Tag Archives: Concept albums

Art pop A.D.

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More by accident than design: now there’s a cliché; in music as in life. A happy accident occurred mere weeks ago, when noted British singer-songwriter, Steven Wilson lost his voice at a New York gig and back-up singer Ninet Tayeb stepped up to the plate to perform all his parts on a one-off rendition of his last, flawed album Hand. Cannot. Erase. Happy because said album was written in Wilson‘s imagination from the perspective of a female protagonist; and the aforementioned flaw is mostly, if not entirely the lack of authentic female voice. I can’t vouch for any improvement re Tayeb‘s rendition, only imagine it myself based on her contribution to the Brighton gig I attended: bluntly, she stole the show – and this on the back of three songs, including a fantastic take on Space Oddity.

There’s nothing accidental about Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, the latest release from Catherine Ann Davies – aka The Anchoress. It’s a concept album of sorts, and artful in the best way; pulling the prog trick of drawing together disparate styles, moods and time signatures into a cohesive whole.

Long Year recalls Morcheeba’s swampy trip hop; Popular invokes Kate Bush; p.s. Fuck You is smooth R’n’B with biting lyrics not quite disguised by perfectly understated delivery; Bury Me resembles nothing so much as Amy Lee – of Evanescence fame – in balladic mode; Chip On Your Shoulder is a bit Ladyhawke…

It’s wistful, confessional, soulful and angry by turns, gripping from start to finish.

Co-writer’s – Mansun‘s – Paul Draper‘s* hand is all over Confessions…, but unlike – the aforementioned – Wilson, he seems happy to play second fiddle. He contributes characteristic melodic sense to his duet, You and Only You, as well as instrumentation and production thruout, but never gets in the way of Davies‘ story.

As accessible, female-led art pop goes, this is up there with Alanis Morissette‘s – criminally-underrated ‘difficult sophomore’ –  Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie; Paula Cole‘s – raw, incandescent debut, This Fire and Janelle Monae‘s Metropolis twofer.

Check in with the anchoress and order the album:

https://www.facebook.com/theanchoress/

*Draper’s first solo . If it’s a patch on Attack Of The Grey Lantern and Six we’ll be in for a treat

Return of The Mex

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2014 has thusfar resounded to the sound of long hiatuses coming to noisy, and much talked-about ends: forget The Stone Roses, or even Guns’n’Roses; Pixies released their first LP since 1991, the acclaimed Indie Cindy; whilst Kate Bush announced her second string of live dates since her groundbreaking 1979 European tour. The pre-order for the ‘new’ Pink Floyd album, The Endless River is open… And whilst this might signal the rude heath of art rock per se, Mex may be less the household name, outside of studio personnel circles. Nonetheless, his 2014 album, Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde ends an in-studio silence, at least under his own name as singer-songwriter, but one year short of Bush‘s onstage one. Aided and abetted by a talented cast of collaborators including bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree/Ex Wise Heads), guitarist, Gordon Russell (Dr Feelgood), visual artist, Nick Egan (Clash, Ramones, Alanis Morissette) and avant-garde poet, Bernadette Cremin, he presents an engaging album of intermittently angry and lovelorn – though ultimately uplifting and cathartic – emotionally-charged pop/rock.

A concept album of sorts, …Jekyll… is nonetheless miles from the overwrought prog indulgence of The Wall or …Topographic Oceans, rather more akin to the wilful eclecticism and compelling grooves of David Holmes Bow Down To The Exit Sign or Typewriter‘s Skeleton Key. Albeit as otherworldly as neither, and refusing to venture as far from conventional song structures, there’s the same sense of a single guiding creative light, similar wild mood swings between fuzzed-out dirty pub-blues ditties and cool, effects-laden atmospheres.

