Short stupid post #3.

I want to be one of those bloggers who gets lots and lots of comments after every post, telling me what a great and sensitive artiste I am, and how my thoughts are like butterflies caught upon a summer’s breeze, and that I have shone my brilliant light through a narrow window into their very soul, and so on and so forth.

Will this help?

(This is an affectionate Blogging In-Joke. It is also a very short and stupid post.)

Short stupid post #2.

To our considerable surprise, K and I got completely hooked on the snooker over the Bank Holiday weekend. Perhaps we’ve been spending a little too much time in heterosexual company. It rubs off, you know.

We went off Higgins after the camera caught him picking his ear, and then immediately placing his finger under his nose. Bogeysniffer, we called him.

In one of the breaks, why did the BBC camera crew silently stalk one of the contestants down endless backstage corridors, all the way to the door of the Gents toilets? Is that usual? I’d get horrible Pre-Urinary Retention, knowing they were still lurking outside, timing my stay to see if I was doing Number Ones or Number Twos. (“Hurry up in there! More than two shakes and it’s a w@nk!“)

We loved the fnarr-fnarr commentary. “And he’s sunk the long red all the way in! Right between the balls!” We are so very easily pleased.

We also love the idea of a “World Championship” where none of the players are from abroad, and which is held in Sheffield. Every. Single. Year. “My brother’s in the audience. He’s brought his friends along, all the way from Leicester.” How international!

We also enjoyed the expression on the face of one audience member late last night, as the Higgins/Selby final threatened to drag on into the small hours. (The players had just spent fifteen minutes attempting to pot one ball. Ee, it were like chess.) The expression clearly said: “The missus is going to kill me.” You could see the fear in his eyes. Look, I was born a Yorkshireman; I know these things.

I have no general point to make. It’s a short stupid post.

Short stupid post #1.

I know, I know, Eurovision, BORING. And so, in order to aid your passage through these trying times, here’s a short stupid post, lifted from last night’s Twitter. I present it to you without further commentary; it’s perfect as it stands.

Me to K: “It always scares me when you open the Armagnac; it usually means you’re one step away from Captain Beefheart and public urination.”

Eurovision 2007 preview: Semi-finals #2.

All rehearsal photos taken by Andrew of All Kinds Of Everything. Andrew’s Flickr stream is here.
Click each song title for the lyrics, and for a link to the official preview video.

11 – Albania – Hear My Plea – Aida & Frederik Ndoci.

Grizzly looking dude with a suspiciously full head of hair, with something of the Renato Out Of Renée & Renato about him. Operatic Balkan ballad. Gypsy fiddle. Duller than a very dull thing. Let’s move swiftly on.


12 – Denmark – Drama Queen – DQ.

Wa-hey, it’s a man in a frock, with plumage! How SUBVERSIVE! To ram home the “royal” theme, there’s also a giant crown on stage, in which a disco mirror ball nestles. This won the vote at the Retro Bar’s Douze Points night, which is generally the kiss of death – but there’s something rather lovable and touching about DQ’s Cabaret Nite galumphing, and I particularly like the Sideways Formation Shuffling which they’ve nicked from Israel’s customary box of tricks. Camp Not Dead! Shouting SCHLAGER SCHLAGER SCHLAGER mega mega white thing! We are pre-disposed to Like Lots!


13 – Croatia – Vjerujem U Ljubav – Dragonfly & Dado Topic.

More hairy gnarly old rockers, boo hiss! High Camp versus Authentic Rock Stylings FITE FITE FITE! Ils ne passeront pas! Dud to the max, dude!

Sorry, readers. It’s been a long day, and mid-table hysteria is kicking in. Nearly halfway there! Just fifteen songs to go! We can make it if we try!


14 – Poland – Time To Party – The Jet Set.

Well, let’s try to look on the positive side. The gherkin-shaped cage is a nice touch, the long-legged ladies are pretty (I’m struggling already), and there’s some pleasing chair work, not to mention a brief bout of deeply erotic Formation Bumming. But oh dear, hip-hop/R&B done Euro-style rarely works, and this is no exception. “I’m a little bit crazy! Crazy like a baby!” Yeah, whatever.


15 – Serbia – Molitva – Marija Serifovic.

