Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I am in a secret location in New York city which cannot be revealed at any cost. Already I have hatched some serious schemes and judged this great nation as only the Englishman can. The freedom eagle's belly is ripe for tickling, and I have a feather that is up to the task.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

NME Chart Show

Having grown up with the ITV Chart Show as my only real source of pop videos (that being: one hour a week, slavishly watched no matter how bad it was the previous week), nothing puts me in a cosier frame of mind than a top ten of music videos. Fortune must favour the easily pleased, as every night I can watch the NME Chart Show (MTV 2, 7pm).

Since I haven't read the NME for several years, I am unschooled in what their tastemakers suggest viewers vote for on the MTV2 website. So the chart is generally a nice surprise when I catch it. Indie music invariably marches to one or two different drums at any time, with a few incongruities thrown in to confuse and bemuse (usually foreigners of import). It was like that in 1991, when every song on the indie chart was entitled the "Hypnoflowerlovewheel (Forever) EP", and today of course there is a general leaning toward young men with wiry arms in polo shirts playing their guitars quickly.

The music video is arguably a distraction from a song. In some cases, it improves your view of the music - I doubt anyone would have clasped their hands in rapt joy at the White Stripes' phoned-in "My Doorbell" if the video wasn't a charming period tour de force. On the other hand, the sight of Hard-Fi's eminently slappable singer renders me utterly furious.

What is on the chart this week? I know, i know!

10. Clor – 'Good Stuff'
I was washing up when this was on.

9. Hard-Fi – 'Living For The Weekend'
This is music aimed at the youth market, or as some people call it, "London". Male model fronts faceless shape-formers.

8. Mystery Jets – 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis'
This is brilliant! They are trying to pretend that the old chap in the video isn't in the band, but I saw them live, and he was.

7. The Subways – 'With You'
That chap from the Vines has asperger's syndrome and is too plum crazy to tour. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Subways. Awful.

6. Sigur Ros – 'Glosoli'
This looks like a ringer to me! I can't imagine that the kids are sitting at home, thinking, what I need to vote for is some Icelandic post rock sung in a made up language. These chaps are signed to Parlophone now, who anticipate big returns. Some say "cocaine" is a problem in the music industry!

5. We Are Scientists – 'The Great Escape'
Or rather "We Wish We Were The Killers". I wish the Killers weren't the Killers.

4. Franz Ferdinand – 'Do You Want To'
The best British indie single for years! I can't buy the album because there's no way it can touch this.

3. Editors – 'Bullets'
The best British indie single for years! I can't buy the album because there's no way it can touch this pt 2.

2. Bloc Party – 'Two More Years'
Someone, soon, has to come out and say it: the most boring, pedestrian band plying their trade at the top level today. No melodies, no excitement, flat singing. They look great though!

1. Arctic Monkeys – 'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor'
WHAT IS THIS? WHAT IS THIS THING? Video recorded on an audio tape; four lost schoolboys, frightened for their lives. I can't tell whether this is genius on the level of Pavement's early singles or a guileless stumble into a state of musical grace. Something is happening here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A sleever is a straight sided glass.

Quite often people write to me and say that if they meet me, they would like to buy me a drink. It's a really nice thing to say, a gesture of bonhomie in an old-fashioned way.

So why is it that I always want to write back, "please can I just have the money?" What a terrible person I am.

No, but seriously, think about it, that's a lot of money if you add it up, and I'm not going to get any work done later if I have a drink now. My body chemicals will be all out of kilter, I won't be able to concentrate and I'll want to have a nap. That means I won't be able to go to sleep at bedtime and I won't be able to concentrate properly until 5 o'clock the next day, by which point I'll be so frustrated that I won't want to do anything. Do you see the problem? Plus I'll feel sort of obligated to you for the drink.

How about, if you ever meet me, you buy me a postcard from your home town and a button badge you think I might like. That's not too extravagant. It expresses gratitude and pan-continental friendship, a coming together over a rectangle and a circle.

All right, wait, I might be talking myself out of some good times here. How about, if you're a pretty lady on the go*, you buy me the postcard, and the button badge, and a drink, and I'll buy you a drink and write you a poem about orange blossom near an ornamental pond. Here's how it would work:

"Hello John it is me, the cute little doctor lady from House, here are the button badge and postcard and etc".

