Saturday, 31 January 2009

Grace Jones at The Roundhouse

Wednesday night saw that force of nature, Hurrican Grace, touch down at The Roundhouse and she blew us away, literally, at the end of the show. A big wow for Grace Jones and her new album, 'Hurricane'.

A mere half an hour after start time, she appeared on stage at the top of a riser making good use of the height of The Roundhouse, with a moody verison of 'Nighclubbing', Grace posing and revelling in the adulation. Down to the stage she came and into the wings for the first of her costume/image changes which she did inbetween every song. She talked to us from the wings, sharing snippets with us about how she desperately needed a suck, how she didn't mean to hit her dresser so early in the evening, and how she's really an alien. I believed. Only a fool would dare not to believe.

Much as I like The Roundhouse, it wasn't right for Grace - the stage wasn't big enough. The massive riser took up much of the stage with the band below it and the front part of the stage taken up with two platforms for Grace to pose on and a massive wind machine. She really needed a bigger stage but gave us a fab show nonetheless.

Highlights were the fabulous 'Williams Blood', and 'This Is' from the new album, 'Demolition Man', 'La Vie En Rose' (in an extra large white top hat and black tails), 'Pull Up To The Bumper' and 'Slave To The Rhythm' during which she proved herself to be the hula-hoop queen by keeping it going throughout the song. There was an astonishing version of 'Love Is The Drug' with Grace on stage with only a green lazer shining on her bowler hat and, like Noddy Holder, she used the hat to fling spears of light around the auditorium. And she finished with a draining version of 'Hurricane' with her cloak billowing out behind her as she staggered to stand against the wind machine as it grew in strength and power, finally blowing her to the ground. A truly magnificent performance.

It was a delight to share in the mad world of Miss Grace Jones for a couple of hours, and some marvellous performances I won't soon forget.

'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at The Novello Theatre

On Thursday night we went to see 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at the Novello Theatre, just off The Strand (the previous name for the theatre). I want to see more Shakesspeare live and this is a play that, oddly I've never seen, so I jumped at the chance of reduced price tickets. I understood the offer as soon as we were seated - the theatre (or at least the dress circle) was less than half full. Is this a result of the recession or the production?

Now, I'd had a bit of a shit day on Thursday, indeed a shit week, so bear that in mind in my review of the production. Also bear in mind that I actually nodded off a couple of times in the latter parts of the first act... sorry, people, I think it was more me than the production that did that...

I approve of the Royal Shakespeare Company (which Chris renamed the Really Silly Company) and their mission to keep Shakespeare alive and played live, not just read. They count really big names and really excellent actors in their extended rosters over the years, but that's no guarantee of the quality of any particular production. And that was one of the flaws of this production - it couldn't quite decide what it was.

I loved the set, a mirrored floor and backdrop with a huge red sun in one corner of the stage that gradually, ever so slowly, became blue as it travelled across the top of the stage as night falls. I loved the millions of small lights that descended from the heavens whenever the fairies appeared for their scenes, swiftly changing from the 'real' world of the half-world of Fairyland. I loved the twittering and movement of the tribe of fairies ruled over by Oberon and Titania, the wicked tricks they played on the humans when they stumble into the woods. I loved Titania sleeping in her bower, a big sickle moon that raised up in the air, and when she flies on the too-too obvious wires, but I forgive that.

I didn't like the humans. The Duke was dire and couldn't control his shuffling, stamping feet. The young lovers couldn't quite decide if they were playing in a yoof programme like 'Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps' or in a comedy or in a stately entertainment. They seemed to be all over the shop. And the rude mechanicals putting on a show for the Duke's wedding got it about half right some of the time and then descended into playing to the lowest common denominator. Bottom was a bit unfunny. The 'Pyramis & Thisby' scene at the end seemed to go on forever with Thisby (obviously played by a man) kissing The Wall's arse - The Wall was played by a bloke in red underpants - and looking up into the circle for the expected laughter from the traditional school group as he coughed and spluttered in feigned shock at what he's just done. Now, I don't have a problem with being coarse - lots of Shakespeare's scenes and language are coarse and funny, but this just smacked of playing to the gallery and schoolboy/girl humour - ooo rude, points and laughs.


