Or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Love Procrastination

Monday, December 31, 2007

You’re kidding yourself cos everything else is old

I really loved the song “The World Is Outside” by Ghosts this year.

One of the things I get from the song is that, well, as the title of the song says, the world is outside. Get out of your inner head and get out there. (This could be totally wrong in terms of their intention for the song, but it’s the meaning I’ve applied to it, and if anything, it’s more valid than their’s.)

It’s been on my mind a lot lately, the way people get stuck in their own heads. Especially at this time of year. It’s a reflective time. So reflective, it seems, that this time of year there is a spike in the number of suicides.

So it’s New Year’s Eve, around 6:30pm, and I’m just milling about. We’re getting to go out. I’m actually trying to not get reflective. What good does it do?

This year was what it was. Oh, I can give you platitudes, if you want platitudes. It had it’s ups, right? It had it’s downs. Oh, big changes. Oh, how some things stay the same. Yadda yadda, bullshit bullshit. You only find out what you already know. That’s why they call it reflection.

For the longest time, I never realised that the first couple of lines in Auld Lang Syne were supposed to be questions. I always took it as statements, or better yet, instruction. Old acquaintances SHOULD be forgotten. They should never be brought to mind. I always thought this was harsh. But again, I apply my own meanings to things, and I think, right on. Let’s look forward to the future shall we? Can’t let old ghosts drag you down.

“The World Is Outside” makes reference to the last Monday in January being regarded as the most depressing day of the year (at least, in cold countries). I remember hearing this on the radio last year when it happened (ha, there I go with the reminiscing). And I remember Tim telling me, a few days after arriving around this time last year, how depressing winter is here.

But all the happiness in the world is outside. It’s all there, to be grabbed, hugged, kissed and drunk. I wish it was midnight right now. Fly, little hours, fly.

New Year’s is a funny time. No two ways about it. But it’s a door, not a room. And I’ve spent a year in this room and I don’t want to look at it anymore. It’s done. I wont ever be back.

Let’s see what’s behind door 2008.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

1. Making It, Whatever That Means

1. Favourite Worst Nightmare – Arctic Monkeys

Lets look at it this way. Two years ago, my favourite album was a piano album by a dude pushing 40, about kids, loss and growing old. Last year, it was a record by guy 6 albums in, an adult pop record about maturity and love.

This year, my favourite record is by bunch of kids barely 21, rocking the fuck out. It’s a good example of how my life has changed in the last year.

But firstly, the record. So much better than the first, it is one of the best rock albums I’ve ever heard. This is the best band in the world on almost all the levels that matter to me. Let’s tear it apart.

Musicianship. Top notch. They remind me of Uncle Tupelo and Minor Threat, those bands I loved so much in the past. Early twenties working class kids who just PLAYED. Drummer Matt Helders can handle all the freaky changes, the math rock stuff, sudden stops and starts. For pure, grinding musicianship alone, they belong in the pantheon of bands like Fugazi, Minutemen and all. And the devil is in the details. The hint of a riff here, and pause there. Changing rhythms every chorus. Build ups. Slow downs. It is an absolute masterclass of musicianship. No band their age is even close to them in this field.

Songs. If it was just the playing, it would make them a great technical band. Which is great. I love bands like that. Like, the Grateful Dead. It’s all about the execution. But you will never catch the Arctic Monkeys bashing out a four chord rock thing. Stunning riffs. Great changes. I spend all my time listening to songs, and I cannot tell you where these compositions are going. Opener and first single Brianstorm opens with surf drums and fuzz guitar before cutting into the song proper. Then it ends and comes back with the intro for no reason. Well, the reason is because it’s a fucking cool bit.

And for the first time ever, they throw in a ballad, the Only Ones Who Know. And instead of Cast No Shadow, it’s this gorgeous, complicated thing. I can’t describe it. There’s a slide guitar on it but it’s not country. It’s not Beatley. It’s not Oasis-y. It’s Arctic Monkeys.

Tunes. Well sung too. There are a couple of difficult songs on here, but mainly, this is melodic rock. Some of it I find so irresistible. The group all yelling “We are defenders!!!” just takes my breath away. The million words a minute rapping of Fluorescent Adolescent is catchy, and a wonderful way of undermining the poppiest song on the record.

And finally, the lyrics. Gosh. Even if you were good players, with good songs, that weren’t a wank, to have one of the best lyricists I’ve ever heard writing your stuff…brilliant idea really. And I’m a big lyrics guy. And Alex Turner stands with the best of them. And it’s not just a wit and a clever line. The bigger ideas of this record is there too. Turner has made a record about all the outcasts, the wankers, the losers, the villains in his world.

