Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Read ‘Em And Weep

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook, follows me on Twitter or, unlikely as it seems, occasionally looks at my Google+ account, will know that for the past two years or so I have been undertaking a reading marathon of Pratchett proportions.

I started with The Colour of Magic and continued with all 41 Discworld novels, as well as the maps, cookbooks, tourist guides, kids books and short story collections. After this I started on the non-Discworld books – Strata, The Dark Side of the Sun, the Bromeliad trilogy, the Johnny Maxwell books, etc.

The reason for this single-minded readathon are numerous, I tend to reread my Pratchett collection every few years anyway, but after his untimely death in 2015 I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a book by any other author.

I assumed this feeling would pass but several months later I was still in the same mood, a year later I felt the same, two years later and I was still in my reading rut.

Seemingly unrelated, about two months ago we got notice that our landlord wanted their house back, which was a bit inconvenient because we were just in the middle of trying to find somewhere of our own to buy. Scroll on to about a week ago and the house is full of boxes as we get ready to move to a new rental. I was packing up my Pratchett collection (shudder) and amongst them I found my Kindle, untouched since I picked up The Colour of Magic.

I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I left it on top of my drawers in our bedroom. Then, last Sunday night I was getting my stuff ready for work the next day and thought “why the hell not” and slipped the e-reader into my bag.

When I arrived at the train station on Monday morning I got it out and started reading (American Gods by Neil Gaiman, if you must know!), and have been doing so on every journey to work and back since. It seems my reading mojo has returned and, with it, my brain has also fallen off a deep precepice into the icy waters of “I Have To Write” again.

Ideas are sloshing around inside my head like a particularly spectacular Formula One pile up and my fingers are itching to type. But what to do first?

I’ve been working on a few things, slowly, for the past few months, a Discworld fan-fiction piece about Rincewind; a comedy fantasy novel about a vampire; a biography about my life as a type one diabetic; a kids book I’ve been working on for a couple of years now.

All these conflicting stories are arguing for precedence, so what I’m going to do is…go to sleep! Life is complicated enough at the moment without worrying about what and when to write, so I just need to put digits to keyboard whenever I get the chance.

Wish me luck!

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The Glorious 25th

Just a quick post in my lunch break today, If you were drawn here by the title then you already know what I’m talking about.

If not, suffice to say, it’s a reference to a series of events as outlined in Night Watch, one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. It’s a much darker story than many of his other books and recounts a few days around the 25th of May, 1957, 30 years before the present time (in the book’s timeline).

There are many places you can find out about what happened, but this is a good place to start.

In some ways it seems ridiculous to memorialise something that didn’t really happen, but many religions have survived this way for thousands of years, so if a bunch of Discworld fans want to make the world a better place because of some fantastical fictional events then I say, good luck to them (us!!!).

For my part this year, I have created the following image:

25th

However there are many ways to help raise awareness of the plight of the people who lost their fictional lives that day, and if you are a bit tech savvy, then you can take a look here (although the GNU Clacks codes are actually taken from a much later time in Discworld history, but as we’re all friends I figured that doesn’t really matter!).

Anyway, for those of you who want to remember the Glorious People’s Revolution of Treacle mine road, and those who made it into a lot less of a massacre, I salute you comrades.

#GNUCecilClapman

#GNUNedCoates

#GNUDaiDickins

#GNUJohnKeel

#GNUHoraceNancyball

#GNUTerryPratchett

#GNURegShoe (Temp)

#GNUBillyWiglet


Chris Cornell – 20/07/1964 – 18/05/2017

Update: I wrote this before I heard the circumstances of Chris’s death and considered altering it to make it feel a little more sensitive, however I think that depression is often not faced head on and, although my eulogy below doesn’t specifically talk about Cornell’s mental illness, I am going to leave it as I wrote it and let you find your own meanings in his words!


When I was a teenager I taught myself to sing by turning my stereo up loud and joining in. This is how I got to know Soundgarden, and Chris Cornell so well.

That was the 90s, around 25 years ago. Today I don’t sing so much but I still listen to many of the bands I picked up through my teenage years – Soundgarden included. Their most recent album, a bit of a surprise when it was announced because they hadn’t released anything for 16 years, was King Animal. There was nothing particularly surprising about it, it was still very definitely Soundgarden, but with more experience and insight into the workings of the modern world.

