Saturday, April 28, 2007

Diarists of a Post-Modern Age,

BBC Four can be a wonderful channel. It has a decent record for breaking new comedies. It teaches its viewers things. It also screens some excellent footage of live music.
I was sceptical of the TV adaptation of Diary of a Nobody, the marvellous piece of work by George and Weedon Grossmith. I did not believe that a televised version would add anything to the book but I watched nonetheless.
On one hand, it was good to be reminded of comic gems that are in the book, but on the other, despite Hugh Bonneville's excellent acting and narration, I came to the conclusion that there certainly was no point to televising this. As there is no real action, it was a waste of a TV set, and I tuned in mostly to listen, ergo it might as well have been on the radio.
The book is a classic and those smart enough to like it would most likely agree that the TV adaptation was unnecessary.

Offside Strikers of the Re-arranged Venue,

I’ve been listening to a couple of quality albums this week. The case that I should have been listening to more than just two is valid and I have rectified that with some extensive online ordering to catch what I missed.

Anyway, the self-titled album by The Kissaway Trail was hotly-anticipated around Bellyaches Towers; it was almost as exciting as reading the story in the East Fife Mail about the Tory MSP, who is hoping to be re-elected. Whilst canvassing Ted Brocklebank spat in a man’s garden, the man was going to vote for Ted until the incident and the ensuing argument, he has since changed his mind. So, this album is on the hallowed Bella Union label and The Kissaway Trail are from Denmark. The album has an introductory track, Forever Turned Out to be Too Long, rather than just another song. Smother + Evil = Hurt is the lead single and rightly so, it’s a magnificent piece of music; it has some strings on it and excellent layering of synths. It’s a song that should be on the radio, it’s perfect pop with simple but applicable lyrics, “we put favourite tracks on repeat, forgot ourselves” or “where were you when the light got defeated, a thought less is a thought more needed”, it’s got a likeness to the Polyphonic Spree. There are probably a lot of pedals and buttons needed when they play live, perhaps a bit like Bella Union pals, Midlake. Apart from the perfect Scandinavian pop, the Kissaway Trail also do some of that Scandinavian iciness, like Mew do; It’s Close Up Far Away is like that, it has a bit of a Shuttleworth beat but the drawn out vocals, give it a sadness and a sense of perspective, the lyric that exemplifies this is “look at the roads like veins and the cities as blood clots”, it’s deeper than it looks. La La Song is another super up-tempo bit of pop; it’s as simple as they come; mostly consisting of “la”s and talk of running to LA, it’s good that it doesn’t actually praise that band The Las - I hate that song that the radio always plays. 61 comes close to possessing the power of Arcade Fire’s Intervention, that chant of “We can, we’re strong, we’ll beat it!” is the main feature of this tune. The album ends with a few more icy auras. On the whole, it’s a well segued album, it feels complete. Musically, it’s composed well and lyrically, it’s simple but effective.

I was really impressed by De Rosa’s contribution to Ballads of the Book project thus I purchased their album Mend which was also released on Chemikal Underground Records. De Rosa is four men. I initially struggled with this album, the opening two tracks are not really of my favourite ilk, although I do admit that they are top quality fast guitar songs. New Lanark is where I really like to start to like this album, it starts to use that special Scottish quality that is there if Scottish bands care to use it. It can involve singing in a distinctly Scottish voice. It involves slowing down the guitars and using them more subtly in the lead up to purposeful crescendos. Hopes and Little Jokes sounds a bit like a Scottish I Am Kloot, it’s a quality acoustic number. It utilises that songwriting trick for a few lines; the I-am-the-A-in-the-B trick. The best example of this is always going to be Gin-soaked Boy so it was wise of De Rosa just to stop a few lines into the song. By On Recollection, the album has won me over and I can accept more upbeat, less duffer-like music, anyway, this is a toe-tapper and head-nodder. On the evidence of this album, De Rosa are a top band who write innovative songs in different styles, Mend is an excellent album of a fine Scottish tradition.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Denied Enthusiasts of Radio,

I loved radio but it has changed so much recently that CDs or silence (of a kind) has become preferable at times.

