Sunday, 11 November 2012

Ye Animals Collected

A particular brand of snobbishness washes over me when I ask someone about a recent gig they've been to. Well, actually, I don't ask, I usually see it posted in Facebook when I have nothing better to do. How often have you seen a post in a social networking site saying '_____were fucking amazing'? It's a phenomenon that's entirely responsible for how obsolete the phrase has now become.  An expression that, despite containing an expletive, has become as startling as a ham sandwich. When people don't go to gigs often, or indeed only once in their lifetime, they don't really know what to expect. The fact that the sound levels varied, or the fact that the lead singer couldn't hold a note and forgot half of the lyrics count for nothing, washed away by the excitement of seeing a bunch of people you're used to seeing in pictures and digitally compressed MP3s in your music collection. Because they played a handful of songs you know, the excitement was so much that the '____ were fucking amazing! :)' garble can consider itself posted five seconds into the first song of the night.

But I'm not saying I'm better than anyone else. I know about this phenomenon simply because I've been in this position a lot. It really does happen to everyone. You can only cut through the wave of bullshit when you get over your awe and properly see it for what it is.

Which is why I feel weird about reviewing live music, or anything for that matter. If I ever hint that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to music, then I deserve a smack. Because I don't, it's all bullshit at the end of the day. I try my best, but music isn't really something that can properly expressed by using words. And so I'm always slightly nervous when I'm expected to review a live performance, I don't know if my appreciation is coming from the adrenaline rush of being in the middle of a thumping gig with songs that I know being played, or if the band is actually decent. If I start to be overly pessimistic for the sake of it, who is to say the band weren't 'fucking amazing', you know?

So, taking this all into consideration, it's a good thing I wasn't asked to do a live review for Animal Collective's performance in Glasgow. Analysis is sometimes overrated. Sometimes you just want to get caught up in the whole experience. Just before seeing the group I excitedly explained to the unfortunate friend I'd dragged along that Animal Collective for me, were what the Beatles were to a teenage girl in the year of 1966. I love their albums, their innovativeness, the sheer joy one can experience from a bouncing, throbbing, Animal Collective track. There's Geologist, like a grinning, bopping Ringo, never seen on stage without his trademark headlamp which he uses to see all his equipment that makes the bleeps and blops. There's Avey Tare, yelping, jerking and screaming behind a stack of keyboards about adobe slatz and dinosaur anatomy. He has blue hair for the set, and mumbles something about eating meatloaf every day between songs, perhaps not realising that the closest Glasgwegians have come to eating such a dish is a slithering, undercooked square sausage. Panda Bear, plonked behind a drumkit, immersing the audience in his beautiful, yet melancholic voice has a brilliant vocal range and a great knack for drumming to boot. And how can we forget Joshua Caleb Dibb, aka Deakin aka 'The Deak'? The band's latest album, Centipede Hz, saw him return to the group after his non appearance on the brilliant Merriweather Post Pavilion album. Despite his absence apparently being brought on by AnCo's rigorous touring, he seems to be the happiest there, twisting his long face into a contented smile, and twirling in the middle of the stage with his guitar like a nerdy Pete Townsend.

But when Animal Collective do come on stage, the feeling that grabs me isn't the twinkle in my gut of being a fanboy. I didn't quite know what it was, but at the expense of sounding like an arsehole, it was good. I don't know if it was the pre-gig joint kicking in, but it felt right. The sounds were jarring the air around me rather than falling at peace with the world. Songs swung into one another like a pendulum, the band barely ever taking a break. It was mostly new material, but it stood up by itself, without needing any sentimental garbage to support it as being a right jolly jape. That said, the sentimental garbage was also great. Animal Collective aren't really a band that goes far into their back catalogue, but Peacebone, Brother Sport and My Girls, all got airings, each of them performed with a refreshingly new slant on the studio versions. I don't know if it's just my impatience, but the slower, more mournful songs weren't as exciting. That said, some songs really needed Panda Bear's fruity voice, glistening over an improvised, ambient space in the set in order to properly build up the next song. And the venue, the ABC in Glasgow, couldn't really handle certain sounds the band made. The sound system sighed as it's generic indie-pop sensibilities were crushed by the wall of strange noises produced by The Deak and his backing band. Even gig security continued to greet the band's performance with unimpressed frowns and sceptical stares.

So what can you really say in conclusion when you've been to a live performance? The £25 you've spent on the hotel, the £10 you've spent on the bus, the £5 you've spent on alcohol and/or drugs, and of course the £20 on the gig ticket itself is gone in 3 hours. When you see through the glaze, bands often disappoint, and if they don't, either an arsehole at the gig, or the sound system will mar the experience. It's also a drag for the bands themselves, going to venues and performing the same songs day after day to an audience that just wants to hear their most popular track. But tours consistently attract people. It's always the highest source of income for bands, high above record sales and miles above the bronze coins they'll receive for having their songs streamed on Spotify. Seeing a band live can't be defended properly, reasoning stacks against it.

But I don't really care about the drawbacks. Momentary, spontaneous experiences are continually sought after by humans, regardless of consequences. Which is why people want museums, culture, etc. Money doesn't really come into it our experiences, or at least, we don't care when we're enjoying ourselves. It's funny that governments see art and entertainment as little more than a business that makes money, as demonstrated brilliantly by our Prime Minister. So all I'm saying is that gigs should be celebrated for what they are - an impracticality. I recommend the experience. Just don't tell me how it was.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Hold onto your knuts

Here's a book that you probably can
 judge from the cover 
I was pondering blog topics a little while back, and I settled on doing a topic that I knew inside out. But I've done bands I like to death as a topic. And I was a little stunted for subjects, since I've got the whole jack of all trades, master of none thing going on. I study journalism, but there's not too much you can say about that unless you want to sound like an Andrew Marr wet dream. But as I was squatting over that toilet, unable to sit because the seat burnt my arse cheeks, holding on for dear life, trying not to splash shit on my trainers as I jolted back and forth, I realised something. I knew what I was on like the back of my hand. Not toilets. But the finest transportation service to grace planet earth - Megabus. Because friends and family are spread out between Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow, and even Birmingham, I've had to make heavy use of this budget service which has given me an uncountable number of experiences.

