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+ WHAT'S THE STORY? +
There isn't much of one, actually (stop cheering in the back!). I love Mexican food (and, of course, tequila) so of course it made sense to visit a restaurant serving South American cuisine (although it has become a little more "international", apparently). It took awhile getting around to making the reservation and going, but since my friend now stays literally around the corner from Cottiers, we didn't really have an excuse for not trying it out.
+ OKAY, WE'RE HERE. NOW WHAT? +
Well you've arrived (directions are at the end of the review, because I'm so utterly considerate that way. It's okay, you can buy me a Desperado in the Rio Cafe sometime ;-) lol) and rather than heading through the arched doorway into the bar, you'll need to take the old-fashioned looking door to the left of it up a slightly daunting spiral staircase. First impressions were that it was really cold (go figure: it was March and old church buildings aren't renowned for being cosy). Secondly, there was a really fusty smell. Not a nice 'in a library or second hand bookshop' aroma. Nope, I'm talking about 'in a cheesemongers' fusty. Very odd. Thankfully this seemed to be restricted to the staircase.
We were greeted warmly inside by a young woman who would be our server for the rest of the evening, and led us to our table. I was a bit surprised that we were the only diners there when it was after 6pm. Granted, it was a Monday night so we didn't think too much of it but I felt quite conscientious of being the only guests in what is described as a 70 seater restaurant.
In terms of atmosphere we really liked the restaurant and found it to be quite relaxing. The music played was unobtrusive, and began with a Spanish instrumentals, then moved (somehow seamlessly!) onto Stevie Nicks. At full capacity though, I get the impression that it could get a little too loud to experience any sort of chilled ambience. The lighting was dimmed but not overly so, and the decor promised was 'Aztec'... I could see a hint of it, but any positive effect on me was lost as soon as I clocked the numerous photos of Venice and gondolas on the walls beneath the 'Aztec' pattern.
+ LESS CHAT, MORE BOOZE! +
I was impressed with the well-stocked bar at the other end of the room. There were a lot of brand name spirits and liqueurs (and Jose Cuervo tequila, naturally!) as well as a decent range of lagers including Tiger (£3.90 a pint), Kronenberg, Sagres (£3.65 a pint) and (for the unadventurous) Fosters. I was an eejit and forgot to find out about whether there are ciders or stouts available, but you'll forgive me I'm sure. Since my friend was on antibiotics he couldn't have any alcohol (awww) so he just ordered a coke which came in a 200ml glass bottle priced at £1.85.
As for the wine, to me there was a fairly decent range with a small glass starting from £3.30, a large at £4.60 and bottles from £13.50.
+ WE SHOULD PROBABLY LOOK AT THE MENU...+
My friend and I had opted for the Pre-Theatre Menu, which was £9.95 per person for 2 courses, or £11.95 for 3 courses. In some places a set menu can be quite limited but out of the four starters and five mains that were available, my friend and I were pleased to see that there were a few options that interested us and it did take us a little while to decide what to order. Our lovely server, in the meantime, was understanding and gave us the extra time needed without making us feel like we were under pressure.
Admittedly, the Pre-Theatre Menu didn't have an obvious South American or Mexican feel to it although if that was a problem for anyone then there's always the option of just ordering from the normal A La Carte.
~ Starters ~
Prices range from £3.50 to £5.50 and options include Soup of the Day, Chiles Relenos (Jalapeno Poppers, hurrah!) and Empanadas (stuffed bread or pastry with a choice of spicy chicken or mixed vegetable filling).
~ Mains ~
Prices range from £9.95 to £19.95 and options include Fajitas (of course, and with a choice of carnivorous or vegetable filling), Pan Fried Loin of Swordfish, Puerco Borracho (described as 'drunken loin of pork'), and the exotic-sounding Albondigas (which turns out to be meatballs).
~ Sides ~
All priced at £2.50, and nothing too exciting on offer. Just the usual Fries, Mixed Salad, Onion Rings and (perhaps justifying the 'International' menu claims) Garlic Ciabatta.
~ Desserts ~
All priced at £5.50 and includes the classic Sticky Toffee Pudding, Lemon Brulee, and a Mixed Cheese plate.
+ FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD +
For a starter I ordered the Crispy Breaded Calamari.
Yes. Me. The person who is afraid of squid, octopi, jellyfish... ordered calamari. All because I want to try new things, and if that isn't something different I don't know what is. I'd never had it before - shan't be having it again - so can't judge really if anything was wrong with it, but I will say that it was okay. So long as I didn't think in detail about what I was eating and which part of the icky thing it was from. And smothered it in the delicious lime and coriander dip it came with. Considering I didn't want to think about what I was tasting and chewing on, it was difficult when the fried breadcrumb coating wouldn't stay on the squid rings. I survived though, I'm okay. I hope you all appreciate what I'm having to relive for you! Lol
My friend, on the other hand, played it safe and ordered the soup of the day which was Cream of Cauliflower and came with a couple of slices of crusty bread and butter. He couldn't rate it highly enough and it did have a nice cheese-y undertone to it.
In what may have been an attempt at playing it safe after my surprise choice in Starter, I opted for the Vegetarian Chilli with 'green herb rice' and 'pitta bread', which was just delicious. With chunks of courgette, butternut squash (or possibly sweet potato), carrot, pepper, onion and celery, it had just the right kick so it wasn't too spicy or hot but still left a warmth on your tongue afterwards.
My friend decided on the Brazilian Coco Pollo, which was a roasted breast of chicken with a coconut sauce and that green herb rice again. Described by my friend as 'very tasty... like a korma but with a nice twist', I have to agree that it was really quite nice but didn't make me regret my choice of main.
It's not very often that I can manage a full three courses in a restaurant, and this time was no exception. When we were offered the Desserts Menu, we decided to have a look anyway and ended up agreeing to share a Dark Chocolate and Orange Cheesecake. And I'm very glad we did, because it was just divine! Very rich and slightly sticky, I think it may be difficult for some to manage a whole portion of it to themselves (although some may make a valiant attempt, I'm sure) but it's definitely worth a try!
I should note that the service, while not a reflection on our friendly server, did feel quite slow as there was a bit of a wait between courses (in a near empty restaurant). However, rather than being arse-y about it, we just took it as a sign that each dish was being made fresh to order.
+ ANYTHING ELSE? +
Here's where Cottiers performance was let down. For an eatery located in what can be a rather pretentious part of Glasgow's West End, the bathrooms were really quite shabby. My friend described the Gents' as being similar to facilities you'd find in a pub, and the Ladies was quite off-putting. Two out of the four cubicles were in working order, there were a couple of tiles missing from the wall, and only one out of two soap dispensers were working.
Wheelchair accessible? -
Most definitely not. I'd fear for my safety and that of those around me if I had to navigate that spiral staircase after a few drinks. I do think there is another stairway at the opposite side of the restaurant which seems to lead down into the bar though, and I'm pretty sure it's less spiral-ly. Sorry, went off on a tangent there. No, unfortunately not wheelchair accessible.
There does appear to be a kids' menu available, but I saw no evidence of any young 'uns when I was there. Depending on the licence, some establishments aren't permitted to have children on the premises after 20:00. Whether this is the case here, I can't say (because I didn't ask and the website doesn't say).
If you're a vegetarian then options are a little limited, I'm afraid - there are two vegetarian main courses and five vegetarian starters on the A La Carte. Less than this on the Pre-Theatre Menu.
+ THE VERDICT +
The food in Cottiers is great, and I will be visiting again. If you can overlook the little things that I picked up on (fusty smell in the staircase, national identity crisis, poorly maintained bathrooms) then I'm confident that others would like it here as well. The silly things I found fault with are things that can be remedied, and despite this I still consider their Pre-Theatre Menu (available Sunday-Thursday evenings) excellent value for money and definitely something different in a City where Mexican or South American cuisine isn't always easy to find.
+ WHERE IS IT AND HOW DO I GET THERE? +
Cottiers Restaurant is located in the upper part of the Cottiers building (converted / renovated church which is now a bar and theatre) on 93 Hyndland Road in Glasgow's West End (specifically, it's in Partick / Dowanhill. Boundaries are a bit sketchy). Don't worry, I'll give the full address in a minute so you can Sat-Nav the postcode). I'd bore you all with a description of the church and history, but that's detailed on their website.
For those of you unfamiliar with the area, feel free to let your mind wander while I give directions and transport information. Cheers.
* BY CAR - Good luck getting a parking space. I honestly would not even attempt getting here by car. The streets are narrow and everyone who lives here seems to think their life depends on having a vehicle. If necessity calls for it, then I'm sorry but you will be driving around for a bit looking for a space in one of the surrounding residential streets.
* BY BUS - If travelling by bus from Glasgow City Centre you'd be best getting a 62, 9, or a 16 as these will take you along Dumbarton Road through Partick. You will pass the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Galleries (on the right), the Transport Museum (on the left), the Western Infirmary (on the right), and then the bottom of Byres Road (across from which, to your left, is the Three Judges pub).
Get off the bus at about this point. If you've gone past the Tesco Express on the left hand side, don't worry - you can walk back, it's not far.
* BY SUBWAY - If travelling on Glasgow's Subway, get off at Kelvinhall Station. Once you emerge from the station into the slighty off-putting underpass-type-thing, turn right to head onto Dumbarton Road and turn right again then start walking.
* BY TRAIN - Get a train to Partick (check with the ticket staff or look at the notice boards to make sure you get on one with the correct destination). Then you can walk but it may be quicker just getting the Subway to travel that whole one stop to Kelvinhall. If you're happy to walk, then exit the station and turn left to get onto Dumbarton Road, then turn right and start walking. It'll take about 10 minutes but don't worry, we'll wait for you.
Alrighty... it's not quite planes, trains and automobiles but I think we're okay. Train, subway and bus folk: if all has gone well, you will find yourself heading towards the Quarter Gill pub at the bottom corner of Hyndland Street. It's across from the aforementioned Tesco Express and a Comet electrical shop. I know, cultural.
Make your merry way up Hyndland Street, where you will pass the Rio Cafe on your left (the only pub I've found so far that sells Desperado... god bless the creator of tequila beer) and a basketball court on your right. Keep going and you'll come to a church with a forked road going left and one going right.
Troops, we're heading to the left to get onto Hyndland Road. Keep going until you see branded parasols with wooden outdoor benches and tables. Congratulate yourselves and each other for finding the place.
Now, I know I could give directions to get here from Byres Road, but quite frankly I got lost when I tried the first time. Which doesn't bode well considering how long I lived in the West End for, so what hope do you guys have? I know it's essentially a straight line along Highburgh Road (Tennent's Bar is on the corner) before turning left after the wee park, but I still managed to lose my bearings. If you're feeling brave, check out Google map first. Otherwise, trust me on this.
+ MORE INFORMATION +
93 Hyndland Street
G11 5PX / G11 5PU (they can't decide it seems!)
0141 357 5825
© bandcamp 2010 - onwards. Plagiarists will have El Chupacabra come get them while they're sleeping!
"It's girls in fishnets on rollerskates trying to knock each other over... what's not to love?"
- me, to a slightly concerned friend
+ A (PROBABLY NOT-SO) BRIEF EXPLANATION... +
A couple of years ago, my friend's bandmate invited us along to a flat-track roller derby in Glasgow as his girlfriend was competing and a good time was promised to be had by all. Apart from recalling vaguely a CSI: New York episode that featured banked-track roller derby as part of a storyline (with a tragic and suspicious death, of course), I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
The day came, the bouts were played and I was blown away. There was a lot more to it than just girls in short skirts racing around a track and trying to knock each other down - there were strategies and points at stake... and a penalty box (aka 'The Sin Bin')!
I went along to a few more derby bouts after that, but it was only in October 2009 that I finally hauled my ass along to a newbie-intake (aka Fresh Meat) day for the Glasgow league. I had never rollerskated before and I admit that it still hasn't come naturally to me but I'm enjoying it nonetheless, and still loving the girls I've met through it.
Unfortunately, during a practice in January I fell badly (i.e. didn't have the chance to 'fall small' as we'd all first been taught) and managed to severely sprain my ankle AND break the tip of a bone. My first broken bone, ever! Even though it's pretty insignificant it's still technically a break, and so I haven't been able to skate since then (getting better though!). Although I'm not even closed to becoming a fully-fledged Rollergirl - I was (will be!) improving, albeit slowly... and even off-wheels, I am growing steadily more obsessed by the sport.
+ AND SO, OUR (LENGTHY) TALE BEGINS... +
While ordering my skate helmet and safety gear online in December (thank you Santa), I decided to buy this book as well. After all, it's always nice to read other people's experiences of things and if I could gain a bit more knowledge about roller derby along with any helpful hints then all the better!
Written by Melissa Joulwan aka Melicious, #11 of the Hotrod Honeys (one of the four Texas Rollergirls league teams), this is a memoir of her experiences and involvement at the start of the resurgence and reinvention of the roller derby phenomenon that first hit its peak in the U.S.A. in the 1950s.
Melicious bore witness to and played a part in how this hobby has slowly become more recognised as a sport, and how hundreds of leagues have been set up across the U.S.A. as well as Europe with thousands of participating skaters.
The story begins with Melicious explaining how she quit her well-paid corporate job to relocate to Austin, Texas with her boyfriend, and we quickly learn that she first saw a flier in a cafe advertising a derby bout and so decided to go along to see what it was all about. Like me, she quickly fell in love with the game. Unlike me, she actually went along to try-outs when she was first invited - and not 18 months after seeing her first bout.
From here on she confides in the reader the nerves she experienced, her unfounded (and in one case, slightly ridiculous!) worries but this should help assuage the fears of most uncertain and self-conscious rookies who've yet to strap on skates and wobble (or crawl, as I did more than once) out onto the track. And as Melicious seems to be sharing all of this so candidly, it's easy to warm to her throughout the rest of the book as she recounts some of the triumphs and obstacles she - and the other skaters - experienced while trying to make a success of this hobby that quickly became something more.
[note: Yes, I guess you could say they 'had to fight for their right to derby' *hangs head* - don't judge me, I know at least one of you were thinking it!!]
Even though she admits that she used to rollerskate when she was growing up, a lot of the rollergirls had to learn from scratch (like I am) - so that provides some nice encouragement there along with a not-so-gentle but firm 'don't be a pussy and give up before you've even started' attitude from one of the more swear-y, shall we say, rollergirls she first encounters.
+ THOUGHTS? +
One thing I was really looking forward to in the book was some photos of the derby action, along with the amusing rollergirl biographies that they create for themselves. And sure enough we do have a few of them, and there are pictures and quotes from the girls themselves (some even shedding light on how they chose their derby names). To save on the cost of printing (or so it seems), all these little extras aren't in colour or even separate glossy pages but printed in plain old black and white throughout the chapters. But mild criticism of images aside, I did love the little 'hints and tips'-type inclusions as it did offer practical advice and encouragement to readers who are planning to put their new-found knowledge into practice.
And no story can be complete without a villain, right? Well the bad guys in this book are the SHE-eo's (a clever take on CEO) - the women who decided to take control of the league and who... well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? I will say this though: after only 60 pages in to the book and feeling Melicious' growing disillusionment, I wanted to smack those SHE-eo bints!
Naturally, as this is a memoir, the SHE-eo's will have their own version of events and tales to tell about what happened within the roller derby league. There is a 2007 documentary called 'Hell On Wheels' which does cover some of the events related in the book, but unfortunately I've yet to have the opportunity to watch it and see how it tallies with this book. And handily enough, the oft-ignored page in the book with publishing information has the wee disclaimer about it being a memoir and certain conversations printed are perhaps not verbatim, etc. So perhaps some liberties have been taken, but the gist of it remains.
+ SUITABLE FOR OTHERS, THEN? +
In all honesty, even as someone with a strong interest in roller derby I did find this a little hard going at times. Perhaps because the writing switched from childhood anecdotes and personal observations, to a quick lesson in the history of the sport, and then to explaining rules and fouls before launching into lengthy descriptions of the derby tracks and environments... it was a little overwhelming and a lot to take in. Don't get me wrong, I read this cover to cover within a day and a half but I imagine that it'd be difficult for someone with just a fleeting interest to read it all in one go like I tried to.
As great as I think the book is, it just doesn't flow as well as it could have - particularly on one or two occasions when introducing other rollergirls to the readers in a less than subtle attempt to make them a bit more 'real' so the readers will hopefully remember who they were the next time their name is mentioned.
It pains me to say it but this book isn't for everyone and it may require a bit of dedication to get through it if you're not completely familiar with roller derby already - you WILL need to think about what you're reading to understand it (this is why I have yet venture into the world of actual literature - it requires a higher level of brainpower than is required when I happily re-read the Harry Potter series. Hehehehe).
That being said, even if you have a mild interest it wouldn't hurt to give it a shot. Roller Derby is something that will grab you and not let you go (there isn't a demand in 'Derby Widow' tshirts for nothing, y'know). If you start, it can easily take over your life - a lot of teams practice up to 4 times a week.
And if you've only just started to learn or are already a fully-fledged rollergirl and you have to stop skating (even just temporarily) for whatever reason (usually injury!), it's really quite crushing. It was just recently that I realised I've only been feeling quite low since I've had to stop skating while waiting for my ankle to heal up.
So give it a go. Or if not, just find out where your nearest team is and consider going to see their next bout. I don't think you'll regret it :)
+ SENSIBLE INFO +
(did you know they have mathematical formulae for ISBNs? I made the mistake of checking out the Wikipedia entry for it... my head hurts!)
