Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Lyrical Analysis - Passion Pit - Sleepyhead

Gonna try something a little bit new, I’ve got a great appreciation for poetry and prose and I suppose song lyrics are an extension of this. For every ‘Gucci Gang’ there is a ‘Hallelujah’ and some lyrics are pure beauty. I’m going to go through some of my favourite songs and break down my interpretation of what they mean, I’ll also add some insight from the artists from previous interviews etc where applicable. I’m going to start with my favourite Indie/Electro song of all time, the absolute mammoth that is Sleepyhead by Passion Pit.

“And you said, it was like fire around the brim,
Burning solid, burning thin, the burning rim”

Michael wrote the song about a relationship that was on its last legs, this is undisputed as he has spoken about it before. This part of the song seems like he’s playing on the ‘burning love’ metaphors but talking specifically about around the edges. It’s almost as if he knows it’s passionate on the surface but not all the way to the centre. A superficial love. Michael has also said the fire is meant to be a metaphorical representation of being in hell.

“Like stars burning holes right through the dark,
Flicking fire like saltwater into my eyes.”

Another metaphorical verse, most people consider stars to be beautiful, but in this case the ‘burning holes right through the dark’ is meant in a violent way, which you can tell by the next line about the uncomfortable sensation of saltwater in the eyes. The love has literally burnt up into pain.

You were one inch from the edge of this bed,
I dragged you back, a sleepyhead, sleepyhead”

Michael has said that the ‘sleepyhead’ in this song is his former partner who grew tired of him and their relationship. The reference is obvious here, she was about to walk out through apathy and he begged her back, yet the problems are not fixed. A really powerful metaphor about something really familiar to most people.

“They couldn’t think of something to say the day you burst,
With all their lions and all their might and all their thirst”

A powerful line about outside influences on a relationship. Insincere friends who had jockeyed her to get out of it yet had no advice for her once she was out. Men who were there for her when she was in a relationship show how one-dimensional they are once she is available.

“They crowd your bedroom like some thoughts wearing skin,
Against the walls, against your rules, against your skin”

The guys mentioned in the verse before are now swarming all over her, lusting and taking advantage. The “against your rules” line is the heartbreaker here as it’s obvious that Michael knows that what she is doing is not a reflection of who she really is.

“My beard grew down to the floor and out through the doors,
Of your eyes, begonia skies, like a sleepyhead, sleepyhead”.

This is the letting go part. The beard growing represents the passage of time, he had to move on and away from her. The begonia skies metaphor is sad as it shows he still has feelings for her but he knows she is tired of him.

“Go Ahead”

This screeched part at the end is hard to make out but it is there, and it makes a difference to the tone of the song. In the end he is resigned to just having to let go, and this shows acceptance, despite still loving her he knows what he has to do. Just a beautiful ending to a truly phenomenal song.

I hope you enjoyed my interpretation of this absolute banger, would be interested in some suggestions of songs you’d like to see broken down and run through my brain filter. Thx, Craig.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Health - Monophobia and Missing Out

“Monophobia is an acute fear of being alone and having to cope without a specific person, or perhaps any person, in close proximity. This 'closeness' might mean in the same house or flat or even in the same room.”

Ever since childhood I’ve been terrified of being alone, I find it especially hard to enjoy my own company. I’m not sure exactly where this stems from but Anne seems to think it has something to do with being an only child and spending long periods of time alone during my formative years. I used to play board games alone as a child, I always felt perfectly happy and normal doing this. It is only when I became an adult that I formed this irrational fear in my head, I’m terrified of being alone with my thoughts. When I’m alone I go down dark alleys in my mind, I worry about where I am on life’s path, I panic. I think that when I stopped self harming it reinforced itself even more as I forced myself into social situations so I wasn’t going to be alone to hurt myself. I’ve still not learned any fully effective resources to deal with it, I still struggle to this day. If I am alone I have to be messaging someone constantly, or drawing, or playing Xbox, or anything really. Anything to distract myself.

Another issue that comes out of this is the fear of missing out. When I sit alone my brain races to all the fun things that everyone else is doing, and how I am not involved. I construct entire scenarios in my head of all my friends together without me having a good time. Despite knowing that 90% of the time they’re also sat at home, or if they are out they’re probably just having a bang average time in Spoons. But my head tells me it’s the fucking Oscars After Party and everyone is necking champagne and doing lines of coke off a hooker’s back. It’s hard to stop it and get a handle on it. The last week of the month when I’m stuck in skint waiting for payday and all my brain can tell me is that something incredible is happening somewhere. The tagged photos that you’re not in. The conversations that they’ll have that you won’t hear. It’s excruciating. 

“Anuptophobia is the fear of being or staying single”

Now this is an odd one because it comes in waves, there are times when I have come out of a relationship feeling euphoric that it’s all over, as I’d felt more alone and isolated in a relationship than I did out of it. But as I came to my early 30s I realised that there’s a fairly high chance I was gonna be single forever. The thing with this phobia is it fucking STINKS. Women can smell it on you, the desperation, the overwhelming desire to be with someone, and in 9 out of 10 scenarios they will turn and run. From time to time I think I’ve got a handle on it but it always comes back. I think this is tied in to Monophobia and also has a biological causation, men are hardwired to find a partner in order to propagate their bloodline, I just think some people can play it cooler than others. This is something I’m actively working on with Anne at the moment as my number one focus. Once I am comfortable with this I think a lot of things will fall in to place.

Sorry I couldn’t offer any resources to deal with these situations as right now I’m only finding them out myself. If anybody has any good tips for working through these episodes please let me know. We need to share resources and tools to all get through life together. If anyone wants to chat about this my inbox is always open. Thx, Craig.

Songs For Summer. Part 2

Well we were lucky enough to get a second day of sun, so I’m gonna keep writing about songs that are on my summer playlist. Thanks for the replies yesterday, they jogged my memory for some of these entries below. Enjoy.

7. MGMT - Kids
This track is 11 years old now! Doesn’t feel like 5 minutes ago this song was everywhere. The debut single from the debut album of this American Indietronica powerhouse is dripping with atmosphere. The driving synth creates an upbeat atmosphere from the outset, putting an instant smile on my face. Memories of blasting this on trips to West Bay and Weymouth with a car full of friends come flooding back, reminding me that this summer HAS to be full of these sorts of days.

8. Fall Out Boy - Young Volcanoes
No particular memories attached to this one, it’s just a great track all about not wasting your life, you’re only young once and there’s a long time to settle down and be boring. From the up-tempo sing-song intro into the first verse about going out and making the most of a night out, the song drips positivity, which is very rare from these Kings of Misery. The chorus builds with a gang-vocal harmony of “We are wild, we are like young volcanoes”, creating a fun vibe, taking thoughts of work and love and stressful nonsense right out of your head.

9. Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly - Call Me Ishmael
Sam’s ode to touring and the life that comes with it is a jaunty little acoustic number with tons of soul. Takes me back to being about 20, spending my days selling Gas and spending my evenings travelling all over the country for Gigs. The temptation was to feel burnt out and give it all up, but my young body could cope without the sleep and sitting at 2am on a beach or in a park after a show, skinning up and sharing with the bands, singing along to old songs and smiling my head off made it all worth it. The song builds from a quiet acoustic song to a bombastic drum-led singalong about sticking to your dreams, living your life and having fun feeling alive. This always makes its way onto my playlist when I need reminding to enjoy the little things.

