Friday 25 December 2020

Blue Friday: Soon You'll Get Better

Stow your preconceptions and snobbery, musos, because this is a beautiful performance. Dedicated here today to everyone who can't see loved ones this Christmas.

Thursday 24 December 2020

Father Christmas, give us some money

Don't know why this doesn't get played as often as Slade and Wizzard but, straight from 1977, here are The Kinks with their attempt at a festive single... and it didn't chart, not even the lower reaches! A travesty!

Those lyrics in full. Maybe why it doesn't get played so much...

When I was small, I believed in Santa Claus though I knew it was my dad
And I would hang up my stockings at Christmas, open my presents, and I'd be glad.
But the last time I played Father Christmas I stood outside a department store,
A gang of kids came over and mugged me and knocked my reindeer to the floor. They said

Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over, we want your bread so don't make us annoyed.
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

Don't give my brother a Steve Austin outfit, don't give my sister a cuddly toy.
We don't want no jigsaw or Monopoly money, we only want the real McCoy.

Father Christmas, give us some money, we'll beat you up if you make us annoyed.
Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.

Give my daddy a job 'cause he needs one, he's got lots of mouths to feed,
But if you've got one, I'll take a machine gun, so I can scare all the kids on the street

Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over, we want your bread so don't make us annoyed.
Give all the toys to the little rich boys

Have yourself a merry merry Christmas, have yourself a good time.
But remember the kids who got nothing, while you're drinking down your wine.

Father Christmas, give us some money, we got no time for your silly toys.
Father Christmas, please hand it over, we'll beat you up, don't make us annoyed.
Father Christmas, give us some money, don't mess around with those silly toys.
We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over, we want your bread so don't make us annoyed.
Give all the toys to the little rich boys.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Because it's Christmas...

Tier 4 has come to New Amusements, at least it will on Boxing Day (non-sensically - if it needs to happen, it needs to happen now, not after a super-spreading Christmas). And it has been heaving down all day. Seldom has "humbug" felt more appropriate.

But here's Terry de Castro and Such Small Hands, aka Melanie Howard, to spread some Christmas cheer with a pan-Atlantic-yet-locked-down collaboration.

Saturday 19 December 2020


Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I came across a CD that I fully expected to go, Muse's third album Absolution, from 2003. I've got nothing against Muse, and I know they are, or have been, massive (supermassive, you might say) ... but I always found them a bit too bombastic.

Except, after listening back to Absolution for the first time in at least ten years, if not more, well, I quite like it, actually. It survives The Purge, and here's an example of why, the sentiment of which seems very 2020.

Friday 18 December 2020

Blue Friday: Just A State Of Mind

This is an atypical track from Graham Coxon's 2006 release Love Travels At Illegal Speeds (an album which is, for my money, the best thing any member of Blur has done outside of Blur - sorry Damon).

Thursday 17 December 2020

A double celebration

It's an auspicious date in the calendar - my best mate's fiftieth birthday and my parents' sixtieth wedding anniversary. Three amazing people with cause to celebrate, I just wish I could celebrate with them, rather than virtually. Anyway, here's a song for each occasion - can you guess which is for The Man of Cheese and which is for the parentals?

"Life is a drink and you get drunk when you're young..."

If not for Alma, I wouldn't exist

Sunday 13 December 2020

Out of Frames

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I also stumbled upon The Cost, a 2007 offering from Irish band The Frames. Like Mercury earlier today, it's an album I would have bought to obtain one track, in this case Falling Slowly, which a more emotional, love-blind/love-sick version of me was beguiled by after hearing it in the film Once. Yes, the male lead in Once was Glen Hansard, the same Glen Hansard who fronted The Frames. And yes, female lead Markéta Irglová is the same Markéta Irglová who has a writing credit for Falling Slowly. All these things are true.

But what of the album? Well, it's okay, a little grey, a little whiny in places, a little too earnest, maybe... It's an album that was clearly trying very hard. But it's not an album I need to hear again, I don't think. I doubt I will watch Once again either.

The Purge continues. My Discogs sellers' page continues to fill up. Sales are noticeably absent, but hey. Here's Falling Slowly.

Not taking the Longview

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I came across Mercury, a 2005 offering from Manc indie kids Longview. It's an album I would have bought to obtain one track, most likely Further, which had been used on a TV programme or advert or something.