Book site: http://www.rollergirlthebook.com
Official Texas Rollergirls site: http://www.txrollergirls.com/ (Melicious and some of the other girls in the book have since retired from derby, but their profiles remain on site for your perusal)
Texas Rollergirls Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_Rollergirls
Amazon.co.uk - used & new from £2.32
Amazon.com - used & new from $3.18
...failing that I'm sure you can all sweet talk the nice staff at your local bookshop to order it in for you. Normally it'd retail at around $15 in the States so it'd be similar here once you take into consideration the exchange rate and importing costs, I reckon :)
You can carry out an internet search if you're interested in finding a roller derby team near you. Alternatively, Wikipedia does have a list of teams in various cities / districts:
(obviously the professional leagues will be at the top of the page)
And why not check out the inspirational team that sparked my interest in the first place? Ah go on, you know you want to... ;-)
* also published on Ciao, which has a photo of the ankle injury I mentioned at the start :)
© bandcamp 2010 onwards. Plagiarists will get hip-checked down a flight of stairs and a skate to the face.
+ THE INTRODUCTION +
I first became aware of Californian Katy Perry when Hollywood gossip queen and my future Best-Friend-Forever (BFF) Perez Hilton was raving about her eyebrow-raising and track 'I Kissed A Girl'. Admittedly, I ignored his sound advice to give her a try (I tend to get driven away from anything over-hyped or over-marketed... if something is that good, why on earth are you spending so much on advertising?!). Don't ask me why I did... perhaps I was in the mood for looking at boobies, perhaps I was drunk (both are incredibly likely), but I went online and watched the video to judge the track for myself and instantly loved it (the girls writhing around in the video may have helped somewhat, mind).
I ended up with the album after numerous disastrous attempts at downloading the single and ending up with random wrongly-labelled shitty remixes. I figured the album was a much safer bet for getting the original version, and this - dear readers - is what I found...
+ THE ALBUM +
01. ONE OF THE BOYS - (04:07)
This starts off with quite a bouncy bassline and rather indie-ish in nature with cute/possibly annoying 'doo doo do-doo-do's... the catchy hook continues throughout the song and is a great start to an album and will definitely get the crowd going at a concert. Excellent starter track and a song that thousands of high school girls will want to sing at some unrequited love, although I can't put my finger on what 1999/2000 band it reminds me of. Katy's vocals are a pleasure to listen to, as she laments over wanting to be seen as a girl - with boobies! - rather than 'one of the boys'...
"So over the summer, something changed
I started reading Seventeen and shaving my legs
and I studied Lolita religiously
and I walked right into school and caught you staring at me"
02. I KISSED A GIRL - (03:00)
A simple but memorable bass beat dominates, and the track is a far cry from the previous track... more electro and steady like you'd expect to hear in a club. It's a track almost everyone will have heard already if you listen to any mainstream radio stations, and to me it's a fun song (not in a cheesy pop way... in a pervy 'Cat Scratch Fever' kinda way) - although it's got religious and gay rights groups up in arms. Any publicity, etc... Katy's vocals are still really good but feel a bit less natural than the previous track but I don't care - kissing girls rocks!
"No I don't even know your name, it doesn't matter
You're my experimental game, just human nature
It's not what good girls do, not how they should behave
My head gets so confused, so hard to obey"
03. WAKING UP IN VEGAS - (03:19)
Sounds of a slot machine paying out starts the song, and we're back to the indie-ish feel that we first experienced in track one - this is a song where you can predict the accompanying video to contain: shaky camera angles, arguing in the hotel room... changing to a shot of Katy and band onstange at the crescendo of the chorus. Another crowd pleaser for sure, with a slighty more rock edge - as much as it makes my skin crawl, I'd expect Avril Latrine to have done something like this before the whole 'gone blonde-I wanna act' shite. Don't hold that against it though - it's a decent track with a sing-a-long chorus.
"Why are these lights so bright?
Did we get hitched last night?
Dressed up like Elvis
Why am I wearing your class ring?
Don't call your mother 'cause now we're partners in crime"
04. THINKING OF YOU - (04:06)
Starts off with an acoustic guitar and Katy's voice in the forefront - quite Michelle Branch in a way before it does that soft rock ballad thing and turns itself up a notch for the chorus then continues that way. Quite so-so, you'd expect to hear it on Dawson's Creek or whatever it is the kids are watching these days. Preferably during a prom scene where there's a love triangle. Yep, 'predictable' possibly best sums up this track. Anybody could be doing this, it's that generic. Boo!
"He kissed my lips
I taste your mouth
He pulled me in
I was disgusted with myself"
05. MANNEQUIN - (03:17)
Quite an odd song to me, possibly since I can't quite identify with the topic. Katy's not happy, quite upset really as she believes the guy she loves is a total apathetic wreck and essentially a dummy - or mannequin, if you will. Music-wise, this is again so-so - won't get the crowds going as much unless the first few rows are full of angsty girls pissed with their empty-shelled excuse for boyfriends. Bah. Katy, get the girlies in their knickers out again - I'm getting bored.
"I wish I could just turn you on
put a battery in and make you talk
even pull a string for you to say anything
But with you there is no guarantee
only expired warranty, a bunch of broken parts
but I can't seem to find your heart"
06. UR SO GAY - (03:39)
Starts off a bit morose and steady with a piano accompaniment and a brief Portishead 'warp-y' moment, catchy in a sense but not one to dance to. The producer seems to have gone a bit Mark Ronson and shoved in some brass instruments to add more depth to a pretty shallow song, and some folk are pissed about her using 'gay' as an insult - it's fairly childish lyrically but so's the person it's about. Upon saying that, no doubt some will love this song because they can't vent in a proper way with decent angry metal songs. Tut tut. Admittedly, the last line is quite funny although this whole 'you're not acting like yourself' thing has already been covered by Avril albeit with a 'preppy' boy. Down with poseurs!
"I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf
while jacking off listening to Mozart
You bitch and moan about L.A.
wishing you were in the rain reading Hemingway"
07. HOT N COLD - (03:40)
*Ring ring, ring ring* Hello, Katy? The 80's want their electro-dance beat back!
A club track, and no doubt - would be interesting to see how it would work live. Loud and proud - get the glowsticks out and put your handbags (or manbags) on the floor to dance around as Katy is listing the Jekyll and Hyde tendancies of someone - a breath of fresh air to revive my interest, not necessarily for the lyrics but more because I can bop around to it sober and dance on tables to it when drunk. Everyone's happy!
"Someone call the doctor
got a case of love bi-polar
Stuck on a roller coaster
can't get off this ride
You change your mind like a girl changes clothes"
08. IF YOU CAN AFFORD ME - (03:18)
The track starts off sounding like it would belong on Pretty Woman when Vivien is getting ready (oddly fitting, considering the title)... this would work well live, but isn't a standout track to me although would not doubt happily feature on some teen movie soundtrack. It remains pretty upbeat throughout and I imagine was intended to be an anthem but I think falls a bit flat for someone like me who's used to listening and singing to more aggressive 'rockier' tracks about the same kind of subject. Reminds me a little of the Lightning Seeds in parts, strangely enough.
"If you want me, it takes more than a wink
and more than a drink, more than you think
If you want me you're gonna
have to break the bank tonight"
09. LOST - (04:16)
Spacey... lullaby chimes... bit downbeat... who let Chris Martin near the mixing desk? Out! Out, I say! Disenchanted with life and what-not... c'mon, this has all been heard before - I probably would have listened to it more during my early teenage years when I was suffering with undiagnosed depression and hadn't yet discovered the wonders of angry metal and punk music. Bit of a come-down really, which I'm not chuffed about. I'll probably have to put on Mika's 'Big Girls' after this to recover if it doesn't pick up again.
"My mother says I should come back home
but can't find the way 'cause the way is gone
so if I pray am I just
sending words into outer space?"
10. SELF INFLICTED - (03:25)
Back to a slighty more pop-rock anthemic tune, which admittedly is very generic musically - I've heard those distorted riffs and drumrolls before, honey... it's nothing new! Few will likely care, but if it gets the crowd going and you're happy to forego the facts and bounce along, that's just fine. Again, pictured during a scene in a teen movie when an on-off-maybe couple reconcile or finally declare their love for each other. Bleh. It's becoming clear this album is aimed more towards teenagers. If I were at a gig, I imagine I'd be part of the minority that were legally allowed to drink. Pass the tequila.
"With each scar there's a map that tells a story
with a souvenir of young love's like jumping out
An airplane riding a tidal wave on an ocean of emotion
my heart rips me wide open"
11. I'M STILL BREATHING (03:48)
Expecting an uplifting, 'I've survived and I'm better than you' anthem... instead I got a slow and steady downbeat track. Reflective some would call it - depressing as f*ck, I say - Chris Martin snuck back in while the sound engineer was out for a piss, methinks. Katy's gone way down in my estimations, despite her capable vocals and promising start to the album. I really would avoid this song to be honest, I don't feel it adds anything to the album.
"Pick your favourite shade of black
You'd best prepare a speech
say something funny
say something sweet
but don't say that you loved me"
12. FINGERPRINTS (03:44)
And here we are, in an attempt to end the album on the high - standard 'just keep on goin', kid' riffs and 'screw this life, I'm going to be special and different and remembered' lyrics. Woop de doo. Will absolutely appeal to the younger crowd and work well during a live performance, but at this point I'm just a bit too let down with the album overall to feel at all lifted or moved or rebellious. The Who have no need to worry, there is no way in hell this will come close to replacing 'My Generation'.
"Voted most likely to end up on the back of a milk box drink
looks like I'm letting 'em down
'Cause seven seventy-five isn't worth
an hour of my hard work and time
When you can't afford half the shit they advertise"
+ THE CONCLUSION +
I'm actually quite gutted I didn't love this album as it seemed to have all the right ingredients... pretty brunette with a penchant for super-skimpy dresses or shorts... can play guitar... kissed a girl... No wait. She admitted in an interview she's never kissed a girl. Ohhhh such filthy filthy LIES! Shattered are all perverted fantasies!
Sorry. On a more serious note... I really would not bother with this. As I said, there are handful of crowd-pleasers for sure but there are too many weak links on this album for me to justify recommending it. Sure, some younger ones might enjoy it (no offense is intended, younger readers! If you read this despite the odd sweary then you're not allowed to get all indignant now!) but I'd only bother with 'I Kissed A Girl' and 'Hot N Cold' out of the entire album. Which, out of twelve tracks, is pretty bloody dire.
Regardless, I'm giving it 2 stars because I'm generous and think a couple of the tracks might grow on me.
'One Of The Boys' is released in the UK on September 15th, but can be obtained from various U.S. sources if you're at all interested. Or check on YouTube.
www.katyperry.com - Official Site
www.myspace.com/katyperry - Official Myspace
© bandcamp 2008 - onwards. Plagiarists can piss right off. And Katy Perry, I'm in a huff with you!
+ A BRILLIANT IDEA AT 7am? FROM A BOY?! NEVER! +
When the Boyfriend suggested going out for a meal after we finished work last Friday, I agreed with no hesitation. We hadn't gone out for dinner in a little while, have a tendency to stay in the West End area while dining out - but since we were having to travel into the City Centre to drop off a new door key to our letting agency (the close door was kicked in... lovely) it meant we could broaden our gastronomic horizons, so to speak - albeit in a purely geographical sense (the words I'm using here are far too long, I'm obviously not drinking enough...).
So onto the trusted booking website I use to peruse the City Centre options - I'm terribly indecisive at times, so I find it helps to be able to get an idea of the menu's beforehand too - and finally spotted Brodies. It wasn't a place I'd heard of before, but the menu looked appealling - and the bar / restaurant had received a couple of positive reviews from newspaper food reviewers since it first opened in November 2007. A "Scottishy bar / restaurant... Run by a passionate, young team..."? My interest was peaked. I promptly booked our table for later on in the day and pondered what culinary delights awaited...
+ WHERE IS IT? HOW DO I GET THERE? +
Brodies is located at 53 West Regent Street - for those a bit familiar with the City, you know where the Odeon Cinema on Renfield Street is / was (it's boarded up now - boo!) ? With Revolution vodka bar across the road? Yep, make your way to the corner where Revolution is (do try to avoid the temptation to go in, you can get pissed later), and start walking along West Regent Street. Look on the ground. Do you see the word 'FROGGLES' spelled out in a mosaic manner? Hurrah, you're there! (I haven't got the foggiest what or who Froggles was - a previous venue I imagine *shrugs*). It's across from Rococo, and beside Bamboo bar / club.
Getting there? Buchanan Street Underground is a couple of streets away, and there's a few buses that go along Renfield Street or at least near it - I can't be bothered checking - just make your way to and Underground station, it's easier all round! If you're driving here? Good luck if you're wanting to park on the street - you may be better off just getting a space in the Buchanan Galleries car park.
+ WE TAKE OUR SEATS, AND SEE A NEON PROFANITY OUTSIDE +
Brodies is quite understated from the outside, and as we made our way up the steps we waited for the greeter to take our reservation details and seat us. It took a minute or two - at which point I was wondering if we should just go straight to the bar and ask - when our friendly greeter had finished serving and marked our name off and took us to our table. Although it was still relatively early (just after 5pm) there was already a crowd of about 10 young folk on the couches, and another couple of tables occupied in the restaurant.
We were given the Pre-Theatre menu (2 courses for £11.95 or 3 courses for £15.95) as well as the restaurant's little menu-magazine to peruse. They had Olde English Cider on draft, and bottles of Magners and Kopparberg (and another I can't remember) - I opted for the Koppaberg Pear Cider, because Magners is piss-water. The Boyfriend got a pint of Ice Cold Tennent's lager, although Staropramen was also on draft as well as some others we can't remember. The bar looked pretty well stocked, and the Boyfriend was delighted with his pint. Even better than the pints I served in the pub I used to work in (bastard).
There is a decent and descriptive wine list in the menu-magazine, with bottles of Champagne from £31, glasses of wine from £3.20 for 175ml and bottles from £12 which I feel to be very reasonable, especially in the City Centre.
Once we promptly received our drinks, our waitress seemed to instinctively know that we needed more time to decide what we were going to order (it's quite irritating when it's assumed you know within two minutes that you know what you want - that could just be indecisive me, though!). After a few minutes the nice polite waitress returned and memorised our orders - and while we were waiting, the Boyfriend discovered the the novelty cattle-shaped salt and pepper shakers were quite easy to spill. Yep, salt all over the table from the white one's snout - easily remedied though, and I thought they were adorable! The candle was unlit and unobtrusive, unlike some table decorations we've encountered, and I still wonder what the smooth stones with tartan ribbon on each table were all about.
The standard menu was very straightforward and unpretentious, and you will find it on the restaurant's website so I shan't list every option but instead give you an idea of what it included and the price ranges...
~ Starters ~
The prices range from £3.95 to £5.45 and the options include homemade Scotch broth, Seafood smoked haddock chowder (as the Evening Times reviewer mused, shouldn't that be Cullen Skink if this is a Scottishy restaurant?) and Loch Fyne mussels.
~ Mains ~
The prices range from £5.95 to £11.95 and options include chicken and black pudding stovies, homemade beef burger (you can get haggis on it!), poached salmon with champ mash and homemade Scottish meatballs in a spicy tomato pasta bake. There are daily Vegetarian specials, and my memory escapes me with what was on offer during our visit, so there doesn't appear to be as many options for herbivores unfortunately (although if Stuffed Portabello Mushroom Burger sounds good, you're in for a treat!)
~ Sides ~
All priced at £2.50 each and include the usual (hand cut chips) but also more interesting options like chilli brocolli, tomato and mozzarella salad, and sweet potato mash.
~ Desserts ~
What's interesting about these is that there is only one permanent feature on here - the delicious sounding Baileys and Caramel Shortcake Sundae. Apparently the homemade cakes are whatever they feel like making that day, but are meant to be - without fail - scrummy!
I sent an email to the owners, asking for a bit more information about the desserts that are normally available and got a lovely prompt response back saying all desserts are £4.95, and on a daily basis would be either Strawberry and Rhubarb Tart, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Victoria Sponge cake, Chranachan (Scottish dessert usually made from whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries topped with toasted oatmeal), Chocolate Brownie or Bannofee Pie - all homemade and all served with cream or icecream! And sometimes there's even homemade icecream or sorbets available too! How lush do they all sound?! (I included the list since there's nothing on the website about the variations in desserts).
As with pretty much every Set Menu - you're given around 3 or 4 options for each course, and I admit I was hard pressed in making a decision even when it was whittled down for me on the Pre-Theatre Menu! I soon made my choices though, and demanded...
+ "FEEEEED MEEEE!!!" +
~ Our Starters ~
I opted for the Nachos with Haggis, Peppercorn sauce and Cheddar. Oh yes, you read that right - HAGGIS NACHOS! A generous helping arrived and I got stuck in - the tortilla / nacho chips weren't the cheap-o Tesco Value type you often get served, these were good quality and lovely and crunchy. The haggis was lovely and moist and was perfect in place of chilli which would normally be served with nachos. The Boyfriend tried some too (much to the waitress' amusement when she came to collect our plates and he was still helping himself to my leftovers!) and has swore that the cheese melted on the haggis was delicious.