10. Counting Crows - Hanginaround
This funky Americana anthem is so positive, uptempo and replayable. I’ve been guilty of having this on repeat for 30 minutes at a time before now when I’ve needed a boost. A song about getting up and getting out of a shit town, it reminds me to venture out, see new things, meet new people. The summer is the perfect time to adventure, and this song always gives me wanderlust and the need to go out and experience the world.

11. Montell Jordan - This Is How We Do It
Self explanitory. From end to end positive vibes. Get your mates together and party all night. Not really much more I can say except “I’M KINDA BUZZED AND ITS ALL BECAUSE...” Just listening to it again for this list has got the blood flowing!

12. Motion City Soundtrack - The Future Freaks Me Out
“I’m on fire and now I think I’m ready to bust a move, checkitout I’m rocking steady..” that intro could bring sunshine in January. A fast paced pop punk song about not fully understanding the things that are popular and finding someone who enjoys the same things as you. This band’s whole catalogue could have made this list, beautiful summery tunes which never fail to lift the mood. “What’s up with Will and Grace? I don’t get Drum and Bass, the future freaks me out.” Indeed.

As long as this weather keeps up I’m going to keep this list going, as always, the comments is where you can make suggestions, keep them coming. Thx, Craig.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Health - Having The Conversation.

Despite several corporate initiatives to get smart on mental health there are still some very archaic views in the workplace about it. For some people it is very hard for them to open up to their employer about their mental health challenges, moreso than physical ailments. I have experienced a range of responses from various managers and colleagues over the course of my career. Despite some very positive reactions its still hard to ‘have the conversation’ whenever I get a new line manager or I have to explain to new colleagues why I’m so manic. I want to talk a little bit today about the variety of responses I’ve had and try to break down a bit of the reluctance that people feel when facing that particular talk.

I was 19 when I was first diagnosed with Depression, I’d had a pretty tough time at school and was having a crisis facing the idea of mortality and the option of growing up or not bothering. I’d been self harming for nearly a year in secret and I went too deep on one occasion and got found by my Dad (sorry for that). After that it was diagnosis and medicine and counselling and the full range of identikit responses dished out by our good old NHS. I was working for an Estate Agent and going through a fallow patch of sales, the writing was pretty much on the wall for me as I wasn’t performing, I went to my boss and asked him for a chat in the back office. I was ‘having the talk’ for the first time and I was nervous as hell. I was sweating heavily, my hands were shaking, and my voice cracked as I came out with that first line: “The Doctor says I have Depression and I urgently need help”. He fucking smiled. He fucking looked in my eyes and he fucking smiled. There was a brief chat where he offered the standard management lines about it affecting my performance, I was already really uncomfortable with the concept of lying for a living anyway so I was ready to tell him to get his job, roll it into a sausage shape, and go fuck himself with it. His reaction to me bravely taking him to one side and opening up to him told me the rest. I did next to nothing for the following three weeks and when the area manager was next in I told her I was getting out of this career as I’m not a slimy lying scumbag. It felt good. But my managers reaction stayed with me. I can still see his smile to this day. The bastard.

I jobbed around for a couple years in the standard early-20s sales jobs, knocking doors and asking about Gas, you know the ones. I didn’t say anything to the bosses at these jobs as I wasn’t planning on staying long. After my first venture into telling my boss I wasn’t going to bring it up unless I absolutely had to. Then I got a break, a real decent opportunity, I had a foot in the door at GKN, the pay was good, and my boss there was a friend of my Godfather. It was perfect. I made a decision to be honest straight out of the gate. I took Nev, my line manager to one side on my second day. “I understand if this affects my position but I feel I have to tell you I’ve got Depression, I’m on a long-term course of treatment and at the moment it’s not getting any better” or words to that effect. He put his hand on my shoulder and thanked me for telling him, he asked if there was anything he could do to help, any arrangements that could be made. I pulled my notepad out, wrote the telephone numbers of my parents, my G.P and my two best friends in case I ever became ill. They would know what to do. In recent years it’s come to be known as a ‘crisis card’, but back then it was just me being pragmatic about the fact that one day it’ll get bad and those are the people that can help. Surprisingly it never got bad. Over a number of months I took the time to speak one-to-one with a lot of my close colleagues and explained why some days I would take holiday really short notice because I physically could not face lifting the duvet off and looking at my face in the mirror. I explained why some days I look tired as hell and other days I act like I’m on E. They all understood. It took everything I had to be honest with them, the fear of rejection or ridicule or talking behind my back. But the way my boss handled it was really what gave me the strength to have that conversation over and over. It was the polar opposite of my previous experience and it’s pretty much been my cut and paste ever since.

At my current job I’ve had a lot of managers over a short time, some unbelievably supportive and sympathetic, others loved to know how bad I was so they could gossip about it on their lunch breaks. But every single time I told them early. I didn’t want to wait. I had a reasonably long period of good health for the most part of my time at my current place, but over the last year I’ve really wobbled and my boss at the moment is an absolute hero. He knows that some days I’m going to be a nightmare and having me there at 75% is still more productive than not having me there at all. He knows there’s days when I’ll want to sit with my headphones in all day and not talk to anyone. He knows there will be days where I’ll get on everyone’s nerves, or come in with bags under my eyes. It allows me to still be able to hold down my career whilst battling the Black Dog. I owe him and my amazingly understanding colleagues a lot.

Sorry for the long ramble, in short, from my experience the best thing to do is take your boss to one side, as soon as you can, and get it all out there. Tell them what treatment you are recieving, tell them what to do if you become ill, tell them what to look out for when you are becoming ill. Nothing is too much. Most major employers have mental health first aiders specially trained now, and most have a mental health policy in place. Familiarise yourself with those people and those resources. You’re at work for a large proportion of your life, so the issues of your life will creep over from time to time and it’s important to know a safe place to go. Be fucking kind to yourself, I know I don’t always practice what I preach but I’m learning, and all this writing is helping. Thx, Craig.

Songs For Summer

A Sun Came! The summer is always a really healthy time for me, the extra Vitamin D helps to produce positive brainwaves. It’s also the best time of the year for music, festivals, bbqs on the beach etc are all about the music. I’ve got a good range of music set aside in playlists for the summer. This short article details the songs that make my summers, plus a few new ones that are going into rotation for this year. Enjoy the sun folks.

1. The Kooks - Seaside
So many good memories from this one. I remember sitting on a beach with an ex smoking and drinking with this on in the background. The waves were at our feet and the sun bronzed us, with a few beers and smokes, pure bliss. The song is lazy and chilled and a great intro into a perfect summer album. Whenever I was stuck in the record shop on a sunny Sunday this album always used to go on. Great memories.

2. Bedouin Soundclash - When The Night Feels My Song.
My essential summer song, all upstrokes and happy melodies. A great ska/indie tune with the perfect chorus for the sunshine “hey beautiful day”, a great singalong song with a guitar and a barbeque. This song instantly lifts my mood and is a great resource for dragging me out of the melancholy and out into the sunlight. The least traditional ‘Ska’ song on the album, the whole record is ace for those unexpected summer parties. Spin it up and smile.

3. Portugal The Man - Live In The Moment
A new addition to my summer playlist, this sleeper hit from late 2017 has a great pounding drumbeat and a funky rhythm perfect for when the sun finally comes out. The lyric is positive and tells of forgetting what has gone before and living in the moment. The soundtrack for last minute beach trips or drunken times in a field with all your friends.