It's okay, that track and the album in general, but nothing elevates it. I've been trying to think of the right word to describe it, and all I can come up with is "sludgey", which seems a bit harsh for something that is inoffensive, if unremarkable. I see a sticker on the front of the jewel case boasts of a slew of four- and five-star reviews: "Soaring" said The Times (though beware one-word extracts from reviews); "Should be adored" said Big Issue; "Reminiscent of Joshua Tree-era U2" said Q magazine (though they only gave it three stars). It isn't reminiscent of any era of U2, but Q were right to limit it to three stars. The ingredients might all have been there but somehow they didn't mix quite right...

You can find my copy of Mercury on sale at Discogs, right here. And yes, I appreciate that I'm trying to sell something whilst saying it's not good enough to keep. But anyway... to whet your appetite, here's Further.

I published this at 13/12/2020 12:13. I should get out more, shouldn't I?

Thursday 10 December 2020

That Was The Year That Was: 2020

2020 review
This is the tenth time I've recapped a year like this (for completists, here are the others), and what a year it has been, one like no other: a year of staying at home, of not being able to see family and friends, of shortages, of privation... of death, for some. Excess death, even, a phrase I never imagined hearing. A year in which the phrase "You're on mute" has gone from ha-isn't-this-all-funny to is-this-bleak-hell-what-life-has-become, and wishing they were muted, in nine short months. Sure, there have been some positives (peace, nature) but they all pretty much ended when the first lockdown was lifted. And to top it all off, it looks like the year is about to end with the whole nation being driven, at speed, by an unqualified, blindfolded driver, straight off the Brexit cliff. It is all, almost, too much to bear ... so it hardly seems worth recapping anything this year but, for the sake of completeness and consistency, here we are. It's going to be very brief - just winners, maybe the occasional runner-up and honourable mention. Why? Well, I've got two thousand and twenty reasons, and besides, nobody really gives a toss about what I think. Yes, that makes this whole post an exercise in futility ... but exercise is good for you, right?

Best album

Such Small Hands
I haven't bought many new albums again this year but, of the few I have, On Sunset by Paul Weller, if a little uneven. I'm also very much enjoying Not From Where I'm Standing, the charity compilation of Bond theme covers by Gedge and friends, and the new Vapors album Together was better than anyone had any right to expect. But the undoubted winner, and my album of the year by some distance, is the fantastic debut from Such Small Hands, Carousel, a delicate slice of melancholia that makes an impact on the first listen and grows on you more and more with every repeat play. A geunine highlight of the year.

Best song

A late entry, here, for We Have All The Time In The World by David Lewis Gedge, from the aforementioned Not From Where I'm Standing. Yes, it's a cover of the Louis Armstrong classic ... and it's also a new addition to the list of potential songs to be played at my funeral, so there's another cheery thought for 2020.

Best gig

Unsurprisingly, it's been a quiet year for gigs. The Vapors, up close and personal, was a lot of fun on a cold, cold Dublin night, just days before the shutters came down on life. Live stream virtual gig highlights included The Wedding Present and Martin Rossiter. But the best actual gig I've been to, and I know this will not go down well with some, was Morrissey at Wembley Arena. I had a great seat and he was on form, what else can I say?

Best book

The Snakes by Sadie Jones
You'll have heard me say this before, but I haven't read as much as I would have liked this year. So much for my Twenty in '20 challenge, right? But from what I have managed to read, Wakenhyrst continued Michelle Paver's run of excellent novels in which isolation plays an important part; likewise If It Bleeds continued Stephen King's run of terrific four-story collections, with a little of something for everyone. My pick of the year though is The Snakes by Sadie Jones whose prose I described at the time as "scalpel-sharp and laser-guided". This unusual story is part family drama, part suspense and entirely gripping.

Best film

Like the rest of the Western world, I haven't really been to the cinema much this year, so Tenet wins almost by default, being the one film I managed to see between lockdowns. It was good, not great, visually impressive but overly complex. I'm all in favour of dialogue being crucial...but I want that dialogue to be clearly audible, not muffled down amongst the sound effects. I'm far from the only person to have noted this problem, so maybe they'll sort it out for the inevitable 4K Ultra HD release.