The Boyfriend opted for French Onion Soup, which was not on the menu but we were told was also available and would arrive in a "funky soup bowl" - and funky it was! Boyfriend likened it to a big flattened out gravy boat, myself thought it was like a giant spoon rest with the handle bent... make of that what you will! The soup itself was quite yummy and looked very appetising with plenty of onions in it - Boyfriend really enjoyed it too, and was quite pleased it came with a couple of baguette slices and butter on his plate too.
~ Our Mains ~
I decided 'to hell with it!' and ordered the Popes Eye Steak, baby boilers and roast veg - this had a £2 supplement as we were ordering from the Pre-Theatre Menu, and I chose the Peppercorn sauce, although Garlic Butter and Spicy Tomato were also available.
The Peppercorn sauce was a little off-putting in it's dish - it was really water-y and resembled cold coffee! Looks are deceiving though, as it tasted great but was used for 'dunking' rather than pouring over food items. The vegetable selection was a perfect portion (smaller than a handful) but seemed boiled rather than roasted although the carrots and parsnips were very tasty and melt-in-the-mouth soft.
My only real disappointment with Brodies was my steak - I had requested it medium-rare, and it ended up done medium with the occasional pink-ish bit in the thicker parts of the steak. That being said, it was still delicious and didn't require any seasoning as it had already been cooked with cracked pepper still on it.
The Boyfriend ordered the Homemade Beef Burger and Cheese with Handcut Chips and Salad, and it was no trouble at all when he asked if he could have some mayonnaise - the waitress was back in a flash with a little ramekin of it for him.
The handcut chips seemed to have been lightly spiced before cooking and were very more-ish - just the right amount of them too for the Boyfriend to demolish, and even as a non-salad eater he was more than happy to see cherry tomatoes there, and a nice balsamic dressing on the salad leaves.
As for the homemade beef burger, the Boyfriend was very impressed. This too was lightly spiced and a decent-sized patty with no gristle at all, some onions and - in the Boyfriend's words - "green bits". As his translator, I believe he means herbs. There was a good amount of cheese on the burger as well - you couldn't accuse Brodies of being stingy!
Alas... we were both far too full to even contemplate an attempt at the Desserts - I'd already had my heart set on the Baileys and Caramel Shortcake Sundae as well! We have heard that the sweets are all very scrumptious though, so our apologies for not being able to describe that particular course!
+ I LIKE IT HERE... I GET GOOD VIBES... +
While we were sitting and taking in our surroundings at the beginning, I noticed how light and airy the whole place felt. There were a few vases of lillies dotted about and the smell was lovely - there was a very personal feel to the restaurant, with greetings cards on various shelf spaces and framed photo collages - the owners Andy and Davaar were married on July 18th, so the restaurant had to be closed that day for the wedding (thank goodness the Boyfriend didn't have his amazing idea a week earlier!). When we left and got onto the street, I actually wanted to run back in - the atmosphere was very relaxed and I was very happy there... so much so I was swearing blind that they'd feng-shui'ed the place or had a cleansing ritual done!
Even the little metal cut-outs on the wall to indicate where the loo's were located were hilarious! A little man and woman, each with their legs crossed as if they're bursting for a pee - bloody hysterical! I should have taken a picture, I know! Couple this with the cattle-shapped salt and pepper shakers and you'll see they do mean it when they say they want to have fun while enjoying their work!
+ ANYTHING ELSE, THEN ? +
The ladies loo was very clean and tidy - there were 3 cubicles and only 1 was out of order, but clearly marked so there would be no missing it - and since I'd go as far as saying it's more a restaurant than a bar so there's not likely to be queues the whole night, so wouldn't be a real problem. The sinks were the kind I find annoying though... rather than a counter with a sunken sink, the sinks were bowls on top of the counter - more chance of messy splashes. They even had Carex handwash in cool steel pump dispensers - no cheap-o nonsense here either! I can't recall a hand-dryer but there was a well-stocked paper towel dispenser.
Upon leaving the loo, I almost ran into a couple of boys - well, the 10 year old was trying to catch the 4 year old... so Brodies do seem to be child friendly, although I am aware that some establishments are not able to allow children where alcohol is served after 8pm so it's possible it could pose a problem if you're bringing your kids here after that time.
As I previously mentioned, we had to go up steps to get inside, and there is also a raised level in the dining area - so unfortunately I don't consider the restaurant to be wheelchair-accessible.
The music played while we were there was of the inoffensive (read: dull... well, dull to me) kind - i.e. 'Iris' but I couldn't tell if it was the Goo Goo Dolls or the godawful Ronan Keating cover. However, Brodies have said that they are looking for budding pianists, guitarists and singers to provide more live music for their customers.
+ CONCLUSION +
The food was fantastic - I'm sure the fact everything is home made contributed to the amazing tastes of what we ordered, and although I do tend to be a cynical bitch at times - I can't help but believe the staff when they say enjoy their work! Their passion is certainly evident too in the pictures within their menu-magazine - photographs from them doing work on the place, the brief 'about me' section on owners Andy and Davaar and two staff members Ally and Steph - the wine list even has pictures of them all at the side during a wine-tasting session... they certainly seem like a good laugh - especially with a mascot called Percy Pea Face!
Altogether our meal for two came to around £32 (other half went to the bar to pay without me knowing so I can't be precise!). It was £11.95 for Boyfriend's 2 courses, £13.95 for mine (with £2 supplement for having the steak) and his pint of Ice Cold Tennent's was £2-something, and my Kopparberg Pear Cider £3-something. We both agreed this was a very reasonable price for a fantastic meal, and had already decided before we reached the Underground that we'd definitely be returning.
Brodies is open 7 days a week from 12pm until midnight, and I have to applaud the service we received - we had a drink and two courses each and the restaurant was starting to fill up during our meal (there was a party of about 16 people who came in at one point!) but we were never once kept waiting too long, and were on our way home just over an hour after we arrived. This truly is a hidden gem, that I feel won't be kept secret for very long - I really cannot recommend Brodies enough! Even with my steak issue, I LOVED it here!
If you're in Glasgow, give it a go - I'm sure you'll like it as much as I did :)
+ MORE INFORMATION! +
Brodies Bar Restaurant
53 West Regent Street
0141 352 9888
www.bebo.com/barbrodies - Official Bebo Site!
www.barbrodies.co.uk - Official Site
(some pics are available over on 'the dark side' - including the neon profanity)
© bandcamp 2008 - onwards, here and elsewhere. Plagiarism will not be tolerated, and is punishable by being beaten with a sock-ful of rocks with tartan ribbons on them.
Pies. The food of the Gods. And Rock Goddesses, such as myself of course. Now, pies come in various guises as you are all no doubt aware (unless you have been living in a cave / in suspended animation) - steak pies, mince pies, chicken pies, scotch pies, apple pies... all very pie-y and crust-y and usually rather yummy! My favourite though has to be the almighty macaroni... oh yes. The cheesy-ness... the macaroni-ness... and the pie shell pastry... just divine!
'Macaroni pies? Are you bonkers?', I hear you say! No, my non-Scottish readers (or those of you without a Gregg's bakery) - imagine a pie, a scotch pie... but instead of a meaty filling, there's a macaroni one! Amazing! Admittedly I haven't been brave enough to try the lasagne pies I've seen. One day...
Now choosing any old brand just won't do for macaroni pies - unless you are totally desperate and cannot find the best brand I believe there is... which is Bell's. If you need to resort to those frozen macaroni pies from Iceland or Farmfoods - then honey, you go for it and do what you have to in order to get your pie fix. However, if you spy the Bell's Macaroni Pies in the refridgerator section of whatever store you're in - then grab 'em and go and don't look back! To the check-out! Tally ho!!
Bell's are a Scottish bakery, set up a few years ago. I could give you specific dates, but all that information is on their website and if I tell you then you'll never learn. Just make sure you click on the right link - don't want you wandering onto a porn site by accident. Mind you that could be a good excuse if anyone catches you deliberately looking at nudie folk - "I thought I was learning about macaroni pies!". If anyone uses that, tell me if it works. If it doesn't, you can't hold me responsible ya bloody perv.
+ PIES PIES PIES PIES PIES... +
They're available in packs of 2 (or 4 mini ones apparently, which I've never actually seen but Ciao decided to picture - why have mini ones in the first place? For children? No! The pies are only for grown-ups - children do not have the emotional capacity to fully appreciate the pie, mitts off or the Tweenie toy gets it!!!).
The 'doubtful-it's-environmentally-friendly' plastic packaging should be quite easy to make out as it's white, green and red and would be a bit more eyecatching than the brown or purple pie packages that would normally surround it (well it's like that in my local Co-op - Bell's pies as farrrrrr as the eye can see... *sniff* it's such a beautiful sight...).
In the Co-op, where brand items tend to be priced a bit higher than stores such as Asda, Tesco, Iceland, etc. these pies retail at £1.49. But they were out of date today so I got them for 75pence instead - woohoo! I could check the prices for you elsewhere but remember what I said about you never learning?
+ READY... STEADY... COOK! OR HEAT, RATHER... +
Never one to usually go by instructions for heating things up, I tend to ignore the bumpf and blitz it in the microwave. However for the sake of this review I shall be heating one pie in the microwave as I normally would, and one in the oven as per the package instructions. How's that for scientific?
Remove packaging (well it's hardly boil in the bag, is it?!) and gaze lovingly at your pies. That could be a euphamism, couldn't it? See their perfect round soft shapes (oo-er!) but don't worry - it'll be firm and hard once we're done (just plain dirty now, isn't it?). There's even evidence of some cooking of the pies, since there's some nice orange-y cheese already melted on the pie-lid.
Right, oven has to be pre-heated to Gas Mark 4 (that's 180 degrees Celcius for you electric folk... I imagine you adjust accordingly for a fan oven) - be grateful, I normally ignore pre-heating instructions but for posterity I'm following the instructions here precisely. Pre-heating's what, 5 minutes? Maybe 10? *Time passes* It should be fine now I think.
One of the pies was placed on a baking tray, as instructed, and shoved on the shelf in the middle of the oven to do it's thing for 15 minutes "or until golden-brown". Nice one.
Since the other pie is getting blitzed in the microwave, I'll be putting that on a plate and heating in our 750w radiation-box for about 2 to 3 minutes or until I reckon it's done.
+ OVEN PIE vs MICROWAVE PIE - WHO WILL WIN? +
~ Well they both smell wonderful - a lovely warm pastry scent laced with cheese
~ Appearance (it's not gone green or anything, has it?) :
oven pie - has retained it's shape and is a nice golden brown at the top of the crusts and the cheese on top
microwave pie - has sagged out a bit around it's middle, almost like a yorkshire pud in resemblence
~ Texture (pray tell, is the pie crust crust-y?) :
oven pie - firm but not overly so, lifted easily onto plate and crusts seem crust-y
microwave pie - has firmed up in the way bread would when stale so not much change and crusts not crust-y, careful when lifting!
~ Taste (in case it's mutated into a curry pie, which Bell's also do) :
oven pie - pastry shell crusty on the top parts but still quite firm overall, held together well and cut with knife easily. Yummy. Cheesy lid hardened in places where it was browned but a pleasure to eat. Macaroni filling nice pale yellow and the shapes were separate and easy to distinguish from each other - not mushy but nice the cheese not too strong with a very subtle extra something for a slight kick. Well, more of a nudge really.
microwave pie - the pastry shell was still very soft and very easy to cut with a knife, but still tasted nice! The cheesy lid seemed quite goo-ey but also rather more-ish! The macaroni filling was all a bit squished together, the shapes not very defined but still tasty and not at all different in taste from the oven pie.
+ RESULTS ? +
Both pies were great to eat and certainly filled a gap in my hungry tummy, even though one was worthy enough to be sold in Gregg's and the other was a bit soft (flaccid, dare I say?). I would have to concede though and declare oven pie the winner, due to the crust-y crust and pie shell's firmness - but microwave pie is great though if you're wanting something softer to eat.
Nutritional stuff -
alas, on the packet there was no information regarding nutrional values and what-not so I sent a message to Bells through their website asking about calories per pie, whether the pies are suitable for vegetarians, who was the culinary genius who decided to put macaroni *in* a pie and when this momentous occasion was... however, my queries remain unanswered - and that was a good bloody 4 weeks ago since I asked (ignorant bastards, ignoring fan mail...).
Unfortunately... in my infinite wisdom I did not keep the pie packaging, and so do not have a list of ingredients. None the less, I can hazard a guess at the obvious ones...
If you have a dairy problem - you should probably avoid these. Don't worry, I'll eat your share.
If you're allergic to pastry - you should probably avoid these too. Fear not, I shall also have your share. It's a sacrifice I'm more than willing to make on behalf of your dietary needs.
+ CONCLUSION +
Lovely cheesy pies for around £1.50 or less (if you're charged any more than that, someone's taking the piss)... microwave for softer pastry or oven bake like instructed for proper crusty-ness... don't write to them declaring your love for their macaroni pies, as they may think you are mad and opt not to reply... swines.
Two stars off for lack of nutrional information and ignoring my message! I'll still buy your pies though.
www.bellbakers.co.uk - so to avoid 'accidental' porn search results
© bandcamp 2008 - onwards. Plagiarists shall be hit in the eye with a big pizza pie. With birds eye chilli peppers in it. Ha!
Alright-y, you know the score by now - long review, might ramble a bit... if there isn't a swear-y there's likely to be something else you might find offensive. By reading on you waive your right to bitch about it. **
On a blazing hot Saturday morning, while the other half was asleep, I decided that we should partake in a spot of lunch and so popped onto a trusty reservation website to peruse what offers were available on the many (but not all) restaurants they had listed.
After a bit of hmm-ing and haw-ing I decided we'd be heading to the West End part of Sauchiehall Street (as opposed to the City Centre part, for you non-Glasgow folk) to investigate The Drawing Room. We could have walked there to be honest, but once I woke up the Boyfriend (it was for his benefit, don't feel sorry for him!) he insisted upon getting the Underground to Kelvinhall then walking along Dumbarton Road past Byres Road and Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
This was about a 10 minute walk although felt like much longer in the sunshine... once you're past the Art Gallery & Museum keep walking so you're heading towards the bowling green and Kelvingrove Park (non-Glasgow folk of the male persuasion, heed this warning - do not dally around this end of the Kelvin Way at night, lest you be propositioned by other males... and not for tea and crumpets!).
If you've walked past the petrol station and the Ashoka you've gone the wrong way and have managed to get onto Argyle Street. Go back, and go towards the bowling green you daftie!
+ NOW THAT YOU'VE GOT THERE... +
The Drawing Room is now there in place of The Brewery Tap... don't ask me when it changed, I'm not sure - when I was old enough to pass for 18 and drink in pubs it wasn't around here I was going. It certainly appears to have different owners since The Drawing Room seems to be looking to attract the arty types since the words "food / drink / art" appear on their logo, and The Brewery Tap was more about ale, not art.
The bar / restaurant is on one level but there are some steps up to get there and I personally don't feel the inside is particularly wheelchair accessible either as to get from the bar to the dining area (where the gents' is also located) I doubt the doorway would be wide enough to fit a wheelchair through.
Now we're inside, you'll see the bar. Looks quite well stocked, and the young man (I say young man, he's probably got 10 years on me) was ready with a smile and welcome. We explained we had made a reservation and offered the code I'd been given online to quote, but he said it wouldn't be necessary and gave us the choice to dine inside or outside. There were around 6 metal tables outside with most already occupied, but we decided to remain inside as we didn't fancy eating beside a busy road and felt it would be cooler inside even though the outside area did seem to be in the shade.
He gestured us to the doorway into the dining area, and we realised that although a wall separated the two areas the bar itself wasn't closed off so we'd be seeing the staff dashing in and out occasionally. The dining room was totally empty so we had our choice of where to sit and opted for a booth with our backs to the window and the going's on outside.
It was about 2pm by this point, and we weren't concerned at the emptiness of the restaurant since we knew that firstly, the high temperatures can affect people's appetites and secondly, most of the customers were sitting outside. So not a reflection on the place itself then.
+ NOW YOU'RE SEATED... +
Boyfriend and I decided on a pint of San Miguel each to quench our thirsts (and quench they did, very good pints they were), and courtesy of the reservation website I had used we both knew what to expect with the menu. Or so I thought... the Mains and Desserts were the same as we had seen, but two or three of the Starters (or Tapas as they were also referred to on the clipboard menus) were different from what was shown online on the reservation site - later on I would discover that the official site was the same. Nevermind, we weren't disappointed anyway!
I chose for the Aubergine Stuffed Roasted Pepper with Parmesan Crust and when it arrived I admit I was a little deflated. Granted, I hadn't known quite what to expect but what I got was half a red pepper with a slice of aubergine forced inside it... roasted, and then covered in what seemed to just be ever-so-slightly toasted breadcrumbs. Not crusty and not parmesan-y. Don't get me wrong, it was quite nice but I wouldn't rush to have it again.
The Boyfriend decided on the Stornoway Black Pudding on Bruschetta with Red Onion Marmalade. And that's what he got! The black pudding was actually bigger than the bruschetta slice, but the Boyfriend didn't care and was delighted with it. He was actually raving about the red onion marmalade, and the black pudding was lovely too apparently (well it would be, Stornoway black pudding is popular for a reason). I had to remind him just now though that it came on a bruschetta... that part wasn't particularly stand-out or memorable, then.
~ The other starters available were all about £3.95 and could be served tapas style, and included King Prawns and Courgettes with Lemon and Caper butter and Garlic and Thyme Chicken Skewers with Tomato Chutney.
