Saturday, November 24, 2007

I wrote the review below for the forthcoming album by Aspen Woods, it's good you know. The album that is, not my writing.

Aspen Woods
New World Disorder

At last friends it time to take a trip in the company of Aspen Woods, it’s been a long time coming. Sit down, switch your phone off and step into lush sonic textures which the band have prepared for you.

It’s not a journey that should be rushed, here is an album where you can almost feel the songs stretching and inching their way into life, not that there is anything shy or self-effacing about them. Aspen Woods are rightly confident enough to know that they don’t need to barge their way into your life, the magnificent opening track “All Roads Lead Here” is case in point, gently chiming guitars and mournful keyboards blend with singer Lee Spinelli’s plaintive vocal for a full three minutes before the song reaches it’s emotional heartland, the song still has another five minutes to luxuriate it’s way through, the cobwebs of your beleaguered mind, yet it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

The same can be said of the rest of the album; of the remaining nine tracks none are less than six minutes long and for once that’s a good thing. However it would be a mistake to think that we are embarking on a purely gentle semi psychedelic journey.

Take the storming version of Harold Arlen’s 1929 classic “Get Happy”, they move the tune from it’s charming jazz gospel roots into wall shaking stomp of song which will send the Sunday afternoon Ella Fitzgerald fans running for their life. Following on from that is big sky epic “Passing Thoughts” a song just waiting for some film director to add it to scene when the guy makes his tear soaked journey away from the girl his loves but can’t be with. Not that the lyrics in the song have anything to do with that scene but the music which the band create is full of potent visual imagery, pick a song – make your own movie.

As with the works of Spiritualised there is a sense of spiritual yearning within the epic soundscapes that stops the album becoming merely an exercise in sonic dexterity. The messages behind songs such as “Drones” and the wondrous shimmering album closer “Outside In” clearly extol the virtues of self-determination and taking control of your own destiny. It’s a message that Aspen Woods themselves have followed, producing an album which can connect as strongly with the head as it does with the diaphragm during those monstrous fuzzy guitar journeys.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Last weekend was one of those busy but great ones that make you wish we could just have fun all the time and never need to go to work. On Saturday the my fellow Grumpy Man DJ's and I were asked to be part of splendid musical evening called "Oh the woe". It was arranged by the nice people from Scarlatti Tilt who played a live set, as did North Sea Navigator and Crippled Black Phoenix. We helped out by playing a few miserable tunes around the band time. The Folk was very pleasantly busy, the bands were great and seemed to enjoy what we did, it couldn't really have gone much better.
Prior to this I'd gone on a brief shopping trip with Orynthia and her mum and after a lot of months looking at pinstripe suits, I managed to snag a bargain by picking one up for only £45.00.We then stopped off at Attic the excellent Tea centric cafe at the top of our road, to have a little afternoon snack. It's really nice to have such a lovely place so close at hand.
On Sunday morning corralled the troops at Bryan Munich for our latest run out in the Bristol "old man's football league". The weather was pretty grim, we can't really complain though as it's ages since we to play in conditions which were anything less than lovely. The game ended 2-2 thanks to one of our chaps getting a very late equalising goal, a result which we deserved given the way we had played. After a quick match post-mortem in the bar, I nipped home before heading out to hook up with Orynthia and Crescentia at Paintworks where our friend Rich and his band Suzuki Boom Boom were playing a short set as part of the Totterdown Arts Trail.

We then grabbed some curry and rice from a stall in someone's front garden, before nipping to a friends house for tea and cake.

Tonight we heading to South Bristol to see an old friend. Martin Stephenson is playing in a new venue called The Thunderbolt, a trip down memory lane awaits us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Middle age or should that actually be old age arrived for me today. The weather was a tad nippy, I looked out from the house to see a small veneer of ice upon the car windscreen and thought to myself “ Why not wear a jumper underneath that suit jacket?” That’s not some trendy - no shirt and jumper arrangement, no I had a normal work type shirt, jumper and suit jacket triple-decker combo ensemble. The perfect look for the middle aged man about town, although I feel that I’m becoming more of a man about the sofa lately.

Having said that, I did have an out and about sort of weekend. Friday evening was spent in the company of some of my work colleagues in the dubious form of a Chinese karaoke restaurant. Another sign of old age was that in a huge number of cases I had absolutely no idea what the songs, which the enthusiastic youngsters were murdering were. Even though I like to play the music snob, until fairly recently I managed to keep a tentative ear on the mainstream and that’s no bad thing, sadly I can’t tell my Sugar Aloud from Girls Babes or what ever they are called.

On Saturday we attended the wedding of our friends Katja and Jon, and an unusual and enjoyable wedding it was to. After the ceremony in central Bristol we all boarded a classic London double-decker bus for a journey to Weston-Super-Mare. After a brief stop on the seafront and a quick wander around the pier, we made our way to the Helicopter Museum on the edge of W-S-M for the reception. Yes that’s right we spent the late afternoon and early evening in the company of some very nice people and lot’s and lot’s of helicopters. Orynthia made 70 + individual Cheesecakes for the buffet and rather splendid they were.

Last night was a Grumpy Man evening, which featured the excellent Nina Hynes an Irish performer who is now based in Berlin. Nina and her friend Fabien played a delightful set of 60’s inspired ethereal space pop, then due to a temporary shortage of Grumpy DJ’s I had to act out my DJ role for almost just over 2 hours. A little daunting but very enjoyable, strangely unlike my experience on Friday evening I could see quite a few people singing along to the tunes and this time I knew all the words as well.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Last week Nick Randall a 42 year old father of three that I’ve never met died of natural causes at the Bristol City match against Stoke, it cast a heavy cloud over what was another good performance from the reds. The subject of his death has cropped up a lot on the forums that are populated by City fans. His wife has taken to writing on the forum to say how moved she has be been by the kinds words about her partner, thankfully the club appear to be doing all they can to help her and her sons through what must be an appalling time.

