What do we talk about when we talk about grief?*

Part one: back story

On a treacherously beautiful spring morning, my Dad woke up with a stomach ache and an hour later we were waiting for the undertaker to come and take him away forever.

That was April 17th, 2017. In the days that followed, I dealt with it by project managing his affairs and funeral; it’s what I do. Because it happened over the Easter weekend there was a lot I couldn’t do, bureaucratically, and I filled the space between profitable actions with some wholehearted manic and depressive episodes. I’m not great with dealing with the emotions at the more vulnerable end of the spectrum (middle-aged white guy not good with emotional displays, I know, shocker) but when I do something, I do like to commit, to own it. To turn it up to 11.

When I was down I was convinced that everything I did was worthless, especially online. I deleted my tens of thousands of tweets, admittedly no great loss to humanity. I deleted everything on Instagram. I deleted the blog I’d been building for getting on for a decade.

When the pendulum swung back to mania, I decided I needed a new project. I’m an ENFP so the start of new projects is my favourite part, and powered by the fucked up energy of my mental state, I went for it. I wanted a new blog. I thought about the subjects that I was most passionate about, and arrived at music. I thought of a (stupid) name, I registered the domain, I created some graphics, I wrote some entries. Then the bungee cord snapped back again.

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An elegy for the simple sandwich

Siberian kale with cherrystone clam
Bulgar, quinoa, and spicy brown mustard
Orange okra served with whiskey-roast ham
Red chard, leaf lard, and savoury custard

Avocado jam with relish of quince
Shaved black truffle with sourdough croutons
Sun dried tomatoes with guinea pig mince
Plantain wraps served on tiny oak futons

Sandwich menus leave me filled with remorse
For the simple thrill of cheese with brown sauce

Song of the Week #2: Arcade Fire, "Everything Now"

I have to confess, Arcade Fire are a band that have grown on me. I knew of “The Suburbs” single and thought that was ‘quite good’, but it wasn’t until I saw their Glastonbury 2014 set that I really got them. “Reflektor” and “We Exist” were the two tracks that really burned themselves into my consciousness.

So, “Everything Now” is the first new material that’s been released since I became a fan. It’s produced by former Trolley Dog Shag and Pulp bassist Steve Mackey and 50% of Daft Punk in the form of Thomas Bangalter, which probably accounts for the dancier aspects. And boy, what a corker it is.

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25 years on – "1992 The Love Album", by Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine

May 2017 marks 25 years since Carter USM released “1992 The Love Album”, which was paradoxically both their most successful album and the one that began their sad demise. To mark the anniversary we take a look at Carter’s seminal album and ask ourselves, “is wrestling fixed?”

It certainly doesn’t seem like 25 years. Whilst the music – drum machines, sequencers, guitars turned up to 11 – does sound powerful but a little dated, Jim Bob’s lyrics still sound fresh and visceral, helped in part by the fact that we’re still governed by the same sort of sentient cesspit scum that made everyone’s life a misery in the early 90s.

When the album came out it was a new entry into the album charts at #1, a good showing for a band that only had one top ten single – “The Only Living Boy in New Cross”, the lead single from this very album. Goodness knows what fellow chart dwellers Curtis Stigers, Annie Lennox and Michael Ball thought when this lot exploded onto Top of the Pops in April 1992, when the single was a new entry at #8.

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Song of the Week #1: Steps, "Story of a Heart (radio edit)"

Every week, or at least as often as I can be bothered, I’ll be taking one of the tracks recommended by Spotify via either the Release Radar or Discover Weekly playlists and reviewing it. This week, it’s the new Steps’ single, “Story of a Heart”.

This is not going to come as much of a surprise because as regular listeners will know I’m something of a pop tart, but I fricking loved Steps V1.0. Well, not “5-6-7-8” quite so much because line dancing is one of those things that should have been consigned to the great pedal bin of life a long time ago. But every other Steps single, and most especially the singles from the first two albums, are just about perfect as far as pop goes. So when Spotify pushed “Story of a Heart” at me (and having just recently watched the Steps Reunion thing on YouTube – such shade!) I decided I would make this my first weekly review. And I decided I would do it in the manner of the great Guardian MBMs and OBOs, because this is my blog, and not yours.

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Minor Victories in Concert

Q: What do Minor Victories, Syntax and the Bloom Twins have in common?

minor-victories-1

A: I didn’t go to see them in concert, but I came away glad that I had.

Supporting Placebo at Nottingham Motorpoint Arena recently (see Return of the Black Pencil Liner part 2) were Minor Victories, a band that Wikipedia calls ‘a British alternative rock supergroup’, which I guess they are in the sense that they’re made up of parts of other bands. Consisting of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Editors’ Justin Lockey, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite plus James Lockey of Hand Held Cine Club providing visuals (more here).

I’d never heard of them before the Placebo gig, which is one thing that they have in common with Syntax and The Bloom Twins; the other is that when I left the gig, I immediately went out out to find more about them. I don’t like to miss support bands, generally. Yes, regular readers will point out that I wilfully skipped The Cure’s support recently, but I did at least check them out on YouTube first (to see whether I would like them (I didn’t)) and instead I spent the time most profitably (eating).

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Some thoughts about music reviews

A while back, when it first came out, I was thinking about writing a review of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’. Not for any particular reason, just because I thought it was a good record, I like pop music, I like writing things and, statistically, at least one of my six regular blog readers will be a Taylor Swift fanatic. But I couldn’t. As with celery, Microsoft Outlook and whoever designed the springs on the Mk II Vauxhall Corsa suspension, I have an issue with reviews.

It appears to me that there are two distinct schools with their own methods when it comes to writing reviews, music or otherwise. The first type of review I like to call “The Philip French Observer Film Review Method” after the method used for reviews of films written for the Observer by Philip French.

For your 2000 words, you’d get 1750 words on any subject other than the film at hand, the intention being to prove how much smarter than you Philip French was. Invariably you’d get references to Marxist theory, postwar Italian cinema and (if the lead was a female) something about Laura Mulvey – unless the lead female was either pregnant or a mother, in which case it would be Creed and Kristeva.

The final 250 words would be a series of snippish, snarkish asides even if French liked it and the film turned out to be the most popular film of all time. The whole effect is just to prove French’s cerebral superiority as he lathers himself towards an intellectual orgasm over the course of the review before unleashing his egghead ejaculate all over the reader’s face.

The second type I call “The Smash Hits Method” and involves writing about the thing being reviewed in a way that describes what it is like and leaves the reader to decide whether they might like it for themself.

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