Hello. I'm about to bugger off down to Oxford to watch one of my favourite ever bands perform live on Saturday night... but not before I've seen Henry Blofeld though. Blowers is in equal parts fascinating and appalling. But he is often very entertaining on Test Match Special, and it should be interesting to see which side comes out more strongly tonight. And then tomorrow night it's James. I was lucky enough to be in Oxford one Thursday night in 1998 when James played one of my favourite ever gigs - at Oxford Poly. They were due to play Glastonbury the following night, and they played an absolute blinder. They were amazing. If they're anything like as good tomorrow night, then I will be a very happy man indeed. Early reports (from Mark, who saw them on Thursday) are good, so fingers crossed, eh?
Before then, it's the small matter of this week's earworms.
I'm not entirely sure how I first ran into this week's Guest Editor. I think it might have been when following up a comment he left here and liking what I saw there. That's the way this often seems to work for me actually - I can often never quite remember how I first stumbled across people, but they often seem to have always been there. Maybe I lead a really empty life, or maybe I've just been lucky enough to meet some great people around these parts. Or perhaps both. Anyway. He's a writer, and he likes his music, so he's more than welcome to pop by here any time that he likes.
Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce for your earworming pleasure......
Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #84 - Rol from Sunset over Slawit
When offered the chance to Earworm, your first instinct is simply to produce a list of all-time favourites. But that's not really what this feature's all about (as Swiss Toni reminded me) - and at the end of the day, I'm sure that you've all heard enough Morrissey, Billy Bragg, Bruce Springsteen, Pulp and Elvis Costello to work out whether you like them or not, so I'm not going to persuade you otherwise now, am I? Better instead to go with some artists and tracks you might not have already made up your mind about. So here goes...
> The Scaremongers - Less Is More
I start with The Scaremongers because they're from just over the hill from me, a couple of miles away in Marsden. Well, singer/lyricist/poet extraordinaire Simon Armitage is, anyway. I've been a fan of Simon's poetry since long before he started singing it on record, so no surprise that his lyrics are spot on. Like a slightly more Northern Jarvis Cocker, if you can imagine such a thing. I love the idea behind this song - he's basically moaning about his missus wearing too few clothes when she goes out with her mates. She's "one part leopard print and five parts flesh." It's male insecurity writ large! "The vultures circle, homing in, down at the sorry end of Stag Night Street" is a favourite line, as well as his exhortation for her to "get back upstairs, put a polo neck on!"
> Guillemots - Get Over It
The Guillemots have produced three of the most earwormy singles I've heard this decade. Unfortunately, their albums tend towards patience-testing eclecticism and whimsy - they go from sounding like The Blue Nile to 80's Prince to Climie Fisher to... Nothing on the new one matches the upbeat Pet Shop Boysy pop of 'Get Over It'. Give them a few more years and they'll produce a classic Greatest Hits CD... if we're still doing CDs by then. (On a side note, a friend reckons that the cover to their new album reminds him of an enflamed prostate. I'm taking his word on that.)
> The Colorblind James Experience - I'm Considering A Move To Memphis
You don't get more of an earworm than this. Despite originally being released in the late 80's, I hadn't ever heard this track until Mark Radcliffe started his Radio 2 show with it a few months ago. One listen was all it took. I had to hunt this song down. It's been a bugger to get a hold of, but I finally managed it. I'm on the look-out for more by the same band... but I worry my expectations are now way too high.
> Okkervil River - The President's Dead
One of the great things about music is that every now and then you'll stumble across a new band you've never heard of, who have seemingly been around for years. I noticed a few American bloggers getting very excited about this lot late last year, and something persuaded me to check them out. They've got a good, strong US-rock sound, but it's the lyrics that set them apart. One listen to 'The President's Dead' will hopefully demonstrate what I mean.
> Randy Newman - 'It's A Jungle Out There'
I know Mr. Toni likes it when we include things other than simple songs in these lists - but having worked in the evil industry of advertising for far too long, I can't bring myself to earworm any jingles. The closest I can get to a non-song is this, only 55 seconds long (and believe me, I've searched for a full-length version, it just doesn't exist). It's the theme to Monk, a formulaic US comedy/detective show starring the excellent Tony Shalhoub as an OCD-Columbo. BBC2 stuck it on in the Saturday afternoon slot, so nobody with a life ever watched it. Fortunately, I've never been so encumbered...
> The A-Sides - Cinematic
Another band I discovered through the blogosphere. I've yet to investigate them further, but this has a big, epic lushness that's hard to beat. Reminds me of The Verve somehow, though it doesn't actually sound anything like The Verve at all. Funny how that happens.
> Thea Gilmore - This Girl Is Taking Bets
One of my favourite singer-songwriters, I can never understand why Thea Gilmore isn't more popular. The critics love her - I've seen her described as the best lyricist of her generation, and it's a claim that's hard to dispute. This is from her album 'Rules For Jokers', and amazingly it's one of the few Thea performances I could find on youtube. Last time I saw her live she was eight-and-a-half months pregnant, afraid she might drop child at any second, but she still put on a hell of a show. If I were here to recommend anyone, it'd be Thea - she deserves much more exposure. She has a new album out soon too - look out for it.
> Neil Diamond - Cracklin' Rosie
Let’s close with a classic. No, I’m not suggesting you’ve never heard of Neil Diamond… though I suppose if you’re under 30, anything’s possible. I have no time at all for the cool police, I like what I like and sod it if the critics or the cognoscenti don’t agree. I grew up listening to Billy Joel, Steinman-penned Meatloaf, and Queen, and I won’t have a word said against any of them. A great song is a great song is a great song. I heard this on the radio yesterday afternoon and couldn’t help but dig out the Neil Diamond Greatest Hits. It’s the perfect 3-minute pop song, even though I never had a clue what it was all about. “Cracklin' Rose, you're a store bought women, But you make me sing like a guitar hummin'” Wikipedia informs me that Cracklin’ Rosie is a type of wine drunk by a Native American tribe in Canada. Which brings a new slant to things, but I always think you’re better making up your own interpretations. “Cracklin' Rosie make me a smile, Girl if it lasts for an hour, well that's alright - 'Cause we got all night, to set the world right, Find us a dream that don't ask no questions.” The other great thing about Neil Diamond (beyond the fact that he also wrote, ‘Daydream Believer’, ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, and the heartbreaking ‘I Am I Said’) is the voice. Those deep, rich tones – a register I can happily sing along to without having to strain for the high notes. In fact, that’s what I’m going to do now… Hit it, Neil! Ba ba ba ba ba…
Cheers, Toni – it’s been fun.
Thank you, my friend. A goodly list indeed. Good and varied - just the way I like them. I have to say that I absolutely do not get the Guillemots though. They do absolutely nothing for me. Ah well. Thanks for playing.
And now... off I pop to the city of gleaming spires.
Have a good weekend y'all.
Next time: Lisa Rullsenberg (hopefully), then the Pollstar, then StatueJohn (assuming either of them can get their arses in to gear).
[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II, Erika, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II, Eye in the Sky II, Charlie III, The Great Grape Ape, asta, Ben III, Earworms of the Year 2007, Cat III, JamieS & Wombat, Pynchon II, Briskate, Craig Cliff, Fiery Little Sod, Cody II, J, Yoko II]
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