Thursday, February 07, 2008

Change and Chicken

So, over the last few weeks, in the haze of a rather unhealthy lifestyle, I feel as though certain changes have occurred in me that perhaps I was unaware of. What's more, they seem to have occurred for what I percieve to be the better. I've become more focused and finally seem to have found that spine that, on occassions in the past, I thought might have deserted me. This can only be a good thing, as it seems that finally I might have found that self-esteem that had perhaps deserted me for an elongated period. However, part of me feels as through all of this, I've been letting some people down and no longer fit into what they percieved me to be. This seems to leave me with a question: how do you manage to remain the person that you're pleased with whilst not letting other people down? Complex, answers on a postcard, please...

I suppose the reason for this questioning comes from the fact that not only do I think I've changed slightly, but that a lot of change seems to be occurring around me. This then leaves you with fear, fear that people close to you, and that you view as important, may no longer be there. How, then, do you let people really know what they mean to you? It's not a case of grand gestures, that's for sure, but the question of whether other people really know how much they mean to you still remains. For me, this was only accentuated over the last week with what, and yes I am probably being melodramatic, was a near death experience.

I accepted a challenge. One of those stupid things that blokes do as a percieved method of proving their masculine identity to each other. This challenge was to see whether each of us could eat a whole KFC Family Bucket. I (eventually) managed to complete such a challenge, but towards the end, all manner of nasty thoughts entered my mind. Firstly, there was the question of consumption. For someone who is disgusted by the excesses of consumption, and views excessive forms of consumption (in whatever manner) as vulgar, a certain amount of disgust with myself started to simmer down below. Following on from this mental complex over excessive consumption came a feeling of guilt of the physical effects of it. We live in a society and culture bound with fear about dying because of the food that we eat, and, for a while, I genuinely seemed to think that I might suffer something that would result in my erasure (slightly over-the-top perhaps, but it occurred nonetheless). So as I lay in bed after this vulgar display, the above thoughts about if I was to pass on were to happen, would those close to me know how much they rock? Perhaps, in the words of mid-90s band Gene, "It's time I told my friends I love them", then again, perhaps they already know that? Once again, it left me considering being postmodern. How can you ever be sure?

Oh, and just for note, in said challenge I came third. Seems that the predisposition to coming third remains.

The Bronze Medal's Five Songs of the Moment:

Elastica - Waking Up
Editors - Escape the Nest
Maximo Park - Girls Who Play Guitars
Geneva - If You Have to Go
The Long Blondes - Weekend Without Make-up

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New New Year

Good day one and all, and a very happy new year to you! Yes, I realise that it's a little late, but better late than never and all that. I could insert a few more cliches after that (I'm sure there are some to be had about being patient that would do nicely), but I'm not going to as it would probably be quite tedious.

In all honesty, the title of this post refers to nothing. Aside from the fact that I'm just trying to kill some time before I decide to watch a Who DVD. I haven't decided what to watch tonite. The past two nites I've very much been enjoying a selection from the recently-released 'Beneath the Surface' box set. I've always been a fan of the Sea Devils and Silurians, and there are memories of BBC2 repeats and trips to Kingsteignton Library bound up with those particular fan objects, so to have all three stories encased in a lovely cardboard sleeve together was a great start to the new year.

Ah yes, New Year. That all came and went in all honesty. I had the biggest non-Christmas ever, and that's obviously something I'm still quite annoyed about given that I seem to be happily moaning to anyone and everyone who will listen to me moan about it. I tell you what, I'll even use it as an excuse for not having blogged over the past few months. That seems to be my stock answer for anything these days, "Sorry, but I'm busy", unless you're suggesting a trip to the pub and then you'll probably get a positive reply. Anyways, as a result of this busyness, I never got to discuss my favourite singles of the past twelve months. So, here it is:

The Bronze Medal's Top Ten Singles of 2007:

10. Falling Down - Duran Duran

The best band of the 80s return with the help of Justin Timberland and produce a dark, brooding gem in the vein of 'Come Undone' and 'Ordinary World'. Great, catchy melody and a nice extended guitar solo at the end. Shame no-one gave two hoots about it.

