Monday, 30 January 2012

Misery Monday - Boo Radleys Wilder

This week's misery monday comes from the Boo Radley's breakthrough lp.  Not the radio chirpy style of Wake up Boo but one of those personal songs where you almost feel like you are intruding on a private conversation, where it becomes apparent that 2 partners want different things and you kind of know that whatever the outcome it will change the relationship and maybe not for the better

Against a gorgeous bit of piano Martin Carr explains why he has to move to London. Sice's sorrowful soft vocal is a perfect fit for the lyric

Could I get much colder
To live somewhere else
In my head and in my heart
Is it to much to forgive

And if I were much wiser
Maybe I would realise
That it's not where you are
It's who you're with

But maybe it's brighter down there
Maybe it's wilder
Maybe it's brighter down there
Maybe it's wilder

You have seen the worst of me
For that I'm truly sorry
It's not you, it's this place
And not knowing where to turn

Maybe I would be sorry
But I need to find out
I know you don't understand
I can't blame you for that

But maybe it's brighter down there
Maybe it's wilder
maybe it's brighter down there
Maybe it's wilder

Even the weird meandering over the top ending and the final ringing bell somehow fits

Wilder - The Boo Radleys

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Lazy Sunday Hipsway

Lazy sunday and this week top of the shuffle pile is a superior bit of blue eyed boy soul from Hipsway. I still think Graham Skinner can croon with the best of them

Forbidden - Hipsway

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Life of Live - The Fleadh

Before music promoters discovered the idea for family and middle aged festivals that have now popped up all over the place , there was the Fleadh. The laid back atmosphere and the type of bands that featured meant that whilst not exactly family friendly it did attract a wider range of music fans quite a few seemed to also bring their kids along.

What started as an Irish music festival had broadened out the bill by the time I started going so that in recent years Crowded House and the Beautiful South has headlined rather than the likes of Van Morrison. You still got to see a load of up and coming Irish bands some more traditional than others, however the main attraction of going the first time was to see James , Mike Scott of the Waterboys and World Party. Although small (one outdoor and one tented stage) the quality of acts meant that throughout the day I wanted to be in 2 places at once ( I think James pipped Billy Bragg after much soul searching)

Seeing World Party was a real thrill as they hadn't played live for ages, partly due to a serious illness that Karl Wallinger had suffered, and being on the tented stage meant I could get down to the front (I'm too much of a wimp to attempt this with the main stage!)

They played a set made up of singles and despite horrendous technical issues they didn't disappoint.

I was less sure of Mike Scott as his solo material hadn't really caught my imagination like the Waterboys did. However he had Ian Mcnabb on bass and Anthony Thistlewaite back in the band and treated us to a greatest hits set. I kind of hoped in the giddy excitement that Karl Wallinger would get invited on stage and a full blown reunion would occur leading to a new waterboys lp. Having since read more of what the 2 have had to say about each other I should have guessed this was never going to happen (I still wonder if they took a sneaky look at each other's set)

I've posted The Mike Scott solo track that would've fitted right in on a follow up to This is the Sea lp if the fiddles hadn't taken over

Love Anyway - Mike Scott

Friday, 27 January 2012

Destined to remain a cult? - Felt

Lawrence , former lead singer of Felt and Denim and now of Go Kart Mozart is one of the pop world's true eccentrics . I love the neatness of his goal with Felt , which he stuck to of 10 singles , 10 lps in 10 years and then split up. I love his obsession with hair and cryptic unwieldy song titles. I love the fact that what must be 30 yrs in the music business and he is still searching for that elusive breakthrough to stardom, but most of all I love his way with a catchy tune.

For the last 3 years filmmaker Paul Kelly followed Lawrence around putting together a film portrait of the man and his mind. The result is Lawrence of Belgravia. The film follows a period of Lawrence's life for times he is effectively homeless living in hostels, however the lows are dealt with swiftly and the focus instead is on what makes Lawrence tick which is a much more interesting place to be

At the start of the film Lawrence moves into a new flat having been evicted , and struggles with the concept painting the walls with the life of a pop star, something he wonders if Lou Reed ever had to do.

