Tag Archives: Writing

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


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 – Ali E – We Are Strangers

Getting back into my own territory, Ali E looks like an escapee from two or three decades ago, I was quite pleased when I first listened to this one and made no bones of stating so in the review.

Original is here.


 

Like a cross between PJ Harvey and Kim Deal, Ali E walks her own path. Hailing from Melbourne in Australia, her songs sound like she has let music and events soak her neurons throughout her life, which has created a turbulent mix of 90s post rock and magic summertime vibes.

We Are Strangers starts with a simple two string riff that will stick in your head, it moves swiftly on through the rest of the introduction then quietens down for a laid back verse with minimal guitar, a deep, dark bassline and some whispering drums. But before you know where you are, it mugs you with a noisy pre-chorus, which lasts not more than a couple of heartbeats before it fades back into the verse, leaving you wanting some foreclosure.

After a short verse-like interlude the chorus proper starts and you are rushed through an all too short fist of power chords and split lead vocals. However just because it’s short doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful, dragging you bodily into the next part of the song.

Unlike a lot of bands Ali E doesn’t seem to believe in a verse, chorus, verse structure, going for a more free flowing style of “what do I think will sound nice next?” even bringing some violins in to round the sound out and make the whole thing seem like a slightly surreal bus accident involving The Levellers and Melissa Auf der Maur.

In the grand scheme of things, We Are Strangers may not be introducing us to anything particularly ground-breaking but then, in the grand scheme of things, who cares! This is a fun track that makes you want to get up and dance!

 


 


Music Review – Big Strong Brute – Wedding Pages

This was my fourth review on Semplesize, but the first one that got edited in any way. The main reason being that the “conversation in the pub” apparently wouldn’t have displayed correctly with the way their site was formatted. It’s a bit of a shame ’cause that was my favourite part.

The original is here.


 

This is how I imagine the conversation in the pub went between Paul Donoughue (PD) and His Mate (HM), some time before the genesis of his latest single:

PD: Hello mate.
HM: G’day Paul, how are you?
PD: I’m good. Actually, I was thinking about writing a new song.
HM: That’s brilliant, I was listening to some of your old stuff the other day and I reckon you should do something a bit different.
PD: Oh, really? *hurt look* I was always quite happy with my other songs.
HM: Yeah, they’re great! I just think what you should do is write something anthemic, you know, a song the crowd can wave their hands in the air to. Like they just don’t care!
PD: Well, I suppose I could try, do you think it would work?
HM: With your talent mate, anything is possible…

And so, I believe, Wedding Pages was conceived. The riff at the beginning sounds like it was dragged, kicking and screaming, from The Stone Roses 1989 debut album. The rest of the band come in after four bars and continue solidly throughout the song, until a quiet interlude after three minutes where it pares back to being Donoughue’s voice and his trebly acoustic guitar for the middle eight.

If you fancy something sounding a bit like Thom Yorke suffering from adenoids, over the instruments of Tired Pony or The Reindeer Section, frankly any band containing the musical talents of Gary Lightbody, then this might just be for you.

If the hypothetical conversation between Paul and His Mate was in any way realistic then bigstrongbrute’s new song smashes it. Hopefully the rest of the new album, Good Work, will match up to the brutality and enthusiasm of Wedding Pages.


 


Music Review – Monogem – Silhouette

My third Semplesize review was a bit different for me. I’m a bit of a rocker, but browsing through that week’s tracks I happened upon something a little outside my normal listening comfort zone. However I liked it.

As usual this is the unedited version, the original can be found here.


On their Facebook page, Monogem define their genre as “Electro-Pop/Soul”, some might call it “dance”. I would be so bold as to disagree with either of these classifications. Certainly Silhouette has electronic instruments, pop stylings and soulful vocals…and you could unquestionably dance to it. But it feels like a track which should accompany movements of a more horizontal nature.
The song starts as it means to go on, with Songs of Faith and Devotion era Depeche Mode synthesisers, accompanying an electronic drum kit dragged from Everything Everything’s abandoned basement. The music could almost be classed as Rock, if it weren’t for the fact there isn’t an actual stand behind it and press/hit/strum/blow instrument in site.