Stagecoach Group began Megabus in 2003 for the United Kingdom, and 2006 in the USA. Scouring the US wikipedia page has been interesting, because there appears to be a long list of Megabus drivers that have been caught drink driving, and generally crashing into things. But funnily enough, my search for out of control Megabus UK drivers turned out to be fruitless. Which is actually fair enough. I'm maybe being a little sceptical here, since I've never had any problems with their drivers. The service you get from Megabus is exactly what it says on the tin - low cost travel, and it isn't really so bad. As long as they maintain their toilets properly. Which isn't very common actually. Right away you can tell there is something a little iffy about Megabus before even using their service. You shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. But Megabus is a a bus service, not a library, so let us indulge in some prejudice as we look at their mascot in the picture just below.

Picture a sane person. Completely sane. Can you imagine them designing that with good intentions? I'm thinking this. It's late 2002. Stagecoach Group are on the verge of creating a fine, low cost service all can enjoy. They hire a designer to come up with a lovable mascot for this blossoming idea. The designer forgets his project and gets drunk on the very last day. Memories flood back to him, something has to be submitted. In a blind panic, he finishes his bottle of gin, grabs some crayons and paper from the Early Learning Centre, and hops on his bike. But there's a storm. He does the best he can on this creaking little bicycle with the wind swaying him back and forth. It's shite, but it's something. It's submitted, and Stagecoach Group are so pleased with their low cost bus idea that they love the drawing. The mascot has a melted face, resembling a perverted gnome thinking about molesting something innocent with his tangerine slice penis. But hey, maybe some people think it's wonderful.

The mascot is the tip of the iceberg. The toilets, as you may have guessed, are not desirable places to be. On one of my first ever Megabus experiences, the toilet was full, and had a broken flush. A mountain of faeces almost rose above the seat, competing with the thick vomit stain near the door handle that hung in the limbo between solid and liquid. Another visit saw a solitary trainer lying on the floor. The hand-dryer coughed and gave me a small piece of chewing gum, but didn't actually dry my hands. The sink doesn't usually work, and when it does, it takes the skills of a maverick jet pilot to avoid the jet of boiling water it shoots into your chest. And there's also the usual assortment of screaming children, drunks, hambeasts, and people playing their tinny custom ringtones for all to hear.

Sometimes I go on the 'Gold' service, which costs a little more, but can be well worth the luxury. These journeys have more comfortable seats, and are generally populated with a small number of polite, elderly folk, rather than a full bus of junkies and thieves. You also get a little sandwich, a drink, and a piece of shortbread, which is fantastic. These journeys are interesting in their own right, mainly for the steward that serves you. Sometimes the steward is sane, but I always hope for psychotically nice man. Psychotically nice man offers you shortbread in a threateningly nice way. His girder-like arms bulge underneath his tiny shirt, threatening to crush his basket of pancakes and jam (and your skull) at the first sign of refusal. His wide smile is particularly impressive, and his hollow eyes that have probably seen countless kneecaps broken stare into your soul and remove any desire to deny a tuna crunch on wholemeal bread. There's also trauma lady, who simply melts into an abyss of mental torment if you refuse her offers, occasionally looking back with a guilt-tripping stare. It's all fun.

Megabus doesn't have a twitter, and it's clear to see why. There are often various problems that would mean that they constantly get harassed for providing a questionable service in some cases. But I'm going to continue using it. It isn't particularly expensive and well...yeah. It's cheap. God bless Megabus.

What I'm currently listening to > \Drokk - Geoff Barrow/

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Nuts and Crisps, Paper and Coins

Every now and again, I talk about a band I obsess over on this blog. There's not a lot of reasoning behind it, apart from the fact that I enjoy doing it, and it would be cool if other people listened to them. For the last few months, that obsession has turned into yet another band that had great prominence in the 1980's, a decade I wasn't even born into, yet one that I won't shut up about. The band this time is XTC, who arrived in the same boat as Talking Heads, Wire, The Police, riding in on the tidal wave that came from the explosion of punk, rather unimaginatively, known as post-punk. This genre had the anger, energy, and spittle of punk, but it was a bit more moody, arty, and, well weird. Singing like you had a speech impediment, and playing synthesizers along with the crunchy, moody guitars suddenly became acceptable.

XTC picked up this way with their first two albums, heading in what only described as an 'arty' sort of direction. They even wanted Brian Eno, the go-to guy for weird at the time, to produce their second album, uhm...Go 2. But he politely declined. And whether or not it was due to that, or the departure of keyboard player Barry Andrews, XTC changed and got significantly more new-wave, significantly more pop, on their third album, Drums and Wires. Don't get me wrong, the band's first couple of albums are great, but the sound is of an unsure band, still trying to find their feet. 

Making Plans for Nigel, the only single off Drums and Wires, dragged the band into the charts. The song was written and sung by bassist Colin Moulding, and is about a young man pushed into a future that he has little say in. In my opinion, it's one of those perfect singles that can't be tainted with overplaying, even by a little bit. It opens with an odd little drum effect, and I'd be lying if I said I knew the name of it. But it gives the whole track an odd, offbeat feel, that compliments a thudding bass-line, which is iced over with a neat little guitar part. And it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. On the whole, Moulding's bass-lines evolved for the album with an uncommon versatility showcased on the instrument; a springboard-like thud on Helicopter, a creeping ascent on When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty, a sharp, thudding slide on Roads Girdle the Globe. Producer Steve Lilywhite, master of new-wave, also firmly grounded and trapped the sound the band so desperately needed. He also made a return on the equally fantastic Black Sea, which gave birth to four singles and an album which was filler-free. Even the b-sides released at the time, Smokeless Zone and Don't Loose Your Temper still showcase the band's strengths and could hardly be considered second-rate. 