It is that contrast of optimistic dreams of pop stardom with the grind of everyday life that is at the core of the film

The Quietus have an interview with Lawrence about the film here and there is a review in the Guardian here
You can see Paul and Lawrence being interviewed about the film here

There is a great website about Lawrence and all his bands here

I've no idea where you can see the film or if it will go on general release. If not hopefully it will be picked up by channel 4 or get a dvd release

In the meantime here are Felt at their jangly best

Rain of Crystal Spires - Felt

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Not Another Singer Songwriter - Ally Kerr

Not sure how I've missed Ally Kerr especially as he ticks 3 ofthe boxes on my list of music I like.. by 
A) being Scottish
B) being a singer songwriter
C) being compared to Belle and Sebastian

It took an appearance on a great compilation cd sent to me that got me finding out more

He has released 2 lps with a 3rd on the way. Both Off the Radar and Calling out to You are full of sweetly sung , deceptively simple , addictively catchy pop songs.

I get the Belle and Sebastian comparisons but if anything he reminds me more of The Hit Parade who I've written about a few times on the blog.

Lie a crispy creme doughnut to much of Ally in one go could leave you with a strange hankering for some death metal but each lp on its own gives you 40 mins of humming along with a smile on your face... although the pretty tune do hide a bite in the lyrics.

I've posted one of the more reflective tracks from the 2nd lp

You can buy both lps signed by Ally here at his website and they are both as good as each other

Finally here is the video for the gorgeous  There's a World

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

My Indie Past - Weather Prophets

Formed by main man Peter Astor after the messy break up of early Creation signings The Loft (also taking one of the Lofts best songs with them in Why Does the rain), big things were expected of the Weather Prophets who hit the sweet spot of thoughtful lyrics and jangly guitars.

As a result Alan McGee who managed the band got them signed after some early singles on Creation to a major label off shoot. The resulting lp Mayflower didn't quite really take off and the band were eventually dropped.

Peter Astor went on to have a still going strong solo career , including recording under the name Wisdom of Harry.

Short lived maybe but they left behind this  glorious bit of jangly pop that takes me back to being at poly in leeds and trawling the racks of Jumbo records searching for the next jangletastic tune (the heady days of student grants)

You can find a fuller biog here. I think Mayflower is now one of those lost lps that goes for silly money on ebay however there is a compilation of the Creation material that you can get here  

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

I'm not being rude hnest!

One of the biggest things i enjoy about writing this blog is when people take the time to leave comments. With this in mind I try and reply to each one quickly.

For some reason Blogger is stopping me from leaving comments on my own blog where someone else has already left a comment ie it makes replying impossible. The blogger forums suggest it is a problem with Internet Explorer and Blogger and that their engineers know about it (the cynic in me thinks that it wont be top of the fix pile as it may encourage people to move to Google's Chrome)

So thanks for all the comments , I'm not ignoring them honest. Hopefully it will get fixed soon and I can catch up.

In the meantime - can I echo Trev's thanks on the tip off from Jay re the ex lead singer of Semisonic's solo lp, tell Echo I also saw EBTG on the Walking Wounded tour and especially thank Drew for his comment re his son which really struck a chord with me

Thanks again and please keep up letting me know your thoughts and listening recommendations

If you like Talk Talk then ...........

Among all the you have just won £1 million on the lottery and My name is Martika and I want to be your friend emails, I got sent a request from Toby Benjamin who is working on a book on Talk Talk with James Marsh who used to design all their distinctive lp and single covers.

