Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - The Passage

Massively hyped, film rights already sold to Ridley Scott, nearly 800 pages long, first part of a trilogy, end of days scenario, vampires...... no come back!!

The Passage is something that I would never normally buy but I'm lucky enough to work somewhere that occasionally has free preview copies of books kicking around and a number of people who wouldn't normally be seen in the fantasy / sci fi / horror sections of bookshops had said it had got them hooked so I thought I'd give it a go.

Faced with an each way 2hour journey to York for a work meeting I thought I'd read a couple of chapters and then start doing some work. I never got to do any work. I spent all the time reading the Passage, and then when I got home it became one of those I'll just read another chapter until you realise that it is now the past midnight on a school night and your partner is muttering to turn the dam light off.

The book starts in true Michael Crichton style with lots of short chapters concentrating on a few core characters. The old seasoned government agent who works on a project doing something decidedly dodgy to death row prisoners, the single mother and her heartbreaking decision to leave her child and the nun trying to escape the trauma of her youth. Add in a scientific / military expedition in Bolivia that goes horribly wrong and you've got the set up for your better than average holiday thriller.

Just a you get used to all the characters, the author Justin Cronin, pulls the rug from under your feet and we jump forward 100 years where society as we know it has completely broken down and small fortified communities try to survive against packs of people who have "turned". Cronin handles the fact that the "turned" are a form of vampire really well.. this is more I am Legend (the book not the awful Will Smith film) than Twilight, thank god. The new society with it's own customs and beliefs based on vague memories of a time before and the need to survive is handled exceptionally well and as a new set of core characters emerge you really start to care for their fate.

Again just as you get into a rhythm, Cromin throws in an event that links the 2 parts of the book and the plot again shifts this time to one involving an epic journey. There's a large cast outside the core characters but Cronin's literary background tells in that time is given to give each of them a sense of depth that you don't always get in the genre.

It come across as a bit of a cross between Stephen King's the Stand and Cormac McCarthy's The Road but that is vastly over simplifying it.

Don't be put of by the vampire element this is a great holiday read that acts like a literary novel.

I can't wait for part 2!

You can buy The Passage here

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Is this the Future.. I hope so

Every now and then someone tries something a bit different than the usual cd tour cd cycle. Radiohead got loads of publicity for the pay what you want release of their last lp. Just as innovative but with a fraction of the publicity is what Chris Difford is doing. He has set up something called the Saturday Music Club. Basically Chris was going to release his new lp "Cashmere if you Can" on a week by week basis, track by track for 10 weeks. For an upfront fee I'd get the lp tracks plus a "b" side e:mailed to me each saturday. All of these as a preface to the physical release. The price was a bit of a premium ( I can't remember how much it was but £17 rings a bell - hardly bank breaking)

Well the reality has exceeded expectations by some distance. Each week I've got the lp track , plus 2 other tracks, plus a video of Chris in performance, the lyrics and a short piece written by Chris on each track, plus some photos and some interesting web links. I can honestly say 5 weeks in and I really look forward to saturday when I wonder what the next chapter will have in store

The links tend to be to the sites of the various writers and muicians who have featured on the lp tracks.

The lp tracks have all been great so far , helped by some under stated production from god like genius Boo Hewerdine. The "b" sides are a great mixture. I've posted one from a discarded "trippy "lp that Chris has made (you get the feeling he has a treasure trove of unfinished projects and co ventures), a very different version of the Squeeze song "Take Me

So if you like quality songwriting then follow the link below and join the club

You can find a link to The Saturday Music Club Get Chris Difford's new album "Cashmere if you can"">here

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - The Death of Bunny Munro

A while back I read and had a right old pop at "Post Office" by Charles Bukowski (boy was I in a bad mood that day). Anyway I've just finished another novel built around one appalling main character. "The Death of Bunny Munro" is Nick Cave's second novel and comes 20 years after his debut. "And the Ass saw the angel" was a bit of southern gothic , a bit like a Bad Seeds song but in book form.

"The Death of Bunny Munro " couldn't be more removed concerning a washed up travelling salesman in the suburbs around Brighton. Bunny Munro is a serial adulterer with lurid fantasies concerning Avril Lavigne and Kylie Minogue. He is not adverse to making passes at his customers, waitresses in the B and Bs he has to stay in, his wife's best friends, in fact any woman unfortunate enough to cross his path. In Bunny's world booze and fags go together to make an excellent meal.