4. The Rocket Summer - Colors
Bryce has a real knack for turning negative songs in to dancy clap-along anthems, but this one is a far more positive song from start to finish. The guitar and drum lines are upbeat, jangly and always bring a smile to my face. A song about making everything work in times of extreme adversity, the song reminds me of a romance rekindled for one summer only, a great memory for me and always on my stereo once the sun peeks through.

5. Passion Pit - Little Secrets
Upbeat electro indie with a pounding backbeat, takes me right back to a constantly-wasted summer when I was in my early 20s, free parties every weekend, electro nights at Orange Box, sleeping in cars or fields or anywhere I dropped down. Despite having really positive memories attached to it, it also reminds me not to overdo it, I’m not as young as I used to be! So good.

6. Kids In Glass Houses - Saturday
The worst thing about British Summertime is that it only seems to come during the week! A song about living for the weekend, I remember having this album on heavy rotation while driving my friends around over a long hot summer in 2010/11. We all worked full time and waited for the weekends to go out and have shenanigans. I wish I could go back to this summer, the time of my life.

As the weather is going to stay until tomorrow I’m going to carry this list on. Get at me in the comments with your essential summer songs. Until then, thx for reading!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Health - Putting Yourself Out There

Hello again all, I’m up to 2.5k page views now and I’m amazed by all your support. I’ve just started a facebook page to start to share my content and get it outside of my friendship circle, so a share would be hugely appreciated. Today I’m going to talk about The Fear. Not the Lily Allen song, the fear of putting yourself out there. Allowing yourself to be judged and critiqued. It’s something I’ve always been afraid of as I’m terrified that people will ridicule or otherwise form an assumption of me. I’ve had to push hard to open up and get my stuff out there, putting aside the fear and forging ahead. Here’s a little story about how I made it happen.

I’ve always carried a fear of opening up to strangers, of speaking my thoughts out loud or getting them down on paper. There’s a facet of ‘traditional’ masculinity that says that men should stay strong and quiet and put up barriers. I subscribed to this backward thinking for far too long. I lost sleep worrying, I pushed everything to the back of my mind, I spent hours drinking and smoking and trying to gloss over the dark fear of being judged. I lost too much weight and then gained too much. I was doing it all wrong.

I recently had a set of bad circumstances which left me reeling, I forgot how to communicate like a normal person. I forgot how to listen. I broke hard, the rejection absolutely hollowed me out. I was down to nothing, my back was against the wall and I had no option but to fight my way out or get pulled under. I reassessed everything, I spoke with numerous people from various different viewpoints and came to the conclusion that I needed a release. I’d bottled up all the negativity of the past few years and tried to shoehorn myself into a relationship that would make me forget all of that. SPOILER: It didn’t. I tried too hard, I stifled her and it all fell to pieces.

Off the back of this I learned that I had held myself back for too long, I had turned down opportunities to better myself in order to have an easier life. I had put all my eggs in one basket, relationship, marriage, kids, or bust. I forgot who I really was, what my values were, what my passion is, I’d put myself on the shelf.

This was the catalyst.

I had to do something to heal, to get my head straight, to embrace the passion I’d let slip away, I had to put myself out there. I was fucking terrified. There was one of these stupid social media crazes where you had to post up 10 albums that shaped you over 10 days. I started writing a little bit and people seemed to dig it! The feedback was positive, and I had messages from people saying I should do some more. This was the spark that lit the fire. I opened up. It felt amazing. I started getting my notes app out on my ipad and tapping away for hours. Once I started I couldn’t stop. The pressure release valve had popped and I was venting in a healthy way, using the words as a catharsis. Writing about what I loved helped me stop thinking about what I didn’t.

Obviously writing isn’t going to be that healing force for everyone, it may be art, or sport or sewing, or anything really. But the important message here is not to let the fear get you, open up and do what you love, don’t waste years on bad decisions like I did. Don’t destroy the best things by bringing bad baggage. Find your catalyst and grab the opportunity with both hands. Get out there, and live.

33RPM CLUB Far - Water And Solutions 20th Anniversary


Welcome to the first of my long form deep dive album reviews that for the purpose of naming I am calling the 33RPM Club Series. For my first ever foray into this I am going to pick the bones of one of my top records of all time, the 1998 LP ‘Water and Solutions’ by the seminal, inimitable (fuck me people have tried) and legendary US emo pioneeers Far. Again FULL DISCLOSURE: Jonah Matranga (vox) from Far is an old friend and we’ve kept in touch via the socials and at shows for various years, so to there may be an element of vested interest here. However Far were one of my favourites long before any of this, so let’s fucking crack on.

Far are/were/are a post hardcore / emo / rock band from Sacramento formed in 1991 (I was 6, let’s not dwell on it) that released a steady output through the early 90s before their first major label (third) record ‘Tin Cans With Strings To You’ made some serious inroads into the fully blossoming early US emo scene in 1996. Not long after this the record I will be talking about today found its release through Epic records. The band, consists of Shaun Lopez on guitar, John Gutenberger on bass, Chris Robyn on tubs and the aforementioned Jonah Matranga providing the raw passion over the top with his crystal clear vocals breaking through. I first heard Far through ‘In the aisle, yelling” from the Tin Cans album but it wasn’t until Water and Solutions came along that the love affair commenced and I dug out the entire back catalogue and turned on instant fanboy mode. What follows is a love letter to one of my favourite albums by one of my favourite bands.

The record starts with what I’m sure is a backhanded homage to the Walrus of Love, a track geniusly named Bury White. Lo Fi chugging guitar and vocal akin to Smashing Pumpkins give way into a soaring section with Jonah reaching a gutteral growl in a chorus that hits like a dozen sledgehammers. One of my favourite first tracks of any album of any genre. Just flawless.

Really Here. Wow. this song. Another quiet first verse accompanied by a super crisp vocal caves in once Jonah starts getting into the chorus. A less punchy track than some of the others on the album but absolutely dripping with atmosphere and emotion. A great composition and in the flow of the album fits perfectly before the next song...

Water and Solutions. The title track of the record begins with a clanky angular guitar line into a gravelly vocal building to the chorus and one of Jonah’s best lines of the album “soon my doubles will pull off all of my stunts”. Back to the jarring guitar and a frantic semi-screamed bridge which sets the emotional tone for the song. A true genre defining classic and if there was a Far ‘best of’ this would be the intro track.

Mother Mary. The big single! If you speak to anyone about Far, this is probably the one song they’ll know. A song about facing mortality, it has a really punk feel to it and is one of the fastest songs on the record. Unbelievably catchy, the chorus will stick in your head. Like Elvis, like everyone, we all die, we all live on...

I Like It. A bass-driven song that spawned a thousand early emo bands to use months and seasons in their songs and band names. Reading the lyrics it seems like this is a song about making the most of a bad breakup, but I can’t confirm that as I’ve never heard Jonah talk about it. A really heavy song that has beautiful lyrics.

The System. A ‘traditional’ emo punk song played fast and hard. Lots of growling, deep vocals and a heavy screaming section towards the end form the basis of this great song. Probably my least favourite on the record, but I love every song so that’s no criticism.

