My Thoughts on the Royal Wedding AND the Cup Final

My two cents.

Am I a fan of the monarchy?…no. I think it’s morally wrong for people to rule a country through no more right than hereditary power. It’s undemocratic, and it perpetuates the British class system. It also indirectly oppresses the poorest in society; who are ironically often the people who support it the most.

Am I a fan of the Windsors?…maybe. I love history, and have a nostalgic love for old Queenie, who’s a bit of a grumpy old woman, what’s not to love? She’s also sat on the throne through one of the most interesting times in the world’s history. I also kind of feel sorry for the royals. When you really think about it, it’s not such a great life after all. Everything you do is scripted and protected, love is a luxury rather than a human right, etc.. etc..

Am I a fan of Harry and Meghan?…kind of. I don’t really have a strong opinion either way. I felt sorry for the two boys when their mum died, and I’m happy to see they’ve both found happiness. I’d prefer it if the monarchy came to an end (in a peaceful way), but I’m not going to wish them anything but happiness on their wedding day.

Am I going to be watching the royal wedding?…no. I’m not going to be the annoying anti-royalist boyfriend and ruin the fun for my wife who loves it all (and there’s nothing wrong with that!). I’ve got a band practise. I ‘might’ve’ watched it had I been home, just to not be a stick-in-the-mud.

My feelings toward the cup final are much less conflicted…

Am I a football fan?…no

Will I be watching the final?…no

Do I have a problem with anyone else watching the final?…no

There we are, now don’t you feel enriched? 😝

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Film Review: ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ (2017)

One thing to surely strike dread into any film fan is the term ‘reboot.’  The laziest of film-makers latch on to a successful idea and try to make their own, much paler facsimile.  At it’s best, this results in a forgettable attempt to capture the greatness of it’s predecessor.  At it’s worse it can even manage to put you off watching the original, for the damage that it’s clone has done by connection!

 

Thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case with ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.’  22 years after the original Robin Williams film (1995), this story has enough distance and thematic difference to make it stand out on it’s own merits.

 

The major difference here is that the Jumanji ‘game’ of the original has now evolved into a ‘computer game,’ and the players are drawn inside the action, rather than the action leaking out into our world.  The characters are about as derivative as they could possibly be – ‘the nerdy shy boy and girl’ check, the ‘self-absorbed popular girl’ check, the ‘wise-cracking best friend’ check; but the humour/drama comes out of the fact that the characters all take on such wildly different avatars within the game; the ‘nerdy ones’ becomes the ‘buff leader’ and the ‘ass kicking heroine’ (played well by the instantly likeable Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan respectively) the ‘arrogant one’ becomes a middle-aged portly man (played to comic perfection by Jack Black).

 

Plot-wise, it’s all fairly well-trodden fare; with the main characters all learning about themselves through the challenges of the game and finding their own personal growth as a result.  The main idea of the ‘computer game that you get swallowed into‘ is given next to no back-story or rationalisation; but with the right amount of willing suspension of disbelief this just made it feel more like those wonderfully daft 80’s kid’s adventures I used to love when I was young enough to not care what the method behind the magic was.  The spoofing of computer game tropes is particularly well observed also, leading to a lot of enjoyable scenes throughout.

 

Overall, it’s not the most memorable or classic of children’s films.  But it’s humorous and quirky enough to make for great bank holiday fodder and a film that the whole family will enjoy.

 

3.5/5 Stars

 

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Lukewarm in the heat of the Lymelight

It’s fair to say that every person who tries to create music, art, poetry, writing or whatever experiences ‘peaks and valleys.’

There are times when it all seems to be coming together, the creative juices are flowing and you’re able to present the ideas in your head in the way you want to.  It’s a good feeling; almost scarily good because you want to capture it, to harness it, to make the most of it, fearing that tomorrow it might be gone.

There are also times where nothing seems to work.  The ideas aren’t coming, you can’t get across what’s in your head and the various inner voices of descent and despair come a’knocking.

The writing of my second to last album ‘Hermit and the NotWe‘ was one of the ‘valley’ times.  Every step of the process was an uphill battle; with the equipment, with the software, with the writing, with myself.  That I got it written and produced at all is testimony to the ‘other‘ stubborn voice inside my head; the one that won’t let me quit this music malarkey, no matter how much of a struggle it is.

