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‘Things I’ve Seen’ is one of those singles that is so good you think the album can’t possibly be as good. Well, S.I.O.S.O.S. , Spooks’ first album is no disappointment but it’s certainly no pop sensation. Like the Fugees before them Spooks combine hip hop beats, raps and strong female vocals and forge something distinctively theirs. The raps are smooth with some sweet twists and phrasing (my favourite – I’m the abominable domino’) but it’s vocal talents of Ming Xia that give the album it’s unique flavour. Like Lauren Hill in the Fugees it’s her sweet harmonies and swooping melodies that will elevate this album to something beyond that of just hip hop. This is no pop album. It touches on dark subject matter – Karma Hotel plays out a series of sinister scenarios from Russian Roulette to selling your soul to the devil; spooky! (…soz). It’s a good album but definitely one for the more hip hop orientated album purchasing folk
Yes the adoption Services are under funded, under skilled and at times obstructive to couples who would be excellent parents but surely it is better to err on the side of caution. It should not be easy to adopt a child. Children are not products that can be picked off a shelf, bought and owned. There need to be strict guidelines to protect orphans from potentially corruptive, abusive and perverted adults. So, we have to jump through hoops, pass hundreds of tests and be subjected to exhaustive tests to ensure we are suitable. ‘Great!’ I say, suffer for the child you are about to receive; if it’s not worth it you are not worthy. Now it may seem like I am missing the point but despite the fact it is incredibly hard to adopt children there are still cases where disgusting abuse takes place. By lowering the standards, by making adoption easier, I fear we may merely be subjecting more children to pain that will stay with them for life. I’d rather a child grow up without parents than with parents who abuse them. I do however believe more money needs to spent on attracting bright minds to work for the agencies. The right people need to be in control or else cases like the ‘Twins Sold Twice’ occurs. Don’t get me wrong, there are thousands of beautifully minded, clever, hard working people already working but the government needs to give more resources to create a failsafe system that ensure only and all loving parents can adopt. I think more monitoring needs to take pace. I think the punishments for abusive parents needs to more severe; child rape is the only crime where I believe in corporal punishment. I think Children’s homes need to be torn down and built again. Major retraining needs to take place in many institutions so that these children who have so little are at least equipped to enter adult life with skill sets that get create a productive and successful life. Most of all
I think it is everybody’s responsibility to help, either with money or with your time. If we can spend millions on building a Dome for a year, hundreds of millions on tax relief for fat cat business men and billions on weapons of destruction, then surely as a nation we can do a damn sight better than an addled adoption agency that is crumbling from the foundations up.
Jeff Buckley died May 29th, 1997 swimming in the Mississippi River. His father, Tim Buckley, the legendary troubadour died back in 1975 from a drugs overdose. Both of them were rising stars, their untimely death ironically ensuring them a life eternal as cult heroes. Though he never knew his father, Jeff inherited his incredible voice, vibrant musicianship and burning thirst for experimentalism. And though he often denied it, he was inevitably heavily influenced by his father work. Grace is perhaps Jeff's best-known work being the only studio album to be released whilst he was still alive. There are some post-humus releases but they fall short of the lofty brilliance achieved with this album. Through his work and his life he maintained an air of mystery. It’s almost as though Jeff was writing from the ‘How To Become A Cult Songwriters Handbook.’ Secret gigs, endless touring and an elusive personality he refused to obey conventions and spent his life in a constant struggle to express himself. Like his father he uses his voice as a instrument sliding over scales, twisting melodies and harmonising with his jazz-doused guitar playing. His howls of emotion mix strikingly against his angelic bittersweet choirboy crooning. His lyrics were like gothic fairy tales filled with pain, sadness, love. The album itself starts with the slow burning ‘Mojo Pin’, all full of mournful regrets and longing, it’s spun around his soulful vocals and haunting echoed guitar work before climaxing in a whirlwind of howls and staccato percussion ‘Grace’ weaves guitar scales over chopped rhythms, Jeff again gushing over themes of loss and mortality. ‘Last Goodbye’ delves into the turbulence of emotions felt in the death of relationships –from both sides: (“Did you say ‘no, this can't happen to me,’ And did you rush to the phone to call, Was there a voice unkind in
the back of your mind, Saying maybe you didn't know him at all”) Three cover versions are given radical reworking; ‘Lilac Wine’ (Nina Simone) typically Buckley as he yearns for lost love beneath an alcoholic slur; ‘Hallelujah’ (Leonard Cohen) with my favourite lines: (“I heard there was a secret chord, That David played and it pleased the lord, But you don't really care for music, do you? Well it goes like this the fourth, the fifth, The minor fall and the major lift, The baffled king composing hallelujah”) and Benjamin Britten’s ‘Corpus Christi Carol’, which in some ways I feel, is an excuse for Jeff to show off his vocal range. It’s beautiful none-the-less. ‘Eternal Life’ cranks the amps up to 11 with a raucous guitar fest. Again the lyrics and musicianship are excellent with Buckley strangled vocals conveying every once of emotion as he moans: “All I want to do is love everyone” Most haunting of all is 'Dream Brother', which I can’t help but feel reveals Jeff’s frustration towards the father he never got to know: (“Don't be like the one who made me so old, Don't belie the one who left behind his name, 'Cause they're waiting for you like I waited for mine, And nobody ever came). Could Jeff have a had a premonition of his death when he penned the line: “Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over” This is one of my favourite albums of all time. It’s intelligent, beautiful, fragile and violent. Most of all it’s a wonderful epitaph for a great musician.