Mex‘s often heavily-FX’d vocals – pitched somewhere between Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) and Nick Barrett (Pendragon) – tell the story of a love affair gone awry, with attendant reflections on age, alienation, regret and possibilities. The pace of the album is perfectly-judged, making it an easy, even fun listen. Occasional lapses into lyrical cliché, far from being a detraction, reflect the album’s confessional style (the lyrics were drawn from the performer’s diary during a period in therapy). In an age where singles reign supreme, it’s a joy to land on a body of work that deserves beginning-to-end listener attention. There’s a good reason why the album is a dying art-form; and I see no mileage in being a fuddy-duddy about that; it’s a trend that opens as many doors as it closes: equally, it’s satisfying to hear said form being handled so deftly and respectfully.

Some cuts stand out, though: From Nought To Sixty mixes snappy punk riffing with mature reflection; Think About It sets poet Cremin‘s ‘angel on the shoulder’ conversational tones to Edwin‘s bass groove to great effect, and Catching A Train has a pleasing whiff of Psychedelic Fur. Mex is an exponent of the punk days, but this is an album that could only have been come to fruition in 2014, incorporating well-judged references from intervening years: from shades of artful and more emotionally-literate post-punk à la Furs and Bunnymen to the neo-diy facilitated by affordable digital home-recording technology: the quality of the songwriting now shines thru, rather than musters out; even cheeky stabs of squawking sax (Everybody Has A Book Inside) enhance rather than come off as ’90s cheesy.

You can purchase the full album here.

http://www.mexonerecordings.co.uk/dhe.html

Fresh from the vault (11)

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There was much to like about Dream Theater‘s latest, self-titled 2013 release. Despite that neither of its two trailer singles, The Enemy Inside and Along For The Ride immediately grabbed me; and that the album as a whole does little to expand the band’s musical horizons. it’s an album that I’ve continued to play sporadically since purchase and has grown in my estimation with repeat listening. Understated harmonic references to the band’s own career history are juxtaposed with less-subtle allusions to its influences (particularly Canuck power-trio, Rush) and whilst they’ve not skimped on compositional depth and complexity, there’s a smoothness and accessibility, combined with expert pacing, to the songs which makes it compelling: very much an album-long listen rather than playlist fodder. It’s revelatory rather than revolutionary: a consolidation and refinement of what they’ve learned over their 30+ year career.

So if you’ll forgive me, I’m not exactly criticizing that album when I say I think they’ve managed this particular balancing act as well if not even better before. Octavarium (2005) is regarded by many as the definitive DT album, alongside the Images And Words sophomore effort: I favour the former. DT‘s first three albums (and also the A Change Of Seasons mini-album) have a thrilling exploratory quality, reflecting an ambition to marry classic pop and hard rock influences to ’80s metal bombast . Ironically, whilst not so well-received by some fans, it was their forth, ‘trying too-hard’ (for accessibility) – Falling Into Infinity (1995) – which marked a turning point. Octavarium represents in some ways a return to that mode of writing, albeit undertaken in a more honest spirit: there are parallels with the career of one of Mike Portnoy‘s musical influences, Marillion. Both bands had an unlikely ‘hit’ (Pull Me Under and Kayleigh respectively); both faced record company pressure – to no avail – to write another; and both gravitated of their own accord towards a more streamlined ‘pop’ mode of writing later on in their careers, and significantly, once said company pressure was lifted. Intriguingly, both albums (Octavarium and .com) climax with an archetypal prog epic featuring headfuck widdly keyboard solos that explode out of nowhere (Octavarium and Interior Lulu).

…[so] this is where we came in…

Of Mike Portnoy‘s 12-Step suite – which in light of his and the band’s parting of the ways is now unlikely to be played in full as a live set, more’s the pity – The Root Of All Evil is perhaps the track that works best as a stand-alone song, certainly since 6DOIT barnstorming opening gambit The Glass Prison. If you own the Score DVD/Blu-Ray – a must-buy for any hardened DT fan, as well as a perfect introduction for newbies wishing to explore their varied career-history – you’ll know that it’s also a showstopping intro to their live set. ‘…tidily mixing heavy riffs with some progressive moments…’ to quote band biographer Rich Wilson. They follow it – in that show – with I Walk Beside You, a song which the band freely admitted showcased the members’ love of more commercial stadium rock acts including Coldplay and U2.

