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>Word Travels Fast! (T – 17)

2 April, 2010 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Porcupine Tree – Staircase Infinities

After one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages, woke up ready for a trip into Manchester to meet up with Kevin and some of my old mates from the old job.  But first, off to the Supermarket to stock up for the Easter break.  Big trolley to shove all the chocolate eggs into – right next to the booze and calories, natch.  A relatively straightforward shop, albeit augmented by Mrs W’s quick waltz round the clothes section.  Still, don’t have to watch the pennies quite so much now!

Then off into Manchester, and to the old firm’s offices.  Bumped into a few people outside, who congratulated me on the new job, word obviously having got round quickly!  Nice to be able to answer truthfully when people ask me how it’s going – the days of the brave face and the ‘it’s all ok, really’ platitudes are past.  It really is ok now.

Then to Giraffe with Kevin, for a tasty burger and Red Stripe.  We put the world to rights for a good hour or so before going back to the office where I met up with Anne-Marie for congratulations and hugs.  It’s good, this going back to work lark.  For some reason I got to kiss lots of women as a result!

So.  I’m in Manchester.  No longer watching the pennies, and Fopp just up the road.  What’s a boy to do?

Half an hour later, I emerged with the new Joanna Newsom, Them Crooked Vultures, the new Jimi Hendrix release and a few Traffic albums from the early seventies.  One of which I already own.  Don’t you just hate it when you buy something you’ve already got?  Or is it just me that does it?  It only cost me three quid, at least.

Back home, and a quick text to Matt, who has been spending the week in hospital having his radiotherapy treatment following his throat operation last year.  This has been far less of an ordeal, boredom being the primary concern rather than any specific medical issues.  You can read about his experiences here.

After a big lunch, there was no need for a massive tea so we had the remnants of last night’s (home-made) pizza alongside some potato skins and chicken bits.  Watched the end of Supernatural series 3 and – of course – caught up on Masterchef.  The six contestants reduced now to five following the departure of Terry, who may well cause himself serious self-harm as a result.

Simon reminded me yesterday that the guitar playing hasn’t had a mention in a while and, if truth be known, it did go a bit quiet for a bit.  Having said that, I have been picking up both the bass and my six-string more often on the past week or two and enjoying every minute of it.  Although my fingers hurt as a result.  Not a virtuoso by any means but still enjoying the tinkering!

One man who probably can lay claim to the title of virtuoso is Steven Wilson, driving force behind the horribly-named Porcupine Tree, who actually produce a very acceptable blend of Proggy hard rock.  Staircase Infinities is a half hour of nicely melodic, guitar-driven rock that is extremely pleasant to have on in the background.

Categories: fopp, Kevin, Matt, Porcupine Tree

>…dressed in what they call "The Mode"…

24 December, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack – Depeche Mode – Songs of Faith and Devotion

(Especially for Kevin.)

A bitterly cold Manchester night.  Packed streets, last minute Christmas shopping for the masses, standing room only in the bars and restaurants of the city.

Met up with Kevin at the office, collected Ade and headed off to the Printworks for sustenance.  Hard Rock seemed appropriate, especially with the ‘Mode on loop.  The staff obviously knew who tonight’s headliners were!

A leisurely meal, waiting for Mark and Jane to arrive.  Then – eventually – off to the MEN.  Slightly nervous about missing the support band – after my unfortunate Joy Division incident I never miss support bands – but on this occasion I went with the flow (and luckily don’t think we missed much.  Nitzer Ebb are the support on the next leg of the tour – now that would have upset me!)

Now I have to admit that I’ve never been the biggest DM fan.  Yep, I like the band, have a few albums, but have never seen them live and wouldn’t necessarily turn to them first when putting the music on.  So to be going along with some really big fans was a bit unusual for me – it’s normally me who knows all the songs and the trivia.  Not this time!

In our seats (seats!) in plenty of time for the main event, with a good view of the action.  After a build up of some thumping techno, the lights dimmed and on came the band.  Gore and Gahan out front, Fletch stood behind a keyboard, occasionally poking at a key or two, a drummer and a proper keyboardist.

Confidently (and bravely) the band started with three songs off the new album.  I guess you can do that when your fanbase is as loyal and devoted as theirs, but it did seem to get things off to a tentative start with the audience.  But with the fourth song – ‘Walking in my Shoes’ – things really got going.  One of my favourite DM songs, Gahan in good voice (as he was throughout) and the audience really woke up.

Other highlights – a thumping ‘I Feel You’, a delicate solo section from Martin Gore, and a rousing climax of ,Never Let Me Down Again’, synchronised armwaving and all.  Back for a four song encore, inevitably climaxing with ‘Personal Jesus’.

Enjoyed it immensely, even waving my arms around like a loon.  Dave Gahan is a perfect advert for a life of debauchery and substance abuse, Martin Gore is clearly more than a fey synth dilletante and Fletch is quite simply the luckiest man alive.  Kev asked me why they had stayed together so long – why indeed?  I suspect that being mates before they were a band is a large part of it – and also their ability to reinvent themselves, growing up as a band as they did as people, and finally I suspect their ability to release their personal pressures and concerns through their music.

