April 2009


Lose yourself for a day or two here.

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dananananaykroyd2“Sounds a bit like At The Drive In,” is a phrase I never thought I’d have cause to use, but I’ve just used it there and I’d already thought it a couple of times earlier today.

Hey Everyone is the debut album from the rather impossibly named Glaswegian outfit, Dananananaykroyd and, perhaps now unsurprisingly, it sounds a bit like At The Drive In.

Now to most, that probably means very little. To some, it’ll probably mean it’s going to be very noisy. To a few, it’ll probably be the soundtrack for 2009. I’m not entirely sure where it sits with me.

It was possible to love ATDI one moment and then a moment later, often during the same song, absolutely hate them and I have that sort of ambivalence for Dananetc. It’s a light, frothy sort of noise-rock — or fight-pop, as I believe the band prefers — and in amongst the mathematical improbabilities of some of the less accessible tracks, it’s still largely impressive and intricate. Plus — and I mean this with the greatest respect — making something sound as random and noisy and shouty as this isn’t easy. Really, it isn’t. If you think it sounds like people just slamming guitars into each other on full gain, well, yeah, but making that noise takes skill … or at least more skill than physically slamming the guitars into each other.

So, yeah. Impressive in places. Maybe a little overly shouty in others. Always interesting. Always capable of a surprise.

TV sucks these days, doesn’t it? Take tonight. Friday night’s schedule on BBC1 was trash. One Show, EastEnders, My Friggin’ Family, Martin Clunes raping the ghost of Leonard Rossiter, etc. I’m not picking on BBC particularly. ITV is so woeful, I don’t even have to check … not since my misunderstanding of the content of their “Beat The Star” muck.

It’s a sad fact, but we’re very close to the point where the best TV isn’t on TV anymore. David Mitchell’s Soapbox and Robert Llewellyn’s CarPool are both online only and both have joined QI, Lost and South Park (okay, and Eggheads) as being Must Watch.

This week’s CarPool is a double whammy as Robert’s giving David Mitchell a lift to work. Check it out.

I’m a huge fan of Radio Five Live, as I believe I’ve already mentioned on these pages. It’s that nether region of being too old for Radio 1 and not old enough to admit that I should be listening to Radio 4. I even enjoy the Breakfast Show, even though that means listening to Nicky Campbell for 50% of the time.

This morning, the height of the Five Live zeitgeist was talk of a cartoon featured in the Metro. Below an article reporting Prof Stephen Hawking’s worsening health and recent hospitalisation, the cartoon featured two blokes with one saying to the other, “I wonder if they’ve tried switching him off and switching him back on again.”

Now, that’s funny.

I laughed like the proverbial drain and later on, I told it to half a dozen people at work, and they all performed a passable impression of me from minutes earlier. I imagine those half a dozen people went on to tell other people and those other people would’ve laughed too. And why not? It’s a bloody funny joke. It’s a wonderful joke. It’s the jape of the season. It’s even better than the Fish-sticks joke from South Park the other week (“What are you, a gay fish?”).

But some people — the people who phoned Nicky Campbell this morning — would have you believe otherwise. It’s offensive to Stephen Hawking and it’s offensive to people with Motor Neuron Disease.

I write a bit of fiction. I’ve mentioned that in these pages, too. In fiction terms, I would describe the above as a massive Point of View switch.

It’s quite one thing to find a joke offensive, and that thing is called LIFE. Most jokes will offend someone, somewhere at sometime. In a parallel universe, there’s a chicken crossing a road, spitting feathers because he thinks he’s living up to a negative stereotype. However, finding a joke offensive on behalf of people you don’t even know is quite ridiculous. Offense by proxy, indeed. They have as much right to be offended on Prof Hawking’s behalf as I do to assume that he would find the cartoon fucking hilarious, even though I suspect we all know that he would.

And in any event, the joke’s not really about him. It’s not really about people with MND. It’s more about idiot IT monkeys who’s stock answer to everything is to switch off and back on again. If you want to be offended on someone’s behalf, at least get your target right.

