widg‧et /ˈwɪdʒɪt/ [wij-it] -noun: Pointless ramblings from the New Forest. Obviously complete & utter Rubbish. Why must I contibute to all this endless talk about me? My self-indulgent knees, spilling themselves all over the internet. Obviously i am Jon and his hair, I AM HIM!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Merlinpeen's Annual Hit Parade (four)

Very very late, I know, quickly quickly; and now I have spilt tea on the keyboard so the rrrrrrrrrr key's a bit sticky, this shall have to be short & fabulous:

The xx

A gang of bloody annoyingly precocious teenagers, hailing from Putney's Elliot Comp, seemingly a bizarrely groovy school, boasting many modern, musical, ex-student luminaries; including Four Tet, Hot Chip & Burial. Mixing a bit of early goth & shoegaziness with a bit of quiet minimalist & modern electronica, the lethargic tension of the boy-girl vocals sets the comedown mood. Unlike a lot of today's flavours of the months, there's no burying of songs in a shitload of shredding guitars & bunging some shouty nonsense on top to make granddad feel a bit uncomfortable, they let their songs breathe, the sense of space more effectively conjuring a palpable uneasiness. Miserably sexy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merlinpeen's Annual Hit Parade (five)

Don't Stop

Yes, it's the mucho delayed album by lazy Norwegian, Annie Strand, & not the latest work of the heliumed-up, perma-permed, midget Annie; which would hope-against-hopefully be called 'Stop! (please)'. It's been ten whole years since her Madonna sampling, uberpop single 'The Greatest Hit' & she's still only just this minute lethargically chucking out her second album. Still, that's one better than the parentless, ginger one.

To the rescue, the Prince Charmings to wake the Dozy Beauty, come the hallowed X-Men of pop production: Richard X & Xenomania, bringing along with them an all-star pantomime cast of cameoing nutters: Girls Aloud & Franz Ferdinand. Also on hand are Paul Epworth of Bloc Party/Futureheads/Maxïmo Park/The Big Pink fame and some bloke called Timo Kaukolampi, who has a funny name. With this abundance of shiny collaborators the whole thing could have swamped poor Annie in a turgid mess of clashing, spangly outfits; but no! Rising above the bleeping synths & chiming guitars comes the star of the show, with her too-cool-for-school vocals & her playfully witty lyrics; including this little couplet that would get Harry Potter even more moist with envy than he apparently is: "My kiss is wetter than your kiss, My lips are wetter than your trick, You know you’ll never have these hips, I’m so much better so eat this"

A large chunk of this record leaked out last year and, thusly, the first couple of aces singles have been skandalously (hm hm) thrown aside & some spanking new stuff added, but the end result is so strong that they're not missed at all, well maybe a bit, but not really. Not convinced? You shouldn't not be!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Merlinpeen's Annual Hit Parade (must try harder)

Running late, again! I'll try & get this wrapped up before New Year, so that my typing fingers can once again get their much-unwarranted 51 week rest. So:

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion

Miraculously appearing on so very many pleasing end of year lists after several years of general indifference from the chattering classes; I am goodly happy to jump on this most hummable of bandwagons and say, "Yeah, it's quite good in'tit? Have you heard of them before? No, well I think I spotted them on page 52 of Mojo back in 2007. Really? You do talk shite sometimes! Yes I do."

The Big Pink
A Brief History of Love

Hey Hey! It's 1993 all over again, the massive sunglasses & bleepy video-game tunes have made way for some honest to goodness, eyes-down, gazing at shoes, next to your soiled Betty Blue poster, as the slightly overweight warden of your student halls flies banshee-like down the corridor, screaming for you to hide your tellys, as the detector vans approach, waiting to take away your flapjacks. Maybe that was just me. Anyway, a classic 4ADish album, with a v23ish cover, and enough modern textural fun to almost fool you into believing they invented it.

Manic Street Preachers
Journal for Plague Lovers

I'm sure it's a little tricky to keep up the youthful nihilism when middle-age spread comes a-beckoning & slacks 'n' slip-ons seem a perfectly serviceable fashion choice, so why not take a few leaves out of the book of your youngest, deadest member, literally. Ah Richie, how we have missed your cheery disposition & sunny outlook. This is what makes the Manics great, unitelligble lyrics of despair, betrayal & bodily fluids, with the best song title ever (fact!) in 'Jackie Collins Existential Question Time'.

The Awkward Recruit

Jim Causley, a camp as a fishermans spoon folk singer from Devon, joins with Mawkin, a hairy bunch of Essex scamps, to fashion a record filled with creamily multi-lingual, sing-along songs. In the transfer from great live band to recorded noise the hip-wiggling & fruity stage presence may be lost in translation, but it's more than made up for by the clarity of sound & rhythmic energy.