Of the fairies, Oberon liked flapping his big coat around and stood there watching the other scenes - he must've been bored. I liked Titania, a statuesque figure in deepest sparkly blue and I thought Puck was excellent, just the right mix of playing a playing a role and knowingly playing to the audience. I also liked his baggy trousers, reminiscent of the swans trousers in Matthew Bourne's 'Swan Lake' (which automatically gets a thumbs up from me). I know the twittering and jabbering of the troop of fairies could get annoying but I liked them. And the myriad of fairy lights every time they appeared.

I'd decided there was a 'Two Pints Of Lager' flavour to the production early on and then, at half time, found out that Kathryn Drysdale (one of the 'Two Pints cast) was playing Hermia. Whether she was cast as a telly name, as a 'Two Pints' person or because of her acting ability, we'll never know. I quite liked her but, in some of the scenes you could almost see her acting the same as she would with the rest of the 'Two Pints' cast.

Overall, I'd say this warrants a wavering thumb - some good bits (thumb up) and some over-long and over-played bits (thumb down). Still, other than being too tired to really appreciate it, I enjoyed it and I'm pleased I've seen it.

Alela Diane - 'White As Diamonds'

A track from Alela's new album, 'To Be Still', due out on 16 February:

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Shame

Yes, it was me, in the second row of the dress circle at the Novello Theatre tonight, nodding off and, well, ok, sleeping. The shame. It's been a long week, with endless meetings and long days and it's taken it's toll.

The madness of Grace Jones last night, the Royal Shakespeare Company's new version of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' tonight and the Buzzcock's tomorrow night. I'm sort of assuming that a few dozen 2 minute fast and furious songs played loudly will keep me awake (you can always trust Les Coq de Buzz for some loudness).

Maybe I'm just getting old and can't do the burning-the-candle-at-both-ends thing?

Yes, I'm blushing even as I type. Now I'm off to bed...

Indigo Girls - New Album

Out of the blue, I've heard that the Indigo Girls are releasing a new album on 24 March called 'Poseidon and The Bitter Bug' with an odd Japanese-inspired cover. I heard about this through the Vanguard mailing list since it seems the lasses have signed to Vanguard for this album.

There'll be a double CD deluxe edition as well as a standard edition of the record. I've no idea when they recorded it since they seem to have been on almost perpetual tour since their last album. Mind you, Amy found the time to release another solo album in the meantime so anything's possible. Watch out for it!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Amanda Fucking Palmer

The delightful Miss Amanda Palmer has promised me a hug if I ask nicely, and I will. She's heading back to London in a couple of days to prepare for her gig with The Danger Ensemble at The Electric Ballroom next week (4 February to be precise). This will be the last opportuniy to see her with the Ensemble for the foreseeable future so scoot on down to Camden for a great night out. I'm looking forward to seeing the show without Amanda having a leg in plaster.

Tour dates for Europe are below and then she heads down to Oz and NZ.

Wednesday 4 February
London, UK
w/ DetektivbyrÄn
Electric Ballroom
TICKETS

Friday 6 February
Paris, France
w/ DetektivbyrÄn
Divan Du Monde
TICKETS

Sunday 8 February
Winterthur, Switzerland
w/ Miss Edith
Gaswerk
TICKETS

Monday 9 February
Fribourg, Switzerland
w/ Miss Edith
Fri-Son
TICKETS

Wednesday 11 February
Toulouse, France
w/ Miss Edith
Bikini
TICKETS

Friday 13 February
Barcelona, Spain
Apolo
TICKETS

Saturday 14 February
Madrid, Spain
Carcol
TICKETS

I wonder if there'll be new merch? I do hope so.

"Let's fold scarves..."

I've just watched the most wonderful 'Romy And Michele's High School Reunion' and re-discovered my inner valley girl. It's one of the most touching feel-good movies ever and I'm more than happy to watch it at any opportunity.

One of the most touching scenes for me is when Michele tells Romy that she didn't realise that high school was bad or that they hadn't been a success in the 10 years since they left school - she thought it had all been a blast. And I agree with her entirely. Conventional wisdom may say one thing but sod that. If you're happy, you're happy.

It's a lovely film and everyone should see it at least once. Anyone for folding scarves?