It sounds like it will be a real labour of love

Celebrated illustrator, and Talk Talk cover artist, James Marsh has remastered and chronicled all of the iconic artwork that he produced for the band throughout their 10 year reign in the 80’s. The book will feature James’ original cover concept sketches, hand written lyrics from Mark Hollis, as well as various ephemera, posters, and related items of interest to fans. There will also be lovely unseen photos of the band from 3 sessions with photographer Richard Haughton.
Renowned rock music writer and enormous Talk Talk fan Chris Roberts is writing the main essay and there are also 80 written contributions from bands, label owners, DJs and creatives, all of whom have been inspired or influenced by the music and art of Talk Talk

Among those contributing will be Guy Harvey , Karl Hyde , Sir Peter Blake , Nick McCabe from the Verve , Richard Wright from Pink Floyd, The The's Matt Johnson and as they say many many more.

A website has been set up to get people to register their interest I guess in the hope of getting a decent publishing deal.

The website is here so if you have an interest in the band and their lasting legacy then pop along and register (all this does is keep you up to date with the project's progress

You can buy a lot of James Marsh designs for talk Talk on t shirts and mugs etc here

Finally as a reminder about how good they were

Monday, 23 January 2012

Misery Monday - Semisonic

On my first trip to the states, me and the wife to be drove for 3 weeks around California scanning the airwaves listening to American Radio. One band Semisonic were on what seemed like every station every hour with their track Closing Time. Beaten into submission we bought the lp at a stop off. Overall it is pretty straightforward catchy pop/rock songs that seemed like they were made for the radio.

The last track though combined some Beatley strings with a tale of letting love slip away

Gone to the Movies - Semisonic

Now the rain comes down the windows and it
Drops onto the forehead of the waiting boy
He surveys his rental kingdom and he
Wonders if he's really lost his joy

Another fool would go down to the
Only place she went to lose herself
She's gone to the movies now and she don't need your help

Now the rain turns into snowfall as the
City sky reflects the silver street below
And it covers up the cars and the Wall-
Flowers cd ended half an hour ago

Another fool would dig the broken car out from the snow
And drive to find the show
She's gone to the movies now and she's not coming home
She's gone to the movies now and she's not coming home

Now he looks around his place and anyways
There's nowhere she could sit besides the bed
And he wonders if the car will start tomorrow
Or he'll have to take the bus instead

Any other fool would be out on the roadway
Trying to spot her rusted Pontiac
She's gone to the movies now and she's not coming back

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Lazy Sunday - The Fixx

Lazy Sunday and this week's top of the shuffle pile is from one of those British bands who were "bigger in america"

I just like the fact that everything about this is so gloriously early 80s

Shuttered Room - The Fixx

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Come on home - Tracey Thorn

I've featured Everything But the Girl a couple of times on Life of Live and with the release of 2 recent fantastic solo lps I was hoping maybe Tracey Thorn would be venturing out again. Alas that doesn't seem to be the case, however she has kind of filmed a mini concert in the luxury of her own living room. (well at home anyway) Follow the link to her website here and if you scroll down the right hand sidebar you'll come to the 3 tracks and fall in love with that voice again.

 To complete the set go here to read a interview with Tracey that she gave on the release of Love and Its Opposite

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Life of Live - James

The next James concert was once the lp Whiplash had been released. the whole lp is a patchy affair, giving them one of their biggest hits in She's a Star , a track that would continue to be a Live favourite in Tomorrow , but also some techno tinged stuff that didn't really work. At pints it felt like too many cooks with some much going on that the songs didn't have space to breathe. I think it is summed up by the fact that a version of the best track Tomorrow had already appeared on the experimental wah wah lp released just after Laid.

The concert sticks in the mind for the fact Tim Booth came on in a strange long haired mask doing his manic dancing throughout a very long intro to I think Come Home. the fact that he wore the mask on the back of his head meant that as he twisted and twirled he was literally two faced. when he finally whipped it off a big cheer went up for for his new head shaved look. Oh to be a pop star where simply being bald creates hysteria!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Life of Live - Echo and the Bunnymen

Despite being a big fan I only got to see the Bunnymen play live when they toured their "comeback" lp Evergreen. The lead off single Nothing Lasts Forever was a magnificent comeback with Mac's voice at its world weary best. I don't play the rest of the lp much these days as nothing could quite reach the dizzy heights of that single.

