My ultimate supergroup.

Over at The Art Of Noise, Ben has been running a series of fortnightly guest posts, in which contributors are invited to construct the line-up for their ultimate all-star supergroup.

This week it was my turn, giving me the opportunity to revive a line-up which I first put together at the age of twelve.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I offer you… KING CONSTANTINE!

Continue reading “My ultimate supergroup.”

Patience rewarded?

Some time in the mid-Nineties, an NME letters editor commented wryly on his paper’s long-suffering and unacknowledged residual readership: gentle, uncomplaining but perpetually disappointed folk, who still picked up a copy every week in the hope of finding an interview with Medicine Head, or news of the latest Stackridge tour.

And so it is with Troubled Diva’s similarly unacknowledged clump of diehards from the old days, when reckless divulgences ruled the roost, fancy-schmancy I-iz-a-Writerisms prevailed, and no I was ever TM.

Cometh the hour, cometh the blog post. (My contribution’s at the bottom, but don’t you DARE skip past the others en route.) I may not have much to confess these days, but a man will always have his memories. Contains strong language and scenes of an adu… hello, where have you all gone?
Continue reading “Patience rewarded?”

The Art Of Noise: 5×5 II.

It’s been a good while since I last guest-blogged… but here’s me and four other panellists (including SwissToni and JonnyB), giving five current recipients of so-called “A&R buzz” a Juke Box Jury-style Blind Tasting, over on the collaborative music blog The Art Of Noise.

Last time we did this, a full 18 months ago, we found ourselves waxing lukewarm over such future luminaries as The Ting Tings, Laura Marling and, er, Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong. So take heed: here’s where The Stars Of Tomorrow are made!
Continue reading “The Art Of Noise: 5×5 II.”

Freelance Friday #9

Despite having been on holiday all week from my Proper Job, the freelance stuff keeps on rolling, regardless of such irrelevant concepts as annual leave entitlements. This week’s bunch includes:

1. A review of last night’s Rodrigo Y Gabriela gig at Rock City, which I attended along with Sarah and SwissToni (also running into Rullsenberg and Cloud inside the venue, so it was a right old Nottingham Bloggers’ Convention). Having raved about R&G the first two times I saw them, it was perhaps inevitable that last night’s show didn’t grab me in the same way – a situation which wasn’t helped by K’s feeling too unwell to attend, almost at the last minute. Hence a rather jaded gig review – which is thankfully balanced by SwissToni’s much more upbeat assessment.

2. A review of the new Marc Almond album, Stardom Road, which is released on Monday. Never a massive fan, I’ve really been enjoying this collection of covers from the 1950s to the 1970s over the past few weeks – although I do have to be in the right mood for it, which generally means making sure that K is well out of earshot. (It’s all a bit emotionally overwrought for his austere sensibilities.) I interviewed Marc earlier today, for a short piece in next Friday’s Nottingham Evening Post – but a longer version of our conversation will be appearing here next week (even if it takes me all week to transcribe; let’s just say I caught him in a “chatty” mood).

3. An interview with the comedian Caroline Reid, best known for her trolley-dolly-from-hell creation Pam Ann. A review of Pam’s live show will also be appearing here next week.

4. I’ve also done a spot of reviewing for The Art Of Noise, where I was asked to listen to five songs by supposedly “hot” unsigned bands, without knowing any further details. Had I known that my favourite song of the five was by a band called – oh, dear Lord – Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong, would my judgement have been a harsher one? I rather fear that it might.
Continue reading “Freelance Friday #9”

SwissToni’s Earworms.

I’ve been doing a spot of guest-blogging over at SwissToni’s Place, as part of his excellent “Earworms of the Week” series. The concept of the series isn’t necessarily to list your ten current favourite tracks; it’s more about listing the ten tracks which have been occupying the most space on your internal jukebox. It’s a subtle but significant difference…
Continue reading “SwissToni’s Earworms.”

In The Dock: The Eurovision Song Contest.

Over at collaborative music blog The Art Of Noise, the second of their “In The Dock” features sees Eurovision being prosecuted (by drmigs), and defended by… well, who do you think?

Having studied the cases for the prosecution and the defence, you are then invited to leave your verdict in the comments box. I won’t say any more than that, in case I am accused of unduly influencing the jury – but I think we all know where the balance of justice lies in this instance, don’t we? I SAID, DON’T WE?

Continue reading “In The Dock: The Eurovision Song Contest.”

A proper grown-up album review, like what proper grown-up music critics write.

I have to tell you: my inaugural full-length album review for Stylus nearly did for me. African music’s a bugger to write about, as it’s a genre where, for once, I can actually switch off my over-analytical brain and simply luxuriate in the sound and the spirit of the thing. It’s my – it’s our – chill-out music, consumed for pure pleasure.