Around this time, the band had solidly been touring for years, and despite being on the brink of fame with a number of hit singles under their belt (Making Plans, Generals and Majors, Sgt Rock is Going to Help Me), primary songwriter and lead singer Andy Partridge decided that he (and the band as a result) could no longer continue touring - 

crap food dot jpg
"The problem for me was that I was beginning to absolutely hate touring. I wasn’t a young man anymore and my body was starting to rebel against the lifestyle. We’d been doing it pretty much non-stop for nearly a decade and I was sick of it all: the crap food, the hours stuck on a bus with the same faces and the general soul-destroying tediousness of it. I got it into my head that if I wrote an album with a sound less geared towards touring then maybe there would be less pressure to tour." *

 The frustration came to a head at a gig in Paris, where XTC were promoting their latest album, English Settlement. Partridge simply put down his guitar mid-song and stumbled off stage without a word of explanation. The band never toured again, arguably ensuring that they never had a drastic increase in popularity. Despite this, English Settlement gave the band their biggest hit with 'Senses Working Overtime', and the album was critically hailed as one of their best releases.

In the next 18 years, XTC would go on to release eight albums, including Psonic Psunspot, which the band released under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear, a fictional, psychedelic group that showcased the fact that the group never took themselves entirely seriously. The group's popularity waxed and waned unpredictably, especially in the US where the band's reputation increased a little with singles such as 'Dear God' and an appearance on Letterman, but each album threw something new to the table, and couldn't be seriously regarded as a step backwards.

Sometimes, in these little band reviews, I lick the arsehole of the musical talents each member has. In the case of XTC, the group was blessed with two great guitarists in the form of Andy Partridge and Dave Gregory, but the real unrivalled talent can be found in the band's rhythm section. Colin Moulding, an exceptional, self taught bass player first began with thudding minimalist lines, a standard of most post-punk bands. But as the albums stacked up, there are some great, 'busy' bass-lines on just about every track, that explore each of the songs fully instead of following the root note (a great example of which can be found in the song Mayor of Simpleton). The other half of this rhythm section was found in Terry Chambers, who left after English Settlement and was replaced by a number of session drummers. But out of all the arseholes I've ever licked, this is the one that needs the most attention (excuse that ghastly image). Nowhere to be found on top drummer lists, Terry Chambers, the quiet man's man of XTC left a real mark on the sound of XTC's, the sheer number of perfectly executed styles and beats provided on the likes of Black Sea and English Settlement is dizzying. 

XTC are still technically going on the back burner as Andy Partridge, the sole remaining member of the band points out. So there's (probably) not going to be any flashy eighties reunion from the band any time soon. And besides, going with the flow isn't something the uncool Swindonians have ever specialized in.

It seems that YouTube links are still the way to go, so here's a list of some of my favourite XTC tracks -

Scissor Man (Regarded as a "silly song" by Partridge it's nevertheless filled with a catchy, manic energy and a fantastic little outro)
Ball and Chain (A moan about unwanted housing developments in the 1980's. There's something about this video that I love, that I can't quite put my finger on, and it's one of my favourite songs from English Settlement.)
Scarecrow People (One of the group's cleverest songs, lyrically and melodically)
Summer's Cauldron (Woah, 1966 era Paul McCartney called. He's willing to get on his hand and knees for that dub bass-line.)
Deliver Us From the Elements  (Not sure what this is supposed to be about, but Jesus Christ, it sounds as if Moulding is trying to warn of the impending Apocalypse, the poor little bugger. Aztecs eat your heart out or whatever)
Towers of London (It's incredibly hard to pick one track from Black Sea, but this grower is well worth the extra couple of listens you may need to give it)
River of Orchids (A truly wonderful track that steps away from what is traditionally regarded as XTC. From the drastically underrated last couple of albums the band put out, Apple Venus volumes 1 and 2)
Radios in Motion (Ahhh, youthful arrogance. Nevertheless, this early taste of the band shows Partridge and Moulding bursting with energy and potential)

P.S -  Fun fact. Have you ever heard of Harry Partridge? He's pretty well known as an animator for things like Saturday Morning Watchmen . Well, he happens to be the son of XTC's Andy Partridge. If that wasn't even mildly interesting, then boo hoo, I don't have any more fun facts for you. 

P.P.S - Tired blog entry. The formatting is horrible, and I really need to make the effort in tidying this blog up, I'm aware of how ugly it is. Mistakes/awkward sentences ahoy, sorry.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Two weeks as a pigeon

If there's anything of reasonable importance that I have to attend, it's pretty much a given that I'll be late. I honestly don't know how I manage it. I don't enjoy letting people down, and I'm pretty fast on two legs. But in the corner of my mind, there's a very dozy nerve that is in charge of a large chunk of my brain. As opposed to suggesting that I should get my shoes on and brush my teeth, it urges me to watch a mediocre episode of the Simpsons, or pick my nose, or make a sandwich that I end up choking on as my body awakens in a jolt of panic causing my legs to leap forward and my throat to splutter up half digested chunks of hovis and branston pickle.

My name is Duncan James Graham, and I was born in 1991. I have an 'online persona' sort of thing known as 'Calamari'. This is because I am incapable of being witty or funny in the flesh. If someone approaches me in person I'll awkwardly mumble something about my top five favourite Steve Lillywhite produced albums and stare at the ground as they turn back to their friends and discuss Mumford & Sons and their trip to H&M, or whatever. I felt as if I should reintroduce myself because of yet another long absence from the blogging world. This blog to me is like the baby in Eraserhead (a film I recently watched whilst under the influence, which is not an advisable thing to do). Every time I type in 't...' into my browser, '' comes up as a suggestion, and I dare not look at the site to see the wheezing, sickly state it has been transformed into. I have yet to take the scissors to this son of a gun and watch it spew fake blood and porridge. But it was still a sad sight to see. So this week, I am doing a blog post based on my experiences as an intern at a publication, known as the Stool Pigeon. The Stool Pigeon is a great little music newspaper/website that I have enjoyed reading for years, but I'll not garble on, because the content speaks for itself and people have short attention spans.

