentrate on doing my work, reading or, most annoying of all, me time!

Looks like a gimp, doesn't he?

Quite why people feel the need to listen to Capital Radio or perfect their human megaphone skills every day is beyond me, but why they have to do it within any distance of me just pisses me off.

It has all got me thinking though. What have been the most annoying noises that have been everywhere we go over the last few years? Which God-awful songs have been in every pub, shop or club over the last half-a-decade or so? So I've made a list...

Rihanna - Umbrella: Now while Ri-Ri (as I'm told she is to be called now) is extremely easy on the eye and does have a few catchy tracks, dare I say it, even good ones, there was a time a few years ago when you couldn't move without hearing this. It was number one the whole way through a rainy summer (oh the irony!) and was, and is, utter dross.

Ed Sheeran - The A Team: Why does anybody think this or anything else he's done is good? It's not. Turn it off.

See Example photo for caption

Florence and the Machine in General: Seemed OK at first and then after four or five listens I realised it's shite. The problem is, since 2008, or whenever they decided to burst into our lives, they've not buggered off. Florence, Machine, please do.

Tinie Tempah - Written in the Stars: He has to be one of the worst rappers ever. Up there with MC Tunes (had a couple of tunes with 808 State, check them out on Youtube for a laugh) and Vanilla Ice. He took what was a great backing track for Pass Out and put lines like "I've been Southampton but I've never been to Scunthorpe" over it. This one, however, lacks even a decent tune behind it and is, in turn, a niggling, persistent annoyance.

N-Dubz in General: Don't get me started.

So there you go, I've most certainly not covered everything, these are just the ones that stick out as I'm writing this. If you're reading this and have a suggestion or two, feel free to comment below with them. It's always best to vent frustrations and get them off your chest.

Songs of the Year: The Horrors - Still Life

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Gone are the days when The Horrors were just another annoying five minute flash-in-the-pan skinny band doing the rounds in Dalston or Camden. With their last two albums the band have hit their stride impeccably and have extended their musical boundaries to incorporate more than just two-and-a-half-minute post punk backward glancing.

This then, the biggest single to emerge from Skying, probably their best effort to date, sees the band going for it big. It has a large, all-encompassing, almost balladeer feel which treads the line between Joy Division and Simple Minds perfectly (namely, it leans towards the Joy Division side of it, only sometimes slipping into Simple Minds territory, which is good as Simple Minds are a grotesque outfit).

The Horrors

Farris Badwan's voice sound hoarse at points, in a good way, and his deep, searching baritone hits the spot perfectly on the anthemic "When you wake up, you will find me" parts.

Musically it's an array of string-like synths and well-worked harmonies which, although they at first seem large, are subtle. Subtly subtle then, if that makes sense.

In short this is an easy pick as one of 2011's best songs.