Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Asbo Derek Ulysses Twin Album Review

I’m waiting for the postman, because I’ve ordered a hat off the internet to keep dry when I go to Ullapool tomorrow, so let’s listen together (you mean you haven’t bought it yet?).

The tracks on this album are the perfect length- mostly less than two minutes, or ballad length (less that three). I'll pick out my faves although I've listened to the lot:
Investors in People: a song that ridicules workplace insincerity by reducing it to essential items of clothing. Work is quite literally, pants. Many people will feel this song deeply in their souls, but with a bit of blue sky thinking, we will get through it together, I'm sure.
‘My name is Lydia, and I am in media’ the first line of  Bus Passes (for the middle classes) starts the song as it means to go on. This is my favourite track; Alan and Fran in the samba band. Ouch! How to get rid of your smug friends in one fell swoop; it made me laugh out loud at 10.46 a.m. just as I did at 9.47 p.m. on Saturday when they played it live. Bus stop!
Lotus Birth: Oh, horrible! This song pinpoints the disgustingness of hippy childbirth. I have been to look for the placenta that they chucked off the pier bobbing about in the English Channel, but I couldn’t see it. It must have sunk. 
Latte: This one reveals a stark hatred of the ‘Can I get…’ culture, with as many offensive phrases as possible crammed into one song, none of which are as offensive as ‘Can I get a latte’, sung in a suitably irritated tone through gritted teeth. Brilliant.
Canary Wharf: ‘I’ll wear an Edinburgh Woollen Mills Scarf’; I wonder if they could flog this to the company as an advertising jingle? Possibly not, as so many potential customers are instructed to fuck off back to where they came from. Has Jem not heard of upward mobility? Essential listening on the DLR at maximum volume with a ghettoblaster, please.
Oh, yes.
Larry Hagman: ‘Didn’t speak on Sundays’, says the guitar, because Larry Hagman didn’t speak on Sundays. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Pickles: ‘Eric Pickles: what a twat’. Quite agree. Why has nobody said this before? And they take the Mickey out of Boris too (see what I did just there?). This should be sent to the Houses of Parliament immediately for their edification. Lester Square used to send all his songs to The Queen at Buckingham Palace (the female one), so why not?
Crook of the Elbow has an insouciant rhythm and homes in on that Beckham thing of, well, hanging the bag on the crook of the elbow. In London you can tell who reads Hello magazine because they walk through the most uncool streets with their fake Gucci bags hanging down, except in this song it’s a supermarket bag with a jar of onion gravy in it. Delish!
Shining Light: Aww, SuBo, aww.

The production is fab (if you notice things like that, and even if you don't, you do). I love the grumpy bass sound, rasping guitar sound (there is a particularly good guitar riff in Backstairs Billy), crisp drum sound, and of course the icing on the cake: Jem's powerful and authoritative voice singing complete nonsense.

Crimp it, baby!

Buy it here: https://asboderek.bandcamp.com/releases

(the postman never came)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Helen And the Horns, Katy Carr and Honey Birch At The Lexington Ist October

Here is the ticket link.

Blank It Out, The Asbo Derek Gig And More

Apologies for this review being a bit fragmented- I started it, added to it and then whizzed off to do something else. The video above was made by Tracey Holloway, of the first song that Vic and me did, Blank It Out. Lee McFadden is  playing acoustic guitar, because the song was originally performed by his band The Long Decline.

Our set list:
Blank It Out
Saturday Night With The London Set
Stamp Of A Vamp
Femme Fatale
Brother Can You Spare A Dime
Autumn Rendezvous
Back Street Luv

The next photo (below) is of Asbo Derek singing, with Vic on stage with them. I have been roaring with laughter describing their songs to Offsprog One: the song about the middle classes and their bus passes, a couple of songs too rude to mention, and the reason for the name of the album which is possibly too disgusting to mention, but which I may over-ride my sense of decorum to write about. Maybe. Their guitarist is brilliant. And their drummer is called SuBo because of his resemblance to Susan Boyle, I believe; it's a very chantable nickname. The inter-song bantz was hilarious, and although I had been led to believe that the audience would consist of fat old men (I had asked a neutral observer what to expect), there were a lot of very glamorous women there, across the age spectrum, and plenty of skinny young men. The one thing that everyone had in common was extremely loud voices and extreme determination to have fun. Hats off to Steve behind the sound desk, too. It's always a good gig when he's there and he deserves a medal for remaining good natured when challenged by extreme noise, fumbling musicians, and an eccentric approach to what a gig actually consists of.

