Sunday, 27 December 2015

Album(s) of the Year

Headline of the year

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is 2015.

Everyone lying about not voting Conservative, the return of Coldplay, Terminator Genisys... but at least we've had some good music. Here, in no particular order, are my top 3 albums of 2015:

Sol Invictus - Faith No More

Faith No More's first album in 18 years did not disappoint. 10 great tracks showcasing the band's gloomy heavy riffs, odd time signatures and Mike Patton's incredible voice, which has lost none of it power - while his brilliant lyrics cover topics ranging from leprechauns to motherfuckers.

To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar

An album that's sure to top many people's lists, To Pimp a Butterfly is a game-changing hip-hop record - politically potent and musically challenging. Obama called the track How Much a Dollar Cost? his favourite song of the year. Too bad he also features on the new Coldplay album.

Division of Spoils - The Flatliners 

This one isn't really an album, it's a collection of b-sides and rarities - but it's my blog so fuck off. Get your own blog. Stretching from their ska/punk beginnings to their contemporary punk sound, the record compiles 23 superb tracks from Canada's finest export since William Shatner.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Christmas Shopping at the All Night Garage

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and here are three more of them.

Once a year is way too frequent for Christmas. They should make it every four years, like the World Cup or leap years. It would make Christmas feel more special, make me feel less angry, and (most importantly) reduce the number of horrible Christmas adverts. Here are three more awful ads, and some of the questions they raise.


"The unexpected bank"? Isn't being "unexpected" quite bad for a bank? Isn't that what caused all this financial mess?

Then why do they taste like that?

Here's Joe Cornish's All Night Garage from Adam & Joe's Song Wars!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Our Swift Impending Fall

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and here are three more of them. 

3. Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans:

For me, these represent J. K. Rowling's inability to think through an idea. Why would wizards eat jelly beans that taste like vomit? Because they're magic? We muggles do have the technology to make sweets that taste like bogeys. Ask anyone who's had the pick 'n' mix at an Odeon. I believe the Harry Potter studio store even sells Every Flavour Beans, for a mere £35 per bean. We can make earwax flavour confectionary if we so choose. But we don't. Because that would be stupid. Mind you, Revels are inexplicably popular, so what do I know?

2. This sort of thing:

I've spent a lot of time wondering why my Facebook friends voluntarily "like" the most evil corporations. Masochism? Brainwashing? Demonic possession? But I think I've finally solved it: my Facebook friends are a bunch of cunts.

1. Taylor Swift:

It's not the music that bothers me (it is), it's the constant complaining about not getting paid enough. It's true that as the way we consume music changes, we need to make sure lesser-known musicians are getting their fair share. But when multi-millionaire popstrel Taylor Swift insists that "music should not be free", I can't help but feel it harming that cause. Meanwhile, bands like Radiohead are happy to give music away for free, because they know that it's both financially viable and artistically rewarding. Why is it that the only musicians moaning about money are the least creative musically? It's almost as though they only really care about money. Maybe that's unfair. Money and fame.

Thanks for reading, here's Would You Be Impressed by Streetlight Manifesto, quoted as saying (of their latest album): "Feel free to steal the shit out of it."

Friday, 25 September 2015

Selling Silly Putty Door to Door

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and here are three more of them. They're adverts, naturally.


There's nothing worse than a beloved movie character being used to sell car insurance. What next? Yoda selling phones?



A few questions...

  • "I've witnessed moments which are beyond any descriptive power." But aren't you supposed to be a journalist?
  • Why are you praising Ronald Reagan for money?
  • What are you doing in a fucking glasses advert?


This belief-defying advert is the ickiest thing I've seen since that Republican presidential debate. Who makes Audi's adverts? David Cronenberg?
I'll leave you with one of my favourite songs, Wilt by Blind Melon. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

In The Pit

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is live ska/punk albums.

Here, in no particular order, are my top five:

5. Mad Caddies - Live From Toronto: Songs in the Key of Eh

Not only is it a brilliant name for an album, Songs in the Key of Eh showcases the Mad Caddies' mad mix of swing, ska and sea shanties. There's no filler in this 2004 performance, released by Fat Wreck Chords - the independent punk label founded by NOFX frontman Fat Mike. The Californian seven-piece tear their way through punk, polka and pirate music. Why are the Caddies so good? Because they arrrrr.

4. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Live from the Middle East

Talking of great names for albums, Live from the Middle East was actually recorded at the Middle East club in Boston - home of the Bosstones, and therefore of skacore. It was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones who first fused Madness-style ska with the hardcore genre, and this 1998 live album plays out like a greatest-hits-so-far. The setlist is perfect, the energy extraordinary and Dicky Barrett sounds like a giant cigarette that's formed a ska band.

3. Reel Big Fish - Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album

Another fantastic name, Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album sees Reel Big Fish kick everyone's asses. Recorded in 2006, this double-album is really the ultimate expression of the ska/punk stalwarts' lunacy. The music is as tight and energetic as we've come to expect from these gatekeepers of third-wave ska, who really took the Bosstones' plaid sound and ran with it like headless chickens. It's also hilarious from start to finish - more schtick than you can shake a stick at!

2. Incontrolable - Ska-P

Like Reel Big Fish, Ska-P are a band with a zany image but incredibly skilful arrangements. But on top of that, the Spanish ska/punkers have a political edge, which surfaces throughout this relentlessly impressive live album. Recorded across Europe in 2004, Incontrolable exhibits the band's powerful brass-driven hard rock, their wonderful sense of humour and their anti-establishment social stance. Plus there's a cat driving a bus on the cover - what's not to love?

1. Sublime - Stand By Your Van

Another band crucial in popularising third-wave ska, Sublime's raw energy and musical ingenuity are sublimely represented on Stand By Your Van - a retrospective live album recorded between 1994 and 1996, when Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose. It may lack the ingenious production and sampling displayed on their albums, but for Sublime, a bass, guitar and drums are All You Need. Oh, and a dog. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Price I Pay

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and here are three more of them. 

The worst thing about adverts is that they're everywhere. On the tube, at the cinema, during RuPaul's Drag Race... they're inescapable. Here are three more shitverts* (* thanks Charlie Brooker)


"You get what you pay for" is clearly a terrible slogan. It implies either high expense or low quality, neither of which you want associated with your product. Perhaps they realised, because the slogan has mysteriously disappeared from the advert...


Lidl: it almost tastes the same as actual food! 


Cortana: when Clean Bandit call, remind me to lie in front of a train.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Welcome to the Jungle

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and here are three more of them. 

Another month, another slew of unbearable adverts, each more cynical and saccharine than the last. For instance:


How's this for a true story that hasn't happened yet - I go to the house of that bastard woman dressed as a dinosaur and traumatise her arsehole child. Bring back Anthony Head!


An unlistenable, anodyne cover of a rock song. How original


The idea that banks are our friends, or part of the community, or remotely interested in bringing people closer is one of the most cynical advertising ploys of the last few years. Besides, it's an ugly fucking scarf.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Everyone's A Winner

Welcome back to my Grateful Dead and RuPaul's Drag Race blog. Today, or as we say in the UK "yesterday", marks the 45th anniversary of another of my favourite Grateful Dead shows.

Essentially a warm-up for the following night's show, this jam session on Kresge Plaza at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was part of a student demonstration on 6 May 1970. Just two days before, soldiers had opened fire on peaceful protesters at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine more.

This performance marks a rare political statement for the bunch of hippies, who were never activists. Unless you consider having LSD for breakfast a form of activism. This was a time of massive cultural upheaval, embodied by the Dead more than anyone.

The show, relatively short for the Grateful Dead, is full of anger, passion and energy. This recording is a historical document, as well as a blisteringly exciting 90 minutes of music. It opens a few seconds into one of their best renditions of Dancing in the Street, and the show fizzes spectacularly on from there.

After Jerry Garcia's announcement about a lost kid named Frank who's probably about 50 now, the band launch into one of my favourite Dead songs, China Cat Sunflower. The recording then cuts out before rejoining the action at the start of I Know You Rider. What this tape lacks in completeness, it more than makes up for in raw quality.

