Monday 31 December 2018

Sunday 30 December 2018

There she blew

So, the pic on the right is being used to advertise... "flatulence filtering garments". Yes, really.

The headline "There she blows" is followed by this picture, and then the following customer testimonial:

I am absolutely amazed by the quality and efficiency of your fart-filtering clothes. I can go out with my friends now and I haven't done that in YEARS!"

Flatulence filtering garments? Fart-filtering clothes? What the...?

The company behind this unbelievable venture is called Shreddies, which might be enough to put you off your breakfast. What a time to be alive...

Oh, and if your friends are that irked by your wind, you've probably got the wrong friends. Just saying.

Saturday 29 December 2018

There she blows

"There she blows" was the headline and this was the picture. Go on, guess what it's advertising. I'll wait...

Answer tomorrow. If I remember.

Friday 28 December 2018

Blue Friday - There Is A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends

My perennial New Year song. Sorry if you can't stomach Steven any more, I get it, I do. Just another reason to feel blue.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Please don't be terrible

The new BBC/Netflix co-adaptation of Watership Down starts tonight at 7pm. Long-term readers of this blog (both of them) might know that Watership Down is my desert island book, so I am excited about this. But also quite nervous... because the 1978 film adaptation with John Hurt and Richard Briers is pretty perfect, and I wonder what this new version has to add. Other than lots of complaints online already about the poor CGI which, when compared to the hand-drawn watercolours backdrops of the 70s, may dazzle with detail but lacks reality.

Anyway, BBC and Netflix, please don't dump on my perfect book. Fingers crossed it's good and, at the very least, not terrible. Here's a trailer:

For comparison, here's the 1978 trailer too:

And just for laughs, because some complain that the '78 version's depiction of nature red in tooth and claw was too violent and upsetting (please, get a grip), here's Carnage Count's take on the film too:

Anyway... let's hope this new version is more El-Ahrairah than the Black Rabbit of Inlé...

Thursday 20 December 2018

A Gift for you

Well, here's a thing. Back in the mid-90s there was an indie band from East Anglia called The Gift that made a bit of a flutter. They were likened to The Bluetones, there was some minor label and music press excitement and then ... then nothing. The band split, and various members went on to try other things. So far, so unremarkable.

Twenty plus years later, they're having another go. There are new tunes, and new gigs. The world is unstaggered. Which is a shame, because they make a nice noise - here, gets your ears around this:

See, that's alright, isn't it? Sure, you can hear their 90s indie roots but in this track (though not others, Rol'll be pleased to hear) there are traces of Zoo Station-era U2 and even, in the minds of some reviewers, Thom Yorke-esque vocal traits.

All very nice. Will they garner any more success this time around than before. Unlikely, I'd say, and for the same reasons I've written about before: the fine margins that exist between bands that make the next step up and others, seemingly as good or better, that don't. Still, this is alright, I think - you might agree. (Poor choice of band name though - do you know how many bands there are called The Gift?)

Wednesday 19 December 2018

That Was The Year That Was: 2018

A Brexit stamp
This is the eighth time I've recapped a year like this (for completists, here are the others), but this time it's going to be brief - just winners, no runners-up. Why? I'm tired, and this crap doesn't write itself. Plus, you know, I'm no influencer and nobody really gives a monkeys about what I think. Yes, that makes this whole post an exercise in vanity ... but exercise is good for you, right?

Best album

I've bought very few new albums this year but, of the few I have, True Meanings by Paul Weller is worth a mention. As he has throughout his career, the Modfather has dared to do different, and it works. A classic? No. But rewarding of repeated listens? Yes.

Best song

Hi Hello by Johnny Marr, and not just because it evokes his old band. But the fact that it does is no bad thing.

Best gig

Sorry but it was Morrissey at the Royal Albert Hall. I wrote about it at the time. Been a good year for gigs.

Best book

Best I've read this year? The Knot by Mark Watson. Best I've read that was published this year? The Outsider by Stephen King. Best I've been involved with this year? The Petrified World and other tales, edited by yours truly.

Best film

I haven't been to the cinema as often as I might like but, even if I had, I think Ghost Stories would still have been my film of the year. Genuine chills and some great performances, especially from Paul Whitehouse. Jeune Femme was also noteworthy.

Best television

The most fiercely contended category. The award goes to Killing Eve, for being inventive, original, compelling and brilliantly soundtracked - a must-see! The protagonists are wonderfully played by Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer too.

Best comedy

I was lucky enough to catch Dave Gorman's new show, With Great Powerpoint Comes Great Responsibilitypoint, and it made me laugh out loud more than anything else, all year. The ticket price was worth it for the giraffe joke alone.

Best theatre

A bit of a cheat here, as it really deserves an honourable mention in the comedy category, but David Baddiel's My Family: Not The Sitcom deserves all the plaudits it gets. Funny, yes, but emotional too, and laudably honest. Can't wait for the Trolls show he's working up to tour, hopefully in 2019.

And that's it for this year. Yes, I know, that's fewer categories than in year's gone by. Sorry. Am time-poor and all out of words.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Christmas Shat

Apologies in advance, but once seen no amount of mental sorbet will ever purge this from your mind.


Monday 17 December 2018

Buzzcocks and memories

So as you all know, Pete Shelley died a couple of weeks ago, relatively young and quite unexpected. The Beeb has a good obit, if that's your thing. I held off writing anything about Pete, or Buzzcocks, at the time but here are some random memories about them. Better late than never.

January 2009: I am watching Buzzcocks live in a sweaty, sticky-floored venue and they are ripping up the place. It is fantastic, and I should be loving it. And I sort of am, but only sort of. I bought two tickets, you see, in the hope that someone else would come with me. Purely hope. She stood me up, that night, and however good Pete, Steve and the rest were, there was an unspoken limit on how high my mood could be lifted.

July 2008: Buzzcocks are the surprise set-closer at the Mark Lamarr-curated God's Jukebox event at the Latitude Festival. We are in the front row of The Music and Film tent, which has staged the event, and have sat through perfectly serviceable sets by Pete Molinari, The Heavy, James Hunter and Eli 'Paperboy' Reed & The True Loves. Buzzcocks come on and the place goes berserk for their blistering (and ear-drum popping) greatest hits set. Whilst Steve Diggle still looks a bit angry, Pete Shelley looks like someone's dad (or granddad), but that doesn't matter... as the moshpit chaos testifies, this is awesome. Such is the mosh (and the volume) that my partner bails out but I stay for the duration, and will be a little deafer ever after.

Mid 1990s: looking for a birthday present for The Man Of Cheese, I happen upon a numbered CD reissue of Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch e.p. It is class, of course, and makes an excellent (and easily wrapped) present. Years later, in a house move, The Man Of Cheese would become separated from many of his CDs, so I doubt he still has this - a shame because it goes for about £15 now, according to discogs.