But to describe just why the new Ali Farka Touré album is such a masterpiece, without resorting to a load of tedious blah about ngoni techniques and kora tunings? Well, my darlings, that’s nigh-on impossible.

Still, I gave it my best shot – and here’s the outcome.

Stylus Singles Jukebox: Reductive Mimesis.

God, there must be a more interesting way of linking to this column every week than this. If it’s boring for you to read, then just think how boring it is for me to write. However, since part of Troubled Diva’s function is to serve as your One-Stop Portal for All Things Mike, link to it I must.

Things that are more interesting than the fact I’ve done another bunch of singles reviews by acts you’ve never heard of (*) :

1. Today is Madonna’s 48th birthday.

2. A new Primark store opened in Nottingham today, where the old Littlewoods used to be. Yesterday lunchtime when I walked past, there were throngs of people peering through the windows, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the super-low prices. That’s how exciting it gets round here.

3. K rang at lunchtime to tell me I’d been quoted in the Nottingham Evening Post a few days ago, moaning about the surly service in a local Indian restaurant. Which is a bit toe-curling, as said moan was blogged a few years ago, and I haven’t eaten there in even longer.

4. I’ve just only realised (although thinking about it, the connection is blindingly obvious) that a Nottingham pal from years ago is the force majeure behind that programme which goes out on Channel 4 on Friday nights, sandwiched between the two Big Brother shows. And he’s got a blog.

5. That new bicarbonate-of-soda jet-stream thingy which the dental hygienist used on me this morning: it might be a trifle messy, but DAMN does it shift the tobacco stains. Looking at me now, you’d never guess I was a guilty chuffer. Really, the thought of ruining that newly acquired gleam of confidence is enough to make me never want to smoke again.

6. If you wade through this week’s Stylus Singles Jukebox podcast, you will hear me use the term “reductive mimesis”, without any apparent irony. You know, one day the wind will change and I’ll get stuck in Pretentious Music Journalist Mode. Reductive bloody mimesis, I ask you! I want slapping for that.

7. I’m voting for Aisleyne. She’s real.

(*) Since you ask: Bela B featuring Charlotte Roche, David Guetta vs The Egg, Alesha, Da Buzz and The Spinto Band.

Stylus Singles Jukebox / Which Decade voting deadline.

(Yes, I know I’ve posted about almost nothing but music for the past few weeks. I’ll be getting back to more of the usual balance once the Which Decade stuff is done and dusted, OK?)

In this week’s Stylus Singles Jukebox, I say comparatively pleasant things about Laura Lynn (the “Schlager queen of Flanders”, no less), Kasabian (you can’t go wrong with a schaffel-glitter-stomp, I always say), Marisa Monte (classy Braziliana for grown-ups) and Shanadoo (yay for Japanese Eurobosh!), whilst blowing farly lukewarm over Sistem (Eurovision-related Romanian dance music can do so much BETTER).

I also make a couple of appearances on the accompanying Singles Jukebox Podcast, doing the “recitative” thing. (Next time round, I’m going to make a stab at the “ad-libbed off the cuff ramble” thing, as this seems to be emerging as the predominant mode of address.)

The voting deadline for this year’s Which Decade Is Tops For Pops project is midnight on Thursday (UK time). I’ll be announcing the results during the course of Friday Saturday (sorry).

As for the next Troubled Diva podcast, that’s more likely to appear on Monday (although judging by the TOTAL LACK OF RESPONSE to the first one, I MIGHT JUST NOT BOTHER, hah, that’ll show them, etc etc etc.)

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.

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.

Stylus Singles Jukebox: Fingerpaint the Entire Classroom

This blog on a Monday is getting a little predictable, nicht wahr? Post Of The Week results, followed by a link to the new singles reviews on Stylus… well, maybe I could use a little predictability from time to time.

In this week’s column, I turn the sharp glare of my critical eye upon new releases from Tokio Hotel (German teen metallers), Chris Brown (drippy, lisping R&B), Elena Paparizou (her what won last year’s Eurovision), West End Girls (Swedish Pet Shop Boys covers act), and The Go! Team (still flogging that 2004 album).

These blurbs are mercifully shorter and snappier than last week’s rather over-laboured bunch (and in the case of Tokio Hotel, which has been edited to remove factual duplication, even shorter and snapper than was originally intended).

Stylus Singles Jukebox: Gloriously Faceless.

In this week’s column, I get to come over all arch and clever-clever about releases from A-Ha (Norwegian 1980s survivors), Cascada (German eurotrance), Remioromen (Japanese indie-lite), Pharrell Williams (confused R&B) and the sublime Richard Hawley (MOR C&W – with a twist! – from South Yorkshire).

Actually, I’ll retract the “arch”. This week, I tried to approach my reviews from a different direction than usual. See whether you think it worked.


Agonising is a brand new collective blog, in which a bunch of self-styled “interfering busybodies” attempt to answer their readers’ Life Problems.

