Saturday, 31 August 2013

Collection: The New Issue of Uncut!

I got this two days and forgot to post it. I also forgot to include the CD it came with as well in the picture but it's not related to The Clash in any way. I do like Uncut, although I don't purchase it regularly. I did love their special issue devoted solely to The Clash though, so naturally I was excited to get this. It's a great  article - I particularly loved the section were Paul Simonon made some very insightful comments regarding their infamous trip to Belfast in 1977. I must say I echoed his sentiments wholeheartedly indeed. Better still - I've finally been able to get some locations for the pictures taken of them here. I'd only been able to identify a few taken in Royal Avenue prior to getting this magazine. It's not just The Clash that provided the only bit of interesting reading in the magazine though for me - there's also a lengthy interview with Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac). I'm sure I'll find a new band worth investigating in their review section too, although I haven't read the reviews section really yet. Nevertheless it's a worthy addition to my ever-growing Clash collection!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Unforunate events and new Pet Shop Boys songs.

Afternoon all, it's been an unforunate two days. There was a bad car accident yesterday just opposite the family business. The driver of the vehicle was killed - he had an apparent heart attack at the wheel and lost control, crashing into pedestrians in the process. An awful event indeed. I can't even begin to imagine the pain his family and friends are going through right now. Simply heartbreaking. They're very much in my thoughts. Incidentally, today also marks the 10th anniversary of the death of my grandfather, whom I was very close to. It's also been announced today that the famed Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney has passed away too. Very sad news - I studied his poem Mid Term Break as part of my GCSE English coursework. It was one of the favourite pieces of poetry I studied, and it moved me an awful lot. I just hope this marks the end of the unfortunate series of events here in Northern Ireland.

On a slightly lighter note, Pet Shop Boys have unveiled snippets of the two upcoming Love Is A Bourgeois Construct b-sides! The two digital bundles (including the B-sides) will be released on September 2nd. Both tracks are dance songs, very much continuing on with the overall sound of Electric. They're definitely more experimental in style though, I don't think they could have fitted on the album.To be honest, both songs share more similarities with each other than they do with Electric's songs I think. Anyway, here's a brief breakdown of my initial thoughts below.

Well, this most certainly has a pulsating arrangement. It's a very hard dance track. To be honest, I'm struggling to think of a harsher dance track in Pet Shop Boys history. It doesn't sound all that dissimilar to the legendary German group Kraftwerk. Very appropriate too, considering the title of the song is German for "sorry" and the lyrical content. The song is essentially Pet Shop Boys apologizing to German fans, because despite frequenting Germany often they are unable to speak German. As you could imagine, German phrases are abundant in Entschuldigung. There's not a hint of English to be found in the sample (nor Neil or Chris' voices either). I'm totally illiterate in German myself, so I can't offer anything in the way of a translation. At 5:02 in length though, it's the longer of the two B-sides.

Get It Online. 
Still a dance track, but less harsh sounding. Get It Online is very retro in sound actually - and in my opinion it sounds even more like a Kraftwerk song than Enshuldigung. Get It Online also contains a number of foreign phrases too, although again I can't translate any of them. English does feature this time though. Also, so does Chris - I'm fairly sure that's him singing "whatever I want, whatever I want, I can get it online" through a vocodder. At least if it's not, it sure as hell sounds an awful lot like him. Also it seems like my initial theories that the lyrics would discuss illegal downloading have been thwarted. You can hear samples of people saying "proceed to checkout!" which - coupled along with the line quoted earlier - seems to suggest it's more about the dominance of internet culture. How it's now an integral part of our daily lives, and let's be honest: what can't you do on the internet? It's also a rather short 3:36 in length. That may not be no bad thing though because it does sound like it contains minimal lyrics. I could see this being a Chris Lowe track actually - there's no hint of Neil Tennant in that sample at all.

So - that's my brief thoughts on both tracks. Very tenative I know, and subject to change.I like both songs so far, although my favourite would be Get It Online at this point. Both songs stylistically aren't that far removed from one another really. I don't know when the tracks were recording, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were recorded around the same time. Of course, we won't know that for sure just yet. In any case, I'm looking forward to hearing them in full!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Collection: Last Week's Amazon Order and a suprise one.

Afternoon all, I'm just back from my walk. My legs felt this one moreso - which I suppose is a good thing.

Anyway, after forgetting to do so a few times, I can finally share my Amazon order from last week now that it's all here. The first CD arrived on Wednesday which was obviously Joe Strummer's birthday. Naturally, I didn't want to make any posts that were unrelated to Joe on that day. Anyway, I got the 2CD version of Atomic: The Very Best of Blondie which comes with the bonus Atomix disc (a compilation disc of remixes). There's also Mirage which is only the third Fleetwood Mac album I have on CD, Ghost In The Machine which is my first Police studio album and Bleach (Special Edition) by Nirvana. I actually have all of Nirvana's studio albums now. I'll post a picture of my burgeoning Nirvana collection soon.  This should have been my last Amazon Order for around about six weeks, but something surprising happened last night. I've been searching for Earthquake Weather by Joe Strummer for around about six months. I can even remember traipsing around a record fair back in April trying to find it. It's very rare because it's been out of print for years. Why they've never reissued it, I do not know. Anyway, last night I searched again (I check for it on a semi regular basis). To my disbelief, my favorite Amazon Marketplace seller - Zoverstocks - had received one copy of it very recently. It goes without saying that I ordered it straight away. It's just too rare of a record to pass up. I search Zoverstocks for it pretty often and they've never had a copy of it in. It could have been months before they had it again; it could have even been never. Along with The Future Is Unwritten soundtrack and the Let's Rock Again! DVD, it was something I was missing. Those two are also very easy to purchase online anyway. Needless to say, I'm feeling pretty lucky right now!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Sound of The Week Returns (!) and album testing

Evening all. I've had a total non-day as I'm rather tired. I've been trying desperately to finally finish Six Feet Under - only two more episodes to go. After I finish it I think I'll start Mad Men. Anyway, it's crazy to think that this time next week September is upon us. This year has flew in at a scarily fast pace. September looks set to be an incredibly busy month for music too. I know I bleat on about Madonna's MDNA Tour and The Clash's Hits Back and Sound System releases, but that literally is just the tip of the iceberg. There's Arctic Monkeys, Janaelle Monae, MGMT, Chrvches, Nine Inch Nails to name but a few. Personally, I can't wait.

Anyway, the song I've been listening to a lot of recently - the past few weeks actually - is by Ladyhawke.  Perhaps surprisingly, I only know a select few tracks from Ladyhawke and I've never listened to either of her albums in full. Anyway - I actually discovered this song by pure chance. I've also been listening to Only Over You by Fleetwood Mac recently (from Mirage). One day I was listening to it on Youtube, and I read some of the comments. One of them said that Ladyhawke's song Morning Dreams basically ripped the song off. Naturally, I looked the song up to hear for myself. I have to say there's definite similarities between the two, mostly in the music. That coupled with the fact they have this very serene sort of atmosphere. I don't mind one iota though - I love both songs. I think it was an intentional homage too. When I researched more about Ladyhawke I discovered that she is a massive Fleetwood Mac fan. In fact, when she stated her five favourite albums of all time no fewer than three of those were Fleetwood Mac albums. I must say, I love her taste. I'll definitely need to hear her two albums soon I think.