Now, DT has attracted its fair share of fan-disapprobation over the years for wearing its influences too boldly on its collective sleeve at times – of especial note, in addition to the above is Systematic Chaos (2007) which appeared to ape both Evanescence (melodically and lyrically, on Forsaken) and Muse (Prophets of War). Cynics have on occasion interpreted these as attempts to leaven their determinedly-virtuostic compositional approach with a little popular appeal. Actually, I’m not sure I completely disagree; but I’m certain that I don’t object. Sure, I can hear what said detractors are hearing, but I could care less because all the aforementioned are great songs.

The Answer Lies Within reminds me of nothing so much as a superior Elton John, even – horror of horrors, Robbie Williams –  ballad. Lyrically, it benefits from a simplicity that suggests (guitarist and lyricist) John Petrucci didn’t spend too long sequestered away with his thesauruses and dictionaries; and the string accompaniment from a stripped-down contingent of Jamshied Sharifi‘s Octavarium Orchestra is tasteful. It’s a strong piece of songwriting. Later, both Never Enough and Panic Attack (the former especially) attest to Portnoy‘s and the band’s love of Muse (the band occasionally performed Stockholm Syndrome, a song witha passing resemblance to DT, at soundcheck or as an encore). The latter’s song Assassin – from Black Holes and Revelations (2006) – might lead one to wonder if the Teignmouth trio haven’t returned the inspirational compliment: the resemblance to Panic Attack is uncanny and it’s not insignificant that Black Holes… is, in this writer’s opinion the finest example in recent years of progressive ambition and mainstream appeal coexisting in sweet, mutually-beneficial harmony.

The album ends with two satisfyingly ‘proggy’ epics; Sacrificed Sons and the five-part title track. The former features a rare lyrical credit for secretly-Canadian singer James LaBrie, inspired by 9/11. To quote Wilson (above) again ‘…The danger of such a topic, is that it could become over-politicized, mawkish, insensitive or even sanctimonious … the band just about carry it off…’ I think Wilson’s being less-than-generous: LaBrie handles the subject matter deftly and humanely, avoiding the obvious pitfalls of glorifying ‘The West’ and demonizing the Islamic terrorists. Musically, it’s dramatic not melodramatic and the second track to utilize the added depth only an orchestra can bring.

Octavarium (the song) is 24 minutes of showboating and homage, yet the attention to musical detail and obvious fun had by the band in composing and performing it save it from becoming a leaden exercise in indulgence. In classic ‘symphonic’ mode it moves smoothly (with one notably-dramatic exception) and confidently thru five ‘movements’ building drama along the way. It’s a masterclass in tension and release; surpassing their previous ‘symphonic’ high water-mark A Change Of Seasons and pointing the way to The Count Of Tuscany (Black Clouds And Silver Linings, 2009) which remains for me the apotheosis if DT‘s take on that style.  The live version documented on Score (and backed by a full orchestra, below) takes the song to even greater heights.

Like Dream Theater, Octavarium derives much of its strength as a piece from both its allusions to the band’s own history and its influences, albeit clever and well-chosen ones, delivered at times with a nod and a wink and at others with subtlety and reverence. It’s a conceptual album in more ways than one, with an overarching theme metaphorically relating the career of the band at that point to the musical octave (from which the title, Octavarium also derives, it being DT‘s eighth album) and also chock full of ‘nuggets’ of musical detail for attentive listeners to unearth. A whole blog post could be devoted to this aspect alone, and helpfully, one enterprising fan has already done just that. A couple such nuggets Spetang appears to have missed (in reference to the aforementioned titular song-cycle) are a bar of the Phantom Of The Opera theme at 11.37 and a the first phrase of Jingle Bells interpolated at 17.47. There are probably more yet…

Octavarium is the most complete DT album for me: it showcases every facet of their musical style and the songwriting is consistently-strong. The title track alone is worth the price of admission.

Lightbulb moment (his Children’s children)

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This is kinda one of my ‘Fresh From The Vault’ posts by any other name, albeit with benefits and shiny pre-order knobs on. One of my favourite albums of last year (it was recorded and released in 2011, I was a little late to the party) was the transcendental In The Last Waking Moments by Anglo-American duo, Edison’s Children.

