Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Pierre's Spotify adventure

Spurred on by the burning desire to get the most out of my new Spotify Premium account I decided I should really be listening to more than my iTunes library in Spotify; hardly the most economic use for something costing me £10 a month.

I thought 'my friends are pretty cool', so turned to Facebook & Twitter to send out a plea for people to direct me towards some new bands I really should be listening to. To my surprise I got some pretty fast responses. To my even greater surprise they all seemed to be genuine recommendations. Shock horror.

The collective who responded - my very own dysfunctional, musical A-Team - included a dreadlocked expert in photography and coding, a Latvian with a penchant for herbal teas, a metalhead-at-heart online poker supremo, a pocket-sized music obsessive, the singer in my first band Rubber Bullet, and someone I grew up living opposite to back in The Shire. To all of you, thank you.

So I listened to the suggestions; flitting between the bands with little method, often during my commute for most of which I'm half-asleep. Sometimes I listened to them sober, sometimes not so sober. I listened while I walked, I listened while I sat and rode the London public transport system. It was a fun week.

So it seems only fair I repay the thoughtfulness of my recommendees with some feedback. Now Observer Music Monthly, this ain't. I used to review for now-defunct online magazine Dripfed while at university. I thought I was 2003's answer to Charles Shaar Murray, cutting my way through bands' reputations with my witty metaphors and a liberal smattering of swearwords. Now I'm too old/wise/lazy for that, so I'll try and keep things clear and concise.

Minus The Bear
I'd heard the name before but wasn't sure if I was thinking of a star constellation. I Google Imaged them and they look like a bunch of middle-aged Sociology PhDs, which in case you were wondering, is an insult not a compliment. Music-wise I imagine they're a band to be seen live - their songs lose a bit of energy when recorded and certain tracks feel a bit like the electronica has been applied with mathematical precision. However, I will be listening to them again.
Having delved into this a bit deeper, I'm pretty sure the two Horse Feathers albums on Spotify are by different bands. The second one 'Horse Feathers' sounds like a collection of songs which just missed the cut for Weezer's Pinkerton album. The other album on there 'Thistled Spring' is a truly beautiful affair. With Mumford & Sons steamrollering their heavy-handed brand of folk across every other TV advert at the moment, this album reminded me what first drew me to indie/folk; ten meaningfully-written and carefully woven songs. Well done Horse Feathers.

I had this whole 'like Sigur Ros with a rocket up their arse' simile ready for this review and then I Googled him to find he is the bloke from Sigur Ros. So I'm annoyed at him for ruining that. I also found a picture of him playing a guitar with a violin bow, which makes him a dick in my book. But his music is ok. Better than Sigur Ros anyway. Just.

Tame Impala
Yeah, I could listen to this 60s jaunty shizzle for ages! Tame Impala, consider yourself on my radar. Everyone should have a Tame Impala in their lives.

Animals as Leaders
Any band with the word 'animals' in their name, I already like [see Animal Kingdom, The Animal Collective and The Animals]. 'Post-hardcore instrumental' is probably a genre I'd steer clear of before this little musical show & tell exercise [except perhaps for 65DaysOfStatic]. But this bunch I could listen to again, they've written songs which actually sound like they are meant to be listened to, as opposed to the self-indulgent bullshit which is often found amid their peers.

Tall Ships
To start with I wasn't even listening to the right Tall Ships. Which is probably good as they are a friend of a friend's band and I was struggling to think of diplomatic ways to say 'I thought they were a bit shit'. I've since listened to the correct Tall Ships [the link is right] and they sound pretty good. They're also supporting 65DaysOfStatic on tour soon, so as long as they manage to play to people before 65DoS blow up the amplifiers they should hopefully continue to increase their following.

Jamie Lidell
I recognised the name from Simian Mobile Disco's Off The Map which had his input, so I was looking forward to hearing more from the boy. Now soul isn't really my cup of tea, so I didn't manage more than one song at a time - but listening was enjoyable. However if X Factor rejects with 'big soul' voices keep churning out cover albums there's a risk real talent like our Jamie might get lost in the mire. I'll keep an ear out for him, but won't be signing up to his mailing list.

A bit of a curve-ball from this particular recommendee. Having listened to his other recommendations I fully expected more of the same, but this 'post-hardcore' lot [according to Wikipedia, whatever that genre label means] have a strong melodic edge. An edge to which I can cling, in fact. Spotify also managed to throw up their cover of Flagpole Sitta which just reminded me of Peep Show, so that was nice too.