Also, in the midst of trying to redecorate my room and get fitter I also finally listened to an album that I've been meaning to do for ages. It was End Of The Century, which is the fifth album by The Ramones. I was underwhelmed by Road To Ruin on the whole. Mainly because I felt it was very... predictable. That they needed fresh ideas by that point. Thankfully, there were fresh ideas in End Of The Century but I did still feel it was pretty mixed in terms of quality. I loved songs like Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio? and Danny Says. Songs that were completely different and simply could never have featured on a prior record. It was the songs were they tried their more traditional sound were it fell flat though. Songs like I'm Affected were attempts to sound like Ramones of old and thanks to the production, it just fell flat. The heavy handed production did spoil it a lot for me. A shame really, because there were some good ideas, and when the album worked for me it was brilliant. It's just a shame that it was so inconsistent.

So that's it for this week. An unusual one really, what with Joe Strummer's birthday and what have you. This coming week will be quiet for me musically as I attempt to get healthier, get caught up with reading and the like. Although on Friday I'm going to order from an online site that I've never used before. It's called Punk Rock Shop and there's no prizes for guessing what band I'm looking to purchase merchandise from. I was delighted to discover that they had the ultimate Clash T-shirt design I was after (previous searches for the design were a fail). Anyway, I cannot wait to get a few bits and pieces from it. As you could guess, when they arrive I'll be sure to post a picture. See you soon!

Finally finished Passion Is A Fashion.

So at long last - and boy it took a while - I finished this book! A quick backtrack through the blog says that I started this on the 9th July. Oh dear me. I took far too long to read it. I should have had this finished somewhere between two weeks to a month ago, but I went through a phase of finding it very difficult to read. Sometimes I get that, and it can last up to a month. Not good. I'm a fast reader, so it's almost like I burn myself out or something. I didn't even think that was possible! Worse still, my reading halted just as Mick Jones got sacked from the group. It wasn't even like I had that much to read. Anyway - don't take that as a comment against this book itself. I absolutely loved it. It's very funny, informative yet easy to read (yes, in spite of my odd reading habits). It was my first actual Clash biography, so there was plenty of new information to digest. Too much for one read actually, I'll definitely need to re-read this. My next book will be going back to Heavier Than Heaven, which is a biography on Kurt Cobain, and finishing that. I'm up to the start of 1994 in that, so obviously I'm nearly finished it too. The reason I didn't finish? Yep, you guessed it, reader's block (as I'll refer to it from now on). I know I got another book by The Clash on Friday there, but I won't start that for a bit. I want to finish Heavier Than Heaven then look at getting stuck into some novels because I could do with a break from just reading various music biographies over and over. After all, you've got to mix things up, right?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Town Trip Part II: Upstairs, Downstairs

So, after picking The Killers shirt and briefly flirting with the idea of getting a Velvet Underground one (which I didn't in the end) it was time to see what records to buy. This was when my plans sort of went out the window. I wanted to get Pretty Hate Machine by Nine Inch Nails. Did they have it? Not at all - in fact they had no Nine Inch Nails records whatsoever. Great.. Hm, what to buy? I checked the DVD section for Simon & Garfunkel's Central Park show - no luck. So I just went with the CD version of the concert. Decided to look for Fleetwood Mac's The Dance live album. Gone (although stupidly enough, they had put it by the till. I only found it once I had paid). What a stupid display move that was. Then I remembered I had spied Route 19 Revisited, which was a book about the making of London Calling. Was it in still in the display where I found it? Nope! So, back downstairs I went to the book section. Found it, along with two other Clash books. Joe Strummer & The Legend of The Clash and The Clash Talking to were the titles. I've been considering purchasing the latter, but I've never seen the former in town before though I knew of it. Stupidly I forgot to look inside Joe Strummer &The Legend of The Clash although it has good reviews. As for The Clash talking it was a stupidly dear price - £12 if I remember - for a rather short book that is just a compilation of quotes. I want it, but £12 just seemed excessive, I can get it online much cheaper. Anyway, back upstairs and I still wanted more records. Then I remembered I had liked Vampire Weekend's new album. They didn't have that either. Honestly I think they were in the midst of doing a display revamp or something. Then I remembered Disclosure's debut. Surprisingly I found the deluxe edition of that for a decent price, so I snapped it up. Then I spotted The Essential Paul Simon. I have Songwriter ripped to my hard-drive because I bought it for my Dad for Father's Day, but this collection had a lot of songs on it absent from Songwriter. I only have Graceland & The Rhythm of The Saints on CD myself. By this point, I had about enough money left for two postcards, and to my surprise they had a new Clash one in. Ironically, the first Clash item I ever got was a postcard from HMV. The only other one that caught my interest was the Nevermind cover. After that - I just wanted to get out. HMV can be very draining. I do love what I got (I always do), even if it was a slightly unexpected batch though!

Town yesterday Part I: Shirt Alert.

As I mentioned yesterday, I was in town shopping. I know I said I would post this late last night, but I did have an impromptu post to make. Also I decided to get stuck back into my reading. Anyway, town yesterday had mixed fortunes actually. I went into a shop called Fresh Garbage to see their band T-shirts. They haven't had a Clash shirt the two times I've been in before, but this time they did. It was of the cover of The Clash. It looked really nice. Alias, I had a budget to work with and I couldn't buy it. Next time Clare, next time. Anyway when I got to HMV my plan was roughly this: get a Killers shirt and a Clash shirt, and work with whatever money I had left. They had The Killers shirt in my size (as you can tell) but The Clash London Calling T-shirt was obviously proving a very popular choice. They only had two left - both XL. I'm trying to loose weight at the moment, and my Killers shirt size is L, and even then it's going to be a bit baggy. The Clash one would have just looked ridiculous. I'm carrying a bit of extra weight at the moment, but not that much. Anyway it's no big deal. I mean London Calling is such a common shirt design and I do want something a bit different - much the same way as I didn't want an Unknown Pleasures shirt  of Joy Division's straight away. I'll most likely get both at some stage though. The Killers shirt is actually rather sizable history for me - it's my first T-shirt of the band. Yes, after nine long years. I'm going out tonight and I'm going to wear it for the first time. I need to loose some weight and get my hair done but once that happens, you might even see a picture of me in it....

The Mystery Video

Evening all - I wasn't planning on making another post tonight. I've got to get stuck back into my reading because I am desperately behind. Anyway, something cropped up in the last forty-five minutes or so which I felt warranted a brief post. Friday night is music night on BBC4, and this week it was a series of programmes on world music. Specifically the program I'm referring to was an A-Z of world music. My Dad was watching it, whilst I was busy on the computer - I can't say it's my preferred music style really. Anyway, what happened next took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to know any artist that would be featured here, except for perhaps a brief piece on Paul Simon/Ladysmith Black Mambazo (the latter were featured actually). Imagine my surprise though when my Dad simply said "Clare!" and I looked up. Lo and behold - there was one Joe Strummer, with Johnny Depp too. I know - apologies for the amount of Joe Strummer posts on here lately but it was his birthday after all. Besides: I had no idea this incident would happen. It was a brief clip in between the main segments of the show. Johnny did most of the talking, and he was refering to the act that was the next letter in the show. Essentially, it was a brief introductory segment if you will. Joe said nothing actually except making a passing comment in response to something Johnny Depp said. It lasted roughly a minute. Sadly the clip took me and Dad by surprise and we totally missed who the act was. It was definitely late 90s/early 00s (My money is on late 90s), and it seems to be taken from some sort of interview. It looked like they were backstage at a festival actually. Sadly they didn't specify the clip's origins, and a video/Youtube search online has proved utterly hopeless. I've never seen this footage before in my life. I'm sorry for this post being so vague, but that's honestly all I have to go on. I'll search more tomorrow and if I find anything, I'll be sure to post it here as I assume this is rare footage.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Flashback: Deal Sealed.

