Wahey! Goldfrapp have announced details of new album, ‘Tales of Us’.

Goldfrapp announce new album details… at last!

After what seems like an eternity of Alison Goldfrapp tweeting about spending all of her time living in the woods, leaving us to stew, it seems she’s finally made her way back into civilisation and got on with it, so to speak. All of those mentions of trees and nature did give the impression that the duo would be going back to their previous, more pastoral sound of albums Felt Mountain and Seventh Tree, which Alison confirmed shortly before the album announcement with a brief, and seemingly self-doubting message of “If albums F.M & S.T are your sort of thing, i think you might like our new album?! Xxxx”. She then hinted that something would be going on at 9am the next day, clearly an announcement.

Just a note here: One day’s warning is the perfect amount of time for you to give an album announcement announcement; none of this  several-months-in-advance–will-tweet-album-title in-August nonsense (Lady Gaga… though I’m still waiting for that too…)

The album is called Tales Of Us and is going to be released on September 9th 2013 and below is the artwork.

Alison does the walk of shame

Alison does the walk of shame

 

As album covers go, it is an attractive piece of artwork, in keeping with the band’s artistic, Alison-centric image, but I can’t help wondering what on earth is going on in that picture. Alison seems to be walking through the woods with a haunting look on her face, wearing a rather short skirt and looking like she should know better. It’s a foggy night and there are numerous cars forming a circle around her in the wood, shining their lights onto her. Now, if that is not a dogging scene, I do not know what is. I’ve mocked up a deluxe edition cover for the album if they need one:

"I don't like it when people watch"

“I don’t like it when people watch”

The track listing, if you happen to be a fan of seeing names of songs you won’t be hearing for a while, and thus have no idea what they will sound like, is this:

1. Jo

2. Annabel

3. Drew

4. Ulla

5. Alvar

6. Thea

7. Simone

8. Stranger

9. Laurel

10. Clay

Ten tracks is still a bit short, but I’ll take it, as long as one of them isn’t an instrumental track like last time. The track names don’t really give as many clues as Bowie did by having a song called ‘Dancing Out In Space’ on his last album, and I don’t know who any of these people are, but it’s good news if your name is Ulla and you’ve felt under-represented all this time.

You can now hear a small clip of Annabel in a teaser video, along with clips of other songs, but it’s anyone’s guess which ones they will be.  Incidentally, if you want to book gig tickets in the fan pre-sale, the password ‘annabel’ has to be used for several of them, which the detective in me reckons is a hint that Annabel will be the first single from the album.

What else? The album will be available to buy on all the usual formats. Good news for vinyl fans, bad news again for mini-disk fans. You can also get a “VERY special limited edition that contains the CD, vinyl, an exclusive disc of bonus material plus the full album in 5.1 on DVD. It also contains a 12″ print (first 500 copies signed by us) and a 40-page hardback book which we’ve compiled” but you can’t exactly listen to a book can you. But still, if you’re made of money, why not indulge? It’s better than spending £100,000 fixing up failed pop stars in a newspaper sting.

So now it’s just a matter of waiting for any real clues as to the nature of the album. Alison has tweeted what looks like lyrics to some of the songs, which is a small insight, but, apart from that and the clips from the video, we’re entering this deafly.

New lyrics? I'm not keen on the last couple though.

New lyrics? I’m not keen on the last couple though.

If the songs could sound anything like the following ten, that would be absolutely great, Alison, and one of them is a Patrick Wolf Wind-In-The-Wires-esque collaboration, even better:

Lovely Head
Pilots
Forever
Utopia
Little Bird
Happiness
A&E
Eat Yourself
Number One
Monster Love

 

That’s that then. Let’s just have another listen to good old Pilots. Another great Bond theme that never was.

‘TAG! You’re an idiot!’

‘TAG! You’re an idiot!’

A rant about the abundance of hash tags in today’s society.

Young William does his best impression of a chess pawn.

Young William does his best impression of a chess pawn.

When the sun comes out and the mercury starts rising, what we like most of all is to go outside so we can feel the warmth, then immediately find a way of making ourselves cold again. Some people like to do this by having a poor-quality ice cream from a shifty looking fellow in a large musical van, whereas others, perhaps the more young at heart among us, like to have a water fight instead, drawing pleasure from making themselves all wet and miserable, so that they feel colder than they would have done if the sun had not come out. If you do indeed have a water fight, you will certainly be the top dog in said fight if you have a very powerful water pistol that can superbly soak your foes. You can reach people from a distance and have literally minutes of fun before you run out of water. What’s even better is that your foes will not mind being hit, because it is a water fight, after all, and they want to cool down, so  your water pistol is fulfilling a purpose that is really of benefit to all involved.

Now imagine if you are walking down a train platform at rush hour on a Monday morning, while hordes of miserable people are all marching in time like corporate zombies, to work eight miserable hours in an uncomfortable suit, for a man who does not care about their well-being. Then, SURPRISE, you jump out from behind a wall and obstruct their path, before soaking everyone in sight. WHAM! Right in the face! Right in the groin! Aiming for any electrical paraphernalia in their hands! Your spray of cold water is unavoidable; it would be even worse if your pistol were filled with scalding hot soup.

The water pistol is completely acceptable within its intended context of a water fight; again, it serves its intended, if rather pointless, purpose. However, if you take it out of this context and bring it into a real life situation, attacking people who are not willingly involved in the game, you suddenly become a huge irritant to those around you, showing a lack of awareness about what and when certain behaviour is acceptable. /end metaphor/.

Now imagine that water fight situation is the rather handy news platform, but more often the adolescent-filled cesspit of hate, that is Twitter, and that water pistol is the irritating little ‘hash tag’.  When on Twitter, the hash tag is used to group together messages containing a key word or phrase, which you can then access by simply clicking the tag in question. Even when in its intended forum of use, the hash tag is open to infantile abuse, such as packs of young girls using it to trend juvenile and humourless phrases such as ‘#ReplaceMcFlySongsWithBoobs (this actually happened), and then laughing amongst themselves at their brilliant puns of ‘Five Colours in Her Boobs and ‘It’s All About Boobs’. This further abuse is basically the water fight equivalent of that dirty kid who pisses in his water pistol before aiming at your face. But, then again, even in this situation, the hash tag is being used in its intended platform and if you want nothing to do with it, you can stay away from the whole sorry affair.

'If someone retweets me, I know I've made it'

‘If someone retweets me, I know I’ve made it’

 

Sadly, in the last few years, hash tags have begun seeping into the real world, outside of Twitter, being employed by those who either want to look like they’re ‘down with the kids’, or by those who have spent so long staring at their ‘Interactions’ page, waiting for a retweet of their “You wouldn’t love me without my makeup” tweet, that they’re no longer sure of the boundaries between their life of Twitter infamy and their life where they need to communicate with actual people.

This grating phenomenon has popped up in both the world of television and music. I can understand that the makers of a trashy Channel 4 documentary will want their programme to be talked about by the thousands who spend their television time glued to a computer or smart phone screen, and they want to make sure that their programme is a ‘top trend’ by suggesting a hash tag that all viewers can use, in order to group all related messages together. Yet, if your documentary is good enough (or ridiculous enough, see: Dogging Tales) anyway, people will already be talking about it. It is tediously annoying that every time your programme comes back after the adverts, the channel is reminding you what you are watching, saying TALK ABOUT MY PROGRAMME, #DISCUSSTHISWITHYOURIMAGINARYFRIENDS, but even then, the best shows do not need to tell you what to talk about, people will talk about them anyway. For example, Ben Elton’s abominable so-called ‘comedy’ (abomedy?) ‘The Wright Way’, received such a huge weekly backlash on Twitter that reading the resulting disdain, plot predictions and questions about Elton’s mental health, made the programme worth watching every week (“Don’t tell me, the man who he just upset in the ten-items-or-less queue is going to turn out to be the doctor who does his prostate exam?”).

Even worse than hash tags on television is the use of the hash tag in a SONG title. Will.I.Am did it for both album ‘#Willpower’ and single ‘#thatPOWER’ featuring monkey-botherer Justin Bieber, while Mariah Carey saw it necessary to name her new single featuring 2016 Olympic kick-boxing hopeful Miguel, ‘#Beautiful’. The hash tag has no use whatsoever in these song and album titles. You do slightly expect that kind of behaviour from Will.I.Am, as he is now better known for being a silly, catchphrase-churning TV personality than for being a respectable musical artist, but there is nothing about the Mariah song and video that suggests it is gimmicky enough to warrant a hash tag in its name (expect, perhaps, her stupid giggling and writhing around like a woman who should know better).

We should not be humouring or encouraging this blatant disregard for a symbol’s purpose, just think about that boy squirting piss onto your nice, clean suit. Nor is it right to castigate these people for their ignorance, as much as I’d like to lock up Will.I.Am, Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey, and force them to listen to eardrum-burstingly loud ‘Harlem Shake’ on repeat for 24 hours. The best thing to do is to just ignore them so they stop. Searching the Official Charts Company’s online records shows that they do not have a favourable view of the ‘#’ in song titles, simply listing the songs as ‘BEAUTIFUL’ and ‘THATPOWER’, and rightly so. Incidentally, among the songs that are listed including the hash symbol, the first charting song to employ the hash tag was ‘#9 Dream’ by John Lennon in 1975. If he were still alive today, would we punish him for this? No, we would not, because the symbol was used correctly to mean ‘number’. That’s John for you, he respected the rules. He didn’t deserve to die.