The reason I've grouped them together is I found it hard to differentiate between them. I understand one might have even stolen the other's singer at some point or something like that [bloody incestuous west coast emo bands]. I didn't particularly enjoy the music - bit too formulaic, like emo-by-numbers. Saying that, I like Dance Gavin Dance's name as I have a friend called Gavin and it makes me imagine him dancing... *imagines Gavin dancing*. To be honest, I won't be seeking them out again though. Sorry.

It's all a bit 'hey man, you reckon we could use this stapler as a musical instrument' which usually makes for a fucking mess of a record. They seem to have stopped just short of that though, and it has to be said that O.N.E was bouncing around my head for days. Like normal experiments, I think 'experimental music' should probably be conducted behind closed doors. Perhaps let everyone know when it's just 'music' and all the experimentation is over.*

*All jokes aside, Yeasayer have made it onto my 'bus to work' playlist..... so well done to them.

Anyway, all this has given me an idea for a new project which I will be working on and contacting you all about soon. Watch this space, and thank you very much for reading this.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Back by popular demand *

* 'Popular demand' may be a mild exaggeration but a couple of people said 'Oh do you still do that blog thing' which I've decided to take as 'Write your blog again, I live for that shit you know'.

I'm sure a million things have come and gone since I last scrawled; The UK's biggest pantomime starring Simon Cowell is upon us once again, the BBC gave Nick Griffin enough rope to hang himself only for him to use it to lasso more disillusioned and mentally challenged supporters, The Sun cashed in on dead soldier grief and Boris Johnson became some kind of crime-fighting hero wielding an iron bar and some out-dated middle class slang.

But all of these things happened in the real world. No point labouring over them, there's little I can do to affect anything. It's not like I'm Jan Moir or anything, I'm smallfry to her big homophobic pike.

Unfortunately back in the real world, not a lot has been going on. I did have a lovely exchange with a doorman at a pub on the Walworth Road though on Saturday night.

Doorman: "Hello ladies, and it's £10 to get in for you mate."
Me: "Really? It doesn't say it's £10"
Doorman: "Does mate, up there" (points to handwritten shit sign on A4 paper bluetacked to the door saying '£10 Entry')
Special looking woman hanging around the entrance: "Yeah it does, says it on that sign" (points to same shit sign)
Me (after looking at the shit sign): "Oh ok, I'm going home then"
Doorman: "Ok mate, ok. £5 then."
Me: "No, I'm Ok mate"
Doorman: "Ok mate, Ok. Are you local?"
Me: "What?"
Doorman: "You local?"
Me: "I live down the road..."
Doorman: "Ok mate, Ok. Go on in. No trouble though."

That's some good door policy. Apart from the fact there was no till and the doorman was clearly pocketing the cash - the insinuation that people 'local' to the Walworth Road area won't cause trouble is pretty amusing. And deluded.

Perhaps more amusing was the steady flow of our male friends who all came into the pub saying 'Did he ask you to pay £10?', before explaining on threat of leaving the doorman had in fact let them in as he did for me. Not before pointing out the shit sign though.

Oh and then three policemen came in (classy pub). Doubt they got showed the sign.

I'll try to be back soon. Bye.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Long time no blog

Ok so I’ve now left this an embarrassingly long time since my last post. It’s shameful. If anyone actually ever regularly read this I’ve now almost certainly alienated him or her. Wah, wah, poor ole me.

Sad thing is, haven’t actually had that much to talk about. Since I jetted back from Spain (see previous post) I’ve been mainly living the 9-5 trying to remember how to work. Rock and roll is has not been.

So I’m not going to rant on and on about nothing. That’s for real bloggers to do. I’ll just summarise some small notes below for your pleasure and leave you until I have something valuable to say. Ciao.

Rockband on the Nintendo Wii is a heavily addictive game and no matter how much I think I can, I cannot sing Reptilla as well as Julian Casablancas. Well done on that Julian, you sing it well. Repeat ten times "I am not Julian Casablancas" and go to the back of the class. Wiseass.

If offered ‘extremely restricted view’ tickets at The Theatre Royal Haymarket don’t take them, no matter how cheap they are. When I pushed the ticket attendant further on ‘how restricted was extremely restricted’ he bluntly replied ‘you won’t be able to see the actors’. Nice. That, my friends, is not a play. That is some kind of warped radio rendition of a theatre production, played out in a theatre. Oh I don't know. All I know is if I want to sit not watching a play, I won't be paying £15 for the privilege.

