Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Loo Read.

What's so great about death? Good question and I'm glad you've brought it up because I think death gets a lot of stick from the tabloids, online forums and shouty panel shows. "Death Killed Diana" is pretty much the only headline of every newspaper printed every single day since August 1995. Death is always seen as a negative. No one ever considers the health benefits of death. No more having to drag your wobbly body into a job that's forcing depression down your throat, no more having to push your emotions deep down within you and pretending that you're still happy to be in the same relationship with that insane stranger for over 20 years, no more headache inducing insomnia brought on by a bad back and a drawer full of bills bitching about what a loser you are. That all goes when you win the death lottery.

In some cultures funerals are celebratory. In respect to the deceased, family and friends gather together wearing brightly coloured clothes and sing and dance and generally rejoice at how happy they are that someone they love doesn't have to do THIS anymore. What a profound and selfless way to consider someone's life. But other cultures...the shit one I've got...selfishly pick the rainiest day of the century to clump together round a hole, throw you in it and then they burst into jealous tears and damn God for not picking them instead. The whole day out is an insult. "He's never looked better", they spit while you lie in a box decaying. Charming! "One minute he was sitting alone surrounded by everyone he knew, the next he was dead. Well, it's what he would have wanted". Translation: "It's what I wanted, the jammy bastard". 

So, death is a way out but for the rest of us waiting it's a time to take stock. We think about the person we've lost and we bury their bad points and treasure their good. They remain loved and perfect. Almost the same happens when a celebrity dies. We watch their best film or listen to their best song or read their best blog (If I die before you finish reading this, stop and read "Hangoverwatch" and tweet about how amazing I was. That's right, I am a celebrity). That icon will forever be untarnished because they won't ever make another crap thing and we will choose to forgive and forget their duffness of the past. When Lou Reed died a few days ago, the internet stuck videos of "Walk On The Wild Side" and "Perfect Day" all over itself. Songs I'd heard before, if I'm honest. That's fine, of course, but hardly inspiring. It didn't make me think that I'd somehow completely overlooked this obscure genius and I had to check him out. It just made me sad that Lou Reed was dead.

But today I dug out my copy of The Velvet Underground's least loved album, Live MCMXCIII. Easily my favourite of their records (I know no one will share that opinion) even though I probably haven't heard it since MCMXCV.

It's the band reuniting after 27 years and it's utterly dignified. They sound dark and cool with just their dirty, shameful music as a stageshow. No explosions or fireworks, 4 people with the cold sound of their filth. You can feel the space needed between Lou Reed and John Cale in every song, no arena is big enough for both of them, and all ice is melted by Moe Tucker being the greatest thing in this or any band and daring to be adorable. Like having Rolf the Dog playing school piano in Nine Inch Nails. 

The thing is, I listened to Live MCMXCIII in a really bizarre way. I put it on and listened to it and then didn't stop listening until it had finished. I listened to an album. An actual album. Has this been done this century? 

It has because I did it just a few weeks ago. I decided I would get rid of a lot of my CD's because I never listen to them. I now have 400 unloved albums piled up in my living room waiting to be...well, I dunno. Nicked? There was an Eels album right at the top of the pile. That is definitely where that Eels album deserved to be because I bought it on it's week of release in September 2001 and I listened to it once. That was the worst thing that happened in September 2001, I know that now. 

I took it off the pile, thought "fuck it" and gave it a spin. It's brilliant! A secret brilliant album that had just been sitting there waiting patiently for me to discover it. No one in Eels even had to die. The album is Souljacker and it sounds nasty and ragged and so sweet. Muddy garage songs about how lovely that one girl is and static-interrupted distress calls about circus freaks. How could anyone not listen to that from beginning to end? Albums. WHOLE ALBUMS. An hour-ish of music created by one unit over one period of time and presented as a beginning, middle and end. You know how you listen to a podcast featuring a comedian talking about himself that lasts your whole journey to work? Well, I'm just saying that you COULD listen to...I dunno...Licensed To Ill by the Beastie Boys. Not "Fight For Your Right", I mean the WHOLE ALBUM. Like they wanted you to. When was the last time you listened to Licensed To Ill? No sleep until you have!

Music is treated so badly now. Amazing pieces of work being ripped to bits and chunks lifted and stuck on playlists leaving the other 56 minutes of an album gathering iDust. That's if the full album was ever bought in the first place. I mean, I do it too. I make playlists all the time and that's why I've heard Catch by The Cure hundreds of times and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me barely gets the respect it's overdue. 

