“Don’t Panic” – Coldplay
I was thinking about the first Coldplay album the other day. You know, back in the time when they were just four kids and the only people with any preconceptions were the kind of people who listened to Alan McGee, who famously said that they made music for bedwetters. Hmm. Or is he actually a prophet who foresaw what horrors were to come? I was with Coldplay as far as Vida La Vida. I wasn’t a massive fan of that, but they had enough credit in the bank from their their first three albums that I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. By “Mylo Xyloto”, I was out and I haven’t been back since. On this album though, the songs are simple and Chris Martin’s emotional inarticulacy is kind of charming and isn’t yet cliché. It’s a good album, it really is. They probably became a better band after this point (“A Rush of Blood to the Head” is my favourite of their albums), and they definitely became a much bigger band.. but there’s an innocent enjoyment in listening to this record. Besides, I find it a reassuring thought to think that we live in a beautiful world. Yeah we do, yeah we do.
“Fake Plastic Trees” - Radiohead
It’s so tempting for me to say much the same thing about Radiohead as I’ve just said about Coldplay: good at the start but then disappeared up their own arses. It’s not quite true though: “Pablo Honey” wasn’t all that, and certainly didn’t give all that much indication of a band that was going to produce “OK Computer”. For my money though, after “OK Computer”, it’s diminishing returns all the way. Sure, there are flashes of brilliance, but they seem to be a band so determined to be self-consciously experimental and to escape their popularity, that their music becomes less and less interesting and more and more wilfully unlistenable. Whisper it, but the album of theirs that I love the most is “The Bends”. There: I’ve said it.
“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” – The Four Tops
Sometimes music is just joyous. We make it sound so complicated, but really shouldn’t it be about making you feel good? This song makes me feel good. Lord knows I listen to enough miserable shit.
“Something Good” – Alt-J
When did Alt-J become the band of choice for creating instrumental beds to use underneath pieces on the radio or on telly? They already seem to be quite popular on BBC Five Live, but this week they have been used quite extensively on Winterwatch, of all things… often to soundtrack beautiful footage of things like a golden eagle soaring. As she’s French, C. finds Winterwatch (and Springwatch and all the other seasonal variations) to be the most British programme ever made. No other nation, she thinks, would care this much for the animals around them. She texted me from her hotel in Weybridge when they showed a fantastic little film about a woodlouse looking for water in a garden shed (they're land-based crustaceans, you know). “Who cares!?” The British care, that’s who. We care about animals, including the ones we can’t eat. Which immediately separates us from the French. As
“Happy” – Pharrell Williams
Universally popular, apparently…..but I have to say that I don’t really care for it. It’s alright, but it’s not all that. It doesn't make any sense to me. Who feels like a room without a roof? What? How is that a universal thing that people can connect to? Describe to me exactly what you think that means because I've got not idea. Pharrell also strikes me as a bit of a knob, but that’s a separate issue. He's very pleased with himself, isn't he?
“Is It Really So Strange” – The Smiths
For as long as I can remember, the signature on my personal email has been a line from this song: “I lost my bag in Newport Pagnell” (growled at the end of a line, almost as an afterthought, by Morrissey). It’s been there so long that I really don’t think about it at all. Someone asked me about it this week, and as I was explaining, I realised that it’s fairly obscure. Why did I pick it? Um, because I like The Smiths and that was the M1 services closest to where I grew up. Do I need a better reason than that?
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – Judy Garland
No idea. Honestly, no idea. Maybe it’s because I saw one the other day. Maybe it’s because Oz featured in one of the last volumes of “Fables” that I read a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it’s because I’m hankering for a better tomorrow. Or maybe I'm just gay. Who knows?
Theme to the 1981 BBC Radio adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings”
As the number of miles I’m running goes up, I’ve found that I’ve started listening to more talking books (when I’m not running with C, anyway). Last week I listened to the adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens” that was still on the iPlayer. This week, I listened to the BBC adaptation of “Small Gods” that I discovered when the iPlayer radio app on my phone recommended it to me after I’d finished “Good Omens”. After that, I reached for one of the only audio books that I have on my iPod…. The multi-disc BBC version of the Lord of the Rings that features Michael Hordern as Gandalf, Ian Holm as Frodo and John le Measurier as Bilbo. Not only is this a brilliant version (Robert Stephens is outstanding as Aragorn), but it’s also one that I used to listen to all the time with my little brother when we were playing Championship Manager or Civilisation at home when we were kids. I’ll have to ask him, but I imagine that he still does a pretty mean version of the various noises that Gollum makes here. My run yesterday got me most of the way through the first disc, but I should have enough here to keep my busy for the next few weeks. After that, I’ll probably have to make my way around to subscribing to a few podcasts, something that I’ve resisted doing on grounds of time for some time now. Apparently there are some really good ones out there, so if you’ve got any tips, then please feel free to pass them on. Incidentally, I've owned and loved this for years and only just discovered that Bill Nighy played Sam!
“RV” – Faith No More
“Yeah, I sweat a lot
Pants fall down every time I bend over
And my feet itch”
Possibly bought on by Jim Martin’s seminal appearance in “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey”, which I watched a bit of the other day. C. was largely mystified as to why I wanted to watch this. She’s heard my Death impressions for years now (“Best three out of five”) without ever showing any interest where it came from. Then she saw it, and after about fifteen minutes, she was giving me the “CHANGE THE CHANNEL” look. I held on to heaven (“They melvined me!”), but when Station turns up it all goes downhill anyway. Keanu’s finest moment?
“Conversation 16” – The National
It’s Matt Berninger’s voice that does it for me. The National are a fascinating band with a back catalogue that’s well worth exploring (I’ve been working my way backwards through their albums this week)… but it’s that voice that really hooks me. Proper band. In my karaoke range too, not that I’m sure I’ll really get the chance to stand on a stage in a bar and sing this one
All together now:
"I was afraid, I'd eat your brains
I was afraid, I'd eat your brains
'Cause I'm evil
'Cause I'm evil"
Yeah! Sing it!
Have a good weekend, y’all. Running and sleeping for me. The rock and roll marathon training lifestyle.
Oh, and a jamon party. Yeah. As you do.