He starts to go off the rails with the suicide of his long suffering wife when he decides to take his son with him out on the road. So begins a road trip down through the various circles of hell as Bunny hurtles towards the death foretold in the title.

Reading this you're horrified as Bunny builds outrage upon outrage, whilst also sniggering at his pitch black humour. The sense of guilt magnified by the innocence of his son. Just when you think he can't sink any lower or get any worse, we get to meet his father, a character who is so awful , unsavoury, full of hatred, bile and spite. Then comes the biggest shock of all despite yourself you start to feel sympathy for Bunny and even begin to cheer him on hoping for some last minute redemption.

Nick cave captures Bunny's seedy world to perfection and it's no mean feat to juggle the horror, the humour and the heartbreak so well.

You can buy "The Death of Bunny Munro" by Nick Cave here

Monday, 26 July 2010

Monday Moments - Story of the Blues

This week's monday moment comes from one of those everything and the kitchen sink type productions that takes Phil Spectre's wall of sound ideal and then just keeps building. When I first saw this on Top of the Pops the power blew me away , that and the fact that Pete Wylie was wearing a white silk scarf and I think a red rose in his lapel.

At the time I had no idea it was an anti Thatcher moment I just saw it as some big romantic over the top gesture of sound. Even now I don't know if the strings come from a tinny synth or a quartet in full flourish , I'd like to think the latter.

It still is near the top of my favourite singles. I love the slightly out of tune vocals , the fact that it feels like the band are permanently on the verge of losing control and having the whole thing crash down around them. It always surprises me they get to the end unscathed.

The whole thing is a monday moment , but I guess it all starts with the first rush of those strings , synth or real.

Wylie almost pulled off the trick again a second time a few years later with "Come Back" but seemed to get a bit stuck as the other 2 of the crucial three raced ahead.

As a Postscript I often write posts a couple of weeks in advance and line them up as future posts... Great minds think alike (although my mind is not that great) I notice after I wrote this a couple of days later JC at the wonderful vinyl villian wrote about the same song and he too was stuck by the white silk scarf ! If you havent visited one of the best music blogs going then pop along using the link above

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Sugargliders

Lazy Sunday and top of the pile is a bit of Australian indie whimsy by the Sugargliders.
Once signed by Sarah Records, they are the missing link between Aztec Camera and The Field Mice. What do I like about it , well the ache in the vocals and some guitar that can only be described as lovely

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Singular Sounds W - Womack and Womack

Every now and then someone who I normally wouldn't have come close to buying anything by releases something so good that it just couldn't be ignored.

From it's quasi gospel opening to it's slightly synthy backing and restrained laid back vocals, this is just such a good single. I bought it at a time when the nearest I could come to a soul record was Dexy's Geno!

I must have thought it was a one off as it didn't prompt me to dig any deeper and still is the only track under "Womack" I have.

Listening to it again I don't think it has dated at all!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - The Privileges

I'm going to try and stop being lazy in writing books by American authors centred around a wealthy family. From now on I'm not going to say ".. a bit like Jonathan Franzen's Corrections"!! Although in this case he is quoted on the cover saying "delicious page by page" so you know what you are going to get.
The books follows golden couple Adam and Cynthia as they marry young and climb the social and wealth ladder many rungs at a time. As Cynthia wrestles with meaning, adam stumbles on a universal truth. It is often a dam sight quicker to make lots of money illegally than it is to within the rules. In this case the rules are insider trading.
The book has gained some publicity as highlighting the financial greed that lead to the big collapse. This over simplifies things. At is core is the dilemma of ,when thinking of your children, when does not enough become too much? The book touches on some core relationships, Cynthia and her absent father, with her children and with Adam. What works really well is that although Adam and Cynthia dominate, Dee leaves space for fragments of their children's story to be told.
If you are looking for the easy Hollywood ending of a messy downfall followed by redemption then you should go elsewhere. If there is a message then it probably revolves around the need to quickly focus on those that are closest to you as soon it will be too late.
With that in mind the book is worth getting for the first chapter, which is strong enough to be stand alone short story. It focuses on Adam and Cynthia's wedding , but told through the eyes of a myriad of characters both main and supporting. It really is a great bit of writing that the rest of the book struggles to keep up with

You can buy Privileges by Jonathan Dee here

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Second Time Around part 4 of 4 - Flat Earth

This was another of those lps that the record buyer of Boots in Spalding obviously thought was going to fly out but ended up dominating the markdown bin for the next 6 months. In fairness, it did look likely the debut had built a following and the lead off single Hyperactive (originally written for and turned down by Michael Jackson) had given Thomas Dolby a hit.

