Tuesday, 1 December 2015

BBC Sound of 2016.

Oh look, I appear to have dusted off the cobwebs of my old blog. Hello everyone. How are you all doing? I'm okay, thanks.
The BBC have posted up their 'Sound of...' longlist. You know, that list that tells us all what we're going to be listening to for the next year, that inevitably includes acts we never actually hear from ever again (whatever happened to Jamie N Commons, Stooshe, Daley, Rox, Daisy Dares You, etc, etc). Now, it became a bit of a tradition on this blog to write about the list and critique the acts as I listened to them. If you look, you'll see that the last post on this blog is the one four years ago about the BBC Sound of 2012 list. It was probably the best received of the blog traditions I had on this thing, so I'm going to do it again, as I am a bit bored and the 2016 list went up today. So, will I still pour reactionary scorn on everything in a slightly over the top way, or will the passing years have mellowed me out at all? Let's find out.
Remember, these are all first impressions. They can change. For example, I said that Frank Ocean was, "...kind of a little bit nothing." He then went on to make Channel Orange, which is one of my favourite albums of the whole flippin' decade. So yes. Anything I say here can probably be taken with a pinch of salt.
Right, who's first then?

1. Alessia Cara
Song listened to: 'Scars To Your Beautiful.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Candid, cool and conscious R&B pop.'

Is it possible to have unconscious music? Music created in a state of sleep? Is there a really good band somewhere in which every member is in a coma?
This sounds a lot like something else. The chorus is a series of clichés. That song title is stupid. Actually, this whole song is like listening to a collection of those photos people put on Facebook that have inspirational quotes on them. I don't think this song was written, I think it's a found poem composed of a ton of those quotes, which has then been put to music. The kind of modern R&B influenced ballad that has booming drums in the chorus to let you know THAT THIS IS REALLY ASPIRATIONAL, YEAH? YOU CAN BE WHOEVER AND WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE. YOU JUST NEED TO BELIEVE. IN YOURSELF!

2. Blossoms
Song listened to: 'Blown Rose.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Psych-pop riffs and vocal melodies.'

Right. This highlights a problem that you get a lot now. This list is set up alphabetically, but it seems to have become the norm to have people listed alphabetically by their first name rather than their surname, because that's what iTunes does, yeah?
Secondly, they sound like Cast. Remember Cast? Yeah. Blossoms sound like that.
And the chorus makes absolutely no sense whatsoever:- 'The stately homes of England, how beautiful they stand. Lately it's a lonely love I know. Blown rose. Girl.'
WHAT? What even is that? Do people just not make any effort whatsoever in writing song lyrics anymore?
Thirdly, they look like total bellends. They look like they've each chosen a different 90's band to pick their style from, so they can collectively channel the decade as a whole. A Madchester/Britpop/Indie pick 'n' mix. And amazingly, they still chose to sound like fucking Cast.
I dunno. Kids today, eh?

3. Billie Marten
Song listened to: 'Bird.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Yearning, breathy folk from an adolescent prodigy.'

There's always one bloody 16 year old on these lists, I swear. It's like how the Mercury Prize always used to have a token jazz entry. BBC Sound of 2016's token 16 year old entry is Billie Marten. I AM LITERALLY OLD ENOUGH TO BE HER DAD. OH GOD, WHEN DID I GET SO OLD?
This is actually okay. She can sing. There's a nice piano line. Oooh, I like that organ sound. There are some nice layers coming and going in this. I wouldn't describe it as folk, personally. It's more a slow, 'thoughtful' pop song.It sounds like someone I can't quite put my finger on. Sort of Kate Bush-y, tiny elements of Joanna Newsom, but then again not really. Can't quite place it, but it sounds like someone. Or an amalgamation of someones.
That was nice, I quite liked that.

4. Dua Lipa 
Song listened to: 'Be The One.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Sultry, sophisticated pop.'

I don't really know what to say about this one. It's pleasant enough, but it's just a bit dull and lifeless. It's almost good, but there are too many elements that just don't quite work together. And then it's done. It doesn't really finish, it just stops. And now I have instantly forgotten it. And no, I'm not going to listen to it again in an effort to expand on any of this.

5. Frances
Song listened to: 'Grow.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Harmonious piano pop.'

For a moment I thought the tagline said 'Harmonium' and got excited that we might be about to get something interesting. What this actually is, is the type of song that people who love The X Factor think is really deep and soulful, riddled with yet more clichés and lyrics that don't actually make any sense.
"I've left you a blank page by the door. There's no need to ask me what it's for."
God, that's deep. Like, *really* deep. That's not just two random sentences put together linked by a rhyme, oh no. No. Not at all.
Urgh, oh God, the final third of this song is horrible. Syrupy, sickly sounding trite. This will be covered on The X Factor, and will be used to soundtrack some charity ad campaign at some point. It's the piano ballad version of the aspirational drums in the Alessia Cara song.

6. Izzy Bizu
Song listened to: 'White Tiger.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Sun-kissed soul.'

That name may sound like a Japanese street food restaurant, but Izzy Bizu is in fact a woman.
I can only understand about a third of the words she's singing, but this song seems to be about a rollercoaster called 'White Tiger.' That keeps her afloat. There's a lot of mixed metaphors going on here. I think this is supposed to be a love song about a person who excites her, but the scattershot approach to the lyrics make it come across just like a big mess. Maybe this is why only a third of the words are intelligible, so we hopefully won't notice that the lyrics actually make no fucking sense whatsoever. Maybe she actually wrote them while riding on a rollercoaster, and as an artistic statement chose not to edit them down at all. That's it, this song is actually an experimental piece of writing put to the music of a plain, run of the mill, piano based pop song.