9. Back to Black - Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse has had a troubled year, and the only thing to hope for is that in 2008 the press get off of her back and people remember why she came into the public eye in the first place. Listening to this atmospheric, jazzy tale of unrequited longing is a more than sufficient starting place.

8. Weapon of Choice - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

A band that a lot of people had given up return with an archetypal slab of brilliance. Like all good rock and roll tracks, it's built around a simple chord progression that unrelentlessly drives into you sitting room, drinks all you whiskey, and then throws up over your kids. 'I wouldn't waste my love on a nation', they sing throughout the chorus. Sound advice in this day and age.

7. The Way I Are - Timbaland

A man who seems hell bent on working with anyone in contemporary music, and producing some of the finest pop/R and B of the last decade or two at the same time. An infectuous, delay-ridden keyboard riff drives a simple tale of loving someone for who they are to make something that is equal parts edgy and endearing. It also contains the great line of "I ain't got a motorboat, but I could float your boat" for the added push of genius.

6. Books from Boxes - Maximo Park

Taken from the patchy (yet not disappointing) 'Our Earthly Pleasures' album, this track sees The Park abandon their usual 100 miles per hour, stream of consciousness approach to produce a heartfelt ballad that tugs. If you aren't moved by the way in which Paul Smith delivers the song's closing lyric, there's something wrong with you.

5. Our Velocity - Maximo Park

So if 'Books from Boxes' sees Maximo Park depart from their usual style, this could well be deemed as 'Apply Some Pressure Part II' since it features a similar driving-guitar riff and scatty lyrics. The summer festival season saw this recognised as the anthem it is, but as with most tracks by this band, there's a witty intellegence in the lyrics that few other bands get anywhere close to.

4. Pour Le Monde - Crowded House

So, The Greatest Band in the World Ever come back and show all the other pretenders to the throne of acoustic balladeering how to do it. A simple, piano-led strum-along, lifted from the sublime 'Time on Earth record, that you really wish would go on forever. I really can't put into words how beautiful this song is.

3. Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors - Editors

The only song this year to make me shed a tear when I hear it and not feeling particularly great. The starts small, then kicks in with a guitar part that sounds like it could tear right through your body. The lyrical theme of illness, recovery and change are poigantly delivered, and Tom Smith seems to have a voice that drives feeling into everything he sings. "We've all been changed from what we were, Our broken hearts left smashed on the floor". Enough said, really.

2. No Emotion - Idlewild

So, in typical fashion, Britian's most underrated band take the Franz Ferdinand guide to writing Indie songs, combine it with the good points of Nu Rave, and make an absolute stonker of a disco floor-filler that no-one really heard. The fact that it made number 32 in the chart on the back of no radio or MTV support just makes you wonder where it could have got to in a different environment.

1. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne

A sublime piece of camp, punk-pop bitchiness. It's slightly reminicsent of 'Hey Mickey!' (another pop song that I love), but delivered in a fresh fashion that you really can't ignore, and blows the cobwebs away no matter when you hear it. Brilliant to jump around to after a couple of drinks, fun enough to put a smile on your face when unexpectedly appearing on your iPod. This encapsulates in four minutes everything that a great pop song should be.

Just one thing. Could someone please shoot The Hoosiers? Oh, and if you could get Mika as well I'd be very greatful.

Monday, September 17, 2007

No 'Bronze Medal'

Greatest hits packages. They're always a curious thing to consider. On the one hand, they can be an ace opportunity to get all "the hits" from a band you've had a marginal interest in over the course of their career or they can be the chance to get into a band you've respected from the past but never risked buying one of their albums. On the other hand, if it's an act that you've been raving about since they released their first album, the point of buying such a package can be minimal. Usually it amounts to a couple of new tracks, lazily interlinked with "the hits" and maybe the odd fan-favourite/live recording thrown in for good measure. Fair play, in recent years the industry has recognised this by releasing the now-standard "special edition" version with more of the aforementioned fan-faves, rarities and live tracks as a bonus. However, the main point, so beautifully captured by David Cavicchi's discussion of Bruce Springstein fans, stands: do you spend fifteen quid on a collection of songs you already own, just arranged in a different order?

