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Castigating Monster’s Ball was undoubtedly a pleasant experience, giving me the chance to air grievances I’ve buried for nearly 12 months, but it had the unfortunate effect of reminding me just how mindblowingly bad the movie had been, and that I’d paid the best part of a fiver to see it. Depressed by this reminder, I decided I needed cheering up, and shoved one of my favourite films of all time into the video. Needless to say, it did the job perfectly. For those of you who’ve never heard of the eponymous Wood, this is a biopic of a director whose vision was as great as that of Spielberg, but whose talent was closer to that of a below-average high school student. The film concentrates on his early career, including films such as ‘Glen or Glenda’ and ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space.’ However, while it’s a faithful representation of Ed’s life at this point, the film is much more than this – essentially, it’s a buddy movie about the friendship between Ed and his most famous star, Bela Lugosi. When Ed meets the original screen Dracula early in the film, Lugosi is trying out coffins, a drug addict who is resigned to dying soon. Wood, to whom Lugosi is a hero, fuels him to attempt a comeback, giving Ed a star he thinks is bankable enough to propel him into the major league. Of course, as most people reading this will know, essentially Wood was a failure. He never achieved box office success, although he has become something of a cult figure in recent years, especially since ‘Plan 9…’ was voted the worst ever movie in a 90’s poll. Likewise, Lugosi’s morphine addiction stopped him from ever hitting the heights he’d reached in 1931 with the seminal vampire film. But this is a heroic failure. Towards the end of the film, Ed meets another hero of his, Orson Welles. Stupefied by the presence of his idol, Ed nevertheless goes across to introduce him
self, telling Welles that like him, he directs, and acts – does everything. Does Welles believe him? The viewer is left unsure as to whether he takes the younger man seriously, or is just humouring him. But the legendary filmmaker appears, at least, to agree, and talks to Ed as an equal, and for this moment, at least, no-one can doubt that Ed is indeed as successful as he has always dreamed of being. As for Lugosi, he achieves brief moments of happiness, probably more in the short time he knew Wood than in the years between Dracula and meeting him. In some ways, the writers and director of Ed Wood had it easy – Wood’s bizarre life, basing films around old stock footage, and going to war in bra and panties, practically begged for a film to be made of it. Full credit, though, must go to Burton. Many directors in the mid-90’s would no doubt have either ignored Wood’s being a transvestite completely, or treated it as a disgusting fetish. In Burton’s hand, it’s merely a foible of Ed’s character, and is treated with sympathy, but never allowed to overshadow his raison d’etre, to make movies. In a similar vein, the decision to stop with Plan 9, and not to venture into Wood’s later soft-porn career, help to imbue him with a warmth which perhaps he didn’t completely have in real life, but which makes him a more sympathetic character. If the story and script is good, though, it’s the performances from the stellar cast which make this movie truly great. The supporting cast, including Sex and the City’s Sarah Jessica Parker years before she became famous, Patricia Arquette, and wrestler George ‘The Animal’ Steele, ranges from good to very good, but three performances truly stand out. The first is Bill Murray, whose portrayal of Bunny Breckinridge, one of Wood’s entourage, who wants to have a sex change operation, is miles away from his jaded and cynical ch
aracters in Groundhog Day and Scrooged, and far better. Murray brings true pathos to the predicament of his character, standing out as one of the most unhappy of a group of misfits. Depp’s Wood, though, is even better, rivalling his role in Don Juan De Marco as the performance of his career. The hopeless optimistic who has such an uplifting effect on his motley crew of cast offs comes to life in the actor’s skilful hands, especially in his scenes at Lugosi’s hospital bedside, and the aforementioned talk with Welles. The star, for me, though is not Depp, great though his performance is, but rather Landau, who imbues the grumpy, cynical, and frightened Lugosi with anger, fear, self-pity, and a real sense of tragedy. When he roars at a member of the film crew who dares reminisce about his arch rival, Boris Karloff, you can feel his disgust, and when he gives his wonderful speech on the sidewalk towards the end of the movie, you see a glimpse of the talent of the real Lugosi in his prime, evoked one last time. All in all, I can’t recommend this movie enough. Burton, along with a wonderful cast and crew has created a warm-hearted, funny, and moving tribute to a loveable loser who deserves to be known as a true hero of cinema, if only for inspiring people who thought "If HE can do it, so can I!"
Critically acclaimed when it opened in the US, and praised even more when it came out over here, this was a film I was desperate to see, especially since it featured one of my current favourite actors, Heath Ledger. That was nearly 12 months ago… the reason I’m writing this review so much later is that it’s only now I can reflect on the film without thinking something along the lines of ‘AAAAAAAARGH!!! Gimme my money back you gold-grabbing cinema mercenaries…” I beg your pardon, I got carried away there. However, as you’ve probably guessed from the above comment, the film didn’t exactly live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. In fact, far from being a modern day classic, it comes across as little more than a cynical piece filmed solely because a movie about racism starring a black actress would give the Academy the chance to hand out the first Best Actress Oscar to a coloured person. Well, at least it worked in one respect. A basic resume of the plot is that Billy Bob Thornton plays racist prison guard Hank Grotowski, abusive father to Ledger’s fellow prison guard, who lives with him, as does Hank’s father, another racist. At the start of the film, he is about to kill off the condemned Lawrence Musgrove, a black man. Musgrove’s wife, meanwhile, has long since lost any feelings for her husband, and is struggling to bring up their son, who is grotesquely obese with a compulsive eating disorder. Tragedy strikes both families, leading to Thornton and Berry getting it on in one of the most horrific scenes of cinema history. While my personal feelings after seeing the film were that the only actors to give even watchable performances were Ledger, and bizarrely, Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Coombes (far better than anyone expected as Lawrence), looking back it is perhaps unfair to criticise the rest too much, as the characterisation is so clumsy tha
t even Bogart or Olivier would have trouble making Thornton’s character come to life. However, I have to say that Thornton failed completely to make me take any interest in Hank’s situation, and Berry left me equally indifferent to her character, Letitia. As well as the awful characterisation, we have to cope with clunky symbolism (Hank uses a WHITE spoon to stir BLACK coffee, which is obviously to show his belief in the inherent superiority of white people, and not just because he likes black coffee and the café he drinks at only has white spoons.) As for the much heralded sex scene, which seems to have received lots of praise on the basis that Billy Bob’s old and not classically good looking but they still show him getting some on screen, it’s risible. Thornton’s character seems to forget that he’s a racist as soon as Berry gets her kit off, and they then roll around a lot in a manner which I can’t really describe too well, as I’ve spent the best part of a year trying to block the scene from my memory. Finally, we have the ending. I won’t give it away, since some of you may ignore my advice and want to watch this tired claptrap anyway. However, it’s anti-climatic, ridiculous, and generally a complete failure to provide a coherent end to the movie. On the plus side, it’s there. While Y Tu Mama Tambien, and The Count of Monte Cristo, both provoked huge cheers when I saw them in the cinema, this is the only film I’ve ever seen where the audience greeted the credits with a collective sigh of relief. Like House on Haunted Hill, the ending seems to come from nowhere, but while in that film, it seemed as if the budget was too high and they’d had to wrap things up quickly, here it’s as if they’ve realised 90% of the viewers will be asleep, and they might as well stop trying. I can’t remember the exact length (it FEELS like 2 weeks, but I
suppose 2 hours is probably more likely), but to paraphrase a joke, you know it’s a bad film when you’re constantly checking your watch – and you know it’s a really bad film when you’re constantly checking that your watch hasn’t stopped.
