Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

peter buck smile challenge

venus 3
venus 3 by Tim Caynes

we were almost just sitting around and having a nice cup of tea in the dark as waily captain beefheart lookalike departed the stage to a single clap and relative to a norwich appreciation level that was a deafening roar considering there must have been at most 90 of us packed into the waterfront with maybe 10 square feet each to ourselves so when it all kicked off and we thronged, guardian reader-like, to the crush barriers at the front, I almost knocked someone’s deck chair over and woke them up.

we assembled as usual at the altar of Robyn Hitchcock looking our customary socially inadequate and middle-class dad selves and all did that little nod and hopelessly off time dance step which doesn’t involve much more than moving your head backwards and forwards and occasionally punching the air at waist height while ironically and whimsically smiling to yourself because you know all the words to the songs from Perspex Island. only this time is wasn’t just a guitar and morris slapping the bongos in falsetto, it was the latest roving incarnation of a rock royalty support band in the shape of the Venus 3, who, as Robyn points out, are 3/4 of R.E.M. and 3/5 of the Minus 5 or something as it is made up of Peter Buck, Bill Rieflin and Scott McCaughey who all feature on the Olé Tarantula album which made up about a quarter of the set which also included a selection box of previous solos and enough Soft Boys to keep the hardcore, which in this case means old, happy, and the usual rambling english intellectual twitness from one of the archetypal english eccentrics, who happens to have most of the others featured on the album or co-writing

as R.E.M. are having a year off, most of them are touring tiny clubs as the Venus 3 in front of about 100 people at a time and when do you get to stand 10 feet from Peter Buck as he changes electric 12-strings for fun and rips power chords and byrdsy twangdangles looking like he wishes he could do it like this all the time? well, actually, he looked like somebody had just told him his cat had been sucked into an irony vortex and the challenge for the evening was to see if he ever curled his lip. but he never does. even after the gig when he’s stood behind a formica table with a few robyn cds because they left the merchandise in brighton and is surrounded by about 15 of us telling him how great it was, he still looks like he’s been slapped by the invisible man. I mean, I know he’s having a ball really.

it’s not about R.E.M. though. long before things went all Green, R.E.M. and Robyn were already mutually respectual, as the Virtual Brighton magazine notes: Beginning as a strummer in Cambridge’s folk clubs, Hitchcock developed into a bandleader, heading up folk-pop iconoclasts the Soft Boys, one of alternative rock’s least sung but most influential bands. Yet by the time bands like R.E.M. and the Replacements quoted the Soft Boys as a major influence, Hitchcock had moved on to what would become his distinguished solo career. In other words, people were here to see Robyn Hitchcock. The support band were something of a novelty. a good one though. The BBC Oxford site sums up the whole things pretty nicely, but then again, Michael Stipe joined them on stage at the Zodiac and Thom Yorke was in the audience.


uea nostalgia trip

for those of you currently watching the countdown timer on bloc party tickets on ebay or even watching the countdown timer on countdown, a small distraction in the shape of the gig nostaliafest has been put together by those good people at the uea. while you have 20 minutes to wait to see if cheesehelmet67 has placed an automatic bid on BLOC PARTY TICKETS 2!!! SOLD OUT NORICH UEA!!! that will trump your 80 quid at the last second, head over to the uea box office link and check out 1981. if you roll all those groups together into one uberretronostagliaplagagroup you end up with bloc party anyway. merry christmas!

for those of you like me who already have your bloc party tickets and actually thought you might as well get a feeling ticket as well while you were on the phone (see 17 mar 1982), take a little while to check out the list and after you’ve got past the october 1981 section to remind yourself about that u2 gig you went to where the whole of norwich apparently crammed into the lower common room at the same time based on how many people say they were there then have a browse at the rest of the eighties to remind yourself how rubbish/brilliant it was. I mean, there was only so many times you could go and see the thompson twins or tears for fears, but john martyn, the damned and killing joke in the space of 4 day? genius.

you are allowed to vote for your best of all time from that list, but it will just be for you own amusement.