For my Main course I was brave and tried the Beetroot and Marscapone Risotto... and it was bubblegum pink! I was thrown by the colour of it to be honest (beetroot is notorious at staining, after all!), but one mouthful and I was converted... the creamy mild cheesy taste was lovely and the firm texture and slightly sweet taste of the beetroot seemed to compliment it very well. I'm ashamed to admit I have only ever had beetroot in the jar-pickle form or the tiny slivers of it you sometimes get in bagged salad so I was being adventurous and I'm glad I was!
The Boyfriend was swayed by the Fish of the Day as recommended by the lovely staff member who had welcomed us at the bar - Fish of the Day was Grilled Sea Bream on a Sweet Potato Mash with Vine Cherry Tomatoes. The fish fillet itself was in two parts and nestled upon the mash and was grilled to perfection - lovely and golden on the outside but tender and delicious. The mash was great tasting too - gorgeous pumpkin orange in colour, creamy in taste, and had been squished into a souffle ring (or similar) for a nice 'professional' appearance. The cherry tomatoes were in fact still on the vine and had been lightly roasted and tasted divine.
Something to perhaps mention is that on both of our Starters and Mains, the plates had been decorated with a ring of a pesto dressing - if this is done for every dish, I do not know... suffice to say I felt that the Desserts would be the exception. And saints be praised, I was right (well I would hope so lol)!
~ The other Mains available included Venison Sausages with Champ Mash, Homemade Beefburger with Handcut Chips, and Scottish Pork Fillet Medallions with Wild Mushroom and Madeira Sauce. Can't remember prices (sorry!).
For Dessert I was a bit dull and chose a favourite of mine - cheesecake. Or Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberries to be more precise! What arrived was a very generous slice with a few halved strawberries and the juices of which beginning to form a slight pool around the biscuit base. The cheesecake was totally unlike any I've had before... I've sat and eaten tubs of Philadelphia cream cheese before and this is exactly what the texture was like - it was actually really worrying! So smooth and creamy, almost too much so... the only lemon I could taste was in the biscuit base - it was a bit too subtle for me, and although the slight sharpness of the strawberries helped while eating... I couldn't stop feeling like I was eating a tub of cream cheese, and I kept having to take a drink as it was becoming far too cloying in my mouth. More strawberries would have helped, but it was quite bland overall.
The Boyfriend chose a Belgian Orange Chocolate Mousse type thing, which arrived in a little ramekin on a plate, and he said was quite overwhelming in it's taste. "Bloody hell, that's strong" were the words used, I believe. I actually tried a little of it too, and the best way I can describe it is to tell you to imagine ten Terry's Chocolate Oranges in concentrated form. Yes, "bloody hell" indeed! This was polished off fairly quickly and was a real treat for the Boyfriend, as he does love his chocolate - especially if it feels like he's getting several hits in one sitting.
~ The other Desserts available were about £4.25 each I believe, and included a Sticky Almond Cake with Raspberry and Cinnamon coulis and a Creme Brulee of some-sorts.
** there were sides available at a price, as well as a couple of different salads - although nothing spectacular to be honest - and you know that sample menus are subject to change, etc. Particularly if something isn't in season.
+ SO YOU LIKED IT THERE, THEN? +
Oh yes, we did indeed. I have to say I cannot fault the staff at all, there were only two members of staff there in the 90 minutes or so we were there for - and they were both very nice and attentive, and weren't afraid to be chatty! The reservation site we booked through gave us an excellent meal deal - three courses and a glass of wine per person for around £15. Just as we were served our mains, the nice young man came over as he realised we hadn't been given our glasses of wine and since the Boyfriend isn't a wine fan, I was given a large white wine instead of a small - nice one!
I have to admit that I cannot remember their names, which is awful I know... but I had seen some negative comments on the reservations website regarding the staff - one actually received a response (apparently from the owners) apologising profusely and assuring that the matter had been dealt with internally and offered the unhappy customer a meal as a small token of apology. I'm afraid there's been no response on the site to say if said apology has been accepted, but to assure you all for a third time - when we were there, the staff were brilliant and a real credit to the management.
Even as we were paying our bill by debit card at the bar, the nice young man had left to do something but ran back to wish us a lovely day - needless to say we were touched.
+ ANYTHING ELSE WE SHOULD KNOW? +
The Boyfriend didn't have to use the bathroom facilities, I however did (located in the bar area, next to the bar) and was pleased to see that there was a room for baby changing facilities. The bathroom was clean and with black and white tiles - although there were empty boxes on the wall though where I believe little gerebra flowers should have been inside (!). I was most impressed by the posh-looking handwash and lotion in wire baskets on each of the washbasins - the brand wasn't one I'd heard of, but the mandarin scent of it was just lovely!
The bar area had varied seating indoors, with couches as well as higher bar chairs... there was even a little fireplace at the right of the bar - very fetching!
As I understand it, the Drawing Room (the dining area, I imagine) is available for function hire although an email to the management via the official website would give you more information regarding costs, and there is even a buffet menu online to give you an idea of the spread they could put on for you. Nice.
+ ANYTHING ELSE? +
I'm afraid as I haven't yet visited during specific events here, I cannot comment on the various music / DJ nights or the pub quiz they have on Tuesday nights (although it certainly sounds fun, if not a bit University-Challenge in terms of intelligence required - do I get bonus points for knowing the alcohol percentages of most lagers?).
*** On the reservation site I booked through, more than one person was quite miffed that when they made their reservations for a Tuesday they had not been warned it coincided with the pub quiz and the noise levels and atmosphere would be very un-restaurant-like. Even more so if your visit is on a night with music. Something to definitely bear in mind yourselves if wishing to visit. ***
Food is served here from 5:30pm to 9pm Sunday to Thursday, and from 12pm until 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays (the website mentions lunchtime specials though, Monday to Friday 12pm - 2:30pm), and it is also mentioned there is a 10% service charge for parties of 6 or more.
I have already supplied details getting here via the Underground (thoughtful soul that I am) however the number 62 bus is very regular and goes along Dumbarton Road (you can get off at the Art Gallery & Museum then walk along)... so do some other ones but you can find them yourselves. In regards to parking... good luck! You might manage to find a space somewhere, but unless you've already left the car at the Transport Museum or Art Gallery carpark after a visit I reckon you're best hoofing it.
official website with menu info : www.drawingroombar.co.uk
myspace website : www.myspace.com/drawingroombar
for you Sat Nav'ers and googlemap-ers : 1055 Sauchiehall Street, G3 7UB
telephone number : 0141 339 2999
+ CONCLUSION FOR THE FOLK WHO SKIPPED STUFF +
The clientele was fairly mixed on the Saturday afternoon we were there - certainly no arty-farty stuck up poseurs present despite the whole 'we're about art, food and drink etc' pish. And the attitude seems quite laidback, so don't feel pressurised to get dressed up or anything.
That being said, this is ultimately a pub. If it's intimate and dare I say - classy - dining that you're after minus any pretension or grand ideas then I'd try Cul de Sac or The Loft in Ashton Lane. If you don't mind eating your grub with the possibility of some rowdy pub noise from the bar area next to you - then this'll be right up your street.
I'd give it 3 stars out of 5, marks off for not knowing whether to be a pub or a restaurant and having a website that's bloody difficult to find (although a myspace page that pops up right away with a blog full of swearys - f***ing shocking!).
© bandcamp 2008 - onwards. Any plagiarists will be shackled arse-outwards to the Kelvin Way railings with a sign reading 'FREEBIE' beside them.
"I am enjoying a relationship with 2 men simultaneously. The first called Ben, the other, Jerry."
The above is a quote from Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and is a joke that has been told before in various paraphrasing in popular culture - however seems rather appropriate as they continue taking over the dessert world. Move over Häagen-Dazs, the ex-hippie creators and namesakes of this deliciously witty and environmentally conscious ice cream brand are the new men in our lives... or freezer, rather (without sounding too horror-cliché). With flavours such as Cherry Garcia (homage to Grateful Dead's Jerry) and Bohemian Raspberry (chortle chortle!), they don't seem to take themselves too seriously - and fans across the world think they taste divine! The ice cream flavours that is, not the hippies.
Granted.... the big food conglomerate Unilever bought them over in 2000 and Ben & Jerry themselves don't seem to have any part in the running of the company anymore, but they have a Free Cone Day to mark their anniversary each year and collaborate with various organisations - and they make a fuss about keeping their dairy herds happy AND trying to reduce, re-use and recycle whenever possible. Aww, bless!
In fact, the brand spanking new Baked Alaska flavour ice cream has been released to raise awareness of climate change and the Climate Change College that Ben & Jerry helped set up "which aims to inspire 18-30 year olds to deliver business orientated solutions to Climate Change and have fun." according to the official site. Nice. I'm pigging out AND learning!
Admittedly, I'm not that much of an ice cream person. Sure, I go mad when the Boyfriend scoffs all the Ice Cream Mars Bars (greedy git) and the one previous occasion I have tried Ben & Jerry's was at one of the 'scoop-stores' and I felt it was far too sickly. That was Phish Food that I had tried though... I hoped that I would enjoy Baked Alaska more than that. If not, at least it shouldn't go to waste - courtesy of the Boyf aka human garbage disposal.
+ SPOON ME, SPOON ME! +
The Baked Alaska flavour is "Vanilla ice cream with Marshmallow swirls and white chocolatey Polar Bears" - I'm a white chocolate fan so hopefully this will go down better than the Phish Food did! And bless, the little polar bears (if they resemble them at all) is a nice touch in regards to the ice caps melting and climate change and what-not. Hurrah for awareness!
Baked Alaska has only been recently launched and I got it from Asda for the princely sum of £3.90 - considering it's only a 500ml tub this isn't quite value for money but come on... it's Ben & Jerry's! You pay more for Grey Goose than you do for Red Square, after all - and usually for good reason! Yes, I just managed to compare it to vodka - did you think this review would be without the booze references?
+ THE TASTE TEST +
I promptly abandoned the Boyfriend in the kitchen to put away our groceries after the nice Asda man came (and being harrassed about which bag the ice cream was in), and went off to indulge myself...
The little sweating polar bear on the tub and lid has a quote beside it - "If it's melted it's ruined" in reference to the global warming (quite clever too - I told you they were witty), and on the back of the tub you see the happy little cartoon moo-cows that adorn the Ben & Jerry's site (they love to shout about their sustainable dairy farming).
The wait for the ice cream to defrost slightly so I'd be able to dig the spoon in was almost intolerable... I am not the biggest of dessert fans but I reckoned this ice cream was something special. By this point the Boyfriend had sussed I'd retreated to the living room with the tub and brought another spoon so we could share it. Altogether now... awwwww!
Admittedly the ice cream at this point didn't have much of a scent to it, and carefully removing the cardboard lid we were delighted to see that the tub was filled right up to the brim - even a little over! Jam-packed isn't the word for it! The ice cream was a lovely cream colour and we could see little black specks indicating that this was indeed a vanilla ice cream of very good quality (should bloody hope so too, the price we paid for it... lol).
The Boyfriend and I both agreed upon our first spoonful that the ice cream was well worth what we had paid - creamy and delicious and with the authentic vanilla flavour courtesy of the extract we saw listed in the ingredients list (none of this 'essence' nonsense - manky fake stuff that it is!). However, if I wanted plain vanilla ice cream I'd have asked for it - bring on the polar bears!
Now... it's not that easy looking for little white chocolate shapes in ice cream thats the same colour as them, however I didn't need to dig down deep and found two polar bear chocolate shapes about a centimetre down. I ate one on it's own without any ice cream and I have to say... divine. I'm not a big sweets fan but I do enjoy white chocolate, and I'd say the quality of this chocolate is on par with Thorntons (or a more Fair Trade equivalent) - you wouldn't get a rich white chocolate taste like this from a Milky Bar at a kids' tuck shop, no way! With cheap white chocolate there's usually a kind of sharp aftertaste but we didn't find this with the polar bears at all. Though one thought crossed my mind... where were those darn marshmallow swirls I was promised?
Searching for white chocolate shapes in vanilla ice cream is a breeze compared to searching for marshmallow swirls - at least with chocolate you can feel it's harder than the ice cream! We gave up looking and carried on eating - as they were 'swirls' rather than individual marshmallows it was harder to distinguish them although we did notice during spoonfuls that there was a slight squishy texture amongst the ice cream. It didn't seem to add to the flavour at all so I was quite disappointed.
Why marshmallow in the first place? Well the original Baked Alaska dessert was ice cream surrounded by a baked meringue - I'm guessing marshmallow is easier to put in ice cream than meringue.
Taste test over (and miraculously some ice cream left - granted it got a bit sickly after awhile), I have to admit I felt a bit let down. I'm not sure exactly what brilliance I was expecting, but this was not it. The Boyfriend added "So? It's nice!!", but I'm sad to say that although I'm still very impressed with the apparent quality and good work of the brand (even the use of free range egg yolks in the ingredients), I wouldn't rush out and buy this flavour again. I may just try the plain vanilla instead. If something is 260 calories per 100g, I want my sins to be worth it!
+ DIETARY STUFF +
Full ingredients and nutrional information can be found on the official website, but this IS suitable for vegetarians (obviously not for anyone who is lactose intolerant).
+ TO CONCLUDE... +
Bought at Asda online for £3.90, in a 500ml (or 411g) tub... will likely be available elsewhere, you can check yourselves (if you're allowed online without adult supervision, you should be more than capable). And if you're lucky enough to have a Domino's near you with this in stock, it will set you back £4.50.
This is essentially posh vanilla ice cream with luxury white chocolate shapes dotted about it. And the odd bit of marshmallow lurking about, but it's nothing to really rave about I'm afraid. It feels like this is a mediocre flavour that won't be continued for long, but it's been tarted up with an environmental message to help make it sell. Cynical? Of course, but although Ben & Jerry are two ex-hippies don't forget that it's a corporate machine... I mean, family that own them now.
3 stars for the sheer loveliness of the vanilla ice cream and white chocolate bears, and for wanting to raise awareness about climate change. It would have been 2 stars but the hippie message swung it.
+ LINKY LINKS! +
www.benjerry.com - Official Site (has info about their packaging and their carbon footprint and what-not)
www.climatechangecollege.org - Official Site for educating the young 'uns about the Alaska glaciers melting and combat global warming!
www.unilever.com - see who else they control!
P.S. Ben & Jerry's are 30 this year - Happy Birthday!
© bandcamp 2008 - onwards (any plagiarists will be fed to some hungry, grumpy overheated polar bears!)
** WARNING : This review may offend if you...
- don't like crisps or are on a diet and snap at the mere mention of snack foods
- do not like the odd sweary word (I admit, they do pop out!)
- do not like innuendo (how could I do it with a simple snack review? You evidently have not been exposed to my filthy, corrupting mind before)
- do not like long reviews. I tend to ramble.
By continuing to read, you accept the above warnings and in no way, shape or form will moan at me about it unless it really is a pants review. Any criticism regarding swearys, innuendo, length or insensitivity to diet-ers will be ignored. Or brought to everyone's attention and laughed at. Okay? Smashing! **
Due to popular demand from my ever-adoring public, I have dusted off the old brain cells (what's left of them) and sought inspiration for a review topic.
Well... I say sought but I really mean 'bought packets of crisps, ate crisps, decided to write about crisps'. Now this isn't unfamiliar territory - oh no! Some of you may remember my brief Wheat Crunchies obsession (the worcester sauce ones are ace!), if not then you're in for a treat!
For I am not just writing about the Pickled Onion Space Raiders - lordy, lordy no! - I am also going to touch upon the lesser known 'Spicy' and 'Salt & Vinegar' varieties... don't say I'm not good to you.
A wee word though, I had to amble down to the corner shop (unlicensed, alas) to get the Salt & Vinegar pack and... shock-a-roonie - they had no Beef flavour. I'll try to remember what they were like, don't worry. AND I even checked the Co-op when I was there getting my cider but they didn't have Space Raiders at all which was rather pants.
+ GET ON WITH IT, WOMAN! +
Now, Space Raiders are well known and loved among many generations - apparently when they were launched in the 70's they were 10p a packet even then! Alas, this was not to continue as at some point inflation has caused them to rocket (heehee) to... 15p. Which is a bit baws, really. 30 pence could get you 3 packets, now only 2?! I blame the Government (can we bar Alistair Darling from snack places as well as our pubs?). And they're technically not crisps, they're 'Corn and Wheat Snacks'.
KP Snacks are the makers, part of that big ol' United Biscuits corporation who also make Twiglets, Hula Hoops and even Jaffa Cakes according to their flashy website. Oh wait, I've just read that they own Wheat Crunchies now too. See kids, we're all one big happy faceless capitalist regime... I mean, family.
The packets are black with the face of an alien on the front - the flavour of the snacks determine the colour of the alien (to avoid confusion, bless) although it does also say what the flavour is next to it. With a wee sunflower saying made with a blend of sunflower oil and banner stating less than 100 calories per packet. So here we go, on a packet by packet basis - pint of cider at the ready to quench any thirst I may have... let the munching begin!
The snacks are shaped just like an alien's head - like a bloated triangle with little holes punched through for the eyes and mouth. Each little shape is about 2 keyboard keys high (my ruler method strikes again!) and almost 2 keys wide at it's... widest point. They look quite smooth as well - like an obese rice cracker or something.
They're also quite sturdy - only one or two ever seem to break in the bag and they emit an ever-so-satisfying KERRUNCH! when you munch on them - evidently the manufacturer's point, since the back of the bag has a spiel on it about how only "munchin' crunchin' snacks" can stop the Space Raiders invasion. Riiiiiight.