Well, it’s been a long, LONG time since I wrote on Dooyoo, but now and then, a CD and/or video comes along which is so darn fantastic, I feel the need to tell as many people as possible about it. (At a guess, about 15. The 2 of my friends who actually listen to a word I say, and my usual 12-13 reads here.) To fully appreciate this wonderful soundtrack, it’s best to first watch the equally amazing movie. However, even if you’ve never heard of the film ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’, it’s possible to enjoy this collection of 14 tracks simply for the brilliance of the – mostly lesser known – artists. Having said that, if you HAVE never seen the film, stop reading, go down to Blockbuster, and buy it or rent it. I’m serious here. You NEED to watch this movie. Anyway, tempting as it is to tell you in detail just how good Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles are – and they’re practically the Bogie and Bacall of teenage movies – I’m planning on reviewing the film soon, so I’ll leave this to talking about the CD, track by track. I WANT YOU TO WANT ME – Letters To Cleo The first of two songs by riot-grrlers letters to Cleo, this is somewhat confusingly the closing song of the film, there being played by the band on the roof of the school. It’s a lament for lost love, but a fantastically upbeat one, with some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard, and awesome music as well. F.N.T. – Semisonic I’ve never been a huge fan of the rock group Semisonic, but this is easily their best song, even ahead of the well-known Secret Smile, with the wonderful refrain ‘you’re lovely, and you’re perfect, and that somebody wants you.’ Brings back happy memories of Patrick and Kat’s paintball game, possibly the best scene without dialogue since Julia Roberts car ride, to the accompanimen
t of Roxanne’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ in ‘Pretty Woman.’ I KNOW – Save Ferris The female vocalist, Monique Powell, on this pop song is absolutely amazing, and I particularly like the intro, which starts off with a slow 10 second of soft music, before morphing into a fast, poppy song, with great backing on brass. The male vocals aren’t quite up to the standard set by Powell, but it’s still the best of the faster songs on the album. YOUR WINTER – Sister Hazel The first of three truly beautiful songs on the album, the Ken Black’s heartbreaking, half sung, half growled vocals ‘I won’t be your winter, I won’t be anyone’s excuse to cry’, and the wonderful lyrics of a man singing to the girl he’s just dumped perfectly complement each other. EVEN ANGELS FALL – Jessica Riddle This is the only song of Miss Riddle’s I’ve ever heard, but I’m desperate for the album, which reviews say is all very similar to this slow ballad. The song which plays in the movie as Bianca sits on the swing, unaware that her sister is watching her, perfectly describes the older Stratford’s protectiveness, with the great chorus ‘You will cry, and you will crawl, God knows even angels fall.’ NEW WORLD – Leroy One of the album’s heaviest songs, this is a weird but wonderful song with great lyrics. It’s strange, hard to describe, quite heavy, a little funky, and pretty unique. SATURDAY NIGHT – Ta-Gana As the only dance songs I’ve ever liked are a couple of the better known tracks by Gala, Sash, and the Tamperer, my opinion on this and the following tracks isn’t really that valuable. If you’re a dance fan, you may well like them. If not, this one, at least is listenable enough, I guess, but hardly likely
to convert anyone to that style of music. Nice backing vocals on this, though. ATOMIC DOG – George Clinton Ouch… dance beat plus spoken word = BAD. Thank God for the skip track button on my CD player. DAZZ – Brick Generally weird high pitched vocals plus occasional shout ‘Well alright’ = nearly as bad as ‘Atomic Dog’. Next please. THE WEAKNESS IN ME. – Joan Armatrading Ah… back to the ballads. The final great track on the album, this is a third heartbreakingly beautiful song similar to ‘Your Winter’ and ‘Even Angels Fall.’ It plays in the movie as Patrick follows Kat around, and perfectly captures the sadness of their mood there, with the plaintive words ‘Why do you come here, when you know I’ve got troubles enough?’ I’ve never heard any of Joan Armatrading’s other songs, but it’s hard to believe she’s ever bettered this. WAR – Cardigans The Cardigans are one of those bands who have the occasional great song – such as ‘Lovefool’ and ‘My Favourite Game’, with lots of forgettable stuff slipped in between. This isn’t up to the standards of the first two mentioned then, but it’s an improvement on much of their other work. On a weaker album, it would probably stand out, but the quality of much of the stuff here overshadows it. A disappointment, since they’re one of the best known bands on the CD. WINGS OF A DOVE – Madness Hardly worth reviewing, as I’m sure everyone will have heard this at one time or another in your life. If you haven’t, it’s another 3 minute gem by the ska favourites. As a big Madness fan myself, I love it. Others aren’t so keen, and it’s probably not going to convert you to the group or the style if you don’t alr
eady like one or both. CRUEL TO BE KIND – Letters to Cleo The song played in Club Skunk in the film, this is a cover version of Nick Lowe’s original. Not quite up to LTC’s first song on the soundtrack, it’s still a great rock track with real bite to it, and more fantastic vocals and heavy guitars. ONE MORE THING – Richard Gibbs The instrumental theme of the film. Nothing special, and completely unmemorable, but pleasant enough to listen to. So, overall, a fantastic CD, and well worth buying. Unfortunately, I can’t quite justify giving it 5/5 – both because the dance tracks seem week, and because they’ve missed out so much great music from the film – for the price, this could/should have been a double CD, and should certainly have featured the Barenaked Ladies ‘One Week’, Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation’, and Spiderbait’s breathtakingly wonderful ‘Calypso.’
Note: This review is confined to the original trilogy, ‘Dragonlance Chronicles’ by Tracy Weis and Margaret Hickman. I’m hoping to get a couple of the other trilogies added to the section, because there are at least five or six which certainly deserve in depth reviews. The three books which make up this trilogy, ‘Dragons of Autumn Twilight’, ‘Dragons of Winter Night’, and ‘Dragons of Spring Dawning’, are among the best works of fantasy ever written, in my opinion. Set in the land of Krynn, a fairly standard fantasy world (with elves, dwarves, gnomes, and, as the title suggests, dragons), the books tell of the War of the Lance, as nine companions try to defend their world against the reborn dragons, led by the Queen of Darkness, the evil goddess Takhisis. To do this, they need to study the legends of the Third Age of Krynn, in which the knight Huma defeated the Dragons, and obtain the magical Dragon Orbs and the Dragon Lance. So far, so standard, you might think. It’s true that it’s hardly the most original plot in the world… but the characters in the trilogy are fantastically well fleshed out. From Tanis Half Elven, the unlikely leader of the companions, born after his elven mother was raped by a human warrior, to Raistlin Majere, the gold skinned mage with the hourglass eyes whose loyalties are unknown, his brother Caramon, the strong man who fiercely guards his weaker sibling, their sister Kitiara, a former lover of Tanis who is now a commander in the Dragon Queen’s armies, to Sturm Brightblade, the noble member of the once revered, but now despised, Knights of Solamnia, everybody in the books feels real. The reader is constantly trying to work out who’s side certain characters are on, with very few of the people the companions meet – and certain of the companions themselves – being completely open about their motives, and the endings of the firs
t and second books will leave you rushing to find the sequels. Another thing which sets the books apart from your standard fantasy novel is the humour invoked by Weis and Hickman. From the kender Tasslehoff Burrfoot, typical member of a race reminiscent of a cross between Tolkien’s hobbits, but braver – and more adept at stealing, to Bupa, the gully dwarf who’s looked down on as one of the lowest of the dwarves by all except Raistlin, who finds in her one of the only creatures he ever pities, to Fizban, the blundering old magician who pops up in the most unexpected places, there’s a rich vein of humour which adds to, rather than distracts from, the main story. However, it shouldn’t be taken to mean that this is a laugh a minute series. There are moments of real tragedy here; at one point, when the companions split up, Raistlin exits saying ‘some of us are fated never to meet again’, and is proved right. At least one death scene is among some of the best written, saddest, prose I’ve ever read, due to the affinity you develop for each of the characters involved. And the love stories which are intertwined with the main plot, as Tanis tries to choose between Kitiara and his childhood sweetheart Laurana, while other characters love lives are equally confused, are as good as those you find at the centre of many romance novels. Highly recommended to all, especially fantasy fans.
As is normal for one of my top 10’s, usual stuff about this being only my favourite 10, not a definitive list, will probably change by this time tomorrow, blah blah blah. A couple of other notes… I limited it to groups who’ve released 3 or more albums, thus ruling out current greats such as King Adora and The Strokes. I’ve also included recommended albums; these aren’t (necessarily) my favourites, but are the albums I think will give you the best introduction to the artist. Okay… here goes… BUT FIRST! Yeah, the normal round up of people who nearly made it but didn’t. Del Amitri – Scottish rock group with one of the best vocalists of the 90’s, Justin Currie. Not quite as great as my top 10. Recommended album: Waking Hours. Best song: Move Away, Jimmy Blue. Beatles – You may have heard of them. Definitely one of the most influential groups of all time, just not quite as much to my liking as the 10 below. Recommended album: Abbey Road. Best song: Something. Queen – Another who you may have heard of. Mercury’s voice is fantastic, but while stuff like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’ are among the top songs of the last century, there’s slightly too many which I don’t really like for them to make it into the top 10. Recommended album: Greatest Hits Volume 1. Best song: Bohemian Rhapsody. Bob Dylan – The best songwriter of the 20th century, it’s just other people always sound better singing his stuff (apart from the Dunblane cover of Knocking On Heaven’s Door, at least). Recommended album: Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Tribute Concert. (Cheating a bit because he only sings on a couple of tracks, but it’s a fantastic introduction to his lyrics, with great performers such as George Harrison, Roger McGuinn, and Eric Clapton performing). Best song: It&
#8217;s All Over Now, Baby Blue. Various Irish solo artists – The ones who spring to mind being Sean Wilson, Daniel O’Donnell, and Jim McCann. All great, but not as great as these next ten. Recommended album: Laughter and Song From Ireland (A mixture of comedy and songs, both of which are worth listening to again and again.) Best song: Danny Boy, by Jim McCann. Top Ten time, then. 10. CROWDED HOUSE The Antipodean group’s soft rock style is musically soothing, with some wonderful lyrics. Vocalist Neil Finn is a fantastic frontman, although I’m not too keen on his later solo stuff. Recommended album: Farewell To The World. Not an official release, this is the recording of their last ever concert. With an atmosphere which can only be described as electric as over 120,000 people crowded into the Sydney Opera House, as they play almost every song from their ‘Recurring Dream’ best of (apart from ‘Weather With You’, strangely enough – it was played but isn’t on the CD), it’s a fantastic introduction to the House, with the final song, ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, being among the most emotionally packed of the last 10 years. Best songs: Better Be Home Soon, Private Universe, Don’t Dream It’s Over. 9. THE BYRDS While their most famous songs tended to be Dylan covers (such as the smash hit ‘Mr Tambourine Man’), they had their own incredibly talented songwriters, including Gene Clark and Gram Parsons. Melodic, perfectly bridging the gap between folk, country, and rock, they were one of the best groups of the 60’s. Recommended album: The Very Best of the Byrds. With all their best tracks, this is a must buy for any fans. And at 27 songs, it’s incredible value for money. Best songs: My Back Pages, Goin’ Back, Hickory Wind. 8. DUBL
INERS The best Irish group of all time, the Dubliners’ rough voices are a strange contrast to the sweetness of other well known Irish vocalists such as Daniel O’Donnell, sounding like the Pogues playing more traditional songs. Although they mainly played traditional Irish tunes, covers such as the Pogues’ ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ were also classics. Never afraid of controversy, some of the lyrics could be considered offensive by some. Recommended album: The Dubliners: The Masters. Incredible double CD with forty fantastic tracks, including ‘Lord Of The Dance’, ‘Dirty Old Town’, and the wonderful ‘Spancil Hill’ Best songs: ‘Spancil Hill’, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ (but did they ever record/release the uncut version?), ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’. 7. FRANK SINATRA Ol’ Blue Eyes, surely the greatest easy listening artist of all time, and with a syrupy sweet voice which makes my spine tingle every time I hear such classics as ‘New York, New York’. Blessed with some wonderful songwriters, he also had the ability to make well-known tunes such as ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and ‘Something’ his own. Recommended album: ‘My Way – The Best of Frank Sinatra’ – The double CD contains almost all the greats, including the title track, ‘New York, New York’, and ‘Mack The Knife’, as well as some fantastic cover versions. Best songs: ‘My Way’, ‘Something Stupid’, ‘High Hopes’, ‘Send In The Clowns’, ‘Strangers In The Night’… sorry, I got carried away there. 6. CHARLEY PRIDE The country and gospel artist who’s horribly underrated over here, Pride’s voice reaches deep into the roots of traditional music.