Having always fancied myself as a bit of a Marge Proops/Ann Landers (delete as appropriate), I didn’t hesitate to sign up with the team of counsellors, headed up by Clare “Boob Pencils & Sympathy” Sudbery.

Today, having prevaricated for quite long enough, my first piece of online advice can be viewed on the site: I’m 25 and Still Single.

If you would like to add your own words of advice – and I suggest that you read the site disclaimer at the top of the page before doing so – then the site’s comments box is at your disposal. Continue reading “Agony-aunting.”

Stylus Singles Jukebox: A Winsome But Completely Precious Amalgam.

Having signed myself up for another spell of reviewing the week’s new singles for Stylus Magazine, my first week’s contributions can be viewed here. This week, I cast my jaundiced eye over new releases from the Arctic Monkeys, Ashlee Simpson, Belle & Sebastian, Cat Power, Mark Owen and The Veronicas.

(Warning: if the writing style leans a bit towards the clever-clever at times, then that’s because the frighteningly clued-up readership of Stylus Magazine generally leans the same way. One has to pander to one’s demographic, after all.)

If it moves, rank it.

I’ve written a guest post for the spiffing “Review 2005” series over at Feeling Listless, which has been running all month. Like all the other contributors, my brief was to pick a moment from the year when I finally did something I had always wanted to do.

Some have used this as an opportunity to talk, movingly, about parenthood, personal development, or the achievement of a long-held professional ambition.

As for me, I’ve just blathered on about making lists. On a site called, um, Feeling Listless. How marvellously conceptually dissonant.

Continue reading “If it moves, rank it.”

Triple linkage, and dykey disco delights.

With just nine days left until I get on a plane to Shanghai, I’m basically spending all my spare time making mix CDs for the same-sex civil partnership registration celebratory event lesbian wedding disco which I’ll be missing during Christmas week.

Happily, the brides-to-be and most of their guests are of the same fortysomething vintage as myself. This means that I can keep to the tried and tested old chestnuts, without being obliged to “drop” any of that scary avant-garde modern stuff, like Oasis or The Prodigy.

(Although I have let myself go with a little bit of Robbie Williams. It’s a risk which I’m prepared to take.)

(And, no – I know they’re lesbians, but I have not included “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves”. I may not have been to many lesbian discos recently, but I reckon I can spot a “Hi-Ho Silver Lining” when I see one.)

Anyway, despite being up to my gills in 1970s disco and 1980s electro-pop, I have still found time to serve up a little light linkage for you.

1. For the local crowd: is a blog which bills itself as “one man’s epic quest to eat at every decent restaurant in the English City of Nottingham.” The writer in question – despite sporting a bow-tie of a disturbingly virulent hue – is clearly a chap after my own heart, food-wise at least, and I found myself whizzing through all his archives in mere minutes.

2. I’m linking to Stylus Magazine’s Top 50 Singles of 2005 for the second time this week, as we have now reached Numbers 20 to 11, and they have seen fit to include my pithy deconstruction of the post-modernist phenomenon that is Miss Rachel “Her Out Of S Club” Stevens. Incidentally, there will be more from me about the whole end-of-year list-making process, appearing soon in Another Place. Details as we get them.

tis_button053. Finally, regular readers will no doubt have found this for themselves already, but just in case… you do know ‘Tis the Season is back again, don’t you? It’s blogging’s very own Advent Calendar, with a Christmas-themed post for every day in December, and with four contributors this year instead of the usual two. I shall be reading it every day when I’m in Hangzhou, in order that I might at least experience the Festive Season vicariously. Maybe I’ll take a handful of pine needles over with me, to crush in my palm and inhale whilst reading. (Inhale the aroma, that is. Not the actual needles. Way too hardcore.)

Continue reading “Triple linkage, and dykey disco delights.”

So, yeah. It does rather look as if the Consequences thing has reached its natural conclusion.

“And I can only wonder…if it was now, I could have sued the bitch.”

Thinking about it, this final sentence of Vitriolica’s brings our little game of online Consequences almost full circle, with its echoes of Rob’s piece, in which he named and shamed his wicked singing teacher.

So let’s leave it there. My thanks to all who took part. (No, there aren’t any prizes this time. Souvenir mugs are on sale in the lobby.)

Readers of yesterday’s Independent newspaper might have come across a two paragraph extract from this blog, as part of a two-page spread on “Citizens of the internet”, in which Troubled Diva rubs shoulders with online diarists such as Boris Johnson, Barbra Streisand, Moby, Jamie Oliver, Salam Pax, Belle De Jour, Gillian Anderson and Rosie O’Donnell. Nearly four years after starting the blog, this was its first ever mention in the printed version of a national daily newspaper – and so, naturally, I was thrilled.