Imidiwan (Companions)

A thirty year old collective of nomadic Touareg musicians from the Malian Sahara, this is their fourth internationally released album, and it's the rawest & best. There's none of that dreaded 'crossover' pandering to us heathen westerners that so many internationally acclaimed 'world music' artists fall prey to, just a relentless rolling rhythm that holds together these stark, dusty tunes in its sandy embrace.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Countdown to Ecstasy! (one)

Christmas is over and the geese are getting laid
Please to buy me prezzies cos I haven't been paid;
If you ain't got no prezzies then some money will do,
If you ain't got bugger all then piss off!

Los Campesiños!
Hold On Now, Youngster...

Ooh, slightly stunted and later than scheduled, we reach the brief pinnacle of my 'Year In Lists'. With their hand drawn artwork, wordy lyrics and flurry of seven inch singles, at first glance this many-headed Welsh, but not Welsh beast of a band recall the 80s golden years of do-it-yourself indie schmindie. But the useful difference is that everything seems so joyful, even when they're breathlessly shouting out their never ending stream of self-deprecating teenage angst. In amongst all that, there are healthy dose of annoyance (Don't Tell Me To Do The Math(s)), youthful hope (You! Me! Dancing!) and downright weirdness (This Is How You Spell, "Ha ha ha, We've Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux-Romantics").

This punctuation loving combo (there's an exclamation mark, a comma and ellipsis on the cover alone) are full of exciting contradictions: taut but messy; tuneful yet shouty; both adult & childish; they have clanging guitars mixed with tinkly glockenspiel & folky violin; they can be deathly serious yet bladder-burstingly funny. Their wise, but silly, witty turns of phrase, with short stabs of petulance are the most exhilarating thing I've heard all year.

With two albums already under their belt this year (no matter how much they protest that the last one wasn't an album) I don't think we'll have to wait too long for their next exhuberent burst of brilliance. The future's bright, the future's shouty!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Countdown to Ecstasy! (two)

Apologies for the short delay, my saddlebags were encumbered by a gaggle of ailing cabin boys, escaping from the evil, self-proclaimed sexual enigma. With three heroic, swooping flails he was dispatched, only for me to find the overwhelming, misplaced sorrow of The Housewives Of A Certain Age guiltily bestraddling my seasonal throat like an ageing, foul-smelling Tonsillolith.

Neon Neon
Stainless Style

Gruff Rhys returns, this time with Boom Bip and a host of other guest stars in tow (Spank Rock, Yo Majesty, Cate Le Bon), to bring you the nylon-tastic story of disgraced car-nutter, John DeLorean. Yes, he of the ridiculous DMC-12, a car with wings that didn't take off, in either sense, later rehabilitated by Marty McFly; he of the shady business, creative accounting & drug trafficking entrapment fun that was all the rage when I was 5. The story of a much maligned man from a much maligned decade, the decade that taste forgot (if you listen to the propaganda, I'd plump for the 70s myself), set to a music using all the tricks & sounds of the era, but better than you ever remembered. Fast Cars, faster women, dream cars, hope & optimism, The Kids From Fame; this is the true essence of an idealised 80s, when it was shiny, new & day-glo, when it wasn't just a mess of big hair, leg warmers and obnoxious yuppies braying noisily on their humongous mobile phones.

We begin with 'Neon Theme', at first listen it sounds like the authentic sound of my childhood, a soundtrack to an unreleased Tron sequel from when the synthesiser was king. This sound cropped up in everyone's work in the 80s, from Eurovision winners to ex-Beatles to the heaviest of heavy metal bands, no one was left untainted. It now seems dated, but this is the perfect way to present this one man's vision of the future. And the thing is, the 80s were never this slick; no matter how much they wanted to be. When you listen back, it's never quite as gleaming and clean as you remember.

'Raquel' is named for Ms Welch, a previous conquest of Mr DeLorean. It starts with a joyously tinny drum machine, complete with fake cowbell & artificial handclaps; the sound that was all the rage in the clubs that I wasn't allowed to go to. I keep expecting a Gary Davis, Kid Jenson or Mike Reed-type to interject with a tired witticism, whilst wearing a cardigan of heavily made up girls around his shoulders.

'I Lust U' is a blatant Depeche Mode steal, but an electro-disco classic nonetheless, 'Belfast' is sadly not the exotic place previously immortalised in song by Boney M, but 'Trick For Treat' even manages to make Har Mar Superstar sound cool. In other words, an embarrassment of riches (a juicily apt summary, if I may say so), not a straight copy of a unfairly derrided oeuvre, nor a pastiche or a piss-take, but enhanced with a little perspective & humour. Messers Rhys & Bop have made a great album from artificial, outdated & cheesy parts, assembled in just the right way to give the illusion that the eighties was a time of hope & genius music (which, in part, it was).


