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31 October 2006

between swindon and brighton

current listening: isobel campbell - milkwhite sheets

after nottingham came swindon and then after swindon came plymouth. i think these were probably my favourite shows of the tour so far. not that i didn't enjoy the shows before or after that, but there was something about these three shows that was really special. and someone threw knickers at us.

cardiff was good too, but i'd eaten a bit too much before the show so i felt quite fat on stage. then after cardiff came reading. i really enjoyed reading too. but i've always liked playing in reading for some reason. i decided not to eat before i went onstage. it seemed to help with the whole feeling fat thing.

i went record shopping with pete and rob in the morning of the cardiff show. went to spillers. i bought the cansei de ser sexy album. i know i know, everyone else bought it months ago but i'm a bit slow sometimes. pete bought the new isobel campbell album which i'm listening to at the moment. and that sounds really lovely. i'd already heard bits of it because some of the tracks were on the o love is teasin album club cd thing that i got when i bought the ballad of the broken seas album. and i picked up a copy of the new cd86 compilation, which i listened to on the way down to plymouth. it's good i guess. some really good stuff on there. a lot of things that were on my twentieth anniversary of c86 compilation that i was making for myself. particularly 'golden showers' by the boy hairdressers and 'on tape' by the pooh sticks. but there's some weird stuff on there. stuff that came out long after the c86 compilation. it's not a problem really it just makes it a bit confusing. and if they were going to include 'anorak city' by another sunny day and 'pristine christine' then they should have put the field mice and other stuff that came out after the c86 compilation on there too. and miaow aren't on there, and they were on the original compilation. and and. talulah gosh was spelt wrong on the back cover of the sleeve. it's the little things.

we're in brighton tonight. nice to be by the sea and all that.


24 October 2006

between aberdeen and nottingham

current listening: treecreeper - grain

a lot has happened in the last week or so. and now i have to try and remember everything.

we've been on tour with razorlight this last week. which has been really fun. we're back off to nottingham again this afternoon. and i can't stop watching late night quiz shows. the ones that run between midnight and five in the morning. the ones where people call in and have to guess a word that completes a well known phrase or have to solve a riddle or something. the ones which no one ever seems to actually win. i'm obsessed with them. at the same time as being deeply suspicious of them. i introduced adam and rob to make your play on itv after the aberdeen show. the particular game required viewers to ring in with a well known phrase or word that started with the word "hand". the word "hand" could be part of another word or the first word in a particular phrase. i think they thought it seemed like quite a boring idea for a tv show at first, but by four o clock in the morning they were as excited as i was every time the studio phone rang. there were two answers on the board out of seven. "hand luggage" and "hand cream". we had our own ideas about things that it could be. i think our favourites were "hand me down", "hand in glove" and "hand held", but no one rang into suggest any of these. a lot of callers did however keep suggesting the word "handsome". and my favourite suggestion of the night came when someone called in with the answer "hand brush". i have no idea what a hand brush is. i don't know anyone who has a brush specifically for brushing their hands. come to think of it i don't know anyone who brushes their hands. in the end i fell asleep before i could find out what the words were. this often happens. i will stay up until three or four o clock in the morning watching make your play, making a list of all the words or phrases that i think are likely to come up and then i'll fall asleep before the programme finishes and before i can find out the answers. the next night in hull we stayed up again afterwards to watch it. this time the word or phrase that we were looking for began with the two letter word "up". within the first twenty minutes two answers out of seven had already been revealed. "up periscope" and "up" something else that i can't remember. again we had our own favourite possible answers. "upholstery", "upsy daisy" and "up the ante". and we paid adam cash to ring in for us because he was the only one of us with any reception on his phone in the hotel. he rang in seven times but never got through. i guess you have to call in more times than that to actually get through to the studio. anyway, i fell asleep before the end of the programme again and having never made it through to the end of the programme before, i assumed that they didn't reveal the answers at the end of the show, just because they never used to on quizmania, the quiz show that used to be on between midnight and five o clock in the morning. so imagine my surprise and excitement the next day when rob and adam came up to me at breakfast with the news that on make your play they reveal the answers when the word puzzle runs out of time. not only that but they'd also persuaded stef to record the last ten minutes of the previous night's show on his laptop so i would finally learn which other words or phrases beginning with the word "up" were there in the puzzle. none of our three top possibilities were in there. the top answer was "upper circle". only one of our answers was in there and that was the phrase "up field". but i don't think we would have suggested that even if we had got through. we had our hearts set on "upholstery".