Okay - the absolute final post in these birthday celebrations. I promise. Last week, I discussed what made me re investigate The Clash. This is the natural sequel. So - this is it folks. The moment where I realized I was a fan. Which is probably why it's a special Clash performance for me - not to mention one of my all time favourite individual performances. This was the moment it all made sense. Light-bulbs turning on, a door opening... whatever slight cliche you wish to use. You could say it was my calling. Sorry, just had to make that joke. This is Know Your Rights from the 1983 US Festival. Admittedly the complete performance isn't a patch on their Topper Headon era shows, but this is a gem I think. As I knew nothing about live Clash performances at this stage I wasn't any the wiser as to what performances were them at their best. Anyway, from the first time I watched this I was mesmerized really. The lyrics of the song are brilliant and definitely play their part, but watching The Clash perform it is something else. Joe Strummer as a front-man was quite simply, hypnotic. And this is coming from someone who seldom gets mesmerized merely watching someone. For Joe though it's an exception. It's his passion, his drive. It's so raw and kinetic that I found it simply intoxicating. My eyes were locked to the screen. His performance, even his physical look..... I just knew watching this for the first time I had found someone very special. In that moment - I had never seen anything like it before in my life, nor have I since. Morever, I got it. I suddenly understood why Joe Strummer was a massive inspiration to millions, and why The Clash mattered so much to so many people. Without knowing anything about Joe's personality, I just knew we had a gem in this man and his loss was a sore one. And through discovering more about his personality, those views have merely been validated. Now, I can simply articulate what makes me drawn to him that little bit better. Although frankly there were always been something about it I'll never be able to rationalize I think. I had been wanting some inspiration for a while, prior to discovering The Clash. When I saw this performance, I just knew Joe Strummer was the one. Ten months later, I still feel the same way.

Love Is A Bourgeois Construct tracklisting announced!

Afternoon all - I'm just back from a spot of record hunting. It was a very strange day actually, with somewhat mixed results. It happens sometimes though. I also got some new CDs in the post so later on, you can expect a double whammy of such posts.

Anyway, in a rather important bit of news for Pet Shop Boys fans, the track listing for the Love Is A Bourgeois Construct single packages has been unveiled! It was previously announced that two new B-sides - called Entschuldigung! and Get It Online - would be included. A relief indeed considering Vocal didn't have any original tracks as B-sides. The remixes for the single are done byDave Aude, Little Boots, The Penelopes and Claptones. The only one I've heard of from that quadrant is Little Boots. I really like her though - Nocturnes is one of the best albums of this year in my opinion. So if that remix lives up to expectations it could become a personal favorite. You can read the full list of remixes on the official Pet Shop Boys website. I rather liked the Vocal remixes actually, so I'll be interested to see what I make of these. Altogether, there's seven remixes and two b-sides. They'll be released in two digital bundles, the first containing four tracks, the second containing five on September 2nd. The CD release is coming September 30th. It'll include all nine tracks. The CD single isn't eligible for chart (due to running time limits), but the digital bundles are. That's probably why the CD single is coming a few weeks later. They've also said that a vinyl release will come at a later date, but there's no indication just when that will be. In any case, I can't wait to hear these B-sides after Electric proved to be a terrific album. The only downside for me? The graphic used on the site. I really hope that's not the official cover and it's just a placeholder image. If that's official it's surely the laziest Pet Shop Boys cover I've ever seen. Time will tell though. 

So, that's it for now. The beauty of these walks means my writers block is shifting, you'll most likely hear from me later on. See you then!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Normal Service Resumed

Afternoon all. Normal service can now resume after the celebrations of Joe Strummer's 61st birthday yesterday. As one final note regarding Joe, I have to say I was bitterly disappointed that none of the channels - at least those that I have - seemed to mark his birthday. Very underwhelming indeed, especially as Channel 4 aired a documentary about 1D fans earlier in the week. It just makes you wonder, doesn't it? I know I've been quiet recently (apart from yesterday). Good news - that seems to be changing! I've had horrific writers block as of late. However, I've started regular exercise and somehow, that seems to be clearing my mind.

Anyway - the actual purpose of this post is a rather insignificant thing I'd like to share with you. I actually got this last Monday, but actually writing the post slipped my mind. I've been a scatterbrain lately, more so than usual. I never share music magazines I buy, only in exceptional cases. I regularly buy two: NME and Classic Pop. They compliment each other, I think. Anyhow, when I went to get my copy of the latest issue I was shocked to discover it came with four pictures! In excellent quality too. In the picture, you can see Adam Ant and Eurythmics. The other two were actually Pet Shop Boys and Debbie Harry. The reason you can't see those is because they're already up on my poster wall! It's the first proper picture I have of Pet Shop Boys on it (I do have one of just Neil Tennant), and although it's not the first Debbie Harry poster in my possession, it's the first to go up on display. You see, I do keep all the posters I get free with the NME, thus I've ended up with a couple of Debbie Harry posters (and one of Blondie). I may put Eurythmics up, but not sure. I do like them, but I am strict about posters I put up. I have to really love an artist to put them on display. Posters, t-shirts etc are bold statements I feel. As for Adam Ant though, I have to say I really don't like his music. So there's no chance he is going on my wall.

 My poster walls are getting extensively redesigned at the moment actually - with the help of my dad. I'm simply too small to put most of them up and let's just say, my handiwork is scrappy, to say the least. They also never stay up when I do it. Never the less, I'll be sure to take a picture of my walls when they're complete. That should hopefully be within a week or so. At the moment though the blogging cogs seem to be ticking in my head again, so hopefully regular blogging will resume from this moment on. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Strummer At His Best

This will probably be the last post I make as part of today's celebrations. In a not unrelated note, I'm actually listening to London Calling as I write this. Gosh, I love that album. Anyway. Much like my previous picture post, I could have picked any amount of favourite videos. Actually, I was only going to pick one of these videos. Could I decide which though for the life of me? Like hell I could. In the end, I decided to go for both. They're at two very different points of his career, but both equally sum up why I love him so much.

Firstly is a clip familiar to all those who have watched The Future Is Unwritten. If you haven't, I highly recommend it. It's a great documentary.This little gem is perhaps the highlight for me. In the video, a journalist asks a perhaps probing question about Topper Headon's reason for vomiting. What comes next is truly classic. Joe launches into a passionate defense of Topper with a few expletives thrown in for good measure. The first time I seen this I absolutely cried with laughter, his reaction is just fervent. It's interesting to note though how quickly things change. Only a few years after this Topper would be sacked from The Clash. His sacking would be something that Joe would come to bitterly regret though.

The next video is equally awesome, but tinged with sadness. It's a much later video, from Global a Go Go era Mescaleros. It too features in a documentary, this time Let's Rock Again, which was made by Don Letts. It's not as known as The Future Is Unwritten, but it's equally as recommended. This time Joe walks around Atlantic City, handing out flyers for the evening's performance. It's as down to earth as a celebrity could hope to be, in fact he even hand makes the flyers himself. You have to love that. What's sad about it though is the reaction of the general public. Bar one or two, they have no idea who is approaching them asking them would they be interested in that night's show. The idea of that is totally alien to me. If Joe Strummer had ever approached me like that.... well I'm not quite sure what would have happened next. Tears, and hugs I think. All on my behalf of course. And lots of shaking. Most likely a loss of speech too - believe me when I say I'm rarely speechless. It's sad to think that someone who was the front-man for an internationally successful band has to resort to these measures. Although to be honest, I get the feeling Joe would have relished having to adopt such a grass-roots approach.