Embedded above here is the song that has driven me to write this rant, the current number one single, ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke ft. T.I. and the ageless Pharrell Williams. The song itself sounds like your typical, basic Pharrell-produced track, and the first time I heard it, I thought it was another Pharrell-produced track, ‘Give It 2 Me’ by Madonna feat. Pharrell (don’t get me started on that bloody ‘2’). If that wasn’t enough to tempt you, the song (and video) are very sexist, which isn’t so appropriate in this age, but you have to love a song that features the line “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”, right guys?

The video for the song is 4:32 long, and features the hash-tagged name #THICKE filling up the screen a ridiculous TWENTY-EIGHT (28) times, and the hash-tagged song title #BLURREDLINES, a further three times. That equates to a hash tag filling the screen, and it’s not exactly discrete, every 8.7 seconds.

In case, in the last 8 seconds, you have forgotten what you are listening to...

In case, in the last 8 seconds, you have forgotten what you are listening to…

There is no need for it; it is not fulfilling any purpose. This whole thing needs to stop before everyone is saying the words ‘hash tag’ in conversation, like Poet Laureate, Kerry Katona, who exclaimed the words ‘HASH TAG: PANIC’ on an episode of The Big Reunion. It’s fine, or at least tolerable, when used in its intended forum of Twitter, but it is simply not acceptable in REAL life. We all know that everyone spends half their life trawling social networking sites while pretending to be doing something more worthwhile, but nobody actually admits to this! We don’t want another situation like where everyone was making the  old Facebook ‘poke’ sex joke a few years ago (or like an episode of ‘The Wright Way’ did last week, well done Ben Elton), despite it being a feature that I am pretty sure nobody actually used.

Otherwise we’ll all grow to accept this kind of behaviour and we will end up with the General Register Office issuing birth certificates to babies called bloody @Britney.

PUB QUIZ PICTURE ROUND #3

PUB QUIZ PICTURE ROUND #3

Here’s another pub quiz picture round on the theme of music. You must give the surname of the popstars below who are all known by one name. To make this easier on some of the difficult ones, all surnames appear scrambled on the right hand side, so even if you haven’t got a clue, you can have a guess. You could award one point for identifying the singer, and one point for the surname, or five points for the surname and none for the first name.. That’s the joy of being in charge, isn’t it?

quizPICSmay2

Picture round #1 [link]
Picture round #2 [link]

ANSWERS
COMING UP

v v v v v v v
v v v 5 v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v 4 v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v 3 v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v 2 v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v 1 v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v v v v v
v v v 0 v v v

A. Rihanna FENTY
B. Shakira MEBARAK
C. Robyn CARLSSON
D. Gabrielle BOBB
E. Dido ARMSTRONG
F. Chico SLIMANI
G. Madonna CICCONE
H. Jamelia DAVIS
I. Will.I.Am. ADAMS
J. Dappy CONTOSTAVLOS
K. Prince NELSON
L. Adele ADKINS
M. Beyoncé KNOWLES
N. Jessie ‘J’ CORNISH
O. Usher RAYMOND

Eurovision 2013 Review

A brief review of the whole Malmö 2013 Eurovision show
and where the UK is going wrong with all this (still…)

Who believes in Bonnie, then?

Who believes in Bonnie, then?

 If anyone is going to host a decent Eurovision show, it’s going to be Sweden, almost forty years on from their win with the best Eurovision song of all time. They had a presenter who spoke good English and made jokes that didn’t fall entirely flat. There was a fun comedy segment and a brilliant song section where they made fun of all the thing Sweden is famous for, oddly with a sexy nymph writhing around in a large glass of milk, which has made me change the name of my currently on hiatus  band to “Milky Bimbo”, but your bandmates can’t complain about that kind of thing when they’re never bloody present, can they?

It opened with a great parade of flag-bearers from all of the participated nations, very reminiscent of last year’s Olympics opening ceremony (cunning), to a musical backdrop provided by a group of people who were not Abba. Despite a bit of teasing and general musing that Abba would reunite for the main event (although I protested that Agnetha was still doing the rounds elsewhere promoting her solo album), it was a song written by Benny and Björn with Leona Lewis’ best pal, Avicii. Benny and Bjorn didn’t even turn up to wave from the crowd so that was a disappointment. The flag-bearing participants marched across the bridge suspended in the air, a bridge which represented that which links Malmö to Denmark in real life, in itself very suspicious indeed,  and you could see all their excited faces: the good looking Azerbaijan guy, the beautiful Estonian girl, the sexy Greek men, the stunning virginal Norwegian lady, then Bonnie Tyler stumbling along looking like Tulisa…

She’s a good lass is Bonnie; she’s been very entertaining in all pre-broadcast appearances, including asking the producers of The One Show to send some drinks to her down the phone line and telling stories about her time in Denmark, before someone awkwardly stepped in to tell her she was actually in Sweden, and had been for a week, while the other guest on the sofa, Christ Tarrant, held his head in his hands.  The problem with Bonnie’s entry was the same as with Englebert Humperdinck’s in 2012, and it’s quite difficult to understand how the UK’s relevant team managed to make the same mistake two years in a row.

But before I get onto a long rant about that, let’s see how everyone else got on. It was a pretty decent song contest this year, perhaps a bit ballad heavy, though. Luckily a lot of these ballads were sifted out in the semi-finals, along with a fair amount of decent ones, while a few crap ones somehow slipped through the net. I have made some notes on this year’s entries, compiled from both semi-finals and the grand final, along with a running commentary (of the semis) from my elderly grandmother who often saw past the gimmicks and at times was quite blunt.  I probably won’t comment on all songs because some don’t deserve my time, but I’ll see what I can do.

First, last year’s true winner:

 

Alors… je commence…

France – Amandine Bourgeois – L’Enfer et Moi (Hell and I):
: Rubbish song that didn’t ever go anywhere, despite the singer acting like it did, which was just embarrassing. France is one of the big five so this will be the first time most people have heard it, and the last time for that matter. The singer was not very attractive, which was unusual for this year’s contest where everyone was stupidly beautiful. I bet they had a massive orgy backstage after the event, with Ana Matronic egging them all one. This singer for France looked quite filthy, but it would be unprofessional to say this was a typical French look. Because it is not typical. Definitely not. No.
Amandine opens the show with a real look at how painful hell can be. [4/10]

Lithuania – Andrius Pojavis – Something:
Absolutely dire.  There was the good line: “Because of the shoes I’m wearing today, one is called love, the other is pain”, a line that everyone picked up on in the semi-final and this is most likely what helped the song to qualify. The singer had NO stage presence and did not know what to do with his arms at any point. Grandma’s opinion: “He’s a nice looking fella’”. And there you have it.
They say ‘something is better than nothing’, however not in Lithuania’s case. 
[1/10]

Moldova – Aliona Moon – O Mie (A Thousand): 
This song was sung in foreign, which doesn’t help the English viewer, but it was quite a good mid-tempo ballad which nobody seemed to be interested about. The gimmick of having her dress grow really tall, with fiery projections was very cool, but then even this effect was used again later in the show by Romania. Grandma’s opinions: “Isn’t she tiny? She’s petite! There’s nothing of her! I don’t think that’s going to do a lot. [The dress grows and Grandma’s jaw drops] How did she do that!? How did that happen?!”
Aliona shoots for the moon and misses. [7/10]

Finland: Krista Siegfrids – Marry Me:
From the givers of Lordi comes the kind of entry that I hate, but the kind of entry that is perfect for Eurovision as long as it doesn’t win (see Russian grannies). A woman singing that she wants her boyfriend to propose, with the post-chorus chant of ‘Uh oh, Uh oh, a-ding-dong’, which was the highlight of the performance. This did terribly and rightly so, but some have put this down to the lesbian kiss at the end. One friend said to me that it would never win because everyone hates the poor gays, but this is in fact because the woman is not a lesbian, she told interviewers that she has been with her boyfriend for eight years, the kiss was just a tasteless ploy for votes and a ‘shock tactic’ which means absolutely nothing in a post t.a.T.u. fake-lesbian music world.
Let’s hope the boyfriend signs a pre-nup. [3/10]

Belgium – Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills:
A repetitive song dance song sung by a cute little chap, telling us ‘love kills over and over’, over and over.  I had no opinion of it at all but Grandma grew quite agitated: “That’s not a spot on that other one I liked [Croatia, who didn’t qualify] It’s Croatia for me. You don’t need all these gimmicks if you can sing. Those two dancing at the side look as if they’ve got a pain in the Anadin [referencing the sponsor of Deal or No Deal]. [Then to me] You could knock spots off him, but you won’t do anything about your voice!”. Watch out next year, Copenhagen.
Give Roberto an injection of love and wait for it to take effect [3/10]