His gospel stuff isn’t my kind of thing, but is definitely the best example of it’s kind around, while the warmth of his voice makes such classics as ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ even more suited to him than the singers who originally did them. Recommended album: ‘The Masters’ – A lot of great Pride compilations out there, but this is really amazing, with some utterly beguiling tracks, including his wonderful version of ‘Crystal Chandeliers’ Best songs: ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, ‘Is Anybody Going To San Antonio’, ‘Miller’s Cave’ 5. JAMES I’m currently nigh-heartbroken by the news that Tim Booth is leaving the group after this tour, but console myself by playing all of their wonderful albums. While they’re most famous for their protest song ‘Sit Down’, any true fan will tell you it’s not even one of the 20 best songs they’ve recorded. If you get the chance to see the December tour live, TAKE IT – they’re one of the greatest live groups I’ve ever seen. Recommended album: ‘Millionaires’ – An even better introduction than their ‘Best Of’, this contains three of the 90’s greatest singles, ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’, ‘We’re Going To Miss You’, and ‘I Know What I’m Here For.’ Best songs: ‘Laid’, ‘Senorita’ ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’, ‘Say Something’, ‘Johnny Yen’… again, I couldn’t stop at 3. 4. BEAUTIFUL SOUTH Paul Heaton’s lyrical genius is undoubted, and for a long time they were my favourite ever group. The discovery of Prine and re-discovery of Nelson, coupled with the massively disappointing ‘Quench’ album, knocked them down in my list, but they bounced back with the great
8216;Painting It Red’. Definitely one of the greatest groups of the last 20 years when it comes to the incredible lyrics. Recommended album: ‘Miaow’ - The pop masterpiece of the 90’s. Unquestionably. 12 tracks, all fantastic. If you want more details, read my review of it… Best songs: ‘One Last Love Song’, ‘Worthless Lie’, ‘Lovin’ Arms’ 3. CARTER USM Indie dance, as a genre, sounds like it was terrible. From what little I remember, it was worse than it sounded. Apart from these boys. Jim-Bob and Fruitbat, with some of the most biting lyrics of the last few decades, as well as a huge contrast in styles, not just between albums or tracks, but actually WITHIN tracks, made some truly unforgettable music. A special mention has to go to the rant about slum landlords, ‘Sheriff Fatman’… and, of course, the confrontation with Philip Schofield where Fruitbat told him exactly WHERE he could put his gopher. Recommened album: ‘Starry Eyed and … Naked’ - I won’t print the full title. The B-sides and rarities collection, it’s better than most groups singles’ compilations. Features the wonderful punk version of ‘Stuff The Jubilee’, with the accompanying note, ‘We wanted to do a cover, but we couldn’t think of anyone else whose stuff we could play. So we covered ourselves.’ Best songs: ‘Stuff The Jubilee (1977)’, ‘G.I. Blues’, ‘Do-Re-Mi So Far So Good’ 2. JOHN PRINE Possibly the most talented – and certainly the most underrated - singer-songwriter of all time, described by Kris Kristofferson as being ‘So good we may have to break his fingers’, Prine, at his worst, is fantastic. At his best, his lyrics are comparable with Dylan, and his vocals are up there with Nelson. The peopl
e who appear as backing musicians on ‘Lost Dogs And Mixed Blessings’, and the female vocalists he duets with on ‘In Spite Of Ourselves’ show the regard with which he is held by contemporaries. Recommended album: ‘Great Days’ – An incredible 2 CD best of, featuring the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Unwed Fathers’, the classic anti-war song ‘Sam Stone’, and the brilliant cover of Prine’s ‘Souvenirs’ by his long time friend the late Steve Goodman, with Prine on backing vocals, as well as the duet with Bonnie Raitt ‘Angel From Montgomery’. Best songs: ‘Angel From Montgomery’, ‘Unwed Fathers’, ‘Sam Stone’, ‘Sabu Visits The Twin Cities Alone’, ‘Hello In There’… I keep getting sucked in like that, don’t I? 1. WILLIE NELSON The best voice in country music, my parents used to play Nelson songs when we were in the car on long journeys when I was a small child. Willie’s wonderfully soothing voice was always a joy to hear, but it was only a few years ago, when I tracked down songs like his incredible duet with Carlos Santana, ‘They All Went To Mexico’, when I realised just how fantastic it really was. Hard to praise him highly enough. With all of the songs I have him singing, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of them bettered by anyone else – his version of ‘Always On My Mind’ stands out above even Elvis’. And if his solo stuff wasn’t reason enough to bow down before his greatness, then check out his work as one quarter of the Highwaymen, alongside Cash, Kristofferson, and Jennings – surely the ultimate supergroup. Recommended album: ‘Always On My Mind – The Best Of Willie Nelson’ – The title track is reason enough to buy this, which can be found in the UK for about £7.
Throw in Steve Goodman’s ‘City Of New Orleans’, and the Highwaymen’s version of the song which gave them their name, and you have a classic. Best songs: ‘They All Went To Mexico’, ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’, ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’
In some ways even better than the seminal ‘Rum, Sodomy and the Lash’, this is another great album for Shane MacGowan’s group. Featuring the late lamented Kirsty MacColl on vocals for the hit ‘Fairytale of New York’, and some wonderful ballads such as ‘The Broad Majestic Shannon’, it also – of course – doesn’t neglect the harder rock tunes, with the opening trio of songs, especially, being a perfect fusion of fantastic lyrics, wonderful music, and MacGowan’s drunken, swaggering, utterly unique vocal style. TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW 1. If I Should Fall From Grace With God – Kicking into overdrive straight away, this is fast, furious, and utterly fantastic. Lyrics are nothing special but the screamalong chorus ‘Let me go, boys Let me go, boys Let me go down in the mud Where the rivers all run dry’ will fool you into thinking you’re at a knees-up in Ireland. 2. Turkish Song of the Damned – Reminiscent of the poem by Samuel Coleridge, ‘The Rime of The Ancient Mariner’, both because the tune for the verses fits almost exactly around the words of the poem, and also for the similarity of some of the imagery. (Compare MacGowan’s ‘The captain's corpse jumped up And threw his arms around my neck For all these years I've had him on my back This debt cannot be paid with all your jack’ with Coleridge’s ‘Ah! well a-day! what evil looks Had I from old and young! Instead of the cross, the Albatross About my neck was hung.’) Probably my second favourite song on the album, with a brilliant tune which sounds like a cross between Irish folk, Oriental, and rock music. 3. Bottle of Smoke – The ultimate song about gambling (admittedly, not that there’s much competition), this is a hila
rious celebration of a big win on the horses. I’ll hold off on some of the better lyrics because I know some kids read these reviews, but how can you not love something which ends with the verse below? ‘Priests and maidens Drunk as pagans They had the Bottle of Smoke Sins forgiven and celebrations They had the Bottle of Smoke’ 4. Fairytale of New York – A complete change from the opening 3 songs, this is almost certainly the Pogues’ best known tune, and probably their best. The juxtaposition of MacGowan’s whisky soaked growl and Kirsty MacColl’s beautifully melodic voice is wonderful – I think Shane put it best when he said “Beautiful song… wish I could remember writing it.” 5. Metropolis – Okay if you like instrumentals, but with MacGowan’s writing skills, why waste a track on an instrumental? 6. Thousands Are Sailing – Another slow song, and another really gorgeous one. Possibly one of the best songs about emigration ever written (even though I have a soft spot for the maudlin traditional ‘Noreen Bawn’, and the rather more cheerful ‘Flight of Earls’.) The chorus is a real choker. ‘Where e'er we go, we celebrate The land that makes us refugees From fear of Priests with empty plates From guilt and weeping effigies And we dance’ 7. Fiesta – Another nod to Coleridge, in the form of the lines ‘There is a minstrel, there you see, And he stoppeth one in three’ Which are clearly inspired by the poet’s ‘There is an ancient mariner, And he stoppeth one on three.’ Back to the more upbeat tunes here, with a frenetic foreign language last verse which is sheer heaven to listen to. And which causes amazement that Shane was sober enough to sing in Spanish, as w
ell as English. 8. Medley – A medley of three traditional folk tunes, one of which is instrumental. ‘The Recruiting Sergeant’ is funny, ‘Galway Races’ and ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’ don’t do much for me. Not as good as the original stuff here. 9. Streets of Sorrow/Birmingham Six - Two fantastic protest songs, the former by Terry Woods, the latter by MacGowan. The first has the better tune, but the second’s vitriolic lyrics are some of the album’s best. 10. Lullaby of London – I think the album goes downhill from here, sadly. The chorus on this is good, but the verses are nothing special. 11. Sit Down by the Fire – Again not too great, with MacGowan slurring the lyrics really badly in places. 12. The Broad Majestic Shannon – Okay, not COMPLETELY downhill. This is fantastic, with Shane’s voice sounding both kind and completely world-weary on the beautiful chorus. ‘Take my hand, and dry your tears babe Take my hand, forget your fears babe There's no pain, there's no more sorrow They're all gone, gone in the years babe’ 13. Worms – Complete throwaway. They should’ve ended the album on ‘…Shannon’.