From 2130 to 0030hrs on weeknights, there’s nothing that I want to listen to, unless one of those specialist programmes by Radio Double One’s premier DJ, Mark Lamarr are being broadcast at one of their random times. God’s Jukebox by Mark Lamarr is superb, ideally, it’d be broadcast during daylight hours in order to ruffle a few feathers and wake the nation up to the idea of quality tunes.

Janice Long has been pushed back further into the night. At midnight, it was the perfect show for it’s time of day. I could wind down to it or it could keep me up, all I had to do was adjust the volume on my radio. The show was suitably versatile. Now, it’s just a little too late to go to sleep to.

Having Janice’s show was on next was sometimes the best thing about the now defunct Mark Radcliffe show. Mark has been paired with professional broadcaster, Stuart Maconie and their new show is now broadcast at a stupid time; a time when people are out for the evening, a time when people are listening to better shows or watching television, it’s a time when midweek football is on the television. The content of the show doesn’t appeal to me, the music is mundane and one-paced and the chat is of little value. Mark Radcliffe was always a radio hero of mine, but now I feel that he and Stuart are talking down to me; they are taking their audience to be slow on the uptake.

Their show clashes with 6music’s Brain Surgery. Most of the time, I don’t like the session artists, they’re usually just a few blokes with guitars. There was a band called The Rosie Taylor Project, they had a trumpet, I liked them. Dr Tom keeps a good pace to his show and is funny, intentionally and unintentionally. Gideon Coe, for me, is doing what Mark Radcliffe used to. He has a non-intrusive set of features to which the listeners contribute vigorously, but the key is that the interesting and comedic emails are read out. Gideon Coe also plays the kind of records that are to my taste with his freeplays, more often than not, he’ll also book the artists in for a session. Kissaway Trail and Electrelane are two excellent recent examples, I also look forward to The Twilight Sad session.

Daily, before Gideon is Shaun Keaveney, he plays the dull 6music playlist from top to bottom everyday, in between those records are lame features. He is as bad as Chris Moyles, they both seem to have limited passion for records. I’ve gone back to listening to Sarah Kennedy in the early mornings, at least she has a passion for show tunes. Seriously, I’ve always liked the low key approach that she employs, it’s perfect for its time of day. Phill Jupitus also had this approach, the difference was that he had better records. Phill Jupitus’ departure from 6music was a blow; the fact that Yawn Keaveney has not tried to emulate any of his style in any way has enhanced the problem. After Gideon Coe, 6music return to inane programming, they’ve got that Nermal from Radio 1 telling us what she had for lunch and playing rubbish records. 6music weekends are a no-go area, it’s a circus. I’d feed many of them to the lions although Don Letts’ sole hour of airtime is a treat.

With 6music being so rubbish, I’ve rediscovered how informative Radio Scotland is. Its music programming when presented by Vic Galloway and Tom Morton is always excellent. MacAuley and Co is a quality magazine programme. News takes up considerable airtime but their presenters love asking pointed questions and the phone-ins are great for hearing pensioners ranting.

I’m glad that I found KEXP. I can only hope that someone makes an effort to reclaim the bits of the BBC that are in self-induced disrepair.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reft Charwomen Displaced by Treadle,

I’m currently in a run of 6 games of football in 6 days, it has rendered my week off work useless. I wouldn’t be so tired if I was 12. It could be 7 in 7 tomorrow.

On my first day back, I felt as if I did not exist, until I didn’t. I was searched for after I had gone home. PhD work can be a lonely beat. My co-workers aren’t really co-workers, everyone does what they do for themselves and I don’t hold a grudge against them for doing so – that’s just how academia is.

