Stylus Singles Jukebox: Being Jacques Lu Cont.

In a week which sees the release of fantastic new singles by Madonna, The Knife and the Pet Shop Boys – all reviewed in this week’s Stylus Singles Jukebox – the singles assigned to me for review came from these (cough) Major Artists: Nadiya, Ne-Yo, Beatriz Luengo, Ze Pequino, The Similou… and, er, George Michael. Well, you can’t win them all.

For the sake of completeness – and because I abhor waste – here are the two reviews of mine which didn’t make it to the finished article. (They have to commission more than they need, so it’s an occupational hazard.) Particular apologies to George Michael: one doesn’t like to kick a man when he’s down, but a dud single is still a dud single.

Update (1): Ah well, at least my spoken word recital of the Ze Pequeno review made this week’s accompanying podcast for the Stylus Jukebox, along with my recital of the Similou review. Goodness, what a smug smart-ass I sound.

Ze Pequeno – Ze Phenomene.

Reggaeton en Français, somewhat inevitably rendered in a Manu Chao-esque style, avec accordion (naturellement). Probably huge in back-packer beach bars; markedly less essential anywhere else.

George Michael – An Easier Affair.

Nope: this one isn’t going to arrest the long slow artistic/commercial decline, either. Over the same tired old suburban-wine-bar soul/funk backing that he has been peddling ever since “Fast Love”, George recycles the same tired old post-coming-out “revelations” that have peppered his interviews since being busted for cottaging eight years ago. Whereas 1998’s “Outside” handled much the same issues with wit, aplomb, and a boldness which was genuinely ground-breaking for its time, “An Easier Affair” has nothing to say that we haven’t heard before, and says it with the sort of narrow, self-absorbed literalism that even Madonna at her most solipsistic manages to swerve clear of. Hell, some of this half-digested self-help piffle (“Don’t let them tell you who you are is not enough!”) would make even Geri Halliwell cringe. In the words of the wise old gay saying: get over yourself, Mary.

Update (2): Tell you what: here’s my spoken word recital of the George Michael review, which didn’t make the Stylus podcast.

Look, I promise not to make a habit of this, but…

…I have just this second finished watching archive footage of the supreme musical hero of my adolescence, whom I have never seen on “television” before in all these years, and I simply have to share it with you.

Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, featuring Lol Coxhill and a very young Mike Oldfield, in 1972, performing “May I”, from the Shooting At The Moon album.

I can now die happy.

It’s like the Pop Idol auditions all over again…

Back from the pub last night, four pints the worse for wear, and in a sudden rush of blood to the head, I decided that it would be A Really Good Laugh to augment the “25 Lines” lyrics quiz (see below) with home-made acapella audio samples for each song.

God, I don’t half come up with some shit ideas for this weblog.

To experience the full horror, scroll down and click your way through the lyrics.

(Actually, #15 could have potential as a novelty ring tone, don’t you think? From Crazy Frog to Crazy Fa… yes, well.)

Stylus Singles Jukebox: Pulsating Surrealism.

The long, slow climb back into the musical saddle continues (and my, what a fetching image that conjures up). After many months of non-participation, I am back on the Stylus Singles Jukebox team – and enjoying the novelty of listening to new music so much, that I ended up being quite uncommonly charitable to everything I was given to review. Yes, even that dreary dirge by Paolo Nutini.

No doubt this wave of charitable feeling will quickly pass. In the meantime, go and read me saying nice things about Mr Nutini, McFly, Franz Ferdinand, Plan B and Sarah “her out of Black Box Recorder” Nixey.

This is my prediction for the Mercury Music Prize shortlist.

Update: I scored a reasonable 5.5 out of 12. The full shortlist is here.

Arctic Monkeys
An absolute cast-iron dead cert, and the obvious favourite to win. If this doesn’t make the shortlist, then I WILL POST A PICTURE OF MY COCK ON THE INTERNET, JUST SEE IF I WON’T.
CORRECT. (Phew.)

Corinne Bailey Rae
…is to the 2000s what M People were to the 1990s, and what Sade was to the 1980s. Feel free to interpret this statement as positively or as negatively as you wish.

Girls Aloud
Pop music that it’s OK for broadsheet intellectuals to like, thus neatly ticking the Token Pop Act box.