Possibly the best ever fusion of folk and rock, the habitual drunkard Shane MacGowan’s lyrics and vocals are damn near perfect on this record, while the rest of the Pogues provide great backing. From the melancholy ‘Navigator’ and ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ to the raucous opener ‘Sick Bed of Cúchulaínn’, and equally hyperactive ‘Sally Maclennane’, this is for the most part sheer genius. TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW 1. ‘Sick Bed of Cúchulaínn’ – Musically, absolutely incredible, played so fast you swear the start of the tune is gonna overtake the end – or something like that. Lyrically contains some words which are definitely not politically correct, but is actually a wonderful celebration of racial equality – albeit with MacGowan’s trademark screaming, such as ‘Now you'll sing a song of liberty for blacks and paks and jocks.’ 2. Old Main Drag – One of the songs I like least on the album, although it has a peculiarly haunting melody, but it’s incredibly depressing – and as a Beautiful South fan, when I find music too depressing, it scares me. 3. Wild Cats of Kilkenny – Instrumental which I can take or leave. And which is, to be honest, pretty forgettable. So forgettable, I’ve more or less forgotten it. So I’ll stop trying to review it. 4. I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day – Beautiful traditional song which is really well performed by the Pogues here, with MacGowan changing the lyric ‘Now, I took out my gun, With my dog I did shoot.’ to the more memorable – if less appealing to the RSPCA - ‘Well I took out my dog and him I did shoot.’ 5. Pair of Brown Eyes – Any song which mentions Johnny Cash gets a thumbs up from me. Chorus is gorgeous, verses are less great – but still really
good. 6. Sally Maclennane – Probably my favourite song on the album, and certainly my favourite of the Pogues’ faster songs (although none of them touch the heartrending beauty of ‘Dirty Old Town’ and ‘Fairytale of New York’), this is an absolute riot. The wonderfully named ‘Sex Slaves From Outer Space’ played a cover in a local pub last year, which had about 150 people leaping up and dancing within 15 seconds or so. The song about life – and death – in a small town pub in Ireland can’t be effectively described – it has to be listened to to be properly appreciated - and the singalong chorus ‘Sad to say, I must be on my way…’is nothing short of fantastic. 7. A Pistol For Paddy Garcia – Much as I’d love to review it, I’m REALLY bad at remembering instrumentals. If it helps, I think it’s marginally superior to ‘Wild Cats of Kilkenny’. 8. Dirty Old Town – Totally gorgeous, another song which I’ve heard played live – and dedicated to North Wales’ very own Moss Side, Cefn Mawr – I actually slightly prefer the Dubliners’ version, with sweeter vocals than MacGowan’s. In either, though, the final verse ‘I'm going to make me a good sharp axe Shining steel tempered in the fire Will chop you down like an old dead tree’ Carries enough emotion to choke me up every time I hear it. 9. Jesse James – The tribute to the memory of famed Robin Hood-style outlaw Jesse James, and vitriolic bile aimed at his killer Robert Ford ‘who shot him in the back, While he hung a picture on the wall’ is changed lyrics from the traditional version, in order to substantially shorten it. I actually think it loses something, cutting out some great verses, but it’s still a wonderful song. 10. Navi
gator – ‘Navigator, Navigator rise up and be strong The morning is here and there's work to be done.’ Gorgeous. Maybe not quite up there with ‘Fairytale…’ and ‘Dirty Old Town’, but the eerily melodic story of the canal workers’ plight fills me with emotion. 11. Billy’s Bones – Another knees-up tune with a wonderful chorus ‘Hey Billy son where are you now Don't you know that we need you now With a ra-ta-ta and the old kow-tow Where are Billy's bones resting now’ The story of Billy’s death out in the Middle East has some fantastically funny lines ‘Billy saw a copper and he hit him in the knee And he took him down from six foot to five foot three Then he hit him fair and square in the do-re-mi That copper won't be having any family’ But is also sentimental at the end, with MacGowan’s pitying, lilted ‘And there's mothers crying all over this world For their poor dead darling boys and girls’ Before he launches into that incredible chorus once again. 12. Gentleman Soldier – The story of a soldier who makes a young, innocent girl pregnant before revealing he’s already married could’ve been maudlin, but at the speed it’s sung is instead wonderful. As MacGowan shrieks ‘Two wives are allowed in the army but one's too many for me’ You laugh along, callously ignoring the plight of the young girl. Or maybe that’s just me. Sorry. 13. And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda – Along with John Prine’s ‘Sam Stone’ and Siegfried Sassoon’s war poems, this is surely some of the best anti-war propoganda ever written. Savagely biting words, but with a soothing tune, and MacGowan sings the last two lines of AustraliaR
17;s unofficial national anthem to bring the album to a memorable close. ‘And their ghosts may be heard as you pass the Billabong Who'll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?’
This may not be quite the right category for this, but I’m justifying it by saying it’s a list of authors who’s books have all – except for one (or, at a push, two) classic(s) each – been completely unreadable/unfinishable. Beware, controversial op coming up… 10. JRR Tolkien – What, I hear you cry?!? The man’s a god! Didn’t you have Lord of the Rings in your ten best ever books? Well, yup, I sure did. And the Hobbit is an all time classic. But as for the other books… The Silmarillion is possibly the most unwieldy, horrible, hardest to read book in the entire English language. Those reviews I’ve read, written by people who’ve finished it – and obviously are harder working readers than I am – seem to agree that’s it’s worth ‘slogging through’ in order to bring the events of LotR into perspective. Sorry, but you shouldn’t HAVE to ‘slog through’ a book. Especially not one written by someone who could write the incredible prose of the aforementioned book. But this really is dreadful. As is the supposedly ‘quaint’ Farmer Giles of Ham, in which, as far as I can remember, Tolkien praises a farmer who sets out to slay a dragon and instead persuades it to share it’s treasures round. Sorta like his own version of ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’. Sweet. I don’t think. 9. Matthew/Mark/Luke/John/everyone else – Because, y’know, apart from the Bible, what else did they do? It obviously wasn’t good enough to survive as long as their main masterpiece. 8. Richard Llewellyn – This is kinda similar to most of the authors listed in my ‘Top Ten Books’, scarily. The thing is, Llewellyn wrote ‘How Green Was My Valley’, one of the most powerful, lyrical, stirring, evocative, (insert flattering adjectives here) books of all time. Definite
ly the best book ever written about Wales. And, then… he continued the story of Huw Morgan, but transported him to Patagonia, for ‘Up Into The Singing Mountain’. This, basically, was a bad idea. A spectacularly bad idea. An idea so bad that it makes much of Alex Ferguson’s team selection so far this season seem good. Despite the presence of Huw and the Reverend Gruffydd, another great character from the first book, this moved at a pace about as lively as that of Laurent Blanc. Not content with this, he spun the idea out to another two books. ‘Down Where The Moon Is Small’ confounded my expectations by being somehow even worse than ‘…Singing Mountain’. ‘Green Green My Valley Now’, I haven’t even dared to try. One of my friends was prudent enough to not read any of his others after ‘How Green Was My Valley’, because she wanted her memories of the book to remain unsullied. She had more sense than I did, obviously. 7. Alexander Cordell – Higher than the other Welsh novelist because his great work, ‘Rape of the Fair Country’, isn’t quite as good as ‘How Green…’ Nevertheless, ‘Rape…’ is another incredibly powerful piece of writing. The Mortimer family’s struggle against the English ironmasters, if a touch overpatriotic, is in parts wonderfully driven, and in other parts absolutely hilarious. Sadly, the second book in the trilogy, ‘Hosts Of Rebecca’, is plain boring. Not quite as bad as ‘… Singing Mountain’, but the above two authors make a compelling case for Welshmen being banned from writing sequels. I jest. I think. 6. Charles Dickens – ‘A Christmas Carol’ is wonderful. But he really should’ve stuck to that sort of length. Anything which goes on for longer than 100 or so pages (‘Hard Times’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby
’ spring to mind) tends to be self indulgent whining about the terrible lives of poor children, who really needed someone who could do something for them. Whereas they had Dickens, who screwed them over just as much as their employers, by callously exploiting their plight in order to sell books. 5. William Shakespeare – ‘Cause people will attack me for putting Dickens, so why not go the whole hog? In ‘Macbeth’, Shakespeare wrote one of the greatest ever plays. In ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘Twelfth Night’, and ‘Troillus and Cressida’, he wrote complete dross. I mean, Romeo and Juliet’s biggest tragedy is that they took so long to die, and the petty in-fighting carried off Mercutio and Tybalt, the only two decent characters in the entire play. 4. Rudyard Kipling – His masterpiece, of course, being the wonderful war poems ‘The Barrack Room Ballads’, best known of which was ‘Gunga Din’. With an honourable mention going to ‘If’. But the novels… what’s so great about the Jungle Book? Or the Just So Stories? Possibly the only writer in the entire universe to make me care less about animals than Colin Dann. (That’s ‘to make me care less about animals than Colin Dann makes me care about animals’, not ‘to care less about animals than I do about Colin Dann’. Just to clear up any confusion.) 3. James Joyce – I like ‘Ulysses’. Admittedly, the original story by Homer was so fantastic that it’s hard to go wrong, but the concept of adapting the Odyssey to early 20th century Ireland was a brave one, wonderfully realised. But as for the rest… ‘The Dubliners’ are 12 of the worst short stories in the history of the English language. And ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, someone on here said, has probably only ever been read by Joy
ce himself. I beg to differ. After reading three or four pages, I’m convinced that JOYCE probably couldn’t read the entire book – I’m guessing there’s about fifty blank pages in there which no one will ever get to because the opening is so hard to read. 2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – As I’ve said elsewhere on the site, ‘Love In The Time of Cholera’ is comfortably one of the best books ever written. Which makes the rest of his back catalogue even more disappointing. I struggled through ‘100 Years of Solitude’ in about six months. I actually restarted it ELEVEN times, because I was determined to finish it, thinking that a Booker prize winner by Marquez MUST be amazing. Yup. It’s amazingly confusing. It’s amazingly dull. But that’s it. The different generations of the family get hard to follow. Admittedly, that doesn’t really matter, because none of them do anything remotely interesting anyway. Also, his ‘Autumn of the Patriarch’ has a start which makes ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ seem accessible. 1. Me – one good review, (it’s on top 10 authors, if you’re interested.) And everything else is terrible. Oh well. If anyone IS still reading this far, glad you made it. Thank you, and good night.
