Tuesday, October 31, 2006

As Keane as mustard (laced with coke)

This may be a slightly delayed response to the vase-shattering news that Tom the singer boy out of Keane has come out of rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, but what the hell.

Whilst lounging beneath a large oak amid a forceful gale of tumult and wind today, it struck me. No not the oak... a thought. If it's a widely acknowledged premise that alot of the best music ever made was done so under the influence of addictive chemical substances, helping mad genii to unfurl their deepest and innermost creative juices in order to pen a masterpiece, then can you imagine what Keane's songs would've sounded like without the drugs?

Christ's feet. What is that stuff he's snorting... Persil? He needs to find himself a better dealer.

Pretty psychedelic

The Sun: "KEANE frontman TOM CHAPLIN says rehab in a clinic for cocaine and alcohol addiction was “like walking to the edge of a cliff and looking into the abyss.”

He should try having to stifle a yawn as the endless procession of non-descript, formulaic verse-chorus thigh-wobbling audio tripe for which he is to blame pierces the airwaves for not the fourteenth, nor the fifteenth, but the umpteenth (count them) time in my day. That's bloody worse than looking into the abyss you cheeky arse. In fact it's like lying in your own piss.

Which isn't to be recommended.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ski Thursday

I've never been one for extreme sports, but next February I'm going on one of those things where people go to a mountain range for a week or so and prance about on a load of snow with planks stuck to their feet. A ski holiday, I think they call it.

So it was with a mixture of intrigue and total trepidation that I approached my three hour beginners' ski class on Thursday night at Xscape in Castleford. A real snow slope contained within a very sinister looking building off the M62. I had concerns: would I be a natural skiier? Would my lean, athletic figure lend itself to skiing what with my haywire centre of gravity and flailing limb tendencies? And what in the Lord's name would I look like in a skisuit?

The lesson started off very shakily as I had trouble perfecting the art of walking with skis on. And then it all went a bit crazy when we were told to sidestep up a small slope and then slide back down it. On my second go at this I was involved in a very near human-disaster as I lost control and came down the hill at quite some speed. Or at least what felt like quite some speed to me. The added problem was that this was before we'd been told how to stop, or even slow down. Suddenly I found myself hurtling towards a group of newly arrived beginners all standing still at the bottom of the slope. A few yards to their right was another smaller group of fresh skiing convicts. The outcome of this situation was in the lap of the Ski Gods.

To make it simpler, here's a few diagrams of the event.

The sid-uation:

The task:

The near carnage:

Somehow I went through a gap of about 3 yards and avoided both groups of real people. It could've been quite a horrific situation if I'd gone into them. In the end, I was comparitively delighted to plough into the safety netting and get all tangled up in an embarrassing manner.

At that point, it must be confessed , my skiing future looked grim. But thankfully, from then on I gradually got better and ended up passing the Level 1 and Level 2 markers. By the end of the three hours I was slaloming down a hill and stopping at will. I was fabulous, you would've adored me.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Boro doon the Toon

It's a joyous evening in this neck of the woods following Boro's hard-fought triumph over the Geordies this afternoon. And about time too. We generally seem to make hard work of our home games against them, but today our cut and thrust eventually paid off for Yak's late foreheaded winner.

I'm off to bathe myself in a celebratory vat of Schloer for the evening.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Going solo with JDB

Photo by Toby Price.

Sometimes you feel slightly duty bound to go to certain things, and James Dean Bradfield's solo tour was such an event. It was a bit strange making my way to the gig last night without really feeling any excitement about seeing one of my last remaining heroes live, and in a venue a fraction of the size of places I'd previously been able to see the Manics. This state of apathy was mainly due to JDB's solo album being pretty average fare, and I was a bit worried the gig might be a damp squib. But it's JDB - I had to go.

As it happened, James was in fine fettle and the gig hit the spot. Although his solo songs don't really mean anything to me - not steeped in history or nostalgia like the Manics' back-catalogue - they took on a new lease of life live. But still, the obvious highlights were the Manics treats... From Despair To Where, This Is Yesterday, A Design For Life, Ocean Spray and most of all the spine-tingling closer No Surface All Feeling. I'd never imagined I would see Design For Life, definitive anthem that it is, played in a venue like Nottingham Rescue Rooms. We also got a great cover of Clampdown by The Clash (someone's put a good video of it on YouTube, featuring plenty of trademark JDB backward head flings and spinning hops). Marvellous.