7. Jack Garratt
Song listened to: 'Weathered.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Soul infused electro-pop and neck snapping beats.'

That's the least appropriate tagline so far. It is not electro-pop and there will be no medical attention required due to this, thank you very much. Stand down, paramedics. Go about your business. Nothing to see here.
How do I describe that? Erm... I don't. I just advise you to steer well clear of this song. Lock it in a room, seal up any and all doors and windows, then get to a safe distance and detonate it. Then never speak of it again.
I feel like I've been subjected to some sort of awful punishment. I need a break.

Axl has a break. He calms down. He thinks happy thoughts. He massages his temples with a soothing balm. Ahhhhhhhhh.....

Right, let's get back to it then.

8. J Hus
Song listened to: 'Lean & Bop.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Street smart, exuberant rap.'

I am so confused. I have no idea what to think of this. It sort of sounds like a Baha Men song being played at the wrong speed. I can't make any sense of it. Every line seems to have been written in isolation from the rest of the lines, but with the last word known so the next line can rhyme with it. It's like a song lyric version of that game, 'Consequences,' where someone draws a head then folds over the paper leaving the bottom of the neck visible for someone else to draw a body, and so on and so forth. This song seems to have been written using that as a writing technique.
Also, it contains the lyric, 'Make a young boy and a old man do it.' Obviously, this is a reference to the Lean & Bop dance of the song's title, but come on. As a lyric that is just horribly misjudged.

9. Loyle Carner
Song listened to: 'Ain't Nothing Changed.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Emotive hip-hop with a distinctive style.'

Jazzy sample. Laid back beats. Kind of a Madlib vibe to this.
Interesting lyrics that ACTUALLY WORK with each other. He's actually put some effort in.
Okay, this is really good. I really like this.
Thank you, Loyle Carner. And thank you for lyrics that don't sound like you wrote them using those fridge magnet poetry sets.

10. Mabel
Song listened to: 'My Boy My Town.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Distinctive and soulful pop storyteller.'

Sadly not a song about a certain duck (Eh? Eh? Any old fans of this blog? Eh? Oh...), this Mabel was however, apparently BORN IN A MOUNTAIN. This means I want some otherworldly shit. Some primal sounding, ancient folktale.
Of course, that's not what this is. This is an pop ballad with an R&B tinge. It's a decent one too. It sounds like a song that Sugababes would've done on their first album. This is a good thing.
Yeah, I liked that.
AND more lyrics that actually make sense! About time too. Keep this up please, list.

11. Mura Masa
Song listened to: 'Firefly (feat. NAO).'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Future facing beats and atmospheric grooves.'

Ah, we're back to slightly nonsensical lyrics:- 'Just say you'll be my firefly, take everything or nothing at all.'
That's a particular trait of fireflies, of course. They come come across a thing, they gotta have all of that thing, or they're not taking any of it. Don't ever try to give a firefly part of a thing. They will be massively offended and consider you a mortal enemy for the rest of their days.
The track itself is pretty decent though. Mura Masa's a bit of a magpie producer. I can't quite place his style because it sounds like so many bits of so many others, blended together to make some sort of producer smoothie.
"Magpie with a smoothie I know, I know it's really seriouuuuuuuuus..."
Oh dear.

12. NAO
Song listened to: 'Bad Blood.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline:  'Rich and subtle vocal on top of multi-layered synths.'

Waaaaaaaait a second...
Well, I wasn't sure of her voice on the Mura Musa track, so let's see how she does on her own stuff.
It's okay. I like her voice more on this and the lyrics aren't as daft. It's fairly standard modern R&B fare. A bit one note, single tone, doesn't really go anywhere, but it's not actually bad. Not as good as Mabel, but not as instantly forgettable as Dua Lipa.

13. Rat Boy
Song listened to: 'Fake ID.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Cheeky, homegrown, indie punk upstart.'

Uh oh. Why do I get the feeling I'm going to instantly hate this?
Apparently, "Rat Boy (real name Jordan Cardy) is a man painting a picture of being young in suburban Britain in 2015, following in an illustrious line of great urban storytellers from Squeeze to Blur and The Streets."
He's an obnoxious little cock targeting buzzwords and trying desperately hard to look and sound edgy. Think I'm being harsh? In the video to this song there's an extended shot of him burning a £20 note. WOAH THERE. SHIT ME. WOULDN'T WANNA MESS WITH THIS GUY! HE DOES NOT GIVE A SINGLE FUCK. HE'S SMASHING THE SYSTEM. HE'S GONNA BREAK ALL THE RULES AND HE DOESN'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT IT.
It's like the most pathetic act of rebellion imaginable.
Grow up, Rat Boy. Grow up and then fuck off.

14. Section Boyz

Song listened to: 'Do The Road.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'Raw, authentic rap from Croydon collective.'

Well this is really bloody good. The UK is now in a position where we have acts that can make the sort of arrogant, bravado filled rap music that doesn't just sound like it's aping US Gangsta Rap. This is definitely not for everyone, but it does show how far the UK has come in terms of this type of hip-hop. I remember a few years ago the name Giggs appearing on one of these lists and he waffled his way through every hip-hop cliché while occasionally grunting like he had a bad case of haemorrhoids. Section Boyz sound authentic, real and free of uncomfortable ailments. And they really are very good. I have cheated here and listened to a second track, 'Lock Arff,' which is similarly just as good for the same reasons. Good production, flows that go together, a group that have a real understanding of their craft and what they're doing. I'm going to stop now because I'm in danger of getting all pretentious waffly, and none of you want that.
Also, they would kick the crap out of Rat Boy.