** For an explanation of how I came about using this product please refer to my opinion on Clinique Scuffing Lotion ** The men’s facial scrub by Clinique is the best type of facial scrub I've experienced. I'm no expert but I've tried Body Shop's brand and some Japanese grains type of thing but they don't compare. It looks a little gooey - it's beige and sticky but boy does it do the trick. It basically works like this. The cream contains tiny bits of coarse grit which scratch off your dead skin as you rub it over your face. Smear it all over, rub it into your cracks and crevices, making sure you reach all those potential blackhead areas in-between your cheek and your nose. What should be revealed is the fresh, healthy elastic skin that had been hidden by bits of dead skin and grease. Clinique's scrub utilizes a menthol ingredient so as you use it you get a fresh, minty, tingling feeling. Definitely recommended for anyone who wants to give a little more care in their appearance.
A couple of Christmas's ago, my partner bought me a men’s grooming package from Clinique containing, facial scrub, soap, scuffing lotion, moisturiser and shaving gel all neatly packed in a stylish toiletries bag. 'What are you trying to say?' was my immediate reaction, incensed that she could suggest I needed grooming products. 'Am I not beautiful enough?’ Well, needless to say they stayed in their mock leather toiletries case for a number of months untouched, unused and unappreciated. I don't know what changed, maybe I saw the onset of age approaching, but I decided to give this mens-grooming lark a go. I read the instructions on '4 step cleansing' and with some trepidation (and a little help from my girlfriend) embarked along a new road of vanity. The facial scrub - mud with grit in it - scoured my face; it's menthol ingredients tingling. I washed it off with my Clinique soap - a far superior soap, all silky and smooth and very elegant - and my face felt refreshed and clean. Next up came the scuffing lotion. This basically removes the top layer of skin revealing the fresh, healthy, glowing new skin underneath. It sounds painful but it isn't. You can feel it working, almost stinging, dissolving those dead cells, eating up the blackheads, blitzing any grease and eating up any soap deposits left on your face. Afterwards I felt refreshed and healthy. A quick dab or two of moisturiser and I could swear I was glowing. I starting using my grooming products regularly after this - maybe 3 times a week - and people actually stared saying, 'You look well'. Now when people try and guess my age they're off the mark by at least 4 or 5 years and while I've always looked young, part of this is definitely down to looking after my skin now. Clinique isn’t going do any miracles. But if you’re health conscious, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water an
d eat a good diet, it can help your skin look better. Besides, it's kinda fun.