I just think this is a gorgeous lp, with the cartoony Hyperactive about the worse thing on it. It was made in the early days of sampling when you got the sense that a lot of bands were playing with sound. Side one is incredibly strong with each of the 3 songs originally planned as singles (the plan was to move form the poppier to the more personal - although listening to them now you knew the record company was never going to go for that idea)

Dissidents sets the tone with sampled typewriters and snippets of a russian radio broadcast.

This was followed by the title track and still I think the best thing he has done. Finally the song I've posted "Screen Kiss". What follows is from the reissue sleeve notes:

"As an impressionable 20 something, i fell in hopelessly in love with an ex Vogue model, joining a long line of unfortunates that she chewed up and spat out. My femme fatale was heavily involved with the film industry which I aspired to break into but many of the other poetic touches were pure fiction. For a while we lived in a house high above Beachwood in Hollywood and there really were deer in the hills. But the abusive screenwriter husband, pill overdoses and golden surfer boys belonged to the same dream state as the ominous weather forecast and piano refrain that close the song "

You can buy the re-issue of Flat Earth with some great bonus stuff here

Monday, 19 July 2010

Monday Moments - The Short Answer

A bit like his own interviewer on "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards" - "mixing pop and politics, he asks me what the use is" I like Billy Bragg when he he is less in preaching to the converted mode and instead singing songs of the heart. His best love/love gone wrong songs come from the time of "Worker's Playtime", written at a time when his personal life was a bit complicated, he started a relationship with the ex wife of his then label boss. Lyrically, every song has has couplets that are as good as anything Paddy McAloon , Elvis Costello or Morrissey were producing at the time.

The Short Answer has has one of the best opening lines ever - "Between Marx and Marzipan in the dictionary there was Mary" - somehow the slightly forced rhyme makes it even better.

My favourite line in a song stuffed full of great ones and this week's monday moment is a place we've all been when

" The boys who came to the shop always made her laugh much more than I did

When I told her this must stop she didn't bat an eyelid

She said you know honey it is such a shame

You'll never be any good at this game

You bruise too easily so said Mary"

Closely followed by

"No amount of poetry can mend this broken heart

but you can put the hoover round if you want to make a start"

But then not forgetting

"Does she still love me

She still has my door key"

His latest stuff is still good but there is something personal and vulnerable in this lp that is now missing

The Short Answer - Billy Bragg

Sunday, 18 July 2010

lazy sunday - the triffids

Every now and then a shuffle throws up a song that couldn't have fitted better. The opening track from the wildly ambitious Triffids final lp "The Black Swan". What do I like about it.. well it captures a hazy lazy summer sunday when everything is just too much of an effort

Too Hot to Move, Too Hot to Think - The Triffids

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Second Time Around - Part 3 of 4 - Spandau Ballet

This one is probably not as controversial as the Teardrop's post as probably a lot of people can't stand either of Spandau Ballet's first or second lp.

I really like this second lp even though it has a lot that just shouts "take the piss". The production was a bit woolly, Tony Hadley was at the peak of his "foghorn" phase and side 2 featured a track which sounded like a Japan reject mixed with the sound of a tap left on.

But in a town of skinheads and mods as well as the odd punk that time forgot, it is easy to forget how different they looked and sounded at the time. Side one is the standard clubby sound but it is with side 2 that things get a bit weird and that is why I love the lp. Long meandering songs "Pharaoh" and "Missionary", "Rio" it certainly wasn't

The record company and band desperate for a hit sent "Instinction" to Trevor Horn to remix to a bright and shiny pop gem and from then on it was the speedy decline to suits and a sound with all the edges planed off to the point of nothingness. Listen to "True" and then "Diamond" and what strikes you is just how rough this lp sounds.. and is it so much better for it

I've posted something from the recent double cd re release, it is one of the extended mixes of "Chant Number 1"

It is hard to believe just how exotic "you go down down past talk of town, down greek street then underground" sounded to someone who lived in a world when the major annual event was a town tulip parade

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Second Time Around Part 2 of 4 - Teardrop Explodes

The buying team at Boots went mad with this one. Spalding branch ended up with so many it filled all of the markdown bin for an eternity, suffering death by 1000 cuts until I bought it for 50p.

Teardrop Explodes first lp had seen 2 big hits, Julian Cope was forever in the music press including Smash Hits. and the lp was full of bright bouncy pop songs. stiffed.