Clever, quirky and literate, whimsical but far from trivial, with lots of twiddly-widdly musicianly bits that will flatter the intelligence of the selection panel. God, I’m feeling cynical this morning…

Hot Chip
I preferred the more laidback lo-fi sound of their debut album, but this ticks the box marked Fusion Of Disparate Influences, and we know how much the Mercury judges love their Disparate Influences…

Jon Boden
Token folkie, ergo this year’s Seth Lakeman – but also bloody good in his own right, so I’ve got my fingers crossed. Also performs as part of the duo Boden & Spiers, who are more on a Trad Tip, Dad.

Kate Bush
The other cast-iron dead cert to qualify, but I shall refrain from making any more rash promises.

…who, with their fifth album, suddenly seem to have found universal critical favour, after years of being seen as really rather naff.

Plan B
Hot young white rapper du jour, inviting inevitable comparisons with Mike Skinner and Eminem. The single is excellent: go clicky on the link above, but mind the strong language. Ticks the box marked Urban; could be this year’s Dizzee Rascal.
INCORRECT. (The Token Urban nomination went to Sway.)

Richard Hawley
Ticks the box marked Deserves Wider Exposure. That’s my box, not their box. Sublime stuff, even though I’m always getting asked to turn it off because it’s “depressing”.

The Feeling
Skilful (if a tad shallow) evocation of 1970s AOR/MOR, laced with contemporary corporate-indie-lite “attitude”, hence will appeal to the “Guilty Pleasures” sensibilities of the predominantly middle-aged judges. (Pot… kettle…)

The Pipettes
Relentlessly jolly and catchy retro-modern indie-pop exuberance from Brighton, hence this year’s equivalent of The Go! Team. Oh, and they’re also very good indeed, which always helps.

Possible substitutes: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan (CORRECT), Kooks, Lily Allen.

Ah, just see if I’m right… I’m never very good at this sort of thing.

Update: The other inclusions are: Editors, Zoe Rahman (token jazz), Lou Rhodes (she used to be in Lamb), Scritti Politti, Sway and Thom Yorke.

25 Lines: the meme-tastic “I’ve Got A New iPod” celebratory lyrics quiz.

Picking up on the “25 Lines” blog-meme which I last spotted at Gordon’s place, here are the opening lines to the first 25 songs (*) which came up on Shuffle Mode, on my lovely new iPod. As you’d expect, some are dead obvious, some are super-obscure, but all have at least some sort of vague merit.

But what songs were they? Let’s all find out together, shall we? Please leave your answers in the comments box, and I’ll post the full results in a few days.


a) One answer per person only, please.

b) No cheating! I’m placing you all on trust here. Remember: if you resort to search engines, then you’ll be letting me down, yourself down, and all the other readers of this weblog down.

Update: For added entertainment value, click on each lyric to hear it sung, by me, badly, late at night, pissed up on four pints, with my headphones on.

1. Through the windless wells of wonder, by the throbbing light machine, in a tea leaf trance or under orders from the king and queen…
Correctly answered by Nigel.2. Hummingbirds hum, why do they hum, little girls wearing pigtails in the morning, in the morning…
Correctly answered by betty.3. The Jekyll-Hyde of you, I can’t survive the tide of you, the vicious style of love, the whining, pits and pendulums of lying…

4. Boring boring boring these days, records all sound the same, uninspiring guitar pop made for quick financial gain…
Correctly answered by Jonathan.

5. She would never say where she came from, yesterday don’t matter if it’s gone…
Correctly answered by Jack.

6. I came into the city from the deep south when the mill shut down, I married a man who treated me like he bought me by the pound…

7. Lord, these words I beg of you as I kneel down at my bed, because soon I will be dead, let’s face it, soon I will be dead…
Correctly answered by Pam.

8. Salve regina mater misericordiae, vita dulcedo et spes nostra, salve salve regina…
Correctly answered by Gert.

9. All the creatures on the beaches, making waves in the motion picture, won’t you keep this in between us, search and seizure, wake up Venus…

10. I was lost for so long, feels like it’s taken half my life to find where I belong, seeing you here, you’re my nation, this is my application…
Correctly answered by the newly returned Alan Oddverse.

11. It was 7:45, we were all in line to greet the teacher Miss Cathleen, first was Kevin, then came Lucy, third in line was me…
Correctly answered by Em³.

