Saturday, 30 April 2011

one that got away - Orchids



At the end of the year I did my top 10 lps of they year and I think one got away. I bought The Lost Star by the Orchids in December but for some reason didn't really get round to playing it properly until the new year. If I'd paid more attention earlier then it would have leapfrogged into the top 10.



A band ahead of their time they at one point were on Sarah records but offered smuch more than Sarha's usual lovelorn fare (I'm a bit dogmatic in my view that the Orchids Peaches does what Primal Scream's Loaded does but a lot better.)



They released a trio of great lps in the early 90s and then broke up . In 2007 they reconvened to release an lp of pretty standard guitar songs with dreamy vocals, good but not really an indication of what was to follow.



The Lost Star is a stunning lp and really difficult to describe. It varies from short cut up sound montages and acoustic ballads to dreamy psychedelic pop songs and electronic music that is kind of dancey and kind of chilled out at the same time. Okay that sounds like one unholy mess but somehow the whole thing sticks together perfectly.



I've posted 2 songs - the first is a more straight forward guitar pop song and the second is more electronic in its backing




The Okay Song - The Orchids



The Way That You Move - The Orchids



If you'd like the above and appreciate bands that like to take a bit of a risk then give this a go , there is more invention in this one lp than a lot of bands manage in a career



you can buy the Lost Star here and find their website here

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Not Quite Prefab Sprout - The Citadels



When I first got broadband I found a great website (now defunct alas) that basically had a page and links to loads of Irish bands. I worked my way through a lot of the links and bought anything I liked the sound of.



One of the bands featured were called the Citadels and when the lp Letting Go Holding On arrived it really reminded me of Swoon Period prefab Sprout , from the vocals to the sudden chord changes and the subtle melodies that would weave in and out of the songs.





The band seem to have faded away - a google search couldn't even come up with a decent image of the lp cover.


I've posted three tracks from the lp.










Let me know if you hear the Prefab Sprout echoes or am I going mad




In writing this post I went to the band's website here where it seems the singer Cormac O Caoimh is now recording under his own name and has an lp out



The Citadels lp seems tricky to get hold of but there is a 2nd hand copy advertised here and if you like Swoon then I'd give it a go

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A year in Books 2011- The Reluctant Fundamentalist




Some books are in Waterstone's 3 for 2 so often that in the end I just give up and buy them . The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid is one of them and having read it in one sitting I'm annoyed with myself for not getting it earlier.





The book starts with an introduction "Excuse me sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I alarmed you. Do not be frightened of my beard. I am a lover of America."





The native Pakistani narrator over the next 208 pages tells his life story of how he first came to embrace America through education at Princeton and the promise of capitalism only to become disillusioned, feeling betrayed and rejecting the American dream. At the core of his tale is the narrator's love for an American woman who lost in the grief of a previous relationship can not fully return that love and whose grief takes her physically and emotionally out of reach.





As the sky darkens the meeting of the narrator and the listener starts to appear not so coincidental. As the narrator punctuates his story by bringing them back to the hear and now, Hamid create a building sense of tension with the ambiguity of the comments. Is it simply a local having a meal with a visiting business man or is it more like the hunter and the hunted.



"I observe sir that there continues to be something about our waiter that puts you ill at ease .... and if you should sense that he has taken a disliking to you, i would ask you to be so kind as to ignore it"



but which is which if at all



"When you sit in that fashion sir with your arm curved around the back of an empty chair beside you , a bulge manifests itself through the lightweight fabric of your suit..........I'm sure in your case it is just the outline of one of those travel wallets.."


The tension builds and builds as the narrator's tale switches from the US back to the recent past in Pakistan until an almost unbearable walk back to the business man's hotel.



Relying on one voice is risky and Hamid needed to get the narrator exactly right, if his story didn't feel genuine then the tension would be punctured. The tone is spot on and apart from a couple of clunky paragraphs his voice sucks you in.