My next and most recent album ‘And Into the Woods‘ however was the polar opposite of this.  Ironically, finally accepting my depression opened the creative floodgates as I once again used songwriting as a way to express and make sense of living with mental health issues.  Creatively it was a great time; I couldn’t get the ideas down fast enough, and it was as if the songs ‘needed’ to come out.

Since this time, in true cyclical fashion, the creative ‘valley’ seems to have returned.  It could be a result of putting a lot of my mental energy into trying out radio presenting.  It could be because I’ve finally started medicating my depression with pills that seem to dull the anxiety and dark feelings, but also at times the creative ‘edge’ to my music.  It’s a ‘trade-off’ that for the moment I’m willing to make, because it’s making daily life a lot easier to deal with, and hopefully makes me a lot easier to be around.

Ideas seem to be coming more like ‘jigsaw pieces’ (how many metaphors can I fit into this post haha!) rather than fully formed.  I have an album title, I have some good riffs, I have many many lines of lyrics; but at the moment, it’s not coming together.

Gig-wise, I’m finding the stage nerves are almost unbearable at the moment, and about 70% of the time I’m coming off stage wondering why I went on it; berating myself for my musical limitations, my shyness, my inability to enjoy myself doing something I’ve always wanted to do.

Today unfortunately was no exception.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful to be asked to play at one of the best local festivals around, the Lymelight Festival.  I’ve wanted to play it for years and I’m chuffed that I finally got to play.  Other friends who’ve played have come away saying it was one of the best live experiences they’ve had, such as Emily Jones, the superb singer/songwriter and new bass player in the mighty Don’t Call Me Ishmael, who played on the main-stage this weekend.

And the gig itself went ‘ok.’  I played on the Signal One ‘Acoustic Stage.‘ Due to a poorly acoustic (‘Kochanski’) at present being repaired, I took my ‘spare’ temperamental Royal acoustic (‘Sidney’) out.  For all the worry that it would sound shite, go out of tune and generally be shocking to play, it did it’s job respectfully.  I played a few bum notes, but for the most part played and sang alright.  The audience was pretty apathetic throughout, but it didn’t overly get me down.

I played:

  • And Into the woods
  • How the Other Half Live
  • Midnight Logic
  • I’m Just Gonna Be Me
  • Somehow
  • Sophie Draw

A certain ‘why am I doing this‘ feeling; that I’ve had for several gigs now, was ever present.  Yet the ‘keep going, you’ll find your enthusiasm again, if you give up now you’ll never be able to create music again‘ voice was not far behind it.

So, it goes on.  Writing music is what I’ve done, what I’ve always done since I was 12.  I’ll bounce back, I know it.

Big thanks to the Lymelight for letting me play.  Like I say, it’s not the festival or anyone else’s fault that I feel this way.  I’ve just got to work on getting my ‘mojo’ back again.  I’ve been in the valley plenty of times before, and always climbed back up to the peak.

Live at Relish 28.04.18

Last night I was back at Relish restaurant and bar to play another 2 hour set.

By now I know the drill, this is essentially a ‘background music’ gig, where the music is secondary; something a bit different for the patrons while they’re eating and socialising. So I kept the songs fairly quiet and inoffensive, and didn’t take it personally when it was talked over.

It had been quite a sunny day weather wise and it must’ve brought people out because the place was the most packed I’d ever seen it. And people did seem to appreciate the music. It was also nice to see some people there I knew this time, including my old next door neighbour and some people from work.

A picture from my friend Theresa who came along.

Playing for a much longer time meant I had to play a lot of songs I’d not played for ages, so it was good to connect with some songs from the past as well as some favourite covers.

My acoustic is out of action at the moment unfortunately, but I took my fairly reliable Les Paul copy with me, and after some twiddling of tones it did the job.

All in all a pretty fun night, and thanks to everyone who came down 🙂

Album Review: ‘Life on VHS’ by Merrym’n

Merrym’n weaves shrewd, well observed lyrics and infectiously catchy melodies together in this brilliantly nostalgic collection of songs; showcasing one man’s love for his industrial town that has forgotten its past glories.