OK, let’s get this out of the way first: Marija is, shall we say, a “homely” type, whose anti-glamour stands in sharp contrast to all the other dolled-up young misses on display – including her own backing dancers, who occasionally give her a reassuring stroke or two. (You’ve lucked out there, Marija. Work it, girl!)

Interestingly enough, this homeliness actually works in her favour (much as it did for Malta’s Ciara in 1998 and 2005) – mainly because, lo and behold, what we have here is a superb ballad, sung brilliantly, with real passion and commitment. This has been wowing absolutely everybody on the live blogs, and is rated as a dead cert to qualify. (We shall ignore the nasty person in the Youtube comments who likened the somewhat static performance to a “bored picket line”.) If it goes on to win, I for one shall be delighted. Why, I might even have a little cry. It has been known.

(Oh yeah, and there’s a cracking dance remix of this floating around. They’ve covered all bases.)


16 – Czech Republic – Malá Dáma – Kabát.

Crikey, talk about contrasts. This section of the draw has been gathering nothing but one stars and five stars from me so far – and here’s another one star. No, I’m not a hard rock fan. It’s the only musical genre other than opera to leave me stone cold (particularly when it’s this croaky and creaky), and I find myself powerless to change my prejudices.

Along with Georgia, Serbia-minus-Montengro, and Montenegro-minus-Serbia, the Czech Republic is the fourth and final of the countries to be making its Eurovision debut. Sadly, this is a far from auspicious start.


17 – Portugal – Dança Conmigo – Sabrina.

Poor old Portugal. Long saddled with one of the contest’s poorest scoring records, one wants to wish them well, but rarely finds adequate reasons to do so. Strictly in Portuguese terms, this ain’t so shoddy. OK, so it’s a bog standard piece of Latin American pop which we’ve heard a thousand times before, but at least it has that most elusive of Portuguese qualities: a tune. And the fan dancing presses a few tribal buttons.


18 – FYR Macedonia – Mojot Svet – Karolina Gocheva.

Never discount the power of the Balkan bloc vote, Part 94. Macedonia managed to qualify last year with a fairly forgettable ditty, and since “Mojot Svet” has the virtue of mild memorability, it should sail through on Thursday. I like the way the chorus rhymes “muzika”, “granica” and “balkanska”, although this is somewhat diminished when Karolina switches to English at the end. This one’s all about the consonants, y’see.


19 – Norway – Ven A Bailar Conmigo – Guri Schanke.

Hang about, didn’t we hear this two songs ago? Brassy, slightly dated Latino pop with the word “conmigo” in its title? As some wag on All Kinds Of Everything observed, this is “like two women turning up at a party with the same dress”. I can’t choose between the two, and neither will anyone else, meaning that the Latino vote will be disasterously split on the night.

Which is a shame for Norway, as they’ve fielded not only “the official face of L’Oreal cosmetics” to sing the thing, but also the King of Scandi-Schlager-Pop, Thomas “Not A Misprint” G:son, the composer of last year’s “controversial” Swedish entry, “Invincible” by The Blessed Carola, Peace Be Upon Her.

Better dancing, but no fans. Hmm, it really is too close to call.


Eurovision 2007 preview: Semi-finals #1.

All rehearsal photos taken by Andrew of All Kinds Of Everything. Andrew’s Flickr stream is here.
Click each song title for the lyrics, and for a link to the official preview video.

1 – Bulgaria – Water – Elitsa Todorova & Stoyan Yankoulov.

Before we crack on with this year’s previews, I have a Serious Complaint. Careful perusal of all 42 sets of lyrics has revealed that not one single entry has opted to rhyme “fire” (fye-YA!) with “desire” (diz-EYE-ya!). This is clearly a gross violation of agreed European Rhyme Quotas, and it Must Never Happen Again.

And so to Bulgaria, who kick off our record-breaking twenty-eight song line-up with a full tilt ethno-trancey-dancey thing, featuring impassioned yelps of “more pee!”, and a return to the Big Drumming which so memorably defined the 2005 contest.

In translation, the lyrics conjure up some incongruously pastoral images:

There’s a young lad coming from the village,
Walking by his side’s a wild young pony,
See him walking there, hear him singing, eeee!

See the young lad riding his wild pony,
See him riding, holding tight his lassie!