So yes. I'm late for just about everything. And the Stool Pigeon was not an exception to this rule. Thinking London was much like Glasgow, in that you can walk around the corner and you'll probably see some sort of familiar building, turned out to be a very ill-fated assumption. My phone decided it couldn't handle Google maps, so after phoning the editor of the Stool Pigeon and asking for directions, I set off in a direction that seemed to be vaguely correct. I did not see that area ever again during my two-week trip. After walking/running for half an hour in what turned out to be completely the wrong direction, the editor recommended that I take a black cab. Being a little smart-arse, I thought I could rescue the situation by taking a bus, which would be cheaper. When the bus took me even further away from the office, I finally decided to stop being an idiot and I took a taxi. The driver was an exceptionally friendly chap who was bursting with pride about having the Olympics in London. He played tour guide as he waved his hands like an opera conductor, and talked about the first man to bring peanuts to Britain. My general feeling about the Olympics being held in London is total indifference, truth be told. I cannot relate to people getting excited about it, but each to their own, so I lied about my enthusiasm, and did a lot of smiling and nodding because he could barely understand me.

Because of one of my Journalism lecturers, I imagine editors to be large, dour faced, gruff, red faced chaps that bark across the office when someone incorrectly uses parenthesis. Phil Hebblethwaithe, the editor of the Stool Pigeon, was big, but not in the way I imagined. He was built like a daddy long legs and his knees practically came up to my head. But he had a smile that could melt butter, and he paid for my taxi fare.

Stour Space, the location of the Stool Pigeon office, was somewhere that I became completely enamoured with instantly. There was a nice little café below that served home-made soup and things in that sort of vein that I never managed to try. Upstairs were a whole load of studios, filled with polystyrene bodies, boxes, abstract paintings and attractive hipster girls. The building overlooked a canal which shimmered green on sunny days. The entire place had a warm sort of charm. Phil often referred to the place as a 'shithole' and yearned for a sleek office in Soho with an attractive secretary. That was probably because of the mice, which often shat around the new releases which were mailed to the office (a premonition for the majority of the content, one could say), the ants in the shared kitchen which swarmed around any stray crumbs of food, and the screaming baby that seemed to be permanently camped outside the window of the office.

But I'm definitely not one to complain. Sometimes Phil handed tasks to me which he described as tedious, and I really didn't mind. Even the most mind-numbing tasks were interesting. Sifting through and sorting out press releases and CDs was insightful to the sort of content that got in, and it was fantastic to listen to music that wouldn't see a public releases for months in some cases. The most draining task was interview transcribing, which I only really did once. The band was called 'Beach House' and I had a very mixed opinion of them by the end of it. Having listened to some sections over and over again for mumblings, I became very critical of the interviewees. I thought they had some interesting opinions and ideas, but it really boiled down to them being a couple of hippies that said things like "We didn't choose the songs, the songs chose us" and that they spent most of their time "chasing the energy". They seemed nice, but I couldn't take them very seriously.

My most common job at the Pigeon was to post stories for the website. Some of it came from press releases, some of it essentially came from other websites. It just really involved typing it up quickly before it went stale, and also put a little of the publication's humour in. One of my favourite things about the Stool Pigeon is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, ever. It doesn't really care about who it pisses off, and it isn't wrapped up with insecurities and who it can appeal to. So the articles always have a sense of humour, and it isn't necessarily under pressure to reprint hype and press releases.

And I got a gig review put up on the site which I was very pleased about. Trust were an absolutely fantastic band, and their album has to be my favourite release of the year so far (with the exception of maybe Visions by Grimes). Seeing the group perform live was an odd experience, because up until that point, I thought the description of a 'hipster' was something everyone grossly exaggerated for comic effect. I quickly  found this wasn't quite the case. Never in my life have I seen such a strange assortment of hairstyles and personalities. Most were incredibly self concious and barely moved throughout the throbbing pulse the live band produced. 90% of the audience stood motionless with folded arms throughout the set. One of the hipsters sported a large beard and a finely waxed moustache that curled at the tips. I know there's something incredibly wrong when someone starts looking at me for dance tips. I had no money for booze, so I tried to flail around like an idiot under the influence of nothing but good music. The beard hipster bounced around a little bit, actually turning his head and looking at the way I moved my arms for inspiration as if I knew what I was doing. I think he gave up in the end. The gig itself was excellent, although the venue was so new that they couldn't hang up my coat because they were still building the cloakroom. You can read my review here if you fancy.

I absolutely loved my time at the Stool Pigeon, and it gave me a real confidence boost for my future path. A lot of my memories of the place are unfortunately of me getting a feverish cold in the last week, snorting and sniffing my way through the ridiculously hot weather. But hopefully, the positive memories are going to shine through in time; chugging tins of cold tomato soup while churning out stories, eating a malteaser ice cream in the sun on my break, looking out towards the canal, and once again getting told off once again for constantly running everywhere.

What I'm currently listening to > \Visions - Grimes/

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Moroccan Handjob

A picture of my room that I sent to a potential renter.
Notice how I've used a low angle to hide the irremovable
 stains on the wall and ceiling.
Once again it looks like I'll be moving. It's no real surprise to anybody I know, as I've built up a bit of a reputation. Like an exceptionally poor nude model at a life drawing class who refuses to stop waving his willy about, or a certain football anthem by New Order, I'm constantly in motion. My belongings are spread out over five locations throughout Scotland.