Realistically, this will probably be the last post I make on the blog tonight. I hope I've gone some ways to explaining adequately enough why I love this man so much. I've tried to encompass all eras, not just The Clash. Truth be told, I don't feel that four blog posts (and various posts on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook etc) does him justice. I guess I feel I'll always be in debt to him, even though he's gone. Above all though, I feel truly blessed to have this man's wisdom in my life. I may never have been a fan whilst he was alive (I was simply too young), but I'm making up for lost time. As I said on Facebook, if I can be half the person he was, I'll be satisfied. So Joe, I hope you're someplace beautiful. Once again - happy birthday <3

Overlooked Gem: Joe Strummer - Sleepwalk

Now, for some music. There's plenty of indisputable Clash classics being posted today, and with great reason. They're terrific songs. The Clash were the collective results of four people though, and on Joe Strummer's birthday I wanted to do something a little different. I'm sharing a song with you that is more of a Joe Strummer solo effort. And what a beautiful song it is too! It's from 1989's much overlooked Earthquake Weather. I do really like that album, it's his only full length effort released in what was known as the wilderness years. It's long out of print, which is surprising. I hope that is rectified soon, especially as it contains hidden gems like Sleepwalk. For now though, it's a major release sadly absent from my own personal collection. Anyway, back to sleepwalk. Rather appropriately, it sounds like a lullaby. I can't quite work out if the song makes me happy, or slightly sad in a reflective way. Alias my thoughts on the song aren't really the purpose of this post. I'm sharing it more so to promote a very overlooked song in Joe Strummer's body of work. Also, can I say major kudos to the creator of the video that I've included in this post. They've done a beautiful chronological black and white overview of various clips from Joe's career. Most of the footage included in the video is amongst my all time favourite of him. It's just beautiful to watch. I'll be back later to continue the celebrations, stay tuned!

A visual reminder of the man that is Joe Strummer.

I've seen plenty of pictures of The Clash - and Joe - since becoming a fan. The on stage ones capture his supreme showmanship, of course. However, this beautiful picture captures the essence of the man. It was taken by renowned rock and roll photographer Bob Gruen. The location? New York, the city which Joe and The Clash shared a natural affinity with. In a freezing cold winter's night, a tightly wrapped up Joe Strummer hands over money to a homeless person. Bob Gruen himself once said "I never saw Joe pass a needy or homeless person without giving them something". I think that speaks real volumes about the man. He genuinely did love humanity, he wasn't just saying that for the hell of it. I just love everything about this picture, you know? Namely the contrast - that really warm act of kindness taking place in such cold and chilly surroundings. His love of humanity was deep and true, and it's something I strive to apply to my life more. Not only an incredibly gifted musician, but a downright beautiful human too. Long live Joe Strummer.

How Joe Strummer Taught Me To Know My Rights.

Heroes, it's not a word I use lightly whatsoever. In the case of Joe Strummer, I would have to say he's a hero, an inspiration to me without reservation. Today marks Joe Strummer's 61st birthday. I'm going to try and attempt to articulate how much this man means to me, and what this day means to me. I only can hope I do him proud.

So... how has Joe Strummer changed my life. I think it'd be easier to ask how has he not changed it. The funny thing is, I've only been a fan for ten months. Though in those ten months, he's come to mean so much to me. That's definitely thanks to rather difficult personal circumstances. Although boy, has Joe Strummer helped me through those. It's a very comforting thing, having this constant in a set of ever-changing circumstances. I guess I have this little vision of myself, armed with my trusty Clash records ready to charge head on and face whatever life has in store next. When I listen to interviews... there's something very soothing about that voice. I can't describe it, but it grounds me. Joe epitomized the spirit of never giving up. I guess I just love the idea that I can face whatever may be next, but knowing I've got someone to remind me to never give up little more than a press of a play button away.

Another way he's definitely helped me is my ongoing battle to accept myself. And to be proud to be an individual. Northern Ireland has damn near destroyed itself in the past because some people can't accept alternate view points here. I guess it's made me wary of having my own brain at all growing up. Yet thanks to Joe and The Clash, I'm realizing that fear isn't right. Slowly but surely, they're teaching me that thinking for myself is going to pay dividends. Better to think for oneself than be "controlled in the body, controlled in the mind", to paraphrase Complete Control. Or as I like to say, better be a creep than a sheep. Yes sir, I've got my own opinions and they matter. Fuck anyone that says otherwise. When you're 19 and feel lost, hearing someone say that your opinions still matter is practically life affirming. At least, it is for me. Wow, maybe I'm not lacking in self confidence as much as I thought... thanks for that Joe.

Although above all - Joe has taught me to
stand out by all means, just remember to do it with a keen sense of humanitity. Yes, stand up for my rights, what I believe in. Love what I love, and don't be ashamed. Although always do it with a sense of tolerance. Don't just abuse others with alternate view points. Not only is that deeply hypocritical, but it also never gets anyone anywhere. I see that all the time here in Northern Ireland. That's something I think all of us can take away from Joe. His ability to rebel, yet posses a love and faith for humanity is truly inspiring. For a young girl in Northern Ireland, such behavior teaches me more about how to be a good member of the human race than any text book has or shall ever will.

Taking chances, seeing the goodness in people, standing up for what's right even when it goes against norms. Not doubting myself. Having the guts to question people and hold them to account. Not putting up with crap. Never conform. To sum it up, that's what The Clash and Joe has taught me. I hope I'm not painting Joe Strummer as a saint. He was far from that. Though he was a good man, he made mistakes just like the rest of us but he never pretended otherwise. Nor did he act like a flashy rockstar. He was a humble man, who always remembered his roots, and never saw himself above others. The audience were his friends if anything. If you asked me to sum up why I admire him so much then I'd simply say two words: he cared. He cared about his music, he cared about his fans, and he cared about the world around him. I often think I'm useless, but the idea that a man of his calibre might just have seen something good in me is all the motivation I need to keep going. And above all else, until his last breath he always had something relevant to say. People like Joe are never irrelevant.

It's true, it makes that early death all the sadder. A year ago if I wrote this I would have been far more mournful. I get days were I miss him terribly. One reason being, I'll never see him perform in any shape. Nor will he ever know the impact he's had on me. Sometimes, I wish that I could have the chance just to say "thank you Joe. It'd be nice to wake up one day, and hear an announcement of new music. It'll never happen of course, but the beat must go on. I'd like to think Joe would feel the same. Rather than mourn what I can't do, strive to do what I can do to the best ability that I can. That's what Joe was about, wasn't it? What Joe stood for didn't die when he died, I must remember this. He left behind brilliant music, in all his various guises. He lives on in those  records everyday.

Today, I'm actually celebrating. His heart condition could have killed him at any age - we were incredibly lucky to have him for those fifty years. Celebrate those wonderful memories The Clash and Joe have gave and shall continue to give us. Celebrate that we've got the lyrics of a wonderful man to guide us through the good and the bad. Yes, fifty is too young but he lived a fuller life than most. In his brief existence, he changed the lives of millions for the better. And he'll continue to do that, lest we forget. I'm proof his message can continue to inspire, even in the wake of his death. See what I'm getting at? Joe will never die, may we celebrate!

Remember that today marks the birth of someone whose influence is pretty much incalculable. He's changed  the lives of millions. And the world is a sweeter place for his existance, even ten years on. 61 years ago today a legend was born. And I repeat, he will never die.  Just by being a fan, it ensures that. His legacy will carry on, and if he inspires you to do something for the greater good of mankind, then you're shaping his legacy right there. Really I think today should be about thinking about how the world - and we as fans - would be different if one certain little baby called John Mellor never came into being on this day in 1952. I know my life would be worse off if that little baby was never born. So thank God for Joe Strummer.

