Friday, 24 February 2012

Anyone Can Play Guitar - Month 2

The benefit of blogging my progress with the Geetar has already borne fruit. After last month's dismal effort I have at least managed a weekly twanging session. That's not to say I've made any huge strides but I have played Guitar at least 3 times more than I did in the whole of last year.

To keep in step with the rest of the blog here's a list of five things I have discovered so far.

1. It remains as hard as I remembered to achieve anything sounding even remotely like a tune.

2. I am gradually getting to grips with "Bad Moon Rising" and reckon this could be my breakthrough song. My first attempts had me feeling comfortable with the D and A chord but struggling to find the G. I found a video that helped me get my head around the strumming pattern and, whilst thinks have only moved from "incredibly awkward" to "really very clunky", I feel I am getting somewhere.

3. "Folsom Prison Blues" may be a bit more of a challenge. Ostensibly this is a three chord song too (E,A7,B7) but I've not got my head around combining them yet. My confidence was knocked further by a video tutorial that explained how to do the twiddly intro. The chap on the video made it sound fairly simple but this failed to transfer to my fingers. On a positive note an hour failing miserably to play this was rewarded by ten minutes in which I almost nailed the first couple of lines of "Bad Moon Rising". Almost.

4. Ukulele's might only have four strings but, it turns out, that doesn't make them any easier to play. By which I mean that I couldn't pick it up and get a tune out of it within an hour. I thought I'd have a go playing "Bad Moon Rising" on my eldest's Uke. The chords use different finger placements and I found them harder to form then on Guitar, let alone attempt to change from one to another. Think I'll stick with the six string for the time being.

5. I need to practice, practice, practice. I can probably make some progress with a weekly strum but a mate who can play guitar suggested than 10 minutes a day would be better than 2 hours a week. I suspect he's right too. Right now my fingers are weak and useless, I need to toughen them up and the only way to do this, and get those chord shapes into my head, is to keep on playing.

Report Card: C+

Friday, 17 February 2012

Guest Top 5 - 5olly's favourite War Films

The first guest post of the year is from my Twitter friend 5olly who had spent most of last year watching and (occasionally) blogging The Channel 4 Top 100 War Movies here. He finally finished this marathon effort, well the watching part anyway, and kindly agreed to let me reproduce his final post on the subject here. I'm looking forward to whatever project he decides to take on next.

I managed to watch all the war films in the list, I just failed miserably at blogging them. It’s the blogging bit that I find so difficult, mainly cos I’m such a lazy twat. But in the spirit of Chop’s Top Fives I’ll give you my 5 highlights.

1. Ice Cold In Alex (No. 26)

Genius film and one that transported me back to a rainy afternoon in Hangleton as a young boy. Surprisingly for a Black & White film I loved it. Great story and it had me on the edge of my sofa. Best product placement ever as well.

Read my brilliant review here.

2. The Pianist (No. 32)

Amazingly I found this film one of the most tedious films I’d ever seen when I first saw it when I was doing the IMDB Top 100 Films. Bizarrely I rather enjoyed it the second time round. This was probably due to the fact that i was expecting to watch the right film this time, and not The Piano with Harvey Keitel.

Read my first review here, and my later review here.

3. Memphis Belle (No. 88)

Who knew there was an alternate ending? Who believed it involved Kevin Costner and Kiefer Sutherland? Who didn’t realise it was a completely different show that I’d got confused with? (Yep that’s right, it was me) It’s was still a good film though, even with the singing..

My extensive review (including a video of the confused ending) can be found here.

4. Oh! What a Lovely War (No. 70)

A brilliant film set in my home town. A true joy to watch. So good I went out and bought it. If I said that I was dreading watching a film about a musical, about the First World War then I wouldn’t have been lying. It’s funny, sad and poignant. Well worth a watch. I would link to my review, but I didn’t do one.

5. Play Dirty (Not even on the list)

Brilliant! An English version of The Dirty Dozen! Michael Caine rocks out over the African desert and kicks some Nazi arse! A genuine highlight of my year of film watching, and proof in point that doing pointless New Year Resolutions might leave you somewhat wiser, if not a tiny bit bored of war films….

So yeah, what next. I have no idea. I have a couple of projects in the pipeline for 2012, but I think I might have a break from blogging films this year.

I might just podcast reviews instead…. Here’s the first one… Grease (1978) Vs. Sexboat (1980) I can only apologise… But say hi to Dotmund while you’re there.