Maybe more considering the occasional t-shirt/sock/pint of blood that seems to go missing during my sofa surfing adventures. But I've got just over a week to move my shit out for some French chap that wants this horrible room. There are still dead flies on the wall that the previous owner left for me, as well as a very big Starbucks mug that more or less made up for that. And instead of cleaning out the room and sorting out my belongings for easy moving, I'm sitting here giving you this nutritious blog entry. Apart from the employment front which has been shite for the past few months, everything is going pretty well. At the moment me and a group from my course have to produce a magazine for our coursework. I'm the features editor, and I feel as if I've done a good job so far. So well, in fact, that I've allowed myself to get drunk and aggressively delete chunks of people's articles through a hazy cloud of pot smoke and seventies electronica. It's not going to end well, but life is pretty groovy at the moment.

Do you ever have a rehearsed speech for anything? You know. The sort of thing you have to explain to people around fifty times a day after getting smacked in the eye with a fucking shinty stick. I sort of have one ready if someone says
Shinty - providing psychotic Scotsmen with weapons
and calling it 'sport' for centuries
"You do hospital radio?" The problem is, I have a particularly bad memory. So I forget the rehearsed speech and I have to come up with a different explanation every time for 'why I do it', and 'what I do'. So in the future, I'll point them to this blog and take a shit in their favourite hat if they ask me again. Because today, I will be explaining the goings on in the Grampian Hospital Radio request show every Sunday night between 8.30pm and 10pm (sometimes Fridays as well).

I first joined hospital radio sometime in October last year. I desperately needed some sort of experience to do with radio/magazines/newspapers, and after seeing an advert in my local record shop I decided to phone them up and volunteer. I started off taking requests in the hospital wards with Nick. Nick is a pretty cool guy. Together, we are a fantastic team - we know our shit. Many volunteers come and go, but a lot aren't up to going through the wards. I'm not being an arrogant dick - it's the truth. Many people have volunteered for the radio as a request collector and left the next week. Although some clearly can't be bothered committing, most people just seem to shit their pants at the idea of approaching people by themselves and asking what they'd like to hear on the hospital radio. But after going around a few times, you quickly realise that everyone is lovely. It's a sad fact that a lot of the patients don't get visitors, and they really appreciate it when you have a chat with them. It can be particularly interesting if they are tripping balls on morphine. For people that are dying, most seem awfully optimistic, which can be incredibly inspiring.

I got offered to be an actual DJ after about 3 weeks of request collecting. It took me by surprise, but I thought 'fuck it'. My first show wasn't that great.
The studio I present in. The man on the calendar is Irish
country singer Daniel O' Donnell who makes sure that I don't
bring food into the studio.
Some of the requests had bumpy starts and I stuttered a fair bit. But by now, my confidence has sky-rocketed. I kick start with a song of my own choice, dig straight into the requests, and play a few of my own things if there is time at the end. And of course, I spout a little drivel between the songs. Sometimes it's just the name and the artist, maybe the position it hit in the charts. Sometimes I talk about Bryan Ferry and his escapades (he recently married his son's ex), and more often than not I end up stupidly dancing around the studio and singing along to a song, which leaves me out of breath for when the song finishes. 90% of the time I have the studio to myself, and turning up a little bit drunk or high hasn't really made a difference (well, I didn't think it did). I don't get paid anything, and I'm probably not that great at it either. But it's incredibly fun and I can't see myself stopping any time soon.

Oh look, the internet is down. Looks like I'm going to have to post this at somebody else's place. One of the fridges doesn't work, the cooker doesn't work, the internet often goes down for no reason, my flatmates are constantly changing and I get lucky if any of them can speak English competently. There are always contact lens cases and nasal hairs filling the sink, not matter how many times I hoover the floor, it never cleans properly, I can't dry my clothes, the gas meter goes down far too quickly and it smells. Why do I miss you already. Goodbye flat, you were a shithole, but we had fun.

What I'm currently listening to > \Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News/

Thanks for reading!

P.S - The internet fixed itself before I finished. Clever girl.
P.P.S - To come up with inspiration for a title I searched my music library for 'DJ'. For whatever reason, a song called 'Moroccan Handjob' was one of the results.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

La Ciel Chromatique part 2

Although I'm not the sort of person that likes to reminisce, I am am unable to stop the fact the fact that I miss some things. I miss my other half. I miss having money. I miss having a working oven. I miss being five years old, having no idea what a paedophile was, building a machine that would kill santa and making thrones out of mud. But most of all, I miss this blog. No. Really. I miss the days where I updated this every single day. After a while I updated it every two days. Two days became four days. Four days became a week. I haven't updated this in almost a month as most of you are probably aware. Which is sad. Ah well. Here's to the 50th attempt at consistency. Updates in my life: Got an interview on Thursday, struggling a little with a massive report due in a couple of weeks, and I'm still a reclusive alcoholic. Going to crack on and discuss my favourite albums from last year, continuing from part 1 a few weeks back.

5.Battles - Gloss Drop
When Tinkerbell takes a dump
In my humble opinion, no 'top albums of 2011' list should be complete without Battles' Gloss Drop. After their solid debut, Mirrored, the band have since shed their lead singer and replaced him with a number of guest vocalists (including Gary Numan, oddly enough) on this release. Battles pretty much do experimental music for people that hate experimental music. The sounds are unique, but the melodies have a playful, childish quality, bursting with energy. The fact that John Stanier (one of my favourite drummers) happens to be on this album also made this an incredibly joyous listen.

4.The Beach Boys - Smile
This is a bit of a weird one. Smile was originally recorded in 1966/1967, but if you know much about the Beach Boys, you'll know that front man Brian Wilson flipped his shit and hid in his room for a few years smoking weed before the recording process was complete. Since then, the mythical album was released in various forms - Smiley Smile was released in 1967, further Smile bootlegs were leaked in the early nineties, and Brian Wilson re-recorded and released the album under his own name in 2004. But is this just the band/record label completely milking the public for the naive fools we are? Probably. Regardless, this version is known as 'The Smile sessions' and it's probably the closest we're ever going to get to hearing the original album as it was intended. Gritty and hard-hitting it ain't. But the group's voice harmonisations and melodic psychedelia touch on a exciting part in musical history, which stands out as a fantastic album even today.

