Thursday, 24 April 2014

Performance Anxiety

I scrolled through the Palm Pilot of my mind. Something lurking in the buried recesses there was Paging me, trying to Laser Disk recollection into my Dot Matrix printer of a brain. I had always credited myself with a Betamax eidetic recorder of events and experience; that I simply had to dial-up any prompt and the cursor of recall would locate the exact file in my personal RAM. Then seamlessly download to the soft palate of my glossal floppy disc, having sieved through a developing tray of emotional chemicals and through the formal organisation of word processing, I would be presented with that retrospection I was seeking after accessing. But not today, despite having played it over backward and forwards on my reel to reel of an analytical mind. No flashing of an incandescent lightbulb going off in my head. Rather the grey matter seemed misty and fogged behind smeared carbon papered facsimiles, with Tippexed redactions and gouges of key bytes of data. Eight-tracked white noise seemed to be clogging my synapses, a thumping migraine boomboxed my ears the harder I tried to focus my thoughts. Nope, the reason she had walked out on me was not recoverable. I hoped it wasn't the age difference. I hadn't meant to be so dismissive of her love letter on scented paper. It was the technology I was objecting to, not the content.

Taken from the new flash fiction collection available on Amazon in print or ebook

Monday, 21 April 2014

Stellar Songs - Music of the spheres

Gustav Holst's "Planets Suite", the music of the spheres, the harmony of the cosmos, music has always had an association with the stars. We even call our heroes 'rock stars', that is something out of this world. So here are ten songs about the solar system. Rock(et) on!

1) The Rezillos - "Destination Venus"
The Rezillos were a touch under-appreciated punk/art school band from Scotland. With great song titles such as "My Baby Does Good Sculptures" and "Someone's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight". Perhaps they never made it because they were so bad at miming for 'live' TV pop shows

2) The Cure - "Jupiter Crash"
I'd totally lost interest in The Cure once they turned from indie new wavers into silly Goths chasing invisible rabbits down unseen holes. So I was totally unaware of this song from their ouevre. It's odd to think how different a persona guitarist Robert Smith presented when he played in Siouxie And the Banshees when he was no longer the main man and didn't have to adopt all the teased hair and smudged make-up as he did with the Cure.

3) Jimi Hendrix - "South Saturn Delta"
From the man who invented the out of this world "Acid Rock" this song shows just how much Hendrix drew on Southern Delta Blues for his style. Since there are no words to this, not sure what Saturn has to do with it exactly, but any excuse to include Jimi is alright by me to be honest.

4) David Bowie - "Life On Mars"
Considering the whole Ziggy Stardust album could have made this list, it's perhaps surprising that this song actually appeared on the Hunky Dory album. Bowie was best when he was obsessed with spacemen and he and guitarist Mick Ronson wore shiny space age clothes on stage. Just my two cents.

5) B52s - "Planet Claire"
From a band who took their name from the stratospheric carpet bomber the B-52, they made some really knock-about music such as "Rock Lobster" and "Strobelight". Here the professed love object is utterly out of this world.

6) Rush - "Cygnus X-1"
A song about one of the earliest discovered black holes, taken from an album "A Farewell To Kings" that also flirted with the radical ideas of author Ayn Rand, while the album "Hemispheres" contained a track "Trouble With The Trees" which saw the band accused of having fascist leanings. My jury's out on that one, but I just fixate on the bloated size of that drumkit, it resembles a solar system in its own right.

7) The Carpenters - "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft"
And breathe.... Calming it all back down, here we have Karen sending out a beauteous plaint into space. I'd answer if I were an extra-terrestrial wouldn't you? Imagine the heartbreak of landing to meet this siren's call, only to discover she'd died from the very sustenance that is supposed to keep her species alive...

8) Husker Du - "Books About UFOs"
And cranking it back up again, the finest 3-piece power trio introduce some plinky-plonk piano against their wall of noise. Delicious stuff.

