Thursday 30 June 2022

More new to NA: Afflecks Palace and "Nu Madchester"

I don't know who coined the phrase "Nu Madchester" and I'm not sure it's entirely accurate, for Afflecks Palace are more Roses than Mondays. But the name has gained traction. The four-piece guitar band wear their influences proudly, and you can hear them in every song, and that works for me, I have to say. Am a bit less fond of bucket hats making a comeback, but singer J seems keen, wearing one (or something equally daft) in most videos I've seen. And if I tell you that the band's website is called The Spirit of Spike Island ... well, you get the picture. Oh, and for extra Manc kudos, the band are named after the former name of the alternative indoor market on Oldham Street, in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Here's a taster from J, guitarist Dan Stapleton, bassist Pete Darling and drummer Pete Redshaw, Carpe Diem.

A bit of a browse around that Spirit of Spike Island website reveals some other, like-minded bands. My interest was piqued by this track, Deeper Than Holy, by Pastel.

And if two bands ploughing the baggy Manchester furrow aren't enough for you, relax, there's a third: this is Come Out 'n' Play by Vega Rally:

I'm not sure about "Nu Madchester" though - quite apart from it being a terrible, lazy name, if I want to listen to music that sounds like The Roses, Mondays, Charlatans, Inspirals, well, I'll just get all my old CDs out. Whilst there's nothing wrong with championing your influences, I think these three bands need to forge their own identities rather than trade on the past glories of others. That said, from a day spent YouTubing them all, I think they all have the potential to do exactly that. And good news, the three bands are going out on tour together, so you can get to take in all three in one evening - just don't wear a bucket hat, please?

Wednesday 29 June 2022

More new to NA: Northern Portrait

Not new to everyone else, of course, but today I finally got around to listening to the three Northern Portrait songs I possess. Turns out the Danish indie four-piece are rather good. Example, you say? Well, I've been suffering from what Rol euphemistically called "low mood" lately, but listening to Criminal Art Lovers, in particular, has cheered me somewhat.

Good, isn't it?

Monday 27 June 2022

Monday long song: The Chemistry Between Us

Don't think I've featured much, if anything, from post-Bernard Suede before, so let's remedy that today. The Chemistry Between Us was from 1996's Coming Up, released at a time when Brett's own chemical use was starting to get a little beyond him. Whatever. At the time, the "class A, class B" lyric might have seemed a little risqué - now it seems barely noteworthy, something even Ed Sheeran sings about.

Sunday 26 June 2022

Sunday shorts: In The Street Today

An impossibly young Paul, Bruce and Rick rattle through this for the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1978, complete with a duff chord from Paul around the 49 second mark

Friday 24 June 2022

Blue Friday: Goodbye Mr Blue

Another from the YouTube "Watch later" pile.

If you listen to Radio 2 or 6 Music, there's a good chance you heard a fair bit of this earlier in the year - it's Father John Misty, doing his very best Nilsson impersonation, with a pretty song about death, and an interesting video.

Thursday 23 June 2022

More new to NA: Just Mustard

Just Mustard are a five-piece from Dundalk in Ireland, comprising vocalist Katie Ball, guitarists David Noonan and Mete Kalyon, bassist Rob Clarke, and drummer Shane Maguire. Their blurb talks about a "blend of noise, trip hop, and influenced music", whatever influenced music might be. Anyway... their 2018 debut album Wednesday earned them a Choice Music Prize nomination for Irish Album of the Year, and their latest album Heart Under is available now.

However, Frank wasn't on either of those albums. It does have a minor ear-worm, and a slightly unsettling video though. See what you think.

Saturday 18 June 2022

Twenty-two in '22: Eleven

I've set myself modest reading targets in each of the last three years and failed every time (I managed 17 books in '19, 11 in '20 and 18 in '21), so I'm determined to read twenty two books in 2022. I'll review them all here.

Eleven by Mark Watson

7/22: Eleven by Mark Watson

The blurb:

Xavier Ireland is a radio DJ who by night listens to the hopes, fears and regrets of sleepless Londoners and by day keeps himself very much to himself - until he is brought into the light by a one-of-a-kind cleaning lady and forced to confront his own biggest regret. This is a tale of love, loss, Scrabble and six degrees of separation, asking big questions about life and death, strangers and friends, heartache and comfort, and whether the choices we don't make affect us just as powerfully as those we do.