This, Dear Reader, is the dilemma I face a t present, since the mighty Idlewild are set to release their 'Best Of' next month. To purchase or not to purchase? Well, unfortunately that's a foregone conclusion! For completist reasons I pretty much have to get it. The choice of tracks is not that surprising, being "Remote Part" heavy as that's their most popular album. However, whilst it's nice to see them not go for the "just the singles" approach by including some slightly obscurer tracks the choice of some of these is questionable. 'Let Me Sleep (Next to the Mirror)' stands out the greatest due to it a) not being one of the best songs on "100 Broken Windows" and b) being included at the expense of the awesome 'Actually It's Darkness', but including 'Make Another World' is also curious. Not that the latter is a bad song either, just curious as to why it was included and 'Ghost in the Arcade' wasn't.

Obviously, there are omissions. Significant omissions being 'Captain' (should've been there for old times sake and it's artistic shoutyness) and 'Everyone Says You're So Fragile' (the song with officially the best use of a scream in the history of music). Personally, I'd have liked to have seen 'The Bonze Medal', 'Quiet Crown', 'I'm Happy to Be Here Tonight' and 'Tell Me Ten Words' included, as well as the stonking b-side 'Poor Thing'. However, that's again the problem of a favourite band releasing a retrospective, you're faves are always a little more idiosynchratic than what the everyman requires. However, the real plus for the fans will be the special edition release, with it's inclusion of all of the band's music videos as well as a full live DVD. That's value for money, there. Usually they'd be three seperate releases for another band. However, Idlewild have decided to do them all together, and I for one shall not be complaining.

So there we are, Dear Reader, 'Scottish Fiction: The Best of 1997-2007' is out on the 1st of October. A chance to listen to a collection of brilliant songs by one of the best undiscovered bands of the last ten years. However, if I were you I'd just buy all their albums. And a few of the singles too...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Getting Out the Childish Things

Good day, Dear Reader. Well it's been a while, has it not? I think I make it about seven months in total. Now, seven months is a long stretch of time and many things can happen to someone over the stretch of that time-period. This, however, will not be a long recourse through those last few months. They are lost to the annuals of history, probably never to be retrieved by anyone other than if someone wants to right my autobiography, which will be a thoroughly disappointing read peppered with the occasional witty observation about Devon. Neither, sadly, will this post cover an in-depth overview of Season Three of Who. That particular job can be summed up in the following statement: "It was awesome aside from the last two episodes". In short, we started with hilariously cack space-rhinos, moved onto epic witches, the return of the Macra (!) and the moving death of the Face of Boe, the Daleks making me scream with excitement as they evolved and then sigh as the second episode was a let down, a poetic study of wanting to live forever, quite possibly the piece of drama Who has produced since 'Caves of Androzani', THE greatest episode of the series (and perhaps since it came back), a thrillingly exciting chase and re-introduction of an old face (minus the beard an annoying heh-heh-hehing), and then John Simm being let down by bad uses of music and not really knowing what to do with DT and Captain Jack. There we are, Season Three in a nutshell.

Anyways, the subject matter of this post is to discuss the great news that Character, the company responsible for producing those rather awesome plastic figures related to the series, are to start producing figures from the 'classic' series. I fell of my chair when I heard this. I can't believe it. So in short, here are my 5 nominations for figures that should be included in the range of 'classic' Who merchandise:

5. Ace.
Ahhh, lovely Sophie Aldred immoratlised forevermore in plastic. Yes, there is a slightly creepy subtext to that comment, it's not intentional.