genesis 21:30

well, they better be good. I’ve not been to a stadium since I was employed as a not-so-very burly security person at the sheffield arena when paul simon played the most intolerably boring 2 hours of music I’ve ever had the displeasure to have my back turned to helping old people to the toilet and trying to work out just why the sound in that place was so bad and it’s clear it’s because it was built to house students playing ice hockey and gymnastics and not dire straits who for some reason I also found myself sitting watching at some point wondering why I couldn’t hear what they were playing even though obviously we were in the same room it’s just a huge room made of metal with the worst acoustics outside the lower common room with 15000 people thinking the same thing.

last time I witnessed this lot was 24 years ago with peter gabriel when I still wore lumberjack shirts with the arms and collars cut off and had sticky-up hair although in this case at was raining for 17 hours and so all I really had was a mouthful of boots hairspray and a bootful of milton keynes finest mud from the lip of the bowl where 40 somethings were murmuring supper’s ready under their breath who will now be 60 or 70 somethings doing the same but wondering whether all those seats on the pitch make the grass too flat for rugby and where’s the not-so-burly security guard when you need the toilet.

I’m not sure whether there’ll be six of the best or just 3 of the best with all those session musicians wheeled out again but please make sure you don’t cock up anything from the lamb lies down on broadway and consider closing with los endos. in fact, if you just do the whole of seconds out I’ll be happy but maybe leave out that wind and wuthering nonsense and put in the other bits from the first live album and don’t bother with anything after duke. I bet twickenham section 21 row 30 is behind a lighting rig and I won’t see anything anyway. I’ll probably be sitting through cinema show wondering about the traffic on the way home. slap me if you see that happening.

And he said, These seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that it may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well. it was more like And I said, Fleece me of my one hundred and thirty seven new pounds, that I may be a witness of the reunion, that I shall dig, man, but it’s close.

the knife

no no no! not the knife! rub rub rub. go on. 64%, dammit! rub rub rub. again. 49%. 64%. 98%. no! dammit! rub rub rub, but the other way round and from the middle to the edge for good luck. last chance. 11, 48, 70, 98. let’s see. dammit! bloody libraries.

I just went through 2 hours to get to that and I was there, back in the bowl in the pouring rain with ship arriving too late to save a drowning witch painted on my rucksack and peter already missing his spot in the middle of the cage in 1982 and I was just about to close the blind and wallow in that closing 4:30 when you have to go skipping like a demented schoolgirl all over the shop. I’ll have to go and purchase something illegal from Korea now to make up for it.

rude awakening

i say go!team, you say net!beans

truthfulness is next to godliness or something
truthfulness is next to godliness or something by Tim Caynes

having spent the previous evening in the company of a few suzi quattroalikes who were ‘a bit disappointed actually’ with the reincarnation of the early 80s that is editors and passed up the chance to get intimate in the arts centre with gemma hayes and about 200 other guardian readers who knew it was happening only the night before that because 3 nights out in a row for me would probably cause an earthquake or something, I took to the megane scenic in the rain and headed out to that lovliest of lovely venues the uea lower common room with a face on like a slapped arse and half a mind to just not bother because the day hadn’t really gone well with kids off sick and a bunch of other conspiratorial coincidences that pretty much just left me wanting to go to bed but hey, I got this ticket months ago and maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised and anyway I don’t have to go galavanting about down the front like an old gibbon on acid, I’ll just stand around the edge stroking my chin and tapping my foot like a lecturer who read a review in the independent that said they were the living embodiment of 70s pastiche mangled with a rock-hop sensibility and oozing intelligence and wit or something like that which I just made up

after the usual 2.70 please for the plastic stella I hung around the edge a bit watching half a woman shriek into the microphone while playing a modern bontempi and accompanied by a person I just could not see at all who was presumably banging a drum or something and as I only caught the last two numbers I couldn’t really decide if they were rubbish or not so I kind of just let them off and surveyed the scene as the lights went up to see how we’re doing tonight. ooh. lots of space down there. still, someone will fill it and have nice time, I’m sure. not me though. not tonight. I think I’ve got a headache. mind you, there’s a lot of space down there. it would be churlish of me not to fill it up a bit so that the place doesn’t look quite so empty. nah. I’ll stay here. hmm hm hmm. daa de dum. <tumbleweed> aah, go on then. plop.