Except for just one teensy-weensy thing. The excerpt in question wasn’t actually written by me at all, but by the lovely and talented Vitriolica (who is also about to whup my ass by winning Big Blogger). This led The Independent, in their wisdom, to credit the authorship of Troubled Diva to “Anonymous Woman”.


And relax.

So, yeah, sorry about the lack of updates this week, but it has also been the final week of Big Blogger, where I have been devoting all my energies to the final week’s task: seven posts, in seven days, on the theme of the number seven. Here’s what I came up with:

#1: the seven ages of Mike. A potted autobiography, in seven year intervals, which finishes up in 2011 with a suspiciously happy ending. I like to think of this as an “aspirational” piece.

#2: seven deadly sins of blogging. When inspiration runs low, there is always meta-blogging to fall back upon. Regular readers will know of what I speak.

#3: Where are they now? We catch up with seven of the former Big Blogger housemates. Glory for Peter, but ignominy for Zoe. Riddled with in-jokes, this was still my favourite of the seven posts.

#4: twenty questions. (an interactive post). Actually, this one turned out to be a total flop. But hey, it worked in rehearsal.

#5: seven stonkers and seven honkers. The inevitable music-related post. Eight weeks into the contest, and it’s a wonder that I managed to hold back for so long.

#6: seven reasons why i don’t want a dog (in the face of enormous pressure from my partner). This has been something of a “live issue” in recent months.

#7: seven things to bear in mind when casting your vote, if you haven’t already done so. A desperate last-minute pitch for votes. Truly I have no shame.

Anyway, with Vitriolica on the verge of being crowned Big Blogger 2005 (she really is streets ahead), I shall be returning to this site full time. I’ve enjoyed the Big Blogger experience: chaotic, informal, daft, mostly good-natured, and with something of the feeling of a summer camp for bloggers about it. No idea how many people have been reading it, but that was part of the fun; I think we were basically just performing for each other’s amusement, and I enjoyed the “off duty” feeling which that engendered.

Right then. Time for an al fresco luncheon in the PDMG: melon and serrano ham, washed down with a glass of apple juice. Did I mention that we’ve been on holiday all week?

And finally: because he asked nicely in the village pub yesterday evening, then got all embarrassed and nobly withdrew his request, and because he’s a regular reader and a good mate, and because I’ve never, EVER done this sort of thing before… this next link is for “Bob”.


One does what one can do oil the wheels of industry. My melon calleth. Good day to you.

Continue reading “So, yeah. It does rather look as if the Consequences thing has reached its natural conclusion.”


A fortnight’s blissful, indolent cottaging beckons, with nothing more arduous than dead-heading the geraniums stretching ahead of me. No plans, no engagements, no commitments. Why, we could just sit with the newspapers in the morning room for the next sixteen days solid, and it wouldn’t matter a jot or a tittle.

There may be blogging ahead. But, on balance, probably not a great deal of it, what with the steam-powered 56k dial-up laptop and all. (It never feels right, unplugging the phone and stretching the cables across the kitchen table. Like some sort of violation of our bucolic, Epicurean ideal.) Besides, as we old lags know from experience, simply nobody reads weblogs in August, darlings.

There will, however, be at least a few more pieces over on Big Blogger, where I have now made it through to the final four. The most recent task: to describe your greatest irrational fear, and to devise a means of overcoming it. I could have written for the next two weeks solid on that subject alone. Cognitive behavioural therapy: who needs it?

There will also be a few more Consequences posts, as I’m allowing everyone a maximum of two each, and a couple of people have yet to make their debuts. Good, aren’t they? I do love the sensation of checking my own blog for updates. Saves on travel expenses.

Incidentally, Austria was surprisingly lovely. This was the first time, in seven countries and maybe as many as thirty business trips, where the client has taken the time and trouble to take me out for the evening. Much appreciated, that was. And not only that: because we got through the work so efficiently, I ended up having a few hours to spare in the afternoon. So what did the client do, but take the afternoon off and show me round Vienna? I particularly loved the Schloss Schönbrunn: full-on Viennese old-school style, which straddled the divide between magnificence and kitsch to marvellous effect.

I think I know why I liked Vienna so much. It was like Germany, but with a key added ingredient: style and elegance. And quite the friendliest people I have ever worked with, even if I could barely understand a word of their Austrian dialect. Why, I even enjoyed my Wiener Schnitzel. They’re actually quite nice! Who knew?

Oh, but I’m rambling. Filling in time before the bell rings. Can you tell?

There might be a new podcast this afternoon, but it’s looking less likely now that I have to make an emergency appointment with the dentist. (One of my crowns has wiggled loose, and I’m scared of morphing into Worzel Gummidge halfway through the holiday.)

Come on, Mike. Pull the plug. The holidays are here!

(Do go and read my Big Blogger posting, though. It’s much better than this one.)

Continue reading “Demob-happy.”