From what I’ve read the response from fans of Bristol Rovers and City’s opponents at Wolverhampton today has been fantastic as well. On Tuesday evening City play their 1st home game since the tragic events of last Saturday and Nick’s passing is going to be marked before the game, in what is bound to be an emotional evening for his family, friends and all of those that are at the match.

So why does his passing touch so many people in such a way? We hear of people dying everyday on the news and yet the fact that he went to watch the same team as me and thousands of other people brings it that much closer to home. The Hillsborough disaster was the first time I remember being really affected by the death of people that I didn’t know, although City never played in front of the sort of crowds that caused that sort of incident, I’d been to many games of football where way too many people were crammed into too small a space. I think the realisation hit me that it didn’t matter that I was able to avoid the hooligans who tarnished the name of us football fans for so long, I could still go to match and never come home again.

That’s what happened to Nick Randall last week, from what I understand at least one of his kids was at the game with him. How do you get over something like that? Imagine knowing that around 15,000 people had been there when your dad died and no one could stop it happening (although the medical staff and stewards at the ground did absolutely all they could for him). At least we as football fans can show that even though we are often dismissed as thugs and hooligans we do have a human side and we know that football is a unifying factor not a divisive one. I know that a tear or two will roll down my check, but I hope to be proud to be part of a community, which shows that we care for the well being of not just our friends but everyone that shares the enjoyment that the game can bring us.

On a similar theme, tonight we went to the film “And when did your last see your father”. This account of Blake Morrison’s fractious relationship with his dying father was beautifully observed and once again had me complaining about the leaky nature of cinema ceilings in Bristol, even if it wasn’t raining! The crowd in the cinema were, shall we say mature and Orynthia pointed out to me that I might have been one of the few people there whose father was still alive. I hope that he stays with us for many more years.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

We've been enjoying an autumnal run of weddings recently with one more to come in a couple of weeks time. Weddings always make us laugh because our minds turn back to our own somewhat chaotic one in 1987. We were amongst the first of our friends to take the trip up the aisle and consequently we had very little idea of the way a wedding should run. To make things more interesting I was part of the BT workforce which was on strike, so our finances were somewhat limited.

It was a beg and borrow type wedding, Orynthia's sister made the dress,the venue for the reception was arranged on the cheap through out then brother-in-laws connections, the car came from my dads company, an uncle provide the unintentionally hilarious video. The affable chap who conducted the service had never taken a wedding service before and forgot to sign the marriage certificate, the best man had a sudden attack of nerves and dried up completely when speech time came around.

We didn't have a first dance, lucky really as the music was dreadful and we've no idea where the DJ came from. Strangely the dancing was interrupted when a very competitive limbo and skipping contest cleared the floor for a while. In the evening rather than have a big party we went (with a few friends) to see Elvis Costello at the Colston Hall and lovely man that he is, he played a song for us - I'll Wear It Proudly

I hate these flaming curtains they’re not the color of your hair
I hate these striplights they’re not so undoing as your stare
I hate the buttons on your shirt when all I wanna do is tear
I hate this bloody big bed of mine when you’re not here

Well I finally found someone to turn me upside down
And nail my feet up where my head should be
If they had a King of Fools then I could wear that crown
And you can all die laughing because I’ll wear it proudly

Well you seem to be shivering dear and the room is awfully warm
In the white and scarlet billows that subside beyond the storm
You have this expression dear no words could take its place
And I wear it like a badge that you put all over my face


I’ll wear it proudly through the dives and the dancehalls
If you’ll wear it proudly through the snakepits and catcalls
Like a fifteen year old kid wears a vampire kiss
If you don’t know what is wrong with me
Then you don’t know what you’ve missed

We are arms and legs wrapped round more than my memory tonight
When the bell rang out and the air outside turned blue from fright
But in shameless moments you made more of me than just a mess
And a handful of eagerness says “What do you suggest?”


Which was great, but I've never actually worn a wedding ring as I don't feel comfortable with any sort of jewellery, not that the song is necessarily about a ring. Having said that we and hopefully everyone else who was there had a fantastic time and lot's of laughs along the way.

I'm pleased to say that the weddings we've been to recently have been equally off the cuff and enjoyable, we've got one more to attend in a couple of weekends time and the reception for that one is being held in a hanger at the Helicopter museum near Weston-Super-Mare, so that should be interesting!

Aside from all this talk of weddings, I'm pleased to say that I actually managed to buy some music in a shop in Bristol last week. Faced with a wait of a few hours whilst our car was being serviced I decided to take a leisurely walk from Brislington back into central Bristol, stopping off briefly at The Lounge in Totterdown for a rather pleasant breakfast. From there I walked into broadmead in search of the latest album by Swedish genius Jens Lekman which is entitled Night Falls Over Kortedala.

To be honest I wasn't sure how I would get on given the dearth of decent music shops in Bristol these days, Virgin was my first port of call but although they had a Jens Lekman header board there was no sign of any albums from him, Next I went along to HMV and joy of joys they not only had it but it was resonably priced, in addition I was able to pick up the new album from Canadian band Stars aswell as the most recent Rufus Wainwright album and a Penguin Cafe Orchestra comp.