no sooner have I drawn an imaginary chalk mark around my feet than another mad collective of people dribble onto the stage and I can tell from the hand-written scrawl on the drum kit that they are in fact the grates and as they launch into the first of a few, we’re struck by the singer who looks like a derenaged liz from blue peter on speed and is bouncing up and down and twirling around like an embarrassing mum after a couple too many guaranga teas at the green party toddler club disco and she is ably supported by something that looks like mo tucker but sounds like john bonham and some other bloke. they do songs I can’t understand and shout a lot but they’re all so bizarre that by the end of it they get the biggest reception that norwich can muster which isn’t a lot but it was more than editors got and so everyone is happy and we all go home. well, not yet. by this time I’ve even taken my trusty replay top off and tied it around my enormous waist in anticipation of some invigorating bouncing around as the whole place is now full and the pit that had breathing space a while ago is now the usual too-close-for-comfort layer of hell that we all know and love except there’s an unheathly number of stoners prowling about tonight so something is bound to kick off.

they never even tuned the lights after the grates, so we’ve been in the dark for a good half hour when mr fatman shines the torch and the place goes mental. it’s only the Go! Team for chissake. don’t you lot go out much? I wasn’t really expecting much but in the end they were a running jumping dancing tripping bundle of bedroom tinkering gone global and all the better for that I say with a suitably cheesy 70s backdrop projection and ninja shaking everyone up in the house the whole thing went off like an entire humungous box of fireworks had gone up by mistake and the sky was filled with swizzle sticks and public information monkeys flying by on magic raleigh choppers during the silver jubilee as a million samplers were blasting out the theme from grandstand mashed up with the flaming lips and salt and peppa and the ghost of chrismas future came down with a brand new super flight deck and a dx50 wrapped up in 3d wallpaper at least that’s how I remember it. they were brilliant. I danced like I’m only allowed out once a month and nobody cared because they were all doing the same and even all the tall people magically disappeared from the crowd so that all the short people could see the stage for once so there was indeed some kind of divine intervention going on and I saw people going back to the car park saying things like ‘aaw, that was amaaaazing’ even though it was pissing down.

i say editors, you say netbeans

line 1
line 1 by Tim Caynes

I’ll just do a quick story although that will probably be a whole chapter as they’re quite short and we need to see whether there’s anything useful in justice strauss’ extensive library which might tell us something about inheritance law and then I really have to go as there’s probably at least 1 other bunch of geordies or something to squeeze in before we get to what seems to be the unofficial official time of around 9:50 when they’ll flash that torch from the front so that the serious looking pair on the mixing desk know when to dim the lights and crank it up to 11 by which time there’s already a few pairs of feet in the air which will get hauled out by the efficient security staff behind the barrier and get chucked out into to night where the ice cream van that’s been modded to flog burgers and ecoli will gather them up and they’ll never be seen again at least not by me

everyone’s feeling a bit sunday night as its sunday night but we’re kind of kind to the guys on stage from newcastle who I have no idea about although they shout nicely and we all cheer when the bass player jumps down from the stage to confront an annoying troglodite from swaffham who’s been heckling throughout but we don’t get a fight although we do get a pointy finger in the face and a look of thunder and then he gets back on stage and starts playing again and the whole band crack up and he grins for the rest of the set which is funny but no sooner have they gone than the snake trail to the dance pit begins as we’re making early territorial claims on bits of floor that will be covered in plastic and beer in an hour anyway but if you don’t make a move now the only way to do it later is to get ubersweaty and take your shirt off so you slime past people and they clear a path to the front which is particularly effective if you smell real bad and look like you’re stoned past the point of coherence and probably uncontrollably violent but I haven’t done that for years and before you know it there’s a band called brakes on who look like they met in a youth hostel in the brecons via quebec and do 30 seconds songs about picking up the phone blair blair blair and cheney stop being such a dick and a few slightly longer ones about having a life and love and after a good 40 minutes we all think they’re marvellous and when the lights come on we take a quick look at the posters on the pillars about their album which we ignored before

