Thursday, 21 September 2017

Inelasticity

Okay, so I left school 28 years ago. It's a long time since I studied Physics formally. But I still remember all about springs.

A spring at rest just sits there, doing nothing. Slowly put some energy into it, say by stretching it, and it gets longer. Stop putting energy into it - let go, in other words - and it releases that energy, recoiling back into its rest state. It can recoil because it has the property of elasticity - it pings back to its pre-stretched state.

Now, the more energy you put into a spring - the further you stretch it, in other words - the more energy is released when you let go and it returns to its rest state. In other words, the recoil is louder and more violent. However, it still goes back to how it was, because of its elasticity.

But (sorry, there's always a but) what if you stretch a spring too far? Eventually, it will go past its elastic limit, the point beyond which it can no longer return to its rest state. It deforms permanently, in other words. From childhood, you may remember this as the point at which you knackered your Slinky.

Here's the part where I leave established science behind and go into personal opinion. Ready? Here's a picture of a giant spring, courtesy of NASA.

And every day we're stretching it further, with carbon-fuelled climate change, pollution, overpopulation, and more. Is it any wonder then that the recoils (hurricanes, earthquakes, monsoons, landslides, and everything else) are getting more frequent and more extreme, as the spring tries to return to its rest state? What will happen, I wonder, when this spring is stretched beyond its point of inelasticity?

Apologies. I'll get back to blogging about music and television soon enough. After all, "Earth as a spring" is just a theory that I haven't described very well, cannot evidence with demonstrable science and cannot prove. Can't help but feel that 7.5 billion researchers are working on that proof every day though.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Spent the day in... the car

With three lots of roadworks and an RTC to contend with, getting out of the village to go to work this morning was like... well, it was like Schneider trying to get to the London Road...

On the plus side, this meant I was still in the car for the first play of Spent The Day In Bed. For me, the jury is undecided. I mean, it's Moz, so I'll buy it regardless. My first instinct is that this isn't classic Morrissey... but it's better than no Morrissey.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Fantasy Cover Version #7 - if King Creosote covered "Keep The Car Running"...

A blog series that you can contribute to...

Here's the gist. I want to hear about your fantasy cover versions. Simply make the case for the cover version that you'd love to hear but, fairly obviously, does not actually exist. And send me that case, here. By case, I mean explain why artist X covering song Y would be good, don't just send me their respective names.

Seventh guest contributor is Stevie, who many of you will know from the excellent Charity Chic blog. And it's a blinder! Stevie writes:

Can I make a suggestion for a fantasy cover version? Scotland's own King Creosote is no stranger to a cover you would not think of:

If he can cover Prince with such aplomb I'm sure he could also turn his hand to Arcade Fire's "Keep the Car Running":

However it worked out I'm sure he would not be one bit ashamed:

What a voice on that Prince cover! Can only imagine how that would translate to the Arcade Fire track... Oh, and if Stevie is reading, sorry, I had to use a different video for your second YouTube choice as I encountered copyright problems embedding it. Hope you approve of my substitution.

Think you can suggest a fantasy cover version this good? Then please, try your luck. The list of past submissions may inspire you.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Cross-pollination

I don't often do this, nor will that change, I promise. But I wrote a book, so I need to make a little bit of noise about it, somewhere that gets a few more readers than my other, writing blog... In other words, please excuse the blog cross-pollination.

<plug class="shameless">Anyway, here are some links, on the off-chance</plug>:

Paperback

Ebook

Pricing is a bit volatile at the moment, so I can't guarantee that it won't be cheaper later. Or dearer, for that matter. So why wait? And if you like the book, it'd be lovely if you could leave a nice review on Amazon or Goodreads, or wherever you write your reviews. Feel free to blog or tweet about it, if you like. On the other hand, if you don't like it, pop over to Twitter and tell me why. Cheers.

And yes, music lovers, I did borrow my novel's title from Gene. But I didn't steal it.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Margins

I went to a little festival this summer - you know the sort, it's in a village you've never heard of, with a mostly unknown line-up, and they big up their family-friendly credentials. I sound a bit cynical and jaded about it, sorry - I really shouldn't because it was terrific and I had a great time. But it did get me wondering about the fine margins that exist between bands that make it and those that just plug away forever, trawling round the local gig circuit but never making that "jump" to the next level.

The festival headliners on the Saturday night were Dodgy. And they were alright, even if it did seem at times that they were going through the motions. But even Dodgy wondered aloud how they were going to follow the preceding act, the glorious Sam and the Womp, whose combination of Ida Maria-esque vocals and trumpet-wielding sideman were perfect festival fare. But Dodgy made it, to a level that Sam and the Womp probably never will. Why, I wondered...