Most evenings in the early 80s: my brother, a crucial four years older than me but still living in the familial abode, comes home from an evening in the social club somewhat the worse for wear. He takes off his 8-hole DMs and stumbles up stairs to his bedroom, which is directly above the living room. He cues up essential Buzzcocks best-of Singles Going Steady on his frankly shitty Amstrad stereo, lowers the tone arm and we're off into side 1, track 1.... at a volume that is intended to rile the parents below. To their credit, they remain unriled, and this is how I learn Buzzcocks tunes - listening to them through the ceiling. By the time we get to the end of side one the lager has taken hold and my brother is invariably asleep on his bed. It is then my job to tiptoe into his room, the sound of my approach masked by the buzz and hiss of the cheap, amped-up speakers, lift the tone-arm from the vinyl (the auto-return doesn't work) and power off the Amstrad. Out go the cheap LEDs, and out I go, leaving him to sleep it off.

Of all the many, many gigs I have been to, the ones my brother would also have enjoyed are relatively few. Paul Weller, From The Jam, Billy Bragg... and Buzzcocks. So here, for Pete (and my brother) is side 1, track 1 - it's some way from their finest work but it's what I heard first, so it ought to be what I hear last.

Bonus trivia that you probably all know already as well: Jamie Lee Curtis's character in 1991 schmaltz-fest My Girl is called Shelly DeVoto. No prizes for guessing where they came up with that name from...

Friday 14 December 2018

Blue Friday - When I'm Gone

I dreamed I saw Phil Ochs last night (and there's +1 kudos point on offer for that reference).

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Monday 3 December 2018

Monday long song: Three Points on a Compass

I said I wouldn't do this every week, and I won't, but a recent Blue Friday post revealed I am not alone in wanting more solo work from Martin Rossiter. This song is ten minutes of raw emotion and also, I know, a particular touchstone for my oldest friend, the best mate anyone could ever have, The Man Of Cheese. So here we go.

Saturday 1 December 2018


I'm not doing a New Amusements Advent Calendar this year. They're a lot of work to put together (bah) and finding decent alternative Christmas tunes gets harder every year (humbug).

The calendars from the last three Christmases are all still here for your listening/viewing pleasure though, so I'm just going to recycle them instead. After all, shouldn't we all be recycling as much as we can these days?

Knock yourselves out...

Advent 2015   •   Advent 2016   •   Advent 2017

Friday 30 November 2018

Life in the old (format) dog yet

So November has been my most bloggingest month ever, with 17 posts in 30 days. Never mind the quality, feel the width, as the saying goes. Anyway... let's see how this embeds - I've had trouble embedding Beeb content before - but this feels like it might be of interest to some, and it's a nice way to end a full month and wind down into a much quieter December...

Blue Friday - People Ain't No Good

A cover of Nick Cave by Camille O'Sullivan, as used to close the excellent but nevertheless-cancelled Jo Brand and Alan Davies comedy drama Damned.

Thursday 29 November 2018

Massive metal things on legs

Impossible to overstate the impact Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War Of The Worlds had on me in the late 70s. It put the wind right up the primary school me too. I loved Richard Burton's narration, David Essex's artilleryman, and I would come to love it even more when I discovered how faithful it was to the source book (I would also come to quite like the Cruise/Spielberg movie update for the same reason). And those "Euuulaaahs"...make me shudder a bit, even now.

Here's the track that gives this post its name, and the line that I use with my excellent mate Tim if we need to impersonate Essex for any reason (in which case all of David's other career output is forgotten).

Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Petrified World and other tales

Please forgive the cross-pollination between blogs but I've been working on this for most of the year, so I need to shout about it a bit. The Petrified World and other tales is a collection of short stories by new and emerging writers that I have been very proud to collate. Profits from the sale of the book will be donated to the charity Population Matters, and I'm quietly proud of that too.

This collection of eleven short stories takes the idea of taboos, of hidden subjects, of unspoken truths, as its loose theme. Some of the stories address potential problems for a near-future Earth, some do not, but all are linked by the idea of what is not being talked about, whether that's between families, colleagues, in the news or on a wider scale. Here's a list of the stories, with links to author websites for those that have them:

The Petrified World - Mark Kilner
Pig Hunting - Ian Nettleton
The Transistor - Andrea Holland
We Need You To Show Us What Happy Looks Like - Katy Carr
The Swimming Pool - Sandy Greenard
On The Air - Rol Hirst
Retrograde Amnesia - Simon Poore
About The Dog - Sarah Dobbs
The Crossing - Martin Pond
At Malham Cove - Ada Carter
Compensating For Einstein - Arnold Pettibone

The ebook version is available right here, as is the paperback edition. Prices are £1.99 and £3.99 respectively... so it makes a great stocking-filler.

If you want to get on board and help promote the book (it's for a good cause, after all), please use the cover image above left and these URLs: for the ebook and for the paperback - thanks.

Go on now, shop, and don't forget to read about Population Matters ... ta.

Monday 26 November 2018

Monday long song: The Fountain of Salmacis

Three of the bloggers in my blogroll posted today with the title "Monday long song" - Charity Chic, The Swede and The Robster. That's good company to be in, so here's a long song from me too - I'm going with the none-more-prog Fountain of Salmacis, from Nursery Cryme (which, with Selling England By The Pound and Foxtrot, forms the holy trinity of Genesis albums in my book). This would also fit nicely with the song-as-short-story theme that JC runs too.

I don't think I'll be doing this every week - I have my own day-based theme to maintain, after all. But just this once, here's a Monday long song, with 1972-vintage Genesis putting in a great live studio performance for Belgian TV. I'll enjoy this; your mileage may vary.

Am also kind of curious to see if a post with the phrases "genesis" and "holy trinity" brings a different kind of web traffic in...

Friday 23 November 2018

Blue Friday - All I Ask

No Black Friday here, this is Blue Friday. Today's offering is by much-missed Kiwi tunesmiths Crowded House.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Remember when you had time to waste...?

In the late 90s, I spent an indecent amount of time on Miniputt. Imagine my delight at discovering it's still there.

I spent so much time playing this game, I finally managed to get around in 18. Yes, 18 holes in 18 shots. My colleagues at the time, many of whom I had also hooked to this game, did not believe me. A special mention here to Shaun, who was my nearest rival, going around in 19.

I dare not start playing again... I certainly don't have any spare time to waste.

Maybe I'll just bookmark the page... meanwhile, here's a song about wasting time, and being content with that.

How good is that "I just had to let it go" at the end of the chorus?

Tuesday 20 November 2018


"I spend half my time daring to dream, kidding myself on. The rest of the time, I just hate myself for being naïve."