and then said flashlight occurs and suddenly its the 1980s and I’m watching echo and the bunnymen at the ipswich gaumont and u2 at the uea and a whole bunch of 4ad artists who like to play guitars using only 1 string but really loud except that actually its editors and fancy that, someone’s come to the uea and put on a proper show like what they used to with projectors and backlit hanging sheets and those white lights that look like stars and shine in your face and a healthy collection of strobe lights that nearly go for a full unbroken 10 seconds at one point while we’re all catatonic down the front shouting “as the FIN-GERS-BLEED in the FAC-TO-RIES” and “youdon’tneedthisdiseaseyoudon’tyoudon’tyouDON’T” and “I still love the LIGHT on BABY” in a really horrible high-pitched squeal but we’re loving it and even though tom’s guitar is mixed so far down you can bearly hear it and a significant amount of the stage lights point toward the crowd meaning we’re lit up for a lot of the time which means we can actually see each other which is quite off-putting and really kills the atmosphere we have a rather nice time. aah, there’s nothing like a healthy nostalgia trip and if you’re old enough to have been there the first time but can still do it 25 years later without looking like you just there to do some kind of sociology study or something then its bonus time. did someone say big country? ooh, that’s a bit harsh…

blimey, its the small faces

just had time to wolf down the roast dinner before I bolted out the door leaving family chaos behind me like a fleeing teenager going to meet his girlfriend outside the doors of the lower common room at the university which is coincidentally where I was going but not to meet my girlfriend because she’s now my wife and I’ve just left her with some rather unpleasant washing up and 3 school packed lunches to make but that’s ok because I’ll get a list of things I won’t remember that I have to do tomorrow unless I get left a list

tonight I’m banking on the fact that 4 bands can’t all cancel at the same time seeing as tonight they’re all on at the same time and so unlike that class A fatboy shambles who got himself arrested and our finnish friends who declined to turn up at all, oh, and the wierdos who were sick or summat, I’m expecting mystery jets, we are scientists, arctic monkeys and maximo park to give us a performance that people who weren’t there will be remembering for at least, ooh, a year or so or as young alex said in 20 years when its all over will say they were there when they actually might have been down the front asking for girls aloud like what he said innit. as it happens, I’m not early enough to see the young boy with his dad in the band do their thing and they’re just sticking with agnes by the time I get to the bar for a customary stella in a ‘plastic glass’ that will be recycled before our eyes under 100s of tiny feet later on. oh well.

hang on. its busy in here. I saw the rakes a couple of weeks ago and you could stroll onto the floor and put out a deckchair pretty much, but this time its absolutely mashed full of youngsters with their hair and tshirts. not since 1981 has this place been so full of 14 year olds and I was one of them so I know and by the way I do remember 20+ years later when it’s all over because it isn’t because the band I saw then just picked up 5 grammys which is nice and so it was me down the front then except I wasn’t shouting for girls aloud, but maybe for girls, aloud but by a strange coincidence I now also have girls aloud. I’m not entirely sure that all these people are here to see we are scientists, good as they are but that dance floor bit is already moving around like a strange mass with it’s own brain and there must be about 800 people in a space where 600 is probably enough to be rather too personal. I mean, they’re good and they do american jokes and things like they’re out of a spike jonze video and everyone gives them a courteous amount of mobile phone picture taking time and then they’re gone and everybody’s looking at their watch because actually they know from previous reports that arctic monkeys will take the stage at 9 pm and so we’re all eyeing up the preferred route to the mosh pit and where we might end up when we take our feet from the floor and just let our bodies get hoofed around in a sweaty crush.

I give up caring about anything by about 8:55 and so take it upon myself to just barge through about 20 poor young girls in black mohair and squeeze past assorted 18 year old soft southerners, spilling their plastic pints on the way because they don’t deserve to have drinks on the dance floor and after about 10 minutes I’m right in the middle of the floor getting my head in everyone’s way but they should care because in approximately 30 seconds the whole place is going to go mental ape sh*t as the reason at least 50% of the people are here are about to strop onto the stage and give us 40 minutes of south yorkshire monkeyness. as they come on about 20 girls faint on the spot and about 20 boys do as well and when they launch into whatever song it was they launched into I get a flashback to the clash at the brixton academy although not because the arctic monkeys remind me of the clash at all its just that I had a strange feeling I was going to lose my shoes in the brixton academy violent mosh madness and for some reason felt it again here in the uea common room about 25 years later which maybe is what the arctic monkeys are all about except it occurs to me now that they are actually the reincarnation of the small faces which isn’t a bad thing at all and so I keep that thought in my head and jump up and down and get crushed and mashed up and frankly have more fun than a fat balding 38 year old should have when he’s surrounded by students and fake tales of san francisco is a great tune anyway and worth the entrance fee which was doubled by the time I paid it to some bloke on ebay who’s girlfriend couldn’t go.