Grease (1978) Vs. Sexboat (1980) by 5olly

Friday, 10 February 2012

Top 5 Songs of 2011

I’ve been rambling on a bit the last few weeks so I’ll try and keep it short and let the music do the talking instead.

1. Laura J. Martin “Spy” – The track that first turned me on to the multi-talented Ms Martin. She has a flute wrangling (© Marc Riley) style that is reminiscent of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, but her tunes use loop techniques that allow her to layer many instruments and create a wonderfully enthralling sound. Her debut album, "The Hangman Tree",was due out on 23rd Jan (I wrote this post a few weeks ago but will report back on it's undoubted brilliance later) and I’m really hoping to catch her live later in the year.

2. North Sea Radio Orchestra "Heavy Weather" – It's not often you can boast that you got into a band thanks to a recommendation from snooker legend Steve Davis. Steve sat in for Jarvis Cocker on 6music last year and played a fascinating mix of classic & contemporary progressive rock and avant garde jazz. I knew Steve was a big music fan but I was expecting a mix of Northern Soul & 80s dance, based on previous discussion in the media. Steve has been doing a weekly alternative music show on Phoenix FM of Essex for some time now. He played "Berliner Luft" from NSRO's second album "I A Moon" and it intrigued me enough to pick up the album. It’s a brilliant record, a near miss for my top 5 albums, and "Heavy Weather" is it's stand out track. Don't be put off by the Prog tag, NSRO are more than that, elements of folk, electronica, pop and orchestration and a vocalist who has a voice vaguely reminiscent of Kate Bush.

3. Metronomy “The Look” – I'm not sure how I've got so far into my annual round up without mentioning Metronomy already. Their album "The English Riviera" is full of catchy tunes and narrowly missed out on my top five albums. I also caught them live for a pre-Glastonbury warm-up at New Slang in Kingston (for the bargain price of a fiver) and despite going solo, and not feeling 100%, it turned out to be a fun night and a great gig. It had actually taken me a while to fully appreciate them. Marc Riley’s persistent playing of Metronomy bludgeoned their tunes into my head until I gave in and accepted that I liked them.

4. Dutch Uncles “OCDUC” – I find it hard to describe Dutch Uncles without reverting to the phrase "quirky indie prog". Their sound is not the full on seventies progressive template but those bands are definitely an influence. They're another Marc Riley favourite and, like Metronomy, released an excellent album last year which was a definite top five contender. I think I missed seeing these guys support Dananananaykroyd a few years back which is annoying as they’ve fast become one of my favourite bands.

5. Sarabeth Tucek “Get Well Soon” – This is the title track to Sarabeth’s second LP, an album dealing with a period of her life when everything seemed to be going wrong and coming to terms with the death of her father when she was very young. She had been arrested for drunk driving and spent time in jail as a consequence. During a spell cleaning the highway in an orange jumpsuit she began to reflect on where she was going with her life. Once released, she moved to live with her Mother in New York and wrote the album as a way of dealing with her issues.


Friday, 3 February 2012

Top 5 Gigs of 2011

An odd year as far as my gig going was concerned. I had been trying to cut back a little, if not on the quantity of gigs I went to, certainly on the price I paid. This meant I saw an odd mixture of shows from cheap Indie shows at Banquet Records' New Slang in Kingston to a former Strawbs Guitarist playing a pub roughly 300 yards from my front door.

1. Jim Jones Revue at The 100 Club (12th July 2011) – The Jim Jones Revueare undoubtedly the loudest band on the planet. Through a quirk of unusual good luck I saw them live twice last year for free. First I won a competition for tickets to their Concorde 2 show in Brighton (which strictly speaking was my 2nd favourite show of the year but I decided to give someone else a chance) then my mate won tickets for this Glenfiddich sponsored “MOJO Honours Award” show at the historic, and still wonderful, 100 Club in Oxford Street. A few pre-gig beers helped get us in the mood, a bunch of old punks going mental down the front added to the ambience and the JJR powered their way through a cracking set of tunes from their first two albums. Afterwards there was time for a late night drink and a bit of Jazz at the Alley Cat club in Denmark Street before a dash to Waterloo, after some confusion caused by the closure of Tottenham Court Road tube station, arriving with minutes to spare before the last train going anywhere. A great night out.

2. British Sea Power at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (25th February 2011) – I’d seen BSP play the tiny Camden Barfly in January, a venue that has a track record, for me, of slightly disappointing shows by major artists. BSP had been OK that night, an album launch for Valhalla Dancehall, but despite the intimate surroundings it was not the best gig I’ve seen BSP play. However, I love the Wedgewood Rooms, it’s a venue that seems to bring the best out of bands, so I felt a trip down the A3 was still worthwhile. The band did not disappoint and it turned out to be a brilliant night. Probably the best show I've seen from BSP. A lot of jumping up and down at the front, the band clearly enjoying themselves and a fantastic set list that didn't flag (other than for a few well needed pauses for breath). Best gig of the year in any other year.