“And he always wrote, and he always called, and he never lied, cause he never said anything at all”
My absolute favourite Far song from any record. Perfectly constructed, with the right mix of heavy and stripped back, Jonah’s vocal through the chorus is absolutely beautiful, he is able to showcase why many people consider him to have the best voice of the genre. Shaun’s guitar is meandering and chuggy in places, before falling back into a more intricate arrangement through the quiet parts. The drums carry a decent groove without being intrusive and play perfectly off the bass line. Listen to this song. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

In 2 Again is a haunting slow anxious anthem, Jonah worrying about people laughing behind his back. Slow plodding guitar and bass build to a spoken vocal metaphor about a broken boy and his broken horse, taken out the back and both put out of their misery. Shot. In 2 Again. Dark stuff.

Wear It So Well  is a kind of love song. Jonah’s vocal cracks and hisses and spits, as he builds the rest of the band into a devastating crescendo. Man Overboard is an angular song, all awkward time signatures and loud/quiet sections, repeated vocals create an uncomfortable atmosphere around the song, with Jonah repeating the song title over a heavy section until the whole song falls away to an almost whispered refrain for the ending.

Another Way Out is lo-fi and slow, a non remarkable song in the context of the whole album but still not bad. A song about love, and loss, and love again. The vocal doesn’t carry the power of the other songs on the album, but sets up perfectly for the album closer Waiting For Sunday. A stripped back song about the destruction that we are capable of and living in a world where you fear other people. The first glimpse into Jonah’s style that he would take after Far wrapped up, this sounds more like a New End Original song than a Far song. The guitar is clean, and builds with Jonah’s voice into the last verse which brings the album to a close perfectly.

Listening to this now it’s hard to believe that it’s 20 years old. It hasn’t aged a day. The bands that it has inspired, the styles that came out of it, there are many bands that owe their living to this record. With all the ‘pop-emo’ that came after I long for a world where people make these records again. Honest, authentic and dripping with raw emotion, a huge influence on my musical tastes that still holds true to this day. I’m not going to make a habit of ‘marking’ albums but this is a true 10/10.

Thx for reading folks. Gonna do a more recent album for my next 33RPM club review, give me some ideas. Craig.

Short Story - Glorious You

Beta forced himself to open his eyes. Ten whole days had passed since he last woke with a smile on his face. The days are a struggle now and the nights are worse. He knows that today will be his last day on this cursed Earth. Hopping into the shower he feels the warm water through his dirty hair, the hint of tears in the corners of his eyes combining with the water and washing away, spiralling down the drain. Today is the day.

Beta lives alone now. Since she went. On the 44th floor of a run down block of flats in Sector 21.13 Old England. He is a third generation junk salvager and sorter, his father and grandfather both happily accepting their terrible lot in life, but Beta had always wanted more. He never got more. The only thing he got in his life that he was really proud of was her, Luna. Her piercing eyes and glowing blonde hair lit him up, made him happy, gave him purpose. It has 10 days since she told him that it was moving too fast and she wanted to cool it off. Beta is crestfallen now. A broken man.

Towelling his hair from the shower, he steps out onto the balcony and pulls a cigarette from the packet, everything is Marlboro now since they bought out all the other brands. He gazes across the barren landscape below, empty shells of former betting shops, grafitti strewn walls, crumbled roads and husks of burnt out cars. He lights a match, holds it to the cigarette then flicks the match over the balcony, he watches it fall 44 floors to the concrete car park below. He is jealous of that match, he wishes he had the bravery to throw himself off and follow the match down to the floor. But that’s not how this is going to go. He has a better plan. Exhaling the last of the wispy blue smoke the cigarette goes off the balcony too. The lucky bastard. Shirt on, jeans on, shoes on. The door slams behind.

The elevator is old and makes some horrible noises, no one really comes out to service anything around the 21.13 sector anymore. It has largely been forgotten by the corrupt government, who are only interested in their enclave of former rich people and corporate vultures in sector 77. Seventy Seven is the only place left where everything has been preserved. A safe haven for rich scumbags. Beta has never even been there. He only knows what he’s been told by his father. Pushing his way past swarms of street beggers while mumbling false apologies he finally gets to where he needs to be. Two flights of stairs down to an old Tube station, now lovingly renovated and turned into a sort of bar by an old Guy called rusty who’s grandad used to own the World’s End in Camden, before the fall. Rusty sees Beta take a seat at the end of the bar. “Cheer up B, you look like shit, and wheres that beautiful girl of yours, I only tolerate you in here because she comes with you” Rusty chuckles. “Lets not talk about this now Rus, now or ever, just get me something strong, double”. A thick brown liquid is decanted into an old Coca Cola glass from before the fall. Rusty slides it along the bar. Beta immediately throws it back and down in one, he shudders and slides the glass back. “Fill ‘em up again”.

The stairs were easier on the way in, Beta stumbles up the two flights of stairs back into the blinding sunlight. He knows where he has to go now. Despite his drunken state he has to stay true to his goal. Last day on earth. A short walk from Rusty’s Bar is the Ratlands, a former junkyard full of makeshift shelters, canvas tents and general run down hovels. This is where he has to find Scar, the local scumbag dealer who can get his hands on anything. Turning a corner he sees Scar standing there with one of the local junkies, who is begging him for more time to pay while Scar has his hand around his throat. Seeing Beta he lets go of the poor bastard and throws him to the ground “Three more days, or you’re dead. Now fuck off”. He turns to Beta and smiles, his teeth are cracked and yellow, “Bloody hell, theres a face I haven’t seen in a while! You and that angel of yours back on the weed? I can sort..” Beta cuts him off with a loud “NO” before lowering his voice to ask for the stuff. “I need Acria”. The smile disappears from Scar’s face. “You know that stuff will..” Beta interrupts again “kill you with one breath? I know”.

A short while later Scar returns, a vial in his left hand triple wrapped with cloth in case of leaking. He signals for Beta to follow him into a corner before he passes it to him, Acria is still the most illegal substance in the land and the hunters will shoot you dead on sight for posession. Beta stuffs a handful of coins into Scar’s top pocket, he overpays, but he won’t need money where he’s going. “It’s been nice knowing you and I hope you find peace” Scar says as B turns to walk away.

The walk back to the flats is long and purposeful. Memories of his childhood flood over him, making him smile, then memories of her, back when she used to return his calls, back when he knew where she was. Tears sting his eyes and his lip trembles as he walks through the old dilapidated lobby of his flats. He hits the elavator button but decides to take the stairs. Every floor of the 44 he climbs brings back a memory of her. The holiday they took together to Sector 42.10 Old Spain when they were first together, the nights they stayed up all night drinking and smoking, the days she said she’d love him forever and never leave. All these memories wash over him, he gets to his floor walks the long dark corridor, gets to his door. Fuck. No Key.

After locking himself out of his flat, Beta slumps below a window in the corridor, right at the end. Staring down the dark hallway he begins to tremble, the hint of tears have given way to tidal waves, every regret running down his face, soaking into his rough beard. He knows it’s time. No more stalling. Reaching into his top pocket, he unravels the cloth around the vial. He looks out the window one last time, looks at the sun breaking through the clouds. He wishes for her one last time, and undoes the lid of the vial. His hands shaking he lifts it to his nose, with one last pitiful sob he breathes in, his eyes roll back, he slumps down.