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Countdown to Ecstasy! (three)

Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes

Ever since the Kings of Leon felt the power of Gilette's ever-multiplying blades of smoothness, there's been a Fleet Foxes sized gap in the balding world of popular music. Now they have arrived in all their hirsute wonder, sporting a look previously favoured by boy band members desperate to look grown up, their shaving hands busy clinging on to their fading careers. These foxy creatures, however, have no such worries, living in their woozy utopia where a hairdo is not a means to an end.

The mood is set with opener, 'Sun It Rises', with some squirrel-based, close harmony a capella; followed by a rolling, drone soaked tune with folky guitar figures & old, echoing drums; all finished off by more, this time sun-based, close harmony a capella. On that note, I've heard some criticism doing the rounds that the vocals are a bit tatty in quality and too high in the mix, exposing the fact that the harmonies are a little off. Well, I'd rather have an honest, homey, heartfelt & earthy record, with nothing more than a touch of trusty reverb, than something that's been polished, vocodered and pro-tooled to death in an effort to chase futile 'perfection'.

This collection of pastoral hymns and, in the bands own words, "baroque harmonic pop jams" are filled with a cinematic beauty that straddles history like a giant, musical midget. Medieval madrigals, nursery rhymes, appalachian ballads, sixties surf, seventies prog & folk-rock, AM country, noughties indie & americana; all these 'so naff they're trendy' (& probably made-up) influences are present and correct, but they don't tell the whole story. Rather than evoke a feeling of the past, there's more of a sense of timelessness here; these uncomplicated, yet deftly structured songs are not so much of a different time, but of a different place. As the liner notes suggest, "I can listen to music and instantly be anywhere that song is trying to take me." A mythical land where the sun shines, the snow falls, where it's winter, spring & summer, morning & evening, past & present all at once. This truly is an album for all seasons, for all times. A modern classic.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Countdown to Ecstasy! (four)

Pete & the Pirates
Little Death

Ahoy! In amongst the sensory overload of flashing disco lights, gaudy baubles, Human League Top-Shop t-shirts and their synthesised, aural equivalents; a ragtag band of Berkshire cut-throats have come from the other, C-86, indiepop side of the 80s revival to capture your heart, if not skewer it with a rusty cutlass. At first glance the title suggests more miserablism ala a more angsty, teenage Teddy Thompson; but translated into French, 'tis a naughty euphemism for orgasm, or its postcoital aftermath. A perfectly apt & naughty moniker for these melodic lovesongs bursting with orgasmic riffs, euphoric chord changes, youthful exhuberance & a dab of confusion. (... Watercolours?)

Ragged edged, yet tightly packed tunes follow tunes with alarming speed (only a couple break the 3 minute barrier), and are played with both a touch of quintessentially English, awkward shyness & boyish confidence: "Your smile is fake, but I like your face". Armed with a barrage of pleasingly tinny guitars & duelling harmonies, this deceptively simple collection of good-strong, hot-strong songs show that you don't need big bucks, big sounds or even big ideas to make a great album (size isn't everything), just a little space to breathe, a little joy, a little despair, a little life, a little death.

Arrrgh, me hearties, etc.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Countdown to Ecstasy! (five)

Teddy Thompson
A Piece of What You Need

Teddy Thompson really is a bit of a miserable bastard.

Maybe it's because he's a ginger. Maybe it's because his last album was a fat, Bernard Matthew's-style, reconstituted turkey drummertwizler, country cowpat of a covers record. But who cares when the end result is as finger-snappingly entertaining & cheekily self-pitying as this. On whinging, foot-stomper, 'What's This?!!' he even bemoans the state of happiness with such down-with-the-kids expressions as 'Oh shit!', 'It's all too good' and the classic, 'but yeah but no but'.

With one musical foot in the past and one tearful eye on his woeful future, the arrangements here harken back to the golden days of rock'n'roll & pop music, but with a healthy dollop of twisty modern twists. 'Jonathan's Book' opens with a horror movie sting, mutates into a piano heavy rocker, is interrupted in the middle by weird atonal mechanical squelches and ends with a rendition of the 'Harribo' jingle. Single, 'In My Arms' features an array of 60s handclaps and an olde, wind-up, cinema-intermission wurlizter solo, all set to a roller-disco themed video. 'Can't Sing Straight' struts along, punctuated by organ stabs, trumpet blasts and features the couplet 'Maybe it's good, maybe it's fine. Maybe I'll learn to walk the line.' Possibly a reference to his (not brilliant) album of country & western standards from last year. Did I mention that it wasn't very good?