The lp was quite a lush affair and I thought that would be replicated in the concert. Instead the guitars were turned up , the dry ice pumped out and what we got was a blisteringly loud rock out as the band galloped through the best of their back catalogue

One of the best tracks was from Porcupine

Heads will Roll - Echo and the Bunnymen

I was tempted to go and see the recent Ocean Rain concerts but having read some of the blog reviews I'm glad I missed them and can remember the ultimate could have been contenders band as they were on that Shepherd's Bush night

Monday, 16 January 2012

Misery Monday part 10/26 - Lovetrain

Misery Monday continues the Dear John theme. This time from short lived band Lovetrain who mined the Deacon Blue , Big Dish seam of polished guitar pop. I've posted this track before but it is good enough for a second outing

This one has the kiss off given to someone who can't let go

Can't you leave the past behind
There are better things to think about
The torch you carry should have burnt out long ago

No you never cross my mind
And I don't have time to to talk about
Some good old days that took an age to gain their rosy glow.

But the killer for me comes at the end

No you never cross my mind
Except about this time of year
When trees are bare and Autumn rain falls down like tears

Torch You Carry - Lovetrain

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Lazy Sunday - Talking Heads

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from Talking Heads final lp Naked. Not the strongest track from a bit of an under appreciated lp, but I like the manic drumming

Ruby Dear - Talking Heads

Saturday, 14 January 2012

My indie Past - Perfume

Another everyone has a great single in them indie band. In the mid 90s I went through a phase of buying a lot of vinyl singles (some kind of sad little personal crusade against the over priced cd singles). The singles were often form indie bands and were bought on the strength of a review or recommendation.

One of the best was by Perfurne who had formed from the ashes of Blab Happy. Lover was their third single and benefited form a killer chorus. I bought the subsequent cd but have lost it somewhere among various house moves, although the fact that I've not sought it out suggests I thought Lover was thee best things on it. The band called it a day in 1997.

Friday, 13 January 2012

places to visit follow up

A quick update on the recent places to visit I did last week as I missed a couple of great blogs off

First up is a relatively new blog only a month old but already 20 + posts! What you get is a fantastic eclectic mix of music. You can find Turn Your Record Player On here . As I said it is early days so go and visit and leave a comment, it is setting itself up to be a great blog

Finding this blog then took me to Slam and Dive which has some hard to find stuff of a mainly indie post punk variety

Thursday, 12 January 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - Drood by Dan Simmons

I think Drood by Dan Simmons is one of the most frustrating books I've read in a while, especially as it starts so promisingly. It is a strong concept,  mixing fact and fiction , our narrator is Wilkie Collins (author of the Moonstone and Woman in White) who takes us on a journey with his friend and literary rival Charles Dickens, into the Victorian London underworld a land of poverty, crime, opium addiction, hypnotism, cults, serial killers,murder, the supernatural and madness. As you'd expect from the author of the Moonstone, his tale is told in a high gothic style.

When Charles Dickens , at the peak of his powers, is caught is a train crash, he is one of the few unscathed and in dealing with the dying and injured he comes across the shadowy Drood , devoid of lips and eyelids and dressed in top hat and dark cape, he instils in Dickens a sense of dread. Dickens enlists the help of his friend Collins to track down the elusive Drood which soon turns into an obsession that seems to take over Dickens's soul. Collins at first is a reluctant helper, but slowly he gets sucked further and further into Drood's world that slowly the obsession becomes his own, an obsession that is born form an almost Salieri like jealousy of Dickens

Simmons has made Collins a fascinating narrator, pompous, arrogant and self inflated , he shows all the qualities and traits that he uses to justify his growing hatred of his best best friend. The changing relationship between Dickens and Collins, as professional rivalry becomes something much darker, is well handled and the passages with the just the 2 of them are among the best in the book

Simmons manages to build a great sense of foreboding and populates his book with a cast of grotesque characters that would have fitted in perfectly to a Dickens novel. However, this constant building of dread is difficult to pull off over 800 pages and as a result the middle part if the novel drags so that by the time the ending comes there is a sense of that it?