Never heard of them, right? Fair enough, no reason you would’ve; but within the demographic best-predisposed to like them they’re already superstars. The other half, alongside singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Eric Blackwood, is Marillion bassist Pete Trewavas, and few bands do audience-engagement in the internet era as effectively as Marillion. It’s the ’80s band that refused to die – should’ve, some might say – but in spite of having had its commercial heyday some two decades previously, its never been in better musical and financial health. Of the five-strong membership, Trewavas has long been the most musically accomplished and promiscuous, and like his best-known extra-curricular projects, EC fits in somewhere on the prog rock spectrum, albeit a million miles away from anything he’s recorded with Marillion, Kino or Transatlantic. It’s closer in tone to early/mid-period Porcupine Tree – before Steven Wilson got chummy with Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) and imbibed a draft from the poisoned spring of Death Metal – and the widescreen Gothic melodrama of Fields of the Nephilim, minus Carl McCoy‘s ‘from beyond the grave’ baritone. That said, there’s more than enough originality there for the project to stand on its own merits; and it possesses certain qualities rare enough to be considered remarkable in today’s – more than ever – saturated musical marketplace

ItLWM is a real headphones album, a seductive, immersive sonic universe that is almost fiendishly well imagined.  Although the pace rarely rises above that of a leisurely ramble across the moors (80bpm, say) there’s an understated, rolling urgency in its beats and chords that sweeps up and carries the listener as surely and powerfully as a driving trance anthem or moshpit filler. It’s just not possible to hear this as a set of stand-alone songs: in an iPod age where the album form has been eroded by download-overload, ItLWM remains stubbornly shuffle-resistant. Cue up Dusk and you’ll find yourself in it for the (70min) duration – which is no mean feat. Wall-to-wall brilliance was rare enough in the age of the LP: 35-40 minutes of flawless composition and performance is a big-enough ask and the number of consistently-listenable double sets even in that golden age a select group. The advent of CD made the 60, then 70 and now 80 minute – effectively double – albums a possibility and in some quarters an expectation. Quality was bound to suffer, if not always, then often: Prog rock aside, Hip Hop and R’n’B records have been especially prone to padding out decent records with material that, in days gone by would have been relegated to single b-sides.

So It’s notable that the final running order for ItLWM was culled from an initial burst of creativity that ran to nearly 50 demo’d songs: hard work, great chemistry and also quality control made that album what it is. The songwriting is consistently strong, and whilst it’s ostensibly a concept album – Sci-Fi gubbins themed around alien abduction; plenty of scope for pitfalls into stinky, cloying Gorgonzola already; deftly-avoided, mind  – it’s the strength of its musical themes that lend it coherence as a piece. The four part Fallout sequence dispersed thruout the album recalls the similarly-structured Marbles theme from the Marillion album of that name; still regarded as a high-watermark of its 30-year career by many. There’s a whiff of Another Brick In The Wall in Fracture. A Million Miles Away  comes from the same stable of confident, mature pop rock as Don’t Hurt Yourself – albeit with a darker edge – also from Marbles. The album is rich in intriguing sonic detail: back-projected, tinkling, burbling samples, squeeks and washes that convey atmospheric depth – this an obvious point of comparison with the aforementioned Nephilim – and impart a sense of unity to the collected songs. The middling pace is broken on occasion: Outerspaced is a demented stomp rocker; Aerosmith in their drug-addled vintage transported to the restaurant at the end of the universe. And The ‘Other’ Other Dimension almost overplays the gently psychedelic element that elsewhere simply suffuses and underpins the songwriting. Totally overplays it, actually, it’s a bit silly, in a Viv Standhall-as-Dr Who kinda way. But these diversions just serve to add colour to an already rich palette in the end. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable journey, all told. The story, such as it is, remains as opaque as Dream Theater‘s Scenes From A Memory was until I looked it up on the Wikipedia page; but I still feel I was taken somewhere, which after all is what the best prog – hell, music – is supposed to do.