Song listened to: 'In2.'
BBC Sound of 2016 Tagline: 'R&B rap collective, straight outta West London.'

Great. I've just been talking about how the UK no longer feels the needs to copy from the US, and the BBC are using that as a tagline for a UK act. THANKS A FUCKING BUNCH, THE BBC. 
There's a nice vibe to this, I'm enjoying it. It's got a real nice laid back groove to it that pulses along nicely. If this were on in a club, and I was about seven to ten years younger and still occasionally went to clubs, I would have a real good dance to this. Good vibes.
Coincidentally, last time I danced was at a drum 'n' bass night about a month or so ago, and my legs felt like I had injected concrete into them for the next couple of days. I think I am, sadly, now too old to dance.

So, either my critical faculties are diminishing in my ever increasing age, or this year's list has actually been of higher quality than in previous years. I always used to round off these posts with a top three list, and I think for the first time there are more than three acts that I actually have time for. Scrolling through, I can see about seven acts I would happily listen to again. That's crazy.  Erm... Okay yeah. Top three:

1. Loyle Carner
2. Section Boyz
3. Either Mabel or Billie Marten. Probably Mabel.

Right. Now go about with the rest of your lives. I have no idea if this means I'm going to attempt to start this blog going again, but it was quite fun to revisit, so who knows?

Love you, bye!

Monday, 5 December 2011

BBC Sound Of 2012.

Is it really that time of year again already? It would seem so, therefore, in one the few remaining traditions of this blog that I still have left, I will be casting my opinionated ears on this years list. Expect snap judgments, rash statements and generally me trying to prove how clever I am and how much I know about music. Get it? Got it? Good.

On looking at the list, my first impressions are:
a) Everyone looks really stylised.
b) I already think I know who my favourite is going to be.

Right. Let's get this party started.

1. A$AP Rocky
Song listened to: 'Purple Swag'
BBC Sound Of 2012 Tagline: 'Harlem's hottest rap talent.'

This guy has already been signed on a $3 million deal. That's crazy.
This song sounds exactly like a compilation someone I used to work with once played me of hip hop that had deliberately been slowed down to make it some sort of laid back, sexy thing. I remember thinking it was a little weird initially, but then I kind of got into the groove of it and could see how it could work if it was instrumental. The slowed down deeper vocals sounded really annoying though, like when a white middle class man tries to talk in a Barry White voice. Eurgh.
Here, it is an effect clearly used to try and recreate the feeling of being stoned. The thing is though, I feel the same way about it that I felt about that compilation. The beat and the groove are really good. The vocal totally ruins it. Even when he's rapping in his "normal" voice, it's really quite dull and unimaginative. I'm not particularly impressed. It's kind of like a cross between early Cypress Hill and something on Tri Angle records. But not as good as that sounds.

2. Azealia Banks
Song listened to: '212'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Little Miss Naughty.'

Okay, when I said I thought I knew who would be my favourite on this list, this is who I was referring to. I know she just came top of that NME Cool List bullshit, but don't let that put you off. This song is really REALLY fucking good. Electro hip hop awesome beat with a sassy, FILTHY woman rapping over the top. WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?! WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?! I FUCKING LOVE THIS!!
Yes. Just yes.

3. Don Rotten
Song listened to: 'Keep It On A Low'
BBC Sound of 2012 tagline: 'South Londoner, ripe for success.'

The problem I have with most modern London poets is that a lot of them sort of just sound the same and say the same thing in the same way with the same metre and rhyme scheme. There is just a lack of variety. I find the same thing with a lot of UK hip hop. There is nothing in this song that makes me think I will remember it when it's finished. It just sounds generic. No imagination. A bit dull.
Apparently he made a mixtape when he was nine years old with beats he made on an Amiga. Now that would be quite interesting to hear. This song, sadly, wasn't.
I just saw that he's doing a tour with Dappy. Well there you go.

4. Dry The River
Song listened to: 'No Rest'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Folk infused post-punk.'

This song has got one Hell of a terrible intro. An overly earnest man singing about, well, fuck knows, I couldn't make out any actual words in his singing. I imagine listening to that intro is like looking down the road when you're short-sighted and aren't wearing your glasses. You know there are people there, but you couldn't mention anything about them. Yeah. That's the intro to this song.
Okay, that tagline is bullshit. This isn't 'Folk infused post-punk,' this is Noah & The Whale doing American College rock. This is the kind of dreary toss that makes you want to slay public school children so they can't grow up to make earnest ear cancer like this.
Apparently they take their inspiration from 'Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and At The Drive In.' I fail to see how. If any of those people heard this utter gash, they would probably give these boys a slap.

5. Flux Pavilion
Song listened to: 'I Can't Stop'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bass Cannon gunner.'

Oh, this guy. 'Bass Cannon' guy. 'The filthiest bassline in dubstep' guy. Well, I've heard 'Bass Cannon' many times, so that feels like cheating.
'I Can't Stop' essentially follows the same formula as 'Bass Cannon.' Weak but building intro leading into cranked up synth bassline that just sort of repeats with a little variation here and there to justify its being considered something more than it actually is.
There is a phenomenal lack of imagination here. Seriously.
You can't JUST repeat everything over and over again, you have to be able to justify it. This is just weak. It sounds weak. It sounds dull. It's the musical equivalent of the guy who wins an argument purely because he shouts the loudest and doesn't give you a chance to respond, and when he's finished you feel a bit drained and therefore can't be bothered to try.
That's what listening to this song is like, having an argument with a tedious meathead.

6. Frank Ocean
Song listened to: 'Swim Good'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bright future for Mr Odd Future.'