Belarus – Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh:
Another hottie. The woman steps out of disco ball and sings a generic Eurovision song to very nice eastern European-sounding music! The rhyming is a bit dodgy, she says “the sun is always shining on YA” so she can rhyme that with CHA CHA! Everybody sing! Solayoh-replay-oh! Grandma: “What the HELL have the men got on? They’ve got their crotch down by their knees!  Those men! What on EARTH have they got on?! It’s got a bit of rhythm to it but no, it don’t do nothing for me!”
I will not replay-oh. [4/10]

Malta – Gianluca – Tomorrow:
A very pleasant listen. There is a ukulele which prompted Twitter users to claim it was a rip-off of the lyrically-abominable ‘Hey Soul Sister’ by Train, as it appears that most people have never heard a ukulele anywhere else. This is a lovely song indeed and it is nice to listen to “His name is Jeremy, working in IT. Risk assessment’s his investment”. The lyrics are quite twee and silly, so they’ve put them up in a background lyrics video so everyone can follow the story of Jeremy and his pursuit of love. The singer is a very happy chap indeed though, and I’d put this song’s success 100% down to his pure, unrestrained joy. Grandma notes that she likes this one, mainly because she “likes the men”.
Sadly it’s probably back to the day job tomorrow for nice little Gianluca [8/10]

Russia – Dina Garipova – What If:
I think this may be the one that I labelled as GENERIC on first listen. She has many large orbs, so I think this orb over-usage was what ousted by dear Valentina Monetta of San Marino and stole her glowing orb crown. There is a key change in this so you can’t fault that, but the song was ruddy cheesy. Coming together as one, together, together, change the world forever etc., etc. Grandma: “She’s very plain looking, isn’t she? It’s not a bad song.  ‘If’, that’s a little word with a big meaning. Yes it’s got one hell of a meaning. If… if…” [fades, looking longingly into the distance, prompting strange looks from family].
What if Russia entered something decent and original for once? [4/10]

Germany – Cascada – Glorious:
The Cascada entry. One friend attending the party told me that I’d rated this song too highly purely based on my previous knowledge of Cascada, before I pointed out that I have hated all of Cascada’s europop output up to now. Apparently this song plagiarised ‘Euphoria’ but the only similarity I can hear is the dance music and ‘ORRRRR’ syllable. Another party guest noted that “she hasn’t aged well”, which was rather rude, but she looks like she’s been lifting a lot of heavy equipment recently and I wouldn’t want to challenge her to a wrestle (and I wouldn’t say that about many entrants this year, AM I RIGHT?). I thought this was pretty good though, much to my shame. I don’t think many people knew Cascada were German? One Twitter user angrily exclaimed that “Cascada is a TRAITOR! How could she sing for GERMANY?”. Oh dear. They’d probably claim Abba as their own as well, given the chance.
Hardly a glorious return to form but better than most. [8]

Armenia – Dorians – Lonely Planet:
By far the worst of all the songs in the show. Written by a member of Black Sabbath and sounding nothing like you would expect when considering that knowledge. It’s more Scouting for Girls than Black Sabbath. A song about saving the lonely planet, a shock this got through at the expensive of San Marino and embarrassing for all I dread to think about the carbon footprint they have stamped into Sweden, especially with all those flames and such.
Send them to their own isolated planet and they can protect that as they wish. [0/10]

Note:  I will never get bored of how Malmö is pronounced. It is one of my pronunciation highlights of the night.

Netherlands – Anouk – Birds:
A Lana del Rey-like entry from Anouk. It goes on a bit and there is absolutely no beat but it’s nice the Netherlands managed to get through for once. This gets a big cheer though but the subject matter reminds me of one of my favourite B-movies, ‘Birdemic: Shock and Terror’, itself which contains a song far better than this, and all of this year’s entrants. [See below] Grandma: “It’s a bit boring when you get women singing after women. You want something like Brotherhood of Man, or Sandi Shaw with Puppet on a String, that was a lovely one! Nobody can write us a good song anymore. Who could sing it better than Bonnie Tyler with that lovely gravelly voice of hers? What I’d love to hear is Bonnie Tyler singing with Rod Stewart, they’ve both got gravelly voices. [Back on topic] I don’t think this will get far, unless it’s political. LOOK AT THAT BIG FELLA IN THE BACKGROUND!”
Fly away home [3/10]

Romania – Cezar – It’s My Life:
It’s a shame Cezar let down Romania this year. My general Eurovision theory is this: Safura should have won for Azerbaijan in 2010. Azerbaijan undeservedly won in 2011 when Eric Saade should have won for Sweden. Sweden won in 2012 when I had my money on Mandinga from Romania. The theory is that a country always wins Eurovision the year after I wanted it to win (you can’t argue with that evidence!), so Romania should be my bet this year. However it is a falsetto-singing, fist-clenching, dance-opera Rupert Everett lookalike standing on a billowing sheet of plastic while naked dancers jiggle around him. Another novelty entry.
In need of life-coaching [1/10]

Hungary – ByeAlex – Kedvesem (My Darling):
I was very pleased this got through, because it seemed so unlikely. A Hungarian hipster in a beanie and thick-framed glasses bobs up and down singing a song that nobody outside his country will understand, while weird cartoon images pass behind him on the screen. It is not a Eurovision-style song by any means but is pleasant enough to listen to. Grandma said this wouldn’t do well unless they livened it up a bit. They didn’t.
Bye, Alex. (These are writing themselves!) [6/10]

Denmark – Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops:
Somebody somewhere decided this was the favourite, despite it not really being a stand out. It gets a rousing cheer before it even starts when the man blows on his cheeky little whistle. The audience are clapping along, as if it’s already won. She’s just a young Danish Shakira-lite but I reckon Shakira will need to release a decent song by the end of the year before Emmelie de Forest is rolled out as her full-time, worldwide replacement. Sparks and glitter are raining down from the sky and she hasn’t won yet, which is very presumptuous and rather arrogant of them, but nobody is going to argue with it at this point. The winner was decided long before the contest and surely it’s just a coincidence that the city of Malmö is connected to Denmark by a short bridge, easing the process of dismantling everything and transporting it to next year’s venue in the most extraordinary way. Suspicious. It’s no better than Romania’s entry last year! Grandma agrees, again referring to her favourite of Croatia which still hasn’t been resurrected since it was kicked out in the semis. “Oh no, it’s Croatia for me.  It’s not a spot on the other one, but it all depends what you like.” I tell her that there are a lot of pretty women this year and she tells me off, saying “Yes but you’re not voting for that, you’re voting for the SONG… It’s the men for me”. That’s me told, then.
Lucky that her breasts are fine and ample, so you don’t confuse her with Shakira [7/10]

Azerbaijan – Farid Mammadov – Hold Me:
I don’t agree with countries like Azerbaijan being in Eurovision since they are not in Europe, but you can’t complain when they take it so bloody seriously. Every year Azerbaijan enter a great song and put on a great performance and it puts our country to shame as we enter a steady stream of crap then complain that people hate our country for political reasons. This came second in the end and rightly so; it was a good Eurovision/pop song sung by a stupidly handsome singer, with by far the best and most interesting staging of the night, and you can’t argue with that. I wish this had won, if Norway couldn’t, just so I can hear everyone pronouncing the name AZER-BAI-JAN over and over again. HEHLO BA-KU! Never mind. I got a good laugh out of the various pronunciations of Azerbaijan throughout the night. Grandma had a very deep opinion of this one: “Who is that? [“Azerbaijan”] I can’t say that.”

I don’t suppose he struggled to find someone to hold him after the show [9/10]

Greece – Koza Mostra – Alcohol is Free:
They’ve sent another novelty song again. It’s about alcohol (Lol! I love to drink too!), there is an old man on stage and all the good looking band members are wearing skirts. But at least good old Greece have a group rather than a sexy bimbo this year, it’s just a shame the song is 100% gimmick. Grandma: “That’s jolly. It’s a gimmick but it’s jolly. One with a squeezebox, a guitar, a trumpet!” (“Squeezebox”)
Hangovers all round on Sunday morning [6/10]

Ukraine – Zlata Ognevich – Gravity:
This was my second bet. I loved the song in the studio version but something was lost in the live performance, it didn’t sound as big as it could have done. I don’t understand why she had to be brought on stage by an actual giant either, though he promptly disappears. This caused a lot of bores to complain that this was making light of the man’s condition but he surely made a bit of money from it and got some good exposure for his acting career. This song is great, the lady’s vocals are astronomically good and she is the best looking female in the competition, an eastern European Shania Twain. A worthy top-3 placing. The key changes at the end are ear-piercing and apart from the giant, it’s pretty gimmick free, just an excellent vocalist wailing in a sexy dress and surely worthy of a placement of the Lion King soundtrack. As Zlata wails impossible notes at the top of her lungs, Grandma tells me: “You could knock them all dead if you went on here. You ought to do something with that voice of yours.” I don’t know if I can back up those comments with sufficient evidence.
Sir Isaac Newton’s life’s work was leading up to this moment [8/10]

Italy – Marco Mengoni- L’Essenziale (The Essential):
I like Italy. Since their comeback a few years ago they have entered consistently good songs that will resonate well with the national juries but perhaps not so much with the heckling audience who want accordions and fireworks. I liked this a lot because it was rather beautiful but the staging was terrible. Nothing happened. The room was not impressed at my party.
Seemingly unaware that good staging is essential to win this thing [6/10]