3. The Go! Team/Field Music/Dutch Uncles/Colourmusic at Koko (30th November 2011) – This was a celebration of Memphis Industries' 13th anniversary as an independent record label. I’d originally considered going to see The Go! Team in October at the Coronet. Rolling Blackouts had been a terrific return to form and I had long been intrigued to see if they could reproduce their chaotic blend of influences in a live environment. Looking for tickets to the Coronet show I discovered the gig had been cancelled and this multi-band bill lined up instead. This was a bonus as one of the bands, Dutch Uncles, were one of my new favourites thanks to constant plays by Marc Riley on his 6Music radio show. They were second band up and their quirky prog inspired pop didn't disappoint live.

I had arrived early to find Colourmusic already on stage. I knew very little about them, but had seen a few Twitter based recommendations that convinced me I needed to get to Koko earlier than normal. From the top balcony I could tell they were loud and by the time I’d collected a pint and gone to stand down the front I genuinely feared for my ear drums. I’ve since picked up a copy of My ____ Is Pinkand it’s a brilliant album.

I’d seen Field Music before but not been moved enough to investigate their records so they were the surprise of the night with a smashing set of tunes from their forthcoming album and extensive back catalogue. In fact I so enjoyed them that I went out and bought tickets for their headlining tour in February.

The Go! Team were an explosion of noise and colour. Like watching a manga cartoon spring to life in front of your eyes. They played a tight set of their best tunes from all three albums, Ninja keeping the crowd on their toes whilst the rest of the band swapped instruments and kept things interesting on stage. This was a fine night which enabled me to see four bands with very different sounds at the top of their game. I hope I’ll see all four again some time soon.

4. Dananananaykroyd at Kings College London Student Union (Friday 4th November 2011) – Regular readers will know the ‘Naykroyd are one of my favourite live bands so I’d been disappointed when I saw them earlier in the year in Kingston and they hadn’t seemed on form. A poor turnout didn’t help, partly due to coinciding with University holidays, but I had a feeling that the new songs weren’t quite as good as the old ones and missed the double drummer set-up of their early shows. Despite that, I picked up tickets for this gig in the hope a bigger crowd would help restore my faith. A few weeks prior to the gig they announced the tour was going to be their last and they’d be splitting up afterwards. This made the show their last ever London gig and added a bit of excitement to proceedings. They did restore my faith, frenetic activity on stage, good crowd reaction and a final wall of cuddles. In “cool aging rocker mode” until that point, I couldn’t resist joining in and grabbed two unsuspecting whippersnappers as I dived into that final mass cuddle moment. Sweat & joy & loud music!

5. Feltstock in a Field in Feltham (Friday 10th June 2011) – Can you believe a rock festival at work? We’ve had regular summer music sporting events to coincide with our retired staff reunions for many years now but this was taking it to a new level; a proper stage, a second stage in the bar marquee and some 15 bands, with some link to work, playing live music. Unfortunately I have a habit of getting horribly drunk at these affairs and this year was no exception. Apart from being slightly embarrassing, as I find myself dancing like a loon on my own in front of the stage, it has also made my recollections of the music a little, shall we say “hazy”.

Missed the first couple of acts as I was down the pub with the Wolfmen but dragged myself away in time to catch long time favourites The Shed playing their usual fare of classic seventies rock but also managed to sneak in a song composed by their sublime lead guitarist Gary. JB & The Wolfmen eventually returned from the pub in time to scare the bejesus out of an unsuspecting audience with their blend of Garage Rock and Punk. My JJR ticket winning pal was on Bass and the band played a corking set including covers of Shot By Both Sides, Strychnine & Brand New Cadillac.

Phantoms Drummer Al was the driving force behind this event and his band took to the stage around 8:00. A point at which my memories were still largely intact. My friend & fellow Fulham F.C. sufferer Mark was on vocals & keyboards and they played a crowd pleasing show which included Parklife, I Predict A Riot and Chelsea Fulham Dagger. As the evening wore on my recollections begin to fade. The 17 piece Jazz band did make a mark and got everyone bopping with a bit of swing. Fused played a tight set of Rock & Pop and I vaguely remember dancing on down the front to The Beautiful Losers but after that it was a bus ride home and fade to black.