Again, I feel like this is cheating, this time because I already have an album by this guy, so I know what he's like. He sings fairly decent modern soul.
Which is the problem. It's fairly decent. It's kind of a little bit nothing. It sort of just sounds a little generic in the same way that Don Rotten did. It's all tried, tested, done before, nothing new to bring to the table stuff. Fine enough, but instantly forgettable.

7. Friends
Song listened to: 'I'm His Man'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bushwick's brightest multi-instrumentalists.'

Why does that band name and that tagline make me instantly hate them?
Why does this line, 'Brooklyn five-piece Friends formed in 2010 after a bedbug infestation forced a group of vegan restaurant co-workers to cohabitate for a week,' make me instantly hate them even more?
Why does the intro to the video for 'I'm His Man,' a hand fumbling dozily for a cassette tape, finding it then putting it into a cassette player and pressing play, make me hate them EVEN more?
I can't remember a time I pre-hated a band as much as I do this collection of total tosspots.
Which is a bit of a shame, because their song is actually pretty good. It's got a nice kind of laid back US indie groove to it, and the lyrics are a pretty good declaration of remaining independent while still being in a relationship, written in a simple, refreshing way.
But it's all a bit too lo-fi in a deliberately not-actually-lo-fi way. Which sort of makes me hate them.
I just get the impression that they're a bunch of fucking posers. If it weren't for the image they portray, I probably wouldn't have any problem with the sound of their song. I just can't shake the feeling that it's all just a bit too smug and knowing. The song is good, but it leaves a bitter taste.

8. Jamie N Commons
Song listened to: 'The Preacher'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'The whiskey growl.'

This is a very odd song. Well, it isn't ACTUALLY weird, it's actually pretty straightforward. What's weird is that I can't decide whether I like it or not. This guy has clearly listened to a lot of Nick Cave and a lot of Americana and has combined the two to make something that sounds individual but also like everything it's been influenced by at the same time. I can't quite work it out.
I have no idea what my opinion of this guy is. I might try and come back to this again later.

9. Lianne La Havas
Song listened to: 'No Room For Doubt'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Bon Iver's favourite Brit.'

Oh, that's nice. The most interesting thing you can think of as a tagline about someone is that someone else likes them. That fills me with confidence. Jesus, at least make an effort, tagline writer person.
If I worked for the BBC, my tagline for this song would be something like 'Woozy, soul drenched, dream pop.'
I quite like this song. It's nice. The guitar is nice and reverb-y, the vocals are nice and there's never the need felt for it to 'Kick into gear,' and add anything else to over egg the pudding. It's just a nice song that its makers have allowed to be a nice song. I like it.

10. Micahel Kiwanuka
Song listened to: 'Tell Me A Tale'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Soul's new voice.'

This sounds like it was recorded in the 70's. This sounds like Bill Withers. Or someone like that. There is an unavoidably 70's, slightly psychedelic soul atmosphere to this. It almost sounds too much like someone trying to recreate that sound, but the song is good and there's a really nice lack of pretension to it that makes it feel natural, rather than forced, in the same way that that Aloe Blacc song 'I Need A Dollar' does. Yeah, this is good stuff. I like this.

11. Niki & The Dove
Song listened to: 'DJ Ease My Mind'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Sweden's stylish electro-pop.'

Song intro sounds like someone covering a song by The Knife. When the bass drum beat kicks in, it sounds like someone remixing a song by The Knife. Chorus sounds like a remix of someone covering a song by The Knife. Second verse goes back to sounding like someone covering a song by The Knife. Then the chorus comes back and... I think you get where this is going.
n.b. They're nowhere near as good as The Knife.

12. Ren Harvieu
Song listened to: 'Through The Night'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Lancashire lullabies.'

Okay. Reread what I wrote for the Michael Kiwanuka song, but replace 'Bill Withers,' with 'Dusty Springfield,' and replace the word 'Psychedelic,' with the word 'Cinematic.' That's my opinion of this song.

13. Skrillex
Song listened to: 'First Of The Year (Equinox)'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'The brostep pioneer.'

Brostep? BROSTEP?! SERIOUSLY?! That makes me sick. As a word to describe a sub-genre of music that is worse than fucking 'Chillwave.' Brostep? Fuck. Right. Off. You. Massive. Douches.

I'm actually quite interested to hear Skrillex. Skrillex is a name I've read and heard many many times, but I've never actually heard any of his stuff. I know he's considered some sort of 'Next big thing,' or whatever, but I've never actually encountered his work.
Here goes.
Okay, firstly the director of the video needs to realise that he isn't Chris Cunningham.
Secondly, there is a phenomenal lack of imagination here. Seriously.
You can't JUST repeat everything over and over again, you have to be able to justify it. This is just weak. It sounds weak. It sounds dull. It's the musical equivalent of the guy who wins an argument purely because he shouts the loudest and doesn't give you a chance to respond, and when he's finished you feel a bit drained and therefore can't be bothered to try.
That's what listening to this song is like, having an argument with a tedious meathead.
Yes. I did just cut and paste that from what I wrote about Flux Pavilion. Quite frankly, this song doesn't deserve anything better than that.
I genuinely don't understand what all the fuss about this guy is.

14. Spector
Song listened to: 'Grey Shirt & Tie'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Dalston superstars.'