What starts as part of Collins character but ends with the plot tied in knots is how unreliable a narrator Collins proves to be. With his imagination , his physical illnesses , his opium addiction and his mental instability time and time again you aren't sure if what has happened is real or simply in Collin's fevered head. No doubt there are clues a plenty and a couple of solutions are offered , but by the end I was past caring.

Apparently Guillermo Del Toro has the film rights. I think he needs to make a decision , is this the ramblings of a bitter , drug addicted novelist of a visit to the gothic heart of evil as 800 pages of guessing gets a tad tiresome. What is frustrating is that there is a sneaky feeling that if I re read it a lot would become clearer , but life's too short

What could have been a great 400 page novel was an 800 page bit of a mess

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Life of Live - James

I am beginning to struggle now to remember which  tour is which as the James concerts start to come thick and fast.

i think this one was a pre tour to Whiplash. I remember that Tim Booth mentioned when they played a number of new songs (that would later feature on the lp) that Brian Eno was in the audience to give the new songs a listen before the recording process started. We all came away convinced the new lp would be a killer. Which shows how things can change in recording as although it has some killer songs, overall I think it is their weakest lp to date. There was a bit of a flirtation with techno and overall the lp had a much more electronic feel.

Reading Stuart Maconies excellent history of the band , it does seem that recording was a bit fraught, with one or two band members fighting hard to keep the band together and getting the LP made through a shear force of will  

I've not posted any tracks form the LP s I'll do that when I cover the tour that followed its release. Instead here are 3 b sides from the time

Van Gogh's Dog feels like the seed of one of those pretty tunes that Jame usually finish lps with

Chunney Chops built around a repeating riff feels like something born from a jam

Gone to Far follows a manic electronic rhythm

Monday, 9 January 2012

Misery Monday - Billy Bragg

Misery Monday and this week is a bit of a repeat. It's a track that featured on about my 4th post when I think I only had a couple of readers (and one of those was probably looking for organ recitals). It fits the bill because I can never hear it without getting something stuck in my eye.

a simple tribute by Billy Bragg to his father who died when he was young. The imagery is so powerful for its simplicity while a repeated piano refrain pulls both the song along and the emotional chords

It is always at the same part when if I'm singing along in the car my voice gets a tad croaky.

I offer up to you this tribute
I offer up to you this tank park salute

I guess it just tunes into a generation thing. I gets me thinking about my own dad and my son and how we will all cope with the inevitable. It comes from the third lp of for me Billy Bragg's purple patch of  Talking to the Taxman, Workers Playtime and Don't Try This at Home.

For all the politics these 3 lps have some of the best falling in and out of love and relationships songs going

Tank Park Salute - Billy Bragg

Kiss me goodnight and say my prayers
Leave the light on at the top of the stairs
Tell me the names of the stars up in the sky
A tree taps on the window pane
That feeling smothers me again
Daddy is it true that we all have to die

At the top of the stairs
Is darkness

I closed my eyes and when I looked
Your name was in the memorial book
And what had become of all the things we planned
I accepted the commiserations
Of all your friends and your relations
But there's some things I still don't understand

You were so tall
How could you fall?