However, said pastoralism quickly yields to that other great ESC stalwart, the meaningless refrain:

Tara-du-day du-dara dara-du-da (Hey)
Tara-du-day du-dara dara-du-da (Hey, hey)
Tara-du-day du-dara dara-du-da (Hey)
Tara-du-day du-dara dara-du-da…

Although an absolutely cracking track, and one of my favourites of this year’s selection, the whole thing is a bit too Big Room, Peak Time, Rushing Off Your Second Pill, Oakey Tears The Roof Off for such an early stage in the proceedings. Placed later in the draw, we might have had a chance to warm up (in a strictly non-narcotic sense), but this is a glaring case of Too Much Too Soon, which isn’t helped by a total lack of supporting choreography. Instead, Elitsa and Stoyan appear alone on stage, rattling and bashing their instruments of choice, but without any means of a visual build-up. (One is instantly reminded of the upside-down “roast chicken on a spit” breakdancing of last year’s Club Anfem from Romania, the mighty “Tornerò”. Ah, such memories.)


2 – Israel – Push The Button – Teapacks.

If you were thinking of giving the first few songs a miss, then I implore you to re-consider. This is an exceptionally strong opening run, and there will be plenty of time for toilet breaks later. Plenty of time.

Almost every contest in recent years has a Conceptual Art-Joke Prankster act, in which a suspiciously literate looking bunch of overgrown students with Performance Arts subsidies get to play dumb for the night, in the name of Subverting The Norms and F**king With Your Minds, Man. Here’s a text-book example from the country that gave us the mighty Ping Pong in 2000 (we all remember Ping Pong, don’t we?), which lurches back and forth between bouncy Manu Chao-isms and shouty agit-rock, while still finding time to squeeze in a Hebrew rap drum-and-bass breakdown.

In a contest whose most unappealing sub-genre is the World Piss Anthem, “Push The Button” articulates a desire for World Piss (“I want to see the flowers bloom! Don’t wanna go Kaputt Ka Boom!”), without being all pissy about it. It’s well aware of its own absurdity, but in an Alf Poier way rather than a Scooch way.

(Ah, Scooch. We’ll get onto them later.)


3 – Cyprus – Comme Ci, Comme Ça – Evridiki.

Representing Cyprus for the third time (it’s OK, I don’t remember 1992’s Teriazoume or 1994’s Eimai Anthropos Ki Ego either), Evridiki plays right into the hands of Eurovision’s, ahem, core constituency with this hands-in-the-air belter, which straddles the divide between Schlager and Eurodance in a most reassuringly familiar way. The decision to sing in French is a strange one, which will pick up fewer “political” votes than was perhaps intended – but the song works, and the “accredited journalists” d’un certain age will be squealing over this all the way to the Euroclub.


4 – Work Your Magic – Koldun.

OK, forget the “his mother wanted a Princess Diana lookalike” story, and prepare to chuckle at the lyrical innuendo one last time. (“You set my beating heart in motion, when you cast your loving potion over me. But mind the sheets.“) They are but mere red herrings. Instead, think Bond Theme. Think Dima Bilan (“Never Let You Go”, last year’s runner-up). Think wall-climbing dancers. Think “powerful vocal presence”. Think man-cleavage. Think cheekbones. Think pedigree (composer Philip Kirkorov is Russia’s biggest musical superstar). Think drama, drama, DRAMA. This is a hotly tipped favourite, and the first guaranteed qualifier of the night.


5 – Iceland – Valentine Lost – Eiríkur Hauksson.

Aha. This is the first – but no means the last – example of the inevitable Lordi Effect. Just as Ruslana’s victory in 2004 led to the Big Drum Fest of 2005, so the victory of “Hard Rock Hallelujah” has opened the doors to Rock in 2007. Schlager-pop this ain’t. But frankly, on the strength of “Valentine Lost”, would that it were.

“Veteran rocker” Eiríkur Hauksson, who has previously worked with members of Thin Lizzy and Uriah Heep, has admittedly toned things down a little for the ESC, and the song is essentially a power ballad in Jon Bon Jovi drag. The lyrics comprise little more than a random list of well-worn signifiers (“A tiger trapped inside a cage, an actor on an empty stage”), and as such they do their job efficiently enough, but I can’t see this one qualifying.


