Advent 2008: Window 4

I am be-fogging your mind! This is The Brain, and I bear a message for all you simple-minded fools during this time. Yes!

2007 Round Up: Johnny Boy

And I just can't help believing though believing sees me cursed

My music journalist dalliance came to an end this year, but before it did, I received a tip from Simon Sweeping The Nation about an advert in The Word. Getting hold of a copy, I rifled through the magazine, and there, just below Kieron's quote, was a line taken from my review of Johnny Boy's album. Yeah! Yeah! There was no better way to end my short stint as a music hack.

It's now almost two years since the album came out, nearly four since You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve was released. And it still sounds like Tomorrow; Phil Spector stretched out to Infinity and shackled to a anti-capitalist polemic; Karl Marx to the beat. Stars shooting off overhead as Lolly and Davo, our two heroes, make their hopeless final stand. Who are these guys?

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!

It's still my favourite song of the decade. And one of my favourites of all time. The subtle pans in stereo as the fireworks shoot through your headphones, the romantic cynicism, the moments between the verses and chorus where the Wall of Sound is twisted and bounced beyond all recognition. This frequency's my universe indeed.

The album was never going to be able to live up to the promise of that one song, so what did the band do? Stick it on as the first track. That's balls-to-the-walls gutsiness. Shoot straight, you bastards! Following that, you're immediately thrown into Wall Street, a Bond soundtrack where Gordon Gekko is caught in a three-way with Saint Etienne and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. There's 15 Minutes which is (Love Is Like A) Heatwave chopped into pieces and served with Ecstasy, and then there's Livin' In The City, a celebration of the two industrial powerhouses of the North, Sheffield and Manchester, Factory and the British Electric Foundation. They may not reach the incredible heights of the beginning, but they get damn close.

They have a tendency to be a little too serious, though the Rockabilly/Hip-Hop melding of Bonnie Parker's 115th Dream never fails to raise a smile. And then, finally, as if there could be an end, the band returns to Spector, to Be My Baby, to Mean Streets, to Johnny Boy. His theme, his story, the only way it could end.We're your friends, Johnny, what's got into you? Blasted into the black, bodies littering the street as a taxi sounds in the distance.

The Poptimist within me wanted them emblazoned over the world, playing Top of The Pops with glitter falling from the ceiling as You Are The Generation... reaches Christmas #1, 15 Minutes soundtracking The Doctor as he rushes through to save the Universe, yeah! yeah!. But it was not to be. Yet every few months, I get a request from somebody on the Internet, somebody new who wants to find out more about the band. On those occasions, I feel like King Mob. So I still win. Learn To Be Invisible.

Is it my album of the year? Probably. But I now own three copies of it spread over two years (the original Swedish version, the Japanese digi-pak, and yes, the UK release), so I'm taking it out of the running this year. To give everybody else a chance.

Democracy At Work

“We would never suggest that he appeals to the Supreme Court and get Party allies to issue a one-time only court decision that hands him power. That would just be wrong.”

Meanwhile, back in PrimaryLand, things are starting to get interesting (honest!). If only in the Republican contest, where Mike Huckabee’s recent surge in the polls threatens to make next year’s Republican Party Convention a rather enticing affair (and not just to see if Zell Miller tries to attack Chris Matthews again). The basic theory is supposedly this: Giuliani can’t win the New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina primaries, so he’s already pretty much ceded them to Romney. Instead, he intends to pick up enough delegates to secure the nomination on Super Duper Tuesday (you really need Mario to shout that). Now, this is a common gambit in primaries, and it also has a common outcome: total, laughable failure. However, there’s so many states taking part in the 5 February elections that it might just be possible this time around. But if Huckabee manages to take a few off him (and Giuliani can’t be helped by this week’s revelations about his creative accounting during his time as Mayor), we could have a floor fight. Which would be fun. Meanwhile, Ron Paul continues to fool the libertarian wing of Slashdot and Digg to part with their money, and for this he is to be applauded.

(Interlude: Hey, Guess What? The Traitorous Left Was Right Again!)

On the other side, it’s a little more pedestrian. Hillary Clinton seems to be unstoppable, but then, so was Howard Dean back in 2004, and look what happened to him. My ideal pairing would be Clinton/Obama. A woman and a black man! And they’ll throw in Bill Clinton as the first First Husband as well! How could they possibly lose? As long as somebody stops the South from voting…

(Back here, it’s faintly amusing to see Labour running the Tory 1992-1997 term at 5x speed, but I’m not looking forward to the punchline at the end this time around…)

currently playing: ABC – All of My Heart

Advent 2008: Window 3

It’s Day 3 of the Snappish Thoughts Advent Calendar, and we’re still drowning in Title Case and Nostalgia. This time it’s a comic from the 1980s, a Spider-Man Annual no less, featuring Spider-Man (no, really?) and Arno Stark, Iron Man of 2020. This was originally serialised in Britain in the back of Transformers UK, and the final few pages were rather bleak for an impressionable eight-year-old.

Years later, I discovered that the credits on the story were a fabrication. The comic was actually written by Jim Owsley, who would later change has name to Christopher Priest (not the sci-fi author) and writer of titles such as Xer0 and Black Panther (still the best attempt to meld The West Wing with the fantastic world of the superhero. Sadly, Marvel only printed the first twelve issues in trade paperback, and even they're long out of print). Being a fan, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that he wrote one of my favourite Spider-Man stories ten years before I started following him.

(To read the comic, you'll ideally need a reader application like CDisplay. Failing that, rename the file to have a .zip extension and you can extract the images out of the archive)

Window 3: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #20

Advent 2008: Window 2

For our second trip to the Advent Calendar, we’re going back in time, to TV-am and getting up at 7am to watch Christmas cartoons. Or, more likely, taping the movie shown at 4am and seeing it at a more reasonable time of day. And On…And On…

(for those interested in Ocean trivia - yes the music is from Robocop (the Gameboy version), and the composer, Jonathan Dunn, got nothing from its use here. The advert itself is ‘inspired’ by Zbig Rybczynski’s Oscar-winning “Tango” short, which I would link to, but I can’t find a copy online)


For Advent, I’ve switched on the job queue feature of Movable Type 4 so I can schedule entries. One rather unpleasant side-effect (which I don’t think is present in WordPress) is that the blog checks for new events every ten minutes, so if you post a comment, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t show up right away.

currently playing: ABC – That Was Then But This Is Now

Advent 2008: Window 1

And who’s the first to come through our chimney? Why it’s Brian Higgins and his gang of Xenomaniacs!

“Ho, ho, ho! I’ve brought a wonderful surprise! A Kylie Minogue b-side and, because you’ve all been so good this year, our remix of Kenickie’s Stay In The Sun! Now, if you don’t mind, I have to go back to the studio and untangle our next hit! Ho ho ho!”

Teething Difficulties


One Step Forward

I have MovableType 4 installed. Current damage seems to be limited to the comment template. which I’ll try to have a look at during the weekend.

I was also promising a new design, but I’m concerned that my Futura-heavy idea is a little behind the times these days. Back to the drawing board…

Also, I seem to be having a few troubles with Dreamhost and Gmail. I can’t log into Gmail at all right now, and Dreamhost is about 24 hours behind on forwarding mail to my account. So if I’m a little tardy in replying, I swear it’s not my fault…

Update: Gmail seems to be back, so if you want to mail there, I’ll get the message a lot quicker!

currently playing: Radiohead – Just


Richard Herring and Stewart Lee: don’t make any plans for TV…