Tuesday 13 November 2018

All over the place

The other night, whilst scrolling through the higher numbered Freeview channels, I happened upon the closing minutes of Austin Powers, International Man Of Mystery. I remember going to watch that at the cinema and no-one in the audience laughing but it's not that bad, just a bit hit and miss where the hits are great and the misses aren't terrible. But one part of the film that is definitely worth a look is the closing credits, especially for the Powers-fronted band Ming Tea performing a mildly frantic 60s pastiche called BBC. I love it, not least because the smouldering Sixties siren with the cool-as Rickenbacker is none other than ex-Bangle Susanna Hoffs. Sigh. And it's a bloody great song. Here's the video, see what I mean.

The next day, I was listening to the BBC - John Humphreys on Radio 4. He described some Tories as "rebel MPs" but that just made me think of this:

So whilst I was singing along to "Elementary like A, B, C; easy as one, two, three" I couldn't help but segué (in my head, at least) into this:

From there, it was a short mental hop to older Michael's Man In The Mirror, and from there to the Lego Batman Movie. Yes, really.

As you can see, I was all over the place... which is also the title of the pre-fame, debut album from The Bangles.

And that's numberwang.

Monday 12 November 2018

Thursday 8 November 2018

Can't beat a good YouTube find

Period Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash and Sting, all being interviewed about Quadrophenia by (bizarrely) the singer from Darts.


So tired.

Monday 5 November 2018

He plays guitar

A lazy blog post, in lieu of a proper gig review.

I went to see Johnny Marr again last night. He was excellent, again, and makes complex and beautiful guitar playing seem effortless. There were times last night when he seemed not just contemporary but ground-breaking, ahead of the curve - no mean feat for a 55 year old. And yet he was equally at home dipping into his back catalogue: Smiths obsessives will be pleased to hear he played Bigmouth, Headmaster Ritual, Last Night I Dreamt, How Soon Is Now and There Is A Light; for fans of Electronic, he also played Get The Message and a frankly colossal version of Getting Away With It.

Also noteworthy was a brilliant use of lighting, perhaps the best I have seen in that venue.

Anyway, my perch didn't lend itself well to recording any videos - the last thing the internet needs is more poorly shot gig footage, after all. But I did manage to take some photos, some of which aren't terrible. Here they are. As ever, click to embiggen.

Johnny Marr Setlist Nick Rayns LCR, UEA, Norwich, England 2018, Call The Comet

Remember, remember...

I've been looking for an excuse to post this slice of excellence for a long time. What better reason than the fifth of November?

Friday 2 November 2018

Monday 29 October 2018

Nine lives...

I know, nothing for nearly three weeks and then two posts in one day, but...

...if, by chance, you didn't watch Inside No. 9 Live on BBC2 last night, you must remedy that with iPlayer. MUST. It won't have quite the same effect, not being live, but even so... Go watch.

A message... the silver-haired lady in the blue Audi who tried to park her car next to mine. Who tried and failed, putting a crease in my bumper and leaving a nice line of blue paint to highlight it. Who got out of her car to inspect the damage to my car. And who got back in her car and just drove away, leaving no details.

Up yours, lady.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Fire one more torpedo, baby

I've been a miserable old sod lately. I know, even more than usual, which takes some doing. And with no good reason, not really. I've been thinking, you see, about possibly undertaking a huge physical and mental challenge in eleven months time. It's an exciting prospect, and it really ought to fill me with excitement and optimism.

And, in part, it does. Because, without going into the specifics (see how non-committal I'm being, even here), if I were to undertake and achieve this challenge, well, it would be quite something. Something that most people never do. Something to look back on when I'm old(er) and grey(er). Something for my child to remember, with pride and maybe even amazement, when I am gone. I don't know if it would qualify as a life-changing experience, but I can see how it might be in that neighbourhood, a tiny bit.

So why haven't I signed up already?

There are so many reasons, nearly all of them things that wouldn't have crossed my mind twenty years ago. Time is one. From March onwards, I would have to give up a lot of time to train: whole mornings at first, then whole days, then whole weekends. Oh, and evenings too. That's a lot of time, especially when my time is not all my own these days. Time is the biggest overhead I have at this stage of my life - I am, as the saying goes, time poor. Cash poor too, of course, and that's another problem - there is a financial cost to this challenge. More accurately, there are a number of financial costs to this challenge. Without doing the maths in detail, I would probably spend somewhere between two and a half to three grand on this, more if I couldn't raise the associated sponsorship target and had to make up the shortfall myself. And again, my money is not all my own these days, especially when I've got half an eye on the fact that I'll probably need to buy a new car in four years time.

The biggest reason though, bigger than these two massive considerations, is the fact that I am not the man I was twenty years ago. I know, I know, who is, right? But I have genuine concerns about my ability to complete the challenge, however much I train and however much I invest in fancy kit to help me. And here's the thing, the real nub, the fly in the ointment, the biggest issue: if I sign up, and invest so much into the effort, only to break down partway through the challenge, to fail, I am not at all sure how well I'd handle that. I fear it might be not very well at all.

And no, this isn't just me being a pessimist, and thinking the worst - there's a real chance I couldn't complete the challenge, that my arthritic knee would rebel, that my glass hip would flare up, or simply that my late-forties body just couldn't keep going. Again, who is, but I am not as physically strong, flexible or durable as I was. Mentally, I'm stronger. But for this challenge, I think you'd need both kinds of strength, especially if the weather's inclement.

So at the moment I'm vacillating, oscillating wildly, making lists of pro's and con's. And am still undecided.

If you're wondering where the title for this post comes from, it's this entirely appropriate slice of Kiwi brilliance:

Monday 8 October 2018

On my radio

Britain's first (legal) commercial radio station, LBC, went on air on this day in 1973, breaking the BBC's 50-year radio monopoly.

This excellence came along six years later.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Humphrey bumphrey

Vladimir Putin was born on October 7th. Christ. So was Simon Cowell. Double Christ!

Luckily for us all, so was Thom Yorke.

Friday 5 October 2018


Life is all about roles, isn't it? Sometimes you're Peter, sometimes you're Lois and sometimes you're Giant Chicken.

Family Guy is sometimes derided as crass, offensive, Simpsons-lite nonsense. But there's real pathos here, I think.

Contractually obliged

Since it was first broadcast on this day 49 years ago, I was a bit too young for Monty Python first time around. My brother though, a crucial four years older than me, had their Contractual Obligation Album. That's what I remember.

It's all here. Knock yourselves out. My favourites? Sit On My Face, Finland, I'm So Worried and the bookshop sketch. Your mileage may vary.

Coincidentally, contractually obliged is how I feel about blogging about the moment, hence these "on this day" posts. Sorry.

Thursday 4 October 2018

Satellite of love

No blogging mojo at all so, in honour of the fact that Sputnik became the first man-made object in space on this day 61 years ago, here's a song by the artist formerly known* as Morrissey.

* Now mostly known by a series of unpleasant names as a result of opening his mouth without engaging his brain, once, twice, a dozen times too often. Oh Moz, please come back.

