Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hey Kids, Rock and Roll

Ever heard of Banksy, the graffiti artist? Don't worry, I'm not going to blow some generic diarrhoea  over your eyelids about the morality of graffiti writers (if it's art or a crime or whatever), but I was reminded of something he said in his book 'Wall and Piece' where he talks about something known as 'Broken Window Theory'. The term was created by a couple of American social scientists. The theory blames small problems in society for the bigger ones - if say, a window was broken in a small community, people would care less and be encouraged to vandalise the area, and the result would be that people would be encouraged to commit more dastardly (isn't that a fantastic word?) crimes. In short, the theory says people would develop a "hey, this area is really shitty, so a few cases or arson or rape won't make a difference" kind of attitude. I've grown to appreciate and agree with this theory over the past few weeks, and not just because I live in a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I've finally locked myself into the habit of vacuuming every week, cleaning my room daily, washing my dishes as soon as I have eaten, and actually hanging out my washing instead throwing it in a damp pile to fester. And as a result, I'm much more productive generally, which is good timing because my course has just started. I don't really have a point to make here, I'm just a bit more optimistic for the future. 
Banksy is fine for his humour and political statements, but
if you actually fancy checking out a decent grafiti artist
look up ROA

I promised that I'd review a more contemporary album, and I was going to until about 30 seconds ago when I changed my mind. But I just remembered that R.E.M  broke up a couple of days ago. This isn't really news, but I'm still a little bit disappointed because they were still producing good music, and I really wanted to see them on tour one day. I can't really say they were my absolute favourite band, and they probably aren't even in my top 10, but they are one of the few major mainstream bands around toda- oh yeah, that's right, shit. Regardless. I like them a lot, and at first I wasn't sure what album of theirs I wanted to spunk over with kind words. Out of their 15 albums, there are many significant releases - 'Accelerate', their 2008 'return to form', their fantastic debut (and possibly my favourite album by them) 'Murmur' or 'Out of Time', when the band hit huge commercial success for the first time. I have decided, however, to ultimately go with my first proper introduction to them - Automatic for the People. Long before I had discovered the likes of Amazon or even record shops, it was the first album I really, really wanted and it took a great deal of effort to find. I paid a ridiculous amount too - £14 (It wasn't even special edition, just HMV being cunts), but it was worth it. 

Monty Clift himself. Looks a bit like the action man
I had, minus the army jacket and the pen and
crayon marks across his face
Automatic for the People is a very approachable album, and could not be considered obscure in any way due to the fact that it featured 'Everybody Hurts' (along with 4 other hit singles) and went to no.1 in the UK album chart. For such a commercially successful album, It's extremely dark, musically and lyrically. 'Everybody Hurts' is of course, about suicide. But other tracks like 'Sweetness Follows' seem to come across even stronger. It's taken from the point of view of someone burying their dead parents, struggling to find an emotion as they remember how distant and hollow the relationship was with their mother and father. The song could easily have broken free from the strumming of the acoustic guitar and the organ chords into some power ballad, but the musical arrangement clearly strays away from this - the track has no drums whatsoever and the electric guitar feedback that is occasionally heard doesn't spazz out into some solo that pisses all over the emotion of the track. 'My favourite song about the actor Montgomery Clift' may not seem like an award where a hard decision is needed, but I have to admit that The Clash's 'The Right Profile' and a track from AFTP, 'Monty Got a Raw Deal' are both fantastic songs that deal with the actor's troubled life. On R.E.M's take, the song is like many on Automatic, dark, but not dull or cheesy in its sympathy. But some rockier songs on the album buck the trend a little, especially 'The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite', an extremely, bouncy and uplifting track. Peter Buck, the band's former guitarist noted -
"Given that the record dealt with mortality, the passage of time, suicide and family, we felt a light spot was needed"

The cover photo was apparently part of a motel sign near
where the band were recording, but this is uncited information
from wikipedia, so it could be a fucking spaceship
Nightswimming, for me, is the best song on the album. As that piano line plays now, I can feel my hands sweating and the electricity running up and down my arms (and no, that isn't my laptop fucking up, I checked). A fantastic string arrangement by ex Lep Zep bassist John Paul Jones and lyrics looking back to carefree times create a wonderful track. It doesn't quite finish the album chronologically, but it's the true emotional closer, with Find the River moving the tone down a notch and meandering it down to an end.

All I can say is wow - I remembered liking the album, but giving it the first proper listen in years has made me appreciate album twice as much. Experimenting with this multiple images thing now, jazzes things up a bit eh? Well, this tea is stone cold so I better empty it out. 