So I was understandably excited to receive today’s email from marillion.com updating me on the progress of Edison’s Children‘s sophomore release. It’s going to be called The Final Breath Before November. As before, it’s predominantly the work of Trewavas and Blackwood – with the duo handling all the guitars, keys and digital wizardry, vocals, recording and production – plus support from a handful of collaborators including Henry Rogers (DeeExpus/Touchstone) on drums and Wendy Farrell-Pastore on additional vocals. With Trewavas fielding a full schedule touring with his day job and working intermittently on the next Transatlantic album the man is clearly on fire, and if the last album is anything to go by, Blackwood makes for him an excellent creative foil. As Marillion have previously done since 1997, EC are employing a crowd funding model and fans wishing to buy-in early can support the upcoming release by heading over to the EC pledge page HERE .

TFBBN has a lot to live up to and I don’t mind stoking the flames of expectation a little higher.

p.s.

Having mentioned Kino and Transatlantic up top, it seems churlish not to include a little of their brilliance into the mix. Check ’em out too:

(Bit of an epic this one – amazing gig, though; and I can vouch for that cos I was there 😉 )

 

Like father, like son (update)

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Further to Like Father, like son, soundclips from the forthcoming Dimensionaut album are now available via the Sound of Contact website.

Sound of Contact is the new project from Simon Collins (son of Phil) and is something of a nod to his dad’s work in the nascent prog scene of the ’70s, albeit with a ’00s twist. If you’re a fan of Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic, Frost*, Beardfish and DeeExpus this may well be your proverbial cup of musical tea.

It’s tricky to get a proper feel for the album from such short soundclips – album trailers, like movie trailers tend to be a compilation of all the exciting bits without the filler, and I felt kinda stung by the last generic, derivative DeeExpus record.

But if Collins has inherited a modicum of his dad’s talent along with the looks (spookily like Phil from his Genesis days) we should be in for a treat. Nick Davis (Genesis, Tony Banks, Marillion)behind the mixing desk and John Wesley (Porcupine Tree, Fish) on guitar also bode well for prog-fans. It’s a prog/space rock album with a sci-fi theme, if that helps…

Here’s the teaser:

Fresh from the vault (9) Brave

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Since the Jimmy Savile revelations hit the headlines and catapulted the issue of sex crime to the front pages – and not before time, it must be said – it’s become belatedly-apparent how long the issues and consequences of widespread child abuse have lingered in the collective subconscious . The recent offering-up of Steve Messham as a media ‘sacrificial lamb’ promted me to select Marillion‘s Paper Lies as my Youtube upload of the day – dealing as it does with tabloid exploitation of crime victims; the twin themes of sensationalism and profit underlying the media’s purported humanitarian sympathies. Quickly, though, I got thinking about its parent album, Brave (1994) and how it addressed the wider themes of child abuse and its consequences at a time when such things weren’t the media trope that they’ve latterly become, especially in the light of the Savile scandal and the subsequent tabloid snowball.

And it provides me with another opportunity to big up this most underrated of bands – no chore for me at the best of times – and deservedly so.

Brave lived up to its name, musically-speaking. After a deliberate stab at a more commercial rock sound – in the shape of their previous album, Holidays In Eden (1991) – this record marked a dramatic swerve back in the direction of the kind of long-form, moody and emotionally-charged, symphonic prog rock with which they achieved unlikely mainstream success in the mid ’80s. At a time when Oasis‘s brand of back to basics, good-time  Rock’n’Roll was the popular paradigm it was a given that if the record was a hit it could only be so by dint of standing out spectacularly from the crowd, as Kayleigh, and its parent album, Misplaced Childhood had done back in ’85/’86.  It would be nice to say that the gamble paid off but in fact Brave turned out, despite critical acclaim, to be something of a commercial nadir for the band. Artistically, though, it still stands as one of the high-points in their chequered history; albeit one that divides devotees to this day.