As the life slides away from his broken body he can see a glow at the end of the hallway, a pure white  , it moves towards him slowly down the corridor, his eyes struggle to adjust, suddenly he realises. It’s her. Her flowing blonde hair and piercing brown eyes, it’s got to be her! As she comes closer he can see a beautiful flower in her hand and that green crystal necklace she used to wear. He struggles to stand but every bit of energy is gone, his life is slipping away. She is right in front of him now, her smile wide and her eyes locked on his, he tries to speak, but nothing comes out. Her beauty. Her beauty. Her beauty. And then nothing.

His ears rung, an acrid smell, a dry mouth, his eyes cracked open. Beta lay sprawled in the corridor, coated in sweat, his brain pounding. He looked down, as he felt something in his hand. He slowly lifted his hands, in his left hand was the flower, and in his right hand was her green necklace, with a piece of paper with an address and phone number. At his lowest point, she had come back for him. The sun burst through the window as Beta struggled to stand. It was a new day.

Monday, 16 April 2018

New Music Monday: Normandie - Inguz (Gold Edition)

Hello guys! Thanks so much for getting me up to 2000 reads in just 8 days! Incredibly psyched that you’re picking up what I’m putting down. Gonna try to release my first long form article before I get to 2500 reads, so keep an eye out if you dig early 2000s post-hardcore, its gonna be a treat! In the meantime I’m gonna try and get a new music review in every Monday. Trying not to keep to any particular output schedule apart from this on a Monday. If you’ve got a record you want me to review get me a link or PM me for my address if you’re old school and want to give me a physical copy. Starting off with my big tip for 2018, the Gold Edition of Inguz by Normandie that came out last Friday. Hope you enjoy.

Normandie are a young, fresh and exciting post rock band from Sweden, they have been picking up a lot of good press with their early output and the regular version of Inguz landed in 2017 to a largely positive critical response. They have recently signed to the popular Easy Life records and released a Gold Edition of the record with some extra tracks and some brilliant live renditions of the best tracks from the album.

I’m going to start at the end of the record, which is a very odd place to start. In my opinion the track ‘Ghost’ is their best output on the record. With a sound akin to 30STM and the cleanest vocal I’ve heard on the album, the track is a sleeper hit which when heard for the first time makes and incredible impression. Vocalist Philip has a remarkable set of pipes and a range that majority of the pop acts in the charts would be envious of. A slow verse of Philip’s angelic vocals builds into a searing chorus with incredible singalong potential. Jesper’s pounding drum beat carries the song, almost tribal sounding at times. The Gold Edition includes a live cut of the song which shows off the band’s ability as it barely sounds different to the studio version. A great jumping off point into the band for the first time.

The rest of the record is varied, well produced and has some really catchy tracks. Some songs share a sound with some of the later Linkin Park output with Philip really able to turn it up in some of the heavier parts. There are some synth parts that chop up the vocals a bit that in my opinion are unneccessary but it does help set them apart from many of their contempories. I especially enjoyed ‘Loophole’ an anthemic ode to a poor lifestyle which has an incredible blastbeat middle part and a really addictive chorus. The acoustic version of ‘Collide’ starts with a lovely piano part that wouldn’t be out of place on a Script album, Philip’s voice taking pride of place on a heavily stripped back version of one of the best songs on the record.

The band enjoy a unique position in a swamped post rock genre as they have a wide array of styles at their disposal which means that the record never sounds stale and is an easy listen from start to finish. This band are going to be absolutely huge so get in early and get on the hype train. Congratulations to Jamie and the team for getting these guys on the Easy Life roster, I think all parties will enjoy some success together over the coming months.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Yeovil Beer Festival - Music Review.

Hello again folks. Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to the Yeovil Beer Festival by my friend Laz. Despite having a fucking horrible week and not really having any interest in Ale I decided to go along and watch some music. I’m so glad I did. Due to most of my friends’ acts being on the second stage and being able to smoke outside, I spent most of the day outside and missed a large proportion of the main stage acts. I’ll write about anything I actually managed to catch more than one song of. Hope you enjoy.

Laz Clements.
Laz invited me to come along and give him a bit of support through the day, which mainly involved grabbing his beer for him between songs, which I was more than happy to oblige. Laz is an absolute soldier and stalwart of the last 10 years of Yeovil music, his bluesy acoustic songs defy the simple ‘breathy white boy with a guitar’ stereotypes that dominate the airwaves. His gruff voice tells stories of his interesting life and his many years of entertaining. A true gent who loves what he does and stayed right to the end to support the other acts.

Andy Merritt
I’ve got to admit I only caught a bit of Andy’s set as I was buzzing around doing other things, but I saw a couple songs of his and thought it unfair not to give him some love here. The guy’s got a velvet voice and I even sat through a Sheeran cover, which if you know me will know is a struggle for me. Great talent and potential for such a young lad. Very impressed.

The Stand Alone Empire
Aaron is a friend of mine, but anything I post beyond here is not influenced by the fact that we know each other. His set was fantastic with some incredibly well picked songs for his position on the bill, he has a real knack for selecting the most upbeat well known songs to cover in his stripped back acoustic style. A funky cover of ‘Get Lucky’ and a rousing version of ‘Mr Brightside’ (which I audibly predicted before he even played it) were the most popular with the crowd. However I know how well Aaron delivers a Weller tune and I was not disappointed when ‘That’s Entertainment’ rolled around. An absolute pro who can light up any room (or tent) he is in, wether its solo or backed the guy can just turn it on. The sun was breaking through and the atmosphere was amazing.

Out Of Order
Just before Aaron started I ended up in the main room having a sit down and managed to catch a bit of Out Of Order, they were trotting out the typical pub covers to a largely empty room. They did pull out a reasonably spirited version of INXS’ ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ but I think this is one of those bands that thrives off atmosphere and there was none of that in the huge dark room while everybody was outside in the sunshine. Can’t really offer a judgement as I don’t think they were putting their all in just to play to the backs of peoples’ heads who were queuing for the cider bar.

Banana High
Fucking hell. Most improved player award for sure right here. I hadn’t heard the Bananas for a good 18 months and these guys are like a different band! Anyone who knows me knows the problems I have with traditional Ska music, I just don’t get it. However these guys sound more like best-era RX Bandits with a Bedouin Soundclash chaser now. Upbeat and joyful, these guys played harder and faster as they tried to drag the sun through the clouds. The sun finally obliged just in time for new single ‘Rhythm Of Your Soul’ and the  crowd finally loosened up, dancing and singing along to the couple of expertly chosen covers scattered among their stacked catalogue of original material. Lead singer Nathan has stuck with this project over many years and I’m delighted to say that the current lineup is the best he’s ever had, hope the success that they richly deserve follows on. Saw a couple people fishing for CD’s after the set, which shows they won people over with their uptempo goodness.

The Window Trees
My mum always tought me that if you have nothing good to say.  then say nothing at all. However that doesn’t make a good review. The only positive thing I can say is that it takes a particular talent to make an hours worth of different songs all sound exactly the same.

Sinful Maggie
The sheer gulf in talent and quality in comparison to the band before was phenomenal. Like night and day. A whirlwind of noise akin to Rancid or one of the Duane Peters bands had the crowd in absolute raptures. By this point of the night everyone was fully steaming on the Ale and Cider and this was the perfect place on the bill for this band. Accordion fronted punk rock is niche as fuck and these guys bring the noise in spades. The bass player had a Nekromantix t-shirt on so I was sold from the outset! The biggest crowd by far for the second stage bands were dancing and singing and hanging on every word. The band have just released their debut full length and the future is looking incredibly bright for them. I didn’t notice any obvious covers and to get up and play a full set of original material in front of a drunk crowd who don’t know the songs takes brass fucking buttons. Tied between these guys and Banana High for my highlight of the day.