4. The Emperor Dalek from 'Evil of the Daleks'.
It's a real shame that this story doesn't exist anymore as it's awesome, and the photos that exist of the Emperor Dalek make it look fantastic, just for the fact that it doesn't look that Dalekesque (is that a word? If not, I'm copyrighting it). Would fit in quite nicely with the new series as well.

3. Soldeed and a Nimon.
There could be kids playing in the street going "Lord Nimon! Lord Niiiiiiiimon! It is I! Soldeed!". Imagine that. I don't think I'd ever be able to stop laughing! I'd have to go up and congratulate said child for doing so! At which instance I'd probably get arrested by their mother on the accusation of being a Paedo.

2. Sharaz Jek.
Best written villain of the old series? Possibly, he's definately up there, apart from the fact that he wasn't evil! Morgus was the real villain of the piece, Jek was the man after revenge after being betrayed. Brilliant performance as well that deserves being immortalised in plastic, even if he does look like he might be dressed in a gimp costume nowadays. But think, the mask could come off revealing the disfgurement beneath. Now that would be cool...

1. Scaroth.
Oh come on! Like you didn't see that one coming! It would be the coolest thing ever. Again, he should come with a removable head that reveals the green cyclops beneath. Kids could get well acquainted with providing concise answers, noting that nobody could be as stupid as he seems, and taunting futile earthlings who believe they are the upmost authority on temporal theory. I'd buy one straight away! In fact, I'd buy three, and one for my niece, and... Oh, I dunno. But I'd find some other people to buy one for.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Broken, Discarded Umbrella, Publicly Displayed in a Public Lavatory

A slightly bizzare title for this blog post you may well think Dear Reader, and you'd be quite right. The above title refers to something strange I saw whilst walking back from the centre of Cardiff today. I'd just got past the swanky-looking sushi restaurant (still haven't visited that restaurant. Don't even know if I like sushi to be honest, but it looks quite interesting nevertheless) and soon after that there's one of those 'experimental' public toilets like they have in France where you pay money to get in, then get a set amount of time before the door locks and the place 'cleans itself'. Now going back a few years I have a funny story from Uni about a friend getting stuck in one of these contraptions after a trip to the Welsh Club (hopefully some readers may remember being there), but that's a little aside. What drew my attention was that the door to this public lavatory was wide open, and someone had thrust their defunct umbrella in the bowl of the toilet, so that it looked like some form of modern art; a metaphor for mankind's continual second placing to nature? What really struck me was that someone had gone to the attention of actually sticking the destroyed umbrella in this toilet in such a manner, as it looked as though someone had given it real thought. Bizzare.

So I suppose at this point I should lead the discussion from this opening anecdote into a further abstraction of the above, whereby I discuss something like creating beauty and art out of everyday things? Or perhaps lead in to a discussion of climate change as a result of the blown-out umbrella? Unfortunately, neither of these things will be discussed. The truth is that this incident was one of a number of strange occurances I seem to have been witness to lately. I'm not going to list them all here, as I'm sure some of them aren't nearly as funny or wierd as I seem to think they are, but it seems as though there's a lot of funny business going on with the public of Cardiff at the moment. Perhaps those Krillitanes have been invading again. Last night one fell in to my pot of yoghurt. That, Dear Reader, was a careless mistake.

Is anyone else slightly scared by the fact that it's mid-January already? I mean, seriously, last time I looked it was New Year's Day and I was watching entire series of (the hilarious) Peep Show. Ah well, time flies when you're having fun. Or reading about discursive psychology. One of the two.

CyberControl's Top 5 Points of Stability in a Strange Universe:

The Cooper Temple Clause - Waiting Game
The Long Blondes - Giddy Stratospheres
Roxette - Dressed For Success
Jimmy Eat World - Polaris
Rufus Wainwright - Agnus Dei

Sunday, December 31, 2006

To The Future

So, Dear Readers, that was 2006. Was it fun? Did you have a good time? I sincerely hope so. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for the forthcoming twelve months anyways. I would insert something slightly profound here but a) I can't really think of anything and b) inserting an inspirational quote is something of a cliche in all honesty.