The JDB photo was taken by photographer-in-chief Toby, perpetual snapper and documenter of all things splendid. He's like an upmarket, conscientious paparazzi man. If you go to any gig in the East Midlands you'll find him pushing past you to the front with an expensive lens in his hand and an 'I hate to do this to you, but I really have to' expression, before blocking your view for the rest of the gig. Click click click click click, click himself under indeed. Anyway, visit his online gig portfolio to see the rest of his fine work. But he's probably best known for his previous role as co-founder of our globally renowned film production unit, Pseudo Militia Productions, which was to blame for the Yes video in 2003 before sadly folding in 2004 due to gross financial irregularities. We've both moved on to smaller and worse things since.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Fear Of Sleeping

Last night whilst resting mine eyes, I was rudely awoken. What occurred was one of the most physically painful and mentally torturous experiences of my short but extraordinary life so far. It was like being shot and being forced to listen to The Kooks all at once. It was bloody 5.30am, and I had leg cramps.

Artist's impression

Writhing in agony, I had to deal with the dual pain of my left calf muscle trying to burst out of my skin and the fact my sleep had been disturbed at this most ungodly of atheist hours. I've never been woken with cramp before, and it was a terrifying ordeal. Following some brief but comprehensive medical research (Google search for 'leg cramps') I've found that (a) they are most common in elderly people, and (b) nobody really knows what causes them. Brilliant.

I sit here trembling as the clock ticks on, and my force of nature calls me to bed at a reasonable hour. But fear pervades my consciousness. Can I risk slipping back into my dangerous slumber, granting those dastardly cramps the chance to pounce once more, unremittingly savage in their ways, ruthless in their methods? Insomnia beckons.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Strictly Kim Dancing

Let me make one thing clear: I do not usually watch Strictly Come Dancing or any of the various other Saturday night sedatainment shows. But last night as I passed the telly I was stopped dead in my tracks as, glimpsing through the smallest corner of my right eye, I laid eyes upon a woman who is very special to me. The vixen of my youth, Emmerdale's Kim Tate (a.k.a. Claire King).

There she is with her lovely horse. The horse I lay awake dreaming about riding with her in my formative years. Gripping her around the waist with one arm as we leapt majestically over a gushing brook. Holding onto my hat with the other arm, shrieking wildly. And then just the two of us going back to Home Farm to watch reruns of Going For Gold with Henry Kelly while she tickled my back. Absolute bliss. My very own evil rich bitch.

Kim Tate was always neck and neck with Jet from Gladiators in my imaginary mental race for my affections. That tells you how high a regard I held her in - and still do. And then there she was last night... dancing the Mambo with a troupe of other minor celebrity women. The first time I've seen her on TV since she fled Emmerdale in a helicopter with all of Frank Tate's money some time in the mid-90s (I don't watch Bad Girls, obviously. Or Emmerdale anymore, obviously... only when it mattered).

Apparently she makes her real entry to the competition next Saturday. Suddenly my Saturday night diary is looking quite congested from 7.50pm onwards for the next few weeks. Don't call me, the phone will be off the hook. Apart from to ring and vote when she's in danger of being knocked out, of course.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Carry On Cameron

David Cameron: "Tony Blair once explained his priority in three words: 'education, education, education'. I can do it in three letters... N.H.S."

I can explain Cameron's in one syllable: fraud. I don't like to immerse myself in party politics too much but Dave old chap, you could do with taking a leaf from my book... you're far too long-winded for this soundbite-sized day and indeed age.

The idea of the Tories somehow charging in at the eleventh hour to resuscitate a spluttering, decrepit National Health Service is quite laughable. Cameron was chief author of the Tories' 2005 election manifesto which plegded to help rich people pay for the best private health care (paraphrasing). And just last weekend it was Oliver Letwin who said he sees "no limits" to the privatisation of the NHS. With an image-altering party conference in the offing, Tory chiefs moved quickly to deny Letwin's gaffe/admission of innate Torydom. But it rings true.

The main hope is that enough people aren't fooled by a soundbite and a bloke who clearly understands the powers of Oil of Ulay. The only change in the Tory party is they've found a leader with a tenuous grasp of PR. And one who can remember what some other bloke did ten years ago and has decided to try and emulate him - genius! The Cool Young Tories™ are on the rise, so watch your back. Because if you damage it, it'll cost a fortune to fix.

Same Tories, different fuckwit. In fact I think that should be their next election slogan.

On the other hand, in some ways I feel sympathy for the bloke... he's charging ahead valiantly with his 'modernising' agenda, but all the while he's surrounded by greying party elders looking at each other with baffled expressions and multiple shrugs of shoulders. Without even his own party in tow he's destined to fail, like Sisyphus. And I'll be the one pushing the rock back down the hill.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Smiths Pilgrimage

click to enlarge me

Salford Lads Club. Scene of one of the most iconic and lasting images of modern pop culture (see above). And also that place where The Smiths had their photo taken two decades ago.

