Monday, September 20, 2010

Creative writing snippet - Eldritch horror on the line?

I've handed in my first creative writing assignment - 200 odd words of free writing with only the start dictated by the tutor.

It's only gone through one rewrite so it's pretty raw, and proof that when all else fails I can always write bad science fiction about telephone trauma. :-)

All constructive feedback welcome.
He had hardly waited five minutes when the phone rang. Once, twice, its baleful analogue bleep passing out through the smashed glass of the booth, breaking the quiet of the small-hours side-road.
The man, swathed in hat and jacket and scarf, balances a notebook atop the telephone. Pen in right hand, he grabs for the receiver with over-haste, like a drunk reaches for the shot-glass.
He lifts it to his ear and speaks a word you do not understand. Then another, then a whole chain of nonsense syllables from which names periodically emerge: Washington; McAfferty; Kabul. Devoid of context, they float in the air, erased signs.
At length, the man finishes his … report? Recitiation? Ritual? In the phone box, there is a moment's silence as the unseen auditor digests it. Then, a hiss of static and an ululation like a thousand theremin echo from the speaker around the graffiti and steel of the booth.
The voice speaks.
Not bothering to modulate itself for private conversation … or indeed human hearing … each syllable drops in tones of crashing, contemptful lead onto the listener and out into the nighttime street.
The man in the booth reels in dismay at the exchange, buckles, scrabbles at the walls with his free hand like a cat down curtains. Yet he cannot let go of the receiver.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Britpop Nuggets? Your thoughts please!

Following on from reading Phonogram's look back in wistfulness (sorry - couldn't resist) at the so-called Britpop years, it got me thinking. If you stripped away the cliches, ignored the mediocrity and the Blur/Oasis shenanigans, was there enough decent music to justify a compilation? Something akin to the classic singles complilations like the famous Nuggets, which document the unheard treasures of psychedelia and garage?

It's much harder to find real obscurities, but here's my play-list of Britpop nuggets with links where I can find them. All the bands mentioned were either explicitly affiliated with Britpop, helped unwittingly bring it into existence or found themselves affected by it in some sense.

Ahem. Do feel free to suggest your own additions. And links, ladies and gents, links!

Pulp - My Legendary Girlfriend

Only one of two first division 'Britpop' bands, commercially speaking, included here. And this disco oddity dates just from the start of their rise and reminds me what a unique and brave band they were.

Corduroy - London, England.

Giving a good name to parochialism. And arguably out-Blurs you-know-who during their Parklife pomp.

Stereolab - Ping Pong

Retro-futurism par excellence, this was Stereolab's almost-hit and occasionally made a appearance on the better class of Britpop dancefloor. Too political for what was essentially an apolitical (and therefore small 'c' conservative) musical movement.

The Boo Radleys - Thinking of Ways

Ah, my third band I really fell for (after the Pet Shop Boys and REM). And the first to introduce me to the joys of beauty and noise juxtaposed. Not to be judged by the hit, fine as it was.

How come the Flaming Lips get all the credit when the Boos were doing the fragile psych ballad thing too?

Teenage Fanclub - Neil Jung

Guilty by association with Britpop through Creation records, the Fannies kept on turning out excellent singles like this.

Elastica - Blue

There's an awesome acoustic demo version of this, but the plugged-in version will have to do. One of the best bad-but-sweet sex songs which constitute the Elastica oeuvre. Great harmonies, sez my inner Mojo reader.

Super Furry Animals - Hermann Loves Pauline

Okay, so the chorus is basically Blackberry Way by the Move, but we have to salute one of the few bands inventive enough to emerge from the ashes of Creation intact.

Ride - Leave Them All Behind

In retrospect, it's hard not to see this stadium shoe-gaze as one of the signposts towards the misguided epic tendencies of Oasis, The Verve and the irony-free end of Britpop. Especially given Andy Bell's later status as a Gallagher hired-hand.

The Auteurs - Chinese Bakery

One from the sweeter end of Britpop's own Lou Reed

Shack - Streets of Kenny

'Cosmic scouse' elder statesmen - check! Included instead of The La's (too obvious) or Cast (shudder - do you know they are doing a fifteenth anniversary tour of All Change? I'm tempted to picket the Birmingham date with a placard saying 'shame on you'. This is exactly what Phonogram was on about when it was laying into nostalgia)

Black Grape - Kelly's Heroes

Demonstrating that the prolongation of certain Madchester careers wasn't all bad if it enabled Shaun and co to do to this in band #2

St Etienne - You're In A Bad Way

Included because 'teh Et''s Electro-Mod pomp coincided with the rise of Britpop. Unfortunately also epitomised the sexism inherent in the times, with front-woman Sarah Cracknell getting much more attention in the music press than the tunes.

Mike Flowers Pops - Wonderwall

And what better way to end than this Dada-ist protest on the absurdity that Britpop became.

Review - Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieran Gillan and Jamie McKelvie

Phonogram is a sly commentary on the Britpop years (1992-1998, at a pinch) with a dash of magic realism thrown in for good measure.

It looks back to when the retro-futurist strain of indie - drawing on mod, New Wave and both summers of love for its music and fashion cues - made it unexpectedly big. As is the way of trends, Britpop then become creatively bankrupt pretty much as soon as the name was coined. It sometimes led to literal bankruptcy, such as in the case of the Creation record label.

A whole tranche of bands - some deservedly, others tragically - were drawn down into a Sarlacc Pit of mediocrity, commercialism and Gallagheriana.

That Phonogram tells this story using the device of a 'phonomancer' (a magician of music) exploring the memory kingdom of Britpop with Luke Haines of the Auteurs acting as Virgil to his Dante not only adds to its charm. More, it lifts it out of being merely illustrated music journalism to being a wise, funny meditation on the perils and seductions of nostalgia.

I suspect it's readership will be confined mainly to men of a certain age - but at least it will unite music and comic nerds.