3.Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
A journey through an endless, industrial jungle from the 1980s with with all of humanity wiped out. Filmed by Stanley Kubrick. On acid. I'm not quite sure how else I can describe this album. It has the most exciting and unique sounds to come out of any experimental ambient album I've heard in my life. The synthesizers chop and change; they buzz angrily, they provide a heartbeat, they softly sigh as if they were featuring on the Blade Runner soundtrack. The samples used on the album are mostly from adverts from the 1980s, funnily enough, but rather than lazily giving the album cheesy excerpts, the sounds are extremely well crafted into intricate, emotional pieces.

2. Colin Stetson - New History Warfare 2: Judges
Try playing 'Careless Whisper' on that beast
Before this album, I'd never heard of a bass saxophone in my life. I suppose I just assumed everyone was playing an elaborate prank on me for a while. But 'Judges' has turned out to be my favourite album of 2011 along with the next entry. Although labelled as avant-garde, Stetson's playing is anything but. Wild, skilful, and completely unpredictable, the sax is completely transformed as an instrument, into something dark and shadowy. Having mastered the art of circular breathing, Stetson achieves fast, uninterrupted playing which will stomp all over any ideas you had of the saxophone being nothing but a platform for cheesy pop or jazz.

1. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Giving absolutely no thanks to the generic garbage that is Mumford & Sons, I acquired an opinion that was pretty much "Once you've heard one acoustic-indie sort of band, you've heard them all because they are generic pieces of shit" last year. That was until I gave Helplessness Blues a listen. Fleet Foxes aren't terribly unique with their formula (well crafted acoustic playing with a vocalist that sounds like a bleating lamb), but they manage to execute it amazingly well. The Shrine/An Argument touches my soul in a way not a lot of music does, and the album flows exceptionally well. The tracks aren't cluttered in any way,  each instrument is arranged so that it could be argued that any one of them is the centrepiece of the track. There are inspired appearances from a number of instruments and the lyrics are a beautiful compliment to the entire album.

Changed my mind this time, and I'm linking to the songs on youtube instead of making them available for download. It's probably easier for both of us that way. So here's a little selection of some of my favourite tracks from 2011. They come with the usual warning of the music varying heavily. I was going to put them in some sort of order depending on how weird or experimental I thought each track was, but it became a fruitless exercise. Enjoy -

Oneohtrix Point Never - Up
The Vaccines - Norgaard
Fleet Foxes - The Shrine/An Argument
Colin Stetson - A Dream of Water
Primus  - Tragedy's a Comin'
Battles - Ice Cream
Protest the Hero - Hair Trigger
The Beach Boys - Surf's Up

I'm suddenly becoming annoyed at really stupid things. One of my dickhead flatmates tied up a full bin bag and just left it in the kitchen, and they think it's a good idea to keep opening the windows in this freezing cold shithole of a flat. So I better end the blog now.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Modest Dog

Pictures of wasps make my skin crawl, so here's
Sting looking like a twat instead
There are a lot of bad things about getting up early. Everybody knows how ghastly it feels to wake up to a bleating alarm, emerging from the warm hug of your bed covers to the cold and unforgiving world of being awake. But there is one thing I hate even more, and that is the brief, terrifying intermissions that come on show in your head during the 10 minute snoozes. This morning I had to rise at 8 o' clock for the first time in months. I ignored the first alarm, and hit snooze. Falling asleep pretty quickly, I looked over the side of the bed. A number of wasps were crawling about on the floor. Many more were emerging from various items of clothing. Ants, beetles, and a number of other disgusting insects followed, with some taking flight and landing on my face. It was then that I actually woke up in a cold sweat. With much effort, I turned my head to the floor to find out it was just another sick dream. But those vile thoughts lingered for another 5 minutes as I groggily put my clothes on. Ugh. The past week has been uneventful, up until the start of the weekend. On the Friday, I went to a party at a friends, which kicked off an entire weekend of drinking, acting like an idiot, and meeting some great new people. According to sources I ate a BLT sandwich naked in front of two people I'd known for 2 days. I also attacked my boyfriend in my sleep. Again. Elbowing him hard in the face can be added to
-Slapping his face (twice)
-Punching him in the chin
-Attempting to wrench his fingers from his arm
-Spitting in his face
-Talking nonsense to him, which ranges from mumbling about the process of animation to shouting about utility bills
All while unconscious. Aren't I romantic?

I hope you enjoyed last week's post, but I'm leaving part 2 until next week because I think it's a bit repetitive to do two music blogs in a row. This week I'm going to do a review. My last one seemed to go okay, although I gave everything the same rating and I became increasingly aggressive even though the alcohol was pleasant. This week's items are not alcoholic, but I have nevertheless decided to drink some booze in order to review fairly and accurately. The products I will be reviewing this week are the four limited edition flavours brought out by Nestle for the kit-kat. My blog description says I have a love of cider and a sweet tooth. I've yet to expose my sweet tooth to the blogging world so I thought 'why not?'

Kit-kats. Four of the bastards.
So here's the deal - kit-kat is keeping one of these flavours based on the votes on their website. I assume the winner will be the one with the most votes, but these sort of things never seem to work out. My drink of choice is 2 litres of cheap cider, so to to give you a comparison I'm about as drunk as when I finished those three bottles in my last review. I still have 2/3s of the bottle to go. Videogame of choice is Spyro 2, the first flavour is white chocolate. Here we go!