i bought some new cds last week too and i've been listening to a lot of new things on my ipod on the bus so i thought i'd mention them. i finally got a finished copy of the new album by treecreeper. i’ve had a copy of the unmastered album for a while now but as it’s released this week i thought i’d mention it. it’s such a beautiful beautiful record. if you only buy one alt country record this year, make sure it’s grain by treecreeper. and me and pete get a thank you on the record, which i think is the first time that's ever happened. exciting. it's album of the week in the rough trade shops this week too, which i think is the only place you can buy it at the moment and so i've inserted a link in case anyone wants to know how to get hold of it. this is the link to buy it from the rough trade shop.

and i've been listening to a new song that i downloaded from the we show up on radar myspace page. it's really lovely. it's attention to the little details reminds me of joanna newsom and it's all delicate and careful to begin with and then ends up all big and orchestral and swelling. it's called 'the feeling i'm without you (is a very bad feeling)' and it can be downloaded from their myspace page which you can go to by clicking on the words in blue. if you click on the blue word treecreeper it takes you to their myspace page. yes, i am teaching myself very basic html code.

and i've been listening a lot to a couple of solo albums made by two members of two of my favourite bands. firstly, the new album by nicky wire, which is a big mess of a record in all the best ways. it reminds me of the jesus and mary chain and lots of other shambolic C86 bands. 'break my heart slowly' keeps reminding me of 'pristine christine' by the sea urchins. and i like the quote that begins the song...

"it's scary to watch someone you love go into the centre of himself and confront his fears... fear of failure, fear of death, fear of going insane. you have to fail a little, die a little, go insane a little to come out the other side."

i like that. and i think the album is brilliant. a nice surprise. something that wasn't a nice surprise was 'leaving songs' by stuart a staples. not because it wasn’'t nice or because i didn't like it. but just because it wasn't a surprise. i knew it would be beautiful. i don't know why it took me so long to buy it. the duet with maria mckee is one of the best things he's ever done. it's a lovely thing to listen to as you stare out of the window driving up through scotland.

and i bought 'hallways and always' by william elliot whitmore and jenny hoyston from erase erata, so i've been listening to that a bit. and the new bright eyes rarities compilation. but i haven't listened to that enough to write about it yet.

i've just got off the phone from doing a phone interview with the japanese magazine cookie scene and now i'm late and i have to leave for nottingham, but i'll try and post something more exciting in the next couple of days. a big thank you to all the razorlight fans at the shows for being so nice to us so far. and a big thank you to andy from razorlight for getting me some cider added to our rider. i would be lost without it. well, maybe not lost. just sober.


07 October 2006

top five things i shouldn't really be thinking about when i should be writing songs for our next album.

current listening: bonnie prince billy – the letting go

so for the past month or two we’ve been writing songs for the next album. and we’ll be writing songs for the next couple of months as well. we already had quite a few songs written for the album before now. songs that we’ve written over the last couple of years. so i’m tidying them up and writing new lyrics for new songs too. it hasn’t been easy, but i guess it wasn’t easy to write the first album. i think i just keep forgetting how hard it was to write the first album because it seems so long ago that we recorded it.

writing for me involves a lot of sitting on the floor and staring into space. and a lot of watching tv and reading books and going back over books i’ve read and films i like. although that doesn’t always help, sometimes that doesn’t do anything at all. i guess inspiration or whatever it is usually comes from somewhere unexpected, either that or it doesn’t come at all. i don’t completely know what this next record is going to be about, but then i didn’t know what the first record was about until i read all the reviews of it. it’s probably better if i don’t try and make it about something. we didn’t try and make the best party ever about anything in particular, it just happened that when we came to put all the songs together there seemed to be a theme and a vague narrative arc to it. i think i know what the next album will be called. it’s had the same title for a year or so now, but it might still change. things are always open to change right up until the last minute. and sometimes even after the last minute. pete knows me well enough to expect me to come in the day after we’ve recorded a vocal and tell him i’ve changed the words in the second chorus and that we’ll have to record the vocals all over again. i did that with at least half of the songs on the last album. i’m going to try not to do it this time though because it annoys me as much as it does him to have to rerecord a vocal take.

sometimes though i just sit staring at my notepad and i have absolutely nothing in my head at all. it’s at times like this that i often worry that i have some sort of brain disease that makes me forget words and thoughts, or that i used all the words i know in the first album and that i haven’t got any left for the second one. sometimes though i don’t worry about it, and i just do something else instead. and so it is today that i’m just sitting here wanting to write something but knowing that it’s just one of those days when i’ve got nothing, and instead of worrying that it might be because of a brain disease i decided to make a list of my top five buffy the vampire slayer episodes. and then maybe when i’ve done that i’ll be ready to write something for the next album that really needs to be finished soon. if pete reads this he’ll probably say something sarcastic like “good to see you haven’t been just wasting your time when you should have been working on the words for the next album.” but pete never reads my weblogs so he’ll never know.