Anyways, to 2007! I've a good feeling about this...

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Singles of the Year 2006

Or perhaps that should be subtitled 'What? No 'Jump in my Car'?'. For somehow David Hasselhoff managed to almost score a number one single this year with a dreadfully cheesy song, and a hilarious video. And purely for that reason he almost warranted a position on the following rundown. As did current novelty pop track 'Chacaron' by El Chombo which seems to border that fine line between madness and genius by having someone mumble over a basic backing track whilst someone else talks about Macaroons. Utterly bizzare. However, as will become evident, there is only space for one genius/terrible borderline track as it has been a great twelve months for individual singles. What other songs narrowly missed out? Well Snow Patrol's 'Chasing Cars' was, and still is, a beautiful love song that came close, as did both of the slightly bonkers yet immensely funky singles from CSS, and The Zutons' brilliant 'Why Won't You Give Me You're Love?'. Also, in the name of avoiding overtly favouring my fave bands ,The Bluetones' 'My Neighbour's House' was denied a place on this list despite being a brilliantly bouncy indie track. So, what songs defined and summarised the year musically? Not flaming 'Atlantis to Interzone' by The Klaxons to start with. Read on...

10. The Strokes - Heart in a Cage

From the second that Nick Valenti's lead guitar screams and screeches in to life, sounding as though he's trying to out do Guns and Roses' 'Sweet Child of Mine', this track immediately grabs your attention and inspires air guitar riffing. Whilst Jules croons about feeling out of place and missing chances with a girl, the musical accompaniment seems to veer between heavy metal and Iggy Pop-style punk, to make a track that rocks, swirls and broods in equal measures. What's more, the line "See I'm stuck in a city/but I belong in a field" seems strangely touching from a band so defined by their relationship to New York. The best thing they've ever recorded? Quite possibly, yes.

9. Boy Kill Boy - Suzie

Back in January, the music press was buzzing about this London-based band being the next big thing. However, when their debut single, 'Back Again', sounded like a rejected Editors track, people were right to be sceptical. However, that couldn't hide the fact that the follow up was a glorious three minutes of glam-indie-pop. With it's stacatto guitars, jerky synthesisers and downtrodden lyrics, culminating in the anthemic chorus hook of "count down to the disappointment/I'm your's tonight', it was a very special track. Perhaps if it had been their debut it would have better justified the hype.

8. Robbie Williams - Rudebox

Upon release of this track The Sun proclaimed it "the worst song ever recorded". The first time you heard it you had to check yourself that you'd heard it right. For why on Earth would an alleged 'global superstar' release a song with such quintessentially British lyrics as 'TK Maxx costs less"? However, that wasn't the real lyrical gem of the track, that was reserved for "the R-U-D-E-B-O-X/Goes up your jacksy and splits your kecks". Whilst the track proved once more that white, British men are not in anyway 'gangstas', you were never fully convinced that Mr. Williams also in on the joke, gleefully aware that what he was performing a pile of complete nonsense. Did he trick the world in to thinking this was serious? Is it really a subtle parody of hip-hop culture? Or is it just a really dreadful song? It's that pause that the track inspires that makes it fantastic. Go on, shake your rudebox. Whatever the hell that means.

7. The Holloways - Generator

"I can get a record player/and a generator/to generate the music that makes you feel better". What a fantastic statement against middle class angst this track was. Complete with indie-folk guitar parts that recall The Levellers in more ways than one, this track came along towards the end of the summer and shone brighter than a lot of the sunshine we experienced this year. Whilst some may say it was a little preachy, or a bit too much like The Levellers in fact, there's no doubting that it's a frank, joyous and bouncy reminder to be grateful for what you've got.