But, although I think I'm brilliant at compiling an playlist, I'm terrible at it. There's just something about listening to those songs in the order that it's inventor tirelessly stitched them together in that IS the listening experience. It all comes together because those songs should be together. Something brilliant used to happen to me that barely does anymore: when one song ends on an album that you love, you hear the very beginning of the next song in your head a second before it actually starts. It's small but the feeling it gives is huge. 

I have other Lou Reed albums. Transformer and Berlin are albums that I know really well but I'm glad I had my moment of tribute to the great man with Live MCMXCIII. I'm glad I've found it again. Just like I love the comfort and familiarity of music I know well (Script For a Jester's Tear, Strangeways Here We Come, Klassics With a K by Kostars (it's one of the best. If you're going to discover an obscure album because of reading this blog then rush to that one)), I love the where-has-that-been-all-my-life feeling of an entire album I had no idea about. It seems obvious and maybe I'm preaching to the choir but recommending albums and sharing music in a time when bands are being treated worse than ever just seems like a pretty decent thing to do. To the artists and yourself. If you can, buy an album you don't know and listen to the whole thing. Maybe check one out by someone who is still alive, listen to it loads, then when they die you'll have something to recommend to everyone else. Or you could recommend one now. There's been a few great albums this year: Jim Bob (obviously), Primal Scream, Silent Sleep, my very own soundtrack to the film Good Vibrations (although that's a compilation and might clash with everything I've just said). David Bowie's one is good too and he's bound to die soon so hurry up and give it a listen. All the way through. From start to finish.

"All through this I've always thought that if you thought of all of it as a book then you have the Great American Novel, every record is a chapter. They're all in chronological order. You take the whole thing, stack it and listen to it in order, there's my Great American Novel" - Lou Reed.

Feel free to recommend an album in the comments section below. Thanks!