Monday, 26 January 2009

Taping Records

I had a fun-filled Sunday taping records. I don't know what you call it when you digitise vinyl, so I think of it as taping (yes, I'm old). I got one of those USB turntables a couple of years ago and did lots of taping of the records I had and then forgot about it. I created 'The Complete Jane Aire & The Belvederes' and then proudly blogged about it. After visiting my Dad's house last summer I rescued a small number of records, mainly 45rpm singles from way back when, that deserved to be heard again. Chris brought a load of his old 45s as well and we set about pretending to be engineer and producer in our own little studio.

Zipper - 'The Life Of Riley'

Does anyone remember the fantastically bouncey 'Life Of Riley' by Zipper? I found them in 1979 when I lived in Cardiff although I can't remember how I came across them, maybe through a gig or perhaps just hearing it in a record shop. I liked it and played it lots, a nice slice of punky-pop. The 'B' side was 'Treat Me Right' which is a bit more standard '70s pub-rock, a bit like Dr Feelgood (if you're old enough or well-listened enough to know who they were).

Lori & The Chameleons - 'Touch'

I don't know anything about Lori & The Chameleons (but they have a Last.fm page if you're interested). Another single from 1979 very experimental electronica that I assume I heard on the John Peel show at some point since I can't see it being played anywhere else. Lori talks over a backing track of electronic twiddlings which entranced me at the time. The 'B' side is 'Love On The Ganges' which, before I played it yesterday, I had assumed was the track I liked for some reason. It has a jazzy sound to it, almost electronica-jazz in a way. I think I like the title more than the song itself.

Alela Diane - 'Songs Whistled Through White Teeth'

Three years ago Alela Diane released a six-track 10" vinyl EP which hasn't been released digitally (and I don't suppose it will be). I tracked it down and bought it last year and finally taped it yesterday. Three of the tracks are available digitally but it was nice to finally hear them in a more raw form while Alela was learning her art. The other three tracks also make for interesting listening. Alela's second album is released in a few weeks time so that's something to look forward to.

There's a few for you. It's great discovering old music that you haven't heard for a couple of decades or so and isn't availble (as far as I know) digitally.

I also have my original 'Spiral Scratch' by the Buzzcocks, 'Teenage Kicks' EP by the Undertones and 'Public Image' by Public Image Ltd including the newsprint page that was stuffed in the cover along with the single. I've yet to re-hear 'The Cowboy Song' (the 'B' side to 'Public Image') but I recall it was a nonsense. Let's see if I still think that with the passing of 30 years ...

And So It Begins...

Those latter-day Lords of Noize, Maximo Park, have announced their UK 2009 tour dates and tickets go on sale this week. The tickets will, of course, sell out, so get in early.

Thu 14 May Newcastle - Academy
Fri 15 May Glasgow - Academy
Sat 16 May Liverpool - University
Mon 18 May Southampton - Guildhall
Tue 19 May Birmingham - Academy
Wed 20 May Nottingham - Rock City
Fri 22 May Leeds - Academy
Sat 23 May Manchester - Academy
Sun 24 May Norwich - Uea
Wed 27 May London - Brixton Academy
Thu 28 May Bristol - Academy

Support comes from Noisettes and Stricken City

I'll see you at Brixton!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Siouxsie & The Banshees Remasters

I've just found out today that the next batch of Siouxsie & The Banshees remasters will be released on 6 April: 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, ' Nocturne', 'Hyaena' and 'Tinderbox'.

Ulrika-ka-ka-ka!

Congratulations to Ulrika Jonnson on winning Celebrity Big Brother and I'm pleased she did. The odds were stacked against all the women, with most of them being voted out relatively early, and even LaToya Jackson being evicted on Wednesday, leaving Ulrika and four men in the house. I never understood why Verne was the favourite and it would have been wrong for Coolio to win after his bullying tactics, so I'm pleased the final came down to Terry Christian and Ulrika - I would have been happy for Terry to win as well.

She was plainly being herself, not looking to use the show as a springboard to something else, a little bit bossy, a bit opinionated, but obviously being herself. She didn't spend an age getting her face and hair ready in the morning, choosing what to wear and all that. She's a mother of four and doesn't have the luxury of time. She kept expecting to be voted out and yet there she was tonight, the last one standing, with everyone voted out before her.