The review: I am predisposed to liking this book. After all, I read Contacts by Watson last year, and gave it a healthy five stars out of six in my review. In 2018 I made The Knot my book of the year (even though it was published in 2012). And I've seen Mark in various comedy settings doing his "day job" more often than I can easily recall. And I do like Eleven ... it's just that it's not as good as it could have been. Let me explain why.

Sure, all the hallmarks of Watson's best writing are in place - a relatable, likeable, everyman protagonist, a free-flowing prose style that helps the pages practically turn themselves, and a gentle humour of the wry-smile-inducing variety. As a result, Eleven is a book I rattled through in three days, helped, no doubt, by train journeys to while away. But there are issues; for a start, some of the characterisation could best be described as of the cookie-cutter variety. For example, Pippa, the cleaning lady who triggers a change in our hero's outlook is almost a Geordie-by-numbers; worse still is the depiction of Xavier's friend and radio co-host Murray who, I am sorry to say, borders on cliché as the hapless, overweight, stammering fool with bad hair and a shocking lack of self-awareness. Ditto Julius, the overweight, bullied schoolboy from a poor background who is also a maths prodigy. I'm not saying these kinds of characters don't exist in real life - it's just that for them to tick every box on their archetype's checklist jars, with this reader at least.

Then there is the POV - omniscient present-tense is a tough gig to pull off, especially when it is third-person, rather than first. When the narrator drops in little details about what will happen to minor characters in three, five, ten years time, well, I get it, Mark's trying to highlight the interconnectivity of everything ... it's just that this makes the narrator seem God-like, and I'm an atheist. Your mileage will, as they say, undoubtedly vary, but for me this was a problem at times, and occasionally disrupted the narrative flow.

And then there is the flexing of vocab muscles, visibly stretching to use unusual or unexpected verbs to describe events. Again, I know what Watson's doing here, I think, in trying to imbue seemingly ordinary events with portent through the use of carefully chosen verbs but when I got to the point where picnics were "provoked" by sunshine, I just wanted him to stop. And I'm happy to report, from reading subsequent books by Watson, that he has.

That said, there is still much to enjoy here, and I'm glad I read it. No doubt you would be too. As I've mentioned, the pace fairly rattles along, and Xavier Ireland is a character that the reader invests in, even to the extent of wanting to give him a shake at times, and that has to be a good sign. One final criticism, though, might be that the book's ending is a little too foreshadowed, and you get the feeling that even Watson realised this and tweaked it ever so slightly - for the better, I am happy to report.

The bottom line: even with the occasional frustrations this is a genuinely enjoyable read, but would have benefited from better characterisation and a tougher editor. It's good, but he's written better since.

Since everything online is rated these days: ★★★★☆☆

Friday 17 June 2022

Get Smart

I stash videos away in my YouTube "Watch Later" list that I plan to blog about when the right time comes around. Well, in the absence of anything else, the sunshine today has prompted me to raid the list and post this slice of brilliance from the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Enjoy.

Friday 10 June 2022

Trending when dead

SPM once wore a badge that declared him to be "Famous when dead". However, these days of course you just trend. It's a very 21st Century thing, isn't it, to check that someone is still alive when you see them unexpectedly trending. I noted, for example, that Sheila Hancock was briefly trending this afternoon, and was relieved to discover it's just because apparently some people were surprised to learn she is 89, rather than because she has shuffled off this mortal coil. Ridiculous really - I mean, I've linked to the report for completeness but honestly, don't bother clicking, it's such a desperate non-story.

By contrast, I then noticed that Julee Cruise was also trending ... and that is because she's died, at just 65. I'll be honest, I was only ever familiar with her work through her collaborations with David Lynch, on Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet - from the former, this is probably her most famous song, Falling:

And that's alright, I suppose. But does it make me a heathen or just a creature of habit for preferring the Wedding Present cover?

I hope never to trend, alive or dead. Just as well, as there is zero chance.

Monday 6 June 2022

Monday long song: The Past Is A Grotesque Animal

There must be something in the water in Athens, Georgia, for that is where indie five-piece Of Montreal crystalised.

This is quite something, I think. In the absence of a conventional video, I've found a fan-made lyric video, for there are a lot of interesting lyrics.

Hands up if you Googled Georges Bataille after this...?

Saturday 4 June 2022

Twenty four hours of rubbish

I'm not the first to post this song, this weekend, nor will I be the last. Hopefully I can provide some variety by picking an excellent live TV performance.

Slightly sobering to think that a lot more years have passed since this performance than the seventeen that elapsed between 1977 and this.