The festival highlight for me though was The Naked Lights, who played two sets - the main stage on Friday night and, better still, the acoustic tent on Saturday. On their website, the band describe their sound as "a ragged adventure, with songs veering from bass-driven gospel, through electronic guitar-house to fuzzy Brit indiepop, all polished with pop melody." Now the pedants amongst you might wonder how you can polish with melody, but you know what they mean, right? What I would say is that the description does come close to summing up the range of styles they deliver. Most of all though, they remind me of early 80s guitar-based New Wave - in fact, the closest comparison I can think of if The Vapors who, coincidentally, I wrote about earlier this year. But anyway, early 80s guitar-based New Wave: that's a good thing. Here's a typical example of how they sound, and why I make that comparison, from their current album, The Fear Of A Morning. It's called Here Comes The Feeling.

In fairness to the band, they're very open about their influences - there's even a song on the album called (Echoes of) The 1980s. But where was I? Yes, I really enjoyed both of the band's sets, so much so that I bought their album from the merchandise stall, and have played it quite a lot since. But... it all comes down to those slender margins, I think. The band are great musicians, are tight live, get the crowd going and look the part... so why aren't they bigger?

The answer came to me in the acoustic set, as The Naked Lights included an eclectic mix of covers including Ice Ice Baby (yes, really) and, best of all, the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which was the absolute festival highpoint for me - the tent went mad. And that's when it struck me - there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of very competent bands doing the rounds nationally, with a high level of musicianship, the necessary social media presence, maybe even albums to tout. But they don't make it if they don't have a song that exceeds the norm, that elevates them to a different level, that is transcendent for the listening audience. Having the right song, maybe that's what makes the difference, that's the fine margin.

Here's another Naked Lights track, this time from their eponymous debut album. It's called We'll Revolution With You.

At first, I thought this might be the song that elevates them, that provides the transcendent moment. Certainly it had ear-worm status for me for most of the week after the festival. But it's not. In the unlikely event that the band are reading this, this is the direction they need to head in, more tracks like this, album-closer These Walls.

But what do I know? With my beautiful acoustic guitar that I never play outside the house... and the electric 6-string gathering dust, that never gets plugged into my home-made amp... and the trusty old 12-string, currently gathering dust at my parents' house, and down to 11 strings... What do I know about being in any band, let alone a successful one? (Apart from margins - I'm right about those)

Monday, 11 September 2017

Fantasy Cover Version #6 - if Tony Bennett covered "Anarchy in the UK"...

A blog series that you can contribute to...

Here's the gist. I want to hear about your fantasy cover versions. Simply make the case for the cover version that you'd love to hear but, fairly obviously, does not actually exist. And send me that case, here. By case, I mean explain why artist X covering song Y would be good, don't just send me their respective names.

Sixth guest contributor is Mark who, you may remember, contributed last week's Lisa Hannigan FCV. You may also remember that Mark is a brilliantly talented writer whose latest collection of short stories, Process of Elimination, definitely deserves your attention. Anyway, what of his second FCV, I hear you ask? Mark writes:

My other choice (and just to prove I haven't gone completely soft) would be for Tony Bennett to do a cover of Anarchy in the UK, sung to the tune of I Get a Kick Out of You.

My reasoning being that it would upset and annoy a large and satisfyingly diverse amount of people, which - if you think about it - is far truer to the subversive spirit of punk than any of the attempted revivals. Also, it would make a wonderful Christmas Number One.

An inspired choice from Mark that deserves a bonus +13 kudos points for the idea of singing one song to the tune of another, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue style. Brilliant.

Think you can suggest a fantasy cover version this good? Then please, try your luck. The list of past submissions may inspire you.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Fantasy Cover Version #5 - if Lisa Hannigan covered "Dream a Little Dream of Me"...

A blog series that you can contribute to...

Here's the gist. I want to hear about your fantasy cover versions. Simply make the case for the cover version that you'd love to hear but, fairly obviously, does not actually exist. And send me that case, here. By case, I mean explain why artist X covering song Y would be good, don't just send me their respective names.

Fifth guest contributor is Mark who has been kind enough to submit two FCVs for the price of one (part two next week). Mark is not only a good friend and former colleague, he's also a brilliantly talented writer. I've previously reviewed some of his books on this very blog and his latest collection of short stories, Process of Elimination, is, I think, his best yet. If you like any/all of Ballard, Brooker, Dahl or King, you should definitely have a read of Mark's work. Now, back to the FCV, Mark writes:

First off, how about Lisa Hannigan covering "Dream a Little Dream of Me"?

The Mama Cass version is and always will be the definitive rendition - no question, but the combination of LH's voice and those lyrics would, I think, make the perfect audio comfort blanket for troubled times - which we appear to be living in right now.

A great choice from Mark, I reckon. I should point out that the evidential Lisa Hannigan track was my choice, so I hope Mark approves. And if you think this is an intriguing FCV, wait until part two next week, which I think is an even better concept.

Think you can suggest a fantasy cover version this good? Then please, try your luck. The list of past submissions may inspire you.