Good on ya, Ulrika!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

LaToya

When I saw LaToya Jackson going into the Big Brother house I thought, 'ho hum'. Another Jackson doing something on telly.

But over the last couple of weeks I've decided she's a lovely lady. She's been calm and collected throughout, smiling, didn't bitch (too much) and seems like a genuinely nice person.

Such a shame she left tonight and won't be in the Big Brother final.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Direct.Gov Rip Off

Have you seen the new telly advert for the Direct.Gov site? Direct.Gov is the UK government's website for citizens and you can access lots of useful services through it. For such a powerful webservice it doesn't half have a rubbish advert.

The advert focuses on a dog with an arrow for a head sniffing round. Um, yes, tasteful. My big bugbear is the music - as soon as I heard it it reminded me of Ben Charest's soundtrack to the film 'Belleville Rendezvous', especially the title song - that guitar twang followed by drums is unmistakeable. Whoever wrote that tune - if it wasn't Monsieur Charest - obviously had it mind. Quelle rip-off. I hope M Charest gets the credit and money for it and if not, he should sue.

I'd post the video but I can't find it online anywhere.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Maximo Park 'B Sides' Album?

Rumours are circulating that Maximo Park have a 'B sides' and rare songs album due for release at some point soon. Some sites even have a track listing for it. It seems to be a collection of the various 'B sides' issued with the singles from the last album in all the different formats (CD, vinyl and digital). They did the same thing for the singles from the first album and added a few demos - 'Missing Songs'.

It seems to be going by the name '(I Can't Sleep) Without Music', a song using Paul's voice and words from 'Warehouse' but oddly electro-music from Modeselektor. I can't decide whether it's a real album or just a rumour that keeps being perpetuated (including, now, by me!). I can't help but notice that most of the sites with a track listing include a song called 'Ride Before A Fall' which is clearly just a typo for 'Pride Before A Fall' but no-one seems to notice that, being too busy passing on the rumour.

I hope it's true. I'd buy the record, no question - it'll be worth it to have all the songs in one place. But if it's not released soon then it risks drawing attention away from the real new album of new songs that's due out this year.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Boy George - 15 Months

Boy George was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for falsely imprisoning someone. Whatever the circumstances or reasoning behind it, that is not something to be condoned. But 15 months imprisonment? That smacks of example setting and a 'gotcha' mentality. The news coverage also seems to be enjoying it. It all seems rather distasteful.

George is reported to have said, before Christmas, that despite the trial and worry of it all, last year had been his best for a long time because he'd found his music again. And he did. I saw him live and he was on top form. His single, 'Yes We Can', is one of the best non-hits of the year and in it he sings, 'Please forgive these crimes against myself...'. He's not stupid, but he has bad habits.

I've always preferred George's solo work from the '90s onwards. Culture Club were always a bit too soft for me, but by the '90s he'd toughened up and was writing and delivering some excellent songs. He was a kamikaze queer and challenged thinking. He then wrote 'Taboo' and reinvented the '80s in his own image. We should rejoice in his work.

Prison will either be awful because of who he is or easy because of who he is. I hope it's the latter. I hope he comes out ready to record a new album of great songs. Good luck George.

The Dolls in DC on Inauguration Night

It's all go. Miss Amanda Palmer and Mr Brian Viglione, The Dresden Dolls, are playing a gig in Washington on inauguration night as part of the Obama celebrations. Amanda is a bit excited. So excited she's Obamandified...


Well done Dolls, I wish I could be there.

Sex Pistols MySpace

The Sex Pistols now have their official MySpace page and it features some great live tracks from their gig on the Isle Of Wight last year.

It includes 'Baghdad Was A Gas' (the updating of 'Belsen Was A Gas') and the daft version of 'Pretty Vacant' that they opened the gigs with that explodes into punk power half way through. Also featured are a scary 'Anarchy In The UK' and a vicious version of 'Bodies'. Go on over there and take a listen... or I'll set John on ya! Clicky on the badge.


I wonder if this means there's a live CD in the pipeline? I *hope* so!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

SAHB At The BBC

Something strange is happening in SAHB-land, the land of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. I reported a while ago that a 'new' SAHB album from 1974 would be released in March, 'Hot City, the 1974 Unreleased Album'. Today I've heard that *another* album is to be released in a couple of weeks time, 'Live At The BBC'.