The true masterpiece is a torch song for manic depressives, snappily titled 'Turning the Gun on Myself'. Previously released on a gig merchandise stall e.p. a couple of years ago, here it's augmented with some suitably irritating, ironic bird twittering and what sounds like the synthetic ocarina from the Zelda games. With a lyrical structure nicked from a lymeric, a mention of 'Rapper's Delight' (even if it's just to say how annoying it is when you're trying to sleep) and the least convincing exclamation of 'Wee Hee!' on record; grumpiness has never seemed like so much fun.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Countdown to Ecstasy! (bubbling under)

Ooh, is it that time of year again? Having been metaphorically prodded in the naughty bits by the Crabb's early bird listability, I have figuratively cracked my ailing knuckles and literally begun to spew musical opinions from my fingers. Well, maybe not literally, but if Fearne Cotton can't understand the difference, who am I to call for a repealing of the abolition of the death penalty in her one, special case? But then, I don't think I left my preliminary list in her 'special case', I left it at work, next to my heavily stained teacup, so there better not have been no peeking!

Where to begin... hmm, tricky. Well:

Scarlett Johansson
Anywhere I Lay My Head

A controversial choice, I can only assume, as the only one I know (everybody sing: 'has come to take me away') who even gives this album the time of day is me. 'Oh no', I hear you sing, greek chorus-like, 'another blonde actress that thinks she can sing'. But that's just it, she can't! At least, not in that squeaky bubblegum pop voice, or the equally offensive wanky, Mariah variety. Her register is pretty low, not unreminiscent of early Liz Fraser without the swoopy bits, but none the worse for that. TV On The Radio's David Sitek provides appropriate Cocteau Twins-esque 80s basslines & atmospheric guitar washes (before going on to make a second storming album of the year, TVOTR's own 'Dear Science,'). They even rope in lady of leisure, Dame David Bowie, to contribute some spooky backing vocals (before depositing him back in his straw & glitter lined hibernation pod/time capsule in the Blue Peter garden).

A quirky & unexpected, nostalgic yet shiny-new album; Miss Johansson has taken a pretty unpromising pitch, to say the least: 'Hollywood airhead with OK voice tackles the heavyweight catalogue of Tom Waits', and spins a thrilling, ragged (but wearable), musical yarn.

Amadou & Mariam
Welcome to Mali

Some may call this great 'world music', pah! Sod your lazy genres. Some may say they've strayed too far from their roots; 'more djembe', they may shout (they may not, I'm not quite sure who 'they' are). Sod your cravings for pointless authenticity and gimme something I can dance/swivel on my fat, lazy arse to (I'm talking about this album here, this is the one I want you to gimme. Do you see? They don't. They're blind. What has that got to with anything? Well, nothing really, but it is a good album. Good? Well, actually it's great. Is it? Yes.)

She & Him
Volume One

'She' is Zooey Deschanel, yes her of the steaming pile of stenchy excrement that is 'The Happening', the latest 'film' by M. Night ShyameOnYou, with a name sacrilegiously nicked from a mid-period Pixies song & a plot snatched from the wooley pages of a not particularly exciting edition of Garderner's World magazine (badly edited by God).

But all is forgiven, as for this collaboration she has chosen a far worthier sparring partner: 'Him', for it is he, M. Ward. I have been mildly aware of his work, partly because he's signed to my childhood sweetheart, 4ad, but mostly because he's been popping up on everybody & their monkey's (admitedly not too shabby) alt.country solo albums. Based on his excellent arrangements of Miss D's tip top songs here, I will have to investigate further.

The music industry is rampantly worried about the naughty downloaders taking all of their evil money away, but they're looking in the wrong place. It's those doe-eyed, Hollywood lady-thesps that've come to invade my top 10, muso space; but if you like your country like you like your coffee: hot & thick, smooth with a gravelly after-taste and bodged together by a crap actress, then this one's for you.

The Week That Was
The Week That Was

Ooh, now. This is a spin-off from the recently defunct band, Field Music, apparently. They are a beat combo that I've not really given much shrift to, not intentionally, they just never floated within my, admittedly limited, radar. Well, now I'm wishing they had, if this little beauty is any indication of their tunesmithery; and this one's by their drummer, for Chorlton's sake! I remember reading somewhere that this album was conceived around a certain week of telly watching. I do not remember which quite significant week that was. But who gives a skid-mark when the end result is this chock-full of delightful melodies, complex arrangement and a healthy dose of startled marimba?

British Sea Power
Do You Like Rock Music?