Monday 1 October 2018

Cryptic clue time ... the answers

Last week, I posted a music crossword: 152 (count 'em!) clues of varying difficulty - some cryptic, some anagrams, some straightforward. I hoped it might be a fun test, albeit a test that would be easier if you knew my taste in music and/or were a regular reader of the blog.

Anyway, a week is quite long enough to mull over a crossword, so here's the solution. There are no prizes but hey, by all means have a kudos point for every answer you got right.

The clueThe answer
1Political writings, sort of (7,7)Scritti Politti is pretty close to scritti politici, Italian for political writings.
3They loved different lengths of tape (3,3,3)C30, C60, C90, Go was a hit for Bow Wow Wow.
5He was in a NY state of mind (5,4)Billy Joel sang New York State Of Mind.
12Eternal funk now, from singer (6,8)A straight anagram for Newton Faulkner.
13Had an eye to the telescope (1,1,8)Eye To The Telescope was the debut album for K T Tunstall.
15They should have reformed to cover Candy Girl (5)...because candy is a type of Sweet.
19Cuddly brothers and their band (7)The McNamara brothers fronted Embrace.
23Not big from the neck up (3,5,5)The Small Faces, obviously
26Doing us all a favour on the radio (6,7,12)How else would you describe Public Service Broadcasting?
29They promised that things could only get better (1,4)D-Ream sang this, and were memorably hijacked by New Labour in the process.
33Strange ____, bitches' ____ (4)Brew completes these titles, for a Cream song and Miles Davis album respectively.
35She was torn (7,9)Torn remains the lovely Natalie Imbruglia's biggest hit.
36Shortened tune (3,10)Appropriate anagram for The Undertones.
37Danté’s favourite band (3,6,6)He wrote The Divine Comedy.
39Lawrence’s soft material (4)Lawrence was the frontman of indie nearly-men Felt.
40Not a dick (4)I.e. Moby, without the Dick.
42Unicycles the lot (3,5,7)Another anagram, this time for The Style Council.
45Play cricket for a beating (3,3,6)If you play cricket, you may bat. A beating may be lashes. So Bat For Lashes.
46Extra dinosaur loses indefinite article (1,3)Extra - the indefinite article a = extr, easily re-arranged as dinosaur (and band) T-Rex.
47Left waterhole to fly high (4,9)An oasis might be a waterhole. Who left them and formed the High-Flying Birds? Noel Gallagher.
48The girl kept dry (7)Rihanna had an Umbrella. Ella. Ella.
49“I like ___ ____,” she said, sticking her tongue in my ear (3,4)From a Pixies lyric (I've Been Tired), this is Lou Reed.
52All points west (5)A not-very-good clue for Mr West himself, Kanye.
56They went from Guildford to Japan (3,6)The Vapors came from Guildford and sang Turning Japanese.
57A wild rose grew from his bad seeds (4,4)A hit and the backing band for Nick Cave.
58They asked Johnny Dee (3,13)Ask Johnny Dee was a minor indie hit for The Chesterfields.
61Empty stomach? (9)If you had an empty stomach, maybe your belly would echo; you'd be an Echobelly.
66Guitarist urinates (5)Former G'n'R axeman Slash.
67Crikey, it’s the rozzer! (6,8)Rozzer being an under-used Nineties nickname for Gene frontman Martin Rossiter.
69Palindromic root vegetables (4)A root vegetable might be a swede. The only palindromic Swedes I could think of were Abba.
71Requires antihistamine (5)A wasp Sting might require some cream.
72_____ Washington (5)A straightforward clue for Dinah Washington.
74Tree feeders (5)Belly had a hit with Feed The Tree.
75Richard _____, one-time drummer with 105D (5)Richard Ploog was the drummer with 105 Down, that being The Church.
76Norfolk girls show no respect for their elders (4,3,7)They can't do, given their name of Let's Eat Grandma.
78When Bernard met Brett … again (3,5)Bernard Butler and Brett Anderson reunited, post-Suede, to form The Tears.
79Trap dry owl? (5,5)An anagram of World Party.
80Definite, definite article (3,3)The definite article is the, so definite, definite suggests The The.
81A confrontation (3,5)I was running out of inspiration at this point. Hopefully confrontation suggested The Clash.
84Lettuce and tomato (5)...are components of a Salad.
86They made no criminal records (3,6)A cringeworthy pun about The Police.
87Ordains as a singer? (5,4)Ordains as being an anagram for Diana Ross.
89Took a tumble (3,4)Obviously, The Fall.
92Sweetest trip for half a zebra (5,7)Half a zebra would be just the White Stripes, which happens to also be an anagram of sweetest trip.
94Milkshake vendor (5)Kelis' milkshake brought all the boys to the yard.
97First man and a killer yoghurt? (7)Adam was the first man, allegedly. Ski make nice yoghurt. Killer was a hit for Adamski.
98Left Deptford by the underground (5,7)Squeeze came from Deptford. After leaving them, Jools Holland emerged to front The Tube, another name for the underground.
99Always correcting their own lyrics (7)Because that's what Editors do!
100His dad has a new suitcase (5,5)Papa's got a brand new bag, sang James Brown.
101Not a hard amoeba (4,4)Instead, a Soft Cell.
103Oye Esteban, indeed (10)If not (Steven) Morrissey, then perhaps (Esteban) Mexrrissey?
104Stretchy first letter (8)This would be an elastic A. Or Elastica.
106I get caught up in her hair (7)He hair might be blonde; mix in an I and you get Blondie.
107The males gave birth in this band (3,9)Name an animal where the males give birth? Did you just name The Seahorses?
109Sang 'Between John and Yoko' (4)Between John and Yoko was a song by obscure Swedish indie nearly-men Easy.
111Angry Billy (4)Not just angry but furious, was Billy Fury.
112Others have moves like him (4,6)Maroon 5 sang about having moves like Mick Jagger.
115Half audible (9)Half implies semi. Audible implies sound which implies sonic. So Semisonic.
117Rubbish music (7)Rubbish might be Garbage.
122Sang about matches (3,7)Matches start fires. The Prodigy had a hit with Firestarter.
123Sounds like roe and muntjac (3,5)Roe and muntjac are deer(s), which sounds like The Dears.
126Twin research facilities (9)Twin implies stereo, research facility implies lab. Hence Stereolab.
127With rabbit breeders, on this beach? (4)Martha and the Muffins sang about Echo Beach, hopefully also suggested by rabbit breeding Bunnymen.
128He felt safe, stuck in traffic (4,5)Here in my car, I feel safest of all, sang Gary Numan.
130A definite sphere (3,3)The is the definite article. A sphere is an orb. See how my brain works yet? This is The Orb.
131This band are walked all over (8)If you're British, you walk on the Pavement.
133Two beards and a beard (1,1,3)Two thirds of Z Z Top had beards, and the other third's surname was Beard.
136He liked his OJ… (5,7)Who would like Orange Juice more than Edwyn Collins?
137…but Shaun preferred a darker drink (5,5)That's Shaun Ryder, who clearly preferred Black Grape.
138English prog rockers, sound Eastern (4)How far east? Asia!
139They had the first base for la renard (2,7)La renard is French for the fox. First might be alpha. All leading to Fox Base Alpha, by St Etienne.