This is probably more controversial than the soft cell post in that "Kilimanjaro" is a great lp. however I just love the fact firstly virtually every song managed to be both interesting and catchy at the same time. I've written before it must hold the record for most "ba ba da da's" as almost every song resorts to them at some point.

It has the amazing hit that never was "Passionate Friend" apparently written when Julian Cope was going out with Mac from the Bunnymen's sister.... just because he knew the lyric would piss him off.

However the clincher is that it has 2 beautiful ballads. The single "Tiny Children" (god knows what the record company were thinking of) and "Great Dominions". The lyrics are nonsense but still manage to seem amazingly deep. It did feel a bit silly singing along to "mummy I've been fighting again"

You can buy Wilder here and on a separate note you can also get Julian Cope's autobiography here which gives an honest and very funny account of how someone out of his head on drugs sex and excess (including not changing his leather trousers once during a tour of the USA) pulled off the trick of being a cuddly smash hits pop star

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Second Time Around part 1 of 4- Soft Cell

Growing up in the fens as I've mentioned before meant buying your records from one of 3 places W H Smiths , Boots and a small Grace Brothers like department store. The department store was a bit of a lucky dip, Smiths was chart and that was about it, however Boots was the gold mine. This goldmine was largely due to the markdown bin. Now I'm not sure what their buying policy was ,local or national but they always seemed to buy shedloads of 2nd lps that were expected to sell loads but died a death. As a result you waited a few weeks and then picked them up for bargain prices.

I'm going to focus on 4 lps that have the fact in common that they all sold way less than expected and yet I like them much better than the respective bands' debut

First up is "The Art of Falling Apart" by Soft Cell. Released on the back of their first 5 singles going top 5 and a worldwide hit in Tainted Love. The record company must have high hopes for the second lp (I'm discounting the remix lp Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing as it blows my pattern!)

What they hadn't counted on was that Marc Almond and Dave Ball had decided they wanted to be artists and not pop stars. In a recent Tv documentary the pair rather wistfully reflected that they came to both realise that making pop music was no bad thing and yet by that time it was all too late as they really had pressed the commercial self destruct button with the 3rd lp "Last Night in Sodom"

I think the lp really belongs to Dave Ball. Gone are the plinky plonky catchy synths to be replaced with a much richer fuller sound. Lyrically Marc Almond transferred the seediness of soho to suburbia which to me, living in new estate land made it seem much more real.

The lead off single gave notice of what to expect , a sombre tale of unhappy home "Where the Heart is", it had the top of the pops fans of "What" scratching their heads. Apparently there was big arguments with the record company who wanted the song I've posted as the first single. For once the record company people I think were right. Lyrically still dark , it bounded along at a fair pace whilst still moving the sound on.

You also got an added 12" single with the lp. One side had a melody of Hendrix covers on and is possibly one of the worst bits of music I own. However the other side had a monster song called "Martin" on , inspired by a little seen horror film. Even if you don't like Soft Cell give it a listen , it is the scariest record ever made. Marc Almond seems to use the "Kill Kill" refrain with a little too much relish

You can buy the cd here that has the added tracks from the 12" on. It is a lost classic from that time and showed that you could make synth music with real depth and feeling

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

ooops - Heaven 17

Oh dear last week here I wrote a blog entry on the wonderful Penthouse and Pavement that had a dodgy link (the perils of confused cut and pasting!). Anyway I've corrected the link which you can find on the original post.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Monday Moments

I've edited this due to a DMCA notice

Often mentioned as part of the curse of the male singer songwriter that followed in the slip stream of David Gray, there was always a lot more to Damian Rice than sad songs with an acoustic guitar. When the lp "O" came out it mixed the simple with the ambitious in a way that made it hard to believe that this was his first lp. There are many monday moments to be found but the one that still sends a shiver down the spine is "Cannonball"

I am a sucker for a repeated chorus where the lyrics change slightly at the end and so my monday moments comes with the last chorus

"Cause it's not hard to fall

and I don't want to scare her

It's not hard to fall

and I don't want to lose

It's not hard to grow old

When you know that you just don't know"

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Beloved

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a sing along summer song from the Beloved. I've previously written that I liked them better when they were an indie guitar band, however this skips along with a catchiness that makes it impossible not to hum along to.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

TV Nights - Heaven 17

BBC 2 have been running strange 80s theme, with a very odd selection of band profiles, one off plays etc. I can only think that who ever was in charge in commissioning the programmes must have been a massive Heaven 17 fan as not one but two programmes were dedicated to the band.