Norway – Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love:
This was my favourite of the night. I thought it stood out by miles as a darker song than the rest, although this could have been used to better effect in the staging. I was the only person at my party who gave this points, and the UK gave this no points either, so I think everyone has missed something that I saw here. I loved the strings, the drums, the rather nonsensical chorus line/title of ‘I feed you my love’, her clothing, her looks and especially her funny little dancing which appeared to be hugely restricted by her dress. The vocals seemed a bit lacking in the performance on the night, so perhaps better use could have been made of the backing singers. I fully expected this to trounce Denmark and bring the competition back to Alexander Rybak’s homeland, but you can’t complain about a fourth place ranking really. I expect this will chart in the UK, if anyone has any sense.
I like a feeder [10/10]

Georgia – Nodi Tatishvili and Sophie Gelovani – Waterfall:
I hadn’t heard this one before the semi-final but it struck me as a great possible winner, that could sneak up on all the high octane, bare-footed dance gimmicks and give the contest back to a power ballad, much like Azerbaijan’s 2011 winner. I was slightly disheartened to hear that Georgia had bought out Sweden’s winning-song writers from last year in order to secure a hit. Don’t these countries have songwriters of their own? I think a rule will be introduced in years to come that each country’s entry must be written by a national of that country, rather than Scandinavian writers doing the whole blinking lot every year. This did not do nearly as well as I expected, which shocked me. All together now, “I’m flying like if I had wings, like I am sailing on a sea of dreams, your love is pouring down on me, you’re my WATERFALL”. Bloody good showing from Georgia. They can be proud of that.
Things can only get wetter [8/10]

Ireland – Ryan Dolan – Only Love Survives:
I am glad the UK didn’t finish last this year and the competitive side in me is rather happy Ireland did. The song is terribly derivative; it sounds like a Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias effort being sung by Joey Essex. There is an Ibiza rave chorus and half naked super-camp dancers, but I still don’t know why this finished last below atrocities such as Armenia, Iceland and France. My favourite part was that Ireland appeared to have saved up all their Euros for the last few years of Jedward representing them and had finally got a song they thought could win for them, now they were able to host it, yet it does worse than either of the Jedward efforts. Classic. But then Norway’s pretty decent entry came last in 2012. It’s anyone’s guess how the voting will turn out so it’s never worth a wager on something so subjective and unpredictable. Oh no, Graham Norton just said “THAT COULD WIN!”. Grandma noted that Ireland usually have a good song, but it was not as good as other years, so she was disappointed in that respect, but I think she is quite a big Jedward fan, so that’s to be expected.
Back on the dole for Dolan [5/10]

So that’s that. Bonnie had a crack at it but she was never going to win with that song, even though it was written by Desmond Child of Livin’ on a Prayer, Livin’ La Vida Loca, and She Bangs fame, a poor showing from him.

What the UK needs to do is have a look at recent trends of what was popular in the last few Eurovision contests and try to create an entry that takes into account factors of these, to produce a song that people will actually enjoy. This does mean writing a song especially for the event, not just picking a ‘strong’ track that would never, ever have been heard, from the new album of an 80’s star. When the last winner by a mile was a dance track, it may be an idea to follow suit and enter a song that is current and would actually stand a chance of being played on radio, or of being remembered at all by the end of the competition.

You can’t just rely on the name of your entry, even if it is someone as once-good as Bonnie Tyler, because if the song is crap and the UK can’t get behind it, what is the chance that Europe (and parts of Asia) will? If a pensioner like Humperdinck singing a crap ballad came second from last (and last in the jury vote) last year, don’t do exactly the same and enter another forgotten pensioner with a crap ballad. The BBC can tell us all they like that Bonnie/Englebert ‘has a huge fan base across Europe’ when there is no evidence of this come the end of the competition.

Everyone needs to let go of the whole Jade Ewen/Andrew Lloyd Webber thing, yes they came 5th with a ballad but this was a fluke. Nobody seems to have realised that while Blue came eleventh in 2011, if you look at the statistics that the Eurovision folks later published, Blue came FIFTH on public votes, with their score being dragged down by a jury (in a system which was supposedly devised to help countries like ours, to whom the voting public were unjust!). The Blue song was an up-tempo, fairly decent pop song, being sung by a group of handsome, muscular males. Nearly every single act in the in Eurovision final this year was BEAUTIFUL.

I’ve never heard anything about Azerbaijan outside of a Eurovision context, but the one opinion I have of it now is that everyone there is good looking. Similarly, everyone in Azerbaijan must think our country is one full of dizzy old folks being forced to sing for their suppers and work until they are eighty (wait a minute…).

We need to stop complaining that ‘the voting is fixed’, ‘everybody hates us because of war’ and all the other stupid excuses. Germany managed to win it, despite all their past political faux pas, because they entered a cute girl singing a decent and memorable song, and you can’t moan about block voting when the top 4 this year were all actually decent songs.

What we need is someone beautiful and talented.

What we need is someone beautiful and talented.

We need to therefore do the same, and that is why we should enter someone like Marina and the Diamonds, for example. She is gorgeous, every inch the popstar, and writes bloody good pop songs. She’d probably have a good night out and take advantage of the limitless flowing alcohol, like Emmelie de Forest clearly did on Saturday, seeming to get drunker every time she was awarded 12 points.  Ideally Marina, or whoever, will be singing a huge pop song, in a colourful dress, preferably not clutching her silly poodle toy, and she will win because of all the silly faces she pulls at the camera, like that nice Maltese chap did this year.  This is an example; you could enter anybody young and attractive with a decent song and the idea stands. Sending pensioners with crap ballads is the opposite of what everyone else does, so we’re not ‘breaking the mould’, we’re just showing we haven’t got a clue about how to approach the whole thing. Of course doing all of this doesn’t mean you will WIN, see Eric Saade’s shocking loss and Margaret Berger’s startling oversight this year, but we will place top half and that’s better than we’ve done for the last couple of years.

I do have another theory as to why we don’t place well (and the same goes for France and Spain here), is that we do not get to participate in the semi-finals due to our automatic inclusion and annual backhanders to the producers. Although this allows us to qualify where it will be otherwise unlikely, we do not get the publicity that the other countries get from their appearances in the semi-finals and the subsequent social media coverage of this, as the semi-finals seemingly become more popular every year. For a lot of people, myself and my friends included, the big Eurovision final is the first time you hear the songs from the big 5, whereas the auditioning songs have wormed their way into people’s ears several days before.

Finally, the recent trend of there being a ‘bookies’ favourite’ weeks in advance (decided by WHOM?) which goes on to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, is rather aggravating; I don’t know where these come from. Only Teardrops was a decent song but sounded like any other song, any other year. It was just decided that this was the favourite, so people believed it and paid special attention to it, whereas they would have gone for a wee or to open a beer during someone that hadn’t been touted as a winner, like Moldova or any other random entrant. That needs to stop, ideally.

We could bring back a national selection process after complaining about the acts that the BBC selects for us, but then we would probably go back to selecting people like Scooch, dressed as air stewards and asking the audience if they want anything to suck on. In short we need to send someone attractive singing a decent upbeat pop song. But apparently that’s too much to ask.

To finish off, here are my favourites of Grandma’s ramblings on some songs that didn’t qualify:

Somewhat confusingly, on Montenegro’s rap / dubstep entry with rappers in spacesuits and a wailing cyborg woman: “Are they out of space? *chuckles at joke* It’s different isn’t it! Some people will love it but it’s a gimmick.  I’ve got to go and see if my cat is back, he’ll be soaking wet. It costs be a bomb, buying all these tissues to wipe him dry when it rains! I loved this one. It was RUBBISH”.

On Cyprus and skinny entrants. Semi-final presenter Scott Mills says the singer had a sprain and went to hospital but Grandma’s selective deafness comes into play here: “She’s anorexic, I think, she’s been to hospital but is fine now, she must have anorexia. Look at the size of her! She’s been in hospital, I think she’s anorexic. I can’t eat chocolate this late at night [9:10]. It stimulates me, it stimulates me. It stimulates me to eat it this late at night.”

On Israel and larger entrants: A larger lass in a low cut dress  and big glasses sings a song:
Grandma: “A fat lady in a mermaid dress, NO NO NO, it’s not good.  They say big is beautiful but… How did she get into that dress? She must’ve started putting it on yesterday. You’re eyesight’s pretty bad when you’ve got to wear glasses just to see! That song doesn’t do it for me, I like the men.”

And there you have it. Now Eurovision is over, we’ll have to wait another whole year until the next one. The days after Eurovision are like Boxing Day for me. What the hell am I going to do now? Probably put on that Malta song again…

Emmelie is sobered up before singing one last time.

Emmelie is sobered up before singing one last time.

Overall 7/10, mainly down to Sweden’s hosting skills. Well done them.

Pub Quiz Picture Round May 2013

Pub Quiz Picture Round May 2013

If you’ve managed to stop raving about the new Daft Punk album and finally get around to writing this month’s pub quiz, here’s a picture round for you to steal and claim as your own.

Name the 00’s-ish band (group) from the member pictured, one point per correct answer. You could give a bonus point for naming the member as well, but you’d be doing bloody well to get all of these, especially that silly beggar with the hat.