My second day was slightly better. I should have overtaken some cars today but I didn’t, I was content to travel at the moderate pace of others. This worried me. It may be symptomatic of an ongoing malaise. I was content to go home from work and wait in for the delivery of a parcel today, I intended to go back to work when it arrived, and I did. I waited for 2 hours, in that time I intended to do some book work. Working at home is a trial, I have to do every silly task before I begin; I washed dishes, washed and hung out clothes, had lunch, laced up new trainers ergo the parcel arrived before I began working. I did do some decent stuff when I returned to the office, but it’s not about that. I also booted a co-worker in a hilarious/not hilarious incident.

SNP still scare me, we’ll have independence in time but Alex Salmon is not a man I’d trust to oversee it. It’s just the big four parties running in our constituency, so I’ll have to vote tactically to keep the SNP at bay. Thankfully, the list vote allows some freedom of expression. I haven’t been approached by any canvassers, it seems most of the campaigns are relying upon the waste of paper. I plan to make more use of my MSP in future.

We’re also in the progress of forming a small computing business. I will be managing director and handle the administration of the business. We promise to offer qualified expertise to local people wishing to upgrade and repair existing data systems.

I’m going to watch television, I know I will be disappointed. BBC Four (a great channel) have adapted the classic novel, Diary of a Nobody into a 4 part series. Behind every filum is a better book.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Clapping Arrangers of the Guaranteed Shins,

In this past week, I think I’ve gained a new respect for footballers, especially the part-time ones.

I’ve always played football; for school teams, for BB teams, for the East Fife fans team and also five-a-side football two or three times a week; but I had never been in of any of the organised leagues that were part of SYFA or SAFA (Scottish Youth or Scottish Amateur Football Associations) until a few weeks ago. I love football but I can get fed up of it. I’ve reached that point in the last week; training becomes a chore, 5-a-side becomes a chore and I can’t really be bothered. Injuries that have always been there have begun to flare up and play on the mind. In order for managers and organisers to keep people involved long-term, they have to make the effort to be involved – there’s no option just to have a break, people need commitment from players.

Professionals are obviously paid, the best ones handsomely, but it must be gruelling to train and play whenever someone tells them to. Fitness training is tedious. Matches are also draining. They’ve made the choice to go through this day after day, but surely there are days (that can stretch to weeks) where they are just fed up with it. They plod on and it’s worse when they have to listen to all the niggling comments from people who think they’re being helpful whilst they do so. I hate this and I only have to endure the moaning of the other three defenders and then the five or six people at the side of the park.

I’m just a rubbish rookie amateur player. I know when I’m on fire, when I feel like that I don’t mind playing or training loads. I know when I’m playing bad and it can be difficult to keep going. At least, I don’t have to play football to earn a living; I don’t think I would, not even for the wages of a La Liga or Serie A star.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Subjects of the Accordion Maestro,

I don’t know the entire history of Bright Eyes, it seems to be the way of things that the music of some artists doesn’t cross the Atlantic as quick as they should do, by that I, of course, mean reach me, it looks like it can take them about 4 or 5 albums before they do. Having bought both of the last two Bright Eyes albums, the two released on the same day (Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning), and thought them both wonderful, I expected more from the latest release, Cassadaga.

For me, I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning especially was a masterpiece; musically superb with lyrics that were told gripping stories or offered clever comment upon the harrowing state of the world. I want to like Cassadaga but whilst I can appreciate the tunes albeit in a country-style and the composition, I just don’t think that Conor is saying anything different or adding more to what he said on the last two albums. The opening track, Clairaudients (Kill or Be Killed), features the tape recordings of a conversation with a spiritualist (or the like), it’s a bit annoying and grates against the music. Four Winds is an excellent single with lively, country jaunty bits worth courtesy of the strings, these hush down to let Conor do his thing (the startlingly sobering tale with small glitches of hope just peeping through) in between. Soul Singer in the Session Band is equally fine, it has those small quips he does like the “post-modern author who doesn’t exist” in it that I think are very clever. Hot Knives has good lyrics, I like these kind of paradoxes, “The world was not of interest though her days were never dull” but the music lets them all down, it’s a bit underwhelming and quiet. In fact, there are great lyrics all through this album and I’m annoyed that I can’t like this album as much as they deserve me to, it’s the slower, quiet songs like Make a Plan to Love me and Hot Knives that seem to rely too much on the quality of the lyrics, they dwell upon them. The lyrical quality can still shine through on faster songs, Cleanse Song has a bit of an upbeat, Latin feel (oh, that percussion), it’s about dreaming and journeys to clear the mind, “your wife gave birth to a funeral dirge, You woke up purged as a wailing infant, In Krug Thep, Thailand”. I Must Belong Somewhere is a work of genius (again it’s a bit faster), it’s one of those great songs about mortality and existence, “Leave the scientist in the Rubik's cube, Let the true genius in the padded room remain” and many more of these lead to “Everything it must belong somewhere, I know that now, that's why I'm staying here”. I think that in this last paragraph all I have done is argued with myself, so in hindsight, it looks like half the songs are truly amazing and long-term, I might consider the other half to be equally great.