140Model heathens? (3,10)Haven't had an anagram for a while. Here's one for The Lemonheads.
141Ancient Mexican Leica (5,6)Could only be an Aztec Camera, right?
142Michael Fish and Billy Giles (3,7,8)Weather forecasters or, if you prefer, The Weather Prophets.
143___ A, Real Gone ___ (3)Kid completes the Radiohead album title and Deacon Blue single.
1Trains rely on it (7)Trains lie on Sleepers.
2Little dog goes from Oz to Africa (4)The dog in the Wizard of Oz was Toto, who sang about Africa.
4Lupine, down the rabbit hole (4,5)Lupine suggests wolf, down the rabbit hole suggests Alice. Hence Wolf Alice.
6Arthur Lee’s 60s band (4)A straight clue, for Arthur's band Love.
7Composer Philip _____ (5)Another straight clue, for Mr Glass.
8Blue _____, _____ Jam (5)Pearl completes the names of these two acts.
9Everything but the girl (3,4)Ben Watt was everything but the girl in EBTG.
10They had a cardiac groove (4,4)Who said groove was in the heart? Deee-Lite!
11High powered song by 34D (3)With 34 Down being Wings, this would be Jet.
14Lots of TIAs (3,7)A TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is a mini stroke. So lots of them might be The Strokes.
16The bookmakers? (3,5)Not, not Ladbrokes. This is The Coral.
17Wide screen film format (8)Cinerama was a widescreen process that used three synchronized 35 mm projectors. It's also Gedge's other band.
18Sounds like they record in a shed (5)This would be Shack, which sounds like a shed, of course.
20Rosy Keith? (4,5)Rosy suggests pink. Keith might be Keith Floyd. So Pink Floyd.
21Home to Mick before he joined the council (3,6,6)Before Mick Talbot was a member of The Style Council, he was in Mod revivalists The Merton Parkas.
22Plain rude (3,7)How else would you describe Bad Manners?
24Luxuriant 4AD band (4)Luxuriant-sounding Lush were signed to 4AD.
25Had to get the best out of them (3,7)It wasn't until Pete Best had been kicked out that The Beatles really took off.
26Debuted with equines (5,5)Horses was the debut album from Patti Smith.
27Family business for alchemists (8,8)Alchemists would use lots of chemicals, so the family business might be Chemical Brothers.
28Late queen (6,8)The late Aretha Franklin was the Queen of Soul.
30Just playing at being a band (3,10)Playing at might be pretending, hence The Pretenders.
31Just playing at video games (4,3,3)Video Games being the breakout hit for Lana Del Rey.
32A certain Mr Yorke’s quartet (5,3,5)A Thom's four-piece. Or Atoms For Peace.
34The band The Beatles could have been (5) how Alan Partridge described Wings.
38All About ___ (3)Eve completes this band name.
41To the end… the focused bit (9,5)Francoise Hardy guested on To The End by unfocused-sounding Blur.
43Not us (4)If not us, then Them.
44They were out of their brilliant mind (9)Brilliant Mind was the biggest hit for the criminally under-rated band Furniture
47She wanted to kiss the pope … of mope (5,7)Nancy Sinatra covered the Morrissey track Let Me Kiss You.
50Positively prog! (3)Yes would be both positive and a prog band.
51Total blockhead (3,4)Ian Dury fronted The Blockheads.
53Loudon or Martha (10)They're a musical lot, the Wainwrights.
54A good source of vitamin C and anti-oxidants (3,11)Yes, The Cranberries were pretty good for you.
55Chris, guitarist in 106A (5)With 106 Across being Blondie, guitarist Chris must be Stein.
59Nothing ever happened for them (3,6)Nothing ever happens, sang Del Amitri.
60The pretenders (10)Not The Pretenders, but another bunch of Charlatans.
62Beloved of cannibals (8)Apparently some cannibal tribes called human meat longpig. Hence Longpigs.
63They were upstairs at Eric’s (5)...that being the title of an album by Yazoo.
64He sold the heat (6,6)Buster, he sold the heat, sang Madness, the Buster in question being the fabulous Prince Buster.
65_____ Basie (5)An easy gap to fill, with Count.
67No nut allergies for these boys (7)Madness were sometimes known as The Nutty Boys.
68Easy as 1-2-3 for Sheffield band (1,1,1)What was easy as 1-2-3? A-B-C, of course!
70Main enema for singer? (5,4)Slightly unpleasant anagram for Aimee Mann.
73Cold relations of 114D (6,7)With 114 Down being Gorillaz, their cold relations must be Arctic Monkeys.
74They scratched in a spiral motion (9)The debut EP from Buzzcocks was called Spiral Scratch.
76Indie rockers from Duluth (3)A straightforward description of Low.
77Not gone up in smoke (3)After the fire, what hasn't gone up in smoke is the Ash.
82A bashful, manic filth (4,3,4,7)Straight anagram for Half Man Half Biscuit.
83Stylish dance act (4)Stylish and dance act hopefully both suggest Chic.
85Did she lament for Stan? (4)Dido's Lament is an aria by Purcell, and Eminem sampled Dido for Stan.
88Amusements up in smoke? (6,4)You find amusements in an arcade and there's no smoke without fire, so Arcade Fire.
90Not the 80's TV alien (6,5)Alf was the 80's TV alien, and also a nickname for Alison Moyet.
91Jenny was a friend of theirs (3,7)So sang The Killers.
93You might expect this band to grow in number (3,8)Because they're called The Breeders, you see? I don't just throw this together, you know.
95___ Vicious (3)Although I did throw this fill-in-the-gap clue together. Sid Vicious, obviously.
96Full-on vocals (8)Full-on suggests ultra, vocals suggest vox. Ultravox, in other words.
102Relatives of 114D? (3,7)More relatives of Gorillaz? This time it's The Monkees.
105Take a pew to listen to this band (3,6)Where do you take a pew? In The Church.
107Test version of a group (3,4,4)In software, a test release is called a beta version. Hence, The Beta Band.
108Former president on Viagra? (6,1,1,1)Jimmy Carter made priapic would be Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, or Carter USM.
110They were on my radio (8)On my radio, sang Selecter.
113Ropey Norfolk indie also-rans (4)Props if you got this. Hopefully ropey suggested Cord to you.
114Monkey men (8)Gorillaz, of course.
115They would write crossword cluze (5)Slade were famed for such mis-spelling.
116Label for early Suede releases (4)Their early records were on Nude.
117Stick a bottle in the face of casino town (9)You might glass Vegas? Terrible clue for Glasvegas.
118He had a satanic hairstyle (4)Beck sang about a devil's haircut.
119Dangerous, their drab light (6)The debut album by Mansun was Attack Of The Grey Lantern.
120 He played a wicked game (5,5)Wicked Game was the biggest hit for Chris Isaak.
121Chilly theatre? (8)Chilly = cold. Theatre = play. Coldplay.
124Spanish archer? (5)El Bow? No, Elbow.
125A band with oomph, with energy (3,5)Oomph and energy both suggesting The Verve.
129From deadly comedy to in-demand producer (5)Producer Youth used to be in Killing Joke.
132Go to Oxford by bike (4)Ride were from Oxford, you see.
134Metal but thin, not heavy (4)Wire is a thin strip of metal.
135Sadly spliced in 2004 (4)Because that's when Gene sadly disbanded.