Answers below the picture:

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MORE PICTURE ROUNDS:

PICTURE ROUND 1
PICTURE ROUND 3

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A. The Saturdays – Vanessa White
B. Muse – Dominic Howard
C. Scissor Sisters – Ana Matronic
D. The Darkness – Frankie Poullain
E. Black Eyed Peas – Jaime “Taboo” Rodriguez
F. Sugababes – Jade Ewen
G. Blue – Simon Webb
H. The Feeling – Richard Jones
I. The Hoosiers – Irwin Sparkes
J. The Wanted – Nathan Sykes
K. Alphabeat –  Stine Bramsen
L. Maroon 5 – James Valentine
M. Razorlight – Freddie Stitz
N. Dresden Dolls – Brian Viglione
O. Franz Ferdinand – Nick McCarthy

Band biography review – Council Tax Band

Press release analysis – A comparative study

 

The point of a new, unsigned artist sending out press releases, biographies and promo CDs is to pique someone’s interest and make them want to listen to your hastily cobbled together tunes, rather than just chucking your life’s work into a pile of similarly shoddy efforts. You could make their ears prick up by giving a hefty list of unbelievably diverse artists who influenced your music, a list that makes you seem wise and cultured beyond your years. You could also use lots of big flashy adjectives and buzz words to describe the sheer quality of your music so that the reader of your biography will be salivating all over their lap before they’ve even had the time to insert your Sharpie-tagged disk into their computer so they can actually hear this music seemingly created by the gods themselves.

Before I move onto the actually biography in question that’s prompted me to write this, let’s look one done by a proper label person for a proper new artist: such as this one about up-and-coming-for-many-months-now Tom Odell. He was awarded the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRIT Awards, and despite a series of high-profile TV performances and being Taylor Swift’s supposed Shag Of The Day in the Daily Mail (Disclaimer: Term not used in actual article), Tom hasn’t quite taken off yet. Although he has had a little bit of publicity, he is still being wheeled on at the end of shows as a closing act and not actually having the chance to actually talk.

This is Tom’s performance of ‘Can’t Pretend’ on Jonathan Ross earlier this year. I’m sure you will agree it was quite tuneful and at times very loud and mashy. It might sound very good in a studio recording. But would you listen to that performance and turn to you dear lady wife, sitting in her dressing gown with a hot water bottle shoved up her top, and say “Sharon, wasn’t that beguiling?”, or “I don’t know about you, but that music was so magnificently formed that, when coupled with his personality, it becomes somewhat incendiary”. It’s all very fancy sounding. I steer away from that kind of vocabulary because my AS-level Media Studies education does not fill me with the confidence to use such flamboyant lexicon, hence why I describe music as ‘loud’, ‘mashy’ and ‘tuneful’, unlike those  who write these biographies and probably wasted 3 years doing a full-on degree in Media Studies, or those who write for the Guardian, where you can read a 5000-word album review and still not have a bloody clue what the album will sound like, with any clues about actual content hidden behind the writer’s pompous references to early Twentieth Century aristocrats and Evelyn Waugh novels.

The Tom Odell track is pretty good. It would sound good on an advert and I would be keen to hear more from him. But I wonder if any of his influences have been mentioned in his biography? You’ll be pleased to hear that they have, and not only that, but his musical taste includes ‘such diverse pleasures’ as “’Hunky Dory’ era Bowie” (a good era, and cooler than the ‘mainstream’ Ziggy era) and various other  artist, of all genders and sexualities, including “pre-‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ Elton John” (as if ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’, ‘I’m Still Standing’, and Blue single ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’ aren’t worthy of his time). That’s our Tom for you he has unconventional tastes, he breaks the mould, he doesn’t care that Princess Diana died for our sins.

His biography goes on and tracks his life, how he has only ever being interested in music, how his songs “emerge in torrents”, and how he ‘fervently’ shops in Rough Trade, not in HMV like the plebs.  Overall it’s a bit of a turn-off but that’s not Tom’s fault, someone else, who was paid to do so, wrote it for him and he probably finds it all a bit embarrassing, yet overall it’s a pretty effective biography.

Compare and contrast with the promotional information I received in the post last week from ‘Council Tax Band’.

Council Tax Band – ‘Three Songs EP’

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Council Tax Band have emerged from the ashes of the so far better ‘Das Wanderlust’ like a crippled, vulgar phoenix, probably so they could start afresh with a hilarious new name. There’s a dual-meaning of the word band! Well done. Sadly, until recently they were unaware that a Sussex-based group of groovy’ local councillors  with names like Nigel and Mary started  up a band with the same name in 2007, in order to reach out to young people and encourage them to vote, with their forceful and imaginatively-titled song ‘Vote!’. That’ll do the trick. Maybe get rough ex-Youth Police and Crime Commissioner Paris Brown in the studio too, to bring in the listeners?

The press release by the new Council Tax Band is one of the more depressing and self-deprecating biographies you may have the pleasure of reading this year. They tell us how they write “songs about boredom, disappointment, and failure; as such they’re sure to be a money-spinner with the lucrative pre-teen demographic”.  They haven’t got an interesting back story and couldn’t be bothered to think one up, they have “unremarkable haircuts”, and their “ultimate goal” is to eventually sell out and have their music on cardigan adverts.

They recorded the three songs on their wackily-titled ‘THREE SONGS’ EP in a room full of crap using “a combination of borrowed gear, and gear they bought themselves by slogging their guts out in a variety of shit jobs” and apparently it’s the first thing they’ve churned out which they “consider fit for public consumption”.  Additionally, the cover ‘artwork’ for this EP is a low-resolution snap of the four band members awkwardly looking at the camera and holding mugs of beverages (one can assume tea) in their room full of crap.  Their unremarkable haircuts are in view.

There is a “No bullshit version” of the biography too: “Two guitars/synth/drums. And shouting”, which sums it up completely accurately.

It’s a refreshing take on the necessary but tedious task of mailing out biographies to people who don’t care, but maybe they’re just being modest and ‘funny’ with their lack of effort? Maybe this is actually the greatest EP of its generation? Perhaps the handwritten note saying ‘Please find enclosed three unpleasant songs for your esteemed consideration’ was a red herring and the songs would actually be stunning recordings, or even beguiling pleasures?

The responses to those questions are all no.  If this is the first output suitable for public consumption, you can’t help wondering how sonically unpleasant the first drafts were.

They probably did have fun making it though and it’s obvious they can’t imagine a real career in music, but I reckon you could get into their gigs in Bedford for a quid and have a completely adequate evening out.  I went to a Das Wanderlust gig several years ago and got hit when a bit of a guitar fell off, so that might happen again if you’re lucky.

Track one is called ‘A Salty Grave’. The lyrics are repetitive and quite hard to understand. It goes on a bit.

Track two is called ‘Mentioning No Names’. It is a rare beauty on the EP in that there is actually a little bit of singing. From what I can gather, the song is about a left-wing politician. “He’s let the left down/he’s let us all down/but worst of all he’s let himself down”.  I best not speculate as to who it might be about, since the song’s name is anonymous, but we are told that “he’s not a racist, he’s just an arsehole” and there is quite liberal chanting of the C word during the chorus, which, we can all agree, is fairly rude.

Surprisingly track three is even better than track two, which in turn was better than track one, so we’re making slight progress here, well done. ‘Happy New Year’ has words you can actually make out and appears to be taking the piss out of people who make New Year’s resolutions and expect things to actually change. From the standard “You’ll give up the fags… you’ll hit the gym”, to the slightly less common “For every toilet roll you’ll plant a dozen trees” and something about cooking Lebanese (?)Then there’s a little keyboard breakdown which is not completely awful and a final verse about what I can only assume is the make-believe world where New Year’s Resolvers live, where there is no longer any war and the rivers are made of chocolate. I reckon that’s what it’s about but who knows… Either way, there is a droning chorus of HAAAPPY NEW YEEEAR HAAAAAAAAPPY NEW YEEEEAR, which is fairly horrible.

Nobody is going to gain anything by me pretending this EP is going to take the world by storm. If those brief song descriptions sound pleasant to you, you can download the songs for whatever you can afford at their Bandcamp page, which I’m sure they’ll appreciate. I probably could have just gone on a bit about Kafka or Smiths B-sides and ignored the actual content of the CD and people would have been more inclined to go and listen to it, but if you can’t be honest on an anonymous blog that nobody will read about a poor-quality band that nobody has heard of, then when you can be honest, eh?

 It’s all a bit of a racket though, which is a shame. Das Wanderlust, the ashes of which should preferably be scooped up and reconstituted into something that resembles the old band, had many more enjoyable tunes, all with good names too: ‘Sherlock Holmes is Better Than You’, ‘I Wish I Was a Robot’ and the shout-along lost classic ‘Humbug’, but we’ll let Council Tax Band off as it’s early days yet.  They still have time to come up with lyrics as gut-wrenchingly emotional as “After we’ve watched shit TV, we decide what we want for tea. We go to the orange shop and we buy some bits and bobs”, but you can’t just force out that kind of gold 24/7, it has to come to you naturally, in a dream or ethereal vision, and it’s quite clear that Council Tax Band won’t make the effort to hurry that vision along.