Thursday, 24 October 2013


Television is just crap upon crap upon crap. Crap to define you and crap to confine you. Last night I settled down to watch Live At The Apollo and was surprised to see Peter Sissons doing 15 minutes. They don't normally have newsreaders on Live At The Apollo, as far as I'm aware, and it was really odd seeing him on there. Why is he on there, I thought, and I was soon made aware that I was the only person in the entire world who thought that. I went on to the dying toilet cubicle of desperate scrawl that is Twitter and it turned out that lots of people were delighted at seeing Peter Sissons on Live At The Apollo and others were offended by what Peter Sissons said on Live At The Apollo. I, alone in my dark flat with just monochrome flashes and the vague memory of warmth for company, wondered why an opinion had even been formed. What Peter Sissons had said on Live At The Apollo was boring. It was pedestrian and obvious. Old observations that everyone surely knows. But no one asked why? Not one single person. Why was Peter Sissons there? I'm not saying that a newsreader can't be on Live At The Apollo, I'm just saying that if he or she or they are performing stand up comedy on Live At The Apollo then they really better have some knowledge of the craft. Some of the younger people reading this blog won't remember Sandy Gall's disasterous 5 minutes of total silence on Saturday Live in the 80's ("Belgrano? BelgranYES, bitch!") but at least then people wrote to Channel 4 and asked WHY WAS SANDY GALL ON SATURDAY LIVE? People were more active then. They didn't question his material. They didn't support it or condemn it. They just asked, to my shy awkward teenage ears, the only question that needed to be answered: WHY WAS SANDY GALL ON SATURDAY LIVE? He's a newsreader, for Satan's sake. This isn't his place. And I am NOT having a go at newsreaders. I know they have enough on their plate, especially female newsreaders who are often (unfairly) criticised for not being serious. All I'm asking is WHY? Why was Peter Sissons on Live At The Apollo? Of course, like the rest of the handsome and poor of industrial Britainnia, I watched every minute and you could have heard the washed and clueless across the land put down their velvet, vegetarian copy of Das Vormund and gasp as Peter Sissons became controversial. "Why did the chicken cross the road?", a simple straightforward question and one that would put most of the middle-classes at ease, knowing fully well the answer would be pleasant enough to share at pilates if the morning spared them. But his answer was not what they Ocado ordered. It was "I don't let my chicken cross the road. I've never let my chicken cross the road". My weakened frame trembled with the smell of the nails being petitioned into Peter Sissons's coffin. Initially it was all support. YES!, they bored on Twitter. WHY SHOULD THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD? WHAT'S IN IT FOR US? THANK YOU, PETER SISSONS, FOR SHOWING US THE WAY!!! And it went on. Praise neatly stacked on Peter like brown towels kept in a hot press and only used for visitors, and why not? If he's made some people happy, then why not praise him? It's not like he's an ex-drug addict who has a long history of treating women like shit. No. Definitely using someone like that as your moral compass would only make you have a long hard look at yourself if you were in any way clever enough to do so. But the praise was then hit by dissent. Twitter became ablaze with Sissoffs (it's basically Sandy's joke again), all brandishing pitchfork emoticons and capitalizing until their throats hurt. NO!, they bored on Twitter. YOU HAVE TO LET THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD. PEOPLE THREW THEMSELVES IN FRONT OF TOMMY TINDER'S PANTOMIME HORSE FOR YOUR RIGHT TO LET YOUR CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD! IF YOU DON'T LET YOUR CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD THEN ALL THE RIGHT WING COMEDIANS WILL GET IN. Poor Peter. All he wanted to do was go on a programme that he most definitely shouldn't be on and do something he's in no way cut out to do. Both sides treating him like a sinning saint, shouting wrongs from all angles. The reason that the right wing comedians will get in is because the left wing audience have lost faith. They don't have the voice they once had. The horrible right wing audience get their comedians to the top of the polls because they DO have a voice. The hate in Mrs Brown's Boys, London Irish, Citizen Khan...and then the uncomfortable safety of so many comedies of 2013. Where can the left go? I have voted for left wing comedians in the Chortle Awards who have ended up going to the Middle East and doing appalling things. Then the big chain clubs fail to pay them and the "lefties" bail them out by still agreeing to do their clubs. Say what you like about Roy "Fatty" Brown but he didn't say yes to Arthur. And THAT is not the point. The point is how come this was a talking point? Peter doing (no matter what way you look at it) really obvious material and NO ONE saying surely a comedian should be inspiring us to laugh, not a newsreader. HE'S A NEWSREADER, not a revolutionary comedian. Why would we want him to be anyway? The revolution will be televised and sponsored by Fosters and, if you miss it, it'll be on again soon on Dave! I'm just saying that a proper comedian should have been on that programme in the same way that, I dunno, maybe a politician would be on something like Newsnight and inspiring us to think. That's where the left fail. I think if you've been made to think by someone incredibly unqualified talking on a programme they have no reason to be on then that's probably just a case of you not being that into thinking. Still, at least it's got us talking. And a big grey sorry for the glamour of this blog. I've been reading a book. It wasn't even written by an author but it's made me very excited. It's easily done. Now, let's see if Natasha Kaplinsky is on Alternative Comedy Experience....

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Something Kinda Oh.

"Dicks is other people", Sartre famously said and I agree with him. I mean, I agree with him on that statement. I doubt that I'd agree with him on everything because he is another person and therefore, by his own admission, a dick. 

It's got to the point where even reading Kimberley Walsh's autobiography, A Whole Lot of History, on a train is impossible because other people are dicks. You know what it's like, you're just sitting on the train reading your copy of Kimberley Walsh's autobiography, A Whole Lot of History, and the man sitting next to you...you know the man sitting next to you, the one who is watching The Fast and The Furious 6 and has an energy drink in a can with a horrible pattern that's designed to make him look so manly that it appears he's drinking solid caffeine out of a tattoo...either gives you a dirty look or sighs heavily every time you turn the page. Well, that happened to me. The very manly man clearly found me reading Kimberley Walsh's autobiography so disgusting that every page of it sickened him. So I did what any of us would do. I closed the book, put it away and avoided a fuss.

No, I didn't. I turned the pages very loudly and went "Ooooh" as if I'd just read some juicy nugget of Kimberley's life that even I, A HARDCORE FAN OF KIMBERLEY WALSH, somehow didn't know until that moment. I kept thundering the pages and GASPING at her fucking amazing half-life until that prick fucked off and sat somewhere else. And why did he move seats? Because I'm another person. I'm a dick. I'm HIS dick.

I regret writing that.

But then...there are moments when you see people at their best. The train stopped at York and, as passengers disembarked, I saw a couple saying goodbye. They were both crying. They were both holding each other tightly. I could see them both saying "I love you" to one another and it was lovely. 