First off was a recording of a concert when they played the whole of Penthouse and Pavement live. As the lp was made when they had taken a conscious decision to only make recordings and videos for a number of the songs it was their first outing.

They'd freshened them up a bit but the main thing that stood out was how good Glen Gregory's voice still is.

What was better was the next programme which was a documentary on the making of the lp. There was some revisionist history (first lp to blend the electronic and dance style bass and guitar, first concept lp of the 80s etc) but right from the first frame that has Glen Gregory ask Phil Oakey who was the better singer you knew this wasn't going to be the usual reverential po faced review. It followed Maritn Ware and Glen Gregory as they revisited locations around Sheffield from the band's history. There were some great moments from a visit to Glen Gregory's parents , filming outside his old house when the current owner comes out to find what is going on, to the more serious stuff of Martin Ware and Phil Oakey going back over when Ware was kicked out of the Human League.

At times you felt like you were intruding on a private reunion a feeling magnified by the use of photos from when they were falling in and out of bands.

Anyway the point of the post, is that it made me dig out the lp again and although not the best of that time , it is still great and sucks me back to a time when pop music meant more than Simon Cowell and karaoke style cover versions.

Apparently a 30th anniversary version of the lp is out soon and they are touring playing the lp as a whole (I'm off to see them in November)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Bigger than the Beatles - Balloon

Every now and then someone comes along, releases one lp and then in JD Salinger mode disappears from view. when the lp is one of stunning beauty it makes the subsequent silence even more baffling. You convince yourself that there must be more and so in older days trawl second hand record shops and now lose yourself in the outer limits of Google in the hope of stumbling upon another release.

One of those bands for me is Balloon who released one lp "Gravity". it was out of its time in that the songs are more in tune with the wistful singer songwriter stuff of the last few years rather than the early 90s when it came out. Comparisons are difficult but there is a sense of melody and craft that you get with Crowded House although the comparison is of feeling rather than sound

The band were a london duo of Ian Bickerton and David Sheppard. The lp was produced by Michael Brook and that is about all I know.
I've yet to meet anyone who has this lp and I'm not sure why on earth I bought it in the first place.
I've posted my 2 favourite tracks but all 10 are magical. The first one is one of those love gone wrong songs I like so much . I've no idea what Tightrope Walker is about but it manages to be soothing and sinister at the same time

"We're taking the blame for all of our faults
I'm calling you names like a parrot that talks
We're running away when we can't walk
We used to believe but not anymore"

Tightrope Walker - Balloon

"trust to my lucky dice , my rusty pocket knife"

The cd still pops up on ebay every now and then and you can get it from Amazon here if you like songs that take the subtle rather than sledgehammer approach then take a punt

If anyone does know if either of the duo went on to do anything else then let me know (it will save me the sporadic google searches)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Singular Sound V - The Vigours

Approaching the end of the singular sounds series and we've reached V. This is the only track I own by a band called the Vigours. I think I must have got it from one of Word magazine's monthly free cds

They have a bit of a classic rock band sound whatever that is ... starting with 70s sounding backing vocals and a great little guitar riff as well as a sing along chorus. The only info I could find on them was form their myspace site which you can find here (there are more tracks to listen to.)

The only things of note are that they have now broken up and once appeared in Hollyoaks.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Monday Moments - Temptation

Back in the days when singles meant something, the only places you could buy them in Spalding were Boots , WH Smiths and strangely a family owned department store (a little like a mini Grace Brothers). The buying policy was a bit odd and most things seemed to end up in the bargain bin for 10p.

One of the things I bought there based purely on the cover (as in true style it was difficult to find any info on either the cover or the label) was "Temptation" by New Order. I'm ashamed to say that at the time i didn't have a clue who they were or what this sounded like (which wasn't resolved the first time I played it as for some reason it was meant to be played at 33rpm rather than 45)

It is still my favourite New Order single helped by the fact that it has a killer chorus.

However my monday moment comes at with "oh you've got green eyes, oh you've got grey eyes oh you've got blue eyes"

Pure Barney nonsense but it didn't stop me singing the refrain as if they were words of genius insight

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Lazy Sunday - George Michael

Oh dear, that is the problem with random shuffle every now and then something embarrassing pops up. I'm sure this will be the only time Georgy Michael appears on cathedrals of sound.