so then they’re off and so are a sizeable section of the audience who must have to catch a really early bus or summat and so things thin out about and I’m just wringing out my ‘I swam the Pacifico’ tshirt when those lovely northern neo-punks maximo park dart on and pull a few art school poses before giving us all a 50 minute reminder why they are top of the bill after all. because they’re loads better than all the others really. and they’re really nice. so there. I sing out loud. embarassing, but worth it. lose some pressure, apply some pressure, lose some pressure, apply some pressure…

neat neat neat

this is more like it. this place is like a grimy warehouse that’s been converted into a grimy venue full of 40 year old ex-punks and students. that’s because its a grimy warehouse that’s been converted into a grimy venue full of 40 year old ex-punks and students. the stage is just there, the bar is just there, and the air is just, well, its no longer air, its just a carcenagenic haze of camel lights and old holborn through which you can learn to swim to the toilets, where you can actually swim around on the floor should you choose to. this is much better than the loathesome LCR where you can get about 4 times as many people crammed in but 5 times as many of you can’t even see the stage because you’re stuck in a big hair diagonal that stretches right back to the sandwich of floor and 6 foot ceiling in front of the bar.

I should have been here last week, but of course it got cancelled at the last minute like mr doherty and our friends from finland so once again the curse of me was upon me and I’d washed my hands of the whole concept of a stiff revival evening. in the end though, the weirdos just stayed at home and I walked into the back end of someone must have nailed us together which transformed via the epic local to the stiff supergroup rendition of I’d go the whole wide world, with sensible, wreckless and lovich all on the tiny stage screaming until they were blue in the face, which lene lovich was to start with anyway, but she does scream well.

I wasn’t even sure that it was that time, as I’d just slipped another stella in and was getting comfortable, scanning around in the dark to see who I could spot from 25 years ago, when all this used to be warehouses, when the lights go out and sensible stumbles back on stage saying something about being the last night of the tour and being drunk and then they launched into 3 songs that must have been from a recent album or something because I had no clue what they were and I was thinking about slipping out the fire escape and back home to catch the end of the champions league, when they decided it was about time to whack out noise noise noise at which point I decided to stay forever and they decided to plunder the hit collection, building up to a mad grin straight through what should have been an encore to a idiotic new rose and then the light came on and I hadn’t drank my stella at all.

altogether now, “we say noise is for heroes, leave the music for zeroes, noise noise noise is for heroes, oh yeah…”

oh go on then, natalie imbruglia

with mr doherty and his shambles of babies and our friends from the forests of finland deciding they couldn’t be quite arsed enough to bother to visit this place (twice in mr doherty’s feeble case) I had reached that point where I would have agreed to go and see the chuckle brothers performing we will rock you at a disused tractor factory in aylsham if they agreed to actually turn up. it would just be nice to get hold of a ticket to go to the excruciatingly awful lower common room and see anyone, even if it was kirk brandon and mike peters or someone. well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. so leafing through the free advertiser on a friday morning, reading the crime reports and special deals on honda civics at a garage in wymondham, there, between the patios and 60s birthday messages for a woman called travis from clacton, an over saturated, colour bled small ad for natalie imbruglia who will be singing stuff at said lower common room on halloween as part of a UK tour that takes in london and, er, norwich. that’s it. well, she won’t cancel everything at the last minute. I mean, she’s like a real professional pop person and everything. she’ll probably bring her own travelling venue on the back of a lorry that they can construct inside the lower common room so that it actually ends up being the kind of place you might voluntarily fork out 20 quid to see someone because they’re the only people who’ll turn up. and besides, its natalie imbruglia, right? it’s probably a good idea to go and see her in real life just to check whether she really does look like she does in marie claire or whether they actually airbrush her entire head and actually in person she looks like supergran on speed or that mad woman from rentaghost.