Trey Parker, creator of South Park and the awesome Fish-sticks joke, once said, “Either everything’s okay, or nothing’s okay,” and he’s quite right. If that means that Bernard Manning imitators have the right to ply their trade, then so be it.

For comedy to be successful, it needs to have its audience serving as its mirror. With no reflection, there’s no gag, there’s no laughter, there’s no success.

I went to see Al Murray’s show at the Armadillo in Glasgow last Friday. Upon hearing my plans, Liam, my fellow twitterer, remarked that there’s nothing like a bit of xenophobia posing as post-modern irony to set yourself up for the weekend. For those unfamiliar with Al’s act, he poses as a bartender who looks down on the French, thinks all women should be secretaries or receptionists (a secretary with a phone) and Tuesday nights down the discotheque are reserved for a special variety of relationship.

So there’s that layer of his act. The xenophobic, homophobic, racist, sexist, ageist, Prof Stephen Hawking-ist (probably) layer. Then there’s the layer above that which is aware. That’s the post-modern ironic layer. I believe Al Murray is in the higher, second layer. I don’t, for one minute, think he believes in half of the things he says on stage. A fair proportion of the audience last Friday, were probably operating at the lower layer and that’s why the neuvo-Mannings of this world can still make a living.

But if these attitudes are exclusive to concert halls in ¬£28 seats rather than expressed through spray paint on corner shop walls, maybe that’s good enough for now.

I wonder if Martin Clunes had a dog as a child; some kind of collie-cross that was inevitably called Patch. And I wonder if Patch was his best friend, whom he loved with all his heart. And I wonder if they were inseparable, good old Patch and Martin, and if the dog would¬† sleep at the foot of young Martin’s bed and Martin would only go to sleep if Patch was there. And I wonder if Martin howled until his ears burned hotter than the sun when God threw Patch his final bone. So then I wonder, if any of the above was even slightly close to the mark, how Martin Clunes would feel now if say, David Mitchell, dug up old Patch from his final resting place, in the shade of the Clunes’ apple tree, and with an ad-hoc combination of jumper cables, fluorescent liquids and a couple of ditties from a long forgotten Micmac book of the dead, reanimated the deceased canine a la Herbert West and then forced the decayed mess to perform all his old tricks, just not as well, not as quick, not as entertaining. I wonder …

Anyway, I see that Martin Clunes is to star in a remake of Reggie Perrin. I’m sure it’ll be fab.

51rxpqamxl_sl500_aa240_I’ve officially been a fan of Sara Watkins since … well, since whenever it was that I lamented about Nickel Creek disbanding just as I was getting all cocky about discovering them a few weeks ago. Unofficially, I’ve been a fan for a lot longer, probably since the Glen Phillips collaboration; Mutual Admiration Society.

Anyway, at eight minutes past midnight this morning, iTunes informed me that my pre-ordered copy of Sara’s self titled debut solo album was “ready”. By quarter past midnight, I’d downloaded it. By half past, I was hypnotised, and not just because I’d enjoyed a Sunday night sherry or two too many.

“All This Time” and “Where Will You Be” form the albums achingly beautiful bookends, but in between, there’s no shortage of vocal and lyrical brilliance. And even though I’ve little time for songs about imaginary beings, even the couple of more religiously slanted efforts have enough charm and are delivered with rich, whispery honesty that it’s easy to forgive.

Backing all of this up are her Nickel Creek bandmates and other luminaries such as Gillian Welch. It’s the voice, though, that makes this the triumph that it is. An illumni from the Brandi Carlile / MJB / PJ Harvey School of Goosebump Generators, it’s probably the treat my ears have been saving up their pocket money for.

Highly recommended.

After a number of emails, faxes, tweets, phonecalls and even a telex, I can confirm that yesterday’s post was a practical April Fools Day prank. You don’t really have a bit of shite on your shoe after all.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

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