Again, why does that band name and that tagline make me instantly hate them?
The photo of them on the BBC Sound... list makes them look like absolute tossers too, which makes me hate them even more.
Apparently, 'They've been dubbed East London's answer to The Strokes.' If by that, you mean that they take a sound older than they are and attempt to recreate that for a modern audience but don't add ANYTHING to it, then whoever it was who dubbed them 'East London's answer to The Strokes,' is absolutely correct.
They sound to me like Tears For Fears.
Tears For Fears had two members and actual talent for songwriting.
Spector have five members and sound like they listened to Tears For Fears one day and went 'Cool, that sounds easy,' and then for some reason no-one ever told them they were wrong. I don't know why, maybe all their friends secretly hate them or something.

15. Stooshe
Song listened to: 'Betty Woz Gone'
BBC Sound Of 2012 tagline: 'Pottymouth pop.'

Remember that band Cartoons who did that song that went 'Ooh ee ooh ah aah, ting tang walla walla bing bang'? Stooshe look like a trendy London version of them.
Apparently, 'A line in Stooshe's bio describes them as 'Salt N' Pepa meet Odd Future' while the Guardian recently pegged the London trio as an 'X Rated En Vogue'.'
Neither of these statements are true.
Remember Shampoo?
Stooshe sound like a modern day version of Shampoo.
And no, that is not a good thing.
It really isn't.

And that's it. Well, it's been fun. Sort of. And in the tradition of the end of this tradition, I will list my personal top three:

1. Azealia Banks.
2. Michael Kiwanuka.
3. A tie between Lianne La Havas and Ren Harvieu.

Although, I should mention that Friends might have been in that top three list, if I could separate their song from them.
Also, Jamie N Commons may have made my top three, if I could actually figure out what my opinion of him is.

Overall though, I have to say that this list has been better and more interesting than the last three years lists have. That's pretty encouraging, no?

Monday, 21 November 2011

"Is it so different now, or is it just the way I feel?"

I've started reading this.
Hopefully this will lead to me never writing another blog post like the last one ever again.
Basically, something is wrong and I need to sort it out, so I'm trying.
My meltdown was pretty public, so I figure I may as well make the attempted recovery public too.

P.S. If anyone is wondering "Why doesn't Axl just get some therapy?" I have seen three councillors in my life. The first tried to blame everything on my parents getting divorced when I was five years old, which is bullshit. The second seemed normal until he started going on about how "Traumas that happen to us when we're in the womb can have an effect on us much later on in our lives," which, I'm sorry, is just a bunch of total arse. The third actually did help for a few weeks, but it got to the point where we were just saying the same things over and over again and it wasn't actually helping because nothing was moving forward.
That's why I'm reading this book rather than go to more councelling. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that it works for some people, but it just doesn't for me.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Oh, Axl... You Silly, Silly Boy...

WARNING: This is a very personal, self indulgent post. If you don't particularly fancy reading about my shit, I'd suggest giving this one a miss.

So... Something bad happened, only it wasn't really bad because it was necessary, but it still felt really bad. Then something really good (and I mean, like, amazing) happened, only it wasn't really good because it ended fucking horribly. Then something good happened, which then also became something bad. Now, this last bad thing really was very minor in the grand scheme of things, but it happened to be the thing that tipped me over the edge and I sort of had a total fucking meltdown.
(Seriously. It was SO undignified.)
There are other things that have also been bad. These things have not helped.
And that's as much detail as you're getting I'm afraid, because if I've learned one thing while doing this blog, it's that writing personal things about other people is almost always a really fucking bad idea.
Which is surprising really, as the one thing I have forgotten how to do is behave like a normal person. I seem to have become unable to deal with anything in a rational, reasonable way.
Which is why, after this latest bad thing, I threw my phone onto the roof of a nightclub and had to buy a new one.
Which highlights the one big problem that has come of all this.
I appear to have become determined to lose all of my friends.
See, you throw away your phone, you throw away your sim and memory cards too.
Which means you have to ask people to give you back their numbers.
Which is fine, IF you haven't become such a grumpy old curmudgeon that no-one actually wants you to have their number anymore.
Because the thing is, if you continuously get really drunk and tell everyone to fuck off, eventually they actually do just fuck off.
And why wouldn't they?
I would.
So, the way things are going, I won't have any friends left by the end of the year. I am currently not talking to at least two of my very best friends, and neither of those are about to be sorted anytime soon, and a good few recent good friends aren't talking to me, and most of my not so good friends just can't be bothered with me anymore.
"Oh boo fucking hoo, Axl."
Yeah, that's pretty much the appropriate response, because virtually all of this is my own stupid fault.
And none of it's about to change anytime soon.
So come new year's, I'll probably be doing exactly what I'm doing now.
Listening to Tom Waits and writing some pathetic little self pitying blog post about my stupid little life.

Hmmm... I don't really like the sound of that. Maybe I should just stop being such a dick instead.

We'll see.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

I Appear To Be Watching The X Factor.