The ending without giving anything away may frustrate some but for me it fits perfectly with story as a whole. At just over 200 pages it is a quick read made even more so by the need to find out how it will all pan out. If you have long train journey coming up or a spare evening with some wine on hand then this is perfect but be warned you will want to finish it in one sitting.



You can buy The Reluctant Fundamentalist here

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

One To Watch- The Tiny Birds



One of the delights of writing the blog is that I sometimes get new music sent to me via e:mail (although a lot of it seems to invite me to concerts in New York which for someone who lives in Teddington is very nice but would be a bit of an expensive night out)


One of the best that has come through recently is the London based band Tiny Birds who make that kind of infectious folky pop music I really like. The are slight echoes of Stornoway


They have just released a debut lp called "Hymns for the Careless" with 8 short and sweet infectious pop songs with lyrics that will make you smile - the description of "sad songs with happy music" is spot on.


For a new band they are also taking the risk of offering this debut FREE to download from their website here.


I've been beaten to the punch by Greer at the Sweet Unrest who must have received the same email you can read what she thinks here


I've posted one track as a taster, but it could have been any of the 8 as there isn't a duff one there. So preview the track below and if you like what you hear download the lp at their website at the link above or even better buy the physical cd which is a fiver


Monday, 25 April 2011

Not Another Singer Songwriter part 2 - Matthew Jay



Whilst David Gray lead to a rush of a certain type of singer songwriter , Jeff Buckley's Grace seemed to send every record label off in search of intense young men with choir boy vocals and a hell of a range. One of the best was Matthew Jay whose debut lp Draw is stunning. Sadly it is his only release in his lifetime as he died after a fall from an apartment block. After initial reports suggesting that he was alone, it later transpired that there were people with him in the flat. Whatever the circumstances , a real talent was cut short. Two more recordings have since been released. One a compilation of rarities and the second an lp of songs that Jay had yet to finish completed by his friends and family after his death. For me it is Draw that really stands out.



I've posted a track that on one hand is one of the more straight forward pop songs although the lyrics give it an air of sorrow and regret and friendships lost.



It also has one of the most annoying mumbled/whispered endings which despite ear to the speakers I still can't work out what the final repeated phrase is







You can buy Draw here and if you like smart sensitive pop then give it a go

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lazy Sunday - Frightened Rabbit


So this is how music blogs should work, I picked up on this band on a blog (I think it may have been JC at Vinyl Villain but I'm not sure) loved what he ha d posted and immediately bought everything I could.
Lazy Sunday's shuffle this week throws up a track from their Winter of Mixed Drinks lp. I like the slightly tonal sound (I'll leave it at that before I get all pretentious music journalist)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Life of Live - Prefab Sprout / Trashcan Sinatras




Having finally left Leeds I moved to Glasgow in the summer of 1990. One of the reasons that I took the job was that as so many of the bands that I liked were Scottish if I lived there I would no doubt discover a load more and get to see the ones I did know live.




I stayed in a shared ground floor/basement tenement flat close Byres Road (and strangely a cricket ground) and spent a fortune each week in the record shops and taking anyone who came to visit to the Botanical gardens (every band I liked at some point had publicity band shots taken at the gardens)






The first band I saw though were Prefab Sprout at the Barrowlands. I can remember being surprised both by the strength of Paddy Mcaloons vocals as the eerie sight of a a lot of large scary looking blokes singing along to When Love Breaks Down. It was also the only concert I've been to on my own and I decided that it would be the last .. I just missed not having someone to talk to about it afterwards so I had to make some friends fast






I've not posted anything by Prefab Sprout but instead gone for the support act , The Trashcan Sinatras who quite rightly went down a storm. It is still one of the best "double act" concerts I've seen. When they played this track live I can only describe it as one big jangle headrush





Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thanks to Aha - follow up





I'm afraid I came across as a bit sniffy concerning Aha in yesterdays post , so in balance.....



I'd never really liked the pop Aha much I think I'd just got so annoyed with the annoyingly catchy Take on Me that felt like it was just played constantly until worn down people bought in enough quantities to get it a hit. What followed didn't really improve matters although I had a soft spot for the over the top ridiculousness that was The Sun Always Shines on Tv.