I have to say that white chocolate works surprisingly well with the biscuit on my first impression. This is, however, my first bite. By the end I'm going to be on the verge of vomiting and my teeth will be reduced to dust. It reminds me that I rather like chunky kit-kats. The chocolate is always thick enough and the wafer adds a bit of depth. I doubt that will change much with each flavour. I can't say much else, really. Nestle have white chocolate sussed (Exhibit A: Milky Bars) so you can pretty much imagine what it is like.

Fuck, these monkeys are hard to kill. 'Sparx' the dragonfly takes the hits for Spyro, so the poor bastard is getting rocks battered against his tiny frame while Spyro chills. I really love this game, fantastic soundtrack too. You know, I used to have a bit of a crush on sp- uhm ahem...yeah, the next kit-kat. Orange! I could eat this normally, but these guys aren't Terry's when it comes to chocolate orange. That piled on top of the fact that a lot of folk aren't keen on orange anyway gives me the gut feeling that this won't win. Not too bad though.

It's just a cartoon dragon you sick fuck, you get
no captions tittering about how 'horny' he is
Yeah, you have to flame the monkeys at the top of your jump, and you have to be really close as well. There are some snails elephants that don't die from the charge attack too, which is a bitch because they are pretty fast. This game really makes me miss the age of platforming games. I don't know if I don't see them as much because shooters have taken over in general, or because I've simply grown out of them. I remember playing a Playstation 2 version of Spyro, and although it wasn't that different it lost a lot of its charm. Ah. Peanut butter now. This is a controversial one for me. In the states, the yanks have fully embraced peanut butter and sugary treats. But I remain distinctly British. My tongue just doesn't seem to appreciate the blend even though I love both separately. But I like this one. A lot. The peanut butter is smooth and creamy, for some reason I just can't like crunchy peanut butter. It isn't loaded with the stuff to a disgusting degree, so I'm very happy. So far this has my vote. Very good.

Double chocolate now. Don't know what to say about this one, really. There is another layer of slightly different chocolate under the main skin. As much as I like chocolate, it's just 'okay' and the concept feels half-arsed. I thought they might have done something to the wafer at least. Again, it isn't making me throw up but it isn't really winning my heart over. Bland.

I'm giving this an abrupt ending, because the booze and the early start this morning are slowly hypnotising me. Part 2 of my 2011 music is coming up next week, so keep yer eyes on this blog.

What I'm currently listening to > \Public Image Ltd - Flowers of Romance/

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

La Ciel Chromatique part 1

This was one of the things that came up when I
tried to apply for a job online. And they say the
internet makes everything easier.
So right after I whined about not being able to join a band, I managed to jam with a friend a couple of days after my last post. The whole thing was a completely spontaneous exercise and allowed me live a little and get drunk. It's highly unlikely that anything will come of it band-wise, but at least I know that I've improved since my last interaction with other musicians. And it's back into full swing with the job hunting too. I won't bore you with the whole process. But application websites have been a malfunctioning mess and the people I hand out my CV to have proven to be little better. Although I force myself to leave the flat at least once a day, I have been trapped inside my room with unlimited (yet pretty dodgy and slow) supplies of glorious internet. This is an environment perfect for twisting a pleasant little hobby into an ugly and anti-social obsession, and my love for music has turned into just that.

So this week, I've decided to talk about my favourite music discoveries of last year. The first tHIING (Oh absolutely swell, my caps lock is buggered, fucking piece of shit) I would (oh hey it's back to normal) like to say is that I have no idea if I'm ever going to be a music writer. I love writing, and I love music, so naturally the topic often pops up in my blog. But after reading sites like Pitchfork, my faith in music journalism has decreased significantly. Half the time these plebs spend the review talking about how horrible it was that they spilt their soya mocha latte (complete with ironic marshmallows) over their skinny jeans, and how horrible it is that they have to be paid to listen to more music and daintily tap in a few sentences into a macbook (I'm not the biggest fan of Apple products). Alright, so that was a bit of an exaggeration. But I'm unsure if I'm cut out for the whole thing. I've had people say
"Hmmm, yeah, your blog was good...but I kinda skipped the music parts..boring..."
"Don't write about music"
But also
"...solid review!"
And I've also had someone softly hold my hand, looking into my eyes over a plate of roast parsnips, saying
"Your blog...all of's amazing...I wish I could write like you"
And although some of those stories may have been exaggerated a little, they are based on real things people have said, and it shows that reception to my music reviews is mixed. Oh well too bad, this what you are getting anyway. You can skip the rest now. You know who you are.

Hesitant Calamari blog banner '72
Okay, I've decided to split this up into two blogs. This first list is of music is some stuff I discovered last year that wasn't actually released in 2011. If that makes sense. The second part will contain my favourite stuff actually released in 2011, and it might not even be my next blog entry! Woah!

5. Gentle Giant - Octopus
Referring to the 8 songs that make up the album, Gentle Giant's 'magnum opus' pops up in many essential album lists for progressive rock. However, Gentle Giant are quite often swept aside in favour of prog titans such as Yes, Rush, Jethro Tull, and Emerson Lake & Palmer, which is very unfortunate. The band show an amazing display of musicianship without too much guitar wankery other bands of the time were susceptible to. The harmonized vocals are extremely fun and can be insanely clever at times. A must if you like progressive rock or metal.

4.Wire - 154
Reminds me of a painting I made. When I was 3.
I stumbled upon Wire's fantastic debut Pink Flag a couple of years ago, and stupidly ignored every other release by them. 154, along with Chairs Missing, has an eerie, anxious energy. On the opening track, 'I Should Have Known Better' Bassist Lewis thuds away manically, and upon him darkly muttering "In an act of contrition..." you know what you've let yourself in for right away.

3.Tears for Fears - Songs from the Big Chair
Featuring three massive hits, this new-wave album should be a throwaway eighties pop affair. But it isn't. It can do dark and ambient ('Listen') and it can do raucous and energetic ('Mother's Talk', 'Shout'). It's another moan about the nuclearwarthatneverhappened from some limp wristed ninnies, but Roland Orzabal has one of the best voices of the eighties and the music itself is exceptionally well crafted.