Yes, I bloody well do!


Thursday, November 27, 2008

What's Your Favourite Kind of Linctus?

Having long since let my natural inclination to do bugger all take over my typing fingers, I find myself nearing Christ-time, with all the year-end list writing that entails, and I'm left with a handful of homeless phrases, best left unsaid, that were to be wilfully teased into full length bollocks.

But in a big purple one stylee:

(Charlie's Monkeys, 4th March)

Joy! I'm all full of the joys of ulcerated thpwing.

Here comes another: Lisping harpie, is that your identity?

She's sealed it!

(Sexy Sunday, 30th March)

A spot of chair-bogling to the abbreviated fellows; a boobly, but underwhelming start gives way to the brightly coloured ties & shuffling polka dots of our next guests. An ear-invasion is staged, no opposition is brought, except for the quiet 'aws' when the battle is won.

Next up: no eye-contact, mumbling cellos, floaty dresses, ginger, nice. The sexiest of them all appears to wow the senses, but the thought is left half finished as Mr. Express tuts and points to his watch in disgust.

(Hoxton Hoedown, 20th April)

Stiff paper is exchanged for folding paper with the nice, but dim aliens. Noisy & hot, oh yes.

The strange & old purple fellow, with his matching fedora & cumberbund, lurches to the front to greet his grandnephew with non-sexual hand-jiving. The men in white hotpants arrive to replace his stylish jacket with a more suitable, rear-fastening one.

The kids appear; it's 1986, only later.

There was to be a rather rubbish short story, involving a smidgen of Kylie, a snatch of Madonna, a brace of Mojitos & a bald cat, but now we'll never know.

Oh well.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me (Baby)

Like a Hansdieter-Heinrich on Going For Gold, my sweaty fingers absent mindedly rubbing the metallic mushroom's helmet whilst a leprechaun-sized Henry Kelly clings to my lobes, screaming that I'm now playing catch up; I'm falling a little behind on my obsessive documenting of the events of the year thus far. Each lazy moment teases the unwilling thoughts from my mind and squirrels them off to the hazy fug of memory hell, no matter how often Bo-face demands an account of the sexiest of Sundays. What follows will be as disjointed and unintelligible to me as it is to you.

Up to the old cinema for a dose of salty sea-dogs and a smattering of wrongly applied dreadlocks. A detour though London's Trouser-Congestion Charge Zone. The swim-suited vermin hold a large, indoor busker hostage. As much as wee-wee would like, money refuses to part with a chugger-snubbing wallet, the ransom goes unpaid, it is engaged elsewhere. Twenty minutes of moustachioed, smirky-dancing follows.

After being repeatedly informed that we were unable to get a magazine, such as 'Fabulous', to reveal details of Mr Z's "love", the joy is at an end and the search begins for under-aged, smokey fun. The mole hole fills with legs. Neck strain is OK, but under-priced beer is better. Press Your buttons... now!

Currently listening: Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall by Rufus Wainwright

Friday, February 29, 2008

Let's All Play A Game At Me

Shift. Control.
Escape. Return.
Delete. SPACE BAR!

Nudge. Hold.
Swim. The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sneezy. Cheesy. Wheezy. Greasy. Sinitta.
Hitler. Vegetable. Nerys Hughes. Bodyform.

Bacofoil. Breville Sandwich Toaster.
Tefal. Dawson's Creek.

Beelzebub. Socks. Crunchy. Topping. Hopping. Bopping. Prancing. Pony.

Aston. Gusset. Pollock.
Dolphin. Showgirls. Tragedy.
H From Steps. Menopause. Death.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Hutch of Lust

To evilly twist & abuse the words of Teddy Thompson, or even the legendary Cathy Dennis, 'Everybody's Moving', oh yes they are. In the last couple of months 80% of the people I care to like have upped sticks & moved several yards in a clockwise direction around town; and now it's our turn.

But first we must endure the hard rocking whimsy of the next big hot & hot big thing, Thinker, at the New Forest's raciest hot big & big hot spot, The Rydal Arms. For this task I took on a new role as designated car wrangler, and very nearly succeeded in not maiming anyone. The only casualty being my aching shins and my thirsty, shrivelled booze gland. I could only watch on in amused contempt, as my companions doggedly tongued at Sailor Jerry for what seemed like hours while the Charliebo Three entertained the masses.

Back at backwards town, once felt padding was firmly affixed to shoes and all sharp edges sanded off our bare feet, we bid Stephen an indifferent farewell and exchanged the contents of our overdrafts for an inadequate set of guilty keys. We arrived at our new home, heavily laden with our specially selected floor & work surface scratching equipment, only to find an illegally placed landlord & his (f***s like me) Da', passive aggressively fannying about, claiming squatters rights. They were slowly dispatched with as much imaginary violence as possible. We then got on with the business of ritually burning the collection of hideous cat curtains, swan chopping boards, fish mosaics & yachting wallpaper that we had inherited.