I'm the first to admit that the band's vocal harmonies aren't always, you know, in tune. But Jerry and Pigpen totally nail it for the bluesy Next Time You See Me. Then comes arguably the greatest version of Morning Dew, which is surprisingly heavy and completely beautiful.

Good Lovin' starts with a brilliantly unique drum intro, and the drumming is so tight that you forget there's two of them. Apparently Bill Kreutzmann was once asked how they were always so in time with one another, and he replied that Mickey Hart had been hypnotising him. 

In any case, it's a great version of Good Lovin'. Mostly because Pigpen shouts: "This microphone over here don't work so fuckin' good you guys!" Then Casey Jones rips along, and the crowd go justifiably crazy.

The set ends with a barnstorming St. Stephen into Not Fade Away, and the whole band is on fire. Bob Weir closes the gig saying: "We're gonna split, and we'll be playing for you tomorrow night but it's just too fuckin' cold."

One of the Dead's most electrifying performances, this show comes towards the tail end of their scorching, psychedelic, acid phase. As opposed to their heroin phase. As the Vietnam War sparked mass demonstrations across college campuses, this was and remains an invigorating musical protest. Particularly on the eve of an election where we have the chance to not elect a bunch of warmongers. No prizes for guessing how that works out.

As a slight change of pace, I'll leave you with my favourite Hot Chocolate song in memory of Errol Brown who passed away earlier. Yes I have a favourite Hot Chocolate song.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

There's Mosquitos on the River

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is the Grateful Dead.

The only reason I'm still writing this blog is an obsessive need to keep posting once a month, so I might as well do the inevitable and turn it into a Grateful Dead appreciation blog - after all, on this day in 1977, the Dead played one of my favourite shows.

23 April 1977 was a rainy day in Massachusetts - I wasn't there (or born), but I have been to Massachusetts and I've experienced rain, so close enough. The Grateful Dead walked on stage (again, this is all speculation) at the Springfield Civic Center Arena, now called the MassMutual Center - named after an insurance company, like all good rock venues.

The band kick off with a beautiful Sugaree, and the Matrix recording (above) strikes the perfect balance between crystal-clear music and excited crowd sounds. Straight away, the audience are having the time of their lives, and I hate them for that. Then it's time for a stunning Cassidy - say what you like about Donna Jean Godchaux (and Deadheads often do), but her harmonies with Bob Weir are gorgeous.

The next song is arguably the highlight of the show - the best version of Loser I've ever heard. The painfully slow tempo, that desperately low groove, Jerry Garcia's electrifying solo... perfection. When it comes to evoking the Old West, the Dead are up there with Sergio Leone - you can almost feel the dust on your skin. 

I won't mention every song, though I easily could. Let's skip to the phenomenal Scarlet Begonias, whose ka-ka-ka intro is one of the best ways to start any song (see also The Joker by the Steve Miller Band). The segue from the upbeat party sound of Scarlet Begonias into the spaced-out majesty of Fire On The Mountain is a thing of beauty.

After a break (and a round of America's favourite game, "Take a Step Back"), Keith Godchaux rolls his fingers down the keyboard into a transcendent Estimated Prophet, whose deep bass and unusual time signature envelop us entirely. 

Bertha is at once dancey and laid-back, a seemingly incongruous combination that characterises the Dead's unique style. This continues in the disco-inflected vibes of The Music Never Stopped - though no disco song ever started with the lyric "there's mosquitos on the river."

Then comes the centrepiece of this second set - Help On The Way > Slipknot! > Franklin's Tower. The rhythm section drives this mini musical journey, from the locomotive effect of Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart's drumming, to Phil Lesh's basslines winding all over the place but somehow holding the whole thing together.

The show rocks to a close, ending with One More Saturday Night as an encore (it was a Saturday - stop me if I'm getting too technical here). It's a song that shows the Dead's ability to cease their psychedelic jamming and a deliver punchy rock 'n' roll number. 

1977 is generally considered the peak of the Dead's powers, moving so effortlessly between psyched-out jazz, cowboy songs and sometimes even rock music. Whatever it is, they make it look easy - and on more drugs than Rob Ford at a disco. Most people that high would struggle to even find their guitars, but the Grateful Dead played the roof off theatres every night.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Festival Time Part II: Kanye Believe It?