It came as a bit of a shock then that in 2000 I bought myself an Aha lp, and I'm still not sure why it happened. I love the lp's cover (although I can't believe I bought it based on that alone) and it reflects the music on the lp. It still had echoes of catchy pop music but everything just felt more subtle from the lead vocals to the instrumentation. It was as if the songs were given time to grow rather than try and hook you in on the first play. It does verge on dinner party music at times but there is enough interesting things going on to stop it blanding out. They released 2 more lps in this vein (Anologue and Lifelines) before bowing out with Foot of the Moutnain that was closer to their mid 80s sound which I didn't bother with for that very reason.


Barely Hanging on - Aha



Little Black Heart - Aha

If you want to take a bit of a risk then you can buy Minor Earth Major Sky here

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Thanks to Aha


When Aha took cheekbones and pop tunes to the top of the charts, record companies suddenly decided that there must be loads of other Scandinavian bands hidden away. As a result there were one or two signings and releases but with no one looking quite as good in leather wrist bands and denim shirts they soon lost interest.


However one band stood out from the rest. Norway's Fra Lippo Lippi were already on their 3rd lp by the time Virgin snapped them up.


Virgin should have known that they weren't going to get quite the pure pop machine of Aha, the fact that the band had named themselves after a 15th century Italian painter kind of gave the game away. However this didn't mean that they couldn't pen a good tune and the lp Songs had 10 of them.


The lp did enough for Virgin to ask for another lp. This time they worked with Walter Becker (Steely Dan's producer) with a aim of breaking the US market. The lp suffers for it as they lost some of that european sound that made them stand out in the first place. In another case of record company brilliance the label then promptly dropped them. A strange popularity in the Philippines meant that more lps followed but none really lived up to Songs.


This was one of those lps that for some reason I only had on tape and so it got played in the car a lot. When i moved to Glasgow I used to have to go back to Leeds a lot and so these songs are forever linked with driving at night and struggling along the A1 and across the A66


I've posted a couple tracks that show the 2 styles of the lp , mid tempo and melodic , slow and melodic (also I'm a sucker for any song with home in the lyric/title).

So I guess something good came of Take on Me and that annoying Steve Barron video.









You can buy Songs here, they also have a compilation of the 2 lps that they did for Virgin, but if you like melodic pop then I'd stick with Songs

Monday, 18 April 2011

Not Another Singer Songwriter part 1



The new theme for mondays came about when I realised I've got an awful lot of stuff by singer songwriters. They kind of went out of fashion for most of the time that I was growing up and getting into music.




In the late 90s they seemed to return with a vengeance, mainly on the back of the bolt out of the blue success of David Gray and especially the single Babylon. So on mondays I'm going to work through the singer songwriters I really like.




So as he has to take some responsibilities for the outbreak of singer songwriteritis I'll start with David Gray. At the time he felt like a bit of overnight success. In fact he had released 3 lps before the big selling White Ladder and was about to chuck the whole thing in.




Century Ends, Flesh and Sell Sell Sell come from a much earthier place. There are no dancey beats of electronic rhythms to smooth off the edges. His vocals are rougher a kind of tuneful celtic Bob Dylan (There was a story I read that when he presented his then girlfriend with White Ladder she said something like thank god he's stopped singing in that awful way)


I'm not sure if the success sat easy on his shoulders and there was definitely a backlash with the follow up to White Ladder (New Day at Midnight).




He went away for a while to recharge and came back with a great lp Life in Slow Motion and since then after another break seems to have rediscovered his energy with 2 lps in 2 years and a sense of settling with what he does best and a dedicated fanbase rather than chasing a repeat of earlier success.