6 – Georgia – Visionary Dream – Sopho.

I’ve tried extra-specially hard to like this one from plucky newcomer Georgia, as it’s Looby‘s favourite and I hold his opinions in high esteem – but, well, it’s all a bit busy, isn’t it? This is the third number in a row to reach for the High Drama aesthetic, and frankly, at this stage, I’d be happier with a dollop of Low Farce. (We’ll come to the Ukraine later.)

OK, so this is clever stuff, deftly orchestrated and with all manner of intricate twists and turns – including a moment where the whole arrangement collapses down to two rather incongruous electronic bloops, for no apparent reason. Once again, it’s also a bit Bond Theme in places. Give it half a dozen more plays, and I could learn to love it – but plonk it in as Song 6, with 22 more to go, and I fear that it will be buried in the mix.


7 – Montenegro – Ajde Kroči – Stevan Faddy.

Making their debut as a newly independent republic, following last year’s acrimonious split from Serbia, Montenegro field the second of this year’s rockers. I don’t propose to waste much time over this one, as it’s pretty bloody awful. Certain wags in the hall have renamed it “Itchy Crotchy”, and that’s about as much entertainment value as you’re likely to glean from it. Early toilet break!


8 – Vampires Are Alive – DJ Bobo.

Initially a hotly tipped Fan Fave, opinions have been wobbling over this one during the rehearsals, although the consensus remains that it will definitely qualify. DJ Bobo is a man with form in Europop circles, and this is certainly one of the more intricately wrought and professionally presented entries. It’s an Everything But The Kitchen Sink Eurodance Pounder, with Ooky Spooky Bits, Widescreen Orchestral Flourishes, and a Cast of Thousands, whose numbers have been craftily boosted by a bunch of mannequins lined up at the back of the stage. Yes, it’s exciting – but is it also too cold and over-cluttered to warm the hearts of the tele-voters?

Nevertheless, oi’ll give it foive. See you on Saturday, Switzerland.


9 – Moldova – Fight – Natalia Barbu.

“I like the intro, which has real potential to be the new theme for BBC Look East. The first line should be “Top stories in the region tonight” and be accompanied by a few bongs. As it were.” – Nick at OnEurope_Live.

A big Hurrah for the first appearance of that perennial stalwart, the Gypsy Fiddle! And an equally big Woo-Hoo for the first flutterings of that other trusty standby, the Big Flags! Other than that, there’s little to get in a froth about. Mid-paced, high drama, soft rock, a bit of high-register wailing towards the end. Those as like this sort of thing already have Belarus’s Koldun to service their needs, so this one will be swiftly forgotten.


10 – Netherlands – On Top Of The World – Edsilia Rombley.

Edsilia last represented the Netherlands in 1998, placing fourth with the totally spiffing “Hemel En Aarde”, and so my expectations were high. Hmm. This clearly isn’t in the same league – but once the dull openening is dispensed with, it struts its stuff in a tolerably efficient, well scrubbed, bright ‘n breezy Scandi-pop sort of way.

I particularly liked the bridge from the ballady opening into the schlager chorus, which was reminiscent of a clapped out Ford Capri trying to get up the ramp in the multi-storey car park in Bedford shopping centre. It got up there just about, but I thought for a moment it was going to conk out halfway up.” – Nick at OnEurope_Live.


Freelance Friday #6

A very brief Freelance Friday this week, containing just the one live review, and hence yet another opportunity to plug the very wonderful Maria McKee and her superb Late December album. On stage, Maria was all glammed up in Victorian vintage-boho-chic, all scarlets and beaded blacks, with a ribbon in her hair and a big rip on her jacket sleeve. She was in a good mood, chatting happily about her addiction for burning DVDs off the movie channels, and raving over the classic Nottingham movie Saturday Night Sunday Morning (as did Morrissey a few months ago, down at the Arena). I attended the show with the lovely Tina, whom I hadn’t met before, and who duly joins the Please Be My Plus One cc list. (She saw Captain Beefheart back in the day, you know. Several times. Big respect.)

