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20 March 2013

you can live a long time in such a little while




"he's a happy man - or is he? the smile says so, and so does the nice friendly way he talks. but don't be too quick to believe everything you see. the man's just not that simple. he's got a built-in sadness. it's a sadness he acquired by caring a lot about people, and about what happens to them. sounds pretty deep, doesn't it? well it is! it runs all the way to his center. he does a fair job of keeping it hidden until he opens his mouth to sing. it's all in the songs; even the love songs."


i found these sleevenotes written by ron peterson on the back of a tom t hall album that i picked up on saturday, and i thought they were nice. the record is amazing. then on sunday, jason molina died. it's unbelievably sad. i didn't really know him at all, he was a friend of a friend, but i spoke to him a few times on the phone when he called the record shop i was working in. he always seemed like a really sweet guy and if you picked up the phone he'd always keep you talking for ages, about music and what he liked and what you liked and all the things he was hoping to do with his own music. i guess in the last couple of years he kind of disappeared somewhere. it's really sad. he was such a great songwriter, and from the little i knew him, a genuinely lovely man. and now he's died. there is a great obituary written by everett true in the guardian today. all i know to write about him is that he wrote some of the most beautiful country rock songs i've ever heard and he talked a lot to people he didn't really know on the phone.


"the real truth about it is no one gets it right
the real truth about it is we're all supposed to try
there ain't no end to the sands i've been trying to cross
the real truth about it is my kind of life's no better off
if i've got the maps or if i'm lost"

- songs: ohia, farewell transmission


08 March 2013

women of the world




it's International Women's Day and to celebrate we've recorded a version of the Ivor Cutler song Women Of The World. Originally released by Ivor Cutler and Linda Hirst on Rough Trade in the early eighties, the song is a feminist plea for women to assume power in an attempt to undo the damage done by patriarchal society before it's too late.

Women Of The World is only available to buy from our Bandcamp page for a limited time and all the proceeds go to The Fawcett Society and Chime For Change. As it's a charity single, we made a video for it. Except instead of a video of us singing in the studio holding our headphones, we've made a video of archive footage of the women's movement as well as a roll call of our own personal feminist heroines.

The artwork, which features rabbits with placards in the colours of the Women's Social and Political Union, is inspired by the Gloria Steinem article I Was A playboy Bunny.

Happy International Women's Day



01 March 2013

i that was not born in wales




i'm not that welsh. only a quarter, and i've lived in england all my life. but i've always felt oddly proud of being the small bit of welsh that i am. when i was growing up it felt very exotic being welsh and i always felt more welsh than i did english. when i was nine years old my best friend was welsh too. we both supported swansea city and when she went on holiday to wales she brought me back a poster of the team and a replica kit, which included the socks. i think she might have been a lot more welsh than me, but she never made me feel bad about it. we were both romantic outsiders in the home counties as far as she was concerned. she moved away when i was eleven, and i only saw her a couple of times after that. i made new friends of course, but i was back to being the only welsh kid in school. so as it's st david's day today i thought i'd write about a few things of the great things that come from wales. like i do.

swansea city fc. my grandad played for swansea city so i supported them. and my best friend supported them too, and i was convinced i was welsh so it made sense. i first started getting into football when i was about six and swansea were in the old first division then, so it was really exciting supporting them. john toshack was their manager and i knew all the names of all the players. they'd be on the tv most weeks and in shoot magazine and they were actually good. then they got worse and worse and worse. they were never on tv anymore and they were never in shoot magazine. i never saw them and i lived nowhere near swansea. i spent years supporting them through teletext, which is a really unrewarding way to follow a team. until suddenly a few years ago they started to be good again, and now supporting swansea city is enjoyable again. it goes to show you should never give up hope in the things you love.

the pooh sticks. obviously the pooh sticks are a great welsh thing because they're one of the greatest bands ever from anywhere. not just wales. that's it.

simon price. when i was fourteen wednesday was the best day of the week. up until then the best day of the week had always been thursday because top of the pops was on on a thursday, but i began to look forward to wednesdays more as i got older. not because i went ten pin bowling on a wednesday, although i've always thought it was very merciful of my school to offer up ten pin bowling as an alternative to rugby for the less bloodthirsty students, but because on a wednesday the nme and melody maker came out. melody maker was better than nme because it had all the best writers. everett true, taylor parkes and neil kulkarni were all at melody maker. and simon price. they were all such brilliant writers. they filled my head with amazing thoughts and ideas and i feel so lucky to have been growing up when they were writing for a weekly music magazine. wednesdays aren't the same anymore. i still go ten pin bowling, but i can't get excited about the nme however hard i try.

the school. i think they're welsh. they live in wales, but i don't know if they're actually welsh. not like i am welsh. i hope they are welsh anyway, otherwise they've ruined my list. they're playing wales goes pop at the end of the month and i'm very excited. they're always playing on the stereo in my local pub too, which is amazing because everything else they play in my local pub is terrible. and the school are not.

ivor the engine. of all of the things that oliver postgate and peter firmin made ivor the engine is my favourite. set in the top left hand corner of Wales, ivor was a steam locomotive working for the merioneth and llantisilly railway traction company limited. he didn't do much out of the ordinary, but somehow ordinary things seemed extraordinary when he did them. my favourite episode is the one where ivor wants to go to in the sea but isn't able to because he is a train and it makes him sad. because everyone likes to go to the seaside, but some of us can't. and that is a bit sad. the music by vernon elliott is still one of the most beautifully sweet and sad soundtracks to anything in tv or film ever.

rs thomas. for so many of his poems, rs thomas is a great welsh thing. but particularly for these lines from children's song "we live in our own world, a world that is too small for you to stoop and enter even on hands and knees, the adult subterfuge. and though you probe and pry with analytic eye and eavesdrop all our talk with an amused look you cannot find the centre."

richie burnett. i've written before about richie burnett, my favourite darts player of all time, and no one seemed particularly interested then, but no list of great welsh things would be complete without 'the prince of wales'. winner of the 1995 bdo world championship, richie kind of disappeared in the late nineties, and when i wrote about him last time he hadn't played any significant darts for a few years, but since then he's started playing again. and it's amazing to have him back. he might not be the darts player he was when he beat raymond van barneveld all those years ago, but it's still great to have him up where he belongs. even if it's only for a couple of rounds.

nathan penlington. not only is nathan one of the few people who actually might have been interested in reading my blog post about darts, but he's also one of the most interesting welsh people i can think of in the world right now. he is among other things a poet, a writer, a comedian and a magician. and he's great at all of those things. and he's from rhyl in north wales. he's going to be at sxsw next weekend doing his amazing 'choose your own documentary' show, which everyone should go to.

gwenno saunders. one of my favourite songs on the new album is a duet between us and gwenno. we were so excited when she said she'd be up for singing on the album. it's a song about going back to the place you grew up in and bumping into someone you used to be in love with. i always imagine wales in the rain whenever i hear the song, even though i've never lived in wales so i don't know why i would imagine going back there. her voice sounds amazing on our song and i'm really excited to see what she does next because she's a brilliant popstar. and she's welsh.

manic street preachers. when i first read about the manics and found out they were from south wales it was as if my whole life suddenly made sense. i too was from south wales i thought. although not all of me. only a quarter of me. but it was as if they were the missing piece in my love for all things welsh. from watching ivor the engine when i was four years old to following a football club i lived nowhere near, i had always felt more welsh than i was and i had always loved welsh things. the manics were probably the greatest welsh thing i ever loved and the thing that ended up meaning the most to me. maybe i had been unknowingly waiting for them my whole life. i that was not born in wales.

happy st david's day.