3. Fortnum and Mason’s is pretty much heaven. Harrods is for chavs, F&M is the real deal. Eat my words Al Fayed you croon. It’s like going back in time, in a good way. And it stocks vegetarian haggis! (cue the distant groan and rumble of several thousand Scots turning in their cholesterol-laden graves at the sheer suggestion their precious national dish has been healthified in any way). If you haven't been there, pop on down. Take out a loan and buy a tin of biscuits. Treat yourself.

I'll be back soon with some actual news. Big love and all that.

Thursday, 23 July 2009



Hello, or should I say Hola? No I should probably say Hello as I am now no longer in Spain. On reflection I mainly spoke 'Over-accentuated English with a Latino twang' rather than any actual Spanish when I was in the land of the Raging Bull anyway, so there's no point littering this post with my Del Boy-esque grasp of a foreign tongue.

Besides, the football hooligans and holiday reps have worked hard on establishing the English reputation abroad as a race of ignorant, uncultured apes who are wholly unwilling to embrace foreign language or custom, so who am I to ruin all of their hard work with a few scattered token por favors.

Anyway, I could write about the FIB (Benicassim Festival) to which myself and a merry band of friends went, but like my Blur entry, I don't want this to turn into some ten-a-penny music critique telling everybody what they already know; Oasis fans are mainly on parole, White Lies do not have enough songs to perform a 90 minute set and Paul Weller is scared of the wind.

Fairplay to the Modfather though, it was frightfully gusty on the Friday night, which saw the festival organisers break out into a cold sweat - ironically something the peasant camping collective would have paid good money for as the scorching rays of sunlight breathed fire into their tents at 8am without fail.

Realising there was not enough Euros in the kitty to pay the life insurance claims if the hurricane caused a scaffolding pole to skewer Kings of Leon, they wisely pulled the plug and sent the camping massiv back to their tents without any headliners. Only when they got to where they left their tents, they weren't there. So they had to sleep in a sports hall. I even felt a pang of pity as I was whisked off by 4x4 to our nearby apartment. That's a lie, I was an unbearable smug tosser.

I conclude with a short summary of things I learned, or had confirmed, by my trip to Spain. Read, digest and enjoy.

  • The more amusing the menu translation, the less delicious the meal. For example, there were few delights to behold in 'Delights of Pig'. Essentially a plate of barely-cooked pig throat and ear morsels.
  • The Spanish severely lack entrepreneurial nous. Hundreds of people in our apartment village needed ferrying 5 minutes up the coast (and would have paid good Euro for the privilege) yet we were left to squeeze into an illegal taxi run by an overweight, but lovely, homosexual man called Timo. He made the repeat trip so many times his KIA actually broke by the end of the festival. True story. Official taxis, where were you?
  • Spain is windy. I know I made light of the gusts which put the stoppers on Friday night's line up, but it was awfully strong wind and it is a miracle no one was hurt. A miracle, and a shame in the case of Oasis.
  • There's a dirty street urchin in Barcelona with Paula's handbag. Filthy thieving bastard.
  • I won't be going back to Benicassim next year. Sorry Spaniards, I know you'll miss me.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Britpop uniform

Pierre ventures cautiously into fashion blogging:

Well aren't I a sporadic little toerag. Firing off two blogs in 24 hours last week like some kind of badly wired mortar, and then not coming back for a good week. What a prick.

Since we last spoke (I like to feel this is direct conversation between me and you, no one else reads it) I went to Hyde Park. Oh and Blur were there too.

Yes I, like many, got to see the Britpop scallys rifle through their timelessly excellent back-catalogue in front of a sun-baked, half-cut cast of thousands. It was emotional and brilliant, but if you've picked up any form of newspaper over the last few days you will have already read a review so I won't attempt to bore you with my oh-so-hazy version of events.

We defy gravity on a daily basis flying tonnes of metal through the air, technology can tell us what is happening so far away that it happened so long ago our brains can't comprehend it, we've developed devices which scare hoodlum youths away from cornershops by probably permanently deafening them, but for some reason when a few thousand people congregate in a field no one's mobile phone works. Orange took delight in telling me I had no network coverage. In an open space in the middle of London. What an endorsement for their claims to have some scandalously high percentage of the UK's landmass blanketed in their signal. 99% of the UK reception coverage, unless you're in an open space in the capital of the country. Then you'll have to go back to waving in the direction you hope your friend is in.