On the final leg of my UK tour in Manchester this morning (see previous post) I was able to go on the trail of this great landmark in Smiths' history. Their most famous photo op, featured inside the The Queen Is Dead album sleeve, and later to feature heavily in the Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before video. I suspect the graffiti on the railings is a bit different to your average Lads Club in any other town or city. Instead of "Daz shafted Linzi ere '04" the black felt tip read "there is a light and it never goes out"... lovely stuff.

Earlier in the morning I'd also been to see a small exhibition by Smiths photographer Stephen Wright in the city centre. He did the shoot at Salford Lads Club using his first ever Nikon camera, before going on to take more famous band photos. The exhibition also featured the shirt worn by Moz in the video for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side too, which was nice. The shirt had an intriguing little stain on the right-pectoral area. Looked like gravy to me, but I couldn't be sure. He doesn't eat anything in the video, so it'll have to remain one of those great unanswered Smiths trivia tidbits for now.

Photo of exhibition, including the shirt.
Another Lads Club shot

Housewarming Tour

No, not one of those things popular bands do when they return victoriously to their homeland to play before the natives - that's a Homecoming Tour. I'm talking about a national jaunt whereupon I frequent various newly arrived-in homes to warm them.

Relocation, relocation, relocation. With four properties to peruse and two social gatherings to partake in, it was without hesitation that I erected myself at the wheel of the Padmobile and set off north to...

A quiet but highly pleasant affair at Lav and Laura's new abode on Friday night. The retro Sensible World Of Soccer console thing inevitably introduced an element of competitive bravado, but it was thankfully handled in the right way and tensions never really exceeded a low simmer. Good property: good number of rooms; nice lounge; well furnished; sizeable guest room complete with a corner adorned with Manics posters under which I slept. After a brief game with an inflatable Ash memorabilia beach ball (action photo) it was back in the Dillmobile and off down to...

Ah, the fair city of my most famous triumph in higher education, as Mark and Deano welcomed guests to their new executive apartment. Laminate flooring and a veritable hotch-potch of self-furnished styles. Again, a good sized property with generous bedroom space. Downside: kitchen was a bit hot. After a gathering of punch/bitter consumption we hit the town. The times they are a'changin' in Nottingham... quite a few new places have sprouted up since I left only a year and a bit ago. But they do say the most groundbreaking social revolutions are the ones triggered by individuals who then leave town and allow them to grow naturally. I think. On Sunday the third property of the trip was Toby's new open-plan penthouse apartment in the s-wanky Lace Market. There's a little phrase about ideas, stations, and relative altitude, but I wouldn't like to cast any aspersions. In seriousness, it looks a very good deal. Property comprises: one massive living area, quirky sleeping arrangements. Think a better version of the Big Brother house, and with less voyeurism. Although you never know.

Having taken in the Nottingham properties, I travelled with Deano, Mark and Anna in the erm... Annamobile into the country for a look at Newstead Abbey, once the ancestral home of Lord Byron. It was here that we were treated to the deliverance from the skies of two divine swans (photo of divine swan delivery). So blinding were the piercing rays from our Lord's sky that the others were forced to squint quite evidently (photo of squinting). Anyway, the Abbey had decent gardens but nothing out of the ordinary. And we couldn't go inside the actual Abbey, so I didn't get to offer my complimentary warming service.

After a brief re-fuelling back home, the next leg of the tour took me to...

With this being the nearest-to-home date on Patrick Wolf's current mini-tour I was most grateful to (Funny) Jimi for welcoming me to his new flat of solitude. Solitude, solitude... the eleventh commandment. Another good lebensraum, complete with an attic living room and skylights offering a view to the splendidly dense grey Manchester skies.

Pop God Patrick Wolf was quite phenomenal yet again. This was the fourth time I've seen him and he seems to gain more and more exuberance each time. The new album next February is going to be something special... magical, upbeat pop hits with crazy electronic beats underneath soaring violins. I filmed The Railway House (old song) last night. He's playing an Autoharp, I was reliably informed by Jimi.

Upon rising this morning I set off for a glance around Manchester and a bit of a Smiths pilgrimage (see next post). Then I visited the new Lowry (photo) at Salford Keys, and revelled in the collection of industrial landscapes and street scenes filled with dark, downtrodden, hunchbacked figures. I love Lowry me.

Lowry, 'Going to the match'.

And so, now I've done the estate agent thing and detailed the mindless minutiae of my recent activities, I'll bid adieu.