Friday 6 March 2009

show me the constellation....

What a week that was. I attended so many meetings and failed to read so many emails that I think I might just curl up into a little ball and sob for the next couple of days before climbing back on board the office fun bus on Monday. Perhaps it's just as well that this isn't really an option for me this weekend. You see, I turn 35 tomorrow and, along with a couple of my oldest friends who hit the same age within a few days of me, we're having a bit of a "do" tomorrow. We're renting The Screen Room, a 22 seat cinema in Nottingham and we're going to serve champagne and then have a screening of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (this was hotly debated, and I think "The Empire Strikes Back" has been a little unlucky, to be honest*). After the film, we're all heading over to a delicious (and apparently very authentic, so my visiting offshore colleagues tell me) Southern Indian restaurant for a birthday meal. After that.... well, who knows? I'm looking forward to it. We're halfway to our allotted three score years and ten, so it's only fitting that we should kick off the downhill part of the journey in style, eh?

* I had a conversation with a female colleague of mine today in which she insisted that Last Crusade was more of a guy film than ESB. What? Not only is it a sci-fi film, but it's the ├╝ber sci-fi film; the one that attracts the most fervent attention of the geeks. Is that really more of a chick flick? Really? Is Han Solo more of a draw than Indiana Jones? Hmmm. She rejected my suggestion that she was a geek, but I think she's got to be in a minority on that one.

Anyway. Before all that, it has to be time for earworms, doesn't it? Against all the odds, I've got another guest editor for you to enjoy. He's a regular round these parts, and is always most welcome. Ladies and gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming enjoyment........
Earworms of the week - guest editor #95 - Mark

I've done quite a few earworms in my time, and I suppose it's time for me to come clean and confess, I've got some devilish earworms going on at the moment. Recently, I've discovered - or rediscovered - a couple of bands that I've not really heard for a long time, and quite a few songs have been knocking around in there, slowly driving me bonkers when I can't switch them off, which is quite often.

1. No Line On The Horizon - U2

Title track from the new album which I downloaded the other day. It's a slinky, post modern crossbreed between the Zooropa title track and something off “Pop”, alongside huge, floating mantra vocals. Guitars squelch like wonky machines, the rhythms saunter and glide, and this song is the first indicator that U2 have finally stopped safe and are going back out there on a journey of discovery.

2. The Whole Of The Moon - The Waterboys

I found myself transferring a lot of vinyl over to MP3 courtesy of some very useful software over the past couple of months, and unwrapped six or seven vinyl LP's by The Waterboys. Facing spending several hours, I thought I'd look up the current state of their discography, and was pleased to see that almost all of the albums have either been reissued with bonus tracks and demos, or are currently available rather cheap online. Overall, I think the average spend per album turned up at £5 for the albums by shopping prudently and using Ebay for some of the rarer titles. "The Whole Of The Moon" is their most accessible and obvious song, but also the distillation in one five minute chunk of everything about the band that is admirable, a vast sound, a dreaming, aspirational lyric, and a melody that is both humble and grand at the same time. A vastly under-rated band, and one that surely, in time, will come to the public eye again in some way.

3. There I Go Again - Power Of Dreams

The theme that's coming with this Earworm so far is that it seems to be exclusively Irish, or once-Irish based rock acts. I've written about POD before, suffice to say that they were groomed for stardom, written off as a failure after Nirvana happened, displayed all the promise of U2 and had sales equable to Swervedriver, but were much much better. This is a rampaging 3 minute romp that is equal parts Velvet Underground, U2, and Pixies.

4. 1,000,000 - Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails have released four albums and a concert DVD in the past two years, and this song - alongside the rest of the Slip album (available free from their website) - is proof positive that whilst Nine Inch Nails do not reinvent their music, that the new stuff is neither crap nor tired. At least Reznor finally seems to be moving beyond the somewhat juvenile lyrics and approach of a couple of old albums, and is starting to explore the position in the world and how everything fits together whilst still layering his songs in dense and efficient production and strong, imaginative songwriting. One of the few that gets better with age.

5. When Somebody Loved Me - from Toy Story 2

It's as if someone throws dirt in my eye everytime I hear this song. I never thought that I could empathise with a disused toy, but this song isn't about a toy, in the way that 2001 isn't about a monolith, this song explores the very form of love as the most profound of human emotions. This song should be sung at divorces and funerals by people with voices like angels.

6. Broken Beat & Scarred - Metallica

I saw Metallica playing on Monday, and for some reason I cannot fathom, a tiny fraction of this song has been repeating in my head for days ; the guitar/drums riff breakdown at the end of the instrumental section. To say their new album is rather good is an understatement : the songwriting is tested on humans for irritancy, classical, and thoroughly WAAAARGH! I'm not quite sure what these words mean, but it conveys the song, and the band. With the number of time signatures, tempo changes, and different parts and motifs, it's almost as if the band are classical composers, albeit using guitars and screaming instead of a traditional orchestra. It would be easy to think of them as going back to a safe, and signature sound plodding along as a nostalgia act, but they, like some, are still boldly plowing forward, which is only to be commended.