Depeche Mode.  Grown up music for the masses.  Listen without prejudice.

Here’s ‘I Feel You’ – filmed from the crowd on the night in question.

Categories: Depeche Mode, Kevin

>Day 40: Out and About

25 April, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Queen – Live Killers

Grand tour of the North today, Chester in the morning to meet with a recruitment consultant and then across to Liverpool in the early evening to catch up with an ex-colleague. So a busy day and a couple of sound excuses to get out of the house and to interact with real people again!

A nice drive into Chester with the sun out and the sunroof open. The city was very busy though, for a school day. I know Chester is always busy, but moreso than usual today for some reason. I do like Chester though – the city has a style that has not been totally eroded by the prevalence of all the usual high street names. That is largely down to the continued existence of the ‘Rows’, the split-level shopping arcades that grace the main shopping streets of the cities. The Rows still accommodate a high proportion of independent shops compared to most high streets, and also reduce the prevalence (or at least the impact) of identikit ‘big store branding’ that makes most of our city centres look so similar nowadays. Sadly the signs of the recession are there – a number of the bigger shopfronts stand empty, and there are a number of discount/poundshops springing up alongside the designer boutiques.

The recruitment agency was based in one of the Rows, up a steep flight of stairs. Spent a good hour with the consultant, going through my CV and discussing my options going forwards, and I came out with a pretty good feeling. Yes, the job market is lousy, but I know I have good, wide-ranging experience and ability – I just need to find the right role. There are now plenty of people out there trying to help me find that role, I just need to hold my nerve and maintain my self-confidence and self-belief.

A quick trawl round the food shops in Chester to pick up some goodies for the weekend, then it was back home to find a couple of parcels from Amazon waiting for me. I guess it’s a bit rich of me to bemoan the decline of the high street whilst at the same time ordering my stuff online, but times are tough and I’ve got to budget accordingly. And unfortunately if that means buying online for half the price I would pay in the shops, then that’s what I’ll have to do.

So we now have an electric knife capable of slicing through the freshly-baked bread in rather more efficient fashion than the manual variety, as well as a couple of cheap Siouxie and the Banshees CDs and the latest from Doves, which has been picking up solid reviews recently. Off to see Doves in Delamere Forest in June with Son No 2, and they are also playing Glastonbury and Latitude this year, so best to get familiar with the new stuff before seeing them I feel!

Then spent a couple of hours doing techy stuff with the netbook, downloading and installing the latest version of Ubuntu. The installation worked like a dream, until I tried to log in – the new version decided to ask me for a Username and Password that the previous version seemed to cope quite happily without. Well, I tried combination after combination of usernames and passwords, in upper case and lower case, but could I come up with the right combination? Could I buggery!

In the end it was back to the main computer to do a bit of googling, and then with a bit of jiggerypokery ‘under the hood’, I managed to find the combination that the system was looking for. I still have no recollection of ever using this particular username, but I must have done, I suppose.

Then it was out to Liverpool to meet up with Kevin, my old colleague from Birmingham, who was up to see Gary Numan at the O2. In true Kevin fashion, he would have been driving round Liverpool in circles for hours had I not spotted him outside the Empire and managed to direct him to the car park. We found a bar and had a pleasant couple of scoops, putting the world to rights and picking up on the gossip from work, before I left him to meet up with his Numanoid mates and re-live his adolescence. I had gracefully declined the offer to join them at the concert a few weeks ago!

I shouldn’t mock actually – I did buy the picture disc of ‘Are Friends Electric?’ when it came out (must be worth a few bob now?) and I do own Replicas. However I do have a long-standing jealousy of Gary Numan. My girlfriend of the time was a huge Numan fan – not least because he was the spitting image of one of her ex-boyfriends…the ex-boyfriend whose arms she hurled herself into when she decided to dump me.

Not that I’m bitter or anything. Or that I hold Mr Numan personally responsible.

Today’s soundtrack also gives me little room to mock. I don’t hold with the ‘Guilty Pleasures’ theory of music – I believe there is no ‘bad’ music, just music you like or music you don’t like. However if I did have a musical ‘guilty pleasure’, then Queen would surely be it.

I saw Queen live once, at Liverpool Empire quite early on in their career, just before Bohemian Rhapsody went massive. Even at that stage Freddie really knew how to work a crowd, a skill he went on to refine and master at Live Aid and beyond. Freddie had not ‘come out’ at this stage, although the choice of Shirley Bassey’s ‘Big Spender’ for an encore might have given us a few clues as to where his preferences lay….

‘Live Killers’ is a pretty good snapshot of the pre Live-Aid band, recorded in 1979 when they were still first and foremost a rock band, not yet a video-driven parody of themselves. As such it represents a good early ‘Greatest Hits’, with the added advantage of being recorded live, away from the studio trickery that was prevalent on their studio albums.

Queen really came into their own at Live Aid – this is how to work a crowd!