I doubt anyone would be pleased if I was to say that their record was something just to put on in the background. It’s not an insult, I’d buy something deliberately so that I could put it on for background atmosphere, as something that created a calming mood and something that doesn’t intrude. It’s difficult to say much about 23 by Blonde Redhead, it gives the room a chilled, relaxed feeling. I’ve liked this New York band for a while, this could be their best yet. The songs are pleasant but forgettable – they’re not what I’m studying. It’s a fabulous record and it does what I ask of it.

On the back of a few fabulous radio sessions, I decided to purchase In Bocca al Lupo by Murder by Death. There are some good, old-fashioned ballads at play here. They’re in a dark, punchy country style. The standout track is probably the lead song of the album, Brother; it’s about a rubbish brother, the narrator knows he is lousy but he stands by him. This is surely relevant to almost everyone; everyone regrets that it’s possible to choose friends but not family members.

The other great thing that I must mention is that I bought a promotional copy of That Summer at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy by The Twilight Sad ahead of the album that promises to be stunning, Fourteen Summers and Fifteen Winters. The seller wrote “Kingdom of Fife” on the envelope despite me specifying my address as “Fife”. Our ruling monarch, King Creosote has been recognised.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lovers of the Classic Nothingness,

It was tropical in Glenrothes on Saturday. Disappointment on field took place when any opposition failed to materialise; some did (10 players including 2 pulled from the pub) but I was making the referee edge towards the decision of abandoning the match; he eventually did so. Playing against people who having been drinking is dangerous. Playing against 10 men would have been boring.

There was that Grand National, it was great to see that no horses or people were injured or killed. I don’t agree with horse racing, it’s just like fox hunting; they make the animal run before it dies.

I coated the shed with creosote on Sunday - it must be summer, ergo the urge to garden. I tried to listen to Cassadaga by Bright Eyes whilst doing so but I’ve yet to fully zone in on it.

The passion fruit is the best food ever. Passion fruit sorbet is also the best ice cream flavour; it’s not often that this type of coincidence occurs.

The time has come to act upon troublesome neighbours.

Being on holiday seems a little weird, I’ve completely detached myself from work on this Monday. I haven’t even checked my emithers. Emithers scare me, if I get any work emithers, it usually means bad news and that I have to do something.

After taking smuggling some more stuff to the recycling point and being stared at by the neighbours in question whilst standing in the living room, I went to Embra. I bought quite a lot of things but I did not spend much money. It’s not expensive to look scruffy.

After seeing that Face of Britain programme on Channel 4, I hope that I have the face of a Viking. I certainly don’t have that Celtic face.

My favourite moment of the day was watching two elderly woman skulking around the nut stall and nabbing quantities when the tender was not watching.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Eaters of Hamster Food,

Seeds are the future. I like having a bag of sunflower seeds on my desk. I can chew upon them all day, they stave off hunger. There are many days when I don't feel like walking into town for lunch, however, if I take a packed lunch, I want to eat it come 9am. Seeds, in addition to my fruit, are the solution. They taste of nothing but they are addictive.

There are many, many seeds in a 300g bag. Who or what shells them? Do they get paid fairly?