They say that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, but I think it’s best to be brutal and hopefully the victim can make a few changes and progress from that point. A gig review recently described the band as ‘ungooglable’ which, in fairness, is possibly the best comment you  can make without being rude or lying, and you’ll probably see that word on a label across the cover of their next EP.

 

 

Pub quiz picture round: April

Pub quiz picture round: April

In March, David Bowie released a new album, The Next Day, the cover of which was the artwork for his album “Heroes” with a big, ugly, white square on top of it. His ‘people’ said it was a deep and meaningful album cover, I thought it was lazy and off-putting. To celebrate this, for this picture round you must identify these albums which were among the top-selling albums of the 70’s and 80’s in the UK, the covers of which have been Bowified. Artist and album title needed for the point. Titles have also obscured. Answers below the picture. Steal for your own quiz, if you’re that way inclined, but it’s not very hard to create a picture round, is it? Is it? No. 

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MORE PICTURE ROUNDS:

PICTURE ROUND 2
PICTURE ROUND 3

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A) Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
B) Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
C) Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell
D) Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
E) Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
F) Blondie – Parallel Lines
G) Madonna – Like a Virgin
H) U2 – The Joshua Tree
I) Phil Collins – No Jacket Required
J) Kylie Minogue – Kylie
K) Wings – Band on the Run
L) Paul Simon – Graceland
M) Barry Manilow – Manilow Magic
N) Wham – Make It Big
O) Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Leave a comment if you are appreciative.  It’s nice to be nice.

HOW TO SAVE HMV & THE HIGH STREET

Mourning the Great British high street and
An open letter to HMV with an idea on how to save the sinking ship

 

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As another week passes, another shop on my high street closes, falling victim to that bargain-offering behemoth in the sky, the internet. Maybe I’m just bitter with regards to these huge invisible corporations because Amazon interviewed me for a job once and all I got out of it was a day out in Slough, a branded pen and a sheet of Amazon logo stickers, that’s probably true, but it’s not just that.

Recently I went into my local branch of Millets, only to see that it will have disappeared by next week. The problem, of course, is that anything you buy from Millets, whether it’s a tent, sleeping bag, or bag of sausage casserole that magically heats up and turns into food, you can get it cheaper online, as with everything that has ever appeared on the high street. I didn’t stand in the road chucking paint at the walls and screaming THE INTERNET IS THE DEVIL, because I’m far too idle to ever physically protest about anything, but I wanted to help out somewhat, so I went inside and bought a handy waterproof coat, or a ‘Kag in a Bag’ for £5, since I am poor and it rains a lot. When I was at the checkout, I overheard the staff talking to a woman who was openly mourning the loss of her local outdoors shop, dressed in black, with a handkerchief held to her eye, and they told her that Millets had been kicked out of the store to make way for a Sue Ryder charity shop.

Every British high street

Every British high street

 While I can’t vouch for the veracity of the ‘kicking out’, I did let out a little sigh and audibly mumble “For god’s sake…”, as  another charity shop is the last thing this particular high street needed.  On that small Suffolk stretch of road there were already PDSA, Barnardo’s, Cancer Research, and British Heart Foundation charity shops. I can’t pretend I don’t love a charity shop; they are my first point of call when I want a board game I will only play a handful of times (Monopoly Europe printed in German, a language I can’t read; Lenny Henry: The Game) or if I want to add to my growing collection of 80s vinyl albums which I CAN play, but don’t often do so,  yet nobody is going to visit a town whose shopping street is made up entirely of charity shops flogging crusty clothes and heinous ornaments. I understand charities need money, I’m not stupid, and I’m willing to give it to them, if I can get a good CD or something out of it, but it’s hardly going to save the high street, is it? People weren’t staying away from the town because the choice of charity shops was too limited, ready to head to their nearest bus stop and hop on a bus as soon as the long-awaited Sue Ryder shop opens (that is, if their local bus route hasn’t been cut to save money, like mine was). They stayed away because the town had absolutely nothing to offer (But at least the car park is free, which I do appreciate).

An all too familiar sight

An all too familiar sight

 

Despite living in such an isolated part of the country, I am fortunate to live between three small towns (I like to think of this as the Boremuda Triangle), so I have a choice of which rubbish run-down town I want to go to.  The biggest of these three towns, despite losing every other entertainment shop in the last ten years, still has an HMV despite the recent closures, which brings me on to my main point. Anyone who has stepped into an HMV in recent years will be well aware that they have tried to stay afloat by no longer specialising in music and entertainment, but instead by flogging shoddy merchandise, in the vain hope that somebody will stumble into the shop looking for a new CD release (that hasn’t been stocked) and end up making an impulse purchase of a ‘TEAM EDWARD’ T-shirt, or Justin Bieber – The Sticker Book, the latter which I was nearly tricked into buying because of the low price and short-term Christmas ‘lols’ this would provide, before deciding not to, since I hate planning anything that far in advance. The good people at Popjustice have addressed this topic far better than I can, due to their large amount of photographic evidence in this article where they investigate the various pieces of JLS merchandise sold in their local HMV.

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So onto my main  point…

Recently, I read in the news that supermarket to the stars, Morrisons, has bought out six branches of HMV, in order to turn them into mini high street supermarkets, which will then sit alongside the Tesco Metro, Sainsbury’s Local, and the five Co-ops already on the road, giving more choice when getting a pint of milk on the way home. But this gave me an idea and it is an idea that I believe will rejuvenate everyone’s favourite (only?) high street music store, and potentially even stop it from being completely wiped out in the next year. In my student days, I used to do my weekly shop in Morrisons, since it was within walking distance and you could often get 10 bakery items for under a pound at closing time, so I thought to myself, what are the best features of Morrisons, and one of the answers is, of course, the fresh pizza counter, where the huge pizzas are prepared in store. I then wondered how this feature could be applied for the high street music store, and this is my answer.

1)      Instead of a pizza base you have a blank CD.

2)      Instead of picking a variety of toppings to go on it, you pick a selection of SONGS.

3)      The good people at HMV make up your mix CD for a fair price, while you wait.

 For this to work, it would need to be made a fairly prominent feature in store, the same way the CD singles chart used to be in the old days. You could clear out of all the shelves in the middle of the story that only contain Family Guy DVDs and Owen Wilson films covered in ‘SALE £3’ stickers. Nobody buys them so nobody is going to lose out on profits there.

chart MOCK UP 

Once you’ve got a space you need to put up a massive garish digital display, basically a big flashy, neon lights version of the chart on the Official Charts Company website. This should feature all of the songs in the Top 40 Chart, or Top 100 even, plus all of this week’s new releases.  Each song listed should feature the following information:         

– POSITION               – CHART MOVEMENT                       – Track name
(Big arrow                  – Last week’s placement                    – Artist
symbol etc.)               – Weeks on chart                                – Song length, – Label

Chart example

Using Justin Timberlake’s seemingly hour-long track Mirrors as an example, this is one way in which this information could be displayed. This would reignite people’s interest in chart statistics; just imagine how good all of this would look on a huge wall. There was a time when people would know what the number one single was, and more importantly, care. My mum, being the anorak she is, used to sit at her typewriter as a child and type out the week’s chart. Although I struggle to see the benefit of doing this, it shows an interest in the chart that is rarely shared by anybody today. Before digital music became the norm, you could go into Woolworth’s and look at the CD singles chart, where all of the songs would we lined up in order and it was exciting to see where your favourite artists were placing and who was flopping. The closest you get to that now is the variably trustworthy iTunes chart, or the Radio 1 midweek ‘Chart Update’ on a Wednesday, but there is no real visual aspect to this.

Being a bit of a nerd, I miss this visual aspect of album and single artwork, which is slowly disappearing for good. Artists and record labels are getting lazy when it comes to producing artwork for a single, but why should you spend money on creating an image that will only show up a little icon on someone’s iPod, which they won’t even be looking at. Artists would produce an image that would be eye-catching, and draw your attention to the song on this vast list of anorak-pleasing stats. Basically you would avoid single artwork like this:

1/10

1/10

 Below this big board you would need scraps of paper on which people could note down their song choices, with available writing implements to help them with this. It would basically be Argos’s little blue pen scheme, before they did away with those and replaced them with the less exciting blue pencil. Even if people only came into store to pinch a small pen, this would increase traffic in stores and fill them out a bit, if only briefly, plus there’s a small chance these petty thieves might actually buy something (a set of One Direction coasters?).  This form could look like this, for example (look HMV, I’m doing all the work for you here):

HMV MIXTAPE FORM 

Pricing:

Pricing would have to be pitched so that you would get a good deal by buying a large number of songs. A song on iTunes used to cost you 69p before a few songs started being sold in a ‘Plus’ format for 99p, before this was rolled out to all chart songs. Amazon MP3 prices songs at 89p and 7 Digital prices songs at 99p. I think this is still a bit high for today’s music business. Of course in the olden days you would buy a CD single for a few pounds but  you used to get a case, a disc, artwork and b-sides for that, whereas for a single MP3, you’re just getting a little bit of ‘space’, invisible data, some virtual information. To ask HMV to sell MP3 singles at less than this is obviously silly but imagine, just imagine, if you could put ten tracks onto a mix CD for five or six (5 or 6) pounds (£), making each track cost 50/60p. That’s not too much lower than the 69p of iTunes past and a far better deal. For many other things you get a deal when you buy in bulk, so why should it be different for MP3s?  I admit this bit is hopeful.