Instead of his later stuff I've gone for something from the earlier recordings, and which is pretty representative of the music of the first 3 lps. I did read that Gutterful of Rain (a reflective relationship breakdown song) was actually about his parents which gives it an added poignancy


Gutterful of Rain - David Gray from Sell Sell Sell


He has a good website which you can find here

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Tidy Up

Just a quick note to say in line with keeping links up for a limited period I'll be having a tidy up at the end of the week and I'll remove the links up to end of feb.

Lazy Sunday - The Music Lovers



Lazy sunday and this week top of the shuffle pile is a track from much missed the Music Lovers. As ever great songwriting and a style that is timeless


Saturday, 16 April 2011

Cult of the b side - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

Re listening to Rattlesnakes for this week's monday moment reminded me of one of my favourite b sides Does it hurt to be polite Or is it just cool to be unkind Must you always hurt the ones you love And then get paid back in time Now, now, now Andy is fine but his taste is not mine Let me tell you I don`t mean maybe I`m getting really tired of andy`s babies Some say that children should be seen and not heard That`s what i`d preferred Let`s go downtown for a wine I`m sure you`ll be forced to smile When you see andy`s babies And the bohemian lifestyle Now, now now Andy`s a saint But i`m loosing my patience I really don`t mean maybe Don`t even wanna talk about andy`s babies So andy says his children will inherit the earth Isn`t that absurd, in a word Trudy`s in the bathroom She`s trying to clean up her eyes And donald`s gone to mass Yes we are thankful for that It`s eight in the morning And still you can`t get no sleep On account of this perfect day and All this white light white heat Ah, isn`t that sweet Andy's Babies - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions You can buy the anniversary version of Rattlesnakes here that has all the bsides from the lp's singles on it

Friday, 15 April 2011

What could Have Been - The Blue Nile





A couple of days ago I wrote about Nileism the biography of the Blue Nile. I had hoped of details of lost lps just waiting to be released. Alas no although there is a rumour mentioned of a burning of the tapes of abandoned songs.





However, the author does talk about some out-takes from the first 2 lps. In a weird bit of synchronicity I stumbled on a blog that had posted these very tracks. How they had got them I've no idea but a massive thank you to Big Plans For Everybody






The first is an outtake from Walk Across the Rooftops and whilst immediately recognisable as Blue Nile the use of the prominent piano does show how it didn't fit with the rest of the lp











The next 3 are outtakes from around the time of recording Hats. Broadway in the Snow especially I think would have fitted in just fine, Christmas maybe and Young Club perhaps a bit too close to Headlights in feel and sounds more of a bridge between the first and second lps so would have jarred

















Here's hoping that if a 5th lp is out of the question then at least let there be a Buchanan solo lp ( the book does mention a recording of a 17 song suite for piano and vocal so maybe in the next 10 years this may get released, you can only hope.)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Nileism



This was one of those books that I was really excited about reading when I heard it was coming out but also felt a some uncertainty as to whether I wanted to read it at all.



Firstly to try and explain this , Nileism is a book purely for fans and Blue Nile fans tend to be a hard core bunch. Some artists you can drift in and out of love with . I love the U2 of Zooropa and Achtung Baby, quite fancy the U2 of Unforgettable Fire but can take or leave the other stuff and had a quiet divorce with How to Dismantle a Bomb and Rattle and Hum.



Fans of the Blue Nile don't do that , they are in for the long haul and fall on every new release like a first love. A lot of people I'm sure think 4 lps in 30 years ... what is the fuss about? I threw a major strop when my wife described Walk across the Rooftops of as sounding a bit dated (even now if god forbid things went pear shaped I'll be citing this to the lawyers)



Therefore the thought of a biography written by someone who knows the band and had heard un released tracks well ..... but on the other hand like other fans I can be a tad over precious.



Secondly, The band come with their own mystique. They gave few interviews , not much press with each treasured release and in the lengthening gaps between lps disappeared off the music press radar. The music they make itself is full of that romanticism and mystique. The fear was that this was a bit of a sham and that it was all about the mundane and the whole thing cobbled together by chance.




