Wednesday, 24 September 2008

LEP Article

Apparently, I got a little article in yesterday's 'Lancashire Evening Post'. Haven't got a copy of the paper myself, but since I'm trying to keep an archive of any little press clippings, here's a scan from their website for anyone who may have missed it:

Having never done a signing before, i really have no idea what to expect, but it could definitely be interesting. In other news, I'm playing a verylastminute gig in lancaster tonight. I would put some details up here, but I don't have any. I believe it might be happening in its own spacial dimension, beyond the limits of some alternate universe where time ceases to exist. If you can find me there, feel free to come along...

Meanwhile, the writing of Book 2 is gathering steam, and we did a little protesting outside the Labour Conference in Manchester this weekend:

Until next time...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Marillion: 'Happiness is the Road' Review

I had another music related blog planned for tonight, following on from yesterday’s piece about Mansun’s ‘Six’. Then, late last night, I unexpectedly ended up with a copy of the new Marillion album – ‘Happiness is the Road’ – so have decided to share a few thoughts about that instead.

There’s so much going on in this album that it would be easy to write a lengthy full review, but I’ve only given it a few spins and I think it’s going to take a lot more plays to do the album any justice, so I’ll keep things brief here. In many ways, I can see certain similarities between disk one – ‘Essence’ – and ‘Six’, especially in terms of how each album has a coherence running through. Lyrically, however, we’re in much less dark territory here, whilst the overall sound is probably more reminiscent latter day Talk Talk.

Things get underway with the chilled out ‘Dreamy Street’, before segueing into the sumptuous ‘This Train is My Life’. With its excellently concise Steve Rothery Guitar solo, philosophical lyrics and atmospheric rising sound; the track has all the ingredients of classic Marillion. Next track, ‘Essence’, has a more experimental feel to it, veering between stripped down passages of lush keyboards and an ever growing wall of sound. Moments in the track recall the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’, but far from being derivative, the album’s first disk has a unique feel all of its own as the band work contemporary arrangements and new instrumentation into their signature sound to great success. CD one’s highlight comes in the form of ‘Happiness is the Road’, a sprawling epic which builds from an ambient jam into a huge epic.

The second CD – ‘The Hard Shoulder’ – has quite a different sound to it, with rockier moments, and jazz influences in the rhythm sections of tracks like ‘Cornfly’ and ‘Planet Marzipan’. A few minutes in, the former even has something of a prog rock keyboard solo amid the mostly fast paced rock. The more atmospheric sections of this track recall moments of ‘Afraid of Sunlight’, as does the sprawling epic, ‘Asylum Satellite #1’. Despite nods back to their past, however, the band manage to keep things fresh and modern. The beautiful ‘Older Than Me’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a Jeff Buckley or Elbow record. Other highlights here include modern classics ‘Whatever is Wrong with You?’ and ‘Real Tears for Sale’, putting in a very welcome appearance after a great reception from fans on the last tour.

This is one of those albums, like ‘Marbles’, which has so many complex layers that it’s probably going to be a while before I can fully appreciate its greatness and intricacy, but, after 3 listens, it’s made a damn fine first impression.

I’m going to try and ban myself from listening to it a fourth time, until I have the actual CD in my hands now, so I can admire the artwork and appreciate it as a whole. If anyone can think of any fitting deterrents, in the form of punishments or forfeits, in case I find it too hard to resist, please leave your suggestions in the form of comments…

Monday, 8 September 2008


Although it probably looks as though I haven’t written anything on this blog for quite a long time, August technically doesn’t count; in which case it’s only a couple of weeks. That’s alright then, isn’t it? The truth is, I’ve spent most of the last month working full-time and there haven’t really been many exciting things to tell. That aside, we took a short trip to Paris and I turned 22. The book’s also just passed the 100 mark in sales, so I’m on the celebratory red wine as I write this. You’d think I’d have spent a little more on it than £2.99 really…

As I write this, I can say with total certainty that I’m doing exactly the same thing I was this time a whole decade ago: listening to Mansun’s brilliant ‘Six’ LP.

No; my memory isn’t usually that accurate, but today one of my all time favourite albums celebrates its 10th anniversary. When I got the email about this a few weeks back, I did a bit of a double take. Misplacing August is one thing, but blinking long enough to miss a decade is something else altogether! This time back in 1998, I’d recently turned 12 and just started my second year at high school. I can clearly remember that feeling of sitting there, through another tedious geography class, eager to dash to Woolies and get my hands on this record. It’d taken me ages to save up for, but albums always used to feel that little bit more special when you'd spent weeks putting aside your pocket money for them. This one was particularly special, although I must admit to being pretty taken aback when I got back to my old home (3 Ansbro Avenue in those days), made a cup of tea and stuck it on the stereo.

Even today, it’s true to say that ‘Six’ is a baffling album; full of lengthy songs, darkly eccentric humour, multi-part epics, obscure idiosyncrasies, 'teapot solos' (to quote one magazine review a few years later) and the inspired addition of Tom Baker’s dulcet tones on the bizarre interlude. I quickly grew to love this brilliant, if downright weird, album and still count it among my favourites to this day (more on that one very soon). It’s also been the soundtrack to a lot of memories, both good and bad, and listening to it nowadays makes me realise just what a chaotic 10 years it’s been. It wasn’t long after this album’s release that I got ill, and whilst it has obvious associations with that particularly dark period, it reminds me of so much good stuff too: going to see the band live on the tour (the poster still hangs on my wall), crammed into Blackburn’s ‘King Georges Hall’, full of sweat and a heavy cloud of questionable substance. I’m sure my mum remembers that one too! This album was partly responsible for me meeting my closest friend (and definitely responsible for me rifling through his collection of ‘Prisoner’ videos.) It became as much a soundtrack to my years at high school as the Levellers did later on, and can probably be levelled with the charge of helping me discover Pink Floyd and progressive rock. Since then; I’ve been to college, visited so many amazing places, had several shit jobs, been to gigs, played gigs, made friends, lost friends, published my first book, grown my hair only to chop the lot off again and now here I am. God knows where the hell I’ll be 10 years from now, but I wouldn’t bet on it being where I expect. Probably quite the opposite, in fact. Even then, I can’t say for sure whether the world will be ready for the inspired madness of ‘Six’.

To be continued…