Saturday, 25 January 2014

The end of the Crimson King

Every so often, while looking through the CD collection for something to listen to, I realise just how many of them I no longer play and decide it's time for a bit of a cull.
Reasons for an album not being played any more can be pretty varied. Sometimes it's just that I've played it to death and now hope I never hear it again, like Alanis Morissette's 'Jagged Little Pill', but that's more commonly caused by someone else playing it to death. Over the past few years a number of my CDs have been snaffled by the boy and then played on repeat for what seems like weeks on end before I can stand it no more and have to liberate them SAS style from his clutches to preserve both my sanity and his stereo's continued functionality. The Sisters Of Mercy's 'Floodland' album is one example of this, but luckily (because it's one of my favourite albums) I managed to secure its release before any lasting damage occurred.
Some CDs were quite simply a mistake in the first place, and I wonder what on earth posessed me to buy them. I can only assume that at the time I bought the CD single of 'The Key, The Secret' by the Urban Cookie Collective I must have been either ill or unknowingly tripping on some mad hallucinogenic.
From time to time I still fall into the trap of buying an album based upon the fact that I like one particular track and mistakenly assume that the rest will be of a similar standard. I suspect pretty much everyone has made that mistake at some time or other. I loved 'Cornflake Girl' by Tori Amos but the album turned out to be so damn annoying after a couple of tracks that after a couple of attempts it was abandoned on the shelf. 'The Court Of The Crimson King' by King Crimson is a superb prog classic, but listening to the rest of the album is like wading through treacle - a bit like early Pink Floyd when they sounded suspiciously as though they were playing under the influence of questionable and possibly illegal substances. However I know some people who really like PF's distinctly psychedelic phase, so that's clearly a matter of personal taste...
My tastes have been know to shift occasionally, for varying durations, resulting in the occasional oddity like Carter USM's '30 Something', but for the most part my tastes just expand in various (often unrelated) directions.

The best music-related discovery I've made lately is the website Grooveshark which has enabled me to be able to listen to an album before committing myself to buying it and risking making yet another silly mistake. Combining this site with information on Last FM is great for finding similar artists to those you're interested in and for introducing you to music you wouldn't otherwise have known existed.
Last weekend saw a trip to HMV in Cambridge where I took out my list of twenty or so albums I was going to search for. That's a lot of albums I know, but previous experience has shown that HMV will typically only have ten percent of what you are looking for. On this occasion I managed to pick up 'Night Visions' by Imagine Dragons and 'If You Wait' by London Grammar, which was at least some result, but I had to resort to an Amazon MP3 download to get 'Destination Zero' by Elusive as the only physical copies available seem to be imports costing about 70 quid. Obviously that wasn't going to happen so despite not being ideal, at £5.99 it was the only option.
Inevitably though, there will always be music that is little more than a passing fancy that will be consigned to the charity shop or the back of some dusty shelf to only be discovered again when you're packing up to move house. But there will also be some that you never tire of and will probably end up buying again every time a new media format comes along.

 Imagine Dragons - Demons

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Don't be such a twerk

At the close of 2013 there were a number of articles about new words that had found their way into the dictionary. As new words come into popular usage so more words are added, although it's interesting to note that words that are no longer in common usage are not removed. I suspect that the reason for this is because for many who enjoy classic literature, a dictionary can often be an indispensable companion. On the rare occasion that I feel the desire to read something by Dickens for example, I'll mostly be able to infer the meaning of the more unusual words simply by the way they're used and the words around them, but every so often there will be one that stops you mid-flow like being slapped in the face with a recently deceased haddock and it's time to refer to Mr Dictionary to resolve the confusion.

There have also been similar articles about the most overused words of the past year. Reading through these lists which included the likes of 'selfie' (which is irritating enough), I came across that awful word 'twerk'.
Now as I understand it, twerking is supposedly a sexually provocative dance involving thrusting hip movements and a low stance. I first heard this word when there was all that uproar in the media about a certain pop star doing this dance at a performance during some awards gala or other. Curiosity got the better of me so I did the obvious thing and looked on YouTube to find out what all the fuss was about. My reaction was threefold - a: How did someone of such dubious talent get to be on a high profile event?, b: What on earth possessed her to think that such a bizarre display was appropriate for a family audience?, and c: If that was supposed to be sexually provocative then I'm the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Honestly, this twerking thing is about as sexy as coal mining. I've seen loads of this in assorted rap music videos which always seem to feature women with somewhat generous amounts of posterior padding, and every time I see it I can't help but imagine a lava lamp on fast-forward. It's sort of hypnotic and oddly fascinating, but certainly not in a horny way - more like the way you can't help looking when you drive past a car crash.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a bit of cheeky titilation in music videos as much as the next bloke, and have frequently enjoyed ones such as 'Destination Calabria' by Alex Gaudino, Sabrina's 'Boys, boys,boys' (showing my age there) and check out the video for 'Groove is in the heart' by Deee-Lite because there's something very special about the way that girl moves. But sometimes you just have to draw the line.
There is definitely an element in modern culture that believes sexiness is something that should involve showing as much skin as possible and moving about as if in a permanent state of orgasm. Sorry, but they're wrong. Speaking for myself (and I suspect a large majority of people) I don't want it in my face 24/7 because anything gets boring if you're subjected to it all the time. I'm sure driving a Lamborghini would be a fantastic experience, but by the time I'd done a few laps of the Nurburgring I'd have had enough and be wanting to get out and have a pie and a pint instead.
To me, sexiness is more about subtlty. Classy is sexy. Call me old-fashioned, but a well-groomed woman with a nice smile in a nicely fitted evening dress is infinitely more appealing than some tramp dressed like a trainee prostitute and wriggling around like she's got ants in her hotpants.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Let him entertain you

Awoke early this morning from yet another crappy night's sleep, having been awoken at regular intervals by the gimpy leg - feeling like it belongs to someone else and yet is pushing all the discomfort and twitchy buttons in my own body.
Knowing full well that any chance of another hour or two was nothing but a fantasy, I decided to leave the wife to catch up on her own lost hours (mainly due to my fidgeting, but partly due to her own bouts of snoring that could easily have emerged from a champion truffle hunter) and took myself off to the sofa where I picked up the tablet and began trawling through the BBC's news pages.
Sifting carefully through all the doom and gloom about how awful 2014 is going to be because we're all apparently going to drown under a tidal wave of immigrants, I stumbled upon an article about a guy who'd written a letter to an airline company to complain about being forced to sit beside a morbidly obese man during a flight. Apparently this letter had become a big deal, so having found that the writer - Rich Wisken - was a blogger I figured that further investigation was required.
Quickly finding that the letter in question was the tip of an iceberg of 'Titanic' proportions, I immersed myself in the straight-talking, clever, and slightly twisted (I admire that in a person) sense of humour of this incredibly entertaining writer.
I've made Rich Wisken Drinks, then Writes... the first blog I've bothered to add to my 'Following' list and I suggest to everyone that they pay him a visit at and have themselves a laugh. Look out for the Peugeot 206CC advert he wrote for a friend - the comment about the baby giraffe with polio had me rolling around with tears running down my face!