So, due to economic pressures, Dooyoo has a new payment scheme. We now only get 30 miles (3p) per read instead of 50 (5p). To soften the blow, they've raised the value of crowns from 1000 miles (£1) to 1500 (£1.50). I first heard of this yesterday, and, at the time, I thought, as I'm guessing many people did, that this was, in the immortal words of the authors of '1066 And All That', a Bad Thing. Although probably not as bad as that last sentence, which, looking back, contained an absolutely ridiculous amount of commas, in fact, more or less one every 5 words. As did that one. However, now I've had time to think about it in more detail, I'm starting to think that perhaps it's actually a Good Thing. Apart from the obvious fact that if they can't afford to pay us 5p per read, then it's in nobody's interest for them to try and stick to that if it means the site eventually closes down, then perhaps this new payment scheme will improve the quality of reviews on Dooyoo even further. Take a look at these examples... Old Payment Scheme: Review with 60 reads, uncrowned, earnt 3000 miles (£3.00) Review with 30 reads, crowned, earnt 2500 miles (£2.50) New Payment Scheme: Review with 60 reads, uncrowned, earns 1800 miles (£1.80) Review with 30 reads, crowned, earns 2700 miles (£2.70) So, what do these figures show? Well, for a start, if you're getting crowns but aren't getting 35 or so readers per opinion, then you're actually financially better off under the new scheme. Admittedly, it could be argued that a crown will pull in more readers, but that isn't the most important consequence of the revamp, in my opinion. Because, crowns have now increased by a LARGE amount in value. From being worth 20 reads, they're now worth FIFTY reads. And, you know, I like that. I like the idea that a really well constructed, valuable, opinion, which
is recognised as such by a crown, will get more Dooyoo miles than one which is just dashed off in 10 minutes (like some of my early stuff), even if the uncrowned one gets an extra 40 or so readers, for some reason. And I think that people will, soon, start to concentrate even more on making their writing the best they can, to get those crowns. Of course, that's just my opinion, and I'd LOVE to hear those of other Dooyoo-ers. Leave me a comment, why don't you?
My top 10 authors has been even harder to put together than my top 10 books, and I’m sure there’s some I’ve missed out, but here goes… As ever, these are my 10 favourite, based solely on personal preference, not on influence or anything. Also, I decided not to put any children’s authors in – I want to do a separate top 10 for that. And I limited it to authors who I’ve read at least 3 books by, which ruled out quite a few, including Marquez, Hugo, Llewellyn, Harper Lee, and Tolkien (counting LotR as one book). Honourable mentions go to the following: Ruth Rendell -her Inspector Wexford books are always fantastic, but she got nudged out because the non-Wexford books which I’ve tried have been disappointing. Recommended book: Kissing The Gunner’s Daughter. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman - they wrote 6 fantastic fantasy books in the Dragonlance series, but don’t quite brush past my number 10 choice here. Recommended book(s): The Dragonlance Legends series. Lyn Andrews – A wonderful romantic novelist, she’s incredibly close to making the top 10, but just misses out. Recommended book: Liverpool Lou. 10. FRED SECOMBE A master of gentle comedy, the vicar who has been called ‘the ecclesiastical James Herriott’ is one of the most relaxing authors I can think of. Perfect for light reading, the autobiographical stories about his life as a curate and vicar are packed with memorable characters, such as Dai Elbow, the electrician and former rugby player banned for life for the persistence with which he used his elbow against opponents, and Mrs Richards, Fred’s delighfully malapropism-prone landlady in the early books. Recommended book: Pastures New. The story of Fred’s attempts to rejuvenate the religious life of the people of Abergelly after being translated there from his old parish of Pontywen, including
the erection of a temporary church on a council estate, while his doctor wife runs a surgery on the estate, this is a real joy to read. 9. COLIN DEXTER In Morse and Lewis, Dexter has created a wonderful pair of crime solvers. The cultured, but somewhat alcohol dependent, Morse, whose relationships seem always to be doomed to failure, and his slightly less educated, but somewhat more reliable, Sergeant Lewis, always manage to entertain while solving intriguing cases. As well as the novels, short story collections such as ‘Good as Gold’ are equally entertaining, with a particular favourite of mine being the re-imagining of one of Sherlock Holmes’ cases, in the collection ‘Morse’s Greatest Mystery’. Recommended book: Last Bus To Woodstock. The first in the series, this tells of the first time Morse and Lewis work together on a case. A perfect place to start reading, with the story as good as any of Dexter’s. 8. ROSAMUNDE PILCHER A queen of romantic drama, Pilcher is equally at home writing novels such as ‘September’ or short stories such as ‘The Blue Bedroom’. The Cornish and Scottish settings of many of the books are so vividly described that you could almost feel you were there, and the characters are defined with just as much skill. Recommended book: Coming Home. (Review adapted slightly from my ‘Top 10 books’ op.) This is the tale of Judith Dunbar, first seen as a young girl going to boarding school while her parents are in Singapore, who develops into a beautiful young woman after being taken in by the wealthy and glamorous Carey Lewis family of Nancherrow. Set in the Second World War, it’s certainly not all sweetness and light, with all of the characters having flaws, but with lots of wonderful people, especially Judith’s headmistress as school, Miss Catto, and the two men who love her in different ways, y
oung Edward Carey Lewis and the slightly older Dr Jeremy Wells, another close friend of the Carey-Lewises. 7. REGINALD HILL Master of the ‘police procedural’, Hill’s Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel and Chief Inspector Peter Pascoe are a pairing who provide more sheer enjoyment than perhaps any other in recent memory. The conflict between the university educated Pascoe, and his superior, the rough diamond Andy Dalziel, provides much of the books’ humour, which is always a large part of the novels, reaching slapstick proportions in a few cases – notably a few passages in ‘Recalled To Life’, which is laugh out loud funny in many places. By contrast, the relationship between the two men and Pascoe’s wife Ellie, who Dalziel treats almost as a surrogate daughter, is tender and gives some touching moments. Recommended book: Arms and the Women. The main story of arms deals between terrorists which Ellie happens to get caught up in is complex, but brilliantly plotted, and features some fantastic characters, especially the villain ‘Popeye’ Duchannon. However, it’s the subplot, a story Ellie is writing as a sequel to Homer’s Odyssey, in which Odysseus bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Detective Superintendent, which makes this absolutely unputdownable. 6. BILL BRYSON One of the best non-fiction writers around, Bryson’s gentle irony and sharp wit make for fantastic reading. Although best known as a travel writer, he’s also written two wonderful books about the English language, ‘Made In America’ and ‘Mother Tongue’. The book he wrote just before returning to live in the US, ‘Notes From A Small Island’, should be required reading for all Brits. Recommended book: Walk In The Woods. Bryson attempts the 2,600 mile Appalachian Trail, armed only with his knowledge of what to do if a bear com
es near you (pray) and $500 worth of camping equipment, and accompanied by his friend Katz, who has a disconcerting habit of turning round in the middle of nowhere and asking Bill if they’ll be able to watch the X Files tomorrow. Bryson’s commentary on both the trail’s history and the characters they meet is a sheer delight. 5. SIMON BRETT Brett has created two of the best detectives of the last 50 years in the elderly Melita Pargeter, widow of a criminal mastermind, and Charles Paris, the perpetually out of luck actor. While Paris is a wonderful main character, the overall cast in the Mrs Pargeter series is unbeatable, with her late husband’s former associates such as ‘Truffler’ Mason, now a private detective, ‘Hedgeclipper’ Clinton, who’s become a respectable hotel manager, and Hamish Ramon Henriques, a very special travel agent whose clients, we are told, included Lord Lucan and Shergar, being comic gems. Recommended book: Mrs Pargeter’s Point Of Honour. Asked by the widow of a former art thief to return a number of paintings to their rightful owner, in order to stop his hypocritical son from getting his hands on them, Mrs Pargeter and the gang promise to do their best. But will they be able to ward off both the greedy son and bumbling Inspector Wilkinson, who spent years trying to catch Mr Pargeter? And who is the informer in their ranks? Read it and see… 4. AGATHA CHRISTIE Needing no introduction, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple series have been popular for over half a century. However, some of her other books are equally good, including of course the well known ‘And Then There Were None’, but also the lesser known gems such as ‘The Seven Dials Mystery’ and ‘Postern Of Fate’. Recommended book: N or M. I don’t like this quite as much as Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, bu
t since I’ve already reviewed that on my ‘Top 10 Books’ op, I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention one of Christie’s other teams. The pairing of Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who start off as the Young Investigators in Christie’s second book, ‘The Secret Adversary’, are here rather older. Set during World War II, Tommy and Tuppence have to find the spy at a seaside hotel who has just murdered one of Britain’s finest agents. A thrilling read, with an unexpected denouement. 3. TERRY PRATCHETT A wonderful comic fantasy writer, Pratchett’s Discworld novels are amongst the funniest around. Almost unputdownable as soon as they’ve been picked up, and re-readable again and again, his mastery of both simple puns and subtler jokes is absolutely fantastic. A few favourite quotes are below: ‘Actors," said Granny, witheringly. "As if the world weren't full of enough history without inventing more."’ ‘Thunder rolled. ... It rolled a six.’ ‘"Students?" barked the Archchancellor. "Yes, Master. You know? They're the thinner ones with the pale faces? Because we're a university? They come with the whole thing, like rats."’ ‘The class was learning about some revolt in which some peasants had wanted to stop being peasants and, since the nobles had won, had stopped being peasants really quickly.’ Recommended book: Men At Arms. (review taken from my ‘Top 10 Books’ op.) The relationship between recovered alcoholic Captain Vimes, and the aristocratic Lady Sybil Ramkin, who’s ‘more highly bred than a hilltop bakery’ is wonderful, and equally good is the one between the noble Corporal Carrot, who was ‘brought up by dwarves, and then brought further up by humans’, and Angua, who’s a very special sort of