I have recently upgraded, courtesy of Car Phone Warehouse, from an Ericsson T18 to T28. While I have no complaints about my older model, like all upgrades after a few days use I could never go back to my old lump of coal. Upon receiving my phone I was immediately struck by it' slim, almost weightless form. It was light but not flimsy or cheap, which is very important to me. I particularly enjoy the flip down cover which has been adapted from a manual cover to a button activated mechanism - tres cool. I'm a little disappointed the ariel is so large and lumpy - I felt they could have incorporated a smaller one, perhaps on the side of the phone instead of at the top. At first I wasn't sure about the colour. The T18 was black, you can't really go wrong there, but the slate blue colour has since grown on me. Once activated I was taken by the new look screen. It now uses more elegant pixels, which allows more clarity and detail with some text manipulation. It also has a green florescent backlight. I always liked the functions of my old Ericsson and they are all still there with one or two additions. The menu function is much easier to navigate with a horizontal tab system. You can now send emails and store address in your memory. You can create groups of friends and mail to them all a message simultaneously. Your text messages now enter via an inbox from which you can save or delete them. The way in which names and numbers are stored has been improved so navigation around your address book is easier (however you now have to click an extra time to actually get your number from your address book, which is annoying). A new Call Info section has been added which allows you to monitor your calls, missed calls etc in a very easy organised method. You can still create your own rings, which I loved on the last model. So if you like composing tunes you can have a truly original ring. There are also some extra funct
ions like Stopwatch, Timer and two games which I think are pretty redundant (though I must admit I have played Tetris a couple of times on the tube) There is also a handy shortcuts function which allows you get to any function with one click. I am very happy with my new sexy, slim phone. I can feel a little like Keanu Reeves (when I particularly sad) and flip my lid down with a click of a button. It vibrates (essential!), enables me to programme my own cool ring (ACDC - Whole Lotta Rosie -simple but effective) and is small enough to lie snugly hidden in my pocket. Definitely recommended.
For me getting onto the Halls Of Residence was as important as choosing my degree course. It was essential and something I’d always wanted to do. I’d already visited a mate who was at Carnatic Halls in the Liverpool University and Parkside (JMU’s halls) was just down the road. How disappointing? Compared to Carnatic, Parkside was like an outhouse. Small unattractive breezeblock rooms with none of the green fields that accompanied the Universities Halls. However, after my initial disappointment I soon realised that a good Halls Of Residence is not down to the bricks and mortar, it’s down to the people in them. Some of the people during those first few exciting weeks are now, some 10 years later, among my best friends. The bond we share will never be broken and when we meet up now (about every 2 years!) we’re hardly any different at all. Like most students we bonded over booze; snake bites and black, flaming Drambuie’s and Irish coffee’s in the morning. The best thing about living in the Halls is there is always someone around to hang out with. We used to trundle down to the Aigburth arms, on mass and invade the karaoke nights. When we went to the Students Union, there would be about 30 of us and we always had an amazing time. We shared a lot of experiences together, tried a lot of new things out and learnt together. I’d always recommend going to Halls because it’s here you get to know people before you share a house with them. Six of us branched off and got a house together; it didn’t always work out but I’m glad I went tot the halls first and got a choice with who I wanted to live with. Whenever I think back to my student days, the time I spent at Parkside was the best.
Being a dooyoo fan for quite some time I've been pondering what to spend my dooyoo miles on. I'm not bothered about the money but I thought I could have some fun on the net, then it occurred to me I could get a dooyoo t shirt. I thought at first it was going to be a little cr*ppy thing with a naff logo on it. I was wrong dudes. On the front is a nice discreet dooyoo logo with 'What's your opinion?' on it and on the back of it is a pretty cool cartoon explaining, I presume in an ironic fashion, how to use the internet. It is titled 'For Your Safety Please read' and proceededs to explain how you must remove your hands from your pockets, how to use the mouse and how you may be tired after writing opinions. I love it. It's up there with my Stussy t-shirts. No one has recognised it yet but if you see anyone in Stoke Newington with dark hair wearing one - stop and say hello because it might be me.