12. I had a dream last night, a nightmare to be exact, we couldn’t take the heat and the sweat dripped from our backs…

13. Worked all day for all this year to get two weeks vacation, work and I did not look back till it was time to go, I shut the door (BANG!) without a word, and walked out into the street…

14. While I was down in-er Tennessee, all my friends was-er glad to see me, seen some down by the railroad track, seen some cotton-pickers with their sacks on their backs…

15. Jitterbug, jitterbug, jitterbug, jitterbug…
Correctly answered by Anna.

16. Baby only the strong would survive over mysteries of life, only fantasy keeps you away, in the lonely fields of those broken shields…

17. I know so many places in the world, I follow the sun in my silver plane…
Correctly answered by Gordon.

18. So my baby’s on the road, doing business, selling loads, charming everyone there with the sweetest smile…
Correctly answered by diamond geezer.

19. I think I’m gonna need some therapy, oh babe I hope you got a PhD…
Correctly answered by the newly returned PB Curtis.

20. I told you about Strawberry Fields, you know, the place where nothing is real…
Correctly answered by Rullsenberg.

21. You’ll recognise me as I glide across the floor of the presidential suite in the Savoy Hotel, pleased to meet me…
Correctly answered by Diego.

22. Dressed like that you must be living in a different world, and your mother doesn’t know why you can’t look like all the other girls…
Correctly answered by Music Man.

23. Oh where I come from I just don’t conform, get me out of here, leave the boredom behind, wanna see those bright lights, get this thing in gear…
Correctly answered by Abigail (via e-mail).

24. Honestly, if I tell, tell you what, what you want to know love, there ain’t another, I don’t want no other lover, I put nothing above ya, I kick them to the gutter…
Correctly answered by Chig.

25. The evening was long, my guesses were true, you saw me see you, that something you said, the timing was right, the pleasure was mine…
Correctly answered by a different Jonathan.


a) 7 songs (#5, #8, #15, #18, #19, #23, #24) have been UK Top 40 hit singles.

b) 4 songs (#4, #6, #13, #21) are so obscure that the lyrics cannot be found ANYWHERE ON THE KNOWN INTERNET, HA HA THAT’S GOT YOU.

c) The oldest song is #14, and the newest song is #10.

d) My favourite songs are #11, #18 and #22.

e) My least favourite songs are #9, #13 and #16.

f) One act appears twice.

g) One of the featured artists has posted a comment on this weblog.

h) One song (#21) appeared on one of last year’s podcasts.

i) There is at least one song from every decade from the 1950s onwards, EXCEPT for the 1990s.

j) Shamefully, I would only have guessed 8 songs correctly myself. Which suggests that maybe I ought to be spending a little more time getting to know my own music collection…

(*) Well, not exactly the first 25 songs, as the following categories were excluded: instrumentals (duh), song titles revealed in opening lines (double duh), foreign languages, unintelligble lyrics (so that’s all the thrash metal up the spout, then). Continue reading “25 Lines: the meme-tastic “I’ve Got A New iPod” celebratory lyrics quiz.”


Mood: Jaded. Ready to go home, but I should really stay here another hour or so.

Physical state: The body is wearying, despite the post-5pm mental upswing that almost invariably occurs at this time of day. (For some reason, I do a lot of my best work between 5pm and 6pm.)

Other observations: It feels weird to be blogging about trivia at a time when K and his family are still grieving – in fact, I’d say that they are all probably hitting the worst of it right now – but I’ve sort of decided that I want to keep blogging about trivia, and I don’t want to blog about private sorrows. So if you’ll excuse the elephant in the room, then we can proceed.


Mood: Considerably less enamoured of fiddly repetitive tasks than I was an hour ago. They got even fiddlier, and so stopped being pleasantly mindless bung-some-music-on-and-let-your-fingers-fly chewing gum for the brain. In fact, I had to turn the music off altogether.

Physical state: Well, the tea was nice. (Christ, he spends FIVE MONTHS doing INTERESTING THINGS in London, and tells us NEXT TO NOTHING about them because he CAN’T BE ARSED, and then expects us to be interested in CUPS OF CHUFFING TEA, honestly, this blog stretches patience to the LIMITS.) But I reckon I’m about two hours away from crashing and burning. And, er, about three hours away from entertaining a house-guest whom we haven’t seen for several months. Oh dear.

Other observations: Doing multiple copy/pastes without the aid of ALT-TAB is a right old pain. It’s a Remote Terminal Access via Java thing, the details of which I shan’t presume to trouble you with. Hark at me and my tech talk!


Mood: Pleased with myself, as I’ve just had my most productive hour of the day work-wise: fiddly repetitive tasks, which needed sustained concentration.