as the students are not yet back there’s a slim chance that the 1500 tickets for an event that’s likely to be more bearable than an environmental science roadshow featuring a beard from cambridge and maybe bill oddie will not have sold out 3 hours before they’re even announced, I plunge onto the uea ticket bookings site and register for about the 5th time, letting them know my preferences don’t really include spoken word folk ambient evenings with organic muppets, and check down the list of student clubs nights featuring half dressed disaster areas, half man half biscuit tribute bands (arctic monkeys hahaha) , and revival nights, and there she is, too recent to have her own picture, for 20 quid. oh go on then, natalie imbruglia. if you even turn up I’ll be pleased to see you, so you probably don’t have to do too much to impress me once you get going and we’ll all be feeling like we made a good, albeit bizarre, decision to meet in east anglia, where in general, the audiences are, well, rubbish.

have you checked to see whether it’s still on? nah. its natalie imbruglia, right? I mean, she’s not going to cancel is she? I didn’t even check the ticket booking site, which had flashing messages in big capital letters and everything when the shambles and the leaves decided norwich was a backwater too far. I finished off a project plan for global search, updated the calendar for meetings about ecommerce globalization, unified product information architecture worldwide routing and globalized web platforms, cut out an evil toothy face from a haphazard pumpkin, put 170 mini mars bars and 34 chupa chups into the treat collection jar, got in the megane scenic and headed out to the university. in the rain. backwards. its only about 10 minutes to get there, but the campus has one of those one-way systems and menacing car parks that make late 30 somethings want to stay in and watch videos of waking the dead instead, but I ploughed on, through the already skyward car park barrier, which obviously made me paranoid about not having a ticket to put in the other barrier on the way out and how I’d probably get stuck in the barrier with 500 cars behind me and I’d have to reverse out and call a man with a torch called dave to put a special key in or something to let everyone through, who want to kill me by now and I should have just stayed in an watched spooks instead. anyway, having found a space under a street lamp (under strict instruction from home) I started walking over the car park and down the hill past what used to be the sports hall to the lower common room, which used to be the lower common room, which I used to walk to about 3 times a week about 20 years ago, to go and see people I’ve never heard of shout at microphones about red wedge and urban decay and class war and and suchlike, but now I’m tripping over cables from luxury tour buses for aor queens and everyone around me looks like they’ve got a day off from anglian windows or norwich union, but then, even though I try and look like I might just be a journalist or something, who has to be here, I probably look like a 30-something dad, who’s got a night off from the washing up and actually thinks natalie has a brilliant voice and her songs are so, well, you know, like, good, all of which is probably true, but I’ve brought a pen, just to see if I can’t keep the journalist thing alive as long as possible. I had a haircut this morning, which always gives me a headache in the evening, but I’ve shot myself in the head with 2 nurofen arrows and I’m holding up. as I walk through the security and fumble around for my ticket, I’m still trying to pull of that ‘I don’t really want to be here’ look, but I getting past the point of caring even if neil sees me and it ruins 20 years of carefully cultivated cultural snobbery.

once I’m in, I’m reminded just how godawful a place the lower common room is to see any kind of event. the ceiling around 3 sides of a square must be around 7 foot high and the 4th side is the stage. in front of the stage is a smaller square of old parquet flooring which can probably accommodate around 300 people standing looking at the stage – this is the only place people under 6 foot can actually see anything – or 200 students fumbling drunkenly at each other while madame disco poopoo or something spins 70 glam classics and everything smells a bit off. and it’s hot. it’s always been hot. for about 40 years its been hot and so by the time I’ve had pint of stella in a glass that can only be described as a plastic challenge, and stood contemplating the rise of the woolly hat as sported by robert post tonight and daniel powter at all times, and shuffled a few places to the left and filled a couple of gaps left by some people who had passed out, I’m about ready to take the replay top off and assume my watching position. miraculously, for the lower common room, a gap opens up in front of me, which is just right for a 6 foot plus person like me to see the whole stage, although the saturday staff from john lewis who are all around and below me have no chance (can you see her? can you see her now? will be the soundtrack to the evening).