The moving continued into the weekend, maliciously invaded by another birthday interloper. Packing had to be exchanged for a long awaited, topical Riggs tableau, finally committed to canvas. Returning to the job at hand, the plumed & putrid ghost of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was conjured, using the voodoo medium of grease & phlegm. Muslin of aching hue & mutant hypno-rug were installed; a name was decided upon & then discarded; a Hollyoakes peep-show oubliette was created out of soiled MDF, along with a feline circus themed gazebo for the bird carcass strewn back garden. Yes sir, we have a garden. Ooh, with fingers.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You Hold & I'll Pop

Whilst none of me was at pub on Thursday, all of me was at work; come Friday most of me was at pub, and the rest of me was neatly deposited into a small bag in Trinity Church Hall (and not in a dirty way).

Right, you know on Sesame Street, not the pinball one with the numbers, but where there's that gymnast on her hobbledy-horsey, and they keep on banging on about "between" until the word's lost all meaning. Well it's a bit like that i'ntit?

With one whole days warning, we were informed that Mr Proprietor would like to perform a teensy-tiny ickle survey on poor Stephen, for an unspecified amount of time, but presumed to be smallish, on Thursday morning. What eventually occurred bore little resemblance to what had been vaguely described on paper, and seemed to be more of an architectural autopsy.

The bell chimed several hours late and the door swung open to reveal a stream of people in numbers reminiscent of a Benny Hill sketch. I began to wonder if I had left a window open, so that they could climb out only to return through the front door over and over again, in an attempt to freak us out. They were strangely mute, and seemed barely able to acknowledge our existence as they gleefully tore through the floor in a desperate hunt for treasure.

None was found, so, once the considerable dust had settled and fixtures & fittings had been sticky-taped back into position, we set off on a house hunt. Our current lettings lackeys had nothing available within a twenty mile radius; evidently word has spread about how irredeemable SHITE they are. The thin lipped agents from the market place decided to play a game of 'arsehole in the middle' with the keys, and were thus most unhelpful. Our first successful viewing was arranged through a thoroughly decent piece or card in a shop window. It was a three horse race, between us, a couple of Poles & the eventual surprise winners, some friends of the landlord. We consoled ourselves with the fact that the considerable distance from town, taking literally an unsubstantiated fraction of an hour, was sufficiently unwieldy; and ran straight into the arms of a floor-obsessed paranoid.

Currently listening: Little Death by Pete & the Pirates

Monday, January 07, 2008

Jazzin' For Brown Cords

Forgetting to avoid shooting the messenger, we scoop the rest of the postman off the doorstep and pop him straight into the industrial rat composter before we allow the news to soak through. The verdict is in: we have but three months to vacate the cold & crumbly innards of the place we have come to call Stephen.

Cue much wailing & gnashing of landlords as we gather up all of our hatred and as much negative energy as we can muster, channelling it all into the warming bosom of oblivion that is the oncoming birth of Brown.

"The Spider, naturally, steals the show."

This is as much as I can recall of the evening's heaving festivities; so, with our memories heavily bandaged, we retire to what may well be one of the last full volume Splishy-Splashies ever, in order to drown our joys in Bowie & vodka.

The next morning, whilst the saner among us adopt the recovery position, our brand new home-owner has already managed to kill a prospective neighbour. I was a witness to the carnage, M'Lud. Just a couple of days before, on a quick reconnaissance mission around the new Hockobode, the aforementioned neighbour, a local, raging alcoholic, had demanded entrance without the proper documentation or security pass. He burst in, demanding to talk to a superior officer about who was causing the inaudible tiptoeing & gentle padding noises emanating from his ceiling for all of twenty seconds. I began to internally hum the theme tune to 'Neighbours (Everybody Needs Good)', as the rant continued. He slurred outrageously, suggesting that it was the new boys job to soundproof the entire block of flats.

"Cock" I thought to myself, as I usually do in times such as this.

Or, indeed, most of the time. It is normally the first thought that comes into my head (boom boom). But do not despair, insensitive reader, he redeemed himself soon afterwards when an aneurysm popped in his brain, presumably brought on by the oppressive whispering & long bouts of ear-splitting silence. Happy days.

Currently listening: Tallulah by The Go-Betweens

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Make It Bacon, Baby

Brmmmmm... Vroom Vroom Vroooommmmmm! Eeeeeeeeeeeeee! etc.