And that's it? How did you do?

Here's a picture, for those that like pictures.

Same time next year? Maybe...?

Friday 28 September 2018

"Four letters... something, something, I, T"

A reminder to all that the New Amusements cryptic crossword answers will be published on Monday, so you've got until then if you're still puzzling away. And if you haven't started yet, what are you waiting for?

Monday 24 September 2018

Cryptic clue time

I did a crossword on here this time last year; it was quite popular, so I've had another go. All answers are bands or solo artists or record-related. Some clues are cryptic, some are straightforward, and some are anagrams.

You can click the grid below for a bigger view. And new for this year, I've made the whole thing downloadable as a PDF, in case you want to print it off and do it at your leisure. Here's the PDF.

Good luck. Answers on the 1st of October. And yes, I recycled one clue.

1. Political writings, sort of (7,7)
3. They loved different lengths of tape (3,3,3)
5. He was in a NY state of mind (5,4)
12. Eternal funk now, from singer (6,8)
13. Had an eye to the telescope (1,1,8)
15. They should have reformed to cover Candy Girl (5)
19. Cuddly brothers and their band (7)
23. Not big from the neck up (3,5,5)
26. Doing us all a favour on the radio (6,7,12)
29. They promised that things could only get better (1,4)
33. Strange ____, bitches’ ____ (4)
35. She was torn (7,9)
36. Shortened tune (3,10)
37. Danté’s favourite band (3,6,6)
39. Lawrence’s soft material (4)
40. Not a dick (4)
42. Unicycles the lot (3,5,7)
45. Play cricket for a beating (3,3,6)
46. Extra dinosaur loses indefinite article (1,3)
47. Left waterhole to fly high (4,9)
48. The girl kept dry (7)
49. “I like ___ ____,” she said, sticking her tongue in my ear (3,4)
52. All points west (5)
56. They went from Guildford to Japan (3,6)
57. A wild rose grew from his bad seeds (4,4)
58. They asked Johnny Dee (3,13)
61. Empty stomach? (9)
66. Guitarist urinates (5)
67. Crikey, it’s the rozzer! (6,8)
69. Palindromic root vegetables (4)
71. Requires antihistamine (5)
72. _____ Washington (5)
74. Tree feeders (5)
75. Richard _____, one-time drummer with 105D (5)
76. Norfolk girls show no respect for their elders (4,3,7)
78. When Bernard met Brett … again (3,5)
79. Trap dry owl? (5,5)
80. Definite, definite article (3,3)
81. A confrontation (3,5)
84. Lettuce and tomato (5)
86. They made no criminal records (3,6)
87. Ordains as a singer? (5,4)
89. Took a tumble (3,4)
92. Sweetest trip for half a zebra (5,7)
94. Milkshake vendor (5)
97. First man and a killer yoghurt? (7)
98. Left Deptford by the underground (5,7)
99. Always correcting their own lyrics (7)
100. His dad has a new suitcase (5,5)
101. Not a hard amoeba (4,4)
103. Oye Esteban, indeed (10)
104. Stretchy first letter (8)
106. I get caught up in her hair (7)
107. The males gave birth in this band (3,9)
109. Sang ‘Between John and Yoko’ (4)
111. Angry Billy (4)
112. Others have moves like him (4,6)
115. Half audible (9)
117. Rubbish music (7)
122. Sang about matches (3,7)
123. Sounds like roe and muntjac (3,5)
126. Twin research facilities (9)
127. With rabbit breeders, on this beach? (4)
128. He felt safe, stuck in traffic (4,5)
130. A definite sphere (3,3)
131. This band are walked all over (8)
133. Two beards and a beard (1,1,3)
136. He liked his OJ… (5,7)
137. …but Shaun preferred a darker drink (5,5)
138. English prog rockers, sound Eastern (4)
139. They had the first base for la renard (2,7)
140. Model heathens? (3,10)
141. Ancient Mexican Leica (5,6)
142. Michael Fish and Billy Giles (3,7,8)
143. ___ A, Real Gone ___ (3)
1. Trains rely on it (7)
2. Little dog goes from Oz to Africa (4)
4. Lupine, down the rabbit hole (4,5)
6. Arthur Lee’s 60s band (4)
7. Composer Philip _____ (5)
8. Blue _____, _____ Jam (5)
9. Everything but the girl (3,4)
10. They had a cardiac groove (4,4)
11. High powered song by 34D (3)
14. Lots of TIAs (3,7)
16. The bookmakers? (3,5)
17. Wide screen film format (8)
18. Sounds like they record in a shed (5)
20. Rosy Keith? (4,5)
21. Home to Mick before he joined the council (3,6,6)
22. Plain rude (3,7)
24. Luxuriant 4AD band (4)
25. Had to get the best out of them (3,7)
26. Debuted with equines (5,5)
27. Family business for alchemists (8,8)
28. Late queen (6,8)
30. Just playing at being a band (3,10)
31. Just playing at video games (4,3,3)
32. A certain Mr Yorke’s quartet (5,3,5)
34. The band The Beatles could have been (5)
38. All About ___ (3)
41. To the end… the focused bit (9,5)
43. Not us (4)
44. They were out of their brilliant mind (9)
47. She wanted to kiss the pope … of mope (5,7)
50. Positively prog! (3)
51. Total blockhead (3,4)
53. Loudon or Martha (10)
54. A good source of vitamin C and anti-oxidants (3,11)
55. Chris, guitarist in 106A (5)
59. Nothing ever happened for them (3,6)
60. The pretenders (10)
62. Beloved of cannibals (8)
63. They were upstairs at Eric’s (5)
64. He sold the heat (6,6)
65. _____ Basie (5)
67. No nut allergies for these boys (7)
68. Easy as 1-2-3 for Sheffield band (1,1,1)
70. Main enema for singer? (5,4)
73. Cold relations of 114D (6,7)
74. They scratched in a spiral motion (9)
76. Indie rockers from Duluth (3)
77. Not gone up in smoke (3)
82. A bashful, manic filth (4,3,4,7)
83. Stylish dance act (4)
85. Did she lament for Stan? (4)
88. Amusements up in smoke? (6,4)
90. Not the 80’s TV alien (6,5)
91. Jenny was a friend of theirs (3,7)
93. You might expect this band to grow in number (3,8)
95. ___ Vicious (3)
96. Full-on vocals (8)
102. Relatives of 114D? (3,7)
105. Take a pew to listen to this band (3,6)
107. Test version of a group (3,4,4)
108. Former president on Viagra? (6,1,1,1)
110. They were on my radio (8)
113. Ropey Norfolk indie also-rans (4)
114. Monkey men (8)
115. They would write crossword cluze (5)
116. Label for early Suede releases (4)
117. Stick a bottle in the face of casino town (9)
118. He had a satanic hairstyle (4)
119. Dangerous, their drab light (6)
120. He played a wicked game (5,5)
121. Chilly theatre? (8)
124. Spanish archer? (5)
125. A band with oomph, with energy (3,5)
129. From deadly comedy to in-demand producer (5)
132. Go to Oxford by bike (4)
134. Metal but thin, not heavy (4)
135. Sadly spliced in 2004 (4)