~ SPICY FLAVOUR, ORANGE ALIEN FACE, 62 CALORIES PER BAG
The spicy flavour and smell is... rather delicate. It does leave a tickle on your tongue and the roof of your mouth but let's be honest - the Monster Munch Flamin' Hot variety pack more of a punch, and they're still rather wimpy in terms of hotness! Still, being a snack aimed at kids they can hardly burn the mouths off the little darlings, can they?
Oddly the spicy ingredient is apparently curry powder - I can assure you they are in no way curry-ish, possibly due to the tomato powder that's in there too.
I had 12 (and a bit) snacks in the bag (I can't see a weight on the packet, counting 'em will do!
* Dietary stuff - Suitable for vegetarians. "Contains milk, soya, wheat, gluten. Produced on a line handling egg, mustard."
Overall score for Spicy - 6/10
The flavour is nice, even if not as strong as I'd like - and they hold together much better than Monster Munch that always leave you with flakes on your fingers. Ooh my fingers smell a bit spicy now. Thank god it's not Scampi Fries I'm reviewing... ANYWAYY...
~ SALT & VINEGAR FLAVOUR, BLUE ALIEN, 62 CALORIES PER BAG
Well these don't smell very salt and vinegar-y at all! Yes there's a slight hint of vinegar but all very discreet - ahh, could be good for eating if you don't want someone to smell your snack-y treats! Although they'd hear you eating them a mile off. Nevermind.
The salt and vinegar taste is a lot stronger in other snacks - the Chippy Sticks for example, what a heavenly pong! These are subtle, and I do wonder if their kerrrunchy density means the flavour can't absorb as much. You still get a slight 'sting' on the tongue from the flavour
I had 11 shapes in the bag (boo!), still quite curious there's no weight.
* Dietary stuff - Suitable for vegetarians. "Contains milk, wheat, gluten. Produced on a line handling egg, soya, mustard."
Overall score for Salt & Vinegar - 4/10
Rather poor performance - they were still munchable but as pleasant as the corn-y taste is, I needed more of a flavour to overwhelm that.
~ PICKLED ONION FLAVOUR, GREEN ALIEN, 70 CALORIES PER BAG
Ahh yes bit more of an aroma here! Admittedly the pickled onion isn't as strong as I thought I recalled but still sent a tickle up my nosey when I inhaled a bit enthusiastically.
These aren't caked in flavourings and powder and what-not, but the pickled onion flavour is there, puckering my tastebuds with the slight sour-ness. Again, not as strong as I would have liked but these do seem to be the most flavoursome of the three - although a very slightly softer crunch I noticed. Ahhh and it seems the pickled onion taste / breath is lingering... good good, at least I'll know I didn't imagine eating them.
I counted 14 snacks in this bag! Highest number by far! Woohoo!
* Dietary stuff - Suitable for vegetarians. "Contains wheat, gluten. Produced on a line handling, milk, soya, mustard."
Overall score of Pickled Onion - 8/10
If I were sneakily eating these in work, they'd be ideal - the Walker's version stink to high heaven and the whole room knows you're food and you haven't offered to share. Although there is the noise factor. So I'm being generous in that sense but cannot possibly award full marks as I wanted a bit more zing for my whopping 15p and 14 snack shapes.
~ BEEF FLAVOUR, RED ALIEN, CALORIES UNKNOWN.
From what I recall they were beefy... crunchy... don't think they were too strong - not generally a fan of beef flavoured snacks, but I recall these were quite adequate. Shan't bother going into more detail or scoring since that'd be daft with no beefy snacks before me. Sorry. At least I told you about them!
+ CONCLUSION +
Let's face it, for 15p a packet you can sort of expect not to be blown away by the quality (or quantity) of something. Upon saying that though, I feel Space Raiders are a respectable part of the Snack Kingdom - fairly evident in their 30-ish year reign. Granted, they did themselves no favours by going up by 50% (I know, it's mad!) but it's fairly inevitable. As Mars Bars got smaller, Wagon Wheels shrunk, Curly Wurlys shrivelled... and Transform-a-snacks got round balls in them and are only available in 20p bags now... nothing is sacred. For 15p though, you have an idea of the quality you're getting, and you can't accuse these snacks of failing expectations!
Haven't seen Tangy Toms in a while. Or Chippy Sticks. Or those Dandy 'Corky The Cat' prawn cocktail fish shapes, those were great!
I'm hungry again...
+ LINKS, ETC. +
Round up - Space Raiders are 15p a bag and you get around a dozen snack shape in them. Allegedly available in slightly bigger bags at a higher price, but that information is from a Wikipedia entry someone was bored enough to create (with a few spelling mistakes, tut tut).
There is an address for KP Snacks but you can find it on the United Biscuits website...
also, someone on Bebo has a page dedicated to 10p crisps...
Cheers for reading, sorry diet-ers!
P.S. The title came from a bizarre thought that popped in my head while studying the shape of the snacks... make of that what you will. :P
© copyright bandcamp 2008 - onwards. Plagiarists shall be charged double for their snackfoods! Mwahahaha!
***What follows is a long review. Track by track, best lyrics from each song, practically a warts-and-all observation. Written in the throes of sobriety, along with better moments of inebriation. Don't say I didn't warn you.***
+ THE INTRO +
This is the latest offering from Californian stone-fox group The Donnas since they parted with their label after what I felt was a fairly lacklustre album, Gold Medal. That could just be me though, maybe I have to listen to it more (or download more tracks, since I didn't think it was good enough to warrant buying). Although 'Fall Behind Me' among a coupla other tracks were cool, the video for 'I Don't Wanna Know' felt so low budget I was embarrased for the girls and it seemed that the label had their attentions elsewhere.
Gold Medal didn't have the same kinda attitude as Spend The Night or previous albums and came across as far too polished... nothing raw and spontaneous, every little distorted riff felt designed to make an audience go wild, which does not in the least way make me want to rock out (I'm bloody stubborn that way) - so was hardly rock and feckin' roll.
So they hooked up with Purple Feather, fans were seduced with the occasional new track being posted online via their myspace page, an album was launched and a tour began... so would it be what it promised?
+ THE ALBUM +
01. BITCHIN' (02:09) - summary: perhaps an 80s arena opening track?
Starting off with an air raid siren, we've got a slow and laidback drumbeat soon joined by bass and guitar... random slurring vocals sounding like Liz Taylor on excess amounts of Vicadin, then BOOM! Energy, raw-ness, grinding chords, and decent 'raring to go and maybe start a fight' drumbeat, as if granted with excess amounts of sherbert and lucozade, or other hardcore substances more suited to rock stars. The vocals are few and meant to be IN YOUR FACE, accentuated with the chorus of voices and is one that gets the crowd going, despite the weird slow start which should have been missed, to be honest.
"(This is what it sounds like) when heads roll
(This is what it sounds like) we're all going down
(This is what it sounds like) and you're gonna want more
more, more, more... so hold on tight"
02. DON'T WAIT UP FOR ME (03:27) - summary: anthemic, 'I don't need no man, just possibly batteries' track
Audience clapping, low and dirty guitar work accentuated with a bass and then we hear the low and seductive vocals of Brett, playing hard to get or just not interested - "boy, I've got your number / That doesn't mean I have to call you" - and the track becomes quite the audience pleaser - easy to chant certain parts, memorable and catchy chorus, and near-climatic bridge - one that wouldn't be out of place in an arena. This track definitely shows the album could be sticking to it's 80s hair metal theme, and was definitely something I was singing when getting ready for a night out.
"There's no tellin' where I'm gonna show up
nobody knows where the night will end
There's no tellin' when I'm gonna wake up
but when I do I'll do it all again, yeah"
03. WASTED (03:29) - summary: Love... lust... addiction... same thing?
Up-tempo guitar driven track... not much distortion but the 80s influence is still very much present in the almost breathless vocals confessing that we probably shouldn't be doing what we are, but can't help it. The instruments are a constant (like the urge) and even the bridge is fitting in this track describing addiction and urgency, the backing vocals aren't as irritating as you would think, and the track itself is quite difficult to get out of your system (quite fitting) as my neighbours first discovered after an afternoon hearing me declaring to all and sundry that I was "a total wreck, I'm a basketcase / I'm a user, you're my drug".
The first time I heard it I couldn't stop playing (or singing) it - so give it a go, there's effort and energy from all sides here, and you can freak out the neighbours.
"I can't seem to stop myself when it comes to indiscretion
I left my conscience somewhere else,
another public makeout session
It's a late night confession
Can't wake up and I can't come down
I want it bad, I want it NOW"
04. WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO (03:07) - summary: 80s 'please love me!' song but with *some* dignity
Steady demanding drumbeat and bassline, the guitar is fairly standard and a bit 'warp-y' at times, and the vocals don't seem to be at the forefront as they usually are (odd considering I know that no settings have been changed since I'm listening to this in one sitting). But the chorus is unashamedly memorable and again, audience friendly. It begins with a fairly upbeat feel but continues on a serious note with the obligatory 'go quiet then get louder again' bridge. Perhaps one to avoid if you're feeling a little sensitive in regards to rejection or are pining for someone though, but it's not at all mopey so that's okay.
"The message that you send
and all the rules you bend
tell me you're more than my friend
Need your kiss of death
but I can't catch my breath"
05. SAVE ME (03:13) - summary: laidback and more obviously 80s influenced, although not really a stand out track.
Probably the most obvious 80s influenced intro on the album, and I kid you not - Van Halen is what came to mind when I first heard it, thanks to the guitar and the rolling snare drum. The verses are fairly catchy and I had expected a big grand hair metal instrumental affair for the chorus, but got a so-so pop-tinged chorus of voices and quietened instruments, which was more of a plateau than an out-and-out rock fest.
Considering the lyrics could be taken as referring to the various perks or downfalls of a rock and roll lifestyle, the lack of energy could be taken to mimic the relaxed or mellow feel after indulging in a person, a substance... or I could be over-analysing like the kids on that 'songmeanings' website *shrug*.
"I come alive when I feel the sting
it doesn't matter to me, just keep it coming
More, more, can't slow down now
it feels good when it's not allowed
More, more, don't ask why
I'm gonna party till the day I die"
06. LIKE AN ANIMAL (02:42) - summary: horny, rousing crowd-pleaser, it even has a 'na-na na na na' chant!
The intro immediately brought me back to a similar opening from a 'Spend The Night' track. I like similarities, but not blatant ones - however I didn't need to worry as the song quickly came into it's own with slightly suggestive then outright dirty lyrics in this superb lust-fuelled track, and although despite being under the 3 minute mark it doesn't fail to satisfy (rather like a quickie... hehehe).
The vocals are almost dreamy in the verses at first, then become more focused and demanding (oo-er!), and the others aren't spared from this hunger either - the drumbeat remains constant but the crash cymbals come out and the toms are battered; the guitar is subtlely picked in the background before the distortion pedal is stomped on; and the bass... soldiers on getting overlooked as usual.
"Wild in the streets, don't care if anybody sees
don't bother saying please if you wanna ravage me, yeah!
Whoa-oh-oh, I can't say no, I lose control
'cause with you I'm like an animal"
07. HERE FOR THE PARTY (02:54) - summary: here for the party, or just gatecrashing?
Hardly an inspiring intro... quite apathetic-sounding vocals, fairly standard distorted guitar chords, and the drumbeat doesn't seem to require much exertion. Even once more cymbals are crashing, and the girls are chanting and singing in the background (more na-na-na's), the pace doesn't change much throughout and although there's the odd good lyric, it's still a track that I'm still able to skip past without much thought.
And don't ask me what the deal is at the end with the harmonica or whatever it is (wait... quick look at the album inlay suggests it's a blues harp). It completely removes any possibility of 'rock' that the song possessed, and could come across as quirky but just feels out of place and totally wrong. Bit sub-standard, overall and seems to drag despite being under 3 minutes long.
"I'm getting off tonight
I'm getting wrecked and starting fights
My mind's on overdrive
I don't wanna stop this ride"
08. BETTER OFF DANCING (03:21) - summary: possible anthem for the newly-singled, happy or otherwise
Sinister sounds at the start with a steady bass drum leading the charge as the bass and guitars join in with a track that isn't quite upbeat, isn't quite depressing... just getting on with things after a breakup or total disappointment (I think we've all had those) and throwing yourself headfirst into something else.
The guitar is what really 'drives' the song throughout and gets your foot tapping and head nodding - definitely something you could listen to if you're pissed off at someone and have gone for a brisk walk or drive, especially the repeated sentiments "get out of my way / get out of my life". The 80s influence is a lot more subtle here and it's a great rock track that gets the crowd singing and bouncing around. Smashing.
"I can't hear a word you say
and I don't even care
I'm throwing all your notes away
stop me if you dare"
09. LOVE YOU TILL IT HURTS (03:32) - summary: slow and steady 'rock chick trying to seduce you' track.
This is a slightly more laidback affair, with a title that initially made me cringe, but a quick listen to the lyrics made it a more bearable. It's a slow and steady affair, and it pains me to admit that there's nothing remarkable about the instruments or vocals here so it feels a bit like a filler track in a sense.
So to reiterate- standard drumbeat, standard guitar and bass, and the backing vocals get a bit breathless in the background, just in case the lyrics aren't persuading us this is meant to be a hot and heavy song - although I have to say, when Brett breathes "You're making me hot", you can't help but believe it. Nah, 'Like An Animal' is probably a bit better in that aspect. I do quite like the castanet bit in the bridge though.
"Let me touch you, I wanna play with your emotions baby yeah
I'm dreaming of you and once I have you in my possession
I'm gonna love you till it hurts
I'm gonna love you till it hurts"
10. SMOKE YOU OUT (03:21) - summary: catchy, foot-tapping song although not a personal favourite
A steady guitar-driven track dripping with an attitude that can only be associated with that stereotypical (or wet dream fantasy) of a leather and denim clad woman setting her sights on some lucky soul she's planning on taking somewhere - "backyard, rooftop, let's get dirty" - for a rendezvous.
Great sing-a-long song, with a pretty decent guitar solo and even clapping throughout although I do admit that it isn't a favourite of mine, and the lyrics are short and punchy and occasionally a bit strange but who am I to judge? Kudos as well for rhyming 'naked' with 'sacred' - it might not be original, but it made me remember the lyrics more.
"Shotgun rhinestone takin' you over
poison arrow make you dance a little slower
Hocus pocus losin' your focus
to get high you gotta go lower"
11. GIRL TALK (03:14) - summary: awesome, anthemic, 'I'm going to boot your arse up and down Buchanan Street, ya wee bitch' song
A weird robotic, synthesised voice spells out the title of the track and repeats it, then it's chanted by the girls and it becomes clear that it has serious meaning to it. The drumbeat is steady with a sense of urgency, the guitar riff distorted and terrific - no fun and energetic feel here, just a simple and serious mission. I suppose you could *almost* say this is the rock verions of Destiny's Child 'Survivor' but directed at a jealous girl rather than a scorned boy.
The verses are only two-liners, but the bridge and the chorus are spot on and memorable as well as anthemic - the lack of specific detail and just the generalisations means this could track could apply to anybody in that kind of situation. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE a good angry song to vent any frustrations I have, but this track is a lot more collected and the disenchantment is slightly more subtle ('you better start runnin') rather than an out and out threat. Feckin' brilliant track.
"You're up and down the halls, writing on the walls
everybody knows it's you
Shut up, show me what you're made of"
12. GIVE ME WHAT I WANT (03:13) - summary: so-so, but has it's moments
Steady deep and distorted guitar riffs with drums soldiering on, this track isn't a favourite but is catchy enough in it's own right in parts. The bridge and chorus musically is something you could imagine hearing in the mainstream, but lyrically I don't know if many folk could identify.
It's a good track to dance around to and sing, but whereas the last track appealled because of it's vagueness, I think this one falters for the same reason. Granted, what Brett wants could be anything, but I can't say that I'd use this track to chronicle or reflect on my life's events so far. Maybe I've had a boring life, I don't know... but as I've said, it's catchy enough.
"I came here to find you
I came to remind you
don't you miss the games that we used to play?"
13. WE OWN THE NIGHT (02:49) - summary: bit substandard with a catchy chorus. Like most of the music chart's offerings.
Not many tracks get me playing 'air drums', but this one does (albeit badly, with my thumbs, on the computer keyboard). The guitar dominates at the beginning and quietens slightly during the verse, and the girls all sing during the bridge before slipping into the chorus - yes I said slip, it doesn't 'launch' or 'crash into' at all. Bit anti-climatic in a way since it all remains a bit steady and dignified. Pah.
Alright track, not brilliant but the chorus is only good towards the end when it has a superb metal guitar solo subtly interrupt and then, and only then, does the track take on a high - let your hair down and start headbanging!
"Sun goes down and we come out 'cause
we own the night
Surrender to a different power
we own the night"
14. TONIGHT'S ALRIGHT (03:16) - summary: Potential to be worthy on a 'top rock anthems' album, but still bit below par for the band
Foot-tapping drumbeat and guitar riffage leads us into this track, although it's hardly leading... more like being thrown in the deep end rather than gently introduced. Gentle cymbals, then the short vocals along with a chorus of voices in reply.
The chorus itself feels quite 80s-lite musically, but considering the fact that the rest of the track is quite so-so, I guess this is better than nothing.
It's anybody's guess what this track it about, but some of us don't mind a meaningless song now and then - just so long as we can dance or sing to it, and I guess in this case we can at least sing and shimmy.