Just like public reading of a Kimberley Walsh autobiography, public displays of affection are generally despised. I've never understood that. I think it's nice to see two people clearly in love. Better than fighting, surely?

And there they were...just staring at one another and crying. She touched his face for what might be the last time in months...weeks...days...hours. It didn't matter. The only important, horrible thing was that they were to part. A minute might as well be a year. Why, when they feel so good together, must they be apart and feel their hearts get heavier? Why replace joy with twice the sorrow? I didn't know them but even I knew that embrace wasn't meant to end. I knew that those eyes should never hold sadness. He moved toward the train and away from her. The very thing that should never, ever happen. Their arms stretched out so that their touch remains until the very last second. He gets on board the train but his gaze never leaves her, her hands cover her mouth to keep "don't go" begging in her chest. He sits by a window...staring out at everything in the universe that matters. She stands by the window...knowing that in seconds the universe will be gone.

Then an announcement is made: "Apologies to all passengers travelling to London today. The train will be delayed here at York for a few minutes".

Their eyes change. No longer do they seem to long for just one more moment of bliss, now they say "Oh, right. Um...well. I suppose that's nice". Their loving eyebrows raise in such awkward romance as they settle into this impromtu discomfort. Yes, they've said their goodbyes and they're still in each other's company but to him this is a gift. A chance to mouth "I love you" one more time before the cruelty of life takes him away from her. She smiles and wipes away a tear. "I love you too" she mouths and who would know when she would ever say those words to her lover's face again? A last chance before farewell...

The train remained stationary. This beautiful extension of time that Aphrodite gives has made his heart run out of ideas. Waving! Yes, that's it, thinks the soon to be forlorn Romeo. And he waves. He waves at the woman that makes his heart soar or at least feel nice a bit and she, in turn, feels in her heart of hearts that she's basically obliged to wave back. And they wave because waving is all that these two sweethearts have. A wave to say that parting is such sweet sorrow as they are brutally pulled away from each other.

"Did they say how long we'd be delayed for?", said the beau to a man who hated not looking at his iPad. This gave her a chance to steal a romantic glance at her watch and to look disappointed at it. He looked back at his truelove once again and noticed that she was still there. Right. Better...wave? Again? And he waved at the love of his life and she waved back while keeping those eyes that belonged only to him firmly on the departure board. Their thoughts of how boring this heartbreaking goodbye had become were put to one side as their lack of eye contact and half smiles signalled their leave.

IF THE FUCKING TRAIN WOULD JUST FUCKING GO. The far from lonely Juliet sighed and walked in small circles while the brave and not at all departed Romeo looked through some papers from his bag. This literally unforsaken pair trapped in Cupid's most tedious of goodbyes know only too well that the words of love are not enough. Especially when you ran out of them 10 minutes ago. That fickle twat fate conspired to make them fix eyes at one another again. He waved. She folded her arms, looked away and turned her torso left and right. Left and right. Left and right. The loyal boyfriend turned to his phone and checked for texts while the keeper of his flame sat down, bored. He, the man who made her complete, opened crisps and drank Fanta while she, his reason to be, got out a book and wiped her nose with her hand. His earphones now in his head, she yawned and dangled her legs from the bench that supported her weary and fed up frame. She looked again at her watch and, as their gaze met once more, mouthed "Fucking go" to him.

He shrugged and ate more crisps. She read a text, laughed then looked at him with a mixture of guilt and impatience. WHY DOESN'T THIS TRAIN JUST FUCK OFF?, their hearts seemed to sigh. CHRIST ALFUCKINGMIGHTY, THIS SHOULD HAVE ENDED AGES AGO. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO MISS YOU IF YOU DON'T FUCK OFF?

The train moved. It's heavy budge a demand that their love must end, for now. Wheels grinding forward, the departure had begun. Goodbye, sweet love. Farewell and, until our souls unite again, think only of this moment. She half-waved and walked quickly away, he bought three cans of Stella. 

A story of true love there. Is there anything that ruins romance as much as being together?


ALL DAY EDINBURGH returns! 20th October 2013, 2pm, £20 in aid of PBH's Free Fringe. All the very best comedians from this year's Edinburgh Fringe including Al Murray, Bridget Christie, Nick Helm, Robin Ince, Sara Pascoe, Bec Hill, James Acaster and waaaaaay more. Tickets here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/243035