Some photographs of a summer's day
A little boys lifetime away
Is all I've left of everything we've done
Like a pale moon in a sunny sky
Death gazes down as I pass by
To remind me that I'm but my father's son

I offer up to you
This tribute
I offer up to you
This tank park salute

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Lazy Sunday - Dream Academy

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is the final track from the Dream Academy's debut lp. Has a neat echo of Life in a Nothern Town. Hard to think it, but the largely acoustic style with strings did feel a bit different at the time

you may dance with him all night long
live your romance out in a popular song

The Party - Dream Academy

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Ahk-toong Bay-bi - follow up

Before Christmas I did a strange covers posting that featured the Achtung Baby tribute cd, featuring the songs of that lp covered by a variety of artists. I got may copy with Q magazine however you can buy the full lp from itunes here

It is priced at 6.99 not (sure if pounds or euros). Better still the proceeds of the sale go to Concern Worldwide charity who are working to tackle the urban food crisis in East Africa

Even if you don't like U2 or the bands that cover the tracks then pay a visit to Concern Worldwide's website  here to see the good work they are doing and make a donation. If you downloaded a copy of So Cruel which is the track I posted (and is still up) then why not make a donation direct to the Concern site

Places to visit

Thought I'd give a mention to a few of the blogs I've been visiting, apart from the usual ones in the sidebar all of which remain as good as ever.

First up is Side room singles. When you only post once or twice a month they had better be good ones. This Australian bog is basically a trawl through the authors 7 inch singles posted 10 at a time in the order that the are piled up . It makes for some great mixtures. Not sure how long / many more singles they have to go but it is worth going back over the archive - even if just to see the covers

Next up is the glorious Waiting for the Night Boat that has some classic 12 inch singles from the 80s

Sunset on Slawit has another blog on the go - The Mixtape blog which kind of does what it says on the tin ie the posts make up one endless mix tape of loosely themed songs

For those who want more insightful book reviews than I could ever do the you should visit Seamus's blog here. The blog features the challenge of reading 100 books in a year (2011). Although I hope he keeps going this year now I've given a link!

Scott Pack is a publisher who also runs a blog that is good for picking up on titles that can slip under the radar and he is found at Me and My Big Mouth

For all things indie go to the This River Will Never Run Dry, it uses indie in its loosest definition and features some great and unusual stuff.

Finally for a complete nostalgia trip go to Like Punk Never Happened where you can view complete issues of Smash Hits (currently up to early 1982) Be warned once you start you won't be able to stop

Friday, 6 January 2012

Pining for Glasgow

Sometimes I do miss living in Glasgow and now is one of those times. Not only are  Love and Money playing a gig to preview their new lp but I've just found out that for 1 night only Big Dish are reforming to play a selection from their 3 lps.

I first saw the band in Leeds Poly Becketts Park band night. Becketts park was where the halls of residence are for the poly and every tues they used to have a band play to a load of people more interested in drinking as much cheap beer as possible than listening to a band play(not the best audience)

The first week on my first year it was the Big Dish who kept everyone hooked and went down so well that they eventually ran out of songs and had to replay part of their set. For future Tuesdays that was a good as it got.

Anyway Jan the 21st will see the band play their one off gig as part of the Celtic Connections festival at the ABC in Glasgow. You can get tickets here   and if you do get a ticket then I'm immensely jealous

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Strange Covers - Japan

From The Quiet Life lp where Japan moved away from the glamish rock sound and look of the first 2 lps and settled on a sleazy Roxy Music sound.

In the days pre internet you forget about how difficult it was to find out about bands the copy of the Book of British Hit Singles in Smiths ,which at times we treated abit like the local library, was well thumbed by me and my friends trying to find out about a band.  This was mainly through bands either mentioning inspirations or songs they covered.

I'd never heard the Velvet Underground before (I did grow up in the fens!) until I heard this cover and ended up buying their Loaded lp second hand (probably not the best starting point). I played it a couple of times and decided to stick with Japan!

That probably sums up my music taste - I often like the pale imitation rather than the real thing (same thing happened with Echo and the Bunnymen and the Doors , Teardrop explodes and Love)

All Tomorrow's Parties - Japan

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Life of Live - Boo Hewerdine

We are noew entering a phase of Life of Live when I started to take much fewer risks in concert going and started to see the same people time and time again (At one point we saw Boo Hewerdine so many times that at one point my wife did wonder if it classed as stalking). As a result concerts tend to blur into one another.