Why am I doing this?
A bunch of boring boys just sang a boring and now it's adverts already.
Now it's attempting to make me care about someone because they used to be in a relationship and are a little overweight. She is not fat, but has probably been called fat in her lifetime, because people have a tendency to be fucking dickheads.
And now she is singing a boring song boringly too.
She looks like Edvard Munch's "The Scream" when she sings.
Apparently it was a "Massive song." Sounded boring to me. Apparently she "Sang the heck out of that song."
Okay, maybe she is a little fat, but seriously, who gives a fuck?
And now it's adverts again?! Do they have an ad break after every song now? That's gonna get real fucking annoying.
I was on the loo. Who's this guy? In the rehearsal clips he looked like a cross between Matt Cardle and Chad Valley. Now he looks odd. And he is singing a boring song in a boring way. Is it boring week on The X Factor this week, or is every week boring week?
I don't know, I haven't seen any of this series. I've been avoiding it. Why am I watching this?
Oh God, he just did something really horrible with his lips that made me feel a little bit sick.
Apparently he's in a league of his own. I agree, if that league is a league of people who've made me feel physical ill purely by the power of lip quivers. Then he is definitely in a league of his own.
Why would you want to be in a league of your own? Surely that would be defeating the point of being in a league in the first place. Also, if you're in a league of your own, then technically it can't be a league, surely.
Wow! No advert break!
Who's this girl? She looks Irish. Is she Irish? She sounds Irish too. I think she's Irish.
Oh, and now we have a sob story. Yeah, go on X Factor, exploit this girls misery, why don't you?
She has a very odd singing voice. She sounds like a cross between a very lonely girl and an Icelandic wood imp. A bit like a childish version of Björk without any of Björk's vocal power.
The one out of N-Dubz just said one of the most trite things I think I've ever heard in my life.
Gary Barlow just sounded really creepy, like he's a teacher trying to fuck one of his pupils.
More adverts.
I stated cooking food and have come back to find a boy who looks like a cross between a Thundercat and a member of The Horrors singing very badly.
This is truly fucking horrible. I'm going back to the kitchen.
Back briefly. Oh, is this guy this year comedy entry? Okay, thing about Jedward and Wagner was that they were fun. This guy's just shit. It's kind of embarrassing.
Back now. Adverts. Did I miss them all doing that "Oooh, ha ha, I don't quite know how to react to the comedy act!" thing? I bet it was HILARIOUS.
Oh no, sorry, just the next singer. Thought some really creepy guy had broken into my flat.
Mate, if I could see my heart beating thru my chest, I'd be straight on the phone to NHS Direct rather than singing some slushy love shite about it.
*Enter generic judge comments here. Same things all tv judges have been saying for years.*
I'm sorry, but he looks so fucking creepy.
(Dermot, this guy isn't going to understand a Hades reference. He looks like he barely understands his own underwear.)
Girl band. Let me guess, everyone hates them, right?
Apparently, yeah.
It would help if they didn't look like total idiots.
Oooh, graffiti. Is this going to be "Edgy"?
But they're not bad actually.
Oh. They just got to the chorus. Oh dear.
Yeah, this lot will not be bucking the "No-one likes the girl bands" trend.
The judges don't agree with me.
Oh God, please stop with the clichés, judges.
(Actually, I am pretty lazy when it comes to cooking, so I myself do just reinforce this stereotype and am therefore in no real position to complain.)
That's what I'm supposed to think about her, right?
To be fair though, she can actually sing. She is clearly a better singer than any of the others.
Okay, there are more to come but I've had enough of this now. I'm going to the pub. I'm going to get drunk.
Bye bye X Factor.

Friday, 7 October 2011

National Poetry Day, Tuesday 6th October 2011.

Yes, I lied. This post isn't going to be the one I said I would write in my last post, because, well, just because. Instead, for my 500th Potato Farm post (yes, that's right, 500), I'm going to write a little bit about my experiences of National Poetry Day yesterday. I'll try to keep it brief, because, as I said in an intro to a poetry performance I did recently, who likes poetry? No-one likes poetry.

("My experiences" makes me sound like such a tosser, but I couldn't think how to word it better.)

Well, firstly I suppose it started with me writing some drafts in Tate Modern as I was waiting for everything at the Southbank Centre to kick off.
Actually, no. The day kicked off with me walking down a street called The Cut and seeing a man buying a doner kebab at about 9.30am, followed a couple of minutes later by someone in Prét A Manger feeling my hand and saying "Wow... You have a cold heart." (Yes, she definitely did say heart, not hand.) But after that I suppose it started with me writing some drafts in Tate Modern as I was waiting for everything at the Southbank Centre to kick off.
I like Tate Modern. I didn't just write stuff there, I had a look round first obviously. Tate Modern has one of my favourite paintings in it, Picasso's "Seated Nude."
I'm one of those people who likes art but knows cock all about it, so it's probably due to a lack of imagination that I always end up going to Tate Modern. Also, that thing that makes people tend to eat the same thing when you eat out at or get takeaway from a certain place regularly. That "Well, I know I like that, so I'll just have that again," feeling. I suppose that's covered in the phrase "Lack of imagination" really, isn't it.

So, yes. Worked on some poems of my own, then went to Southbank Centre for 1pm to see Michael Rosen kick things off, as the first section was aimed more at children (though there were a fair few adults there too, not just me). Michael Rosen, for those who don't know, used to be the Children's Laureate, and it's easy to see why. He is extremely good at performing to and engaging children. It helps that his poems are very funny too.
Anyway, I don't want this to turn into some sort of review. But there were four names I did note in my phone, of poets I hadn't seen/read before who I thought were good.
Glyn Maxwell:- Oh, that's bad. I can't remember Glyn Maxwell now, but I must've thought he was good, otherwise I wouldn't have made a note of his name (and no, I wouldn't have made a note of him because I didn't like him. I saw a poet who I didn't like, whose poems were pretty much all about the same thing and were delivered in a really dull durr-durr-durr-durr-durr manner, and I didn't make a note of his name, so there).
Catherine Labiran:- Now, I do remember this woman. She was introduced as a new, upcoming young London poet, and I remember thinking when she started her first poem "Oh God, she's just going to sound tediously like about 90% of all other modern London poets, isn't she?" BUT, after the set up of the first four lines, she turned the poem on it's head and was really, really good and didn't fall into the boring traps of so many other London poets. She actually had something really interesting to say about women's perception of themselves and said it in a really engaging way.
(Didn't I say I didn't want this to be a "review"? I guess sometimes it can't be helped.)
I had a similar feeling about Joelle Taylor when she started. That of "Oh God, here's yet another joyless social commentary. Quick, where's the knife to cut my ears off, coz I don't think I can stand yet another droning London poem." I mean, if I were from London this may be interesting, but I'm not so it's kind of like when you have friends who are younger than you who say the same things that you were saying years ago as if they're new and insightful when in fact what they don't realise, and what you didn't realise when you were that age and saying them, is that it's just the same old rehashed, clichéd annoying arse that everyone's been saying for years and years and no, it really isn't interesting to someone who has "been there and done that" as it were. BUT, then about halfway through her first poem, she also managed to start saying something genuinely interesting and in enough of a different way to make you think, "Oh, okay. Yeah, that IS shit. I'm with you now."
The last name I wrote down was Jo Bell. Jo Bell is a well known name in "The poetry world" but I had never read any of her work before. I definitely will be now though, as she was absolutely brilliant.

