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Monday, May 27, 2002

 
Morning, bloggers. After a long period 'off air', mostly due to my being in Germany, I thought I'd get back on track with a quick plug for one of the brightest hopes for british heavy rock: Hundred Reasons. This young band, who style themselves in the "emo" genre (after the comedian), have just released a brand new album, "ideas above our station". It's a cracker, but a bit of a grower: give if three or four listens first. Every review I've seen so far has given it four or five stars. Tops. I also have a bit of a personal interest in them: my former boss, Tari Hibbitt, is the mother of lead songwriter Larry Hibbitt. I saw the band once during their formative period as a result, and could see they were destined to great things judging by the reaction of the "kids". Worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

 
XTC – Coat of Many Cupboards (Virgin).

This box set, chronicling the well known (and less well known) hits of English music pioneers XTC, is not your ordinary LP beast, and needs a good few goings over before the gems inside come to the surface. Having spent the month or so since its release playing the 4 CDs in sequence, one by-one, track-by-track or, dammit, on random play, one thing sings through in the music: XTC are a great, great, great band.

So, says the knowing record-buying public, why aren’t they more famous, had more hits, seen more on VH-1. Well, not touring for twenty years as a result of stage fright of band member and songwriter Andy Partridge would be one reason. Having a nitwit record company which failed to give them the backing they needed and held them in musical purdah for seven years in the ‘nineties is another (Virgin, you should be ashamed). Any also..well, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, truth be told. Well, more fool those who don’t drink to XTC. This collection of hits, off-cuts, rough cuts and the old favourites is top-end stuff: it’s premium sliced, not tinned.

The four CDs (and fantastically detailed integral booklet cum potted history of the band) take the listener chronologically through XTC’s repertoire, demonstrating clearly their evolution from shouty (but nonetheless melodic) post-punk urchins to the band they are today (Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge), writing some of the most intelligent, emotionally charged and evocative music written on the planet. They are, ladies and gentlemen, that good.

This collection, however, varies in quality (though only ever from good to fantastic, with the odd dog here and there), but like a good box of Terry (Chambers’) Old Gold, there’s a flavour in here for everyone. The many sides of XTC musically are in evidence here: catchy up-tempo 2-minute wonders like ‘This is Pop’ and ‘Science Friction’ from their early period show just how energetic the playing and the singing could be…but always maintaining a strong hold on tunefulness and word play. On the other end of the scale, pastoral beauties like ‘Grass’ and ‘Chalkhills & Children’ display the very English centre (most probably hazelnut) at the heart of the bands’ music.

One convention which XTC has recently cottoned on to is the issuing of demos and early versions (they have released two demo versions of their most recent albums), and Coat of Many Cupboards contains a fair few. For the fan, there are rarities and songs here which have never been heard and which you wish could be polished up and re-released (‘Terrorism’ is a paean to anti-violence tinged with middle eastern musical references, and ‘Find the Fox’). Scraping the barrel? Selling off cuts? It’s open for debate. I think: why not. If people buy Leonardo sketches, then why not XTC’s musical versions?

XTC rarely produce anything other than quality aural sustenance. This box set is no exception. Sublime.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

 
A brief response to my good pal Andrew Ian Dodge over at Dodgeblog. Whilst I am, of course, sad at the death of the Queen Mother on a personal level for her family, I couldn't really find anything much in the last two weeks that changes my opinions that, in essence, the monarchy is a feudal relic that we should have got rid of a long time ago along with ducking stools, enclosures and tithes to local landowners. Anyway, they are all basically German anyway! The monarchy is a quaint English tradition, like Devon scones and Morris dancing. What we need is an anarcho-syndicalist commune! (one for the Python fans, there).

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

 
Ah, the anticipation. 32 hours to go till Brixton Academy, tickets for one of Iron Maiden's only live shows this year, a chance to see the greatest heavy rock/metal band in the UK perform live their greatest hits. Unbeatable!

Thursday, March 14, 2002

 
If you're not lucky enough to be able to get BBC1 TV, you missed a reat treat last night: "When Rock Ruled the World", an hour-long 'rockumentary', if you will, on the classic hard rock and metal sound of the seventies and eighties. Interesting and uncensored vox-pops, great archive footage and classic songs contributed to a huge nostalgia-fest atmosphere. Also, some great nuggets of knowledge: Saxon as the inspiration for Spinal Tap? Fantastic. Great fun, as long as you remember that's all rock is meant to be. Look forward to seeing what Andrew Ian Dodge has to say about last night's programme...check out his site!

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

 
Anybody out there ready to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee in the UK?............................Thought as much.
 
New book to tell bloggers about (and this won't go down well with the folks at Liberatarian Samizdata or Dodgeblog). I've just brought the new book by Michael Moore, he of TV Nation Fame and the author of "Downsize This". It's called "Stupid White Males" and is a great poke-fun type of book attacking the sort of capitalist, republican and military targets you'd expect Moore to attack with all the subtley of a cruise missile (i.e. the chapter on President Bush's drink driving habit).

Now, I don't agree with much of what Michael Moore says; he is often too ernest and, therefore, acute and fanatical as his counterparts on the radical right are. However, you can't accuse him of skipping on the laughs. Worth a read, definitely.

Thursday, February 28, 2002

 
The funniest english language writer of the last fifty years is no more. Sad to report but, as many bloggers will know, yesterday saw the death at 83 of Spike Milligan - poet, clown, comedian and idiot. There's massive coverage in the papers today, much of it focusing on the Goon Show and his mental illness; what I always admired about the man was his humanity, his preference for viewing the world with the simplicity of a child and, when appropriate, saying what he felt, even if it did come out at times as offensive. It was interesting to see that the BBC last night put out a 30 minutes tribute to Spike on BBC: great, but why didn't it show any of his ground breaking Q series in the last twenty years and effectively ignored the contribution of Spike, until he was dead. I'm sure he would have seen the irony of it all. Spike - you'll be missed. Blow a raspberry for Peter, Harry and Michael up in Heaven today!