6. The Fratellis - Creepin' Up The Backstairs

Perhaps there should be a law that the track that announces your presence to the world should be as chaotic as this is, as it's breakneck chord sequence and quickly-delivered lyrics seem perfectly suited to inspire mass hysteria when played live. However, unlike The Libertines, who seemed to revel in being a total shambles on record, there's something quite ordered about this track that only adds to the energy of it. Whilst they went on to become absolutely huge towards the end of this year, this tale of youthful defiance of your parents and your siblings only underlines what I mean when I say that if I was ten years younger they'd probably be my favourite band, since this would be the reason why.

5. Keane - Crystal Ball

It begins with a wave of feedback and some glimmering, crystaline piano sounds that suggests something fragile and mysterious. From the second Tom Chaplin's vocals enter, proclaiming "Who is the man I see/where I'm supposed to be", it's obvious that the opening music is a good indicator of the rest of the song. What follows is four minutes of astonishing honesty, documenting what it really feels like to look at your reflection and not recognise the person you see. Depending on the mood you're in it makes for either comforting listening that someone else has experienced the same feelings, or a quite harrowing admission of helplessness. A strange, angry and bold choice for a single that seems to cry for help and then turn it away at the same moment. Truly fascinating.

4. The Rapture - Get Myself Into It

When The Rapture appeared a couple of years ago with their 'House of Jealous Lovers' track, I literally ran a mile. It sounded like a dog whelping the same four words over a backing track best described as consisting of an atonal guitar riff and some cow bells. It was only after the constant badgering from a good friend that I grew to appreciate said song. However, when I first heard this track I struggled to believe it was the same band. Slick, funky and intensely groovy, it was both a throwback to the late 1970s and completely of it's time, and flowed with the attitude and style you come to expect of a band originating from New York.

3. The Killers - When You Were Young

Whoever thought that the lyric "He doesn't look a thing like Jesus" would wind up being one of the lines of the year? However, when it's delivered in Brandon Flowers' unimitable hollering wail it just somehow works. The whole song works as a bridge between the downtrodden, slightly sleazy sound of 'Hot Fuss' and the more widescreen Americana of 'Sam's Town', where there's uncertainty about climbing mountains and people riding swirling hurricanes. U2's (ironically titled) guitarist The Edge must also be kicking himself that he's been outdone by the guitar work on this track. It's just a shame they followed it up with the dreadful 'Bones': the most generic indie track in a long time.

2. Muse - Supermassive Black Hole

Muse comebacks are always notoriously impressive. I mean who could forget them announcing their second album, 'Origin of Symmetry', with the massive slap-in-the-face wall-of-sound that was 'Plug In Baby', or the way in which 2003's 'Absolution' was introduced by the brooding, menacing 'Time is Running Out'. Yet, really and honestly, was anybody expecting this as the comeback single for their new album? Gone were those walls of feedback and over the top riffs, and in came angular guitar and bass parts that more recalled the current Indie/art school movement rather than the heavy rock they're associated with. What exactly has it got to do with black holes? I haven't a clue. But it's a phenomenally adventurous and unexpected piece of music. It's place in this list was rivalled by the equally mad riffing of 'Knights of Cydonia', but just for having the sheer balls to produce this type of song warrants it's recognition over the other track. Sci-fi twinged, truly marvellous and featuring some of the best distorted, repressed screaming I've ever heard.

1. Kasabian - Empire

In a year that saw many bands suddenly a go a little bit bonkers (for example, see Muse), Kasabian raised the bar to ten, cleared that bar, and then raised it again with this storming, baffling lead track from their second album. What makes it such a great track though? Well, for starters it begins in a completely boring manner by coming across as a bog-standard indie stomp-fest. Then, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, singer Tom shouts "Stop!" and it sounds as though you're suddenly listening to a rock cover of the Doctor Who theme (a feeling that only increases as the chorus finishes and the middle eight plays out). Complete madness. Add in the over-the-top video and it only adds to the appeal of the song. Quite what the lyrics have got to do with empires is beyond me (if anyone can explain then I'd be most appreciative), but this is a truly wonderful, mad, piece of music that is perfect for a bit of a pogo when played live or for a bit of a dance at a disco. Either way, it's guaranteed to get you on your feet.