But hey , I like it for its complete slickness, its tastefulness to a fault, its polish , basically everything that I normally can't stand like in music ...perverse

Saturday, 3 July 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - One Day / The Post Office

I think I'm reasonably well read. When ever there is one of those top 100 books ever etc charts I've usually read more than not. However, I've come to the conclusion that I'm a pure populist at heart. I normally have 3 books on the go at the same time and with a quirk of fate this week finished two at the same time . One a cult classic and one a bestseller.

I've resisted reading any Bukowski for ages. The main reason for this is that along with The Road (I'm with Tracey Thorn on this "Me and Saint Jack K never had much to say .....while you are out of your head who is making the bed?") and "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" he used to be endlessly championed by someone I knew at college as having the answer to the secrets of the universe or so it seemed the way he went on about them. This guy was one of those people forever trying to sell you a socialist worker and would define everything by where it fitted into the great class war. My politics are to the left but he was so annoying it was enough to turn you into a Tory.

I'm also a bit suspicious in people whose reputation seems to be built more on how he lived his life rather than anything he wrote and I think Bukowski is one of those (Before reading "The Post Office"I knew his name but couldn't give you the title of any of his books)

So I should have known better. However, 20 years later I've relented and given it a go (The Sunday Times calls it "amazing, hilarious and unfalteringly entertaining" - actually there is another warning sign, books described as "hilarious" in a review). I disliked it immensely. The story follows the life of drunkard and womaniser Henry as lives a hand to mouth existence (apart from a short period when he ends up for a time living with a millionaire's daughter!!??) working as a postman. The structure is fluid either very cleverly as if told through a drunken haze or because it just isn't very good. We see Henry stumble from booze to work , to somebody's bed back to booze, add in a throwaway rape and I'm beginning to think that the reviewer in the Sunday Times and I have a different definition of humour. I know I'm missing the point and that the character is so awful is the point. However i don't think it is brave, experimnetal or revolutionary, just not that well writtenIf you want snapshots of American hope and despair , go to Raymond Carver but avoid the cult of Bukowski

"One Day" on the other hand is a joy, bitter sweet but still a joy. David Nicholl's first book "Starter for 10" which focused on one boy's drive to get on the same university challenge team as his unrequited love was good, but this novel takes it to another level.

The set up is kind of high concept but not that original. We meet Emma and Dexter one day in 1988 when they are both just graduated students and toying with having a one night stand. Emma wanting a cuddle and a relationship , Dexter wanting a shag and a quick exit. For the next 20 chapters we revisit both characters on the same day over the next 20 years. As their voices alternate we learn of their lives together and apart. On a basic level it becomes the classic will they / won't they of "When Harry Met Sally". On a deeper level it is about enduring friendship and love, the slow change from youthfulness to maturity and the twist and turns of everyone's lives, the almosts and the maybes. It is also a great social history of the Blair years.

At the heart you have 2 characters who become as familiar as friends and even as you despair at Dexter's shallowness and Emma's acceptance of second best, you desperately care for both of them. Unlike the Post Office it is genuinely funny and immensely moving. It is chic lit for blokes but ignore the fact that there is a Tony Parsons quote on the cover, this is like or maybe even better than Nick Hornby at his best.

I think one of the reasons I loved this book so much is that I was a student in 1988 and on many levels the paths that Emma and Dexter took felt scarily familiar, like having a version of your life played back to you. Not in the big things that happen but in the small details and emotions that bring a jolt of recognition

The perfect book for ex 40 something students

You can buy "One Day" here

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Life of Live - Aztec Camera

Aztec Camera's "Love" has come in for a fair amount of bashing over the years. I remember when I got it, I was desperate to like it that i really tried to ignore the over production (that has resulted in it sounding in places very dated) and the fact that it seemed as so many lps of the time to be aimed at someplace slap bang in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Listening back it has it's high points. I still love the debut single "Deep and Wide and Tall", Killermont Street is an echo to earlier times, Somewhere in my Heart is a classic radio single and some of the songs shine despite the production.

Live it really came to life, stripped of the over production and played with amazing energy the songs didn't seem like poor relations of the earlier stuff. I remember Roddy Frame really going for it right from the off. The energy was infectious and we were all swept along. It was the first time I'd seen them live and so didn't really appreciate what a gifted guitarist Roddy Frame was or how strong his voice was. Highlights were a never ending version of "All I need is Everything", the pure sing along of "Oblivious", a frantic "This Boy Wonders" and a hint of what "Love" could have been with the simple band version of the following.

Ignore the polish and the shine, it is still a mighty fine song