Thursday 20 September 2018

The chart show... reveal

...and the first video on the New Amusements YouTube channel to 500 views was... Sleeper performing Sale Of The Century. Somewhat predictably, not even Paul Simon could live with a resurgent Louise Wener, despite being online to view for more than a year longer. Funny what attracts attention and what doesn't - I really thought another Sleeper video from the same gig, their live mash-up of Atomic and Love Will Tear Us Apart, would have been more popular, but that currently only has 93 views and no likes. I don't understand people.

Anyway, this is also a reminder that the band are working on a new album, and you can pledge for it here.

Wednesday 19 September 2018

All about Eve

If you have access to BBC America, you'll already know all about Killing Eve, but now the series has returned to the mothership, as the programme has launched here on BBC1. This is what the Beeb's media pack for the show has to say:

The BBC’s new eight-part thriller, Killing Eve, has been adapted by Bafta Award-winning writer and actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) from the novellas Codename Villanelle. Produced by Sid Gentle Films Ltd (The Durrells, SS-GB), Killing Eve centres on two very different women.

Eve is a bored, whip-smart, pay-grade MI5 security officer whose desk-bound job doesn’t fulfil her fantasies of being a spy. Villanelle is a mercurial, talented killer who clings to the luxuries her violent job affords her. Killing Eve topples the typical spy-action thriller as these two fiercely intelligent women, equally obsessed with each other, go head to head in an epic game of cat and mouse.

Starring Sandra Oh as Eve, and Jodie Comer as Villanelle, the series - a combination of brutal mischief making and pathos - is filled with sharp humour, originality and high-stakes action.

And if you think that sounds good, well, it seems to be, and is as original as the press pack suggests. Here's a trailer:

Anyway, on the basis of having watched the first episode, I'd say this looks worth investing some time in. What you might not get from some of the reviews is that the soundtrack is also brilliant but, frustratingly, not detailed in the credits. Thank goodness, then, for Tunefind, which attempts to catalogue all the songs. From series 1, episode 1, I particularly enjoyed these:

Oh, and as an aside, can you imagine any other channel running three such brilliant dramas as this, Bodyguard and Black Earth Rising at pretty much the same time? The BBC spoils us, and we are lucky to have it.

Tuesday 18 September 2018

The chart show

Unbelievably, this humble and largely unread blog has a YouTube channel. It is nothing to write home about at all and I don't put a lot of time or effort into it; rather, it's just somewhere to offload videos that I have recorded, mainly grainy gig footage. It sees very little traffic.

Still, at the moment there is a bit of a race on - which will be first to 500 views: a fairly close up video of the reformed Sleeper performing Sale Of The Century, in which the picture quality is good, the cameraman (me) predictably focuses mainly on Louise and the bass drum is a bit too much for the mic on my camera to handle; or, a grainy, camera-phone video shot from way up high of Paul Simon performing Late In The Evening? A distant third sees Morrissey recycling How Soon Is Now? I suppose he could put on a late spurt but at the moment it seems to be a two-horse race.

Here's the playlist of my current ten most popular videos... none of which, as you will see, are very popular. First to 500 views? Place your bets.

Monday 17 September 2018

Monday Sunday Morning ... 2

I haven't blogged much of late, as I am not in the right frame of mind. I am sort of drafting a piece on the new Paul Weller album, in my head, and an accompanying theory that is probably way off the mark. But until then, I heard this on the radio a week or so ago, and think it is pretty good. I know very little about Paul Jacobs other than that he comes from Montreal. That's it. Anyone fill in any gaps for me?

Friday 7 September 2018

Clandestine Classic LVIII - Lettuce

The fifty-eighth post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Everyone loved The Undertones. A great, Peel-endorsed singles band with a cheeky attitude and a distinctive vocal style. Even a song about Mars bars. What was not to love? A fair proportion of the fanbase might have felt a bit short-changed by Feargal Sharkey's solo career though, aside from a couple of catchy singles - the smooth, polished sound was miles away from the rough and ready rock and roll he'd been making with his Derry mates before getting all sophisticated. Lucky for us all then that two fifths of The Undertones (guitarist and songwriter John O'Neill plus his brother Damian) went on to form That Petrol Emotion, a band whose name was, John explained, meant to evoke the frustration and anger of those living in Northern Ireland at the time.

This new five-piece, fronted by Seattle-born singer Steve Mack, released their debut album, Manic Pop Thrill, in September 1985. It would eventually limp to number 84 in the charts, although would top the indie chart. Far more diverse musically than most of The Undertones' output, the band wore their influences on their sleeves. It was also a step forward lyrically, moving away from songs about cars and girls towards politics and social issues. As guitarist Raymond Gorman memorably suggested, it was "like the Undertones after discovering drugs, literature and politics, with a lot more girls in the audience dancing." And it was a denser, heavier sound than the highly-produced pop sheen their former band-mate Sharkey would embrace.

Manic Pop Thrill was critically, if not commercially, successful. John Peel continued his endorsement and Rolling Stone magazine described the band as "The Clash crossed with Creedence", which is a pretty good tagline for any band. And it was the start of a moderately successful career that would see them release six albums, the last in 2000, after which they split. There have been subsequent reunions, of course, but not much in the way of new material.

Today's classic is an album track, not one of the three singles from Manic Pop Thrill, and is called Lettuce (Rol, take note, should you ever do a 'salad' top ten). It's a great example of the heavier sound O'Neill was now chasing, whilst retaining the increased musical complexity of the last Undertones recordings. Crucially, the knack of producing an infectious riff, an ear-worm, has not been lost. Before today, I hadn't listened to this for at least ten years, yet every note remains ingrained. O'Neill's innate pop sensibilities hadn't been lost either - this is all over in less than two and a half minutes. Lyrically? A bit more obscure, I think; it's either about getting laid or getting high, I reckon. Who knows.