woman. The murder mystery which the Watch try to solve is also handled with consummate skill, but the real joy in the book is the Watch and the people around them – the above four, Nobby Nobbs (‘disqualified from the human race for shoving’), Gaspode the Wonder Dog, and many more brilliantly funny individuals. 2. EDWARD RUTHERFORD The author of fantastic historical sagas tracing the history of a place by following generations of a small number of families who live there, Rutherford’s research and writing are both impeccable. He’s written books like this about London, Salisbury, the New Forest, and Russia, and all are wonderful, showing how the actions of one person can have an effect generations later, and following family feuds and friendships down the ages. The books are all epics, though, and will take a long time to read. Recommended book: London. I prefer ‘The Forest’ slightly, but this is a better way to start reading Rutherford. Tracing the story of the capital from it’s early days, through Tudor times, and eventually to modern day London, with characters from the six main families interacting with real historical figures such as Henry II and Sir Christopher Wren, this is a true masterpiece. 1. JEROME K. JEROME While most famous for his hilarious ‘Three Men In A Boat’, the sequel ‘Three Men On A Bummel’, the tale of their holiday in Germany, and ‘Diary of a Pilgrimage’, the account of J and a friend’s journey to the Obergammau Passion Play, are nearly as good. His collections of essays, such as ‘Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow’, are also wonderful, with Jerome’s gentle humour shining through in passages such as ‘Idling always has been my strong point. I take no credit to myself in the matter--it is a gift.’ A true comic genius. ‘Idle Thoughts…’ is available FRE
E online at ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext97/jjidl10.txt Well worth downloading. Recommended book: Three Men In A Boat. One of my favourite books of all time, the tale of J’s journey down the Thames with his friends Harris and George and their dog Montmerency is so fresh and witty it’s hard to believe it was written more than 100 years ago. It deviates from the journey on a huge number of occasions, with the narrator telling us about previous boat trips, as well as the history of some of the places they travel through. While it’s hard to make it sound as appealing as it really is, it’s the kind of book which you won’t want to read in public because you’ll be laughing so loud people will give you strange looks.
Oasis' first album is one of the most heartstopping, adrenaline pumping, brain exploding slices of rock released in the past 20 years. It doesn't vary too much in style, but it's damn good. So damn good I can forgive the fact that they went on to release 'Be Here Now' and 'Standing on the Shoulders of Giants'. There can be no higher praise. Not, as often stated, the greatest debut album of all time - King Adora's 'Vibrate You' and the Strokes 'Is This It' are both better - but it's pretty close. TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW 1. ROCK 'N' ROLL STAR - Sadly not quite as good as the Byrds' classic 'So You Wanna Be a Rock 'N' Roll Star', this is nevertheless an explosive opener. Liam's aggressive vocals and Noel's brilliant lyrics, backed up by fantastic music, make this a blueprint for the rest of the album. 2. SHAKERMAKER - Slowing down a notch from the heady joy of 'Rock 'N' Roll Star', for me this is one of the weaker songs on the album. Lyrics are forgettable, apart from the droning chorus 'Oh... shake along with me.' The tune was reworked brilliantly by Oasis tribute group No Way Sis, though, when they released it with the lyrics to 'I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing'. 3. LIVE FOREVER - Possibly Oasis' best ever song, this is a gorgeous ballad which makes my spine shiver every time I hear. The dying lines of the chorus, below, are some of the most beautiful of all of Noel’s: ‘Maybe you're the same as me We see things they'll never see You and I are gonna live forever’ 4. UP IN THE SKY – Adrenaline pumping, one of the album’s fastest songs, this is a huge change in pace from Live Forever, but works incredibly well. 5. COLOMBIA – This is a song which should sound absolutely awful, but ends up sounding awfully good. De
spite being done almost all on two notes, and some not exactly inspiring lyrics (if you’re interested, Noel, the answer to the last line ‘Am I confusing you?’ is a resounding YES), Liam’s vocals make it all okay. – I can’t explain it why it works, it just does. 6. SUPERSONIC – Back to the pumping beat of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’ and ‘Up In The Sky’, this has poetic lyrics, full of imagery which makes you pity characters like Noel’s friend, who ‘lives under a waterfall… nobody can see him, nobody can ever hear him call.’ Yet another great vocal from Liam, who surely never sounded better than on this album. 7. BRING IT ON DOWN – Swaggering, aggressive, and utterly fantastic, the chorus here was practically a call to arms for early 90’s youth. ‘You're the outcast - you're the underclass But you don't care - because you're living fast’ And we didn’t. 8. CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL – They might only have two styles on the album, ‘fast’ and ‘slower’, but more or less all of the ‘slower’ ones are masterpieces. This is a classic song about the pleasures of relaxation, compared to work, with another wonderful chorus. ‘You could wait for a lifetime To spend your days in the sunshine You might as well do the white line Cos when it comes on top... You gotta make it happen!’ 9. DIGSY’S DINNER – A fantastic schoolboy love story, the lyrics are fun and funky, the vocals are again brilliant, and there’s another great chorus: ‘What a life it would be If you would come to mine for tea I'll pick you up at half past three And we'll have lasagne’ But the main factor here is the music, which was as good as Britpop got, fast, furious, a
nd guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. 10. SLIDE AWAY – The second great love song in as many tracks, this is another fantastic tune. The aching vocals on ‘Let me be the one that shines with you, In the morning when you don't know what to do’ are some of the best on the album. 11. MARRIED WITH CHILDREN – Talk about saving the best until last… right up there with ‘Live Forever’ when it comes to deciding Oasis’ best ever song, this was written by Noel as an apology to his then girlfriend, taking her point of view. The album’s only acoustic track, the biting lyrics are perfectly countered by the soothingness of the repetitive (in a good way) music. And I know soothingness isn’t a word, but it describes the effect the music has on me perfectly.
This is my first go at reviewing a game, so any comments on layout would be very welcome. Okay, ISS Pro: Evolution is a football game. I’m assuming most people know what football entails, and this isn’t exactly a radical departure, so that’ll do for the basics. Now, onto the burning question – is it any good? There’s two answers to the said question. The short one is, God, yes!!! For the long one, read the five sections below. PRESENTATION Okay, this is where ISS games traditionally fall down to EA’s FIFA series, and this is no exception. Rather than the FIFA presenter’s lineup of John Motson, Des Lynam, Gary Lineker and Andy Gray, we get in game analysis from the legendary… Terry Butcher. And commentary from Martin Buchan, is it? Not 100% sure – I play most games with the sound turned down while listening to music, and hearing this didn’t make me want to change my usual ways. Also, there’s only national sides plus a handful of club teams. And, they don’t have real player names. Now for me, whether Paul Scholes is spelt Scholes or Skoles isn’t a major factor in my enjoyment of a game. For some people, though, from what I’ve heard, it’s practically the be all and end all. More power to them, of course. The real disappointment for me, as far as presentation goes, is the lack of variety in the game. While the Master League option (explained below) is absolutely fantastic, the cups and leagues are very standard, and there’s STILL no sign of the Scenario mode which was so great in ISS Deluxe back on the Megadrive and SNES. Also, the training (which was absolutely wonderful in Deluxe) is, as in all the games since, boring, with just your normal practise against a goalkeeper with no defence, and set piece practices. GRAPHICS The graphics on this are fantastic, with players resembling their real life counterpa
rts to a huge degree. Whether it’s Gabriel Batistuta’s flowing hair you want to see, or you just want to remember Becks in his pre-Mohican days, you won’t be disappointed by the view of the in game action. Sorta on the graphics front, though, the lack of a proper instant replay function (it only shows goals and near misses), is annoying. SOUND Ummm… as I said, I tend to play games with the sound down, but I’ve listened to this a few times, and it’s nothing special, although not awful. Terry Butcher’s analysis is incredibly weak (admittedly, that may not be Konami’s fault…) and the commentary isn’t up there with any of the EA Sports releases. GAMEPLAY THIS is where the game is head and shoulders above any of it’s rivals. With the most natural, intuitive, easy to learn but hard to master gameplay around, you’ll be hooked as soon as you pick up a joypad. For once, as well, the player stats make a real difference, with Beckham being far more likely than, say, Roy Keane to pick someone out with a long pass, and Michael Owen up front being able to run rings around defenders, while other strikers will use their superior power to shrug them off. Also, the physics of the game are brilliant, with rebounds going everywhere, and deflections taking a realistic course. Additionally, unlike many football games, there are no guaranteed ways to score – although my sole criticism of the gameplay would be the near impossibility of scoring direct from a free kick. The Master League mode, as well, is fantastic, with you starting with a set squad of players and 20 points, and earning 4 points for a draw, and 8 points for a win, along with an extra point for every goal you win by. Points can then be exchanged for players, with the best (Ronaldo) costing 50 points, and journeymen workhorses available for about 18. The significance of the stats makes this mode a real c
hallenge, as you start off by having to grind out results against much better teams until you can get some decent players in. My personal favourites on this mode include the two strikers Babandiga and McCarthy, both of whom are cheap but will get a number of goals for you. The season in Master League takes the format of a 16 team league, and it will take you a good few seasons to build up a side capable of challenging for first place. All in all, highly recommended.