Rounding things off were three poets I am already a fan of, who were all great. Jo Shapcott, Jackie Kay and Simon Armitage.
Jo Shapcott was a "Consumate professional" as they say (I must admit that I don't entirely know what that means, but it feels appropriate to use it here), delivering her poems flawlessly, but without any sense of perfectionism. It was more that she seemed to be really enjoying being on stage in front of us, which was nice.
Likewise, Jackie Kay seemed to be having the time of her life. She was hilarious. Really fun delivery of her poems and genuinely funny banter in between. Looked like she wasn't even trying. My highlight of the day, for sure.
Simon Armitage by contrast, very dry, but then that's what you've got to expect from him and you either like it or you don't (NOW who's saying the same things that have been going round for years and years, Axl, HMMMMM?). I know people who don't. I do, and I enjoyed him.

The only bad thing was that the Poetry Takeaway was there and EVERY time I walked past there was a long queue, so I didn't get a poem, which was annoying as John Osbourne was on the stall yesterday and I think he's brilliant. I really wanted a poem by him.
Really nice to see a unique and such a good idea as that taking off though. The Poetry Takeaway really is a very cool thing.

AND seeing as it was a Thursday, what better way than to finish off the day than by going to The Roebuck pub in Borough, for my favourite poetry night, "Bang Said The Gun."
This was the third time I've been and I've loved it every time. It is the most fun and atmospheric poetry night I've been to. Those guys really know what they're doing. It ALMOST makes me wish I lived in London so I could go every week. Seriously, I actually like it that much.
AND one of the poets performing made me cry. I told him he nearly made me cry, but that was a lie. There were tears in my eyes and on my cheeks. His name was Oli Foster, and he did a poem that really resonated with how I'm feeling about things in my life at the moment. It was one of those "Oh my God, it's as if they're speaking directly to ME," moments. I am envious of his delivery too. He seemed to get every single word pitch perfect, and could flick between feelings instantly. He was my other highlight of the day.
The featured act was a guy called Tshaka Campbell, who was good, but did slip a little bit into an "All women are goddesses and all men are sacks of faeces" mentality, which was a little annoying.
I entered the open mic contest. Didn't win, but I don't mind. It's just fun to be part of it. Genuinely.

And then home. It was a good day. Despite my "Cold heart."

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hello Mark, Gareth & The Soup Emu.

Wow! At least three other people still look at my blog! Awesome!

This is just a short one. My next blog post will be a long, rambling and tediously introspective one about me and the act of writing. Woopee. It will also be my 500th post on this blog.

For my 499th post, I just want to share this poem I saw on YouTube which makes me laugh every time I watch it. It's called "Rude Bastards" and is by a guy called Martin Galton. I think it's flippin' great and I hope you do too.


UPDATE: This is also really good, in my opinion. It's called "Father & Son" and is by Richard Auton. Enjoy this too.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Hello Jamie.

Jamie, I'm addressing this blog post to you personally, as I am pretty sure you are the only person who still ever looks at my blog. Just in case there is still someone else who ever looks at this, I will still be writing about things in a fairly vague manner.

I worked some shifts last week covering for someone who was on holiday. This included Tuesday. I'd forgotten how weird Tuesday's are in that shop. When I worked full time, a theory I had was that Tuesday was the day you would get the weirdest people in, and the highest volume of weird people. The Tuesday just gone showed me that in fact not a theory but actual fact.

Exhibit 1:
I was serving a woman who was looking at me a little strangely. She eventually asked,
"Do you have a sore throat?"
"No," I replied.
"You sound like you have a sore throat."
"No, this is just how my voice sounds. I do get that a lot though." (This is true. A lot of people who don't know me assume that I have a sore throat when they first encounter me.)
"Oh... Well, maybe you have a prolapsed vocal chord or something then."
Cue stunned silence from me as I literally had no idea how to respond to that.

Exhibit 2:
A man came up to me and asked if I could help him. I said yes, but it turns out that was a lie, as he asked:
"Do you have anything like Pink Floyd but made for babies?"
Cue a very long "Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..." from me as I try to figure out how to tell him that just because he's made something up in his head, it doesn't mean that it exists, without being rude. I'm not sure I succeeded.

Exhibit 3:
I was serving someone at the till and their friend/daughter/whatever was on the phone to someone. The phone person then said, very loudly,
"By law, I have to have credit and texts on my phone at all times."
Cue me being baffled for the next couple of hours as I try to work out what the fuck she was on about.

And those are just the ones I can remember/remembered to note down at the time.

If you want to meet the absolute most crazy crazies in Oxford, hang out in the basement of hmv for a day. Dress lightly tho, as the air conditioning still doesn't work.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The Album "Total" by Sebastian.