What I'm currently listening to > \R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction/

Thanks for reading you sly old dog

Friday, 16 September 2011

Forest Gump

Today's current post is done from the university library once again. The wonder of free, unlimited internet, has once again become a glamorous dream because something fucked up. The majority of us have been in a position where we've been on the phone to a call centre with someone barely able to speak English on the other end. For those of you unfamiliar with the scenario, there is nothing satisfying about trying to unscrew a phone socket that has been stuck to the wall with an unholy force, while a voice tuts and clucks impatiently into your ear as you struggle to understand their most basic commands. Predictably, none of their advice helped. So I decided to wait until the end of the call where an automated voice asked how I had found the service, and if the problem had been resolved. I answered with "shite" and "useless" respectively.

Something we can all learn from. Apparently.
In times like those, I loose my respect for humanity a little. So to discover a little about the world away from humans, and to pass the time without internet, I invested in the complete series of Planet Earth for a measly £11. Which I think is pretty impressive for 15 hours of David Attenborough narrated goodness. I've only dipped my toe into the collection so far, so I don't really have material for a full blown review. But nevertheless I'm going to dither on about how breathtaking it can be. Planet Earth took over 5 years to film, with a £16 million budget. On that information alone, it's nice to know that not everything on television is a rushed pile of shit. And in the 2 hours that I watched it, I started to care more about the environment than I ever have done in my 19 years on this planet. The series never directly grabs you with U C THat PoloaR br? itz dieYing from gloBal warminG!!!11 but watching a Snow Leopard desperately trying to make a kill actually makes it seem more real than it ever was in a leaflet posted through my door or a speech make by Al gore (Poet and I didn't know it etc). Overall I'm very glad I'm a human. If you look around, you can see we have achieved stupid amounts. And it's thanks to humans that I've been able to watch Planet Earth. But when things aren't in our own interests, we get absurdly lazy. And we are still a crazily prejudiced (myself included at times) race. In the first episode of Planet Earth, an exotic bird in a rainforest does a display for a female. The female turns away in disappointment.
"It's hard not to be deflated when your best isn't good enough" observes Sir Attenborough. But, unfortunately, in the case of the human race, the same thing cannot be said - we don't exactly try our best all the time.

On a lighter note, I've volunteered for Hospital Radio, and I should be starting that in a couple of weeks. As well as getting me some experience working with radio equipment, it should be fun being able to create my own playlists. If I was a more twisted individual, I'd have the perfect music collection to potentially inflict more misery into patient's lives -
"For the man in ward 16 recovering from that brutal mallet attack here's Peter Gabriel's mega hit, Sledgehammer!"

What I'm currently listening to > \The Who - Quadrophenia/

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

A Walking Disaster

When I was younger, I was quite the fan of charades. I didn't know, however, that this hilarious game would be an essential tool for a certain period in my life. The period I am referring to is this past week, and most likely more weeks to come. On the 3rd of this month, I moved into my new flat. The landlord of course, had forgotten I was moving in that day. After a number of phone calls (made while dragging a heavy bag and my bass across town for hours on end) I was reassured that it was okay and that the flat door could have been left open. It turned out it was - how reassuring. I mean who locks the doors in a neighbourhood where the shops have thick bars on the windows? Later on I met my 2 flatmates. Elated with relief about actually moving in, I greeted one with a long, babbling introduction. He responded with a blank face and
"Speak English not good".
Since then arm waving, miming, and pointing have been my main forms of communication. And I've just had to show more people around the flat who also don't know much in the way of English. I was advised by the landlord to 'show them the single room'. Upon arrival they told me in broken English that they were told the single room was unavailable and that they needed a double room anyway. All the rooms were locked. And did I mention that 90% of my possessions are locked up in a flat owned by a friend who is away for 3 weeks? And that I still don't have a job? Yeah? Just checking. Anyone fancy a game of charades?

I could have done with the Demolition
 Man himself to help me move.
Unfortunately I don't yet have Sly's
number. One day.
The Police were a band that I hated for the longest time. Or at least, that's what I told everyone. Coming out and admitting I loved them was harder than admitting to myself that I was gay. All I'd really heard of the Police for a while was Roxanne and Every Breath You Take. From this information I came to the conclusion that they were a generic soft rock band that lay slotted in between U2 and Whitney Houston in mothers' CD collections everywhere. But one day I heard the opening jangly guitar riff to Message in a Bottle, and my curiosity was stoked. The discovery that the drummer composed the soundtrack to Spyro 2, one of my favourite childhood games, tipped the scales and I checked their Regatta de Blanc album. I have been hooked on the band's infectious energy ever since. My favourite album by the group has to be Ghost in the Machine. Guitarist Andy Summers once said that "With the horns and synth coming in, the fantastic raw-trio feel—all the really creative and dynamic stuff—was being lost" and I have to say he is talking out of his arse. I have always preferred bands that change their sound. The Ramones have never stuck with me partly because they played the same shit over and over, album after album, which gets boring quickly. But maybe I'm just a slut for synthesisers. 