9) Pink Floyd - "Astronomy Dominé"
It could have been "Interstellar Overdrive" or "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", but this track from the Syd Barrett days namechecks more planetary bodies and besides, shows just how heavy and dissonant sounding a band they were in those days. Also some rare archival footage of Roger Waters being quite polite.

10) Grinderman - "Honey Bee Let's Fly To Mars"
Glorious inchoate noise that was Grinderman's debut LP. Then they cut their second one and all that was lost... Also note to Nick, excessive facial hair is not rock 'n roll unless you're ZZ Top.

11) Only Ones - "Another Girl Another Planet"
Shame frontman Peter Perrett was lost on another planet most of the time with his heroin addiction, cos they were a great pop-punk band who could have produced so much more.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Compound Fracture - Friday Flash

The Engineer studied the Entrance to the London Underground Station. It was dark and foreboding as Soot picked out the outlines of Commuters whilom impressed against the Tiles. A Wind squeezed up from below ground and buffeted his Face, its force impelling him backwards. A concatenation of displacement he mused. Basic design fault. The gust stilled as quickly as it arose. Next was a thunderousdrummingcadence drawing towards him, but to his Earattunedthroughexpertlongprescription it was a nonmechanicalgenerativesound. Suddenly a human host swarmed over the Stairs and out through the Exit, knocking him this way and that like a Bagatelle, as they did to each other.  When they had finally dispersed into London’s Thoroughfares and Alleyways, he took out his Notebook:


He resumed his own Perambulationwithpurposethoughwithoutspecifieddestination. He noticed how the Denizens of London all had their Heads bowed as they walked. Was this because of the reputed Rats that supposedly possessed the filth laden Streets? London as one giant Rat-run he smirked to himself. His countryfolk had a word for it Umweltverschmutzung. It was only ever applied to other races.

Or perhaps was it prompted byeyecontactaversionthroughfearofprovokingviolenceinonemotivatedbyperceiveddisrespectFor he’d heard how dangerous this particular Capital City had become, the polar opposite of the order that was tightly maintained in that of his own Country’s Capital.

In thrall to Rats and Thugs, he pitied the Citizens of this formerimperialpowerprostratedrunningitscoloniesandbankruptedoncewealthofitsdominionsnolongerbeingsequestratedIt’s grandiose Edifices and Statues now merely bombastic as they sat smeared in grime and bird droppings, the masonry crumbling and eroded. Military heroes from long-forgotten wars. Buildings that used to house retired Governor-Generals and High Commissioners, now converted into flats for divorced spouses with spare bedrooms for their weekend-lodging Kinder. Even the verdancy of London’s central Parks had withered and become eclipsed by traffic fumes and degraded by the volume of footfalls. Certainly hadn’t been browned by the Sun!

To him this was a decadent City. A City in decline. That’s why its citizens had their Heads down, they lacked the confidence to look the World in its Eye. Unlike his own proud Nation. A sudden bolt of that Painwhichstartsoffstupefyinguntilneuralmessaginghitsbrainwholebodybecomingwrackedwithmountingagony hit him. Also his vision was filled with the prospect of people’s Shoes about to boot him in the Face until they veered away at the last moment. His processing Mind elicited that he was prone on the Pavement. His Knee was radiating excruciating sheets of pain, as if it were Metal being beaten white hot in a Forge. He gazed down and was confronted with an unsettling, unaesthetic disparity. Something awry from the anatomical blueprint. His Leg was twisted at an ugly angle, the Kneecap clearly being unable to pinion it naturally. None of the passersby offered to help him, but sniggered as they pivoted and swerved around him. Schadenfreude he thought miserably to himself until a bolt of pain blotted out any further possibility of coherent cogitation.