The album had – to utilise a popular cliche – a difficult and protracted gestation and labour. EMI, understandably keen to release another hit record were pressing the band for a quick recording and release, and with that in mind recruited Irish Indie producer, Dave Meegan to oversee the sessions. Meegan, counter to their (EMI’s) intuitions, enthusiastically indulged the band’s artistic inclinations, beginning an association that would eventually span four albums, notably fan-favourite, Marbles (2004). A spell at Miles Copeland‘s Chateau Marouatte laid the foundations for what would turn out to Marillion’s longest recording sessions to date – unsurpassed until 2012 and the sessions for their latest Sounds That Can’t Be Made opus. Beginning with lyrical sketches faxed by sometime contributor, John Helmer and the band’s long established practice of generating music by way of extended jam sessions, augmented by a few glasses of red ‘…and a bit of a smoke, to be honest…’ singer Steve (h) Hogarth soon brought in the nugget that would provide the conceptual glue for the finished piece. In his own words…

‘…the song ideas took me back to an intriguing radio broadcast from the Bristol police some years ago on GWR Radio. The police had picked up a young woman wandering on the Severn Bridge who refused or was unable to speak to them … I thought it was a great first page to a mystery story…’. The mystery story – a fictional backstory to said real-life incident – evolved into the tale of a girl living rough after fleeing a home life scarred by domestic violence – a sexually-abusive father and distant mother – which, turning on listener interpretation might end in tragedy or redemption. The original double-vinyl release accentuated the suspense of the story by way of side four being double-grooved: the girl’s fate – falling into the icy waters of the Severn or into the arms of a new lover – depending on how – or how carefully – one dropped the needle. In the interim, songs touch on the realities and consequences of growing up in an abusive family. the insidious influence of the media, peer pressure to conform, love, escape and the search for identity.

As an album that blew me away at the time of release, it’s gone thru phases of not weathering too well – sonically, at any rate – and the accompanying movie by cult director Richard Stanley (Hardware) remains a missed opportunity, a travesty of its rich source material in flagrant contrast to Alan Parker‘s transcendental treatment of The Wall. Nonetheless, there’s some beautiful music contained therein; and in the light of current events it feels eerily prescient and relavent. Being a rock opera it’s conceived to be listened to wholesale rather than piecemeal but to give you a taster, here’s a couple of sections that stand alone in their own right and hopefully capture the flavour of this ambitious project:

6 Days, 6 Degrees…

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Musicbugsandgender doesn’t entirely set out my stall, so to speak. My blog was thus christened via a brainstorm perhaps not far removed from that process fledgling bands go through trying to find a moniker that’s snappy, apposite, memorable and as-yet un-trademarked.  The music part was pretty much a given; that being my consuming passion. Bugs and gender were inspired by a cursory glance at my sagging bookcase, prompting the realisation that a number of my most memorable forays into literature to date had consisted of two comprehensive documentaries of the 1918 Flu Pandemic * ^ and a few variously witty and worthy tomes by the likes of Ariel Levy, Susan Brownmiller and Andrea Dworkin. On reflection I think I chose pretty well, but as my opening sentence implies, it’s far from all-encompassing. The sub-heading ‘A leisurely browse thru the rickety shelves of my mental bric-a-brac’ is perhaps more apposite, a worthwhile suffix at any rate: it grants me room to manoeuvre; permission to include heterogenous, deviant missives from time to time.

A couple such I posted towards the end of last year when I on a slippery slope into a mental black hole (later, when I was in the hole I wasn’t posting at all) exemplify this well; and I reiterate them here only by way of contrast (indeed, polar opposite) to my somewhat elevated mental state of the past six days. I’ve been positively buzzing, actually; feeling reckless and vulnerable in a way quite different to the aforementioned slump. As much as it’s been enjoyable, there’s an edge to it which is slightly disconcerting, accompanied by increased clumsiness (not good when one’s workplace is filled with a multitude of hot and pointy things like my kitchen!) forgetfulness and a temptation to indulge. In reality, these feelings may have begun sooner and more stealthily but the meat of today’s missive begins with last Friday…

I worked ’til seven on Friday, having swapped a shift with my junior chef to get my usual – working – Sunday off, thus enjoying what ‘regular’ folk will know as a weekend: an unusual experience for me. This worked out well, since our lovely nursing team – always a solid bet for a proper piss-up – had organised a staff night out on Friday, helpfully covening at, if not my local, then – five minutes up the road – as good as. This gave me the whole of Saturday to recover – necessary, given the eventual 4 am finish – prior to another engagement on the Sunday (more of which in my next post).