Someone, I can't remember who it was now, mentioned that I never review anything on here anymore. Well, that's because I hate music reviews. Or rather, I hate what they have become.
Almost all music reviews now fall into two categories:-

1) The Empty Review: Smug reviews that serve only to show how clever/trendy/relevant the reviewer thinks they are and barely say anything about the music itself.
2) The Boring Review: Smug reviews written by people who see themselves as being about that trivial stuff and write purely functional reviews that are lacking in any sort of joy or interest.

Music journalism has become stale and filled with people who have no interest in anything past their own egos and seem to have forgotten that people are supposed to actually want to read what you write/publish. If I went out in the street and started handing people cards that just said "Look at me! I'm great, I am!" people would think I were a total dickhead, but dress it up as a music review and it's somehow alright.

Now, my plan for this post was to try and write something that was both fun and informative. This however has the drawback of me seeing myself as above both categories of reviewer and therefore DOUBLE SMUG. However, the fact that I'm even writing this post could be seen as me being obnoxious and smug anyway, so I'm just gonna go with it.

I've become a little obsessed with the new Sebastian album, "Total." I fucking love it, and here is my review of it:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sebastian - "Total"

Kate looked at her watch. Thomas was thirteen minutes late. He was always late.
She took her phone out of her handbag. To kill time she looked at Facebook. Someone had put up a video of a cat supposedly saying the words "I love you." Kate remembered the video she saw a while ago of a dog doing the same thing. It occurred to her that many of the videos of animals on the internet are utterly pointless. Still, they made those boring moments at work much easier to deal with.
Another friend of hers had put as their status, "Go to Wikipedia and click "Random article". This is the name of your genitals."
Kate was surprised to find out that her genitals were in fact Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos. Kate was shocked at the thought that her vagina could have initiated the Trojan War. It hadn't of course, but she momentarily imagined that her vagina was the reincarnation of Eris and had done this in a past life. Kate felt both guilty and powerful.
Thomas arrived with no apology, simply a "Get in."
Thomas drove Kate back to his house.

Once in his bedroom, Thomas told Kate he had something to play her. He took a cd of the new Sebastian album "Total" out of his bag and put it on his stereo. "I love that you still buy cd's," Kate said to him.
The album was a masterpiece of "The French Touch," a particular form of house music synonymous with French dance acts, most famously Daft Punk and Justice. Samples, dirty sounding synths, with beats you just can't help but bounce your head to.
Kate was mesmerised. The music was infectious. She couldn't help but dance.
"Thomas, this is really good!"
"I know, right?"
"This album is so good, it makes me want to take my clothes off!"
"Well, I'm not gonna stop you!"

Kate, feeling the power of a Greek goddess coursing through her body, with a feeling of reckless abandon tore her clothes off and pounced on Thomas. Thomas wasn't used to Kate being so forward. It excited him. He ran his hands over every curve of her body as she kissed his neck and undid his shirt. When she stroked the bulge in his trousers with her thigh, he felt like he was going to come instantly, but he managed to control himself.

They made love. It was the most passionate love either of them had ever had.

Afterwards, as they held each other in a sweaty, post-coital embrace, Thomas said to Kate,
"I think we should always fuck to that album."
Kate agreed.

"Paul, what kind of review is this?"
"Well, I was going for something a little different."
"It certainly is that. What's it saying about the album though?"
"That it's a French house album that's really good, that you can't help but move to. It's exciting. It's primal. And it's really sexy."
"Yeah, sexy! There's a kind of filth element to the sounds he's using that along with creating some hard sounding tracks, makes you want to take your clothes off and fuck."
"So it's a sexy, dirty, dance album?"
"Why not just say that then?"
"I dunno, I just thought it would be fun to do it like this."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Erm... That went in a completely different direction to what I had planned. Hmmm...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hello Blogger, My Old Friend...

Hi. How've you been? Sorry I've been away for a while. Here is a brief explanation why:

I've been writing my dissertation. It's a creative writing dissertation. I'm writing a play. It's a comedy about three men who kidnap their local MP. What I have learned from doing this is that writing a play is actually really fucking difficult. Every single word I write sounds unconvincing and stale. I didn't think this would be a problem as normally I am told that my ability to write dialogue is rather good, some even say it is one of my strongest points.
I just had to lick Ribena off my laptop keyboard. It tasted like hot pebbles.
But no, turns out that writing a play is an entirely different beast. Dialogue that would be fine in a story, is often awful in a play. You have to almost completely rethink what it is that dialogue is actually doing, and it seems virtually impossible to write good play dialogue the more I try it.
But my tutor likes my ideas. Which is good.
But I have no idea what I'm going to do for my essay.
And every bit of work I do on my play/dissertation creates about three times as much work still to do.
And I have just over three weeks now to get it all done.
Which is nowhere near enough time to get everything done to a good standard.
I'm totally screwed and will probably end up only getting a 2:2 now.
(I am borderline 2:1 at the moment because I am really shit at writing essays.)
If I don't get a 2:1, I will hate myself. I will see myself as a failure.

I am competing in the Hammer & Tongue Oxford Slam Poetry Final next week. I am crapping myself even more than I normally would be due to the fact that Simon Munnery is headlining the event. Simon Munnery is one of my favourite comedians.

I am writing a poem for someone to use in an art project they are doing. It's an awesome idea, but I've gone for something stylistically different to what I normally do and I have no idea if what I'm doing is any good or not.

And I've just been asked to be involved in something I can't tell you about yet. It's a fairly small thing, but it's quite exciting and I'm looking forward to it. It's gonna be happening after all this other stuff is done too, so I'll actually be able to enjoy it.

Whereas right now, I'm going "AAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!!" quite a lot.