Joe - I love you. I miss you. But most importantly - I thank you. Happy birthday inspiration <3

Monday, 19 August 2013

Madonna MDNA Tour Pre-order

This is pretty important if you're a Madonna fan in the UK - her MDNA Tour DVD/Bluray can finally be pre-ordered on Amazon UK. So far, it seems the only way to obtain a CD containing the tour audio is via importing a DVD/CD version. Really, I'm not sure what's going on there. Getting the blu-ray for me though was the obvious choice. I've got two blu-ray players in my house though, and I want to utilize them.  I'll definitely get it on CD format in the future if possible but right now it's not feasible. The release date is September 9th, the same as The Clash's upcoming Sound System and Hits Back compilations. Both of which are on pre-order for me too. As you can imagine, that week is going to be manic for me. I've just pre-ordered the Blu-ray version for now, and that will do me just fine. Now that I have an order placed for it though, I can truly get excited to finally see her acclaimed MDNA tour for myself!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Collection: Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits.

This is a shining example that sometimes it's the story behind an item that makes the item special. This particular one is the 1972 compilation Greatest Hits, by Simon & Garfunkel. It's just a standard copy, there's nothing noteworthy in that regard.What makes this mean that little bit more to me however is the stories attributed to it. How I acquired it for instance, but moreover what the potential symbolisation of that is. More on that in a minute. Then there's also the impact on my musical taste it has had. Then on the most basic of levels - the fact it was the first CD of theirs I had. Anyway, I mentioned earlier how I ended up with this CD is significant, to me at least. What happened was that I had been meaning to check Simon & Garfunkel some months back, after being a fan of Paul Simon for a number of years. It was as if fate then stepped in. About a week or so later a family friend came to see my mother. She had a CD with her, which contained a song she wanted her to hear. The CD? Simon & Garfunkel's greatest hits. I never did find out what the song was although because we were going through personal issues at the time, I've a sneaking suspicion it was Bridge Over Troubled Water. Mum already liked Simon & Garfunkel and because she knew I wanted to listen to them, she gave the CD to me. Naturally, I was pleased. I'm always looking to expand my music collection after all. I can remember listening to this for the first time so clearly - I was laying in bed. Mrs Robinson came on. I liked it, wasn't blown away but I wanted to keep listening all the same. Then a song called For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her started. By that point, it all became crystal clear. As crystalline as Art Garfunkel's beautiful vocal performance, which left me weeping (and that's not exaggerating). I could see why Dad had said for years about how great they were. From then on I was a fan. They've made some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard. Even though a lot of the music is melancholic, it still is guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Paul Simon is a beautiful lyricist, and Art Garfunkel is a beautiful singer. The irony? I became a fan during very unhappy circumstances. Although in a way, it was those very circumstances that made me a fan. I mean my mum's friend giving us this CD most certainly acted as a catalyst. I might not be a fan if I didn't have to go through that particular situation. It's funny how things work out. I guess every time I look at this CD I'm reminded that even the darkest of circumstances can yield beautiful things.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Flasback: Clare's Calling.

Why it's important: The start of the process that turned me into a dedicated Clash and Joe Strummer fan.

As next week is the great man's birthday, I've decided to make the next two flashback-oriented posts dedicated to him. So - this week we've got the moment that made me go back to The Clash. Like many of my other favourite artists, they just sneaked in. The start of this life-changing process took place October 26th, 2012 (you can thank Facebook's Activity Log feature for that). I briefly flirted with The Clash's music in the summer of 2012. I had been trying to track down a greatest hits in town but to no avail - the only one I found was missing a track I loved but I honestly can't remember what it is anymore. Anyway - one night me and my father were watched an excellent documentary presented by Jools Holland called London Calling. Its companion piece: London Songs at The BBC then came on. And suddenly, the familiar chords of London Calling chimed. I was incredibly happy - I already knew the song and I loved it. When I looked up though I was rather surprised. I wasn't looking at The Clash, rather Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros. It was from May 2000, when he performed on Later with Jools Holland. I already knew Joe, but not The Mescaleros. What struck me the most however was that despite the inevitable physical and vocal changes that age brings, the song - and Joe himself - both retained their passion. Despite Joe being 47, he still performed like he was 27. And that legendary left leg still kept on pumping - I like to think he's still pumping it right now, wherever he may be actually. Anyhow - there was... something, about him. I couldn't put my finger on it but I just knew there was something about this man that I had to get to know better. When the performance finished, even my Dad remarked he was impressive - and he didn't care for The Clash at all previously. I came away feeling I hadn't explored The Clash and Joe Strummer thoroughly enough. Time to re-investigate The Clash....

Friday, 16 August 2013

Happy Birthday Madonna!

Today is a very important day in my musical calendar: The one and only Madonna turns 55 today. I've been a Madonna fan since the age of about twelve, the Confessions era being my introduction. The impact Madonna has had on me is incalculable, when I really sit and reflect. Honestly, aside from friends and family she is by far and away the most influential female in my life. Really she's been the only female that's ever inspired me for whatever reason. She's been my favorite female artist ever since I became a fan, and I can't see that changing anytime soon. When you're twelve years old and you watch videos like Justify My Love and Erotica at that age (as I did) it really leaves an impact on you. It opened the doors of sexuality to me just as it began to enter my life through physical and emotional changes. I became a fan just as I entered the cocoon that is the teenage years. Through those years of self discovery, self acceptance and just general transition as develop from a girl into a woman her music has been a focal force. I've danced many a night away to Confessions On A Dancefloor, I've pondered and reflected to Ray Of Light, you get the picture. Through ecstasy and agony, hurt to hope, she's sound-tracked it all for me. Thirty-one years into her career, her influence is still massively felt throughout music, and yes, she is still very much relevant. You don't loose your relevance when you're a music legend on Madonna's scale. Can I name a favorite album? Like heck I can. It's actually a five-way (yes really) tie. Even then, there's a further two albums just behind them. . Happy birthday Queen of Pop <3

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The MDNA Mystery.

I've been holding off on writing about this for a few days. Mostly because I wanted to see if the situation rectified itself. As it stands, it hasn't. Earlier in the week the official artwork for the upcoming release of Madonna's MDNA tour on DVD/Bluray was unveiled. Not only that but a release date of September 10th was announced. Although as that's a Tuesday, I've a sneaking suspicion the UK release will be on September 9th, as that's our major release day. All good then. It's now officially available on Amazon US too. The problem? It's nowhere to be found on Amazon UK. Not a sniff of it - and judging by comments on her official website other European Amazon websites haven't listed it either. Huh? I really don't understand what is going on here. I mean, Sound System by The Clash was available to pre-order on Amazon as soon as it was announced and that was four months in advance of its release date. It's a little under four weeks until the release of the MDNA Tour. I'm deeply impatient, I know. I just can't wait to see it in all its glory - I've been saving myself by not watching the EPIX Broadcast, so to speak, so I can savor it when it does come out. I'll pre-order it as soon as it's available naturally. I just hope that's soon because I really don't know what's going on with Amazon UK.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Applause.... For What?

Ah, Lady Gaga. How you frustrate me. Whether you love her or hate her you can't deny she certainly gets people talking. I'm a casual fan - I have The Fame Monster and Born This Way. I think they're both good with some excellent songs. Artpop I'm worried about though - because if Applause is anything to go by then it's going to be far from Artpop.