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is Glastonbury. Again.

Last year, I wrote a blog on the Glastonbury telecoms festival, and how furious everyone was about Metallica headlining. Well, they'll be pleased by the announcement that this year, the headliner is none other than God's Vessel himself, Kanye West. So everyone's happy. What's that? They're not?

Oh, apparently there's another petition, this time to stop Kanye West - ordinarily something I'd gladly get behind. But I'm baffled by the illogic of buying (very expensive) tickets for an unknown lineup, and then complaining when it's announced. You might as well get angry about a tombola prize. "Radox?! Fuck off."

I'll shut up now, because I'm boring myself. The point is - and this may come as a shock - you don't have to go to Glastonbury. And you certainly don't get to pick the lineup. If you can't accept that, then maybe a festival isn't for you. What you want is a Mumford & Sons gig.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Everybody's Got A Thing

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is advert music.

Believe it or not, the worst thing about adverts isn't the nauseating sentimentality. Nor is it banks pretending to be our friends. It isn't even the exploitation of human tragedy for corporate gain. The worst thing about adverts, it turns out, is the music. Here are three examples:


This VW ad embodies everything that's wrong with adverts; it's twee, it makes no sense (Woofwagen??) and it features the worst song ever written. Never before have I felt such a strong urge to beat a singing man to death with his own guitar. Me and you, just bleeding from the brain / me and you in agonising pain.


Here's my impression of a lazy advertising person: "Let's just use another soulless cover of a recognisable song *snort*." Speaking of cocaine, it's hard to miss the point of Kiss. Smirnoff, however, have managed to do so in spectacular fashion, with this hopelessly drippy cover of Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Crazy Nights; a song essentially about having crazy nights. Apparently advertising people's idea of a crazy night is sunsets and confetti. A crazy night with Kiss is more a case of: "How am I going to get home?"


Using the most commercial rock band in the world to sell alcohol (or ALCOHAAAWWWWLLL as Paul Stanley would say) is one thing; exploiting '70s funk is another matter entirely. Funkadelic's I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing,  Everybody's Got a Thing is about overcoming our differences to help one another; Levi's version is about selling jeans made in sweatshops. Everybody's got a thing, and my thing is a burning desire to kill those responsible for this ad-rock cover of a song I love.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Tools of the Trade

There are only three things in the world that I hate, and one of them is people with two first names.

You've seen them, hogging all the first names while some poor bastards (like Tempestt Bledsoe) don't even have one. Look at David Cameron. Go on, I dare you. He struts around with more than his fair share, while others have nothing. Right guys?

But for once I'm not going to just whinge without offering a solution. I'm not Russell Brand. I'm proposing a Swap Shop style system, mercifully without the involvement of Noel Edmonds, who only has one first name but that's still one more than he deserves.

Under my groovy new collectivist system, someone with two first names could trade with somebody in need. For example, David Cameron and Tempestt Bledsoe could swap. So she's Cameron Bledsoe (and we know Cameron can be a girl's name because of Cameron Diaz) and he's David Tempestt, making him infinitely more electable.

My friend Harry Graham, the first name-hogging idiot, could swap with CNN host Wolf Blitzer. So he'd be Harry Wolf or Harry Blitzer (I'll ask him which he'd prefer). That would make the news anchor Graham Wolf or Graham Blitzer - both of which sound much more like the respectable name of a serious journalist, rather than a Power Ranger.

And I know what you're thinking - what about Ron Howard and his brother, the actor Clint Howard? Why should they be punished? What if they want to keep the familial link of the Howard name? Well, I admire your support for the Howard family, but I've thought of that.

The solution to the Howard Question, as it's known, lies between Channing Tatum and Stockard Channing. If Clint Howard trades with Channing Tatum, they can be Clint Channing and Howard Tatum, respectively. Then Ron Howard can swap with Stockard Channing, making them Howard Channing and Ron Stockard. 

Voila - Clint and Howard Channing keep their family connection, and Howard Tatum is a pretty good name for the Foxcatcher star. Everyone's happy - apart from Ron Stockard, but she can tell people it's short for Rhonda or whatever.

Now, who has Wolf Blitzer's phone number?