Bowie Fashion
Back into the main room for this sort-of Bowie tribute band. The singer delivered all the songs in the style of Bowie but without going into that false reverb ‘Flight of the Conchords’ style Bowie piss-take voice. The crowd was building in the main room and absolute bangers like ‘Modern Love’ and ‘Lets Dance’ were delivered perfectly and had the crowd ready for the main act.

Ocean Sunset View
I’ll admit to only seeing this band once before and I didn’t get a particularly good feel for it. I told Nath I was just gonna write ‘Pop Punk’ here and have done with it but my fucking word was I wrong. The band have been out and about on tour the last few weeks and you can tell they’ve tightened up tenfold. The interaction between the band and the crowd was electric, everybody was really into it. A strategically placed Blink 182 cover picked up a flagging crowd and by the end of the set the tent was bouncing. Lets be honest a Pop Punk band are never going to be featured on the front of Prog magazine for their complicated song structures, but the originals in the set were tight, well constructed and catchy. Singer James’ barnet is a bit out there but his vocals and stage presence are phenomenal. Ones to watch, 100%.

Starting with ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in the main room is never going to go down badly. What could have been a nightmare placement on the bill due to room full of flagging tired drunk people was instantly turned into a high-energy up front glam rock extravaganza. These guys have caught lightning in a bottle with this act and deserve all the success that they’re currently getting. A unique act for sure, but everything Larry turns his hand to turns to gold so what can you expect? A perfect headliner for a great day of local music.

Overall I feel that the quality of the music on offer over the course of the day was excellent, a great variety of covers and originals and something on offer for everyone. I’m not gonna make comment on the Ale other than it was perfectly drinkable and had me bed bound til lunchtime today. That’s what happens when everythime you order a drink you just say “The Strongest thing you’ve got left”. A great day, and roll on next year, although if the fates are good some of these bands will be too big for these stages next year. Thanks to everyone who came up and chatted throughout the day, you’re all amazing. Hope you enjoyed this and I’ll try to get some more live reports down over the next couple weeks. Thx, Craig.

Shaping Songs

Hello again everyone and thanks for still reading! I’m finding it hard to get a handle on my writing at the moment and I’ve probably got about 20 more articles in my drafts ready to go. I’m trying to maintain a steady flow rather than blasting them all out at once, aiming to keep to 1-2 a day for now. When I said I was going to do this a close friend Mark (shout out to the Pretty Random Podcast) suggested doing a ‘Tracks Of My Years’ kind of formula with the songs I’ve loved through my life, so this is the first part of that, covering the songs my parents used to play when I was young and how they’ve shaped my music tastes. Hope you enjoy.

1. The Cure - Close To Me
This is one of those songs where you hear it once and remember the melody forever. From the creaking door sample into that first bass line dripping with more funk than Nile Rodgers’ jockstrap, the opening is powerful, upbeat and you can’t help but snap your fingers along. Robert Smith’s effortlessly haunting vocals rise and fall all over that aforementioned bass groove, even the mad horn section towards the end can’t drag it down, (I have a thing against Brass, don’t call me on it). Released 2 months before I was born in October 85, my Dad bought it and it became one of his favourite songs. Whenever I hear this song I remember being 6 years old and travelling down to Southampton with my parents to collect a new car. I’m fairly certain Dad only bought the car for it’s beautiful Pioneer stereo and I remember Dad blasting ‘The Head In The Door’ album all the way home. I still listen to The Cure all the time, I’ve got one of their records in my car at the moment. I’m grateful to my Dad for a lot of my musical education but I really fucking owe him for this one.

2. U2 - I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Yes. Bono is a helmet. You’re very astute for noticing. Now that’s out the way I’m going to talk about this song. This bloody song man. Just thinking about that first verse makes the hairs go up on the back of my neck. I have absolute sympathy for The Edge, Adam Clayton and the Drummer (Alan Partridge Joke) with them having to deal with the barrage of shite that has been aimed at their band because of the huge piece of shit that Bono is (South Park Joke). The Joshua Tree album came out in 1987 and I’m almost certain this song is the first piece of music I ever actually remember hearing. That incredible bass line and ringing guitar with the pounding drums behind, along with Bono’s best vocal performance of his career was a pretty good first musical memory, I reckon.

3. Van Morrison - Bright Side Of The Road
There’s a couple Van The Man songs I could put on this list, but it came down to two with the other contender being ‘Have I Told You Lately’ but due to that being played at my Gran’s funeral I’d rather talk about the more upbeat song. Not sure how I heard this first because I know there’s a version on The Commitments soundtrack which my Dad also played pretty heavily. All I know is that I heard it ALOT. I know I said earlier I have a problem with brass, but it just works so well, the whole song just swings and it just has a gorgeous positive message. One that probably would have appeared on my positivity list if I didn’t include it here.

4. T-Rex - 20th Century Boy
The only one on this list directly influenced by my Mum. She absolutely loves T-Rex, which combined with me working for the record store for 10 years meant lots of easy birthday and christmas presents for mum over the years. Swear to god she’s got deluxe editions of all the albums, books, etc all gifted to her by her darling son! From the driving iconic guitar intro paving the way into Marc Bolan’s unmistakeable voice, the whole thing oozes charisma, confidence and sex appeal. The song has been covered by absolutely everyone but this original version tops them all.

5. The Jam - A Town Called Malice
One of my top 50 songs ever. Weller’s ode to living in a shithole but making the most of it has become iconic. From the moment that bassline hits you know you’re in for a treat. A cheery song that has a very optimistic tone despite Weller’s lamenting of a terrible town with terrible people. My Dad used to play Jam tracks in the car on the way to football, and this one always stuck out to me because of that catchy organ bit before the verse and because it was just so happy sounding with the tambourine and the hand claps. Me and Dad go and see Weller at least once a year and I always buy the ticket for his Birthday. Nothing better than belting this one out with my old man, beer in hand, smiles on faces. The little things.

That’s the end of this one folks, hope you enjoyed reading, going to go on to my early teens next, I’ll try and keep the Britpop to a minimum! As always cheers for reading, this has been such a good change for me and it’s really helping me. Any feedback just inbox me! Thx, Craig

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Yeovil Announcement

Once upon a time there was a small town named Yeovil. There wasn’t anything remarkable about it, it had a shit football team and a terrible road network. It also had the best breaking bands from all over the world playing small venues every week. The punters were spoiled for choice, the acts loved the small venues and the bars made a fucking fortune. Along with this there was an incredible variety of local bands and musicians who had the opportunity to open for these large acts every week. But twice a year there was a show that was all about the local bands, the opportunity to earn the headliners money, the opportunity to perform songs by their favourite bands; the opportunity to play STARS IN THEIR EYES.

I’m teaming up with my old friend Will Blake from Soundcollective (formerly of Advance Promotions) to put on one more big Stars In Their Eyes show in Yeovil. The date and venue are under wraps for now, but the basic premise is as follows:

Local Band selects a popular band to ’be’ for the night. Fancy dress is absolutely encouraged but non essential.
Local Band selects a three song set list or 15 minutes (whichever is the least)
Stage times are selected at random on the night this is the fairest way to ensure everyone has a chance.
On everybody’s ticket is a voting stub, the crowd votes for the best band.
After all votes are tallied the winner receives a large cut of the ticket sales minus costs, along with the glory of being a Stars In Their Eyes winner (an illustrious club of former Yeovil bands, haha)
Second place gets a case of beer.