My favourite track from the album is Black Saturday, an incredible journey through old age and euthanasia, a subject which has been on my mind since Terry Pratchett covered it so eloquently in his documentary Choosing to Die. Sadly now, though, this is something that Chris Cornell will never have to consider.

Promise something,
Kill me right away if I start to get slow
And don’t remember
How to separate the worm from the apple
Don’t wait ’til tomorrow,
Kill me right away if I start to listen
To the voices
Telling all the mouths what they need to swallow

The thing I always found impressive about his lyrics was the way he managed to take everyday phrases and twist them round to make them mean something completely different, or nonsensical. For instance, in Superunknown he faced psychological issues head on.

If you don’t want to be seen
Well you don’t have to hide
And if you don’t want to believe
Well you don’t have to try

Which resonated with 17 year old me in a way I couldn’t quite put into words myself.

Now, as a forty-something year old man, I still listen to Soundgarden for their incredible guitar riffs, clever use of words, unusual time signatures and rip-roaring solos, but after today the songs will take on a new meaning for me and fire off memories of another talented life cut short and sorely missed.

Apologies if this isn’t the most coherent eulogy, but because the songs are so closely intertwined with my persona I find it difficult to untangle my feelings and thoughts.

I’ll leave you with a song of my own, one I’ve talked about before and the one, I think, in which I came closest to equaling Chris Cornell’s use of language.

Open

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
How can I show you,
That my love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We cannot take it back now,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Open your mind,
What do you see?
Place your head in your hands,
And give it to me

Open your eyes,
What do you feel?
Now more than ever,
My love for you is real

Open your hands,
What do you know?
My deepest desires have chosen,
Now to show

Open your heart,
What do you say?
We’re going to be together,
Come what may

Open your mouth,
How could you tell?
I took you to heaven,
And now we’re going to hell

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
I can take your world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again

Take my love and wrap it around,
Together we’ll get high but then we’ll come down,
You can take my world apart,
Or when life’s left we can try and start again


Music Review – The Love Junkies – I Had A Party Once

I liked this song!

As always, original is here.

 


 

 

I had a Party Once should have a warning on it to ensure that agoraphobic morose teenagers don’t inadvertently listen to it and start self-harming.

The rough and ready guitars drive the song along like a bulldozer, smashing anything that gets in the way and demolishing any chances you might have had of actually enjoying your next soiree. It feels a bit like The Love Junkies once had a bad experience at a social gathering and want to make sure everyone else gets to share the hurt.

Like the bastard child of Weezer and Lesley Gore, this single holds your attention through the medium of grabbing you by the throat and beating your head off the nearest pointy rock. If you don’t listen to the words it sounds fairly cheerful in a minor key, dropped beat kind of way. But tuning in to any particular line will bring words like “funeral”, “masochistic”, “alcoholic”, “lonely” into focus and make you wish you hadn’t concentrated as hard.

Mitch McDonald seems to be really enjoying himself, in an extroverted introvert kind of way and you just hope that he isn’t drawing on his own experiences when he puts pen to paper.

So, in conclusion, this song is amazing!!!

The only thing lacking, in my opinion, is a really rip-roaring solo which could happily be plugged in before the middle eight gets going, but even so I Had a Party Once is a stonking three minutes and twenty six seconds of math rock which I would take great pleasure in turning up loud the next time I throw a party of my own.

 


 


Music Review – The Desert Sea – Elevator

My first ever rock concert was at the tender age of 16. Me and my best friend were, at the time, big (but not in stature) fans of the fundamental heavy metal band – Iron Maiden. As I recall it was very loud and Bruce Dickinson accidentally got himself stuck on top of the massive amplifier stack and had some trouble getting down again.

Now, 26 years later and my tastes have moved on somewhat, I still occasionally fire up some Living Colour or Megadeth, but Maiden – although talented – just don’t really seem to have moved on very far in the 41 years since they formed, so for me at least they just don’t really do it anymore.

The above goes some way to explaining why I chose to do this review, I couldn’t believe that anybody could be so fixated on 80s heavy metal that they try to reproduce it, down to the last screeching guitar solo hammering-off-and-on.

 


 

Starting off like they fell over a Japanese Voyeurs track then remembered they really like Iron Maiden – The Desert Sea’s latest single, Elevator is Proper Metal in the greatest eighties; not certain I should be taking this seriously?; is that Robert Plant?; I thought The Darkness weren’t playing anymore?; sense.