Lying in a hospital Bed with a compound fracture of his Patella, the tidal waves of pain and the tsunami clotting of his chemically sedated brain meant he was strikingly unable to string his thoughts together. But he did at least appreciate now why the English kept their Eyes pinned to the ground. To avoid all the cracks and pitfalls of subsidence in their Pavements that had caused him to trip and fall as portentously as Lucifer’s tumble from Heaven. Subsidence, another marker of venerability. His thoughts were too fragmented to compound into a precise analysis of this event. Welt Schmerz.


I wish English had the facility German does, that when a word doesn't exist, in German you can formulate it by compounding words together to create it. So 'Weltschmerz' is 'world sorrow' or 'Umweltverschmutzung' is 'environmental dirt' or what we call 'pollution'.
The advantage this allows is that it can contribute to tightening up the precision of our meaning, when the existing words just won't cut the mustard. Such compound words more often than not infuse the concept with a philosophical tinge, the nuance coming from the joining of separate words together that tinge and shade their partners in the compound.
However the downside of this being  that the high-minded philosophical bent can be at the expense of any metaphorical or imagistic tenor of the concept. 'Weltschmerz' sounds great, but the high-minded concept of world sorrow is somehow divorced from a poetic idea of a world sorrow and the two scarcely can coexist because the philosophical tenor comes over so strongly.  This is odd given german's direct descendence from Anglo-Saxon which contained the beautifully poetic Kennings which absolutely embodied the metaphorical and the figurative through the compounding of two separate words.
So I wanted to write a story that played up the differences of the compounded words and the metaphorical phrases. I also wanted to write a story about how the facility of compounding in a language could perhaps also determine character, personality and how one expresses oneself. And then I wanted to assert the triumph of the metaphorical over the philosophical and fracture the compound!

Hope this helps in explaining the madness that precedes it! 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Strings Attached - Rock'n'Roll With Strings

10 great pop and rock tunes, guitars and string sections in perfect harmony (sort of).


1) The Ramones - "Baby I Love You"
Kings the warp speed guitar punk slow it right down and get in a string orchestra to beef up the hollowness that would pertain otherwise.

2) Portishead - "Glory Box"
this one actually makes sense since Portishead's music was always suggestive of soundtracks for as yet unwritten movies and this works perfectly.

3) Rolling Stones - "As Tears Goes By"
The Stones had a few songs with lush classical accompaniment. I think it was more acceptable in the 60s when rock and roll was still trying to throw off the shackles of the establishment such as the BBC, when every entertainment programme seemed to employ a backing orchestra. Well it's all just music right?

4) Einsturzende Neubauten" - "Armenia"
I'm not sure if this counts because I don't think they ever played with an orchestra but simply took the tape of an Armenian folk song and um did their deconstructionist musical thing over the top of it. But this is my blog, my chart, my rules and they're one of my all time favourite bands!

5) Goldfrapp - "Clowns"
There's no doubt that a string section add textured lushness to what would otherwise be a very brittle song indeed.

6) Led Zeppelin - "Kashmir"
Bloated bombastic rock epic saved by classical strings. Actually that's not quite fair since the Arab tonal textures make it interesting enough.

7) Aerosmith - "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing"
See this is the problem with adding orchestras to hard rock bands, they believe it makes them all serious and respectable. Whatever happened to those who were enjoined to "Walk This Way?". In this song they're invited to sit down and take the weight off...

8) Massive Attack - "Unfinished Sympathy"
While heavy metal and punk bands glom on some strings either to lend credibility that they are making 'classic' music, or in an ironic fashion, Trip-Hop bands like Massive & Portishead who were mixing and weaving together different types of sounds in their tonal landscapes which meant that the strings sounded more organic and embedded into the ensemble. As in here. Boring video though.

9) The Verve - "The Drugs Don't Work"
The Verve's two biggest hits, this and "Bittersweet Symphony" both employed string sections. I can't even name any of their other songs, don't know if that says anything?

10) REM - "Everybody Hurts"
Lush, lush, lush and now not a description of Peter Buck allegedly in a plane...

Bonus Track - Lou Reed "Perfect Day
Perfect symbiosis, nothing more needs to be said. RIP Lou