Physical state: Ready for a cup of tea. Last night’s hangover has yet to strike in earnest, but that normally comes later in the day.

(Alan, K and one of K’s work associates, sitting outside The Social on Pelham Street, yakking into the small hours. It’s not often that K partakes in midweek social activities, so we were in no hurry to cut the evening short.)

Other observations: In order to maintain concentration upon aforesaid fiddly repetitive task, have just been using shiny new 60gb black iPod for the second time ever, the first time being on the walk to work. Did I mention that I have spent the last couple of months more or less living without music? The combination of broken laptop, broken iPod, broken Discman, living in a hotel during the week, and only being able to play gentle, soothing, K-friendly world/jazz/folk at weekends (and frankly, there is only so much tasteful Ali Farka Toure strumming that a man can reasonably take) meant that I could go for days on end without listening to anything remotely challenging. Hell, I left London still thinking that Infernal’s “From Paris To Berlin” was a hip new dance track, just beginning to break through in the clubs… and as for your Raconteurs, your Kooks, your Dirty Pretty Things, your Lostprophets and your Automatics, I can’t even begin to form an educated position (although I can certainly form an educated guess, sneer sneer).

(And the really weird thing? After a while, I more or less stopped missing music altogether. Who knew?)


Mood: Awkward. That 13:00 update was posted somewhat after the event, and it seems far too soon to be resuming the exercise.

Physical state: More comfortable than I have been all day, as the al fresco lunchtime over-heating effect meets the aircon-chillbox effect halfway. No post-prandial mental dips here!

Other observations: I left a comment at, on the etiquette of saying “I love you”. Which reminds me of the answer which I intend to give when Guardian Weekend finally gets round to featuring me in their Questionnaire section. (It’s OK, I’m in no hurry.)

Q: Have you ever said “I love you” without meaning it?
A: No, but I have sung it many times without meaning it.



Mood: Atypically sociable for this hour of the day, as it is my usual custom to lunch alone: just around the corner from the office, at Cast Deli, which is attached to Nottingham Playhouse. However, a chance meeting with two friends and former colleagues (Hi F! Hi Lathbud!) leads to a pleasant catch-up session in the baking sunshine.

Physical state: Baking. All these extremes of temperature can’t be good for a man.

Other observations (1): Was it really necessary for Lathbud and I to get quite so breathlessly excited over the fact that one of our nearby market towns in Derbyshire has a new supermarket? (F: “Just listen to yourselves!”) This time ten years ago, at the very apex of my Trade phase, I would have reserved such levels of enthusiasm for blow-by-blow accounts of weekend debauchery (“And I was just coming up on my second pill when Tony De Vit dropped his remix of Libido’s “The Second Coming”, and I’m telling you, the whole place went MENTAL…”) – now, it’s all “BUXTON HAS A NEW WAITROSE!” “GET AWAY!” “I KNOW! ISN’T IT GREAT!”

(2): I’m used to having songs going round in my head, but today I’ve had a person going round in my head as well: the wind-driven phenomenon that is Jayne from Big Brother. How has this appalling woman managed to invade my headspace? As Grace Dent has observed in her superb (no, really) daily Big Brother blog for the Radio Times:

Jayne is the sort of woman who sits down beside you in a Virgin train Quiet Zone carriage, gets out her mobile phone and shouts, “Hiya, Lizanne! Lizaaaaannne! Is that you?! Can you hear me? Ooh, I might get cut off but I’ll call you back! Can you hear me? Is Tricia there? Oooooh, shut up! Shut up, you cheeky cow! Put Tricia on, I’ve got three hours to kill here so I thought I’d go through the sales reports!”

I couldn’t have put it better.


Mood: As baffled as I was at 11:00, since a representative from the planet Venus has yet to contact me. In the meantime, I received an e-mail casually asking “Can you just quickly go into Yadda Yadda and check the status of Blurgle Blurgle”, which presented a bit of a challenge as I had NEVER knowingly been to Yadda Yadda before, and had no idea how to check the status of Blurgle Blurgle. Now feeling rather pleased with myself, as I managed to work the whole thing out with no assistance, thanks to my amazing detective powers, and so was able to fire back an equally casual reply. (“Yup, Blurgle Blurgle doing just fine.”)