I always love a good, ballsy, drum injected introduction to a song (see Janie Jones, Born in '69),  and Spirits in the Material World has an extremely brief but nevertheless perfect little burst to kickstart Ghost in the Machine. The biting little bass line that follows is ridiculously infectious, and the chorus hook and bouncy synths create one catchy opener. This is followed by the biggest hit off the album (it topped the UK charts and went to no.3 in the US), Every Little Thing She Does is Magic. I won't lie - it's a soppy little love song. But it's one of the few soppy love songs I actually like and the humming double bass combined with the playful piano weaves it into a lovely little number. Up until Ghost in the Machine, Police songs never strayed away from darker lyrical themes (Can't Stand Losing You certainly didn't beat around the bush with "I guess this is our last goodbye/and you don't care so I won't cry/but you'll be sorry when I'm dead/and all this guilt will be on your head"), but the bouncy melodies always sharply contrasted with these themes. Because of this, Invisible Sun was somewhat of a  departure. The sinister synth bassline and Sting's mournful vocal melody fits the lyrical theme of war torn countries like a glove.

Further on is Rehumanize Yourself, 4 minutes and 50 seconds of Copeland composed joy. Demolition Man (which was later bastardized by Sting for the film of the same name) has one of the most fun bass lines in popular music. Hungry for You is an extremely passionate song about sex, made all the more passionate by the fact that the majority of the lyrics are in French. But the real star of the album (and the Police in my opinion) is drummer Stewart Copeland. Copeland is one of the few drummers whose sound is instantly recognisable. His reggae influenced style is surprisingly fast and punchy, and works very hard to bring the songs to life. He also happens to be an excellent composer and has done many excellent projects outside of the Police. The album itself is a fairly easy listen. The songs have enough pop sensibility and hit singles to grab your attention on the first listen, and the interesting lyrics and fantastic drum parts give the album enough weight to keep you coming back for more. But next time I write about an album I like, I promise I'll do something a bit more contemporary. And should I start reviewing albums generally, instead of just picking my favourites? I'm not really sure if I should. Please let me know.

What I'm Currently Listening To > \The Cure - Disintegration (GITM has had enough spins for today)/

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Advertising and Cocaine

Come Saturday, I shall no longer have to bend to the will of a little blinking light wedged into my laptop. No, I don't have robotic genitalia that I enjoy inserting into my usb ports. I am currently using mobile broadband and it is the source of much stress in my life. Not content with charging me ridiculous amounts far too often, on days like today it will connect me to the wonderful world wide web for an unknown period of time. Perhaps it will be 5 minutes, perhaps it will be 30 seconds. U R conekted!! thnx 4 using our serviC3s! But then little dongle grows weary. Lol joaKing!!1 there i5 no netWurk! lol! I am usually then disconnected, and have to spend 10 minutes moving around the room, removing and reinserting the dongle, where maybe, just maybe, my almighty master shall grant a mere mortal the possibility of 30 seconds more internet time. Who else loves technology? But yes, I move in on Saturday, woo. The flat comes with internet which is paid for by my future landlord, a decision he will probably regret upon seeing the Terabytes of porn illegal music lecture slides I download.

Advertising at it's most evil
and dishonest.  
In the the immortal words of Minutemen's D.Boon, "let the products sell themselves, fuck advertising, psychological methods to sell should be destroyed". As you probably already know, I hate people that try to sell you things. Sometimes the subject of adverts comes up in conversation when I'm around others. They might discuss their favourite advert. I have no favourite advert, because quite simply, I hate all of them. Okay. I confess that occasionally an advert will make me laugh, or maybe I'll be impressed by how clever it is. Although it may entertain me, it's not going to decide if I buy a product or not. Even if I am won over by a particular advert's wit, I'll get sick of it when I inevitably see it another 50 times before it runs it's course. And it will be wedged in between the other 99% of adverts that annoyed me from the very beginning. And those of you reading this may be nodding your heads. Which apparently means fuck all, because we're being showing time and time again that some of you idiots are going out and proving that advertising gimmicks work. And in turn, this makes me look a bit silly. Increased sales means more jobs for everyone and a better economy. Which is good. Very good. And without revenue from advertising, many newspapers and magazines would be left floundering financially. It would be nice if adverts were a bit more honest, though, wouldn't it? Yes, your cereal may be wholegrain and it may have no artificial colours, but it's 35% sugar and it's turning your children into a gaggle of Jabba the Hutt lookalikes. I suppose honesty doesn't sell though. And I suppose moaning, 19 year old Scottish bloggers don't run the world. 

I can't use my fingers to count the amount of places I've slept in the past few weeks. I'm a lot less fussy when it comes to finding a place to rest my head now, but all the same I'm looking forward to a bed that I own. So a big thank you to anyone reading this who has let me crash at theirs from the last month. I'll pay everyone back in some way, I promise.

What I'm Currently Listening to > \Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime/

Thanks for reading!

P.S - Let me know what you think of my new banner and my new layout in general.