It's ok though, cause when I did get through I managed to tell my friend I was wearing cut-off Levis and a black Fred Perry polo shirt. Turns out a few other people were too. He found me an hour later. Through no help from those descriptions.

Oh and I punched a guy in the mouth.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Hot hot heat

Frig me it's warm. Baking hot. I like it though.

It mainly floods in the summer where I hail from (rural Worcestershire, not somewhere with an actual monsoon season) so it's nice to have a bit of warmth. We all know it's not going to be a six week long heatwave, so let's please try and embrace it with a bit of Britishness. Hop on a train to your nearest seaside resort, buy an above-the-rate-of-inflation ice cream and paddle up to your shins in the unbearably cold and definitely polluted sea.

It's too hot to blog. Meanwhile until the mercury stops rising, here's a short exhange I had with a lady in Specsavers for you to mull over.

Lady: (slumps into the chair next to me, not an action I encouraged in any way) I like summer, but this is too hot. It wasn't even this hot in Turkey. It was a different kind of heat. I walked to the end of my road and nearly turned back it was so hot, but my son needs his contact lenses.
Me: Yes, oh right. Yes.
(ten second pause while she pants and mops her sweaty brow)
Lady: I don't understand how Michael Jackson died when there was a doctor with him. How could that happen?
Me: Yeah......(realising this was not a rhetorical question I continued...) I don't know. It's bad. (no pun intended)
Lady: I saw him at the O2 when he announced the concerts. I wasn't going to go, but I did. I caught it on the camcorder. I've still got it on there now - the last time he was seen alive in the UK. I asked my daughter how to work it so I can watch it back.
Me: Oh. Cool.
Lady: And I exchanged my ticket to his gig a few months ago, really glad I did now. Do you know most people with tickets won't even get their money back? That's terrible.
Me: Yes awful.
Specsavers employee: Your lenses are here now madam.
Lady: Oh thank you (turns to me) Lovely to meet you. Bye.
Me: Bye

Not sure if that snippet offers a profound insight into modern society's relationship with celebrity, the weather or indeed anything. It might just prove that overweight people from South East London don't like the heat, seeing anyone lose their money, or celebrities dying when there are doctors nearby. I don't know. Take from it what you will.


Friday, 26 June 2009

Karma killer

I've never known where I stand on Karma. It's a deliciously appealing balanced theory of one act complementing or corresponding in some way to another, and as humans we do desperately strive to rebel against and ignore the fear that everything might simply just happen for no reason at all. A world without reason scares us, and so it should. Because rules and reasons make everyone a lot less jittery.

So I'll buy into it, temporarily at least, and relay how I think Karma has punished me recently.

YING: Wednesday evening last week I used a cheat code found on the internet to help me complete Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on my DS. (Yes, I am definitely too old for computer games, before you ask)

YANG: BAM. 24 hours later Michael Jackson is dead.

Turns out, God didn't like me being a computer game cheat. So he killed Michael Jackson to punish me. Shizlak.

Most people would say that's not how Karma works, and that the two acts must complement each other's severity, and that me cheating on a game wouldn't result in Michael Jackson dying. Maybe Cher, or Billy Zane or someone, but not Jacko.

But then that's just humans making up even more irrational rules about something which they already made up. You can't just go around making up rules and then making up some terms and conditions which govern said rules. You're not Gordon Brown you know? (If, by chance, you are Gordon Brown then this jibe obviously doesn't apply. Sorry Gordon.)

Anyway if I'm going to buy into this Karma craze, I want dramatic results.

I don't want 'I forgot to thank the postman so my bus was three minutes late'.

I want 'I didn't offer everyone in the room a cup of tea so Carol Vorderman exploded live on Countdown'.

Or 'I ignored my Mother's phone call so democracy collapsed in Canada, masses rioted and it was renamed The People's Maple Leaf Republic under the rule of King Bryan Adams'.

I couldn't hack it with depleted body armour and shitty pistols, so I cheated myself a flamethrower to scorch any little pixelated Triads who got in my way on the final mission. Thus, the King of Pop left for a better place (for you and for me and the entire human race....cheap joke). That's what happened.

MJ: Killed by Karma....

Sorry pop fans.