Physical state: Better, because after my Yadda Yadda/Blurgle Blurgle triumph I treated myself to a celebratory poo (I’m usually a 3pm poo person, but it was a special occasion), which I enlivened with a quick round of Nokia Snake (Spiral maze setting). I’ve had a shiny new replacement handset for exactly a week, but can’t be arsed to transfer all the phone numbers, and besides, the shiny new handset doesn’t have Snake on it. SUCH a Luddite.

Other observations: This time an hour ago, and rather to my surprise, there was no tune on my internal jukebox – but since then, “Telephone Line” by the Electric Light Orchestra has installed itself on auto-repeat. I’ve been listening to quite a lot of ELO lately, having recently purchased their latest Greatest Hits thingy – which is RUBBISH, as it doesn’t have “Last Train To London” on it, and there’s a re-recorded version of “Xanadu” with no Olivia Newton-John on it – but it was the only CD in the shop, and my need was an urgent one.

Incidentally, I had to make two doctor’s appointments on two consecutive mornings this week, both at the same time, and on both occasions they were piping ELO’s “Mister Blue Sky” into the waiting room. Do you suppose they play the same music in the same order, at the same times of day, every day? How grim would that be?


Mood: gently baffled by strange new work assignment, which appears to be written in Venusian. The key sentence contains four pieces of terminology which I’ve never come across before. They must have got me confused with someone who knows what they’re doing.

Physical state: chilly – I’m working at a faster machine at a different end of the office (with TWO SCREENS, I LOVE IT!), and the aircon down here is a bit on the vicious side.

Other observations: Can I keep these hourly updates going for the rest of the day? Yes, of course I can…

Yes, it’s another link to a gig review.

Greg Dulli & The Twilight Singers, Nottingham Rescue Rooms.

Some gig reviews, I can rattle off within 40 minutes of getting home – but they tend to be the duller, flatter ones. (“The current single xxxxx got a rousing reception from the capacity crowd.” Gee, you don’t say.)

Other gig reviews – the ones where I feel like making more of an effort, and the ones where I credit my perceived audience with a little more intelligence – can take up to an hour and a half. Particularly when I’m so congested with hay fever that two pints of cooking lager end up feeling like four.

(Hay fever? I almost never get that, and certainly never before to this degree, and so have been quite ill-prepared. Thank the Lord for Benadryl Plus, and thanks to JP for recommending it this morning.)

200 words really shouldn’t take 90 minutes – but these ones did. However, it must have been worth it, as in an unprecedented fit of generosity, the sub-editors have only removed ONE word from my original copy. See if you can fill in the word which they chopped out. I spotted it immediately.

(Clue: it’s an adverb, I think. Well, I’m not entirely certain – but, you know, process of elimination.)

(And BONUS POINTS if you can spot the one glaring piece of lazy hack bullshit. Hey, it was LATE…)

I have precisely SEVEN MINUTES to write this blog post…

…or else run the risk of being officially classified as “on hiatus”. Again. More comebacks than Shirley Bassey, etc etc etc. As our dear late Princess Diana once said: Even I’m bored with it – and I’m in it!

(Not her precise words, but CBATG the Panorama transcript.)

At the end of my first full week back in Nottingham since February, I am still stuck at that annoying stage whereby I preface every sentence with “When I was in London…” Provincial life might require a certain period of readjustment, before I can stop giving badly dressed people snobby looks in the street (“When I was in London, no-one would have been seen DEAD like that”), and spitting with contempt every time I pass one of our many, many Greggs sandwich shops (“When I was in London, everyone ate CRAYFISH AND ROCKET”). But this will pass.

Got the afternoon off, so that we can get to Chatsworth House nice and early for tonight’s open air Jools Holland concert – I’m treating K and his parents, who got quite excited when they saw the posters the other week (we had made a special trip to see the lupins, which were simply magnificent my dear, like Shanghai at night, did I ever tell you about Shanghai, no, I rather think I didn’t). We’ll be stopping off at the Chatsworth Farm Shop along the way, to pick up a picnic from the almost overwhelmingly scrummy deli counter. It’s going to be fun, and God knows it’s time we all shared some fun together.

Belated but none the less sincere congratulations to Karen and Pete, by the way. I was there when they first met at a London blogmeet, when Bouncing Baby Bernard Uborka wasn’t so much as a speculative twinkle in his future parents’ eyes.

This has taken longer than seven minutes. I might now be hideously late, but AT LEAST I AM NOT ON SODDING HIATUS AGAIN. And that’s the most important thing, eh readers?