First photo by Tonje Cecilie Tainsh. We're playing the first song Blank It Out, written by Lee McFadden,which is why he's there. Apparently I was playing the wrong chords. I blame Vic.
Second photo by Peter Tainsh.
Then Jane Barnes' photo of us tuning Lee's guitar (see guitar tuners posting a few days ago for a description of the general rigmarole around these annoying contraptions). Then one of Bongo Pete's photographs. I'm not sure what we were laughing at; possibly an act of extreme musical incompetence, possibly not.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Larfing at Dream Themes

I went into work to print out the work so far on the book that I am writing, so that I can have something to read on the long journey to Inverness next week, en route to Ullapool. For once, the printer at work was fully-functioning, which was absolutely extraordinary (I'd factored in frustration time). The machine hummed and the paper glided into a stack with a slightly facetious air of efficiency. So how come in times of maximum stress with ten minutes to go before a three hour lecture with 50 students, the machine says no?
Karina was in, and we got the train to Caledonian Road and walked down to Granary Square through the slightly muggy, slightly polluted London air, past all its multicultural and soon-to-be-gentrified splendour: shops selling this, shops selling that, the occasional 'artisanal coffee shop'. London can be a fabulous gem, under the grime.
I ordered a very expensive crisp sandwich, bits of which blew away in the urban breeze. We tried to locate Shanne, and then went to the supermarket to stock up on either tea, booze or baklava, depending on what we wanted and needed.
Members of Dream Themes were wandering around in their logo'd navy boiler suits; they drifted on to the stage and the bass player, the man with the slightly terrifying eyes and the Merrythought-Teddy hair, introduced their soundcheck. They charged into their first theme, charged into the second, third, fourth; themes came thick and fast. They patted themselves on the back in frequent announcements over the PA; 'Well done us!'. We witnessed Dickie's dance through the crowd (by this time they had stripped to red t-shirts and shorts), of which all I could see was the occasional pink arm and bearded head bobbing up and down. The Good Life sounded like a horse falling downstairs. Me and Karina hooted our way through Star Trek. The 'Winking or Blinking' quiz show promised a prize of tickets to their pantomime, only available at the end of the show, so the poor winner had to stay the course. Thunderbirds was oddly moving. Large sections of the audience revealed themselves to be watchers of children's TV shows (after all, Tellytubbies' main audience was students, I believe). Finally, after they had finished their set, they exhorted us to join in a dance with them as the DJ equipment was moved back on the the stage. They stood in a line, saluted-along-to-the-instructions, and gradually, one by one, we felt compelled to join in.
'Stick your arms out! Stick your arms out, thumbs up! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up, head back! Stick your arms out, thumbs up, shoulders up, head back, tail out!'.
No, no, no, nothing was going to make me poke my bum out in Granary Square, but almost everybody else did.
I laughed so much I almost threw up; it was impossible to keep a straight face, even though a steady stream of po-faced bearded cyclists constantly pushed past trying to get to the Regents Canal towpath to mow down a few pedestrians.
Halfway through, Vic phoned to ask what the last chord of the second chorus of one of the songs we're doing tonight was. It was rather difficult to change gear mentally. I left the crowd briefly and twisted my fingers into a chord shape, but alas, my mind was still singing along to the sting from News At Ten, a track so short that it ends before the iTunes preview does. Thankfully, he guessed from my vague ramblings what it was. I think.
See you in Brighton, folks!
I got it a bit wrong, but do feel free to dance along if bored:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Going Into Reverse

I have been trying so hard to learn all of the lyrics and chords for tomorrow's gig with Vic Godard for the Asbo Derek launch of their album Ulysses Twin, that my brain has gone into reverse and not only can I not remember the new things I've learned this week, but I've also forgotten the things that I already knew, apart from when I'm just dropping off to sleep and the whole lot comes thundering into my brain at maximum volume.
How did I ever manage to pass exams at school?
Actually I can remember that. I used to sleep with my exercise book under the pillow the night before the exam.
I'll try that, with the written-out lyrics and chords.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Rough Magic by David Devant and his Spirit Wife

Gah. Guitar Tuners.