7. First We Take Manhattan - Leonard Cohen

Cohen DVD's arrived at the house last week, and thus, this rather splendid song has been rotating on the television several times as it is a staple of his live set. It sounds both utterly of it's time – being set in the age of the Berlin Wall and the war between capitalism and communism, and also timeless. “They sentenced me to 20 years of boredom”, indeed.

8. Skull Ring - The Stooges

I've recently become a huge fan of The Stooges. Don't quite know why and can't put my finger on it, but they clicked with me. And this song, one of four from the 2003 Skull Ring album by Iggy, was their 'first' reunion song. Unlike many other bands that reform and suck, The Stooges came back with something like their original raw power, albeit in super concentrated form. It's catchy, dirty, and absolutely brilliant.

9. The Chase – Giorgio Moroder

“The Chase” is the opening, epic track taken from the 1978 soundtrack to Midnight Express. The soundtrack for the film sounds mostly oddly ethereal now, but this is – and always has been – a classic, epic nine minute romp. It sounds oddly like Kraftwerk, but it isn't, and was largely cobbled together by boffins in a studio somewhere in Germany, presumably using wires and gaffer tape. Whilst it appears a simplistic instrumental nursery rhyme, one should never mistake a sparse melody for simple, as the space between the notes counts as much as the notes themselves. It is a romp, an eastern-flavoured exotic instrumental from the golden age of krautrock (albeit at the tail end, where the only proponents were synth noodlers like Moroder, Kraftwerk, and Tangerine Dream). Moroder is probably best known for defining a generation of Hollywood soundtracks alongside his engineer Harold Faltermeyer, and between them have records such as “Call Me”, the Pet Shop Boys “Behaviour”, soundtracks to “Scarface”, “Beverley Hills Cop”, “Top Gun”, “Fletch”, “American Gigolo”, and numerous others to their combined belts. The track paces along at a powerful 4/4 that works equally well within the film and on record, and ties nicely in tempo and key with the next song.

10.Robotronik - Kraftwerk

As I was lying in bed last night, my brain is setting itself to sleep, and one of the things I often do, is play songs in my head. These are songs I've heard millions of times, and know every inflection of. In my mind, as I drift off to sleep I take these songs apart, and remix them, alter them, extending and changing parts, like those old fashion 12” mixes that came on vinyl in 1988. As a result I tried to engineer a mental DJ mix of “The Chase” and this : since they have roughly the same tempo and key, and some parts that are similar (breakdowns and comebacks), I created a combination of the two. “Robotronik” sounds familiar, but isn't. Though the track was a staple of Kraftwerk's live set for ten years (between 1991 and 1998), it was never on an album, as it is a spiky rearrangement re-recording of 1978's “The Robots”. Live, it was often used as a medley with it's parent song. For “The Robots”, the video screens would show dancing robots. As it turned into this song, the screens would fold away to reveal automated synchronised robot ballet from automated lookalikes. Genius. The only place this has been released is on the b-side to the 1991 “Robots” remixes single so is rare as hens teeth, which is a great shame (as indeed the whole Kraftwerk discography has fiercely eschewed reissues and best-of compilations, and thus is in a fairly spartan state).

So there you have it. Earworms du jour. Hope you are all doing well, and see you soon. M


Ah, Mark... as eclectic and interesting a selection as I could possibly have imagined. From The Waterboys to Kraftwerk via Metallica. Nice work. Thanks for playing.

Right. Bottle of oddly salty white wine open, the (birthday) weekend begins. Have a good weekend y'all, and stay classy.

Next week: Ben

[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, Rol, Lisa, Pollstar II, Joe the Troll, Eye in the Sky III, Jerry Cornelius, Stevious, Luke, FLS II, Earworms of the Year 2008, FLS III, Mik]


  1. Many happy returns of the day - from someone who's nearer 2/3 of the way there if your calculations are correct! I know the aforesaid Southern Indian restaurant and I'm sure you'll have a wonderful meal.

    Both possible films good choices as far as I'm concerned.

  2. Happy birthday! I hope your celebrations went well, and that there's not been a nasty hangover.

    And I've finally written (and posted) my Shuffleathon review. Does that mean my credit's good enough again to have another bash at earworms at some stage?

  3. Ha... ermm.....

    Happy belated birthday mate.

    I would offer up an excuse of some sort about being busy but we both know who the real culprit is! Web 2.0 has not been kind to me. Since I am now ruled by it, and you have decided against a FB presence, I was powerless against this inevitability.

    Hope you had a good one.