It would have been a lovely day but for the east coast haar, it appears quite spectacular on the visible satellite images.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Heralds of the Birth and Death of a Day,

The world of amateur football isn’t really one that I’ve wanted to be part of. I only opted in as a favour to my brother. It seems to take up a huge proportion of my time and it’s not even all that enjoyable, I feel a bit uncomfortable about arriving on the scene mid-season, when the weather is nice, and displacing hard-working, loyal players (and tonight, brother).

In my first game, I was terrorised in an 8-1 defeat; with his naïve tactics, our manager had offered us up for slaughter. I was allowed another game in the midweek after, it was a 4-1 victory; I filled space. The next game was a 2-0 victory, it was comfortable. Tonight, we were robbed 2-1, a dubious penalty was awarded to the other team when we were winning 1-0 and we finished the game with only 10 men due to injuries, hence the concession of a very late goal. A few more were really struggling; I had to be treated for cramp.

So, I think I will take next week off on holiday. I will use my time to canvass against the SNP. I’m rather pleased to have received a comment regarding my earlier discussion of the election; I’m informed that the SNP have some policies. These must the be the ones that include saying the opposite of what everyone else says, even if it does make them seem silly. If the SNP come to power, we’ll all be doomed. I laughed when I saw that they launched their manifesto from the Wallace Monument; a quality gimmick. There is an excellent view of the meanders of the River Forth from the top. I hope Alex Salmond had time to take it in, he wouldn't have seen much from the car park. Do the SNP have any policies regarding the promotion of live music in the Kingdom of Fife? Will they pledge to improve local radio and strive to ensure that it plays local music? It’s all about improving local pride and self-respect when dealing with human slurry on our streets.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bringers of Worst Policies,

The forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections could be disastrous for the country. People will revolt against Labour, perhaps rightly. Their tenure has not been a complete waste of time but much of their policy decisions seem to come from London, thus rendering devolution false.

It may be true to say that a stronger leader than Jack McConnell is required; a leader who is more concerned with Scotland. The lack of improvement of Scotland does not mean that independence is required. I don’t want to share Britain with some of the bandits around here; I don’t want to share an independent Scotland with them. In an independent Scotland, the work ethic of these people would be more important, the success of the nation would be reliant upon their effort and initiative; frankly, I’d trust them as far as I can throw them. I want to vote for a political party that asks and accuses the public, “Are you human slurry?”

The SNP won’t do this, they have no policies. Their only idea is independence, on which, they’re not even guaranteed to win a referendum over. What would they do then? We don’t know. I don’t feel proud of being Scottish, far less British. My main grievance is that I have to pay for the luxury of England’s royal family; the luxury of being downgraded to a lower-class; the luxury of being one of theirs “subjects”. I’m a better person them any of them. Why haven’t the SNP taken the action of highlighting this and rebelling from the union in this way? I guess that there is a chance of being charged with treason, but a true firebrand would charge ahead with the kind of temerity that wins votes.

If Labour and SNP politicians can’t get them to view themselves as they are and make them undergo self-improvement, the next best thing is to vote for the Green Party, who pledge to ensure that over 20% of Scotland is occupied by native woodland by 2010. I won’t be able to see them (or the woods) for the trees. The Greens are really important in the Scottish Parliament, they might be few but their contribution is significant. They make the other capitalists in the parliament stop and think about what they’re doing to the environment, their actions have been vital locally in warding off the immediate threat of ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth of Forth. The Greens are passionate and they have a conscience, they’re not taking orders from London. The only part of their policies that I don’t agree with is nuclear power, I’m a firm believer in nuclear power; surely, lessons have been learned and less damage will be caused by future projects.

The Liberal Democrats are nice, and sometimes that’s good enough.