This is where I stand with Lady Gaga: she's got a lot of talent. The reason she frustrates me? It's because songs like Applause do not show this talent. Nor has she shown any musical development with it. If anything, I'd say she's regressed - it's sounds like a demo from her first album to me. The salt in the wounds is her personality.

I remember when Just Dance came out. Admittedly I wasn't impressed but the subsequent singles made me check The Fame out. And I really liked it. I thought she was capable of going onto even better things, too. I even thought she was incredibly cool with this hybrid style of retro and futuristic. The problem is as time went on, she got bigger. So did her ego. She quickly developed a heightened sense of self importance.The more ridiculous she got, the more I went off her. She relied too much on gimmicks, on hype. If she didn't have talent I'd say it was style over substance. Although because she seems more interested in hype these days, I guess it still is a case of that to a degree.

The problem is, she does have substance. Lots of it. She's got a great voice, is a terrific performer, and songs like Schiebe from Born This Way were fresh and innovative.  However, in songs like Applause it's just not translating. What's compounding it is the fact she hypes herself up so much and seems to think that the music she's releasing these days not only demonstrates her talent, but it's of an exceptional quality. The problem is, it's frankly not.  On either level. The Fame Monster was good for a pop album, so was Born This Way, and occasionally her talent is fully realized. Was it the best of the decade though? Not a cat in hell's chance. A good pop album, but let's have some perspective here please. She's making herself a walking target of undelivered promises. In her head, she seems to think she's a lot better than she is. 

Frankly, I think Artpop is make or break for her. A lot of casual fans I know have long lost interest in her antics. Honestly, I think she needs to take a break after this album, recoup and get some new ideas. Electro-pop is a stale formula and frankly she's not being original in the slightest if she releases songs that are in that style. She needs to find a new style that she feels right with, change her style but at the same time it must be genuine. The hype needs to be toned down too. As I said before casual fans I know have long lost interest and if she keeps it up I think the only people who will buy into the hype will be the most diehard of Little Monsters. She'll alienate herself further.The bottom line? She needs to stop talking about her originality, and let the music demonstrate that. Time will tell how she does with that.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

On this day in 2007.....

Today, August 10th marks the six year anniversary of the death of Tony Wilson, The legendary founder and manager of The Hacienda nightclub and the co-founder of Factory Records. Both extremely legendary themselves. So culturally significant in fact that he would be dubbed Mr Manchester. Besides, any label that can say they have Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays all on their roster is a fine one. Even then, that's just the tip of the iceberg regarding Factory Records acts. I'd have to say Tony Wilson's life has made an indelible impact on my music taste. I investigating Factory Records two years ago and you could say I've become rather enamored, to say the least. I've become a huge fan of Factory Records and then consequently Manchester music in general. Not only that but I've got this very big dream that one day I'll hopefully have an impact on Northern Ireland even a tenth of the size that he had on Manchester. Such a goal will almost certainly never happen, but hey I can dream. And what also won't happen is my love for Factory Records music dying off either. RIP.

Blondie and Fleetwood Mac Goodness.

Afternoon all, I'm still here. I've just had a busy week of it. Writers block, feeling slightly ill and personal business being the main culprits for the lack of blogging. My reading has gone to rot too, I really should have finished my Clash biography at least a week ago. It seems to be creeping back now though. Hopefully I should able to finish it soon.

Anyway - I did watch two excellent music related things today which are both well worth watching.. Firstly, I watched the 2006 Blondie documentary entitled One Way Or Another, originally broadcast by BBC. Funnily enough they're actually repeating the documentary tonight. This was the first insight I've ever had into the history of the band. I'm pretty sure it was the first time I've seen Debbie Harry interviewed as well. I have to say, I really liked the documentary. Admittedly I would have liked it to have been a little more in depth about the music. It's understandable, but a lot of the documentary does focus on Debbie Harry's skills as front-woman and her looks etc. My favourite Blondie albums, Eat To The Beat and Autoamerican didn't even get a mention. I did love the insights into the innovative Rapture though. The other thing that struck me was just how low situations for the band went: I had no idea that Chris Stein suffered from a deadly illness that very nearly proved fatal. The other surprise was just how low their final album before they broke up, The Hunter, actually sold. It's actually one of my favourite Blondie records to be perfectly honest. It's amazing to think they were a top selling band, yet all the members ended up with massive financial difficulties. It's funnty how fast life can turn. It was also great to see Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads there too. The sole survivng member of the original Ramones line-up; Tommy Ramone, was also interviewed too. It's a shame that Dee Dee, Joey and Johnny all died before the documentary was made because I think they definitely would have been interviewed for it. In any case, it was a really interesting documentary and I'm glad the band were as interesting in it as I had hoped they'd be!

So after the documentary I wanted to watch something like a concert. After a few minutes I settled with Fleetwood Mac's The Dance. I've seen bits of this before, although not the full show. It was actually my first full length Fleetwood Mac show I've seen which is quite surprising really. I have to say I absolutely loved it. Watching it also gave me a new found appreciation for just how damn good a guitarist Lindsey Buckingham is too. You'd be surprised how often those sorts of things are lost on me. The version of Big Love performed here was brilliant. Other highlights were Everywhere (I think it was even better than the studio version), Rhiannon and the epic closer of Don't Stop, performed with the University of Southern California Marching Band.  My only (very slight) grievances were the absence of any material from Mirage, I'd have loved Only Over You to have been performed. Also I wished they had have performed Second Hand News or Never Going Back Again too. Admittedly very minor qualms. It's a great performance though and it makes me wish that one day Christine McVie will rejoin the band. I think I'll purchase the CD of it soon in all honesty, and definitely the DVD at some point also!

So that's me for the moment - I'm hoping that on Monday the iPad will return and I also think I'm going shopping on Friday too. I've another two posts coming today though, so stay tuned!

Friday, 9 August 2013

Pet Shop Boys - Introspective

Introspective is the third studio album by the Pet Shop Boys, released in 1988. It is their best selling album overall and also remains a favorite with critics and fans alike. The album was produced by Trevor Horn who would also produce Fundamental almost twenty years later. On Introspective they embrace the burgeoning house music/club scene (almost) fully. The result? The only truely club oriented Pet Shop Boys album along with Electric. When I originally wrote this post, I was critical of the album, but I've been listening to it quite a bit lately and I have to admit that I now would consider it among my favorite Pet Shop Boys albums!

This is a very unusual Pet Shop Boys album. Firstly, the album only contains six tracks. However, the track lengths are all long. In fact, every song on the album is 6 minutes at the least. This also goes against the grain of many traditional albums containing songs that are the more standardised length of 3-4 minutes. This concept was one that they had envisaged since work commenced on the record. Initially, this definitely made the album one of my least favourite Pet Shop Boys albums as I felt that the extended mixes more often than not just didn't add anything to the tracks. I have to admit though, that the tracks have grown on me immensely and I actually prefer some of them to their shorter versions! The only track that I feel is bettered on the single release was It's Alright.

Whilst you have to admire them for going against the grain with this album you could argue it also hindered them to a degree: some fans may have been disappointed that the singles were very different to the album versions. Especially in the case of Always On My Mind - this was the first time it was on an album. Neil himself admitted in a speech to the Oxford Union that he regretted the album being released so soon after Actually and that the 12" nature of the tracks may have been a hindrance to the band long term and the success of their next album, Behaviour which is one of their least successful commercially.