After fifteen years of vague and sporadic attempts to guide a boxy melange of metal, plastic and rotten, organic liquid across vast distances by randomly pawing at a bewildering variety of pedals, levers, pulleys & wheels; the moment has come. A decade since my last such experience; I sit clutching my slowly moistening documents until the under-glamorous lady-examiner takes me by my metaphorical ear to the waiting vehicle for a series of hastily rehearsed questions and a sheepish parp on the horn. A quick and pointy prompt leads me to conclude that to have the best chance of not failing, or indeed dying, it might work in my favour to switch on the road brighteners.

By the time I can see where I'm going we're already halfway round a roundabout, and twenty feet up in the air, about to career through a huge, stained glass window that will cut me all to shreds. At least that's what I imagine until I pluck up the courage to open my eyes and find that I'm nearly done. My only remaining obstacle being the infamous 'Mountain of Death', or, more accurately, 'The Shallow Incline of Backwards Rolling & Likely Stalling' followed by 'The Rounded Corner of Mildly Restricted Vision'. I sail (drive, surely?) through them all with drooping colours (amongst other things) and shoddily drop anchor/trousers/handbrake at the centre of all testing; coming to rest at an angle that I like to think is, at the very least, quirky, if not downright jaunty.

I claim my shiny, pink & plastic booty and engage in an introverted round of victory hand-jiving with my well-impressed instructor. As my chauffeur takes me home, the sky fills with slowly falling daisies, owls with trendy haircuts and no thumbs give me a thumbless thumbs-up. Skipping bunnies, prancing badgers & boggling ponies come to congratulate me, before being tidily squished under my glistening wheels.

But, of course, I am only allowed one, lonely day of happiness & animal maiming, before my joy is crushed under the weight of the hulking great calves of the next day's evil news... to be continued... duh duh duh!

Currently listening: Don't Try This At Home by Billy Bragg

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (One)

Gruff Rhys
Released right at the beginning of the year, this album has had a special place in my heart (and pants) for a full twelve months. I've not been exposed to a huge amount of Mr Rhys's band, Super Furry Animals' output, but what I have heard I've loved. They've been placed firmly at the top of my to do list for a long time. But I couldn't resist the cover of this little pink gem when it peered out at me from the shelves of a pre-HMV Fopp; despite the fact that it brings back my childhood, recurring nightmare of the freaky, hairy-yet-bald man in a grey polo neck out of Fingerbobs.

I all evokes a strange kind of nostalgia for a childhood that never was, where Rod, Jane & Freddy were clinically insane and pink hippos had torrid affairs with brown creatures with zips for mouths. Well, okay maybe that childhood did actually exist, but this one has Arthurian archaeologists, penguin carnations, lemon dalmatians and plane hijackers, all together in imperfect harmony.

The title track is all glockenspiels, xylophones, shuffling percussion and jaunty strings. 'Lonesome Words' is a jittery theme from a lost spaghetti western. 'Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru', which I'm told translates as 'Drive Drive Drive', is a perfect, rolling, singalong song, or would be if it wasn't in Welsh, but at least the chorus is easy enough. 'Cycle of Violence' has an insistent, jolly beat with happy sha-la-la's sitting next to the words "aspects of terror", and the comforting notion that "dirty bombs and clean ones look the same if you look closely".

It all comes togther with the epic, quarter of an hour long 'Skylon'. A psychedelic classic, with backwards guitars & flutes, telling the story of a bomb disposal expert and his friends' fight against terrorism, mediocre movies and frivolous magazines. And, as befits the bizarre fairy tale theme; they all lived happily ever after.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Two)

Ah, Christmas is over and I have to wait another eight months for pressies. After much nagging from Boface I have blatedly torn myself away from this year's haul to bring you:

Band of Horses
Cease to Begin
This was a bit of an impulse purchase, just based on a tiny, little review in The Independent & the fact that it has The Moon on the cover. The glowing review mentioned that it was released on the Sub Pop label, which in recent years have produced some superior, happy & crunchy on the outside with a sad & runny centre, morsels of american indie pop, which I like to dub, 'melanjolly' (hands off, NME).

Well, they've done it again. Band of Horses is your new favourite band in the super smashing Sub Pop tradition of The Shins & Rogue Wave, and can now be heard all over late night Radio 1 and 6music. According to my very brief research from the website of lies that is Wikipedia, this is their second album, and bloody brilliant it is too.