Next week’s Freelance Friday promises to be a blockbuster, as I’ve got a whopping six pieces to bash out for t’local paper between now and Wednesday night, not to mention a phone interview with the trolley-dolly comedienne Pam Ann on Tuesday. Prepare yourselves for live reviews of Diana Ross and Bruce Foxton/Rick Buckler from The Jam; a 400-word review of the forthcoming Rufus Wainwright album (which I’ve just prised open, only to discover La Wainwright posing in lederhosen with his fingers stuffed down the front, straddling the comic-erotic divide in a really quite disturbing way); a 400-word review of the newly updated official Eurovision history book; and an extended preview of this year’s Eurovision finals (a tricky assignment, given that the copy deadline falls in advance of the Thursday qualifiers, but I shall bluff it and busk it as best as I am able).

Oh! And speaking of Eurovision, and blimey, isn’t it high time that I did: the customary song-by-song previews will be appearing on Troubled Diva over the next few days, in manageable chunks, whenever I can find the time. Maybe I just won’t sleep. In the meantime, hardcore devotees should proceed with all due haste to the various fan-blogs which are being posted live and direct by a diverse bunch of “accredited journalists” lucky bleeders from the rehearsals in Helsinki (City of Contrasts), even as we speak: OnEurope_Live (with video clips), All Kinds Of Everything, Schlagerblog and the photo-stuffed Helsinki ESCKaz. As for me, I’ve put down a tenner on Ukraine at 11-1, thus breaking my betting virginity.

Speaking of virginity-busting: I broke the Labour loyalist habit of a lifetime yesterday evening, by voting for the Lib Dems in the Nottingham City Council elections. And let me tell you, it felt good. (I’d go into more detail, but I don’t Do Politics on Troubled Diva. There’s a fine line between Expanding One’s Range and Exposing One’s Weaknesses.)

Nevertheless, and against all predictions, the Labour share of the votes in our ward increased, and two of the city’s eight Lib Dem councillors lost their seats (but happily, not Alex). Hey ho. We live to fight another day, my newly adopted brethren.

It’s going to be a busy weekend. Tinariwen at Leicester De Montfort tonight, and then a marathon journo-jam, interspersed with light gardening duties. Thank God for the Bank Holiday, and Thank K for accidentally booking a business meeting on Monday, thus leaving me free to bash the living daylights out of the laptop without feeling guilty about it.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday, readers. Doing anything nice?

A Father’s Thoughts on Having a Deaf Son.


This guest post has been contributed by my friend, former colleague and fellow gig-goer Stereoboard, as part of Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2007.

My son was born just over three years ago, ten weeks early, weighing about 850g. He was in hospital for the first eleven weeks of his life, during which time he had a hearing test that the doctors were concerned about. A subsequent hearing test indicated that he had a “severe hearing problem”.

That was how we found out.

I’ve found that hearing parents of deaf children fall into two camps: those whose babies struggled to live at the start of their lives, and those who didn’t. It’s easier to cope with a little thing like deafness when you’re just thankful that your child is still alive.

I’m not saying it’s easy.

There were some things that worried me, that may seem trivial to others. For example, music is a great part of my life. I can measure the passage of time by the music I was listening to. So not being able to share that with him makes me sad, but music is my thing. He’ll be different anyway – I can only hope he’ll find something else that will fill that part of his life.

Similarly, I was really looking forward to reading to him, and I thought that that was never going to happen. I needn’t have worried so much. He loves books as well, and we do look at them together – you just have to make some adjustments. I usually face him, though during the last story of the day I insist on a cuddle.

There are also times when it gets to me.

It occasionally makes me angry. This can be triggered by small things – I remember hearing the sound of waves, and thinking that he’d never enjoy that. Once again, that’s my relationship with the world: the effect of the sound of waves on me works because of its association with other events, like happy childhood holidays. The feel of the spray may have an equivalent effect on him when he gets to my age.

There are things that I haven’t worked through yet, or that I know will be a problem.

Communication is such a fundamental part of being a human, that there are people who claim being pre-lingually deaf is one of the worst disabilities. We combat that by using non-verbal communication methods (BSL), but we’re still only learning, so he doesn’t get as much input as he should. We also have to convince the rest of our families that they’re going to have to come to terms with BSL being our main method of communication.

The thought of him going to school scares the living daylights out of me, but I don’t think that that’s necessarily anything to do with his deafness.

I would rather he hadn’t been born deaf, but I wouldn’t change him now.

My son’s not deaf, he’s Ben.