Artwork:

With this being a CD of MP3 tracks, it will come in a case and that case will need artwork. For the sake of an example, let me pick ten of the more enjoyable tracks from this week’s  Top 100 singles chart courtesy of the Official Charts Company.

Justin Timberlake – Mirrors,
Bastille – Pompeii,
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble,
Adele – Skyfall,
Rihanna – Diamonds,

James Arthur – Impossible,
Olly Murs – Troublemaker,
David Guetta/Sia – Titanium,
Arlissa – Sticks and Stones,
Calvin Harris/ Florence – Sweet Nothing

You could have two options for the cover of your mix tape: the first being a patchwork design featuring all of the single artwork from your select tracks, as below.

Lovely

Lovely

The second option would be to ignore all of this artwork, into which has gone so much effort (ha!) and replace the cover with a stock greetings card-style cover from a selection featuring favourites such as Happy Birthday, Get Well Soon, I Love You etc. etc. This would not only see the resurgence of the mix tape and the singles chart, but also in the greetings card. Get Clinton’s Cards involved if you need do, all chip in together to try and save the high street! If you stuck a ‘Happy Birthday’ cover on it, it would be the perfect cheap gift for a pal, assuming you know their music tastes well, they’ll know that a little bit of effort has gone into choosing it, and that you didn’t be a full-on cheapskate and make something, you’ve at least spent a fiver on it. Or even better: you could get a fun celebrity cover to bung on the front, with a suitable lyric splashed on it, such as the one below. Of course there would probably be some imaging rights and copywriting nonsense that this would get caught up in, but maybe the artists who already have too much money would take a quick snap and sign it over to HMV for free for sole use on their mix tape/greetings card covers, after all we are saving the high street here and you can’t really put a price on that, can you? And who wouldn’t like a Le Bon Anniversaire birthday card? I think someone made one for me once, and I appreciated it.

MIXTAPE COVERS

Process:

So you pick your songs on your little card with your little HMV pen, you go to the counter and hand this over paying your five or six pounds, and the staff member says ‘good choices!’ or more likely makes a sarcastic comment about your music taste, ‘The Saturdays… interesting’ and they then tell you that your CD will be ready in 5 minutes. While you go and busy yourself by having a coffee in the coffee bar that has by this point been installed in each store in order to boost profits, or sit in a listening booth which has been reinstalled to boost interest in HMV, the staff member burns your tracks onto a CD and prints off your cover then assembles it all for you.

Perhaps if you’re easily pleased and can find ten songs in the chart that actually appeal to you, you might go through this process a number of times per year. Each of these mix CDs, if you are making them for yourself, will serve as a little time capsule of sorts, remind you what you were listening to at a particular time, making them a fun thing to look back on and laugh at your poor taste. Kind of like a Now That’s What I Call Music CD, but for a fraction of the price and without an extra disc of crap that you don’t want.

There are so many advantages to this:

  • Increased interest in the top 40 and chart stats.
  • Cheaper singles.
  • More singles sold.
  • Non-regular buyers buying singles.
  • More effort put into artwork by artists.
  • Nice gift idea.
  • Rebirth of the physical mix tape.
  • Increased traffic in HMV stores thanks to free pens.
  • A fun atmosphere in HMV.
  • A reason to actually go into HMV.

 

So, HMV, if you are reading this, this is my idea. There are probably a few downsides to this idea; I expect there’s a lot of complicated legal stuff that will need to be manoeuvred, you’ll need to install all of the necessary machinery and refurnish a large section of each of your stores, and you’ll have to get every single record label on board, but that’s all possible, right? You’re making a small initial investment that could possibly see huge returns in the long run.  You can’t make enough money to keep the company afloat by just selling Mrs Brown’s Boys DVD box sets and the occasional Emeli Sandé album. Get rid of all the DVDs in store. Few of them are any good, and you can get them all cheaper online anyway. Focus on music again. Focus on making music interesting and accessible and a price that people will be willing to pay, and then you will see customers return. Diversification and innovation is the key to longevity.

I would buy this product, and I haven’t bought a single for about seven years.

Have a little think about it, at least, then call me, before every branch turns into another bloody charity shop.

 

Little Boots – ‘Nocturnes’ and ‘Motorway’

Little Boots – Nocturnes,
Motorway review &
Recent developments regarding the new album

 

Releasing an album that nobody thought would see the light of day: Priceless

Releasing an album that nobody thought would see the light of day: Priceless

 

I’ve been looking forward to this album for a while, as you can see HERE, but in news that will shock even her closest relatives, Victoria ‘Little Boots’ Hesketh has quite literally ‘got on with it’ and officially released some details of her four-years-in-the-making sophomore effort. Here’s what we now know:

It has a name.

As we’ve known for several weeks, the album is called ‘Nocturnes’, which according to our good friend, Google, means: 
“A short composition of a romantic or dreamy character suggestive of night, typically for piano.” So far I haven’t heard much piano but basically it’s an album characteristic of the night, which presumably is best enjoyed at night. See: ‘Tonight, Franz Ferdinand’ and ‘Night Work’ by Scissor Sisters, other very good night-themed works, but not exactly worldwide smashes.

It has a release date.

‘Nocturnes’ will be released on 5th May 2013.

It has some crap artwork (see top).

Boots released a picture a little while ago, which people said was a bad choice of album cover, but now she has released the actual cover, which is actually worse. Parallels have been made between the Nocturnes cover and Ellie Goulding’s ‘Halcyon’ cover as well as numerous others, but to me it just looks like a Mastercard logo, perhaps suggesting that Boots is aiming for the Mastercard Album of the Year award at the 2014 Brit Awards and for that, we should commend her ambition.

There are 10 songs on it. (BOO!)

Back to the drawing board...

Back to the drawing board…

This tracklisting was announced to the music consumer of today via Instagram (what else!), but as a list of tracks written on a blackboard rather than iced onto cupcakes. That picture can be found below, but in case you’re not good at discerning information from crap photographs, or you can’t see chalk, that track list is:

Motorway (4:59)
Confusion (5:01)
Broken Record (4:33)
Shake (5:31)*
Beat Beat (4:18)**
Every Night I Say a Prayer *** (3:38)
Crescendo (5:42)
Strangers (6:39)
All For You (4:21)
Satellites (5:25)

*As you can see, previously released single ‘Shake’ is there, but its running time has been reduced by around 40 seconds.

** ‘Beat Beat’ and ‘Shake appear’ to be the other way around to that listed on the blackboard.

**‘Every Night I Say a Prayer’ is also there. There was rumour beforehand that the track’s title had been changed to ‘Every Night’ and in the blackboard photo it is listed as ‘Prayer’. To confuse matters further, the iTunes track list gives the full original title, and that’s the one we will stick with, as it is the better one. This is a tell-tale sign of the inconsistency that has marred this whole campaign.

 There is an obvious omission in the track listing

Confirming what had already been discussed in various online locations, the most upbeat ‘single’ of the three released, ‘Headphones’ , the one with a proper video and everything, has been left off the album, probably because it was too cheery. ‘Superstitious Heart’ is also missing, but I’ll let her off there. Back to ‘Headphones’, it is available to download from reputable online sources if you are made of money, but there are remixes available for free, which are very good, especially the Moon Boots remix, so that’s an option if you don’t have Adele’s bank balance, or if you have Little Boots’ bank balance.

[Side rant: This is just like what happened with Marina and the Diamonds leaving first single ‘Radioactive’ off the album but releasing it on a ‘deluxe version’. This kind of behaviour shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s just winding people up really. Just decide on a definitive track list and release that on one album. Why does everything always have to be standard / deluxe / re-released / with bonus tracks / reloaded / special edition / with extra remixes!? For one thing, it makes labelling on iTunes more complicated than it needs to be and secondly, it makes the artist look indecisive. I’m not going to buy one copy of each version; I’ll buy the cheapest anyway so nobody is fooling me into spending more than I need to.]

Little Boots has left 679 Records.

In news that will surprise nobody, Boots has changed label, leaving behind terribly-organised 679 Records, which is probably why the album plans are actually in motion now. The album is released on ‘On Repeat’, whatever the hell that is. It sounds like Little Boots is self-releasing them. Lord knows if this means she will be releasing it into shops (if record shops still exist by then) or simply selling it out the back of a VW campervan, but she is apparently signing 1000 copies so she’s ambitious sales-wise, we’ll give her that.

Continuing the artwork theme of 'Terrible'

Continuing the artwork theme of ‘Terrible’

You can hear ‘Motorway’ now.

The opening track, ‘Motorway’, for which you can see the artwork above (which is continuing the newly-introduced theme of ‘terrible’), can be listened to now. Even better, you can download it for free from her website HERE. There is a little box where you can enter your email to sign up to (and quickly unsubscribe from) her mailing list. We don’t need to be on that, since we follow her on Instagram, right? Here it is:

Here is a brief review:

You can’t exactly dance to it, but don’t let you put that off. Whereas this would normally mean that it’s no good, the song is a perfectly pleasant listen and it sounds even better when listened to at night and in the dark. I suppose that’s why she’s called the album Nocturnes. The song starts out pretty slow but does pick up as it goes along, with a drum beat eventually coming in, but it never really kicks off. At the start it sounds like it is going to lead into Marina’s ‘Fear and Loathing’, but that obviously doesn’t happen, although a mash-up of the two would be welcome.