There's no That Petrol Emotion "best of" anywhere, which seems like a bit of an omission on somebody's part. If you want to pick up today's classic you're looking at Manic Pop Thrill or an equally good version on their Peel Session. Alternatively, it's on the excellent (and highly recommended) New Season Peel compilation, which is where I first found it. Or there's YouTube, of course.

Monday 3 September 2018

Clandestine Classic LVII - You Can Talk To Me

The fifty-seventh post in an occasional series that is intended to highlight songs that you might not have heard that I think are excellent - clandestine classics, if you will. Maybe they'll be by bands you've never heard of. Maybe they'll be by more familiar artists, but tracks that were squirelled away on b-sides, unpopular albums, radio sessions or music magazine cover-mounted CDs. Time will, undoubtedly, tell.

Remember when John Squire left the Stone Roses, first time around, leaving them to scrabble around with stand-in guitarists to fulfil concert obligations? Yeah, you're my age or thereabouts, of course you remember. And remember how excited everyone got when Squire's new project, The Seahorses, emerged, seemingly fully formed, within a year? Okay, so there were mutterings... that Squire's lauded guitar playing had descended into self-indulgence, that the Seahorses' singer was a busker, and that the two didn't see eye to eye that well... that sort of thing. But the mutterings were overlooked, debut album Do It Yourself was generally quite well received, and the singles from it - Love Is The Law, Blinded By The Sun and Love Me Or Leave Me - all did well (#3, #7 and #16 in the singles chart respectively). I seem to remember a performance of Love Is The Law on Top Of The Pops where the crowd bowed, we're not worthy style, before Squire's riffing. Forget vocalist Chris Helme's excellent voice and teen-girl-bothering looks, it was Squire's project, and he was supposed to be the star.

And maybe that was part of the problem. Yes, Helme was spotted busking by Squire's guitar tech, but he could really sing, and he wrote songs too... just not the sort of songs that Squire was interested in. Indeed, John was hesitant about Chris from the start, concerned that he "closed his eyes when he sang and only folk singers do that", and later observing that "he can write the odd tune but I don't really like them and it might be a problem later on if he wants to record them with the band." Equally, Chris, once established in the band, felt undervalued and concerned about Squire's guitar onanism - he would later describe Squire's material as "muso wank". As if that wasn't enough, fan rumours about the band's name were rife, The Seahorses being an anagram of He Hates Roses - a trivial coincidence, but Squire felt the need to deny it, which the NME lapped up, of course. Plus the material was patchy - yes, the singles were great but parts of the rest of the album seemed a bit Fisher-Price, to the extent that some wondered whether the acclaim and column-inches afforded the band had been earned. And to top it all, the band were parodied by DJs Mark and Lard, as The Shirehorses. For all Squire's serious aspirations, the band seemed there to be lampooned.

But there was to be a parting shot. The band, now just Seahorses, dropping the definite article in a fruitless attempt to escape the anagram theorists, released one final single, today's Clandestine Classic, You Can Talk To Me - this saw Helme and Squire share the writing credits, and is perhaps their best co-composition. Helme's voice soars as it is want to do, whilst Squire reins in his over-blown tendencies and plays it with a straight bat, keeping the chords quite simple - it feels almost like a traditional folk tune. Although if you study the lyrics closely, you can almost see the join between the Helme and Squire lyrics - the middle eight with the natural born killer/Polyfilla rhyme feels a bit out of place. Whoever's song it really is, Helme still performs this live, as part of his stripped down solo set, and it still works.

Whatever. The band's last single limped to #15 in the chart, but the expected parent album failed to materialise, and the band imploded (as bands with Squire in tend to do, sometimes more than once). This then was their swansong and, for me, remains the best, most sing-along single from what was most definitely a singles band: Helme (literally) ends on a high note and Squire tacks a bit of muso rock noodling on the end, for old times' sake.

There's no Seahorses "best of" that I can find, so if you want to own today's classic you're talking silly money on Amazon. YouTube it is then.

Friday 31 August 2018

Coincidence or no?

I rewatched Terry Gilliam's excellent Twelve Monkeys earlier this week, partly because it was referenced in the highly recommended Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema sci-fi episode, partly because it happened to be on the iPlayer and partly because I wanted to remind myself how good it is. And in watching it, I noticed something I hadn't picked up on before.

There's a scene roughly half-way through in which our protagonist, James Cole (Bruce Willis), beats up some lowlife before they beat him up. His heroine, Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), fears that he has killed them, to which Cole replies, "All I see are dead people." Which seems to foreshadow the tag line from another Philly-set Willis vehicle, The Sixth Sense, in which Haley Joel Osment's character Cole Sear explains, "I see dead people."

Coincidence or intentional reference by M. Night Shyamalan? Who knows? And apart from me, who cares?

From one Cole to another...

Twelve Monkeys pre-dates Sixth Sense by four years.

Thursday 30 August 2018

The trouble with anniversary tours

I've nothing against anniversary tours in general. You know the sort of thing: "It's 25 years since Album X was released and Band Y are reuniting to play the whole album, in full - don't miss it!" Later this year, I will be going to see From The Jam on their All Mod Cons 40th anniversary tour - I've got no problem with that, not even the fact that only one third of the actual Jam is now involved. And in recent years I've seen The Wedding Present run through George Best too, which was blissful. So I hope it's pretty clear that I have no problem with the concept - it's rose-tinted nostalgia for the fans and a few quid in the pension pot for the band. Everyone wins.

Except... (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) Except I do have a problem when the anniversary excuse is tenuous and/or the act of celebration is unjustified. You might think something has triggered this mini-rant and you'd be right, for this morning I had an email from a local gig venue advertising this:

In celebration of the twelfth anniversary of celebrated million-selling album 'Twelve Stops and Home', The Feeling will be performing the album in full this October.

Where shall I start?

First off, who celebrates a twelve year anniversary? Even when there's a tenuous (and desperate) numeric tie-in with the album title? Secondly, who feels this album needs celebrating? So much so, in fact, that they feel the need to have a "celebration of ... [a] celebrated million-selling album"? (Really, who edits this copy?) And thirdly, are The Feeling suddenly so skint or in need of a career boost that this seems like a good idea to them?

Christ, if you really must celebrate a twelfth anniversary, why not look at a decent album, maybe Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. Except no-one feels the need to celebrate that because, you know, Arctic Monkeys are still active and producing new material. Still relevant. Still going forwards. Still all the things that maybe The Feeling are not so much, any more. And don't think I've just got it in for The Feeling - after all, last year The View were touting a tenth anniversary tour of Hats Off To The Buskers, unbelievably. My beef really is just anniversary tours that purport to celebrate something that really isn't worth celebrating, rather than just admit career stagnation and financial imperative. Gah!

Anyway, enough of me being a misery-guts. I leave you with selections from albums actually deserving of celebration, for 12, 20, 30 and 40-year anniversaries respectively. Which would you pay to see performed in full?

12 years

20 years

30 years

40 years