However, a socialist voice is the only type of voice that won’t fade into obscurity after the election. The only problem is that there are two socialist parties, Solidarity and the Scottish Socialist Party. They have the same policies, the only difference is that one has Tommy Sheridan and one doesn’t. Tommy Sheridan needs to be elected; politics needs this type of character. The public needs socialists in the parliament; they are the only ones who say will not be swayed by business and the wants of the fat cats. Fairer taxation laws, state-controlled public services, free school meals, free prescriptions, benefits to encourage new farmers, continued implementation of renewable energy sources, more common sense measures to meet the demands of the public and a promise of a referendum on independence are amongst the things the SSP and Solidarity will endeavour to carry out – it’s just a matter of deciding which one to vote for, and making sure that we don’t split the votes between them in a useless manner.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Trustees of a Surface Scratcher,

Modest Mouse are now big news. It seems to have taken the band quite a while but with We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank they’ve lured people like me into buying a CD of theirs, even then I decided not to bother with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!’s new one earlier in the year because I thought this would be better. I’ll bet that it is. It has a title that I wish I’d thought of and songs that seem to be apt for any mood. There’s also more than a hint of a nautical theme and I love the coast. I’m very pleased to have this album. This album teaches people to set their priorities correctly and choose what to value carefully, whether it be corncrakes or knees.

Kings of Leon used to be one-trick ponies, however, the quick, noodly country stuff was quite a good trick, my favourite song like that was Joe's Head. They’ve diversified with Because of the Times, they’re doing that trick closer to the middle of the road and it seems to work at first. The single On Call typifies much of it, they’ve discovered reverb, and it’s a single that I really like. I guess some people can hear U2 in their new sound; I’m also thinking that this is like the sound of Bloc Party but more relaxed and better. It’s guitar, drums and bass. I’m going to give this album a bit of time to familiarise myself with it but because it’s guitars, drums and bass, it might not stay with me for very long, certainly not as long as Modest Mouse will.

Drums & Guns by Low is grim. It’s good although it’s probably best suited to a dark room, like most Low work. It’s minimalist and slow-building, but awesome. There’s no point in sugar-coating things.

Octopus by The Bees seems like another good album. There’s quite a lot of instruments in the mix on it and that always helps a band to stand apart from the brigade of twits with guitars. It feels quite earthy, organic and ultimately real.

I don’t feel that I’ve given these albums much consideration, the Modest Mouse album has taken up most of my listening time this week and as I’ve said before, it’s impossible to describe music properly, it has to be heard and felt, but I’m as fine a barometer of quality and taste as anyone, thus it’s wise to bear with me.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Takers of the Money, Leavers of the Box,

I should have taken a holiday by now. My brain is faltering, I find it difficult to concentrate but I’m blaming a problem with my sinuses. Physically, I’m fine; I’m playing more football now than I have for a while, unfortunately.

I’m still struggling to sleep and dreaming erratically, a nightmare about The Rezillos’ Top of the Pops was particularly disconcerting.

I’m cranky about football; I could get crankier about that. I’m cranky about radio; I used to love radio but the recent changes have left me disillusioned, perhaps I will become more addicted to Current TV (apt for someone with a short attention span like me). I’m cranky about music, I’m struggling to bring myself to like things, I don’t want to shut up my CD collection and say that’s enough (it won’t really happen because I have bought 3 new things by myself and managed to hear new things through other people – but the listening tests are growing more stringent). I'm cranky about science; things never work as they should.

If music cannot sooth my brain then I must see the sea. I don’t know what I’d do without the sea. It amazes me to think that there is nothing but water until one of The Bellyaches massive daundering along a Danish shoreline in some of the directions that I might look in. I like the birds. I even managed to understand why people would play links golf. People on the beach are usually better than the people on the streets. I love the beach debris. I love pieces of broken glass that have been eroded in the sea. They are one of the best things to touch. Any rectangular shapes are ground to safe curves. Sharp edges and jagged points, created in anger and recklessness, are rendered harmless. The once brittle material seems to be galvanised after weeks, months and years in the waves; it feels as if it becomes more solid and stronger after weathering the sea’s punishment. I’m confused as to why I collected all these pieces of glass from the beach, I have no use for them and after they’ve finally made their way home, isn’t their removal to a fabricated environment once more a theft of a kind?
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