Oooh… this is gonna be tough. Since I read 4-5 books a week minimum, and in a pretty wide variety of genres, getting it down to my top 10 is more or less doomed to failure. But what the hell, I’ll have a go. Normal disclaimer, this is just my10 favourite, and I’d certainly not attempt to pass it off as ‘The 10 Best Books Ever’, or anything like that. Firstly, though, here’s a brief list of what nearly made it. Anything on this list could comfortably have made my top 10 on another day, and should be considered joint 11th. ‘Dragonlance’ Legends Series – Time/War/Test of the Twins (think that’s the right order, I read them all in one volume) – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman - The follow up to their brilliant Chronicles series, set on the world of Krynn, these are three of my all time favourite fantasy books, but I can’t quite justify placing them ahead of any of my top 10. Raistlin Majere, the gold skinned mage, and kender Tasslehoff Burrfoot, who’s reminiscent of Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit, are two of the best characters in late 20th century literature though. Well worth checking out if you’re a fantasy fan. Anything by Simon Brett – Brett has created two of the best detectives of the last 50 years in the elderly Melita Pargeter, widow of a criminal mastermind, and Charles Paris, the perpetually down on his luck actor. The Mrs Pargeter series, especially, feature a host of wonderful characters, most of them associates of Mr Pargeter who have now gone straight but are devoted to helping out his widow. Any of the ‘Inspector Wexford’ series by Ruth Rendell; anything in the ‘Inspector Morse’ series by Colin Dexter – As a crime fan, Wexford and Burden are a wonderful pairing for me, as are Morse and Lewis, and the books in both series are always well constructed and suspenseful. Not quite as good as the ones I
’ve got in, in my opinion, but incredibly close. Anything in the ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’ series by Reginald Hill – Even closer to getting in than the above two, Dalziel is one of my favourite ever characters, and definitely the best policeman (as opposed to private detective) in modern literature. The other characters, particularly Pascoe, his wife Ellie, and the gay – and that’s certainly not in the sense of the word meaning cheerful – Sergeant Wield, are all wonderful as well. Hound Of The Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle – I love the Sherlock Holmes short stories, but this is the only one of the novels I really like. Saying that, it’s fantastic, with Holmes on top form as a sleuth, and Watson providing brilliant comic relief. Final Friends – Christopher Pike – The only children’s horror writer with any literary merit (note to R.L.Stine fans, writing a book every two weeks is NOT an indicator of literary merit), this is Pike’s best work by far, featuring more well rounded high school characters than in any similar children’s book I can think of. Ending leaves a couple of things unclear, though, which is why it doesn’t quite make my top 10. Anything by Fred Secombe – Less famous brother of Harry Secombe, Fred is a wonderful author, sometimes described as ‘The ecclesiastical James Herriott’. Bringing a gentle comedy to his stories of his life as a curate, and later vicar, in a couple of Welsh villages, all of his books are very enjoyable – but not quite worthy of a top 10 place. That said, here’s the Top 10. For today, at least. It’ll probably change by tomorrow. 10. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE – J.K. ROWLING The first two Harry Potter books are good, but I don’t think they’re the masterpieces they’re made out to be. The third, ho
wever, was one of the best children’s books I’d read for a LONG time… until this came along. An epic by kid’s standards, this has a fantastic plot, a mixture of fantasy and whodunnit as Harry competes in the Goblet of Fire tournament while trying to find out who illegally entered him for the competition. Rowling also has a knack of writing for children and adults, while never ‘writing down’ to her younger readers. With more well rounded characters than the previous books, it’s a true fantasy classic, although I found it pretty hard to follow in places – but several eight year olds I know had no problems, so that could well just be me. 9. MEN AT ARMS – TERRY PRATCHETT My favourite of the wonderful Discworld series, this is a wonderful comic fantasy, featuring some of Pratchett’s best ever characters. The relationship between recovered alcoholic Captain Vimes, and the aristocratic Lady Sybil Ramkin, who’s ‘more highly bred than a hilltop bakery’ is wonderful, and equally good is the one between the noble Corporal Carrot, who was ‘brought up by dwarves, and then brought further up by humans’, and Angua, who’s a very special sort of woman. The murder mystery which the Watch try to solve is also handled with consummate skill, but the real joy in the book is the Watch and the people around them – the above four, Nobby Nobbs (‘disqualified from the human race for shoving’), Gaspode the Wonder Dog, and many more brilliantly funny individuals. 8. LIVERPOOL LOU – LYN ANDREWS Andrews is one of my favourite romantic storytellers, and this is a lovely novel about the growth of a young girl, Louisa Langford, from adolescence to womanhood at the time of the Second World War. Set in Liverpool (as the title suggests), at it’s heart is the romance between Protestant Lou and Catholic Mike Crowley, as they face the dis
approval of both their families. About as far from the saccharine sweetness of Mills and Boon as you can get, this is a story which shows that whatever you do, you have to take happiness wherever you can find it. 7. CURTAIN: POIROT’S LAST CASE – AGATHA CHRISTIE As a huge fan of Christie, I had to have one of her books in my list, and I always slightly preferred the fiercely moustachioed Belgian to the gentle Miss Marple. This is definitely Poirot’s best case, taking him back to Styles, the country house where he was first introduced to us, and reuniting him with ‘mon ami’ Colonel Hastings. It’s nice to see Hastings’ grown up daughter playing an integral part in proceedings, as well, and the mystery is fantastic, but brilliantly explained. A fitting end for a wonderful character. 6. LORD OF THE RINGS – J.R.R. TOLKIEN Surely the greatest fantasy of all time, the story of Frodo Baggins’ attempt to destroy the One Ring in the cracks of Mount Doom before Sauron can use it to rule Middle Earth is so famous as to need no plot recap here. Another book with too many wonderful characters to list, my favourites being Sam, Aragorn, and the evil – but pitiable – Gollum, this is fantastic because it shows all of it’s characters not as simply black or white, but as varying shades of grey, with nobody incorruptible enough to not be tempted by the force of the Ring. 5. THE FOREST – EDWARD RUTHERFORD A real epic, this tale of the New Forest tells, in a similar way to Rutherford’s other books ‘London’ and ‘Sarum’, the developing story of one area of England through the different generations of five families who live there. While it’s a great novel, it also works as a series of short stories, making it easy as a bedtime read, despite it’s overall length (600+ pages). Special mention goes to the chapter o
n Beaulieu Abbey, which is a wonderful story featuring a monk, Brother Adam, who is holy without being insufferable, unlike many in literature. 4. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – HARPER LEE A tale of prejudice in the Deep South of America during the 1930’s, this is one of the most lyrical and evocative books I’ve ever read. The quote ‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird’, is one which the people of Maycomb should remember, as most of them mistreat the two ‘mockingbird’ figures in the novel, the reclusive Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson, a black man charged with raping a girl from a ‘white trash’ family. Told through the eyes of Scout Finch, a young girl who lives by the Radley house and who’s father is the lawyer who defends Tom Robinson and tries to change the attitude of the townsfolk, the story has a brilliant plot, but the sheer beauty of the writing is what stands out. 3. COMING HOME – ROSAMUNDE PILCHER Hard to put this ahead of classics like ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’, but this deserves its third place because of the sheer number of times I’ve read it. (Well into double figures, and counting). Another long book, compared to most similar stories, at least, it’s the tale of Judith Dunbar, first seen as a young girl going to boarding school while her parents are in Singapore, who develops into a beautiful young woman after being taken in by the wealthy and glamorous Carey Lewis family of Nancherrow. Another book set in the Second World War, it’s certainly not all sweetness and light, with all of the characters having flaws, but with lots of wonderful people, especially Judith’s headmistress as school, Miss Catto, and the two men who love her in different ways, young Edward Carey Lewis and the slightly older Dr Jeremy Wells, another close friend of th
e Carey-Lewises. While the TV adaptation took slightly too many liberties with the plot for my liking, the cast were superb, particularly Penelope Keith as Judith’s Aunt Louise, and Peter O’Toole and Joanna Lumley as Colonel Carey Lewis and his wife Diana. 2. HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY - RICHARD LLEWELLYN The wonderful story of a young boy’s childhood and adolescence in turn of the century Wales (and I’ve just noticed that the adolescence theme is featuring pretty prominently in this list), this is a gorgeous book about life in a coal mining town, which has a balance of wonderfully happy, and terribly sad, moments. Huw Morgan, narrator, is a brilliantly rounded main character, but the others in the novel, especially the Reverend Gruffydd, the town vicar, Huw’s sister Angharad, and his sister-in-law Bronwen, are all fleshed out far more than is normal in a first-person novel. There’s no real central plot – it just follows the events of Huw’s life – but some of the passages are sheer bliss, almost singing out, particularly the book’s paragraph, with the magnificent opening line… ‘How green was my valley, and the valley of them that are gone’ 1. LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA – GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ Far better than the Booker prize winning ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by the same author, this is surely the greatest love story of all time. Set in turn of the century Latin America, the novel starts with the protagonists Dr Juvenal Urbino, his wife Fermina Daza, and her childhood sweetheart Florentino Ariza all being in their 70’s. It quickly regresses, though, following Urbino’s death, to a series of memories about Ariza’s courtship of Daza. Which, strangely enough, takes place as both characters move from adolescence to adulthood. Another spellbindingly evocative tale, the ending is perhaps the most memorable image
I’ve ever read. 1. THREE MEN IN A BOAT – JEROME K. JEROME I was just looking at some reviews and realised I’d forgotten this… it deserves to be joint number one, and that saves me reordering things :-) Ostensibly the tale of J’s journey down the Thames with his friends Harris and George and their dog Montmerency, this is so fresh and witty it’s hard to believe it was written more than 100 years ago. It deviates from the journey on a huge number of occasions, with the narrator telling us about previous boat trips, as well as the history of some of the places they travel through. While it’s hard to make it sound as appealing as it really is, Jerome’s breezy narrative style and dry humour make it a joy to read, and it’s the kind of book which you won’t want to read in public because you’ll be laughing so loud people will give you strange looks. As I said, this will probably have changed by tomorrow, but the 11 above are all real treasures.