Although hailing from the USA, Jen Hirsh’s vocals sound more Southern England than Southern California, sharing tone and intonation with the likes of Kelli Ali (formerly Kelli Dayton from the one-hit-wonder trip-hop sensation that was the Sneaker Pimps), Hirsh manages to pull off seductive not-quite-pop vocals in a spectacular fashion.

Scott Smith’s heavy (synthesised) percussion continues at a steady and unstoppable 148 beats per minute throughout the song, with very little change to the basic dum dum, du dum dum of the bass drum or traversal into the higher registers, but this just goes to enhance the ambience of Hirsh’s voice and takes you on a journey towards nights of passion, possibly followed by some more extreme or unconventional intimate physical pursuits.

While Monogem’s other tracks, like The Glow or Follow You can seem a bit derivative, or just fade (rather nicely, it has to be said) into the general stream of consciousness that is popular culture, this is a track which begs for airtime on any radio station that has its wits about it or values their listeners.
The song is beautifully executed and will stand up to repeated plays and I can imagine people dancing to it in a club. The only issue being that it will swiftly empty the club as they all pair off and rush home to their bedrooms, to carry out the inevitable consequences of listening to Silhouette.


Music Review – Bear’s Den – Think of England

Not so much a new year’s resolution as a non-specific target, my aim this year is to write as much as I possibly can in as many different places as possible.

“Ah”, I hear you cry, “but what about this here ‘blog, that is meant to be all about writing?”

Well (you hear me respond), sadly due to the constraints imposed by the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and I am unable to utilise the full complement of hours in writing due to having a job, a family, sleep, etc. it means that I have to forego some pleasures (e.g., this ‘blog) to enable others.

However, one of the things I have been doing is writing for a proper website, they do music reviews, fashion and culture, mostly for young people (they don’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that I’m twice the age of most of their readers yet). I saw the ad for it on a media website I subscribe to job adverts for, just to make sure I’m there if anything interesting ever comes up. Anyway this (unpaid) job did, and I thought, what could be the harm in trying out for it.

I sent an email with a few links to other stuff I’ve written and why I was interested in the role and got a swift response from Laura, who runs the site, offering me a choice of songs to have a go at. So I started writing, finished writing, then sent it off to see what she thought. When she came back saying (and I quote) “Great article!”

I have done about nine or ten reviews now and try and do at least one a week. I wrote to the lovely people who look after the site last week and asked if they would mind me cross posting to this site and they said that the written words belong to me so go for my life.

The full website can be found at http://www.semplesize.com, but the versions I post on LadleWritings will be the original unedited ones, so you might get a few odd tangents or interesting asides than were allowed on the official pages.

My first article was this one, which I thought was rather apt having only immigrated last year! You can find the original article here.


Bear’s Den | Think of England

Taking a more laid back, stripped down approach than any of their label-mates, including Bad Suns and Rubblebucket, Bear’s Den tend towards the introspective. Their new album could quite happily find itself accompanying a TV drama about attractive people in their mid-twenties, who are trying to discover themselves. If a lucky producer did happen to “discover” Bear’s Den then Think of England would probably be the song that accompanied the scene where one of the plucky heroines was going for a job interview, then had to reciprocate a lecherous potential bosses advances. But I digress…
Andrew Davie’s vocals bring to mind Gary Lightbody on gentler Snow Patrol tracks like Set the Fire to the Third Bar or You Could be Happy. Now imagine, if you will, that a Mumford & Sons audience were treated to a gig one night, when the band had forgotten their mandolin, the resulting sounds would have been very much like those accompanying Davie’s lilting tones.
The video for Think of England is a study in understatement. You only ever see one person at a time, even if you occasionally get the odd double exposure with the same person in the foreground and background. That is until the chorus, which ramps it up a bit with a triple exposure of all three band members.
Gareth Phillips, the director, steers the video in his usual inimitable fashion. Anyone who has seen Chocolate by The 1975 or Get Away by Circa Waves won’t be surprised to see slow motion footage in black and white. However the boat, such as it is, gets pushed out for Bear’s Den with the addition of a dancer, who randomly gets to wave her long flowing locks around and ignore the camera in an intense way. If you want to see this kind of dancing done well try searching for Kate Bush on YouTube.