This is a call to all local bands and musicians and especially former winners and entrants (let’s go full on nostalgia, yo) to get your bands together, get a practice space and get cracking!  The show will be run with top sound and production. Also I’ll be DJing through the night playing all the classics, and will probably play Beating Hearts Baby at least 3 times. Thx, Craig.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Single Review - Frank Turner - Make America Great Again

Hello again guys, I’ve just got to 500 reads on my blog in only a few days, this is amazing to me and I’d just like to say a big thanks and hope you all have enjoyed reading as much as I have writing. Today I’m going to be reviewing the new single from Frank Turner, ‘Make America Great Again’.

Frank Turner is a singer songwriter from Winchester who has spent the past ten plus years touring the world with his unique brand of punk troubadour ditties. Frank’s newest album ‘Be More Kind’ is due to drop sometime in May, and ‘Make America Great Again’ is the second single from the record, following on from the absolutely incredible ‘Blackout’ that got its first outing in March.

The song is an acidic bittersweet song about the current state of the leaders of the free world, with Frank opening up by apologising for his accent and the cheekiness of offering an Englishman’s opinion on the goings-on over the pond. The use of Trump’s ‘M.A.G.A’ campaign slogan to throw some serious shade on the beliefs systems of his supporters and staff is a stroke of genius. The first line of the chorus “Let’s make America great again, by making racists ashamed again” sets out Frank’s stall early and the song goes deeper from there. The second verse is quick to clear up that Frank’s personal interactions with Americans have been largely positive but he’s worried about the President and his policies and the rapid new acceptance of racism and bigotry dressed up as patriotism. The ending makes reference to Ellis Island, the small enclave off of Manhattan where new immigrants into the country would be processed in times gone by. Frank goes on to hypothesise about a perfect country where ‘nobody can be Illegal’ before reminding people to look after their friends, check in on each other and ‘Make America Great Again’.

Set against the political backdrop in America at the moment the song has been released at an absolutely perfect time and I can see it picking up a lot of popularity with American Liberals, however I’d love to see how this is recieved in places like Texas. Frank regularly tours America and I’ll be keeping my ears open for some first hand tales of how this is recieved. The song is a bit more formulaic and ‘poppy’ than a lot of Frank’s previous output, but that seems to have been a theme on the songs I’ve heard from the new record so far. I think if Frank’s music becomes more popular in the mainstream he can get his messages out to more people. This album has definitely got more political statements on it than the last few of Frank’s records so if he can use his platform to teach more people to ‘Be More Kind’, then I’m all in.

Thx for reading. In a world that has decided that it’s going to lose it’s mind, be more kind, my friends. Try to be more kind.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Music For Healing Part 2

Earlier today I started to run down the songs I go to when I need a boost of positivity or happiness. It must be said a lot of these won’t be ‘calm’ songs for mental health, more like the types of songs I go to when I need a boost of seratonin or to get me moving. Here’s numbers 6 through 10 of my positivity playlist.

6. Dave Hause - C’mon Kid
When people talk about music having a positive effect on them, this is the song that did for me. Dave Hause’s (formerly of punk outfit The Loved Ones) first solo full length is full of incredibly crafted songs in Dave’s Indie/Americana style. I first heard this song around 2012 after a pretty heavy breakup (cliche as fuck, buddy) and its chorus is almost an instructional tape for getting over it. So much so I’m quoting it right here:

“C’mon kid, c’mon, one foot then the other,
Everybody needs a hand sometimes, everybody needs a brother,
C’mon kid, c’mon, I’m reaching out to you.
Get out of bed kid, face the world,
and show us what you can do.”

The verses are full of tales of adversity and overcoming it. Both the full band and the acoustic versions of the song are equally stunning. An overwhelmingly powerful and positive song. Check it out if you’ve never heard it, pure gold.

7. The Rocket Summer - Brat Pack
This one is kind of one of those “you had to be there” tunes, specifically in late 2006 and even more specifically at shows in Yeovil. The tune is all about spending time with your friends and being young, free and excited about life. I had a bit of an obsession with Bryce from TRS at that time and I used to make a special effort to play as many Rocket Summer songs between the bands as I could. I’d always try to leave Brat Pack til the changeover before the headliner. The feeling of dancing and singing and drinking with a room full of 150 of your mates every week was incredible. Every time I hear the song it puts a great big smile across my face to a time when, for a brief amount of time, we had it all.

8. Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
The opening minute to this indietronica song is just incredible, so many layers over the top of a pounding bass line, it just gets everything firing in my brain. When I feel manic and fidgety I always whack this on in my headphones, all the different sounds and samples give me the right amount of stimulation in my  head to push out any negative thoughts. Michael’s vocal is a bit high pitched for everybody’s tastes but I personally love it. The E.P that this is on came out when I was doing a little bit too much of everything too so listening to it gives me a bit of a reminder not to go down those routes again.

9. Rage Against The Machine - Bombtrack
That opening just gets you pumped. Another one on the list that is just pure catharsis, if I did any exercise at all I’d run to this. Listen alone somewhere you can play loud, shout and get all that fucking anger out! The obvious choice here would be Killing In The Name, but in fairness any RATM song would work in this slot. Heavy, angry, and bombastic.

10.  Frank Turner - Dan’s Song
I’ve always had some pretty deep rooted issues about the idea of growing older, trying to stay on life’s schedule and the consequences of missing out on key events like marriage, kids etc. This song is just the antithesis of those fears, its just about going out, grabbing your friends, a guitar, some beer and going down the park when you’re far too old to be drinking in the park. Forget all the nonsense, strip it back to basics and just go out and live. There’s nothing to gain by worrying about where you are on the path. Fuck, I can barely look after myself let alone kids right now! This lovely little acoustic singalong number serves as a reminder to enjoy the little things.

That’s me up to 10! I’m hoping to come back to this series later on, so some feedback on what you think about it would be appreciated. I’m not really sure what level of personal experience vs music analysis you guys are really after, so just let me know what you think! Any songs you always go to for a pick me up? P.S Don’t choose Hey Ya! because I’ve got a special one shot about that about 75% written but it was too long for here.

Music For Healing.

As some of you may know I have struggled with mental health issues for most of my adult life, depression (or the Black Dog as I call it) comes and goes in waves and over time I’ve come to lean on music as a resource for lifting my mood and seeing the good in life. In this short piece I’ll be breaking down some of my favourite happy songs and the way they can be used as resources for various situations.

1. Yeasayer - Ambling Alp.
This one is number one on the list for a reason. Whenever I have an episode or a severe visit from the black dog this song is never far away. Sitting quietly and digesting this song and its positive message is my number one resource in my armoury when I need it. The song itself is named after an Italian professional boxer from the early 30s. Despite being severely diabetic and a clear foot taller than most of his counterparts (hence the Ambling Alp nickname)he became one of the most successful European boxers of the century. The lyrical content is about looking after yourself first, not being afraid to break and rebuild, and overall just to keep fighting. The chorus refrain of “Look after yourself, son. Never mind what anybody else done” is a mantra that when repeated in your head long after the song finishes is very healing.