So having read it what did I end up thinking. Well thankfully the mystique remains and one thing that author Allan Brown gets across really well is the way the 3 band members operate in their own world , you feel the agonising attention to detail and the drive to get things just so to match their shared vision. One of the best bits of the book is showing how the closeness, the intensity becomes destructive leading to the struggles with Peace at Last and High and to the eventual situation where it now looks extremely unlikely that there will be a 5th lp (I think they still all live in the same part of Glasgow but aren't in contact with each other). At times you get the feeling it wasn't a band but a cult of 4 (the 3 band members and engineer Calum Malcolm) with music the vehicle.



The other surprising interesting thing is the business element and the relationships with the various outsiders in terms of record companies and managers. The reason for this strength points to the weakness of the book . The strength is that these elements in down to the fact that Brown interviews all those involved and so you get some individual outside looking in perspectives. The weakness is that access to the band is limited. There are earlier interviews with Buchanan who in the end didn't actively support the book and none with Moore or Bell who didn't contribute at all. As a result there is a lot of hypothesis which can on occasion feels like over interpretation or analysis and the balance is skewed to Buchanan (which as principle writer and the singer you can understand) but does make the book feel out of balance (mainly because the author does such a good job af painting a picture of a shared mindset)



There are a couple of other minor irritations - the chapters are headed up by a short piece of writing by fans on what the songs mean to them which I could have done without. More annoying for me was the fact that the author is very sniffy about anyone who isn't the Blue Nile



Simple Minds early stuff that at the time was pushing the boundaries in Glasgow are dismissed as simply "at heart simply a conventional major label act that happened to hail from the city"

Danny Wilson were a "Steely Dan tribute act in all but name" and Love and Money, The Big Dish and others the "runty offspring of the Average White Band" - it all feels a little bit unnecessary and doesn't do the rest of the book any favours.



Having said that , there are enough "I didn't know that !!" to make it a good read.



Perhaps most telling of all is a story that Ed Bicknell (manager of Dire Straits and for a short period The Blue Nile) tells about the release of High. He told Paul Buchanan whilst the singer was staying in his house in Barbados that 7 songs and 35 minutes wasn't long enough. The singer threw his toys out of the pram, then sulked, then left. A few days later he got in contact to apologise and say they had been in the studio that day and now had 2 more songs finished. To which Bicknell says "hang on a minute , you've recorded 2 completely new songs finished and mixed in a day. Paul said they had and wanted to put them on the album. So i said , You took seven years to record 7 songs and one day to record 2?.. Paul said yeah."



So if you are a fan it is worth getting just not quite all I hoped it would be .. the curtain is pulled back a it but the mystique remains which is a good thing



You can buy Nileism here

Monday, 11 April 2011

Monday Moments 52/52 - Rattlesnakes


Well all good things have to come to an end and that goes for okayish things as well. Over the last 52 weeks I've tried to post tracks that have something about them that sends a shiver down my spine and it has come to the last part of the series. I realised when I looked back on who had featured over the previous 51 weeks that there wasn't anything by the person who is responsible for the largest number of songs on my pc so it feels right to end with something by Lloyd Cole


This song is consistently in my top 5 tunes and it comes from one of the best debuts ever. It is virtually the dictionary definition of "jangly pop songs with pretentious lyrics" and is joy from the initial country twang to the sweeping strings and the short story driven lyrics which I know off by heart.


The whole thing is one big monday moment for me but to chose one then it is for the fabulous hit the nail on the head couplet of


"Her heart's like crazy paving up side down and back to front

She says it's so hard to love when love was a sure great disappointment"


It even made me try Simone De Beavoir!
Rattlesnakes - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
The only thing now is that I now need another monday theme to keep me going until the next Miracle Mile release! I've got a bit of an idea that I'm going to start next monday unless anyone else can come up with a cracker.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Lazy Sunday - Supertramp


Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile has thrown up a bit of 70's AOR/MOR or what ever it is called. Not quite sure what this is doing on my pc (honest guv) but I like the the keyboard noodling at the start and the Englishness of having a chorus of Bloody Well Right

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Strange Covers - Wating for The Man


Another OMD b side and this time a cover version. I'm not that big a fan of the Velvet Underground original and I'm not sure the combination with OMD's early synth sounds makes it any better.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

New Music - Brad Pitt Light Orchestra







I've not bought many lps yet this year, although the best one I have (an hangover from last year) is by the Irish band The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra. It is a great name and I hope Brad Pitt doesn't come over all precious and force a name change , especially as the music is so good. As you can imagine with 7 members and 3 who take up vocals they make a big noise. It is very lazy but I can best describe them as like a celtic Arcade Fire.