Friday night was great. Outside we don’t – en masse – socialise as regularly (and generally not to the degree of – chemical and alcoholic – indulgence) as we once did, but when we do it’s gratifying to see that a spirit of comradeship quickly comes to the fore. It’s always there, of course; but nights like those remind me why, approaching a decade of uninterrupted employment, my enthusiasm and affection for our team and wider organisation remain undiminished. The aphorism, I believe is ‘work hard, play hard’: we do, and I actually enjoy it (the playing) all the more because it only happens once in a while. Besides, the costs are higher and take longer to pay off. Booze is still a nice buzz; but there’s deeper satisfaction to be had and I’m starting to get an inkling of where that might be had…

I’ve been feeling broody of late. If you’ve hung out with me for any length of time – and I count myself lucky to have a select bunch of lovable reprobates who have – this might come as a surprise. Hell, it surprised me! Having given some thoughts to the undercurrents that nudged this particular impulse to the surface just recently, I offer you these: 1) I’m fast approaching forty. This is less significant from the point of view of actual age, mind (though I’ve read recently that as guys get older their chances of fathering healthy kids begins to diminish – deteriorating quality of the genetic material in our sperm, apparently) so much as that that was the age my folks were when they adopted me. 2) Everybody at work (hyperbole alert!) seems to be having them. 3) I’ve recently met someone I can actually envisage having children with. I’m not going to embarrass anyone by naming names – not that said someone or her associates is likely to be reading this – but suffice it to say that she was there on Friday night and I was acting like an infatuated adolescent around her all night: at least, that’s how it felt at the time; my every gesture and utterance intolerably witless and gauche, no matter that she assures me otherwise.

This a far cry from  our post-gig dinner on the Sunday night, when on a far from typical – and perhaps, Burgundy-emboldened – priapic impulse I asked our waitress out on a date after the meal. I’m not entirely sure whether she misunderstood my proposition or politely – invoking her Frenchness – feigned as much. Either way, it was too brilliant a night to be spoiled by such an impersonal rejection. I wasn’t in love with her, after all. Along with the remainder of our party I repaired to the Pavillion Theatre bar around the corner for an informal debrief of the evening’s events and further amusement…

My good mood persists as I speak. I managed to meditate two days in a row – these last two – which is rare for me. I generally only remember to put these nourishing practices into, er, practice when the shit hits the fan: the adage that ‘prevention is better than cure’ buried in a far corner of my pickled brain. Mindful? I’m working on it. In my heightened state I’ve been overly tuned into and really enjoying the amazing autumn light; the – once – unseasonal warmth of the day. I stopped off for a couple of pints at the pub on the way home from work, just to enjoy the warm afternoon and watch the world go by. Whilst I was there I came up with the idea of a nice, simple little blog post before tea, describing what a great time I had last Friday. That was around six – it’s now half twelve…

And here’s one more thing (for those whose patience isn’t yet exhausted). Reviewing my mental ups and downs brought to mind one of my favourite pieces of music, a kind of rock opera – opera’s not quite right, since 6 Degrees of Inner Turbulence isn’t a storytelling album like The War of the Worlds or Tommy, although the music creates its own narrative arc which has a very ‘story-like’ quality – by Long Island, NY band Dream Theater. It’s a flawed masterpiece for sure, specifically in the lyrical department: as much as John Petrucci is a virtuoso of the rock guitar, his words can all too often lapse into cliche, banality and contrivance: but on this occasion, the sheer strength of the music prevails: it rarely fails to move me – especially the About To Crash and Solitary Shell movements. It certainly struck a chord today.

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