Overall the video is well made and presented, but nothing to write home about. The band can give themselves a pat on the back for keeping their steering wheel centred on their own genre, and Mr Phillips obviously knows how to wield a high speed camera. But overall it was too predictable for my liking, putting far too much emphasis on the low-fi nature of the music. It could really have done with images which counter the sounds, something along the lines of motor racing or a lead character running as fast as they could to get away from some unknown and hideous terror chasing them through an everlasting post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Mix it up a bit Bears!


Terry Pratchett, April 28, 1948 – March 12, 2015

I woke up this morning as I would on any other day, alarm sounded, arm wildly flailed to find the snooze button, hop out of bed, pull on some shorts, turn on phone and head to the kitchen to make some toast. After my blood test I buttered my toast, sat down and started checking my messages, I had been tagged in a post on Facebook by my friend Ian, so I opened Facebook and went to see what he was drawing my attention to.

This is how I learned of the death of Sir Terence David John Pratchett, OBE.

Our cat had decided to spend the night outside, this is unusual for him, so Deanne got out of bed to open the back door and call for him. After being outside for seven hours the cat came in and used his litter tray immediately, rather than taking the more sensible option of relieving himself in the garden, but I digress.

I felt numb, but not as sad as I would expect, reading the article from the Independent newspaper. I walked through to the bathroom and held the phone out to Deanne to show her the news and as she said ‘oh no’ I burst into tears. I think that sharing the news with her had made it real. She asked me if I was alright and I didn’t answer, because I was not.

To explain why let me take you back in time to 1988. I was a prolific reader, even when I was 13, and begged, stole and borrowed any book I could get my hands on to devour the words held within. One day my eldest brother, Paul, had just finished a new (second hand) one. As usual, I asked if it was alright if I read it then took it before he had a chance to answer.

I started reading and found that I couldn’t put it down. I laughed so much that I cried, then I actually did have to put the book down in several places because I couldn’t control my body for the humorous convulsions taking it over.

The book was about an inept, cowardly Wizzard (not wizard), living on a flat world carried on the back of four elephants, standing on the back of a colossal turtle named Great A’Tuin. The magician was called Rincewind and he had been tasked with looking after the Discworld’s first ever tourist, a friendly bespectacled man with a profusion of gold, coming as he did from the Counterweight Continent. The book was called The Light Fantastic.

I finished reading, put it down and immediately counted up my meagre savings to see if I would be able to afford the first book in the series, which was called The Colour of Magic, thankfully I could and so, at my first convenience, I did so.

This is how I came to know Terry Pratchett, and how I became ensconced in his worlds and words. At first I just had to get the books, no matter how, so for a time I bought them when they came out in paperback, as it was more affordable, but as I got more and more entrenched in the fabulous places and people it started to become an addiction.

I would investigate the release dates and make sure I had enough funds at my disposal and a free morning in which to visit the local bookstore so I could get there first thing in the morning, buy a first edition hardback copy of whatever the latest one was, then spend the rest of the day in repose on the sofa letting the characters, situations, stories and puns (or plays on words) bathe my mind in a glorious warm glow of happiness.

To put this in context, my wife and I met about 13 years ago, it is our twelfth wedding anniversary and 13th anniversary of being a couple at the end of this month and I love her, and our son, more than I can put into words. Having said that, I met Terry (in a metaphorical sense, although I was lucky enough to see him in the flesh as well) 27 years ago and although I didn’t know the man, exactly, I have loved his words for longer than I have been growing hair on my face, I had Terry before I had my first job, he was with me through the good times, the bad times, the happy and sad times, he helped me cope when life was at its toughest and added to the euphoria when things were at their best.

This is why I will miss Sir Terry more than I can say, I have read almost everything he has ever written, I own a good deal of his work in first edition hardback, have a folder containing newspaper articles and short online pieces I discovered over the years, and only just got hold of A Slip of the Keyboard. I feel like I know him as well, or better even, than I know some of my closest family members.

The hole that his passing is going to leave in my life is irreplaceable. The only positive twinkle being that I have an enormous library of his scrawlings, from The Carpet People, first released in 1971 three years before my own arrival into the human race, to the final message on Twitter, which I suspect he had quite a hand in crafting. I will read these again and again, as I always have, and I will get pleasure from knowing that he would have appreciated he was making someone’s life a better one.

Terry Pratchett was not just my favourite author, he was a part of my family and I will miss him as such.

Here’s hoping Death was kind, giving him a pat on the back and offering to carry his typewriter.