then the moment where the lights go down and some ill-advised intro music pipes in comes along and this is everyone’s cue to cheer and clap until the act bounds on stage at which point the crowd erupts into an ecstatic frenzy like they’ve been brainwashed by colonel kurtz and the night kicks off. except, in norwich, this is more like 30 seconds of low-key ‘yeah’s and a couple of whoops, followed by a protracted murmur and then total silence at which point the intro music turns into some more intro music and some people actually get bored and leave in an embarrassing shuffle through the crowd. oh, but then the lights come on, the band bounce across the stage and we all go understatedly apoplectic again and then there’s natalie, bouncing across the stage in a probably ridiculously expensive grey tshirt and what looks like diesel jeans, which is funny to me, for some reason. she says hi, and sings lots of songs and then a couple more and then gets on her bus to go to amsterdam.

she’s not got snake hair or a beard or anything. she’s beautiful, she sings like an angel and I love her. I’m still a bit worried about the car park though.

coefficient of alrightness

you can either accept the fact that if you’re going to keep the window open, then you are a slave to shuffle and you must suffer the consequences of your actions. if you really do like all the things in your 4 and 5 star rated playlist, then what does it matter that anyone walking past the window can immediately associate you with the 5 second snippet of music wafting out across the 30 degree, slightly smoggy street-level air? I mean, you’ll never meet these people or ever talk to them, so what does it matter what they think of you at that moment? nothing. unless you’re a half-baked insecure 30-something desperate wannabe who’s constantly justifying your validity in a retro culture society that you remember the first time around when you thought you were the centre of it but you probably weren’t even then.

so, it matters to you desperately that if ryan adams is trailing off, as a bunch of 20-something ex-university students in 70’s elvis shades, just faded enough element t-shirts and fat face flip flops pass by, that it might suddenly cross-fade into wuthering heights and they’ll all be swivelling their necks around to see where that stupid wailing noise is coming from. it would be something of a social disaster if LCD soundsystem come to an abrupt end and all too quickly, natalie imbruglia pipes up, just as the heigham park massive are drifting past with their nice white airmax 95s and their evisus hanging the requisite 3 inches below the waistband of their calvins. I mean, you’d be lambasted. you’re just so culturally irrelevant. you’re just like someone’s dad. which you are, of course, but you’ve just given it all away, you idiot.

you have to develop a contingency. it’s slightly extra work, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. these are you favourite tracks. you know when they start and finish, but you can’t give up the shuffle, no matter how hard you try, so you’re caught between the freedom and gay abandon of randomness and the self-conscious straightjacket of predictability. you need broadcast control, but with the flexibility of choice. you like half man half biscuit, godammit.

the answer is the cultural self-preservation equation. it roughly states that the level of saving face is equal to the product of the coefficient of alrightness times the specific relevance capacity over the am I bovvered factor. as the level of saving face approaches 1, the requirement to mute approaches 0 and vice versa. so, for something like lilywhite lilith by genesis, on a nice sunny friday, this would probably look something like:

4 (coefficient of alrightness) * 0.2 (specific relevance capacity) / 2 (am I bovvered factor) = 0.4 (level of saving face)

so, I’d have my finger pretty close to the mute key for that one. however, if it were to be something like black and white town by doves, on a grey wednesday, it would probably look more like this:

15 (coefficient of alrightness) * 0.6 (specific relevance capacity) / 10 (am I bovvered factor) = 0.9 (level of saving face)

which is pretty darn high, so I’d be looking to the whack the volume up key for that one. it takes some practice, but you end up being able to perform this equation on the fly in no time and so within a second or so, you’re able to direct your twitchy little fingers to the correct key that will enable you to remain comfortably smug in the knowledge that the most credibility-risky tunes are screened from the passing cultural commentators. at least, it’s a bit less embarrassing when sheryl crow suddenly starts blaring out the window and you’re able to catch it just before that nice girl with the purple hair walks past. mind you, if she knew about the jo dee messina track I’d have no chance.



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