Interestingly also, the album only features two songs written specifically for the record itself. These being Domino Dancing and Left To My Own Devices. Always On My Mind was actually released as a single a year prior to the albums release during the Actually era, I Want A Dog was a former B-side and I'm Not Scared (which was written by Pet Shop Boys for Eighth Wonder) and It's Alright are cover versions. Also, all of the albums tracks were singles or at least featured on one in some format: Eighth Wonder released I'm Not Scared as a single and I Want A Dog was a remix of the original, which had featured as Rent's B-side. Despite the songs coming from all these different places though the album is still consistently good, there's no track on the album I particularly dislike. I'm Not Scared remains one of their great forgotten masterpieces I think. It's also remarkable that the album sounds as cohesive as it does really.

In terms of lyrical themes, there isn't really any. Although there is a definite concept to the album: that of clubbing. The tracks are all extended in length which would obviously cater to clubs and DJ's. Not only that, but closing track It's Alright is a cover version of a house music track, house pioneer Frankie Knuckles remixed I Want A Dog for the album and Neil felt the the album title of Introspective sounded "a little ravey". Most significantly Always On My Mind also is mashed up with an acid-house (the dance music style of the time) track called In My House.

As for the title - it stemmed from the fact that they are dance songs, but have introspective lyrics, along with the additional aforementioned reason that the title sounded ravey. Personally I have to wonder why they didn't save the title for Behaviour, as its overall themes of reflection would make that more suitable surely. Although on repeated listening I came to appreciate that it is an introspective album. The album was actually going to be titled Bounce initially, in reference to the fact they have bouncy bass-lines. The unreleased demo of the same name was also going to be on the album too. Personally I wouldn't call the tracks bouncy, although there's definitely a strong club oriented theme.

Overall,I have to say this album has grown on me so much. Initially, it would have been one of my least favourite Pet Shop Boys albums, but there's definite layers to Introspective. It's interesting to compare the album to Electric - the only other truly club oriented album in their discography. When I look at the two side by side I can definitely appreciate that for a synth-pop club album Introspective does deserve its name, definitely more than I initially thought. Nevertheless, it's another very strong Pet Shop Boys album!

Why I Don't Like Hipsters.

So, earlier I was doing the rounds on Tumblr, and I stumbled across this in The Clash tag. An obviously fake gig poster with 757 notes. In unison, hipsters disguising as fans of these bands were exclaiming how it's an amazing lineup, how they wish they were there etc. There's just one problem:

It's. Not. Fucking. Real.

I mean, firstly, a gig with that line-up is surely going to enter the history books. It's an epic hypothetical lineup. Five of the best/most influential artists of the 70s/80s. The problem? Ian Curtis of Joy Division killed himself in 1980. The Smiths formed in 1982. Sex Pistols broke up in 1978.... see the problem? There was never a point in history were these groups were all together at once. Any actual fan of Joy Division or Sex Pistols is bound to recognize that. Apart from - of course- the hipsters.

It represents something that worries me quite a lot. I'm very concerned about this growing problem of music being turned into a fashion label. What I mean is the growing trend of people wearing artist t-shirts and not listening to them, or just pretending to listen to the artist full stop. It's fake and frankly stupid. It's a total joke. I just don't understand how the hell people that do that are actually happy. Trust me - I've been there. I was badly bullied at school and because I was left with such little self esteem I tried to win the respect of my peers by pretending to like artists in the charts at the time more than what I did. I did quite like the artists but I pretended to love them. Did it work? Like hell it did. It just made me feel worse. I still didn't win them over and I was lying to myself, which is the worst person you can lie to really. After about a month I realized how ridiculous my new behavioral pattern was and quickly abandoned it. I'm a lot happier now that I've embraced my interests, however unorthodox they are, I assure you.

I also feel that the problem creates issues for real fans. I mean Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures cover imagery is one of the most frequently worn music shirt designs I'd say. It's incredibly common. What's not that common though are people that wear the shirt because they love the album. It's become so rife now that a lot of fans simply presume that if you're young and wear the shirt you probably don't listen to them. I've adopted a similar mentality myself, and I'm 19. The other problem? There's people like me -19 and I have a Joy Division shirt. I don't have the Unknown Pleasures design - mine is of the band themselves. The reason I have it is that I'm a fan. You know, the old fashioned way of doing things. I wear that shirt because I'm a fan. Nothing more, nothing less. That's the way it should be.

I guess the hipster mentality is something I am never going to understand. I've got a compulsive learning urge when I love something. If I love a band I want to read as much as I can about them. It doesn't come from wanting to be a music journalist. I've always had this tendency. I don't see how you could love something and yet not have an interest to read up on it. I mean I'm not saying you have to be encyclopedic about a band to call yourself a fan, but at least show some knowledge of the basics. And, in the case of Joy Division I'd argue it's frankly an insult - Ian Curtis was a deeply troubled young man. The despair and pain he felt was obviously channeled in Joy Divisions music to a degree. Yet even after his death it's being bastardized and I'd bet these people give no second thought that - essentially - what they're doing is using a dead man to make themselves look cool. Now, isn't that pretty sick? Think about that.

Monday, 5 August 2013

An update.

Hello all, just a update post. I'm still here and everything is fine, I'm just busy and suffering from a bad case of writers block - hence no posts for the past few days. I also watched Drive and Seven Pyschopaths yesterday, both excellent movies and I particularly enjoyed the latter. I've also been busy with and impromptu visit to a family friend's house. Also, I've discovered a new record store (called Track Records) has opened in Ballymena - a town situated aproximately forty minutes outside of Belfast. I haven't got a chance to go to it myself yet but me and my friends are planning to take a trip up to it very soon. The iPad situation still isn't resolved by the way - it's still in repair although I'm hoping tomorrow or Wednesday I should get news that the repair work has been completed. For the next few days new posts here may be few and far between - I want to work on drafting more posts and getting into the way of reviewing things again as I've been neglecting that end of things lately. I'll be back soon though!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Resistance Is Futile

Potentially I've gone slightly overboard here. For the past week I've been considering pre-ordering The Clash's upcoming Hits Back compilation for the rather superficial reason that it comes with a copy of the original set-list that Joe Strummer wrote. It's probably the worst example of my completist nature. I mean, it's just a greatest hits - I own all of these tracks physically already and in most cases it's multiple times. Although the idea of a replica set list (especially one written by Joe Strummer) was just too tempting. To be honest, I had already decided to buy it at some point when the price dropped anyway, I've just decided to not delay the inevitable. I know it's more than a little excessive but oh well. I mean - I've already got all their studio albums and I've still got Sound System on pre-order. I think I've already crossed the border into dedicated Clash buying territory to be perfectly honest. Besides - I'm hardly going to have many opportunities to look forward to upcoming Clash releases, I might as well make the most of them when they present themselves.

Town trip part II: The rejuvanated HMV.

So, after finding the Joe Strummer badge I went into Centra for some chocolate and discovered the Clash mentioned on the cover of Q magazine - hence why I bought it today. Then I went into HMV. Funnily enough as I walked in and said "wouldn't it be brilliant if they have brought in new shirts and got Clash ones?". Well, they had actually! I near died because I've never seen The Clash in the shirts section in the one in town in my life! It was a London Calling cover shirt. They also had a new Battle Born Killers one which looked beautiful and a True Faith New Order one, which were new to me. They've also cut their prices away down because of Head, which is great because prices in HMV were getting ridiculous. Although they were selling a rather bog standard Blondie best of compilation for £12 which I thought was an insane price. Anyhow today I could have gone nuts: it's ironic that they finally got Bleach (Special edition) by Nirvana in. I think I may need to make an exception in the CD hiatus rule and buy that. They did however have three gems that I couldn't resist, Parallel Lines is my first Blondie CD, Simon and Garfunkel Live In New York City is a great live album I heard for the first time a few weeks back and Loaded by The Velvet Underground is my first Velvet Underground studio album. I've heard it in full too and I remember really liking it, although I now can't remember any of the tracks that didn't feature on their best of compilation that I own! I'll be especially interested how that goes. I have to say that today has been my most succesful day in town for a while, for the Joe Strummer badge alone I'd say!