"Didn't sleep at all last night, it don't matter
no way I'm gonna make my flight, it don't matter
Well who needs sleep 'cause you never know
I got nowhere to go"
15. WHEN THE SHOW IS OVER (03:42) - summary: ballad-ish but not quite... could be a fitting ending to the album, if one doesn't want to end on an adrenalin high
Starting off like a Clapton-esque depressed ballad, the track emerges as one that is slightly more 'rock-y' but still almost as serious in its' nature. It still feels quite 80s, but with a more straight-faced agenda, yet in places is still very 'sing-a-long-ish'.
Drum and bass in the background, the guitar conveys most of the track's feelings - minor chords, and the like - although the song is one to end on, I can't help but feel that a more upbeat track would have ended the album on a high.
Upon saying that, the song is one that an audience will react to, and consider a track for endings.
"I've got the feeling
in my blood and in my bones
they've got each other tonight
But I'm still all alone
when the show is over..."
***Look at the back of the CD case for listings as windows media player may show the last few songs in a different order.***
+ SUMMARY +
All in all, this is a great album - the 80s influence is more than obvious and makes you feel that the Donnas are returning to a slightly more heavy sort of sound. Sure, there are some weak links but it's still an enjoyable listen - especially while drinking (do it responsibly, kids!). That being said, the album might not be top of the list for a night of escapism (if you're having a Peter Griffin "let's drink till we can't feel feelings anymore!" moment), so I'd perhaps opt for the band's pre-Gold Medal discography as the girls said themselves it was from then on that they had wanted to incorporate a bit more emotion and 'real life' to their music rather than continue with nothing but a facade (boo!).
I've even had the amazing fortune to see these girls live (in November, at the Cathouse in Glasgow - lots of teenage girls and a worrying number of middle aged men, confirming their 'jailbait' tag wasn't completely unfair) and they were feckin' incredible. Basically, anything you hear on this album is a pretty damn accurate representation of what you'll hear at a gig.
Despite having cool 'we were probably pissed!' photos of the girls and including the lyrics, the font is a titch small for comfortable reading - although to be honest I'm just delighted they keep including them, since I hate it when bands don't give you song lyrics, then you're usually relying on some bizarre online interpretations (which spawned sites like 'Am I Right?', which can be just embarrassing).
Despite the odd weak link, I really would recommend this to folk - especially if you're a fans of 80s rock / metal since the influences are a lot more blatant here. If you wish the 80s and its' legwarmers would just bugger off back to the past where it belongs, I'm still sure that there'd be a track in here or two in here that you'd like. After all, it's infinitely better than this emo shite that's doing the rounds.
+ AVAILABILITY AND THAT KINDA THING +
hmv.co.uk - £9.99 CD
virgin/zavvi/whatever - £10.00 CD
play.com - £8.95 CD
amazon.co.uk - from £5.34 marketplace, otherwise from £10.48 for CD format
The official store is through www.11spot.com/donnas
- $9.99 for digital format, $13.99 for CD, $16.00 vinyl but you can also buy indivdual songs for 99cents each and other merchandise
Official site - www.thedonnas.com
Myspace - www.myspace.com/thedonnas
Also, you can check out some so-so quality videos of the Glasgow gig at
www.youtube.com/seery234 - they're all labelled as the Donnas Cathouse gig, the other videos I have no responsibility for (actually it was the Boyfriend who recorded at the gig since I was busy drinking and dancing and singing at the top of my voice... great fun!).
© bandcamp 2007 - onwards... plagiarists shall be suffocated with excessive amounts of hairspray then strangled with a pair of lycra leggings
"I toast, therefore I am"
Wise words once spoken by a celebrity in the Kitchen Appliance community, Talkie Toaster - guest star in cult TV show Red Dwarf. There's even a website somewhere in dedication!
Brian is the toaster in the previous flat where I stayed, who we were gifted with over 2 years ago when our other toaster stopped working. There's a slight chance, of course, that it was my fault for being such a toast fiend that it eventually refused to work but we won't tell the old landlord that...
What does Brian look like? Well, he's a lovely white thing, that doesn't take up that much space on the counter, with a fetching mint green button / lever thing that you push down to make the toast go down, 2 lengthways slots that can house 2 slices of bread in each, a little mint green dial at the side there numbered 1 through to 6, and a wee mint green button next to it with 'Cancel' beside it in case you want to get your toast out before it's finished and see the weird green flash that it makes. I still haven't actually asked anyone if that's normal...
Brian is amazing, he can toast anything. Bread... those daft muffin thingies... pitta bread (tore in half with a bit of cheese inside so it melts a bit - he is AMAZING at those)... it would probably toast bits of other toasters given half the chance.
To ensure that this experiment only has one variable (i.e. the toaster dial setting), it shall be ensured that the same brand of bread is used throughout this toast banquet. (some white processed crap... Mother's Pride or Kingsmill or something... this was before I was such a 'brown and wholemeal' fiend y'know).
The bread is still the same colour and it fast becomes clear that all this setting does is warm the bread and make feel it a little rough, although the crusts feel about the same. It is believed that holding a match in front of it would have yielded more of a toasted result.
As before, the bread hasn't changed appearance. A comforting warmth can be felt though, and the bread feels a little more crispy, yet still not actually toasted since the slice is pretty floppy. Crusts are a little harder. Holding two matches in front of it would have produced a better result.
Finally, a colour change! A nice golden colour with the odd shade of darker brown, especially towards one side where the edge got slightly burnt. This took a bit longer than the other two, and is substantially warmer. Toasted on the outside with just a slight softness on the inside, and emits a satisfying crunch when bitten into.
Ok so one side has patches of dark brown, which others may describe as 'the odd burnt bit'. It's fine, still nice and golden and ... ah. Right, so the other side of it is rather... bordering on black. Quite hot to delicate wee fingers too. Unquestionably toasted... a bit too well, in fact. It's still edible!
On side is half burned, I'll openly admit it's burned and not just brown. The other side is... practically cremated. Still kinda white on the inside, though distinctly crunchy when bitten into. Hell, it still got eaten. And promptly set off the fire alarm. Which is generally quite bad since it was after midnight. Oops.
Due to the fire alarm going off it was decided that the experiment should be abandoned before entering into dangerous 'Setting 6' territory where I may get acquainted with some rather handsome firemen. Actually... I *DID* eye up the '6' setting... but decided that the rock goddess must NOT attempt to drunkenly seduce a fireman... and I did not. For although the fire station was just up the road, it would not have been fair to deprive the other lovely girls of their sleep, even if it were to ogle those handsome men.
A bit of research on the Micromark company tells me that as well as manufacturing toasters they make home appliances like irons and hoovers, lighting like ... use your imagination - indoor and outdoor, almost anything you can imagine!, other things like doorbells and anything under the 'miscellaneous' category, and even security products like safes and CCTV. With such a diverse selection, doesn't one feel so completely and utterly satisfied knowing that no matter what you need, there's a good chance Micromark will be able to help you?
This toaster was pretty damn cool throughout my stay at the flat (over 2 years), and luckily we had no problems but I had noticed that if we were to encounter any that the website and instruction manual (just a bit of A4 paper folded in half into a booklet) provide more than enough info to ensure any issues are resolved. The one year guarantee was pretty good too, although never needed.
It's easy to use (as with every toaster, I imagine) but I'm still amazed at the severity of toastage from setting 4 onwards. Especially with the cancel button, was 6 variations really necessary? Although we never burned our hands whenever touching the toaster itself - big PLUS in my book - I imagine that's down to some technical jargony thing - although who goes around holding toasters?
And since we're on the topic of gripes, what is the deal with needing a screwdriver to remove the crumb tray? Granted, we could just turn it upside down and shake it but trays are better. And do you really expect every household to have a screwdriver? The only one we had in the flat was a mini one I got from a Xmas cracker ages ago.
Overall, if you want a cheap-ish toaster that'll live up to it's basic expectations (with tall bread or more than 2 slices), you can't do worse than this. It even took frozen bread and toasted it quite nicely! Although I'm deducting points for the screwdriver-required crumb try thing. That totally pissed me off, despite the amazing 'I can take tall bread sideways' thing, what with the '4 slices' slots and all. And the harsh transition from 4 onwards.
Long live Brian!
247Electrical.co.uk - £24.40-ish
clickcat.co.uk - around £27.44 including VAT and delivery
® bandcamp 2005 (when first published - onwards) - Plagiarists shall have their dirty wee fingers grilled then deep fried, and their toes too, just in case they're gifted that way.
**You all know I tend to ramble on a bit. Well it's not rambling if I think it's relevent, and if I don't tell you a wee bit about a backstory before getting to the point, I think that's like missing out foreplay really. Of course, you can always skip past the first couple of paragraphs if you're after a quickie - no one will judge you, mmkay? Super! On with the show!**
+ GOOD GOD, NOT ANOTHER LUSH FAN +
'Fraid so, pal. Although it's only really been over the past year that I've began to have a healthy obsession with LUSH. No, I have not been living under a rock throughout my teenage years - for the longest time I hated even walking past the stores because of the pungent smells coming from there, but over time I got used to it and finally ventured in. I've actually been buying the Tea Tree Water toner since I was 18 and used to buy the Coalface cleansing soap (and Buffy the Backside Slayer! Now just named 'Buffy' - boo!), but I started to branch out a little and have been experimenting with other cleansers but especially the bath stuff, even though I've always been a showering-type.
+ I'VE BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK - WHAT'S LUSH? +
Lush is a company that is dead against animal testing and believes in making "effective products from organic fruit and vegetables, the finest essential oils, and safe synthetics... using little or no preservatives, or packaging, using only vegetarian ingredients..." There's other stuff they believe in, but you get the gist of it - they're a bunch of divine-smelling hippies, basically. Sweeping generalisation, I know - but it covers everything pretty much. Caring about the environment and stuff, and looking bloody good in the process - brilliant!
And what do they sell? Well, the Boyfriend confessed that when he was younger he used to think that Lush was a sweet shop because of the shower jellies - bless! No sweets I'm afraid, they actually sell a lot of stuff - soaps, facial cleansers, moisturisers, massage bars, shower gels, face masks, and bath bombs (referred to as ballistics) and the like. Everything you could possibly need for having your own pampering session without resorting to giving up a month's wages on a spa break. They've even got a sister company called 'B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful' that sells makeup and fragrances, but there are only 4 stores and all in England. Thank goodness for online shopping though, eh?!
For more information you can check out their websites, coz I can't prattle on too much here.
+ ON WITH THE DAMN STORY! +
So on one of my last jaunts into Lush I was quite literally like a kid in a candy store - the Boyfriend had bought a computer game for thirty quid, so it was only fair that I get to spend that much on myself in... yep, Lush. (I bet all you Lushies HATE me right now because of that! Hehehehe)
Thirty pound limit, off I went around the store 'ooh'-ing and 'ahh'-ing, with Craig shuffling behind looking bored and a bit suspicious of the shower jellies (I've yet to try them, but they're meant to be very refreshing if you freeze them first). The ridiculous thing was that I had already pored over the latest edition of The Lush Times (newspaper type thing listing all the products, and letting you know about new ones) so you'd think that I would have at least formulated some kind of plan in my head over what I should try first. Nope. Any mental lists went out the window when faced with the biggest spending limit I've ever had in there.
Now I've tried the occasional bath ballistic, the round balls that fizz like mad in the bath, but have never tried any of the bubble bars. And that day was a special day, it was a day for experimentation and spending! They all came in different shapes and sizes and smells, and I decided on a weighty slab of a purple-pink and white swirled thing called The Comforter. One whiff (carefully, since sometimes I get too close and get powder on my nose and look like I've done a Kate Moss - the cocaine part, not the junkie git boyfriend part) and the sweet, heavenly blackcurrant aroma had me hooked, so into the basket it went!
+ BATHTIME FOR BANDCAMP +
Surveying the swirly beast I figured I could probably try and get more than one bath out of it, so promptly broke it in half and decided I couldn't be bothered trying to make it stretch further, although you probably could. With bath ballistics you just fill the bath with water, then lob it in and watch it fizz like mad. With the bubble bars though, you have to crumble them under running water as the bath is being filled so the bubbles can magically appear.
Now, I was promised a "warming, fruity, fluffy bath" from the Lush blurb, so is that what I would get? When I used the first half of my bubble bar, I was a bit pissed so the short answer is yes. The extended answer is 'from what hazy recollections I have of purple-pink water, and believing it to be a miracle that I didn't drown myself while washing my face - probably yes.' Hazy recollections don't tell you lovely folk much though, so the other half of the bar shall be used tonight - hurrah!
Clean bath? Check. Bubble bar? Check. No clothes? Check.
Right, we're good to go! Running the hot water into the bath, it took a wee bit of effort to break the bar into bits to crumble it - which is okay since it wouldn't be good if the bar fell apart that easily. It was a bit like tablet in the way it crumbled, and some of it stuck to my fingers but rinsing it off wasn't a problem and didn't leave any pink stains. The gorgeous scent permeated the bathroom and hall, and the bathwater turned a rather girly deep pink, and copious amounts of white fluffy bubbles were produced - excellent! And, keeping with the purple berry theme, I opted for a glass of cider and blackcurrant to enjoy during it.
Now, I'm hardly going to detail the exact actions throughout my bathing experience, but I can tell you this - I was in that bath for around about an hour, and even after washing my face and shampooing my hair, there were still some frothy bubbles remaining when I pulled the plug. The bathwater itself seemed soft almost, and the lovely blackcurrant-y sweetie smell lingered on my skin for quite a few hours afterwards as well (described by the Boyfriend as a sweeter version of Ribena scent), and Lush weren't kidding when they claimed it to be relaxing... although I'm sure that the Bergamot essential oil in the bar could have helped with that since it is commonly used to dispell despression apparently. I'm not going to bore you with an ingredients list, it's all fairly standard and Lush make a point of including them for every product so you can visit the site itself for more information.
+ THE VERDICT +
At £3.50 for 200g, this is one of the pricier bubble bars that Lush has to offer. That being said, breaking it up to last over more than one bath is completely possible - I had oodles of bubbles when breaking it in two, so I can easily see it lasting over at least three baths based on dividing it up.
However, I feel that it is completely and utterly worth it. I don't suffer from any skin complaints but this didn't dry out my skin at all and left it feeling lovely and smooth - and smelling utterly delicious! Named The Comforter to protect users from the big bad world outside, I have to say I completely agree... I was entirely at peace in the bath, pint of booze at the corner, and a Harry Potter book to keep me company - this was an hour of complete and utter heaven. It could have only been improved with more booze, and being told I didn't have to go to work tomorrow.
This is one that I would definitely recommend and shall absolutely be purchasing again.
+ LINKS, WHATEVER +
Lush UK site - www.lush.co.uk
B Cosmetics - www.bnevertoobusytobebeautiful.com
© bandcamp 2007 - onwards. Plagiarists shall be drowned in a heavenly Ribena scented puddle, held up by the ankles like I saw in that episode of Criminal Minds.
+ MEET THE MAIN CHARACTER +
Marvin Summer is your typical high school boy from a typical small American town - in no ways a jock since he's not athletic, and in no ways a geek since he's barely scraping by in English class. Quite easy to miss, really, and admits he is hopelessly single as he gazes wistfully towards the object of his affection (unrequited teenage love seems to be a standard theme in Pike books, I've noticed) as she's thoroughly engrossed in the latest book of a best selling murder mystery series.
The author's name, Mack Slate, is on everybody's lips as they eagerly await the final installment... speculation runs amok in school corridors and shopping malls as well as throughout the book world over his 'whodunnit' writings. Teenage girls daydream about what this amazing writer must look like... thirties, married, blond... twenties, single, living by the beach... Actually, it's more like seventeen, virgin, and sitting two rows behind you.
Yes, folks, good ol' Marvin here is a secret teenage millionaire! The only person who knows that he is the writing sensation Mack Slate is his eleven year old sister, Ann. The confusion as to why he is still bothering to go to school and remain in the town is a mystery quickly solved when we discover that Marvin feels he has to keep his fame and fortune a secret, lest his alcoholic parents seize control over his bank account as he is not yet a legal adult. Although his father no longer lives with them, he does have a gambling problem and a violent streak, so it's understandable why Marvin would keep quiet. And you feel for the poor wee soul, which is always helpful in character development.
+ OTHER CHARACTERS +
Shelly Quade - the beautiful classmate Marvin believes is 'The One'. They dated briefly the previous year, until Shelly's boyfriend Harry was found dead in the lake after committing suicide. Now she's dating Harry's friend Triad, so will Marvin be able to continue where they had left off?
Triad Tyler - now dating Shelly, after his buddy was found dead (what are friends for?). Complete jock neanderthal, but seems to have the odd sensitive moment. Bless.
Ann McGaffer - the main character in Marvin's series, named after his sister. The beautiful and popular teenage girl was found dead in the town lake, and although there is no shortage of suspects in the murder, everyone is desperate to know who the culprit was... although not even Marvin knows yet (damn procrastination!).
+ SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? +
The way Marvin saw it, was that he'd just have to wait out the two months till he's eighteen, then move on to pastures new, and not be afraid to spend his money. Well... apparently someone has discovered Mack Slate's true identity, and lets him know this by posting him an unsigned letter from his hometown. At first Marvin feels a little paranoid but decides to ignore it as someone trying to mess with his head, and that it was just a coincidence it was sent from where he stays. But then another letter arrives, and Marvin finds himself drawn into something as complex as his own plot lines... with some strange similarities... could the murder that Marvin wrote about actually be true?!