Best television

The Queen's Gambit
I filled a lot of time, especially in the first lockdown, rewatching old television series on iPlayer. I must give special mention, therefore, to Line of Duty - after watching all five series back-to-back in fairly short order, I can confirm that it remains peerless television, and I'm eagerly awaiting series six. This was also the year the I finally succumbed to Netflix - Ricky Gervais's After Life is excellent. But for new television, my pick of the crop for this year is the same as everyone else's: The Queen's Gambit, also on Netflix, for its note-perfect evocation of the 1960s, its (admittedly questionable) portrayal of a gifted young woman in crisis and a stellar performance from Anya Taylor-Joy as protagonist Beth. Terrific jazz/blues soundtrack too.

Best podcast

A new category, reflecting the fact that I've listened to a lot this year, often whilst trudging round my state-approved daily exercise loop of the village. Both series of the BBC World Service's 13 Minutes to the Moon are beyond brilliant (series one covers Apollo 11, series two covers Apollo 13); however, I can't give them the gong as they're an older offering, made available again for lockdown. I must just flag the magnificence of Hans Zimmer and Christian Lundberg's theme music though, before moving on to ID Louis Theroux's new podcast Grounded as my pod of the year. It's genuinely all good, but the Helena Bonham-Carter, Lenny Henry, Miriam Margolyes and Troy Deeney episodes especially so.

Best sport

What sport? There hasn't been much to cheer about, has there? I enjoyed watching Ronnie O'Sullivan claim a sixth world snooker crown (he's on the SPOTY shortlist, and would be my choice). My best moment though is Liverpool bagging a well-deserved Premier League title - they've been my team since I was a nipper, so I was pleased to see them get the monkey off their back. Yes, I follow the local team now I live close to somewhere that has one, but LFC will always be my first football love.

Person of the year

Jacinda Ardern, please come and run the UK!
Joe Wicks was a contender for his sterling PE supply teacher stint during the first lockdown, as was Marcus Rashford for blindsiding us all with his well-chosen and effective campaigning. But in the end the award, if that's the right word, goes to Jacinda Ardern, 40th prime minister of New Zealand, who just continues to get everything right, whether it's gun control legislation, pandemic response or, you know, just being a human being and empathising with the people she leads. Could she come over here and run us, please?

Tool of the year

Reintroduced for 2020 and, as ever, it's a crowded field. The Donald, for being the world's worst loser (on your bike, son); Gavin Williamson, for anything and everything that emanates from his mouth; Nigel Farage, for just not going away... the list goes on and on. But of course the tool of the year/decade/century is Boris Johnson, whose leadership during the pandemic has been chaotic at best and calamitous at worst, whose blind loyalty to Cummings and Patel shows both poor judgement and moral turpitude, and whose pig-headed stubbornness and intellectual shortcomings are leading us to the worst possible Brexit outcome. Pardon my French but really, what a prick, and what a disaster for us all.

And that's it for another year. Looking back, I see I described 2019 as depressing. Little did I know what was to come. At least we have Biden and Harris in-bound. Anyway, 2020 ... how was it for you?

Monday 7 December 2020

Don't live miserably

I might have mentioned it already, I forget, but The Wedding Present have joined forces with past and present band members (TWP and Cinerama) to release an album of 20 Bond theme covers. Not From Where I'm Standing is available right now from Awesome Distro and if the premise isn't already enough to sell it to you, what if I added that 100% of profits go to mental health charity CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably? Better still, right?

Great "pulp" style (the literary genre, not the Sheffield indie kings) cover too, by the Connor Brothers.

Best of all, though, is the fact that you can buy this album purely on its musical merits - the cause, cover and theme are all bonuses. After an initial run-through, I'm especially loving Simone White's take on Goldfinger, the Cinerama run-through of Diamonds Are Forever, Maria Scaroni's The World Is Not Enough, the Sleeper/Gedge collaboration on Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shaun Charman's On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Such Small Hands' Skyfall. Album closer We Have All The Time In The World by Gedge, with just an accompanying piano courtesy of Danielle Wadey, is ... well, it's exactly what I need at the tail-end of a pretty wretched year, and is embedded below from within the longer launch event.

You still here? Go on, go treat yourself.