I'm guessing this one for Boo Hewerdine was part of touring his 3rd lp Thanksgiving. This lp marked a move towards a quieter more reflective sound. I cant remember too much about the concert except that this track was one of the highlights. A great kitchen sink drama of a relationship lyric matched by Eddi Reader's outro vocal

Murder in the Dark - Boo Hewerdine

And I know a game
Two of us can play
And there are no rules
You'd break them anyway
When I reach for you
And you turn away
That's murder in the dark

If you want to buy Thanksgiving and I heartily recommned you do , then you can get it direct from Boo's website here

Monday, 2 January 2012

Misery Monday Part 8 - Kirsty Macoll

Misery Monday this week comes from Kirsty Macoll's Titanic Days , sometimes referred to as her divorce lp.

It was written (with  Mark Nevin) and recorded during the break up of her marriage to Steve Lillywhite who was at the time also her producer.

A song so personal that at the time Kirsty couldn't bring herself to include it on the lp and gave it to Eddi Reader instead.

A lyric devastating in its simplicity, it eventually surfaced on the 2 disc re release

Oh dear John
I hate to be the one to break the news
But it's concerning me and you
This is the letter no-one ever wants to write
You may not believe me but it's the hardest thing I've ever done
My eyes see other glories
Other dreams and other stories
And I want to live before I die

Dear John
Ten years on
I still dream and we still hesitate
The passion's all but gone

Oh dear John
Seems we have a bad day every day
I want to sleep my life away
This is the letter no-one ever wants to read
And though it hurts like hell
It may be what you need to tell you
I never wanted to be cruel
But I'm so tired of being the strong one
And I don't always have the energy
And you always leave it up to me
Dear John

My eyes have seen the glory
There's more to life than my life story
And I'll probably never find him
But I have to keep on looking
And I'm very very sorry dear John

Dear John - Kirsty Macoll

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A year in books 2011 - Stone's Fall - Iain Pears

Although it is now 2012,  this is the last book I finished in 2011.

I'd only read one of Iain Pear's previous novels , The Instance of the Fingerpost took the historical murder mystery to a new place in that over the witness accounts of 4 different characters the mystery of what is truth gradually emerges. It was such a clever device and so well executed I felt that anything that came after would be a bit of a let down.

I relented when I was given a copy of Stone's Fall as a present and I wish I'd done so earlier! The  novel is split into 3 parts. Part one starts in 1909 with industrialist John Stone falling to his death from an open window. His widow hires a reporter to explore a strange clause in the will. As the journalist starts to dig deeper into Stone's empire, he becomes entangled in both industrial espionage and his own growing obsession with his employer , Stone's widow, Elizabeth

Part 2 is told in the form of a letter to the now retired journalist and takes the action back 20 years to Paris when Stone first met Elizabeth. The writer of the letter works in finance but is recruited into the foreign office as a kind of early spy. He learns of a plot to financially ruin London and so begins a frantic diplomatic mission to overt the crisis. In this section we learn more of Elizabeth's background.

For the final part John Stone , who up to this point has remained in the back ground, moves to centre stage. The action this time is set in a hypnotic Venice in the 1860s. At first this feels like the most stand alone of the sections. The links to what is to come aren't obvious although we learn about the seeds of his empire and about Stone direct from himself, rather than the often conflictive impressions of others.

If this was simply a life told at 3 points in time then that would have been enough as the book is so skilfully written. The section on Venice and Paris capture a sense of time when abroad did mean a foreign country.The dull worlds of industry and finance are described in the same way as the world of spies and espionage. The echoes with the current financial woes are obvious but add an extra depth

The ending though is the killer. As I mentioned the 3rd part seems more self contained so when the link back to Stone's eventual death arrives it is a stunning blow purely because it is so neatly and beautifully crafted, so devastatingly simple but far from obvious. It is the kind of ending that leaves you completely satisfied and wanting the start the whole book again

Happy New Year

Happy new year to anyone who pops by now and then and especially to those of you who leave comments or drop me a line from time to time

I hope 2012 is your best year yet