Haikus, June 2012

Whilst perusing my current pocket notebook (which is rapidly nearing the end of it’s service) I came upon a couple of pages of Haikus I wrote one day, possibly when bored in work. I remember cannibalising them for lyrics back in the day but here they are in their entirety for the first time.

 

Thought I was dreaming

Visions of the last minute

Look much more closely

 

An absent flicker

There’s no such thing as silence

Thunder drowns out hope

 

The weight of your spine

Borrowing faces unseen

Austere and drastic

 

I pause for my breath

Brushing away biscuit crumbs

Table still dirty

 

Pencil case madness

Half a packet of mints left

Sandwiches were crap

 

Scissor reflection

Skewed, demented and chilling

Ignore cold steel fate

 

How does the queen sleep?

Probably very soundly

She doesn’t count sheep

 

Dusty whistle hangs

White cord solemn as you like

Lips now alien

 

Detuned my guitar

Sounds much sadder than before

I can’t carry on

 

Broken pen still writes

Though it doesn’t understand

Lost in translation

 

Not particularly profound or proudly poetic but they’ve put me in the mood to perhaps compose some more. I’ll maybe try for 1 Haiku per day and if they are decent enough I could share them with you poor people!

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Dead Fox

Yesterday I took a picture of a dead fox.

I still don’t know why I did it. It’s not like other pictures I’ve taken where I’ve been able to store it and show it to people. It’s not particularly artistic but the more I look at it the more I seem to convince myself that it possesses some kind of poetry.

I encountered it on my way to work after disembarking my bus and crossing the dual carriageway. It was just lying there in the stretch of grass and occasional tree that marks the middle of the two opposing directions. Still and lifeless, it’s sharp teeth protruding from it’s slightly parted lips. No immediately visible signs of damage but I assume it’s probably been hit by a car. It may as well have been sleeping. A symptom of the modern age – I reached for my phone, made sure the flash was armed and snapped a shot. The dew wet grass reflected back at the lens as did the sodden fur of the unfortunate beast. I pocketed the device and moved on. At least I can move.

I wondered what would be become of it and even felt guilty calling it ‘it’. It presumably had a a family or was part of one. I wondered if it was being missed and where it dwelt. Is it far from home? On my way home from work I looked to the spot where it lay and it was no longer there. Perhaps it wasn’t dead after all. I shall never know for certain of course, the council or somebody else probably took it away.

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Top 10 favourite smells

I love smelling things so I pondered for a few days and produced a list of my favourite smells.

Here they are;

10) New Shoes – in particular the smell of the interior of the box they invariably come in

9) CD Booklets – I especially love the booklet that came with the Smashing Pumpkins album ‘Machina’

8) Baby’s Heads After A Bath – intoxicating!

7) Fresh Bed Sheets – nothing better after a long hard day, especially if they’ve been hung up outside to dry

6) Petrol

5) Matches – it’s a total coincidence that these things are so close together in the list

4) Freshly Cut Wood – doesn’t matter which kind, it’s all good be it pine, mahogany or chipwood

3) Battenburg Cake – mmmmmm

2) Heinz Tomato Soup – nectar!

and in at Number One….

1) Old Paper/Books – highly intoxicating for me, possibly abhorrent for others

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Mono Deluxe

For your aural pleasure may I present my new 14 track album ‘Mono Deluxe’!

It’s an adventure in MONOPHONIC sound taking in proto-garage rock, psychedelic, fake blues, gorgeous melodies, soul-searching clap-trap, an ice cream van, Dundee and comedy grunge.

I’ll resist the temptation to wax lyrical where I know it’s not needed, so here it is in all it’s retro glory…

 

My original plan was to craft an album of short garage rock style singalongs in the best ‘Stooges/Count Five’ tradition but after the initial 2 songs I recorded my ever changing musical moods put a stop to that. The fact that I mixed them all in Mono is the only notion that survived. I think I’m still pleased with the end result. It was trickier to sequence than others due to the differing styles and tempos and it doesn’t really outstay it’s welcome clocking in at around the 35 minute mark.

If I could change anything I’d probably remove tracks 8 and 9 as they impair the flow somewhat. That section is certainly the most morose part – I hadn’t even intended on airing ‘Stop Torturing Yourself’ at all but I added it into the tracklisting to beef up the numbers (14 tracks were a U.K. standard back in the 60′s). The song is such a downer in every respect, mostly informed by the downtuned guitar which in turn pointed the way the lyrical direction took. I wrote ‘Belief Engine’ the next day in an effort to contrast that mood with something a little more hopeful (that wasn’t supposed to go on it originally either).

The more I hear it the more I realise that it contains many half-decent though half-baked ideas. Tracks 1, 2, 4, 8 and 13 are testament to this and I would dearly love to go back and fix it all but that would probably be missing the point. I just have to leave it as it is, ‘Mono Deluxe’ is a moment frozen in time. A flawed moment perhaps but the musical equivalent to a diary entry – like all the albums I make.

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Top 10 pre-teen crushes

This idea came to me the other week, at first hypothetical but then an actual scribbled list of ladies who turned my head before I knew what that sort of thing was really all about.

10. Phoebe Cates – Especially in ‘Gremlins’ where I think it’s fair to say she’s as cute as a squirrel’s nut!

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9. Sophie Aldred – ‘Ace’ in Doctor Who, a great role model for young girls and boys at the time (hitting Daleks with baseball bats and blowing stuff up in general).