The song seems to be about Victoria wanting to elope with somebody via the motorway. She sings ‘Meet me on the motorway, together we can make our great escape”. Although this is more or less fine as a lyric, I can’t help but think about how inconvenient it would be to meet somebody on the motorway.  Surely the thrill of eloping would be bigger if you were in the same car, or TOGETHER. With the price of petrol today, fleeing in two separate cars is going to cause you a lot of financial hassle, not to mention any potential tolls and subsequent parking. At one point you will have to ditch one of the cars, so what’s the point in taking it? Perhaps it would be quite romantic racing round the M25 and looking out of your windows at each other, but I’m a man of convenience so that doesn’t suit me at all.

The vocals are dreamy, there are lots of bleepy noises and the lyrics are not grating, although when she sings of her ‘heavy eyes on the road’ I can’t help thinking that if they were driving together, then they could take it in turns at the wheel, giving the other and opportunity to sleep and thereby avoiding any unnecessary stops at service stations, which would give the fuzz a chance to catch up with you. Music-wise, the song could do with a bit of a kick up the bum with a big middle-eight break down, like in Scissor Sister’s Night Work buzz single and career highlight ‘Invisible Light’ with lots of crashes and loud back ground chanting (Sir Ian McKellen monologue optional) but even without that it sounds pretty good anyway. Note: obviously by crashes I mean cymbals, not car crashes. However, in the tragic event of one of the cars crashing, which would clearly be terrible,, there would be half as many casualties as the two were, of course, riding separately. Silver linings… I’ve cracked the code!

I’ve mocked up a better single cover on MS Paint for everyone’s benefit, which embodies all the beauty of motorways.

"Together we can make out great escape..."

“Together we can make our great escape…”

Arbitrary rating: 8/10, very good but could explode a bit more towards the end.

With three good songs on it already, Nocturnes is probably worth buying already, but if you want to confirm this, or if you’re just a fan of ruining surprises, 1:30 long clips are available of all tracks on iTunes. You can also pre-order the album now in the obvious places, but you usually get it late when you do that, which is against the point really, isn’t it? Still if you fancy Little Boots scrawling an emotionless message on your CD case, go for it.

Don’t le me down, Hesketh.

 

 

Robbie Williams’ Brit Awards performance review and 5 better things to spend your money on.

Five things you could buy for 99p that are better than the video of Robbie Williams’ live BRITs performance.

This morning, upon the Twitter, I received this hugely welcome piece of information from the marketing intern at Universal Music who is officially masquerading as Robbie Williams: 

Barking up the wrong tree

Barking up the wrong tree

 Robbie Williams used to be one of our greatest pop entertainers, but he hasn’t really released anything good enough since Escapology in 2003 and he has been dead behind the eyes for as long as I can remember, despite the fact he has something to live for now. Here is a link to Robbie’s live effort: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geJ4qcVYgIM

Obviously it would be easier to embed that link, but the awkward folks at the BRIT Awards have prohibited that, as it would make it to convenient for people to enjoy and share the performance.

I made my views on Candy clear when I reviewed it upon release, saying it was definitely hummable and could have been a great track were it not for the lyrics, where Candy is not only let down, but completely deflated.

Robbie has never been a great live singer, finding it easier to  just shout and hold his hands in the air, telling the audience to sing the words for him. SHE’S GOT LOTS OF DIFFERENT HORSES BY LOTS OF DIFFERENT MEN! Yet Robbie stands out because he has enough personality to match that of every other performer and winner at last night’s BRIT Awards, which was a completely charisma-free affair. This could have been remedied by handing one of Emeli ‘The Underdog’ Sandé’s awards to Paloma Faith, who would have given us the chance to see a proper speech as she was one of the few nominees with enough energy to make it the whole way through the show.  Sandé must have been taking naps in between awards to merely keep her strength up.

Sadly, the truth, Universal intern, is that I didn’t love the Candy performance. It sounded like Robbie had forgotten how Candy actually goes and he shouted ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR! whenever he couldn’t remember which nonsensical line came next. It also took Robbie two minutes to shout ‘Come on!’ and try to get the audience to sing a line, which must be near to a new record for him. At the end of the performance glitter rained down on the stage like when somebody wins the big money on Deal Or No Deal, but the only thing Robbie was earning was a collective sympathetic look from the audience. Despite all that, the stage looked great and the brass-wielding backing band/dancers were well choreographed, so it wasn’t all bad.

Would you watch it again though? No, of course you bloody wouldn’t. It was one of those ‘of the time’ performances that will not be remembered past the original week of broadcast. If you look through the history of Brit Awards performances there are plenty you had forgotten about. For instance, above is a video from 2005 of one-time Best British Urban Act, Lemar, and professional panel show contestant, Jamelia, delivering a flaccid and completely inexplicable rendition of Robert Palmer’s ‘Addicted To Love’, in a year where Lemar released soul classic ‘If There’s Any Justice’ and Jamelia released the song that famously ended domestic abuse for good, ‘Thank You’.

So, the truth is that I won’t be spending 99p on Robbie’s live video (not that I’ve ever bought a music video. Why would you?) Just in case you were considering it and you are prospering so well in this economic climate that you have 99p to just throw away, here are a handful of things you could better spend that money on.

1.    TLC’s Waterfalls on 12″ Vinyl

12" singles, the height of convenience.

12″ singles, the height of convenience.

It’s a great song, with a great chorus and meaningful lyrics!
It would look cool hanging on your wall if you don’t have a record player!

It’s ‘Collection Only’ from Romford!

2.    Kurt Cobain All Apologies:

‘A tribute to the man and his music’ from 99p Stores  

A reputation booster, for sure.

A reputation booster, for sure.

What better way to show your teenage angst than by owning a Kurt Cobain DVD?

I hope it would be more of an ITV2 talking heads show with Michelle Bass and Jedward sharing their memories of when Kurt went ‘dead mental’, but it appears to include music. Viewer beware! 

Did you know that the ‘All Apologies’ single by Nirvana featured the double A-Side classic ‘Rape Me’ and B-Side ‘Moist Vagina’? You wouldn’t get that kind of rock authenticity from Robbie, would you? Despite those hardly charming track names, you can’t help miss the B-Side tradition. 

‘Candy’ actually had a CD single but the B-Side was a remix. Sad face indeed.

3. A pastry from Greggs.

Haute cuisine

Haute cuisine

 

You may think you can’t compare buying a snack to a media item that you can keep forever and ever (or at least until digital media becomes obsolete), but think about it how many uses will you get out of a sausage roll?

One. Or more if you’re doing something unorthodox… 

How many uses will you get out of the video of Robbie’s BRIT Awards performance? One? None?

Maybe you’ll want to watch it and relive the historic moment every time you’re on the bus, but it’s unlikely.

4. ‘BONO on Bono’ from eBay 

He's just trying to be a good guy, OK!?

He’s just trying to be a good guy, OK!?

The seller describes this, in all capitals to help the message sink in, as “PAPERBACK BOOK FROM THE MOUTH OF THE U2 FRONT MAN AND ALL ROUND GOOD GUY… THIS BOOK IS A GREAT ADDITION TO YOUR U2 BOOK COLLECTION.” 

What music memorabilia could you want more than a book of transcribed conversations with rock’s number one good guy, spectacle enthusiast and Captain Modest?

And all for a bargain 1p. Buy 99 copies and hand them out to your nearest and dearest, or to your city’s homeless population, to give them hope. 

Frankly, you’d be a fool to buy Robbie’s video when your U2 book collection is still incomplete.

5. Walkers Salt & Vinegar Crisps with Scary Spice! 

Tracked down, at last!

Tracked down, at last!

Remember all those years you have spent regretting ever throwing away your limited edition Spice Girls crisp packets in 1997? Well, stop worrying, pop enthusiast, as somebody had held onto them!

The seller helpfully adds that the Best Before Date of the crisps (which s/he has eaten) was 27/12/97, so that’s good news if that’s the one you needed!

Other choices include Salt and Vinegar French Fries with Mel C. From a smoke and pet free home, no less!

 

6. Give the money to someone who really needs it.

 

iTunes probably isn’t in desperate need of your money and they won’t miss it, so if you are affluent enough to chuck your Pound around like it’s as worthless as a Best Live Act BRIT Award, give it to someone who needs it.

Head down to your local charity shop and you can surely get something that is far less one-use than Robbie’s video for 99p. A book, a Robbie Williams CD with decent songs on it, an ornament that might turn out to be worth something.

Perhaps just donate it to the Brit Awards committee so they can afford to put on a bigger budgeted show in 2014? Maybe they will finally be able to upgrade from their presenters of James ‘Gay Joke’ Corden and Rizzle Kicks.

(Personally I’d get the sausage roll though. And you’d still have change for the Bono book.
Holy Valance, there is a lot of crap on the internet.)