The set list is:



1. Midnight Moses

2. St. Anthony

3. Framed

4. There's No Lights On The Christmas Tree Mother, They're Burning Big Louie Tonight

5. Hole In Her Stocking

6. Dance To The Music

7. The Faith Healer

8. Midnight Moses

9. Gang Bang

10. The Last Of The Teenage Idols

11. Giddy Up A Ding Dong


1. Next

2. The Faith Healer

3. Give My Compliments To The Chef

4. Delilah

5. Boston Tea Party

6. Pick It Up And Kick It

7. Smouldering

I don't know anything about this album other than the title and tracklisting from Amazon, but I suspect it's pulling together various records that have been issued over the last 20-odd years and issuing them in a new format.

It's odd that it's not mentioned on the SAHB site or MySpace. But a new SAHB record is not to be sniffed at!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

'Every Good Boy Deserves A Favour' - National Theatre

My first theatrical outing of the year was to see 'Every Good Boy Deserves a Favour' by Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn (or Mr Preview of old) at The National Theatre. It's a bit of an oddity with an orchestra on stage on a revolving platform that moves the stage round for the main scenes.

It's the tale of a madman with an orchestra in his head and a sane man with political principles who share a room in an asylum in Russia. Both the madness and the politics seem to go a tad too far now and then but it makes for an interesting contrast. It's tightly controlled and almost claustophobic at times despite the big stage. I suppose it's asking who is really sane?

At just over an hour in length it makes for interesting viewing (and you get home easily before the pubs-out hoardes hit the transport system). It's a thoughtful piece but I couldn't help but wonder whether you could write a full-length play about a man with an orchestra in his head...

I also found myself wondering about the children of dissidents in the '50s and '60s and what happened to them? What were their lives like? Did they appreciate the sacrifices of their parents and are proud of them or did they just wish they were at home like the parents of their friends?

I wasn't expecting to see Bronagh Gallagher in the play. I saw her last year in 'War Horse' in the same theatre and, of course, we all saw her in 'The Commitments' and 'Pulp Fiction' decades ago. She's crafted a good career for herself and I was quite impressed with her tonight, walking a tightripe between chilling and comforting as the teacher of the political prisoners' son. She was oh so reasonable and oh so cold. A nice performance.

The Human League - 'Travelogue'

Many years ago, back in the mists of time, I bought a slab of black vinyl called 'Travelogue' by The Human League. It was full of electronic twiddlings and machines and the oddly powerful voice of a young Phil Oakey. I'd never heard anything quite like it and, I think, at that time had only heard 'Being Boiled' on the John Peel Show.

Now, it sounds raw and still a bit unusual, but not that unusual. Back then it was earth-shattering - there was nothing else around like it at the time. These people were experimenting with a new way of making sounds and then stringing those sounds together into song patterns and singing on top of it. It was all very odd.

We've had lots of musical styles and fads since then but how many have been totally new, a sound that seems to have come out of nowhere? I suppose some of the early hibbidy hop stuff falls into that category, some of the stuff from the early '80s. But what since? Answers on a postcard please.

What brought this on? Well, I'm listening to 'Travelogue' that's what. Bow down and worship.

Listen to the voice of Buddha...

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Dresden Dolls Days

Miss Amanda Palmer had a New Years Eve show in New York and guess who joined her on stage? Correct. Mr Brian Viglione joined Amanda on a version of The Cure's 'Inbetween Days' with Amanda on ukele and Brian on bass - The Dresden Dolls again! Big yay!



They have a great big cuddle at the end. I admire Brian's golden trousers (I wonder where I can get a pair of them in a larger size as befitting a man of more portly stature than Mr Viglione....).

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Indy Wins

I missed seeing all the blockbusters on the big screen over the summer so have been catching up on DVD, with Christmas delivering a final haul of DVDs. So here's my five minute review:

Iron Man - I liked it and I think I'll like the sequel even more. As usual with 'first' films, a lot of it is back story and set-up but enjoyable nonetheless. I liked the scene where he learns to fly by trial and error. Thumb up.