+ GOOD GRIEF, WHAT HAPPENS THEN? +
Pah! As if I'd tell you, buy the book so the poor guy can get some royalties! It's clear that Marvin's got enough on his plate with his stressed agent demanding the manuscript for a book that's not even been started and is already months overdue, and coping with a constantly drunk mother and trying to take care of his sister... so when the bizarre anonymous notes are arriving and getting more personal, you do feel for the guy (although you do chide him slightly for buggering off to do detective work when he should be finishing his book, the git).
The twists and turns in the book though are quite surprising, and you do begin to wonder about some of the characters' intentions - although when Marvin is also getting these little warning signs you do wonder what you're getting set up for. Will Marvin's detective work pay off? Will he get Shelly? Will he finish the damn book and prevent his agent from having a stroke?!
+ MY OPINION +
Marvin seems a lovely guy, quite witty and funny, and he had the odd one-liner that made me chuckle although it was a bit difficult to totally identify with him regarding his feelings towards Shelly (when Christopher Pike writes from a female's perspective, he mentions the funny feeling in your stomach you get when you see someone you find rather dashing (fancy the pants off)... but with Marvin there seems to be some jitters - nothing descriptive regarding physical reactions, but some amusing little thoughts as if he's talking to himself. Like being completely excited that Shelly remembered his name then realising it would be a bit daft if she didn't since they'd had five dates the previous year).
However, when Marvin got mad then decided to exact his revenge on someone... that's the part I sat up and took notice, till Marvin began thinking how all the preparation involving in committing such "a wicked deed" didn't feel at all like he described it in his books, blah blah blah - JUST DO IT, MAN! Then of course when there are flaws in the plan... whoopsie! That can just be something to try and work through. No momentum is lost here really, and strangely you're not horrified that good ol' Marvin is going to try and harm someone - you're pretty much rooting for him, although will it even work?
This is not a book about revenge (read 'Gimme A Kiss' for that kinda thing), but Marvin and his little sister were really the only two characters you liked. And even then, his sister is probably the smartest of the two in questioning whether if people are what they seem and if they're just using others for something they want.
Oddly, the characters weren't described physically that much, only as 'handsome' or 'her smile shone'... I don't think it was until about a third of the way through the book that I found out what colour Shelly's hair was. And as for Marvin, all I know is that he considers himself to have 'dark features'. But perhaps because this is a Pike book from a boy's perspective, perhaps we're not going to get the amount of detail we would had the book been from a female character's point of view?
All in all, it is a good book to read and with an interesting storyline. Especially since it is regarding an author with a pseudonym - since Christopher Pike is also a pen name, you do wonder how much of what Marvin says is actually coming from Pike's own experience. The main character is likeable, you hope things turn out for him, but you feel the ending could have been a bit better and I was unsure if I would have done what Marvin had, resulting in me losing a bit of respect for him. Which sucks, but I suppose it's rare when you find a character anywhere that you can say in all honesty 'I would have done that too'. Oh well.
I'll give it a 2 out of 5 and wouldn't recommend it for first time Pike readers, since I've only read this 3 times in the past seven years so it isn't really a favourite. I also felt that more could have been done with the storyline and character descriptions, since I couldn't imagine them clearly like I usually do. And since it was written in 1992, it isn't aging as well as other Pike books since it mentions computers and printers... wasn't quite the advent of laptops and laserjets, you understand. And like I said, the ending and how things all tied together felt like a bit of a cop out. Pfft, back on the bookcase for you!
+ AVAILABILITY +
Amazon.co.uk - used and new from £0.01, various editions
eBay uk - currently from £0.70
waterstones.com - £5.99 new
ISBN (of my copy) - 0-671-69059-0
© bandcamp 2007 - onwards. Plagiarism punishable by being poked with a REALLY sharp pencil. Repeatedly. Till my arm hurts. Then someone else can take over.
**Alright folks, you know the drill. You'll be getting a blow by blow account, track by track with this album, so no surprises that this will be a bit long. Any intermissions can be decided by YOU, the lovely reader. And this was written entirely under the influence of sobriety, due to the current financial situation (I still haven't gotten around to making an emergency booze stash).**
+ INTRODUCTION (I grant you permission to skip this) +
Along with The Offspring's 'Ixnay On The Hombre' and 'Americana' albums being pivotal in honing my musical tastes as a teenager, there is another band and album that I would like to share with you all today, whether you like it or not (hehe). Before hearing these bands, I imagine I was like one of those little wind-up toys, wound as far as I can go but with no discernable direction in which to travel. Then these albums came along and steered me the right way and BANG! Off I sped, headlong towards the wild, distorted throes of rock and punk. To this day I am still disgusted that I had not been enlightened sooner (my Uncle certainly has a lot to answer for as an ex-punk - he should have been sneaking me Clash and Siouxsie Sioux albums as a child! Naturally I am going to assume my duty of introducing my little cousin to the wonders of 'proper' bands in the way I wasn't. Mwahahaha).
+ WHO ARE THESE CORRUPTORS / MUSICAL GODS? +
The other album that partly to blame for my musical preferences, is one that I often pay more attention to as soon as the Autumn season is upon us (perhaps partly because I played this album religiously throughout the Autumn months when I first discovered it?) - is from Californian band AFI, who initially began as a complete hardcore punk band, then as time and albums wore on began to emerge with a slightly darker and more 'gothic' edge. They are a bit difficult to pigeonhole (wikipedia uses horrorpunk and deathrock as genres occasionally); the one term I've seen to be deemed most acceptable is goth- or gothic-punk, but God help anybody who tries to label them emo (ye shall feel my wrath).
The band -
Vocals: Davey Havok
Guitar: Jade Puget
Bass: Hunter Burgan
Drums: Adam Carson
Now, I'd heard some AFI (standing for 'A Fire Inside') tracks before, but seeing them supporting The Offspring at a concert made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I was totally transfixed throughout their performance, then got a bit obsessed (joined the fanclub and got a membership card and everything). Then I discovered 'The Art Of Drowning' album, released September 2000 (ooh, Autumn again), and a morbid love affair began...
+ THE ALBUM ITSELF +
01. INITIATION (0:39) - summary : atmospheric and spooky punk intro
This track is an instrumental, and a fairly nifty introduction I think! Very atmospheric, with just some guitar strings being picked and the odd low bass notes, then a sort of spooky, swishy distortion fading in and out as the track picks up it's pace and the drum cymbals crash in with a rolling beat, and it all gets a bit frantic before ending with a banshee-like distortion again, fading to blend perfectly into...
02. THE LOST SOULS (2:42) - summary: a fantastically dark, punk-paced love song
We catch the tail end of that spooky swishy sound, and despite the guitar picking speeding up a notch, the drum beat keeps fairly steady and sounds almost tribal... until of course the distortion kicks in, and the beat takes up your typical 'fast and furious' punk pace (cymbals crashing, snare being pounded), then the vocals begin.
Alternating between the background shouts and Havok's strong almost-shouty but melodic responses in the verses, this is far from a ballad but conveys a lot of similar feelings and emotions, with the phrase "look what you've done to me now, you've made me perfect" repeated throughout the choruses. Aww bless.
"If you can't stand
upon the earth then I will see you on the other side
When you blink do you only find
the misery weighs down your eyes?
Then take my hand and sleep with me"
03. THE NEPHILIM (02:35) - summary: the track that launched a thousand forum signatures
Unobtrusive crash cymbals, slow drum beat, a steady bassline (that for some reason reminds me of No Doubt's 'Hella Good') then the anticipated distorted guitar and speed increase - tried and tested, why change it? - then some truly enigmatic lyrics delivered in Havok's inimitable vocal style (almost bordering on shouting but only displeasing to those who consider his voice a bit nasal).
The punk sound isn't as obvious in this track, apart from the drumming and guitarwork in the verse and chorus (although in parts of the chorus it deliberately slows before picking up speed again, as if not to deflect from the lyrics), and has a less frenzied bridge with a rolling beat with the others chiming in with the occasional choir-like 'whoaaaaa'. As for the ending... well it's more of a gentle release than a climax, but it's still good.
"Drink the madness, smoke so coy
smile injection, serum of a will destroyed
serum of a will, serum of a will destroyed
The seasons change, change without me
I remain in shadows growing wings"
04. EVER AND A DAY (03:06) - summary: Bah! A slower love song with a rock edge
Steady distorted guitar, a much slower drumbeat and bass, then all but a finger-picked guitar hushes to accompany some strong but understated vocals lamenting over a love that was lost - or never even gained. When he's not being loud and shout-y, Havok's vocals have an almost haunted sound to them.
The other instruments are soon reintroduced though, so we're back to his passionate (loud) style while the drums maintain their standard '1,2,3,4' on the cymbals with the odd drum or snare hit thrown in. Don't get me wrong, there are perfect morbid sentiments here - "will you be my beloved / will you be my destruction?" so it's probably one to listen to if you want to wallow in single-ness, or treat as 'your song' if you're happily unsingle and like this kinda thing.
"I'd retrace the steps that lead me here
but nothing lives behind me
So I lie in this field bathed in the light that loves me
with nothing left to lose"
05. SACRIFICE THEORY (01:58) - summary: Feels like a filler track, but great lyrics
From the start, the drums are a-thumping, the bass is thundering, and the guitar is razor sharp, racing ahead in it's punk-fuelled glory and leaving the mellower track far behind. Cue the group chanting 'whoaaaa go!' and Davey regaling the audience (you, the neighbours, etc.) in near-shouty mode, with the band (and the audience) chiming in with more well placed 'whoaaaa's / 'go's throughout. It slows slightly for some nice devoted sentiments, but of course ups the tempo again for a lovely group-shouty ending.
Now... some folk apparently think this is about vampirism, some about oral sex (or perhaps both together? Kinky...) but it makes more sense to the rest of us grown-ups to think it's probably about being onstage and 'giving your all' for live performances (of a musical nature, you perverts!). Either way, probably one of the best tracks to perhaps describe 'gothic punk'.
"One to consume, one to renew
I offer grace, I offer blood
I offer everything 'til my heart is crystal clear"
06. OF GREETINGS AND GOODBYES (03:04) - summary: Doesn't stand out, but good track none the less
Drums, crashy cymbals and distorted guitar chords silence after a few moments so we hear the bare sounds of some catchy bass playing and those 'loud-with-feeling' vocals for the first part of the verse. Of course it doesn't stay this quiet for long, drums and guitar make a reappearance to flesh it out a bit in a track that most agree describes the world and your life as a performance, though it may be safe to assume this could also mean putting on an act in front of others, and hiding the truth (a relationship is one popular suggestion).
Not as fast and frantic and doesn't exactly stand out, but still has a great upbeat feel despite the (assumed) serious nature of the track.
"Enter all the monsters
let us twist another fairy tale
Go kill the lights, we'll glow 'til morning comes
I'll say goodnight, and bow to everyone"
07. SMILE (01:31) - summary: Fast, angry anthem for the misanthrope in you
Guitar strings squeal like a cat's tail being trod on, drums roll and cymbals crash like there's no tomorrow and the vocals take on a more aggressive tone as Havok delivers lyrics detailing the feelings of someone who despises everything he sees in the world. Not warm and fuzzy at all and ironically titled - it's so fast and furious in places that I can't even mime the guitar chord changes, never mind play along. And the drums? Forget about it, I'd need arms made of rubber or a whole load of amphetamines. And co-ordination, of course.
"Look upon your bleak creation
but is it truly me that's to be the human blasphemy?
I'll set the world on fire and in the burning light
I'll write my first love song, and I will feel warmth"
08. A STORY AT THREE (03:53) - summary: Am I fast or slow... fast or slow...
A slow, creepy and atmospheric guitar... an almost sluggish drumbeat... you've got to wonder if they've just split a bottle of Valium and are nodding off to sleep. This pretence is maintained for a good 40-odd seconds then we hear the reassuring buzzing guitar and loud-as-fook drums launch into the proper 'punk' tempo and the lyrics are delivered so quickly you've no choice but to check the album inlay to find out what's being sung / yelled (although when you do, you're usually left scratching your head).
It gets a bit slower and sparse in parts - almost melancholic in it's tone and through the vocals - although quickly reverts back to the original pace... it's almost schizophrenic, really. Again, not really a standout track, but can't be dismissed as a filler.
"A story at three with the shrillest of cries
my mind fights with the sparkles at the corner of my eyes
So what's sleep? Sleep. Sleep.
I'm tired, so tired, so tired
but it seems that there's someone here with me"
09. THE DAYS OF THE PHOENIX (3:27) - summary: Best known track, and rightly so
A blinding guitar solo and drumbeat kickstart this track, which admittedly is probably my favourite as it takes on a reminiscent and upbeat feel that will have you nodding along, jiggling your foot, or up dancing and not caring who sees. The bass and drums keep going as the guitar refrains for the verse, but doesn't lose it's depth as the vocals come across a lot stronger (and delivered a bit slower than in the other tracks!).
'A hive of activity' is how you could describe this track, everybody is busy doing something and it all gels together perfectly. As I've mentioned, the track is fairly upbeat, what with the happy memories and yes, it's got that slower part before the end, but that too avoids being depressing or 'ballad-y'. And a couple of the lyrics are a bit mental, so what with the dancing and the loud singing, your neighbours might think you need a nice white jumper that ties at the back. The track is truly incomparible to any other, and if the guitar hooks don't get stuck in your head then the chorus definitely will.
"The words were as mystical as purring animals
the circle of rage, the ghost on the stage appears
Time was so tangible, I'll never let it go
ghost stories handed down, reached secret tunnels below
No one could see me"
10. CATCH A HOT ONE (2:54) - summary: Feel my f***ing wrath! Or perhaps not.
So we go from a happy memories song to a scathing 'should perhaps be sectioned' song. I LOVE a good angry song as well as the next social misfit, and this track starts off very well - the ominous-sounding guitar chords and bass notes, the anticipation of the rolling drums that launch into the verse, cymbals crashing and guitar buzzing, Davey being shout-y and almost growling and sounding quite ticked off. The chorus even seemed promising, until got a bit poetic about insects and ended with an anti-climatic 'have you ever turned to dust?'.
In a chorus I want rage! I want fury! It doesn't even come across as dignified, just a bit strange. How are you supposed to bellow this at someone when you've got such a pishy chorus? Pfft.
"Open your veins so we can make a pool and bathe
and see if anyone complains of the stain
Let's strip you down so we can see your old scars
now you're gonna feel it, now you're gonna feel it"
11. WESTER (03:02) - summary: So-so with the odd good lyric, almost a filler
A rousing start. Guitars, bass, drums - it's all go here! It becomes clear pretty quickly that this is another track that probably could best show what 'goth-punk' sounds like. Make sure the instruments maintain the 'punk pace', throw in some minor or flat chords for that 'spooky' sound, and make sure the lyrics are suitably dark with a memorable short chorus that the audience can join in with.
Got that? Marvellous. Now slow the bridge down slightly, but do it in a way so that it's one of those 'slow stompers' rather than a 'ballad-y sway'. Fantastic. The track is almost a filler, and to the first time listener it probably wouldn't stand out very much. Which is a pity really since it's practically another dark punk love song. Oh well.
"Embraced my dead leaves as the rain leaves
trails of black down my face
As I creep through the twilight to that hidden place
beyond the lonely, I'll meet you"
12. 6 TO 8 (04:21) - summary: Slow... hopeful... a 'winding down' track strangely not the finale
A slightly subdued guitar and slow resonating vocals are all we hear, apart from the occasional bass note or cymbal hit. I think there's even some angelic wee soul doing backing vocals, but he's soon forgotten as the track's tempo increases slightly and a new strength is found within the vocals and we get a bit more noise from the other instruments.
It's a good track and there certainly seems to be a lot of feeling rather than blasting through it as quickly as they can. It's the kind of track I can picture a band performing at Strawberry Fields (wait, that's not there anymore) or some other wee showcasing venue - but the fuller chorus saves it from being branded amateur. It doesn't bring you down and doesn't really pick you up but leaves you with... an afterglow, could be the word.
"Six figures enter, they've come to destroy the world
they've called together this storm almost every night
I awake in another place
a familiar face with a stranger's face speaks
more unheard words"
13. THE DESPAIR FACTOR (03:54) - summary: Crowd-pleasing track starts off moshpit, ends as slow dance. Sort of.
Straight off the bat, the beat is going hell for leather and sounds a bit mad and techno for a few seconds before normality is returned. Dirty distorted guitars and energetic drumming dominate (giving the crowd a few moments of moshpit madness) and don't let up throughout the very fan-friendly verses and chorus that are delivered with the now expected sing-y / shout-y style, but at the pace where the words aren't running together (coz that's just hard to sing along with).
It even pays homage to Beetlejuice with the beloved line 'My whole life is a dark room. One... big... dark... room' (which some fans didn't know and were gushing about how amazing a lyric it was. HA! Peasants). The track soon loses speed, although none of the emotion or meaning although still manages to end on a high thanks to the backing vocals that allow us to join in. Even the guitar notes at the end is eerie but oddly comforting as it seems to emulate a nursery rhyme-type tune.
"As a sigh escaped my lips
I feel the light caress of fingertips that
steal away the breath and leave me on my own
Waiting by the stairs
waiting I despair"
14. MORNINGSTAR (11:27) - summary: Almost a ballad, but more baws than Bon Jovi
Calm down, it's not an epic! The song actually ends about the 3 minute 16 seconds mark, there's a hidden track though!