It's only once you've listened to it for a few times that you realise the lyrics of the first track (and initial single) 'Is There a Ghost' only contain 14 words, but what perfect words they are. A repeated, but not repetitive chorus over layered guitars, this slow building, exhilarating opener leads into a dreamy 'Ode to LRC' (The website of lies has no information on what LRC stands for). This song, with its soaring refrain of "The World is such a wonderful place" comforted me during the rough times when Katie 'oh dear God' Melua & Eva 'more comebacks than Tupac' Cassidy squatted over the Christmas number one slot with their similarly named, but infinitely less appealing cover of 'What A Wonderful World'.

The lyrics here hit you in your heaving bosom as much as the music. The happy clappy march of 'The General Specific' includes the intriguing thought that "pants have gotta go"; meanwhile amongst the jangling 80s guitars of 'No One's Gonna Love You' comes the line "You are the ever living ghost of what once was" which catches them sounding like a more poetic Stan Lee from the pages of a 1960s Spider-Man comic book.

And on the subject of heaving bosoms, they even find time to throw in a couple of Dolly Parton style country songs into the mix with 'Marry Song' and the fade-to-black finale of 'Window Blues'. A gorgeous end to an exceptional record: "And always in time, I'm never looking over my shoulder, I sing to you, I sing it to you".

Friday, December 21, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Three)

Apologies if this entry appears a tad brief, but a whirlwind week of boozing has decreased my tolerance levels for typing & thinking whilst hungover, and the looming deadline of Christmas is fast approaching. The birthday boy has become a property baron, and so to celebrate he took us to see (and get) Drunk in Public, we fell over (a lot), heckled Monsieur Dan of Donelly and were generally, absent mindedly loud (apparently).


Patrick Wolf
The Magic Position

Although he's been around for a while, with a couple of earlier albums that I haven't got round to listening to yet, though I've been told they were more sombre affairs than this; the first time I heard of Patrick Wolf was on the E4 Musical Yoof Fireside Hour channel, when I was awoken from my dazed slumber by a bright red burst of joyous noise. Looking like something straight out of a kind of warped Children's BBC, from the first crashing bars of 'Overture', Mr Wolf pulls you into his colourful & complex world.

This a brilliantly bold & entrancing record, flitting from upbeat electronica to stripped down ballads with a bit of indie thrown in for good measure, switching back & forth before you have a chance to catch your breath. Like the Crabbman's number 4 choice, Rilo Kiley, there is an eclectic collection of styles on offer here. Possibly too many, as it begins to lose focus in places, streching it's coherance as an album a little too much, before snapping back in the opposite direction. It may not always work, but there's more than enough genius here to overlook a few stylistic stumbles.

Just like the magic roundabout on the cover, a spin of this disc will take you on a very odd & exhilarating rainbow ride.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Peachy Hoop Toss (Four)

Iron & Wine
The Shepherd's Dog

Beef up your blood! So says the bottle of liquid dietary fun that Mr Iron & Wine, Sam Beam, took his stage name from, and from the sounds of it, it's more than just the contents of his veins that have been beefed up. Dragging a couple of "alt.country" rockers, Calexico along from their last collaborative effort, 'In the Reins ep', to augment his band, he has created a record that I can only describe as deliciously meaty, compared to previous efforts.

Iron & Wine were first brought to my attention a couple of years ago by their cover of 'Such Great Heights' on a Postal Service single (which since appeared on the 'Garden State' soundtrack). I was reacquainted with them on my birthday last year, when I found their last 2 albums amongst my haul of pressies. Originally featuring mainly stripped back vocal & guitar, in an American folk stylee, there has been an organic progression to a mature & lush full band sound this time around. The soft whispery voice is still there, but a new found country swagger is apparent on some tracks, especially bluesy workout, 'The Devil Never Sleeps' and the single, 'Boy With a Coin', driven by infectious hand claps and a rolling guitar riff.

It's not all juicy Americana though, a couple of tracks seem to even go so far afield as dub reggae ('Wolves'), or mixing West African rhythms and an Indian sitar strum or two with the usual slide guitar & banjo ('House by the Sea', for example), albeit less obtrusively or Paul Simonesque than my favourite new band, Vampire Weekend.

Lyrically, there are some standout references to America's recent troubles, specifically George Bush with his religious bigotry, and the Iraq war, as in 'Carosel': "Almost home, with an olive branch and a dove, you were beating on a Persian rug, with your bible and your wedding band, both hidden on a TV stand"; or, from 'Innocent Bones: '"There ain’t a penthouse Christian wants the pain of the scab, but they all want the scar." Old Testament characters even get a look in with allusions to Noah being a crackhead and Adam & Eve's son, Abel, a stoner.

Like the object of the song that bears the most resemblance to Iron & Wine of old here, 'Reserection Fern', Mr Beam's band has survived a remarkable change and returned stronger & more vital, but still as warm & reassuringly fuzzy as before. The perfect blend of old & new.