Hailing from Sydney, this hasn’t stopped the band gathering inspiration from every single Heavy Metal icon from the beginning of time to the present day. Their influences are listed as QOTSA, The Raconteurs and Soundgarden which, to a degree, I can agree with because all three of these heavyweights’ influences come from the heyday of long haired guitar screeching chug rock and blues.

Don’t get me wrong, this sounds fresh and interesting but is also reminiscent of so many other bands that it’s hard to identify where the originality takes over from the genuflection to days gone by.

This is the kind of track I could imagine lots of (very) young people jumping about to in a rock club while the more mature metal-heads look on, bemused, from the side lines nursing their bottles of Hahn Super Dry and mumbling about Led Zeppelin.

The solo sounds very much like Dave Murray was pointed at a guitar and told to “just do what you do”. The rest of the song doesn’t deviate too far from the basic heavy metal archetypes of twiddly guitars and throaty choruses.

That said, if you like Metal you shouldn’t be disappointed. Rock on!

 


 


Music Review – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

I have to admit to being a big fan of Bob Mould, so when his new album was streamed online in March earlier this year I decided that Semplesize could do with letting its readers know exactly why Bob Mould is a rock god!

Original is here.

 


 

After forty years in the music business you might think Bob Mould would have run out of ideas, but no! Patch the Sky is his thirteenth solo album, twenty-sixth if you consider his Hüsker Dü and Sugar efforts, and although you know what you are getting (power-pop and screeching guitar solos) it is still as emotionally and musically volatile as any of his other work.

With such a large back catalogue and so many influences and styles, he effortlessly segues between hardcore punk and pop tinged dance, then screaming like a space shuttle punches through rock music clouds into the vacuum of easy listening space. I think I lost my metaphor somewhere along the way there…

In the grand scheme of things, Patch the Sky is just another Bob Mould album –Mould has influenced just about every rock band since 1979, names such as The Pixies, Nirvana, Green Day, Ryan Adams, No Age, the Foo Fighters and others too innumerable to mention cite him as a major part of their decision to make music – so “just another Bob Mould album” is an event worthy of more than an unobtrusive press release and a few underground murmurings from hardcore fans.

Standout tracks on the first listen are Daddy’s Favourite – distortion and angst, Black Confetti – wonderful offbeat drums define the song, and Monument – speaking directly to your psyche, closes the album on an introspective note.

I’ll be buying this, I would strongly recommend you do too!

 


 


Music Review – Daniel Johns – Preach

The first line was removed from this review when it was published because, apparently, they thought that Mr Johns might not like the mention of the band that made him into an international superstar. I have put it back in here because I don’t think it in any way affects the article and, if anything, makes it flow a little better.

Personally, I was a big fan of Frogstomp, although I never really got into their other stuff, but when I saw the track up for review I decided I’d have a listen and see what I thought. Read on to find out.

As always, original is here.

 


 

This is not Silverchair, okay? Right, now we’ve got that out of the way let’s get on with this.

The release of Aerial Love in February hailed the first new music from Daniel Johns in eight years, it was greeted with confusion and indifference from his existing fans and hardly grazed the atmosphere of Music World. Perhaps he should have considered putting Preach out first.

The second track from the Aerial Love EP is a stronger by a long way. Starting with an atmospheric piano, shortly joined by a synthesised drumline and Johns’ voice, reaching for a falsetto range he can barely maintain. It doesn’t seem to matter though, he sounds confident and comfortable in himself and is obviously enjoying it immensely.

The multi-layered harmonic vocals, sounding more like a team of choirboys than a 35 year old man who used to be the growling feline front man of Australia’s angriest grunge band, suit the track perfectly. The verses are stripped down, ethereal and thoughtful, with little in the way of backing, the chorus ramps it up a bit with a louder drum track and the left hand coming into play on the piano, bringing in the lower registers, to give it some body.

As Daniel blasts out the almost inevitable line “now I sing to my own beat” you find yourself thinking that isn’t such a bad thing. Sure, it sounds ever so slightly like Justin Timberlake, or even the crazily guitarless album Scream by Chris Cornell. In fact almost anything that had some Timbaland involvement.

But it just goes to prove that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in the case of Preach I think Daniel Johns has proved that the leopard’s paint job has finished drying and he’s now ready to hunt a whole new species of ungulate.