This is a departure from my normal raving about the Beautiful South and/or King Adora, and a brave (but quite possibly doomed) attempt at giving y'all some songs you should try listening to. That's right, it's 'Top 10 Songs Which Shouldn't Have Worked But Did'. 10. ONE FOR SORROW - STEPS Yes, it's by the second worst group in the history of the known universe. Yes, it's not even a cover (although listening to 'Chain Reaction' by this five proves that covers AREN'T a good way of damage limitation when it comes to terrible current bands). Bizarrely, it's a decent song. Vocals aren't too annoying, the tune is gorgeous, and the lyrics describing a lost love, while not up there with Heaton/Dylan/Lennon, are better than most recent songs. Although with 'Ooh-ee-ooh-ah-ah, Ting tang, Walla walla bing bong' being better lyrics than most songs in the last few years, maybe that's not such a great compliment. 9. SLEEPING SATELLITE - TASMIN ARCHER Who was she, anyway? This is an absolutely beautiful song, not exactly what you'd have expected given her total disappearance from anything resembling fame immediately afterwards. Worth tracking down the 'Something For The Weekend' compilation just for this, Sleeper's 'Sale Of The Century', and Deacon Blue's 'Real Gone Kid'. 8. NO MATTER WHAT - BOYZONE One of the only 3 decent songs in history from a boy band, this is a surprisingly sensitive treatment of the song from 'Whistle Down The Wind.' Admittedly, most boy bands didn't have Andrew Lloyd Webber writing for them, so they get an unfair advantage over the likes of 911 from that, but it's still got great vocals from the twinkle eyed Irish five. 7. HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE? - TAKE THAT It's by a boy band and improves on the original. That makes it worthy of a place in history - alt
hough since the original was by the Bee Gees, possibly the only group in ever to have had one of their songs improved on by the Beautiful South, the achievement isn't that great, but still... 6. MAN ON THE MOON - R.E.M. One of the most overrated groups ever, but this is an absolute classic. The chorus, 'Would you believe... they put a man on the moon, man on the moon,' has some of the 90's best vocals, and the verses are some of their best lyrically. Even better than the more famous 'Everybody Hurts', one of R.E.M.'s only other decent songs. 5. VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR - LOLITA NO. 18 For those scratching their heads in bewilderment, they're a Japanese ska punk outfit who sing both this and Mud's 'Tiger Feet' live. While neither should even come close to working, they amazingly both do, and this is absolutely wonderful. The sight of the Lolita's tomboyish lead vocalist leaning over the audience singing 'Ooh aah... ladio staaaaaaaaa...', while a 3 man mosh pit waved lighters from side to side just below her, is one of the best things I've seen all year. 4. C U WHEN I GET THERE - COOLIO Coolio's only ever half decent record, this is brilliant, with inspiring lyrics, a great chorus, and rap which doesn't make me want to throw up. . 3. I'LL BE MISSING YOU - PUFF DADDY The exception which proves two rules of music, those being 'All Puff Daddy songs are rubbish', and 'All tribute songs are rubbish.' Unfortunately, those of us who hoped that it would usher in a brave new era of tribute songs with some musical credit were thwarted by the Dunblane version of 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door', although even that is noteworthy... for making Guns 'n' Roses' cover of the same song look like a good idea. 2. TUBTHUMPING - CHUMBAWUMBA This proves that if they abandoned th
e political stuff which is done much better by Bragg/Manics/etc, they'd be a decent group. Worth reading the liner notes to, if only because they're the same length as many short stories. And THEY'RE positively condensed, compared to the stuff from the earlier albums. 1. IT MUST HAVE BEEN LOVE - ROXETTE Wasn't every other Roxette song ever terrible? This is one of the all time classics, though, and the video, featuring scenes from Pretty Woman, is another great. This was also used in Saved By The Bell when Zack and Kelly split up, according to a friend of mine in the States, which makes it a surefire great.
Even though it’s not as good as the fantastic Miaow, this is another of my favourite albums by the ever reliable TBS. The third album, it features a couple of their best known songs, as well as some hidden gems. The lyrics are – need you ask? – as biting as ever, while musically it’s a notch up on it’s two predecessors. Cover artwork, on the other hand, is just STRANGE. All 12 tracks are Heaton and Rotheray originals, which – given the South’s record when they try covers – is a definite plus point. TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW 1. OLD RED EYES IS BACK – A song about the ills of alcoholism, this would be enough to put most people off the demon drink for life. Obviously not frontman Paul Heaton, though, who continued as a semi alcoholic for another 8 years or so after the LP was made. The video is hilarious, although eerily similar to those for ‘Caravan of Love’ and ‘Happy Hour’ by Heaton’s other group, the Housemartins. Also worth checking out on the ‘Later with Jools Holland’ video, in which James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers is guest vocalist for this track. 2. WE ARE EACH OTHER – Much as I hate to describe a track as funky, there isn’t really another way to talk about this one. Choruses are good, verses aren’t, being too fast to work properly, at least with Briana Corrigan’s vocal style. 3. THE ROCKING CHAIR – This is genuinely sweet, which is always surprising in a Heaton song, although by no means unique. Briana’s best ever vocal performance, by a long way. Lyrics aren’t great, but with melodies like this, who cares? 4. WE’LL DEAL WITH YOU LATER – Ewww… the lyrics to this are good, but I HATE the music here. A decent anti-war song, but not up to the level of similar treatments in Heaton’s lyrics such as ‘Poppy’ on ‘Mia
ow’. 5. DOMINO MAN – With catchy lyrics, and great vocals from Hammy, this is a story of a man who claims to have travelled the world but really never leaves his town: ‘And when he's off to sail the seven seas He just stay indoors or hides up trees’ One of my favourites on the album, certainly the best of the first half. 6. 36D – For some reason a singalong favourite at their concerts, if only for the chorus: ‘36D, so what, (D), so what? Is that all that you’ve got?’ The verses to this are undeservedly overshadowed, but are biting, nasty lyrics about the life of a prostitute. Heaton’s pen has perhaps never produced so much bile as in this track. 7. HERE IT IS AGAIN – Unremarkable for the most part, the vocals on the chorus from Dave and Briana are some of the album’s best. 8. SOMETHING THAT YOU SAID – Actually, can I take back what I said about Heaton’s pen having never produced as much bile as in ‘36D’? The ultimate song for spurned lovers, with lyrics such as ‘The perfect kiss, is with a boy. That you’ve just stabbed to death’, this and the last track make it an album which I wouldn’t recommend listening to with your partner. 9. I’M YOUR NO. 1 FAN – Changing tack completely, Heaton breaks from the ‘lost love’ trend to come up with a wonderfully sincere ode to parents. Great lyrics, great vocals, with Paul, Briana, and Dave taking a verse each, and a catchy tune – one of their best ever songs. 10. BELL BOTTOMED TEAR – One of their most well known songs, this amazingly flopped upon release as a single. Sheer beauty, both in the lyrics and Briana’s vocals. Also worth checking out the ‘Later…’ video for, where country singer Iris Dement guests on this. 11. YOU PLAY GLOCK
ENSPIEL, I’LL PLAY DRUMS – ‘You break fingers, I’ll break thumbs.’ That couplet tells you all you need to know about the song, doesn’t it? Sheer genius in the lyrics, yet again, from Mr Heaton. 12. WHEN I’M 84 – A tongue in cheek retort to the saccharine sweetness of the Beatles ‘When I’m 64’, the story of an old man growing old disgracefully is a wonderful ending to the album. Contains one of the best lyrics ever: ‘They all save for Blackpool Just for the cheap companionship Meanwhile he counts pennies For a different trip’ All in all, the album’s not quite up there with Miaow or Painting It Red, but it’s vying with Choke for 3rd place, well ahead of ‘Blue’, ‘Welcome…’ and the disastrous Quench.