When it came to deciding which university I was going to spend the next three years I considered the cities themselves as much as I did the courses. If I was going to spend 3 years in a city it may as well be somewhere that could offer me more than just good academic qualifications. I wanted to experience life, and that means bars, clubs, people, art, football and culture. Being a Northerner I decided against the expense of moving 'down south' and so looked to the big cities; Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. For reasons no better than the fact I once had a blinding night in Liverpool once, I choice JMU or as it was known then - Liverpool Polytechnic. Best choice I ever made! I started off by moving into Parkside Halls Of Residence, which on first impression looked a right dump. But after a few heady trips to the Aigburth Arms (as featured in Red Dwarf) for a spot of Karaoke I soon found it was occupied by some great people: Mixer, Chinny, Micky Deans, Blue, Squirt, Viv, Wendy, Jane, Biffa, Al, Sarah, Rachael... We soon bonded over many lagers and snake bites and some of us remain best of friends till this day. As time went by we soon got to know the city and discovered there are some great places. At the time Cream had just opened (the Quad was about to close down) and we discovered dance music - raving on a Saturday night. We also used to go to clubs now closed (Planet X, Macs, Mardi Gras) and had a many a good night in the Student Union. Since then Liverpool has maintained it's great rep for being an excellent place to go out. The bars and pubs in the city centre stay open until 2am - which is great, I just wish the rest of the UK's boozers would stay open until the same hours. In recent years there has been an explotion of bars in Liverpool. Money has flooded in from Europe and the once slightly dog eared city is now packed full of neon fronted trendy bars and clubs – it’s like Ibiza with better kebab shops. The live
music scene has and is always vibrant; hip hop, soul, rock and indie all have healthy scenes and there are plenty of venues catering for live music. Small local bands in the Lomax and Heebiejeebies to bit concerts in the L2 and The Krazy House. The city as whole has a great attitude. Most scousers are great people - passionate, funny and usually a good laugh. Like anywhere you do get the odd dodgy scally, but these can be avoided (if required). Saying that I did get broken into twice. Liverpool has a couple of fine art galleries, most notably The Tate down at Albert Dock (where Richard and Judy first presented This Morning with Fred weather man). Great shops, including Quiggins, an indoor market full of second hand gear and interesting nik naks and The Palace, another small shopping centre - a bit like Afflecks Palace in Manchester with Arc clothing, record shops like Probe and Ape clothing - the best skate/surf wear shop in the UK! The course at JMU was OK. It was under funded and over crowded but isn't just about everywhere? There were too many people on the course but the lecturers great. (I did Sociology). The student union held some fine nights and was pretty cheap for beer. You've also got the 'proper' university which, if you've got your wits about you, you can usually get into it. JMU also has a good student radio station on which I did the first broadcast. I'd recommend JMU to anyone looking to have a good time when they go away to uni. I learnt much in Liverpool and not just at the university. In fact I loved it so much I ended up staying there for 7 years. Oh and I got a 2.1, which aint bad, all things considered.
Over the years Black Sabbath have mutated and changed to incorporate many different sounds. But for me Sabbath will always have Ozzy Osbourne as the singer. Of all the albums he was involved with this - Volume 4 - is my favourite. While other albums may have classic songs like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Iron Man and War Pigs - all of which encapsulate the Black Sabbath sound beautifully and typically, Volume 4 is the weirdest and most creative of them. Take Laguna Sunrise with it's blissed out Spanish guitar and strings - more like a Metallica intro than anything else. Elsewhere the album rocks - Geezer Butler's deep bluesy bass runs on Behind the Wall Of Sleep, the grinding Supernaught and Ozzy's ode to drugs (?) in Changes. While the early albums rock out, Volume 4 is the album I can sit down and listen to, each twist and turn sucking me further in into their heavy psychedelic madness. When ever I think of the 70's and the birth of rock music, this album is the epitome for me. Forget your wig out Zepplin riffs or Purples amazing but aged funk outs - it's early Sabbath, 1972 style.
The V festivals are your festival for non-festivalgoers. They're festival for people who love music but don't want to suffer the indignity of 3 days of stinky toilets, greasy food, smoky air and sweaty pits. For starters V is cleaner than your average festival - for which it's even won awards. It's only two long so you don't get that third day exhaustion factor. And there are no cow turds on the floor - think Glasters. But the by far the best thing about the V festivals is the music. Packed into to two days you have everything from those Scottish crooners Travis to powerhouse beats protagonists Leftfield. In-between there is soul diva Macy Gray, Oxfordshire buffoons Supergrass, playing his only UK festival Mr Richard Ashcroft, Underworld, Moby and Death In Vegas. These are the obvious attractions. There are also some little gems within the small print that may lure there. Belgium superstars rockers Soulwax, Coldplay (need I say more?), soulful beats from LSK, Kelis, XFM favourite Junkie XL, and beautiful Morcheeba. Every time I've been to the V festival I've an excellent time. It's real music lovers festivals where you can enjoy fantastic music without having to suffer loonies and discomfort. Sit back, chill out, listen to some boss tunes and try to avoid being brainwashed by the intensive Virgin (cola to phone) branding everywhere.