Town trip part I: I finally find a Clash badge!

Well, today was a record hunting day to remember, most definitely! For a variety of reasons, which I'm going to explain across two back to back posts. Anyhow, today I ventured into a place I'd never been before and did I discover a little gem! A few months ago I discovered the name of a record store called Dragon Records. It's in an area of the city center I don't typically go to and as such, I kept forgetting to go and check it out. Today, I finally did and it was well worth it! The store predominantly specializes in vinyl, so vinyl collectors in Belfast really need to check it out. As you know, I don't buy it myself (at least, not yet) so I wasn't looking at any vinyl to purchase. It had a lot of punk though so I did look to see what Clash goodies they had. They actually had a whole section dedicated to Clash 7" (also Sex Pistols too, and The Stranglers if memory serves me). Mostly the Capital Radio EP, London Calling, Tommy Gun if I remember correctly and I think Clash City Rockers also. They did have Trash City by Joe Strummer thrown in there too. When I turned around I saw a board on the wall with badges. I couldn't make them out at first but when I squinted. lo and behold there was this little gem. For £2, it was a given. I personally think it's adorable. It's the first time I've ever seen a Clash or Joe Strummer badge in any shape in town so it was something I just simply had to get. It was an excellent shop also with friendly staff and I definitely would go back again too!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Turning Rebellion Into Money?

It's been interesting for me these past few days, with the announcement of the In Utero boxset by Nirvana coming out on September 23rd. Interesting to compare prices and content (when the latter is announced) with The Clash's Sound System boxset. I've been following the comments on their official Facebook page to try and see what other fans think of the boxet. Truthfully, I think fans are being slightly too harsh on it, especially with the price for In Utero. Before I go any further; let's break the content down.

In Utero: Three CDs containing the original album remastered and various live material, unheard demos and the like No official track-listings have been announced yet but it's apparently set to contain over 70 tracks. There's also a DVD of their Live and Loud performance which is also going to be released standalone. The price on Amazon UK at time of writing is £108.

Sound System: 11 CDs comprising all studio albums remastered bar Cut The Crap. There's also B-sides, unreleased studio and live material and a bonus DVD. The price on Amazon at the time of writing is £94 and the price has dropped as low as £77 in the past.

As for extra merchandise type stuff, all In Utero seems to have is a poster and a thick glossy book (which does look lovely). Sound System comes with a poster, stickers, badges, a notebook, dog tags, three fanzines (one designed especially for the boxset). The CDs for In Utero seem to be packaged rather basically too, wheras Sound System has the albums in vinyl replica form (hence why five studio albums is spread over eight discs) in individual hardback books.

As for which is the more extravagant I think we can safely say that Sound System wins by a landslide. And right now it's the cheaper of the two. I love Nirvana and In Utero is an excellent album but my God, £108 for four discs is frankly ludicrous. Let's break it down another way:

Four discs at £108 comes to roughly £27. 25 a disc. And based on what's been announced, there's a two disc special edition coming and the DVD is also being released standalone. In reality, it seems so far that the boxset contains one exclusive disc. And remember the only other extras are a glossy book and a poster.

For Sound System £93 divided by 12 comes to £7.25. Not to mention that the packaging is far more extravagant, I mean it comes in a giant boombox for goodness sake!

I have to say that when you compare the two it becomes apparent that Sound System really isn't that dear. Yes, punk purists will be up in arms no doubt but as far as box-sets go it's actually pretty good value. Maybe I'm biased because I'm a young fan and as I've said before several times, things like Clash badges are a rarity in Belfast. It's also perfect for newer fans who don't have any of their albums on CD. I mean it's all The Clash most people will ever need unless you're a completist. In short - I don't think Sound System is too bad but In Utero is.

Thursday, 1 August 2013


The album artwork has also become rather iconic.
Actually is the Pet Shop Boys second album, released in 1987. Usually in music reviews I often read about the dreaded "sophomore slump", a term that describes how an artist can have successful debut album campaign that generates hype but when the second album comes along, for various reasons the album doesn't match the predecessor's success. This definitely wasn't the case with Actually though, as not only has it become their third best selling album overall, but has now earned its place along with the likes of  The Human League's Dare as an essential album in synthpop music. The era has now been called the bands "imperial phase" - a term which has stuck with both fans and the duo themselves using it frequently - to describe their success at this point,

In terms of sound, the album is fairly similar to their debut album Please, but it sounds more polished. Its the only time in their discography were I feel that two back to back albums have a similar sort of sound. After Actually they change their sound very much so with Introspective, then with Behaviour and so forth. It also definitely sees the band growing as musicians, they're slightly more adventurous on Actually and Neil Tennant's lyrics are going from strength to strength. The final track on Actually, the majestic Kings Cross, still is one of the bands finest moments from a lyrical point of view, and that track along with Loves Come Quickly from Please, are probably the first two tracks that show off how good Neil's lyrics are.Another example of his lyrical skill can be found in Shopping; which remains to this day almost without doubt their most misunderstood track ever (in terms of lyrics).

It's by far my favourite of their trio of 80's studio albums, and I think one of the reasons has to be the choice of singles. It's very rarely that I say this (I'm struggling to think of any other album to be honest), but I think they got the single choices for this album spot on. The public seemed to agree too, half of the singles from Actually (Its a Sin and Heart) reached number one, and Always On My Mind also reached number one during the era, despite it not being released on Actually itself (Which fans were furious about, such was the popularity of their cover). Actually was therefore re-released with a copy of the single. Since Actually, the duo have never had another number one single in the UK, but its interesting to note that their only number one UK album was actually Very, released in 1993.

Despite the singles being very popular, its worth noting that Heart and Rent didn't appear on the album in the same versions that were released as singles. Heart in particular, which was a little bit slower on the album and not just as disco sounding. Personally, I prefer the album mix of Heart and don't really have a strong preference in which version of Rent I like better. I like both mixes.

The album was originally going to be titled Jealousy, with the track of the same name included on the album. For reasons that haven't been stated by the group themselves, Jealousy was dropped from the tracklisting and the name of the album thus changed.

Originally, this used to be my favourite album along with Very but I would be lying if I said that has remained the case. It's not that I've gone off the album, the others have grown on me to various degrees over the years, some overtaking Actually for me in enjoyment levels. When I originally got into Pet Shop Boys I overplayed the four singles of the album to absolute death, it's a case of it being too familiar really. I've never been a huge fan of either It Couldn't Happen Here or I Want To Wake Up either. Although it is worth noting that the album only has 10 tracks, so weaker tracks do stick out for me more, plus I tend to find I review my favourite artists much tougher than I would review others. 8/10 tracks are winners for me so it is still very, very good. Truth be told, It Couldn't Happen Here is a really well made song, but I've never fully got into it.

I know the penultimate paragraph was a bit more negative but this is still a brilliant album that I do often neglect. Whilst they don't hit their musical zenith for me until Behaviour, this is still one of their best albums. I'd also say it's arguably the best of the 80s synthpop albums, seriously. I would also say it's the best Pet Shop Boys album to start with too. Not only are some of their biggest hits like It's A Sin and Heart included, it's also balanced. As much as I love Behaviour and Very (my two favourite albums) they're quite atypical Pet Shop Boys albums. Actually has a good balance of poppy, bombastic numbers balanced with more melancholic down-tempo material. It's a brilliant second album!