"Well thank you and how very interesting"

"Is it time for the poem"

"Alas no because the postcard is of a unicorn frolicing with a furry dog woman in a thong and you have a skeleton hand"

"True love dies hard on jagged rocks, Johnny"

"Goodbye House doctor girl, this was a tender and terrifying moment".

* The offer is never from a "pretty lady on the go" but stick with me, I am hitting my stride here

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google Blog search is powered by aliens

While being self-employed is obviously a. a bed of roses and b. a bowl of cherries, in order to take a week off, you have to do all the work for that week in advance. Or rather, if you are obsessively contientious, you do it all in advance. For this reason, in anticipation of eight days spent mostly scratching my back-side in the land of the free, I am trying to get a lot done. I realised this afternoon that I hadn't spent any time with an actual human being since last Thursday evening (going to the shop doesn't count, going to the garage doesn't count, going to Allied Carpets doesn't count).

Assume the Edvard Munch "Scream" position, I think I might be going mad. Pretty soon, I'll be like Cartilage Head, dancing a Cab Calloway routine of silent despair.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Ashes

I think I started watching cricket in 1992 or '93, pretty much the nadir of the modern era for England's team. In those days, all England players were called Graham. There was Graham Gooch, Graham Hick, dewy-eyed debutant Graham Thorpe, and of course larrikin paceman Graham Trombone*. Even though the standard of Grahams was desperately low, I found the soothing pace of the five-day game very pleasing to my brain. And when the team went overseas to the West Indies or South Africa, you could leave the radio on BBC Radio 4 longwave all night, and wake up from strange dreams to hear what awful deeds tall foreign men had wrought on "our boys". Invariably, someone would be blowing on a conch shell.

So to win the Ashes today was in one sense very exciting. I know people around the country have apparently suddenly discovered that cricket is okay, and that they can watch it and pretend to know what the rules are. I've been watching it for 13 years and I don't know where "silly mid-on" is. It doesn't matter. I don't know which side is "leg" and which one is "off". But I was always pleased that some people didn't get it. Everyone I knew who was worth a shake got it.

You don't need to be a sports bore to watch test cricket, because it all happens so slowly. You get to know the players, and like a soap opera, you get to like them. Shane Warne may be a tubby and boorish Aussie, but he's been coming into my home for more than a decade and he's never stunk the joint out. That's not the Warne way. Cricket is a reality show where you like all the contestants, and they don't outstay their welcome.

When I tired of football's nebbish prima donnas in the late 90s, cricket didn't pall, so while I was happy to win the Ashes, i was sad because it's the end of live cricket on free-to-air TV. Sky Sports' cricket coverage is woeful and I wouldn't pay for the channel just for that. So today marked the end of something I really enjoyed. I doubt I'm the only person who felt like this.

Like George Costanza, I believe in always going out on a high. But for me and the summer game, the high was never really the point.

* Not a real player

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Johnsons Go!

Last night was the Mercury Music Prize, the prize for the most toe-tapping British album. Like all prizes it is kind of meaningless and it is often won by the wrong person. But this year I was gripped by a powerful feeling that it would be won by faux-Britons Antony & The Johnsons. I deduced this by dividing column inches by volume of critical slaver. This was a clear opportunity for me to place a bet.

A bet I then put off making, repeatedly, for weeks.

Fortunately yesterday afternoon I remembered, but then struggled with my drawing so much that I had to have a nap. When I woke up, I was full of artistic fire. So much fire that I forgot to go on the William Hill website and bet.

At about 11pm I discovered that I had every right to be smug, because old Antony and his Nina Simone-style warbling had won. But oh dear, I had done myself out of £150 (I intended to place a £30 stake, because I am a high roller). So, in essence, I worked so hard on comics that I did myself out of £150.

You ask: John, how can I make this right? How can we heal the hurt inside? The answer is, you don't have to, because my Mercury Prize favourite, the Go! Team, already made me feel that everything is right with the world. Here is the video for their single, I showed it to Jeff Rowland and he said it made him want to throw a rock at a dog. You decide.

"Bottlerocket" video.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

It is a new golden age

With age comes wisdom, they say, and at 28 i am able to tell that we are in a new musical golden age. Good jams getting recognition. Back in 1994 I thought we would always have it so good: IT DID NOT LAST. I think this week might be the peak of this newfound golden era, my copy of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has arrived in the post, the Arcade Fire have reached the dizzying height of #45 on the UK album chart, and the following picture of Goldfrapp was seen on the Internet:

That is what popular music that is in the charts should look like. Rome is about to fall, so enjoy it while it lasts.