2. New End Original - Better Than This
Another long standing favourite of mine, this stripped back hymn to the anxious has one of the most positive messages ever found on a song. The paradoxes presented in the verses (peaceful people / violent guns, sober drivers / drunken cars) succinctly cover the jumbled thought patterns experienced in a manic episode. The chorus breaks into a repeated assertation of ‘I’m better than this’ which falls back into self doubt of ‘I’m better than nothing’ before the end of the song ascends slowly ascends to Jonah reassuring himself over and over that he’s ‘better than nothing and nothing is better than this’. Keep your head high and scream it out to the world. No one can hurt you now.

3. Head Automatica - Beating Hearts Baby
This electro disco banger was a staple of my DJ sets at shows in Yeovil through the years and always had the whole place in raptures. It’s just upbeat all the way through and has me singing and dancing along every time I hear it even all these years later. The band days were the happiest days of my life and having this song close by always helps me associate to the better times and serves as a reminder that it gets better.

4. Vintage Trouble - Total Strangers
A song about two people in a loveless relationship reinvigorating their dying love with a one night only anything goes sex session where they act like they’ve only just met for the first time (like Total Strangers). From the very outset the song is high energy, high intensity and up front sleazy ‘Dig in with your fingers, scratch tracks down my back like a Bobcat’. The carefree and liberated nature of the song is the perfect tonic for when the Dog would like to remind me and judge me on past transgressions. There’s also a pretty strong message about fighting for something to work once the rot sets in.

5. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - I Won’t Back Down
The most obvious one on the list. If you’ve ever heard the track you’ll know why I’ve included it. This is the absolute definitive anthem for dusting yourself and getting on with it. The chorus is just perfect and although the song is short and not lyrically complex the message is incredible. I’ll keep this world from dragging me down, gonna stand my ground. Indeed. Try this one when you’ve had a bad day and you’re in a space where you can shout and sing along, very cathartic.

Obviously it goes without saying that mental health issues are very serious and just listening to a song isn’t going to work for everyone all the time. I’d suggest putting 10 of your happiest songs on a playlist and keeping it on your device for if you suddenly become ill. If you are struggling, try to reach out to someone, visit your GP and get yourself somewhere safe. Wake up, you’re alive, we’re on your side. Try Mind, C.A.L.M and The Samaritans for useful resources and I’ll see you back here for songs 6-10 of my positivity playlist. Thanks for the read.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Loving The Other Album

We all have those bands that we saw in a 150-capacity back room of a Working Man’s club 5 years before they had their first hit, so it is understandable to feel some sort of ownership over a band and when they finally break to feel a level of resentment at their new found popularity. Because of this there are a number of bands who’s superfans will vehemently argue that the ‘big’ album is not their best and that the old songs were better, or that the band have sold out because they did that twee little acoustic number on the new album and it’s not like the old stuff. Despite this there are actually quite a few cases where bands have had a hit album but they actually have much better content in their catalogues on other albums. Today I’m going to look at some artists that fit into this category, obviously this is just my opinion and not based on any critical analysis.

1. My Chemical Romance. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is better than The Black Parade.

Everyone remembers My Chemical Romance, wether you loved them or you hated them there was a point back in late 2006 where you could not avoid them. The slow opening piano chimes of ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ were everywhere, even solidifying a place on Radio 1’s A-List. Accompanied by other catchy tunes like Mama and Teenagers the album sold like wildfire and had teens fawning over Gerard and Mikey. But 2 years previously to this MCR had released the less polished but much more spiteful ‘Three Cheers..’ album which had some of their biggest hits on it but did not do as well commercially at first. Although it had long time fans favourite songs on it (and probably still does, despite their significant output since) there wasn’t as much mainstream buzz about the album as it’s follow up. The album tracks that fill out Three Cheers are all incredible, the album as a whole musically is better than the Black Parade, and it represents the best era for the band,  before all the mainstream accusations of the band being a suicide cult for teenagers and before Danger Days, an album I could write a whole other article on...

2. Saves The Day. Sound The Alarm is better than Stay What You Are.

Not going to dwell too long on this one. Stay What You Are was an absolute masterpiece at the time and rightly propelled STD (I’m not gonna use that acronym much) into the hearts and minds of anybody who wasn’t already on the bandwagon after their 2 first Albums. At Your Funeral was an emo club night last 10 minutes banger and the rest of the album just followed suit. However 2006’s Sound The Alarm sold awfully, went under the critical radar and a lot of long term fans of the band still probably wouldn’t have played it that much. Despite all of this I think it’s the band’s best top to bottom album with them at their violent, vicious prime. Listen to ‘Say You’ll Never Leave’ on all the usual streaming services and let me know what you think.

3. Jimmy Eat World. Futures is better than Bleed American.

I know. A strong call. Hear me out. Futures by JEW (these acronyms aren’t working out at all today) came along four whole years after the album that made them stars, but the progression in production and complexity of the songs in those years is remarkable. Bleed American felt raw, unpolished and visceral and that was part of its success, the album’s title song plus The Middle got the bands music onto so many iPods in the early 2000s but in my opinion Futures is a better record. The upfront bombast of Just Tonight and Pain are the perfect foil for the slower heartfelt songs like Kill and Night Drive. A flawless album from an incredible band that I’ve got a lot of thanks for.

4. Biffy Clyro. Puzzle is better than Only Revolutions.

Full disclosure. I’ve got a monumental problem with that Matt Cardle abortion of Many Of Horror. I struggle to listen to the Biffy version of it now. But I’m not going to let that colour my judgement. When Biffy released Only Revolutions they were already firmly established in the ‘opening act for every touring arena act’ role and consistently testing themselves on the large stages, but it wasn’t until ‘Mountains’ hit the mainstream radio that everyone started to legitimately believe that they could be at the top of the bill for those stadiums. Only Revolutions is an incredible album with some monumental tunes BUT PUZZLE IS BETTER AND HERE’S WHY. When Biffy wrote Puzzle they were a much smaller band, it would have been easy for them to drop their integrity and smash a bit of synth in or sterilise the fuck out of the album to take a cheap jump into the mainstream. Instead they did the opposite, they took risks, they did some of their most angular, risky and alternative songs of their career. Living Is A Problem Because Everything Dies starts with a pulse hastening staccato drum beat which takes you out of your comfort zone before Simon’s beautiful Scottish accent quickly lets you know that he met god and he had nothing to say to him. ‘Get Fucked Stud’ is a jarring experience with plenty of clean guitar and Simon almost whispering before yet again grabbing you and shaking you towards the end. Right at the end Machines, the ‘pop’ song of the album puts its arm around your shoulder while you cry your eyes out. Puzzle wins.

5. Twin Atlantic. Free is better than Great Divide.

Another one I won’t dwell too long on. Great Divide and later GLA had some of the most well known Twin Atlantic songs on, both records have made Twin Atlantic very rich and very successful, however the records just don’t have as much meat as the debut full-length Free does. Edit Me and We Want Better, Man are the absolute standouts from this awesome record by a band who are finally getting the success they have long deserved.

So that’s the first 5 from a series that I’d like to keep running. I’d love to hear suggestions of what ‘other’ records are better than the hit records in your opinion. Cheers for taking the time to read this, I’m just dipping my toe in the water so don’t be too harsh on me! Hopefully see you back here for my next piece.

“Don’t” as a describing word.

Don’t give too much of yourself. Dont’t send more than one message at a time. Don’t tell them how you really feel. Don’t overanalyse. Do...