With multiple instruments the sound can be a bit dense at times but as the lp progresses light and shade becomes apparent and the variety of the 3 vocalists (all siblings and although very different they also sing harmonies beautifully) as well as both subtle and surprising changes in a songs direction keeps you listening intently


I've posted the lead off track which romps along and is one that has one of the closest Arcade Fire comparisons





There website his here where you can listen to a couple more tracks from the lp


You can buy the lp Lowering the Tone here



Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Cult of the b Side - OMD



OMD often used b sides to show case their more experimental side and as you'd expect with this policy it can be a bit hit and miss.



This is one of their better ones , heavy on the atmosphere with a heavily treated and haunting vocal from Andy McClusky, and I think from the days of Dazzleships



4 Neu - OMD



Their b sides have been gathered together on the lp Navigation which you buy here

Monday, 4 April 2011

Monday Moments 51/52 - Life of Live


One track , two themes. Although I'd finished poly that summer I had one more concert to see before i moved to a new job and a new city. Having seen Bowie on the awful Glass Spider tour I needed a bit of persuading to go and see him again 3 years later (I'd given up trying to defend Tin Machine).


However it was to promote a greatest hits package and was accompanied by the ridiculous claim that this would be the last time he would be performing these songs live (still couldn't take the chance that it was a serious artistic intention and not a record company marketing ploy). I seem to remember even a gimmick that meant that fans could vote on what would be on the set list.


So for the last time I took a coach to a concert, this time to Birmingham's NEC (for those who haven't been an awful aircraft hanger of a venue). I can't remember who the support were or even if there was a support and that is because the concert itself just blew me away.


Everything was as far as way from the Glass Spider as could be. The red jump suit and costumed dancers were replaced with a guitar, bass , drums , keyboards band all dressed in black and white (the mullet had long gone thank god) endless guitar solos were replaced with tight playing that allowed the songs to breath. The set list did what it said on the tin, favourite followed favourite and even in the aircraft hanger the sheer magnetism of Bowie sucked everyone in.


The staging was simple and the lighting largely white. However the simplest projection technique took your breath away. Some sort of see through cloth screen would be dropped which the band members moved in front of and behind. On to this was projected moving images, mainly simply giant moving images of Bowie. The image above doesn't come near to doing it justice. It is from I think when he did Space Oddity. You can see him at the bottom of the screen with a guitar as his projected face looks down. The whole thing was perfectly staged (and somehow the slickness and lack of spontaneity didn't leave the thing feeling sterile) and while very simple immensely powerful. Partly as the screen wasn't a back drop but at different levels on the stage giving depth and perspective that a giant screen just cant deliver (no doubt today we would all have had to wear 3D glasses)


For a large scale concert it is the best I've seen . I've not seen Bowie play live since and this is mainly because I'm not sure anything will top it (my favourite singer playing my favourite songs at the top of his game)


Which brings me to this week's Monday Moment. In a year on monday's I had to have one Bowie. It could have been anything the disillusioned vocal in Golden Years , the bubbly synth /bass that opens up Ashes to Ashes, the searing guitar in Heroes, the backing vocals on Young Americans and that is just the obvious singles.


Instead I've gone for a single that has no chorus and the first verse doesn't start for 1:30 minutes.