On this self produced labour of love, Merrym’n plays a dizzying array of instruments with enviable ease and tops it off with a likeable voice (with some nice Lennonesque ‘slapback reverb’ to add to the ‘throwback’ feel of the aesthetics).

It’s impossible not to enjoy this album, which is as engaging as it is intelligent and well crafted, and I loved it.

You can listen to the full album here, and I definitely recommend you do!

https://youtu.be/FsdvxI5BbFo

Celebrating Record Store Day 2018!

 

Whilst I’ve been interested in the annual occasion for a few years, It wasn’t until last year that I really actively celebrated ‘Record Store Day.’  This essentially mean’t that I  got off my arse to show my local record store a bit of love!

 

 

There’s no way I was going to get up super early to wait in a queue to pay silly prices for the exclusive releases, but the least I could do was go for a browse. And in the end I came away with 3 awesome albums for £5-10 each! It was great to see some of the excitement and support for the day in the local area on the day as well. Here’s my write up about my experience of ‘losing my record store virginity,’ if you’d like to read more.

 

 

This year however; due to being much busier and decidedly skint..er, I was unable to pop down to a record shop to pick up any new acquisitions or get involved.

 

 

But I still wanted to try and commemorate it in some small way if I could.

 

 

So this year, I ‘took part‘ in Record Store Day’ in a few different, more tenuous but equally enjoyable ways.

 

1. Teaching a ‘Record Store Day’ Lesson

 

Firstly, I decided to take a record player into work (I’m a teacher of adults with special needs at the wonderful Petty Pool Vocational College in Cheshire) and teach my students all about the world of records!

 

 

I planned a session for my ‘Radio Enrichment’ class, where the students had the chance to get to grips with some ‘vintage’ vinyl technology and learn all about different kinds of records as well as how to play them!

 

 

As you can see, they really enjoyed it!

 

 

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Students from Petty Pool Vocational College trying out spinning records for the first time!

 

2. Presenting a ‘Record Store Day’ Radio Show

 

The next way I celebrated was to present a ‘Record Store Day’ special edition of my ‘Doorstep Mixtape‘ on Redshift Radio.  In honour of the day, I decided on a completely experimental show; attempting to play ALL the tunes for the show using just a pile of 45s and my not-so-trusty 1960’s cabinet Bush record player!

There was the potential for the whole thing to go seriously wrong, but hey, that’s the fun of live radio, and I had a great time presenting the show!

I was also joined on the phone by Jimi Ray Coppack from the superb independent record store The Electric Church in Winsford, to chat about their first participation in Record Store Day this year!

The show involved a great deal of uncharacteristic multi-tasking; leading my mashed brain to forget my guest’s last name and the name of one of my favourite singers! (Kirsty Maccoll), but I got through relatively unscathed and it was a lot of fun!

 

 

 

 

Here’s the show in full, have a listen and let me know what you think!!

 

 

And finally, on the day itself, I’ve been making new music; helping my friend’s great band ‘The Dying Lights‘ out on bass. I recorded some bass parts for their new EP, and then stayed for a rehearsal for their upcoming set at the International Pop Overthrow in May at the famous Cavern Club.

 

 

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They even let me loose on the drums at one point, as Sheena’s photo proves haha!

 

 

And then to round off the vinyl related fun this week, I picked UFO’s debut as tonight’s turntable choice!

With its mysterious cover and science fiction lyrics, this record of my dad’s was one of the first to really intrigue and fascinate me about the vinyl format.

It’s also the only record in my collection that I always listen to Side B first, because that’s what I did as a kid (my favourite track was ‘Treacle People’ on the second side) and it feels wrong even now listening to it any other way!

 

 

 

 

All in all a great week appreciating great music and honouring Record Store Day 2018 in my own way.

How did you celebrate Record Store Day this year? Which Record Stores did you give some love, and what bargains or exclusives did you get hold of!  I hope you’ve had a brilliant day and managed to give your local record store some love, as well as hopefully coming away with some great new music for your collection!  Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!