my notepad by the way is green for this album. it’s the same sort of notepad that i always use. a europa a5 notemaker, feint ruled, 60 leaves microperfed for easy removal. i don’t think that ‘microperfed’ is actually a real word, but that’s what it says on the front of the pad. i had a yellow one and a red one for the last album. and all the b sides were written in a blue one. fascinating.

so here it is. top five buffy the vampire slayer episodes. in no particular order. and for no particular reason.

i was made to love you. i like robots. i like the idea of them. not sexbots though. i don’t like sexbots. i just like robots. this is the episode with april the robot in. warren made her to be his perfect girlfriend and then when he leaves her she comes to sunnydale to find him. and when he tells her he doesn’t love her anymore she doesn’t understand what she did wrong, because she’d always tried to be the perfect girlfriend. i think this is one of the saddest episodes, especially the bit at the end when april the robot’s batteries are running down and she says “when things are sad... you just have to be patient. because... because every... cloud has a silver lining. and... when life... gives you lemons... make... lemonade.” i always wanted to sample that bit of dialogue for the best party ever, to go between two of the songs, but i guess i just never got round to sorting it out. and then the episode ends with buffy coming home and finding her mum lying dead on the couch. all a bit too sad really.

becoming part two. i think this episode is probably just as sad as ‘i was made to love you’. it’s the episode that ends season two where angel as angelus has reawakened acathla and opened a vortex to hell. and willow attempts a re-ensoulment curse from the hospital while buffy and angelus fight. willow's curse works but it’s too late and acathla has already been reawakened and the only way to close the vortex is to kill angel. so as soon as his soul is returned to him, buffy has to drive a sword through angel’s heart, and send him to hell to close the vortex. phew. it’s all too much. very sad. and at the end the christophe beck song that plays is really beautiful.

superstar. jonathan levinson is my favourite buffy character. i think if i had to pick a character that i was most like it would be him. and so this is one of my favourite episodes because it’s the one where jonathan casts a spell changing sunnydale so that he is a superhero, who did all of the things that buffy had done in the previous three seasons, and also writes best selling books, coached the US women’s football team to world cup victory, has his own swimwear calendar and starred in the matrix. but when jonathan casts the spell he also conjures up a demon that starts attacking the town. and in the end he gets found out and everything gets returned to normal. i really like the scene with adam in his cave in this episode where he realises that something is wrong and says “i'm aware. i know every molecule of myself and everything around me. no one. no human, no demon has ever been as awake and alive as i am. you are all just shadows.” because it reminds me of the character from hell by henri barbusse, who cuts a hole in the wall and watches life literally pass him by in the room next door. and i particularly love the bit at the end when jonathan’s talking to buffy and she says “jonathan, you get why everyone is angry, though, right? it's not just the monster. people didn't like being the little actors in your sock puppet theater.” and he says “you weren't! you weren't socks! we were friends.” i think it’s important to make that distinction. because sometimes sock puppets can be friends.

hush. i guess a lot of people have this episode as one of their favourites. it’s the one with the gentlemen in where everyone in sunnydale loses their voice and the town gets quarantined and the gentlemen go around cutting out people’s hearts. my favourite scene is the one with giles and the overhead projector, and i like the scene at the end after everyone has got their voices back and buffy and riley just sit in silence until the closing credits come up.

the zeppo. the last episode was a really difficult one to choose because there were still so many that i liked. i was going to choose ‘earshot’ but i decided that i already had an episode with jonathan as one of the main characters in in my top five so i didn’t choose that, and i was going to choose ‘the witch’ but then i thought that not much happens in that episode really. and i thought about ‘graduation day part two’ but then i figured i already had a season finale in my list with ‘the becoming part two’ so i decided against that one. and i thought about ‘the yoko factor’ just because of the bit where angel tells buffy he doesn’t like her new boyfriend. and i thought about choosing ‘the freshman’ just because i remember feeling like buffy does in that episode all the time when i was at college, and i really like the monet versus klimt poster competition that the vampires have. but in the end i decided to go for ‘the zeppo’. just because i often find myself feeling the way xander feels in this episode. and i like the way that the usual main storyline of saving the world from vampires is the secondary storyline, almost in the background in this episode, while the episode mainly focuses on what would usually be a secondary character development storyline. it makes it a weird episode. there’s a bit at the beginning that i like when xander is talking to cordelia and she says to him “it must be really hard when all your friends have superpowers. slayer, werewolf, witches, vampires, and you're, like, this little nothing. you must feel like jimmy olsen... you're the useless part of the group. you're the zeppo.” and i like the moment at the end when xander is faced with possible death and admits that actually he likes “the quiet”. i guess i like the quiet too. and i guess there’s nothing wrong with just being a hapless sidekick. nothing wrong with being the zeppo sometimes.