Hancock - I liked the superhero, special effects bit of this but got a bit lost by the 'ancient gods/lost memory' thing. Will does good pouting. Thumb wavering.

Narnia - Prince Caspian - I always knew tube trains could take you somewhere exciting and in this film they're a portal to Narnia. Big battle scenes, strange talking creatures, kids as heroes and a big furry lion all spell success. Thumb up.

The Mummy - Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor - great fun, good adventure sequences but it didn't quite grab me. Jet Li wasn't really used very well and Brendan Fraser looks like he's had 'work' done. I'll be happy to see it again but it was a bit disappointing. Thumb wavering.

Indiana Jones And the Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull - mega-wow! This is a blockbuster to be proud of, a solid adventure film with hints and direct references back to the earlier films in the series. And special kudos to Karen Allen for reprising her role as Marion and finally getting her man. Indy is definitely showing the mileage but it would look wrong if he didn't, so well done to Mr Ford. Indy is the master of the extended, indeed lengthy, action scene, where the excitement keeps building and building. I loved it. Two thumbs up. I look forward to the next one!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Buffy To Download

It's nice to see that most of Buffy Sainte-Marie's albums are finally available on iTunes. Until recently, only 'Coincidence' and 'Up Where We Belong' were downloadable. The albums are also available on Amazon's MP3 download service. Neither have her 1970s albums for some reason, or her latest album, 'Running For The Drum'. Now be good and download some Buffy!

Rachel Unthank & The Winterset - 'The Bairns'

I'm a relative latecomer to Rachel Unthank & The Winterset and their marvellous album, 'The Bairns'. I got the album late last year and have been listening to it every now and then. It was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize and one song was even nominated for a Baggie.

Rachel and the lasses are unashamed folk, singing old songs and new in folk stylee, mainly keyboards and strings with powerful vocals. She sings in a Northumbrian accent and uses Northumbrian dialect words and phrasing and I love that, even though it might be a barrier to wider popularity but shows integrity and belief in their work. I approve. I just love hearing some of the words, like 'hinny' (love or lover), 'gannin yem' (going home) and some of the place names. They make a lovely sound.

Many of the songs are melancholic and grey, some are full of joy and all are thoughtful. The beautiful 'Blackbird' with it's cheery piano phrasing and riffing will make your heart burst with the simple joy of living while 'Blue Breezin Blind Drunk' tells the sad tale of marrying for money.

My favourite song is the magnificent 'Fareweel Regality' (by Terry Conway) with fiddle and piano and Rachel's expressive voice. It's a lovely song of loss and moving on and talks of old Hexamshire. I used to be familiar with Hexham, growing up 15 miles or so away from it, a county town of Northumberland, and have fond memories of it. I can't see any reason why I would go back to Hexham so it tugs at the heart strings a bit. The song conjours up a winter evening and leaving the town, your friends and your old life forever. It's beautiful.

"We'll cry farewell Regality
And cry farewell the Liberty

To honest friends' civility
To winter's frost and fire
And there's nowt that I can bid ye
But that peace and love gan with ye
Never mind wherever call the fates
Away from Hexhamshire"

'The Bairns' is their second album so I'll need to track down their first and give it a spin. I can quite understand they won't be to everyone's taste but pop on over to their MySpace site and give them a listen. I'd love to see the lasses play live.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Comanechi - 'Death Of You'

I first came across Comanechi in November 2007 when they supported Siouxsie at The Roundhouse. At the time I blogged:

First up was Comanechi, a girl drummer/boy guitarist duo who, basically, made a lot of noise, walloping those drums and shouting into the mic, but (dare I say it?) they were fabulous! I have seen the future of rock'n'roll and they can almost play their instruments. By the third song I was grinning madly to myself for the joy of that pair being on stage for the hell of it and having fun. I loved them!

In my wanders through the interweb I found this marvellous video of Comanechi singing 'Death Of You'. Give 'em a listen...

Grand Experiment

Ok. I want to blog about the snow today, just like everybody else - well, we get so little snow that it's a bit of excitement, in'it?

But no. I'm going to blog about my latest scientific experiment in my bid to become a Renaissance Man for the 21st Century. I can do science, y'know. Well, actually, I can't, but I don't let that stop me.