2.Test Dept. - The Unacceptable Face of Freedom
Having heard nothing of this band before seeing them on a music forum, I decided to take the plunge and give them a try. This early industrial act made use of scrap metal in their percussion, but rather than bashing objects at random in an avant-garde fashion, a great deal of effort was put into creating pounding, intimidating rhythms. The band also uses a wide variety of strange samples and instruments, but probably the most notable thing about the album would be how scary it is. Fuck the Sex Pistols or System of a Down, I've never heard a band where political viewpoints come through as raw and as harsh as this. Brutal and shocking without any signs of a scream or a chugging guitar, this album is fantastic. If you use this sort of thing as chill out music, then you are officially a psychopath.

1.Leonard Cohen - The Songs of Leonard Cohen
In 1967, before the release of his debut album, Cohen was asked
"Aren't you a little old for this game?" Mr Cohen, now 77, is continuing to tour and is releasing his latest album at the end of the month. Finally listening to his music last year after a request for a Leonard Cohen song came up at the hospital radio, I struggled to compose myself when 'Suzanne' finished. For someone that usually finds 'folk' music incredibly boring, Cohen's bitter tales of fragile minds and loneliness reach out and fill the mind with clear images and emotions. The classically inspired guitar work is a complete inspiration.

Alright, I've made up a little playlist showcasing some of the bands I discovered/rediscovered this year, and it's available to download right here. Here's the track listing too, and please remember that it's a zip file so you'll need winrar/winzip/whatever.

The Replacements - The Kids Don't Follow
Gang of Four - At Home He's a Tourist
Test Dept. - Fuckhead
Tears for Fears - Mothers Talk
Hurts - Wonderful Life
Animal Collective - Grass
The Police - Miss Gradenko
Wire  - I Should Have Known Better
Gentle Giant - The Boys in the Band
Leonard Cohen - Avalanche

These tracks were not chosen because of similarities of genres. Some are happy pop songs, others are a brutal mess. You have been warned. Part 2 coming whenever.

What I'm currently listening to > \Alog - Unemployed/

Thanks for reading/listening!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Name of this band is

I've been away for a looooooong time, so this is going to be a looooooooong entry. Got a wonderful Christmas present from my boyfriend - a record player! Call it outdated, but the quality of vinyl is fantastic, and I can't help but love the artwork. Raiding charity shops for records has now become an interesting past-time. Stepping into a shop the other day, I found out that Bruce 'Die Hard' Willis had a musical career. I promptly handed the single to the girl at the counter. Her face crinkled up in confusion as she observed the record.
"This is a really big CD, you know that? Do you have a really really big CD player?"
Yep, those are my shoes. Yep, that's
Europe. Yep, that's Bruce Willis.
Work also decided to not keep me on a permanent contract. So I'm going to be doing pretty badly for money in a few weeks. But at least I still have my soul intact. I also had a wonderful party to celebrate my 'happy vagina escape day' and I saw the 'Iron Lady' today. I didn't really care about it enough to do a negative blog review, but it taught me that being old will be like getting high - people who aren't there appear in your room, you move more slowly than usual, and you don't have a fucking clue what is going on.

I've wanted to join a band for quite a while now. I love listening to music far too much, and I've been playing the bass for about 2-3 years. And in actual fact I've attempted to join two bands. On both occasions I never went back a second time. In the most recent case, I responded to a ad from a soft rock band that needed a bassist. Without dressing it up, they scared me shitless because they knew what they were talking about when it came to writing and performing music. Needless to say I shat myself, ignored their e-mails and never saw them again.

But my first attempt at joining a band was slightly different. I remember being at my parents for the summer, bored as fuck. So I decided to look up band adverts on different websites. I was quite sad at this point. Sad as in pathetic, because I often just looked at ads, fantasized myself joining that band, never replying. That day was a little different, because some post-punk band that were influenced by Joy Division wanted to start a band. They were only a couple of years older than me. Not only did I love Joy Division like a little puppy (a depressed little puppy that sung about isolation and death), but their bass lines could be played by absolutely anyone. I couldn't deduce much more after phoning one of the guys, bar the fact that he had an extremely thick Glaswegian accent, but we nevertheless met up the next day. We took a train to a part of the city where the number of abandoned buildings and wasteland increased with every stop. He turned out to be very pleasant and interesting to talk to. I told him about the music I liked and the music festival I'd just been to. He told me about their cocaine loving lead guitarist who may or may not be in the band after disappearing without  a word for the last few days and how they'd stolen half their equipment. I thought he was amazing.

"Haha, no there's eh...there's? There is, haha, nothing
wrong with? With! With me, I'm just a little...tired"
Everything looked very promising for the first couple of hours. I was able to play with two other people pretty well. They seemed amazed that I could play Rock the Casbah, and I was amazed by the fact that they could actually write songs. There was no mumbo jumbo I couldn't understand; they simply pointed to the notes I had to play and talked me through it. Things started to deteriorate a few hours in, when I realised I wasn't used to playing for a long period of time at all. My fingers gave out during the songs, and the booze we were all drinking really wasn't helping matters. After that I remember getting very high. I remember them putting me on a couch and getting worried because I laughed without stopping for about half an hour. And I remember getting a bag of marshmallows, and reassuring my mother that I'd be home soon over the phone. It was probably one of the best days of my life. It's a shame they didn't give me another chance, because we got on well and I could have improved. Oh well.

Joining a band, or at least, doing something musical is one of my aims this year. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I better start making a decision soon rather than leaving it to fate. Thinking about it, I've only got about two months of rent + living money so I better get shit sorted then. However, I have some Turkey Dinosaurs in the oven, so it can wait for the time being.

What I'm currently listening to > \Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear/

Thanks for reading!

P.s - I'm on twitter now (@ squidcereal)