What's that rattling sound? That's the sound of my feet wading through hundreds of broken guitar tuners, scattered through the house like giant cockroaches, peering up at me through lit-up faces that make it seem as though they are working: but they're not.
You only have to look at them a bit funny and they stop; their dials freeze, their lights wink, they invent new tones that mankind has never heard before- the sounds of the Universe- and attune to those but completely ignore your guitar. They snap in half and pretend to be fixed, only to sulk as soon as you clip them on the the headstock of the guitar. They yearn for a new battery, weeping, crying, begging: you replace the battery. 'Hah hah! Fooled you!', they taunt. They were broken anyway.
They come in all colours, shapes and sizes. Inventors have invented the perfect tuner. It works perfectly until it doesn't work any more, just when you most need it to.
You might think 'tuning fork', and laugh at the poor grasp of music that us electric guitarists have. But have you ever tried to tune a guitar to a fork in noisy venue? Not only do you look like a complete prat but you can't hear the bloody thing anyway.
So off I go to the music shop, to try to find a brand that I haven't bought yet so I can hope that it won't break after being used three times. I'll bring the little Spork, Crunk, or Flibbetigibbet home with me, fumble it out of it's fiddly box that probably cost more than the tuner itself, and prepare to be disappointed yet again.
And you thought it was so easy being a musician.

Fleas4U Makes A Fleeting Appearance

What a humdinger of a storm. Offpsprog One went into the yard with her camera, and I hung out of the bedroom window to watch the lightning.
A furry, shadowy shape slithered along the top of the new fence and down into next door's garden. I head a 'meep' and the door opened. You lazy, greedy thing, Fleas4U. Can't be bothered with us because we don't feed him. It's only a little jump!

Saturday, July 15, 2017


A London Night Out

Last night I went to see the documentary Love Story at The Regent Street Cinema, which is part of the University of Westminster. The cinema had always been there, but has recently been refurbed and made into a niche screening venue.The film about The Dollymixture was screened there, and Mykaell Riley's British Black Music History research project was launched there too.
The documentary was touching, funny, irritating (it was a bit too long) but an authentic record of (parts of) being in a band in LA in the 1960s and 1970s. The big problem was that Arthur Lee wouldn't leave LA and tour, unlike the Doors, who worked their asses off touring the USA. But there was another problem: they were a mixed race band and a lot of Americans couldn't stand that concept, especially at that time. I would have liked to heard more about The Butterfield Blues Band, who as fellow label mates at Elektra, probably had the same problems; and, of course, Sly and the Family Stone.
Somehow though, the slightly claustrophobic nature of the doc worked, especially the parts where Arthur strode around the massive castle that he bought for the band, and professed amazement at the completely blingy makeover the castle had had. He described rollerskating through the enormous rooms. It was heartwarming to see him performing later in his career, with a new troupe of young musicians, still with that wonderful voice and obvious charisma.

After the screening, I left and walked into the magical half-light of the centre of the metropolis. In spite of its terrible dangers and horrible tragedies London can still sweep you off your feet, sometimes.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Want Some Boring News?

In-between-touring news?
The new garden fence is beyond Fleas4U's laziness horizon.
Although he is sweet and affectionate, he is also a flea-transporter and a back-end sprayer: a mixed blessing or a mixed curse, wherever your perspective takes you. I sort of miss him, and I know Offsprog One does; he can manage to get on to the shed roof next door so he could definitely scale the new fence if he tried.
I think he's just too darn lazy to jump in his big fur coat.

I have been playing 'art college' with Gina again today- it's brilliant, and doing the same at home with Offsprog One as well means that life is very arty. The house is draped with her hand-printed material with a women wrestler print, there's a sewing machine on the table, there's tracing paper floating about like flat clouds. There are pots of dried-up black paint on the side in the kitchen.
My bit is guitars, black felt pens and photocopies of posters and illustrations. I come back from Gina's with half-finished drawings, having had long conversations about lines and contrast and paint. Her paintings are looking very strong and powerful.

It's also about ten days until the gig with Vic Godard at the Asbo Derek Ulysses Twin album launch at The Prince Albert in Brighton. I discovered through a Facebook posting that we are called the Temperance Two (we are both teetotallers). So far, we have had mostly 'unplugged' rehearsals but we're going for a proper one on Monday, at which we might discover that we have been playing in utterly different keys from each other. We will be playing a mixture of cover versions and our own songs; we've had to dump a couple on the way, but unbelievably we have a set of 8 songs. This means an intensive lyric-learning weekend as far as I'm concerned; the music is always fine but the words take a long time to go in. It's nice to be playing with another guitarist again; Vic's style is very different to Martin's but it goes without saying that playing along with someone else is very different to playing solo. Maybe my next album should feature a different co-guitarist on every track....

And I think next week I'll start doing some more kitchen videos. I did an interim one a couple of days ago but it was a repeat of a song I'd already recorded. Over and over again, I failed to get a decent version of a new song and in the end decided to go for something easier. There are so many to do, and some new ones. It's a case of being in the right mood for the right song!

OK, time to knock some sense into this silly little house. It needs to be washed behind it's ears, so that's what I'm going to do. Toodle-pip.