On my way home tonight I purchased a magic bracelet, a magnetic copper bracelet, in an attempt to counteract the aches and pains of getting old. And decrepid. And generally falling to bits. I've looked at them before and this evening I thought, 'why not?'. What's to lose by trying it? The back of the packaging states:

For thousands of years it has been claimed that both copper and magnet can improve and stimulate circulation. The combined benefits can alleviate all manner of aches and pains, from sports injury to arthritis to general stiffness. Try a Fortuna Magnetic Copper Bracelet for yourself to experience the immediate benefit.

In smaller letters at the bottom of the packaging it also says:

Please note: This is not a registered medical device and does not make any medical claims. The effects of this bracelet may vary from individual to individual.

Ahem.

Anyway, I'm going to put it on tomorrow morning and see what happens. Keep the faith with me, gentle reader, in my grand experiment and boundless curiosity. I will post my scientific observations at some unspecified future date.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Progressive

Somehow or other (and I'm really not sure how) I caught the new BBC documentary about "progressive rock" or Prog Rock Britannia. I wasn't really paying attention but thought, 'I remember that, let's see what it's all about'. Big mistake.

This is what the punk wars were all about and I'm relieved I came down on the side of good common sense way back in the '70s, spiked up my hair and narrowed my jeans. All the documentary served to do was remind me how hideous these bands were, self-indulgent twaddle by nice middle class men for nice middle class boys. Thank God for the Pistols, Siouxsie, X-Ray Spex, the Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie and all the rest.

What is interesting is that, even as I watched, I was importing my fabulous 'Electric '80s' triple CD onto my laptop to transfer onto my iPod (which somehow I've neglected to do). What's more, I was also downloading the 'Best Of' of David Cassidy & The Partridge Family which I'd found on Amazon for £2.98 which is cheap at half the price for the songs I fancied - happy, smiling pop music.

It struck me as odd that I had these three different musical genres going on in the room at the same time. I'm complex, me.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Records

I've mused before about changing habits when it comes to music and I will, no doubt, do it again. In the olden days you had a big 12" vinyl record in a cover with space for pictures and lyrics and you listened to it at home with the album cover handy to glance over, read, whatever. Then cassettes (remember them?) made music more mobile but the covers held less content. Then CDs which could include slim booklets and now, increasingly, digital downloads with, often, no hard copy of anything.

I have a bookcase full of CDs in my hallway, a couple of dozen 12" and 7" vinyl records for old times sake, loads of burnt CDs for downloads (for some reason I still feel the need for hard copy) and over 90% of my music is held on my laptop (I must get round to copying it to an external drive soon). I sometimes play CDs on my CD player but I use it mainly for radio listening. I listen to music via my iPod or laptop.

That means:

1. I tend not to look at CD sleeves, credits or even the names of songs which means I sometimes don't know what I'm listening to, particularly on shuffle;
2. Playback quality is much reduced and, although I don't really notice it, I assume I'm potentially missing some wonderful sonic moments.

The same thing is happening to films and TV programmes. Once you could only see films in the cinema, then, a few years later, they turned up on telly, followed by owning them on videotape and now DVDs appear a few months after cinema release. And you can get mobile DVD players so you can watch your films or telly shows wherever you want. Books are, at least, still books and in broadly the same format as they've been for centuries, but for how much longer?

Does any of this really matter? Probably not. Business changes and so do our consumer habits. I find it a bit odd talking about music as if it's like cornflakes but I suppose that's what it is. Or at least that's what some of it is. We've had music in our lives for millennia, it means something, it can take us out of ourselves and be something to treasure. That's why I still have some vinyl records despite not having a proper record player - I treasure those records and still have my first ever record, 'Lola' by The Kinks. I suppose that's also why I still buy hard copy CDs even though I rarely play them or look at the booklet. I like the physicality of them despite listening, almost exclusively, digitally. When I download an album I'll burn it and make a cover for it, which is even odder since it's then just filed away and not looked at again. But I still do it.

It's sad that record shops are closing. I enjoy browsing among the CDs in the big Oxford Street branch of HMV - you never know what you might find, old records being released on CD or new bands just emerging. I browse round MySpace but it's not the same thing. No, it's not the same thing at all. Whatever next?