For almost two and a half minutes it's quite bare but effective, with just some gentle guitar picking, a little viola playing, and Davey's understated voice. He doesn't need any vocal trickery like Christina Aguilera to have an effect on the listener with a track like this. After this, the drums and bass come crashing in, the sweet serenade turns to a heartfelt shout for the finale. Very simple track, but quite beautiful in it's own right.
"I saw a star beneath the stairs
glowing bright before descent
And in the morning there is nothing left
but what's inside of me
And I don't want to die tonight, will you believe in me?
And I don't want to fall into the light"
*HIDDEN TRACK!* - BATTLED (01:03) - summary: short hidden track returning to their hardcore roots
Beginning at the 10 minute 24 seconds mark, we've got a rousing bass and guitar intro to this 'punk-as-fook' track that has all the right ingredients - fast distorted guitars, constant drums and bass, and short, sharp, delivered lyrics in a 'don't mess with me' shout-y tone. The backing vocalists (shouters) help amp it up too, it's ultimately a very short track, but a nice wee surprise (it took bright spark here about 3 months to realise it was there, despite the word 'BATTLED' on the inside of the CD case and the long track length). You even hear the drumsticks being dropped on the floor at the end... wee touches like that are cool.
"I can't think and I can't speak
my mind is not my own
Feeling like my will is weak
can I find the strength to go on?"
+ CONCLUSION +
Overall, I think this is a fantastic album, despite the one or two tracks that I'm not overly keen on. The fact that the lyrics can be quite morbid and dark at times appeals to me, but the punk stylings of the music prevents the tracks being depressing or making me feel worse than I might already do! This is I feel is probably AFI's biggest appeal to me, it's got the fast paced feel but a depth and meaning to the lyrics. I find ballads to be quite vacuous and bland, but the slower tracks on here come across as more original and not the same old hackneyed sentiments.
To help with the backup vocals they've even got Tiger Army's Nick 13, Rancid's Lars Frederiksen and The Offspring's backup guitar / keyboard / vocal guy who occasionally runs around the stage Chris "X-13" Higgins. That's cooler than when I found out that the Hellacopters did guest backing vocals on a Donnas album!
In my opinion it is definitely the best album AFI have done since changing their hardcore direction, and is certainly an album I would recommend to anyone interested in darker lyrics, a different styling of punk, or who's wanting to branch out from the usual genre they're stuck listening to.
Amazon.co.uk - from £2.99 used and new
Play.com - £10.99
Hmv.co.uk - £9.99
Virginmegastores.co.uk - £12.00
Official Site - www.afireinside.net
Official Myspace - www.myspace.com/afi
Official Fan Club - www.despairfaction.com
WARNING: A long review probably follows this. If you're not aware that I seem naturally disposed to write reviews of essay proportions and you have a short attention span (or perhaps you just dislike ramblings), you'll be glad I've mentioned it. It's okay, you can buy me a drink sometime.
+ WHY THIS BOOK, THEN? +
Mum saw it in Asda, and knew instinctively that she just HAD to get this book and that I would enjoy it as much as she would. So strong was this feeling, that she didn't even want to wait for the book to come out in paperback when it'd be a wee bitty cheaper - this itself shows the sense of urgency in procuring said item in question! I'm not even sure how much she got it for... hmm. I'd ask her but my phone is over *there* and I'm sure you don't want me bothering her. Cheers.
Anyhow... Mum had owned the book for a wee while though before I spied it and she recalled that part of the reason she had bought it was because she somehow KNEW I'd get as much out of it as she would.
The basis of the book is fairly simple in theory, but in practice is a little more complicated as we discover - Mia takes on a student to 'teach' her how to be psychic like her. So was I interested? You bet your ass I was.
+ WHO'S THIS MIA BIRD? +
Mia Dolan, some of you may recognise, as the resident psychic on the ITV2 programme 'Haunted Homes'. My Mum had also gone on to explain that Mia Dolan previously released a well-received autobiography, 'The Gift', detailing her life (awful childhood experience, abusive marriage, and loss of her brother and son included) up until and after the time she realised she had a psychic ability.
Although perhaps not as well known here in Scotland as our lovely 'Psychic Barber' Gordon Smith (a barber who just happens to be psychic, the newspapers spent a lot of time making up that moniker...), my initial thoughts were fairly positive. Well, when I say 'fairly positive' I mean 'Nice one! A book by someone who doesn't ham up a performance on television at every opportunity with his invisible sidekick Sam...' *cough*Acorah*cough*. What? *looks innocent*
While Mia's picture and name are displayed very prominently across the cover of the book, you do catch at the bottom in smaller type 'with Rosalyn Chissick'. Now, I doubt I'd know Rosalyn Chissick if I fell over her. But as well as being the student in this wee adventure, she's apparently also written a couple of novels and has contributed to a Marian Keyes collaboration with other authors (don't worry, even I know who Marian Keyes is! I didn't live with a chick-lit lover for nothing... *waves to Paula*).
+ CHRIST, NOT ANOTHER GHOSTBUSTER... +
Ehh, I think you're confusing her vodka and tonic and fags for a Proton Pack... Yes! Good news folks, the blonde bombshell Mia drinks and smokes and eats junk food just like us!
The book begins with Mia waiting in another hotel room to be interviewed by another journalist in the year after her book 'The Gift' has been published, feeling rather anxious and apprehensive but with her feet firmly on the ground. Rosalyn (henceforth referred to as Roz) meanwhile is sitting in her car outside, reflecting how it was her magazine editor's idea to interview Mia, and is determined to discover whether Mia's reputation is founded, and if she is 'the real deal'.
As Mia is speaking to Roz about herself, her first psychic experience at 22, and her views on life and how she believes everybody has the same ability as she does, but just don't have the 'tools' or knowledge on how to use it or develop it. Quite unexpectedly (for them both!), Roz asks Mia to teach her to be psychic and since Mia feels that Roz has a genuine interest and appears quite open minded, she agrees.
And so the adventure begins! Well, it will... just as soon as both women are able to clear a space in their diaries to dedicate time to the training.
+ "SIX MONTHS FROM SCEPTIC TO PSYCHIC" +
It took a year, but both Mia and Roz were able set aside 6 months so Roz could be introduced to 'Mia's World', as it were, and what follows is a pretty insightful read.
The way the book is written is quite unusual - or I'm just not used to having two separate and obvious inputs. The narration is from both Mia and Roz's point of view, and each block of text begins with one of their names, depending on who is 'speaking'. Simple, but effective - and it's wonderful to find out what each person's first impressions are of the other, along with each person's take on a shared experience. If something happens that Mia is completely used to, then Roz is perhaps a bit shaken or amazed by it. However, the great thing is that Mia usually admits that when these things first happened to her, she reacted in pretty much the same way or somewhat naively as a young 'un until she knew better or had learned more about the best way to handle such experiences or situations.
Because of this, I feel this makes Mia a much more likeable figure and much more human - not some untouchable, flawless demi-god on a pedestal. She herself keeps saying she's not special, she's just like everyone else and "swears, drinks, and eats junk food" which I feel is quite refreshing and doesn't sound at all hackneyed (as much as the cynical bitch in me would like it to be lol).
+ ANY GHOSTS, GOBLINS, OR GHOULIES? +
Back up, this isn't Poltergeist! There's no wee mysterious woman declaring 'this house is clean'! No, this is meant to be a spirtual journey (apologies for sounding cheesy!) and to understand more about the human need and reasons why so many people - even the hardheaded types - seek out help from those with answers no one else seems to have, those with a gift like Mia's. This rings true since all those psychic hotlines continue to rake in the cash (I recall seeing a Mia Dolan psychic hotline advertised once though, that put her down a wee bit in my estimations though).
That itself sounds a little thin for the purpose of a book, doesn't it? Have no fear! Yes, the first thing Mia tries to show Roz is how a psychic gift can help people in need, and I have to say that it's quite touching to read about how Mia found it difficult to cope with the loss of her brother and son, but helping the bereaved also enabled her to help herself and pass on the message that when loved ones pass on, we will see them again. Reassuring? Absolutely. Easing dear Roz (and our inexperienced readers) into things gently? Of course.
We're pretty quickly learning about auras - a sort of life force around all living things - and even taught how to see and feel them and understand what the different colours in an aura indicate (an aura can indicate a person's personality as well as any health issues); if soulmates exist; how hauntings differ from 'visitations' and whether Roz is able to 'feel' if a place has a spirit (ok so I fibbed, ghosts are involved a wee bit) but as Roz is making such great progress, she has a minor setback and gets utterly freaked out by something (spooked by a spook... hehehe).
So this stalls things momentarily, as Roz doesn't feel quite so safe and secure anymore and Mia has to convey to her that there is a lot more to 'her world' than predicting some future events or feeling someone's aura. My initial thought was 'big wimp', but then I recalled something Roz had said earlier in the book - "... I could not stop thinking about the film 'The Exorcist'. I hoped my lessons with Mia would not involve my head spinning around while I vomited."
This comment pissed me off a bit, I'll admit. It was a fairly ridiculous statement, or a poor attempt at humour. Or perhaps trying to reassure any severely misinformed and misguided souls who don't get out much. The fact she seemed to react so badly just seems to suggest that she is only human after all and is not used to the things that Mia is, but it's a bit of a pain when she accuses Mia of "messing with my head". Human nature to point fingers, I suppose.
Again, Mia admits that when her spirit guide Eric first began speaking to her, Mia thought she was going crazy and was very frightened - she even ended up seeing doctors and psychiatrists who all concluded that she was perfectly sane but apparently hearing a voice no one else could. Needless to say, Roz decides she will continue with the teaching after Mia tells her about a visualisation technique to 'shut down' her newly opened sixth sense in case she isn't comfortable with being so sensitive and 'aware' of things around her - everybody loves a get-out clause!
+ THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK +
I borrowed this from Mum almost 2 years ago, and I still have it in my possession. Don't ask me how many times I've read it, I couldn't possibly tell you. It is definitely re-readable, and is very encouraging as the entire time that Roz is learning about auras and techniques and whatnot, the reader is given an opportunity to learn and practice it too because of the way it is written. As we find out about Mia's spirit guide Eric, Roz is quite astonished to discover she has one too - in fact we all do. Someone who is with us our whole lives from the day we are born, almost like a guardian angel. Mia even encourages Roz to communicate with her spirit guide, although it doesn't appear to be something that she is totally comfortable with since we don't hear much more about him and she doesn't divulge any conversations she may have had with him.
As I've said already, the way the book is written is very easy to follow and easy to read - the only thing that niggled me a little was the fact that I could not assume that the conversations were faithfully down in print as they had actually been spoken (if they had been at all). With Will Storr you knew that he had a dictaphone and intended to write a piece on his experiences, so if this book had been planned then surely Roz and Mia would have done the same? Or kept diaries to accurately represent their thoughts and feelings when things were happening? Or perhaps these writings are the gists of the conversations and their reactions... who knows (mind you, how can you dictaphone a spirit guide?!).
Whenever I read this book, I always feel content with things - like it's a spiritual pick-me-up (aside from my normal liquid spiritual ones). It doesn't gloss over or ignore the bad things that happen, but is reassuring as you're told that things happen for a reason and there are lessons in life that have to be learned, and you will always be much more stronger for it. Again, the cynical bitch in me wants to say something but can't - Mia just seems so damn nice and sincere, and more importantly - someone I could have a drink with (or four).
Definitely recommended, no matter what category you may fall under...
- For newcomers to the world of psychic abilities, this book is a great starter and covers a few topics in a very easy to understand way - heck, Roz is a bit clueless about it all too, so you're not alone!
- If you're already quite knowledgeable about it all already, there will be some techniques and things to hold your interest and try out if you're so inclined.
- If you're a dab hand then obviously you know pretty much all there is to, but it never hurts to have another's perspective on things.
+ AVAILABILITY, ETC. +
Amazon.co.uk - from £2 new and used for hardback, from £1.80 new and used for paperback
Also available for purchase from official site:
ISBN (hardback): 0007182473
ISBN (paperback): 0007208928
© bandcamp 2007-onwards, plagiarists will be subject to haunting and spiritual warfare
+ WHY DID I BUY? +
'Twas a Friday and I needed credit in my phone. Off I popped to the local Co-op (ooh that kinda rhymed!), but hmm... 'twas also the Boyfriend's birthday although we've both been a little cash-strapped this week so we were holding off until a week or two before buying each other presents (plus it wasn't as if we hadn't had a wee night out - we were at a gig on the Sunday. The Living End. Feckin' awesome!) but I still wanted to get my beloved a wee something.
At first I considered making him cookies, then I realised that buying the stuff I didn't already have - the greaseproof paper, the eggs, the sugar... was going to be a bit pricey. Making a cake would be even pricier, so... I spied the cakes section beside the bread! Now our local Co-op is open 24 hours and is good at times but usually doesn't stock everything we need, so I wasn't expecting too much in terms of choice. I quickly spotted this baby, nestled next to a carrot and orange cake from the same 'Truly Iresistible' range, but figured since the Boyfriend was a bit of a chocolate fiend (but doesn't like chocolate milkshakes... I know, he's a freak) that he'd appreciate this more (he didn't. He sulked a bit when I told him about the carrot cake. Ungrateful wee shite).
+ MMM... CHOCOLATE... +
Now the wee pictures on the box looks very appealing, and it's got a description on each side around the box so there's no doubt at all what you're buying. Having a little clear plastic window on top though was what helped me decide that yes... that cake inside looks utterly beautiful and shall be the perfect treat for whats-his-name for turning 21. Wait... I'm supposed to tell you he's twenty-one-teen... he's going to be a teenager forever apparently. I don't see how, he didn't really pull off 'twenty-teen'. You think he'd learn from me, I'm 21 and 12 months :P
Right back to the cake! You wouldn't think that lager would go with chocolate cake, but somehow I pulled it off. Now I'm led to believe that the Co-op's Truly Iresistible range is a bit like the Extra Special, Be Good To Yourself, etc. ranges at various other supermarkets, and the other items I spotted (especially the carrot cake) looked very inviting and luxurious. Though when I took it out the box it was a titch... small. About 7.5 keyboard keys in diameter (I can't find the tape measure, and you all have keyboards so you can all visualise it), although it did smell wonderfully sinful so I quickly forgave it.
Now the box gave the nutritional information per 1/6 of the cake, which to me says they expect you to get 6 portions out of this cake. Nae chance, I quartered it for us and the portions looked a bit stingy so cutting it into sixths will just make you look like a right miser. Granted, for £1.79 what did I really expect? Plus it was only for the 2 of us anyways but heed my warning if you're expecting it to satisfy a family - it won't! Not unless you've got ice cream along with it or something.
The cake was easy enough to slice, and the lovely wee chocolate curls were of good quality and was a nice touch. The taste test was a teensy bit of a let down though, the Boyfriend commented that the chocolate sponge was a little bit dry (spare my feelings? Pah!) and it was 'alright'. Therefore not the best cake he's had, but not so awful that he didn't refuse a second piece.
Personally, I thought that the icing (or ganache buttercream - la de da!) was quite lovely as I can be partial to buttercream and that the Boyfriend's sentiments on the dryness was quite accurate but nowhere near as bad as previous cakes I've had with no moistness in them at all.
+ PACKAGING INFORMATION, ETC. +
One thing I like about the Co-op is the fact they often include braille on ingredients lists (I first noticed this on their wine bottles) and it is the same on this box. Again we've got the daily guidlines for adult calorie intake, nutritional information and also 'high', 'medium' or 'low' notes beside some of the values to give an indication of what exactly these figures mean (go figure it says 'high' beside fat and sugar!). Good news for veggies, this is suitable for vegetarians - but I don't believe that any of the ingredients are Fair Trade or organic (downside) and it just says that the cocoa is from "Various Countries", no specifics. And allergy sufferers, pay attention!:
Contains egg, gluten, milk, soya and wheat. May contain traces of nuts.
You've got the normal contact info for the company as well, storage advice (just says store in an airtight container once opened) as well as information about the packaging and the website to find your nearest recycling centre.
+ THE CONCLUSION +
The cake was purchased 24th August but the best before is 6th September, so not exactly a long shelf life but in my eyes that just means the cake isn't stuffed with preservatives (my logic says that's good). I don't really understand though why the cake had 'chocolate flavoured drizzle' on top - why not actual chocolate drizzle?
I've already commented on the size of the cake and the Co-op's idea of portions (ha! I learned at a young age that anything that says will serve 2-3 people will generally serve only me). The cake itself IS nice, don't get me wrong but do you see me rushing out to buy another? I think the sponge could have been a little more moist and I don't think it would have killed the company to have made the cake a bit bigger so that it would have lasted us longer. I'm a little apprehensive now about trying the carrot and orange cake as I'm pretty sure that it's the same size and it might be a bit dry as well. We'll see how we feel for our next wee anniversary (we're still at that fairly sad stage where we're still counting months...).
So I'll be a bit generous ande give it 3 out of 5. Stars deducted for size and the cheek about portions and not being very moist. But it was a reasonable price for something that kept the two of us happy, plus I still think it's very thoughtful that the company do seem to try and include braille when they can on the packaging. As for my gripe about it not being Fair Trade or whatever, the supermarket are still considered to be miles ahead of the others in terms of ethical trading and... stuff.
© bandcamp 2007-onwards, thieving gits - I'm behind you...