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8. Colleen Camp – Pretty much just for ‘Clue’ I’m afraid, possibly the first time I seen a french maid, and I liked it I have to say.

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7. Ally Sheedy – I thought she was lovely in ‘Short Circuit’ and I’m ashamed to say it’s only recently I’ve seen some of her other films from the period.

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6. Lea Thompson – If I’d seen ‘Howard the Duck’ when I was 10 it’s possible she may have higher in the list but ‘Back to the Future’ cements her loveliness just fine.

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5. Joanne Catherall – Brunette singer in the Human League, she looks particularly fine in the ‘Love Action’ video.

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4. Sarah Douglas – Hot baddie in the first 2 ‘Superman’ films, though she was also a hot baddie in ‘V’ and ‘Return of Swamp Thing’ as well as I recall.

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3. Elizabeth Shue – She’s been in many fine 80′s films (Karate Kid, Cocktail to name but a few) but it’ll always be ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ that I’ll remember her for. I hear they’re remaking it – not impressed at the notion of that.

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2. Kim Cattrall – Again, she’s also been in some fine films (and been particularly fine in them) but ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ looms large in my memory (Mannequin coming a very close second).

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1. Winona Ryder – Ah sweet Winona, musn’t sully this was inane descriptive words (oops I just did!). It was a close call between her and Kim believe me, but I think my younger self would approve of the outcome.

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A suitable ending?

Where do songs go when they fade out?

I often used to wonder as I stared at the black rotating disc on my turntable as a nipper.

It may have been The Beatles, The Monkees, The Human League or whatever else I was filling my spongey brain with at the time. The song was there and then suddenly it was gone. Where on earth did it go?

Even now I harbour suspicions about songs that do so, for I only sparingly do I appreciate that particular production device. I much prefer a solid resolution such as the ones The Who employed on most of their classic singles. One of the fades that annoys the most is David Bowie’s ‘The Secret Life of Arabia’ from the “Heroes” album. A fine groover indeed, coming as it does after some evocative (and creepy) instrumentals it was always going to appear a little incongruous. It hasn’t at all begun to outstay it’s welcome and suddenly it gets snatched away. Not so much a fade in the gradual sense but a jarring whoosh and it’s gone. There is no doubt sound reasoning on display here – the performance probably broke down or they hadn’t actually worked out a satisfactory ending (I blame Eno, as with ‘Breaking Glass’ off of the ‘Low’ LP).

I have been afforded a glimpse of the former ‘performance breakdown’ event in the shape of Depeche Mode’s debut single. It appears as a bonus track on the pre-remastered edition of ‘Speak and Spell’ (their only album with Vince Clark) and in it someone makes a mistake, there’s a shriek and it clatters to an undignified halt. The version I’d been accustomed to for years simply fades at the coda, and this came as a slight shock upon first hearing.

There are two other fades I feel I should mention that do annoy me more than any other; ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ (Belle & Sebastian) and ‘Life During Wartime’ (Talking Heads). Goddamnit they’re still singing, emoting, imparting perhaps vital though possibly frivolous information. I don’t care I’d like to hear it anyway!

I suppose sometimes a fade is for the best (Wishing I Was Lucky, Hey Jude, Walk on the Wild Side). In my opinion though you just can’t beat the impact of an abrupt ending (Goldfinger, Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Stone Cold Crazy). I have used it many times in my own composing and shall continue to do so (until I work with Eno perhaps who may persuade me otherwise through trickery and oblique strategums).

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Top 10 songs that make me cry

I realise I seem to have been away for a couple of years, but I am also realistic enough to realise that nobody is reading this. However I’m going to attempt to get back into the swing of it by posting a list of 10 songs that make me weep like a big jessie;

10 – Jugband Blues (Pink Floyd) “It’s the acoustic section near the end, it’s just so brittle sounding and sad”

9 – I’ll Keep It With Mine (Nico) “I don’t think it’s anything to do with the lyrics, I think it’s the strings and the timbre of her voice is so haunting”

8 – 4st 7lb (Manic Street Preachers) “Tragic, ugly, poetic and beautiful all at the same time”

7 – Willow’s Song (from The Wicker Man Soundtrack) “Very atmospheric, again I think it’s down the woman’s voice and the way it floats over the top of it all”

6 – Northern Sky (Nick Drake) “To be honest most Nick Drake songs affect me, but this is the most consistent offender”

5 – In My Life (The Beatles) “More than anything it’s probably the line about how some are dead and some are living but the whole arrangement in general is just as guilty”

4 – Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) (The Beach Boys) “Again it was difficult to choose from ‘Pet Sounds’ because it’s just all so beautiful but this one probably does it for me every time”

3 – Mother (John Lennon) “Gets me every time as well, can’t really listen to it all that often”

2 – She’s Leaving Home (The Beatles) “I know there’s been a high percentage of Lennon-McCartney in this list but I am a particularly big fan of their work, and this is one of Macca’s finest – it’s all there in that bright as the morning sun harp, those groaning strings those gorgeous harmonies”

1 – Shipbuilding (Robert Wyatt) “Probably the biggest tearjerker of all for me, I don’t know where to begin. The fragility of Robert Wyatt’s voice is the starting point but it has the lyrical edge as well, being about the contradiction of the Falklands War bringing back prosperity to traditional shipbuilding areas of Britain to build new ships to replace those being sunk in the war, whilst also sending off the sons of these areas to fight and, potentially, lose their lives in those same ships. You can shove your Elvis Costello cover (well, I know he wrote it but…) his version is too slick. This one seems to have more emotional depth”

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