My monday moments comes at about 40 seconds when the guitar chords . analogue synths , are punctuated by the first sigh


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Lazy Sunday - Deacon Blue



Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a b side from Deacon Blue . It has a bit of a 60's feel and for some reason I really like the line "It's winter now but it was summer then"


Saturday, 2 April 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Working the Room




Geoff Dyer has a varied backlist that includes non fiction works on Jazz (everyone is entitled to one bad idea), DH Lawrence , The Somme battlefields as well as a number of stylised novels 2 of which, Paris Trance and The Colour Memory are as good as their titles

Working the room is a collection of essays which show off both Dyers versatility as well as his skills of criticism. They are pulled from a 10 year period and roughly fall into 3 parts. The first part is the strongest with each essay focussed on an individual photographer, often using one image (handily printed in the text). I'd heard of only a handful of the photographers featured but that didn't matter at all. In writing about an image Dyer broadens things out to give a potted history of the photographer's life and pulls insight after insight with pure enthusiasm and love of his subject. He gets the balance of entertainment and education exactly right.



Strange then that the next chunk, dealing with literary criticism doesn't work for me at all. This maybe because it mainly featured books / authors I've not read and haven't got an intention of reading . Nothing Dyer writes changes this whereas the photography essays sent me straight on line seeking out further works than the main images featured. Even when writing about a book or author I really liked (Atonement, Richard Ford , Tobias Wolfe) it comes across as well a bit dull with a sense over intellectualising like a 12 " mix if the worst kind of broadsheet review.


It was with relief that the 3rd chunk arrived (after a short detour onto Jazz which I gritted my teeth and successfully fought the urge to skip) which were much more personal essays some flippant (attending fashion week his obsession with finding the perfect cafe in new york) and some run a bit deeper. These tend to be the autobiographical ones that reflect on his parents and his life in his 20s and how that shaped the writer he has become. He talks of writing as a learning experience which is why he jumps genres as often writes about what he initially doesn't know about , Jazz , Lawrence , the Somme etc and yet by the process of writing he finds himself as the one editors turn to for expertise. As someone who really enjoyed both Paris Trance and the Colour of Money (still 2 of my favourite ever titles)I liked seeing echoes of both in these pieces

The other thing that is interesting is that as the essays are written over 10 years and cover a variety of subjects he continually returns to and references a relative small number of touch points eg Miles Davies , John Berger etc, which paints a kind of cultural life.

The edition I've got is a satisfying solid book with a cloth bound spine, made to be dipped into. I read it in one go which made it feel a bit like a 3 course meal made up of dishes that should be used for snacking



You can buy Working the Room here where there is also a downloadable preview

Friday, 1 April 2011

Life of Live - Martin Stephenson and the Daintees



My last concert whilst at poly and fittingly it was by the best band I'd seen live whilst at Leeds. It was also I think the last time they toured as a band before splitting up (reforming only in the last 2/3 years). The first thing I ever do when I move is to set the stereo up and when I moved into my room at Beckett's Park the ploy's halls of residence, Boat to Bolivia was the first lp I played


The concert was for the final lp The Boy's Heart. Which for me was a real return to form after the patchy Salutation Road. It is as if the record label accepted that chart success wasn't going to come the band's way and so let them off the leash a bit. There is a sense of experimentation and let's give that a go on some of the songs.


Although to promote this lp I think the band must have known things were coming to a close as it was riotous run through the best of their back catalogue with a set list that felt like it had been drawn from my own wish list. The venue was at the Irish centre which is a little bit out of the city centre and I'm not sure if they had a later licence or the Dainties just broke it as encore followed encore, they just seemed to keep going as the fever pitch atmosphere never seemed to let up.


It was all quite drunkenly emotional , my favourite band playing a gig of their lives and a sense of change and goodbyes , I distinctly remember looking at my friends and thinking does it get any better than this, the feeling that things would never be the same as 4 years in Leeds came to a close. It as one of those times when the music transcends the songs being played and becomes woven into time and place, preserved in memory. Because it is so woven the more time passes the more I've a tendency to over romanticise it


One song from the lp that did go down a storm was Cab Attack which live was a good old bit of garage thrash