Friday 4 December 2020

The Unewsual VII - from Goldeneye to goodbye

Unless you're particuarly interested in radio telescopes, you'll probably only know this from Goldeneye. Whatever, it seems a shame that the Arecibo spherical reflector telescope couldn't be saved before it got to this moment...

Astrid survives...

Continuing the aforementioned review and partial cull of my excessive CD collection, I came across Astrid Williamson yesterday. I saw her live on Halloween in 2007, supporting The Wedding Present in Camden, and was a bit smitten, if truth be told (I know, I know...); imagine someone looking like Rosamund Pike and singing like KT Tunstall, and you're in the right ballpark. On the strength of that one gig performance, I have two of her albums, Boy For You and Day of the Lone Wolf. Both are good, neither is exceptional. Day of the Lone Wolf is a definite keeper, being signed with a personal dedication to me after meeting Astrid at the merchandise stand. But what about Boy For You?

On balance, it just makes the cut - just - after some agonising. It's not something I'm going to play often. But it does have memories attached, and that's important. Or maybe I'm still a bit smitten, who knows (or cares)? Either way, here's a sample track ... and if you want to see what has been purged, the slowly growing list is all for sale, right now, via Discogs (and if anyone wonders why I'm selling this it's because I also have this...).

Thursday 3 December 2020

Some of it has to go

Working from home, as I have for most of this year, has been a mixed blessing. Yes, it has been great to have a bit more time with the family, and to be more flexible with, for want of a better phrase, general life stuff. On the flip side, I have sorely missed cycling to work, and the flapjacks the canteen sells, well I've missed those too, even if my waistline hasn't.

One of the bigget downsides has been that, for the last eight and a half months, I've been working at the dining table, sat on a dining chair, surrounded by clutter. Pretty far from ideal ... but all changed now! We've had a bit of a move around at New Amusements Towers, and have finally changed one of the spare bedrooms into a study. It's a work in progress, for whilst one half of the room now contains a lovely big desk, proper 5-leg swivel chair (that I can even tilt back in) and a filing cabinet (all sourced for bargain prices on Gumtree), the other half of the room is stacked up with boxes and crates of stuff that needs sorting. Fortunately these are all out of shot in Teams calls...

A lot of the crates are full of CDs. My collection is simply too big, literally thousands of CDs. We don't have the space to store them all any more, and some I just wouldn't play any more either, even if they were accessible, rather than packed away in a plastic crate. Some, sadly, have to go. I know it's a purge that I will come to regret but, you know ... life.

So I'm stuck upstairs on my own, in what we previously called "bedroom 2" but now euphemistically call the office (and optimistically call the study), with a laptop in front of me and crate after crate after crate of CDs to my left. Seems like an ideal opportunity to start listening to some of them whilst I work, and sort the wheat from the chaff, with half a plan to sell the chaff on Discogs (anyone got any experience of buying/selling on Discogs, by the way? Any good?)

The first crate I opened starts at the tail-end of the T's, runs through U and V, and into W. There's a hell of a lot of Weller and Wedding Present in there, basically, which is all wheat, by definition. But I've just listened to The Triffids Present The Black Swan. It's fine, but it's not a keeper, for me. Maybe I didn't listen to it enough when I was young, but it has no significance to me, no importance imbued from nostalgia. I think it's going to be chaff. Sadly it is not going to make me rich on Discogs. But if anyone wants to buy a copy in mint condition (only the jewel case has light scuffs), well, you know where to find me.

Here's some Triffids, sadly condemned.

I will, undoubtedly, post other curios from the crates, both wheat and chaff. I'll tag all such posts with "The Purge"...

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Badvent ... again

It occurs to me that it's nearly Christmas. Once more, I feel disinclined to construct a New Amusements Advent Calendar - sorry about that. They're a lot of work to put together (bah) and finding decent alternative Christmas tunes gets harder every year (humbug). Plus, you know, life has a funny habit of taking the shine off such trivial pursuits... like working from home because you have to. Who wants to hear 24 festive indie tunes when life in general is so utterly bleak?

Anyway... the calendars from previous Christmases are all still here for your listening/viewing pleasure, in case you're feeling jollier than I which, let's face it, is quite likely. Knock yourselves out... oh, and check back on the 24th when I will, at least, post the Christmas hit that wasn't...

Advent 2015   •   Advent 2016   •   Advent 2017