The infidelity of the Bad Thing, the indie scenester in Brianstorm (“we can’t take our eyes off your t-shirt and tie combination”), the older girl who’s lost her youthful passion and sexual excitement (“is that a mecca dobber or a betting pencil?” – it’s a penis line. A betting pencil we all know, and a mecca dobber is that big fat thing you get at bingo)… all paints a picture of weirdos living in a weird world. Reality star wannabes, thugs in balaclavas…they all get their dues.

The sum is greater than it’s parts. And the sum, this record, is one I just kept going back to. I would look at the CD case, and it’s what I always want to think when I look at a CD case. In it is a record I love. A perfect record. And I just kept coming back to it. Every couple of weeks I had a new favourite song.

And it also helps that every interview I’ve read or seen with the band this year, they seem to holding themselves well. They are workers, not rock stars. They are not tabloid fodder like Razorlight. In fact, the one big gripe about this band is that they have no star power. They are boring in person. I LOVE that about them.

This record made me so excited this year. About new music. About guitar music. And even more importantly, it made me look out at the world. It’s probably the most important thing music can do. New to this country, I could see the indie wanker in Brianstorm. The ASBO tragics in Balaclava. The lonely hesitant lovers in The Only Ones Who Know.

It was also exciting to be here as this record ‘happened’. Like being in London for the last Harry Potter book, you could feel something in the air when this record came out, and destroyed all sales records. And to hear the songs on radio, on TV, posters around…this was happening now. And I’m usually so ambivalent to all that.

This is also the only record in 15 months that made me want to play music again.

And even the B-sides are great. The Bakery! Jamie T would kill for a song like that. So would Ray Davies.

So. Record of the year. By a long shot really. An album that has resurrected my interest in new young rock bands.

2008, don’t fucking let me down.

Friday, December 28, 2007

2. I Survived, That’s Good Enough For Now

2. Sky Blue Sky – Wilco

Let the calls of loyalty buying die down, please.

Thank you.

How does this band keep managing to nail where I am in life? As I come crawling out of that cesspool called the Indie scene, and that dark sky known as the Early Twenties, I have become a happier person. Travelling has allowed me to meet lots of people, plenty of people I would have never had met in my small, closed off life in Sydney.

And so here comes an album, a gentle, hushed album, about ambiguity. About life having it’s own plan. About surviving, and how that’s good enough. About going on and on and on, however short or long our lives may be.

Yes, Sky Blue Sky is the sound of six guys going “whatevs…”. Having come off the two highest selling and critically acclaimed records of their career, and hence very little to prove, Tweedy wrote a set of songs for his wife. They played it pretty straight, a tad indulgent-y, and lots of love.

My fave Dylan album is John Wesley Harding. A very talented guy just kicking out some sweet tunes. This record reminds me of that. Sure, 10 minutes of krautrock is interesting. But a tune? Those are awesome.

So once again, the mp3s of this album are well worn on my ipod. It has captured my year, as I walked around the canals of London. As I’ve been bored, alone in the house. It hasn’t been a dramatic year, unlike my last couple in Sydney. No dramas. No heartbreak. No anger. In short. Whatevs.

Favourites? Apart from ALL, I would have to say You Are My Face, which is probably not as straight as some of the other songs. The title track, which is so Grateful Dead-ish, and that all important line about surviving that means so much to me. The silly noodling of Walken. The gorgeous finale On And On And On.

The thing about Wilco is that they don’t stay still for long. My only worry is if they continue making Sky Blue Sky over and over again. Then again, as I get older and older, maybe that’s good enough.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

3. A Thousand Different Versions Of Yourself

3. Wincing The Night Away – The Shins

This record came out at the start of the year, and I still listen to it. The Shins, I think, will go down as my favourite band of the decade. Their two previous albums, Oh Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow have soundtracked the last six years. This continues with Wincing the Night Away.

I have good memories of this record. Walking around Kensington, middle of the night, listening to the opener, Sleeping Lessons, and looking at the open sky above Hyde Park. That keyboard line is the twinkle of stars. James Mercer, that brilliant man, screams out some brilliant nonsense over it.

There are a handful of classic Shins pop songs on here. First single Phantom Limb is the best of the lot, really. It reaches for the sky, with a sadness and again, beautiful nonsense. You kind of do, and you kind of don’t, know what Mercer is on about. Turn On Me, another highlight, is a lot clearer. A goodbye to someone you don’t get along with.

And again, there’s that soundtracking. Which pushes this record, and the two records ahead of it, above the pack. I will listen to this record and forever think of being in London for the first time. I did see them 4 times this year. So Turn On Me makes me think of someone I never got along with. And Girl Sailor, the third of the great pop songs, just nails something I’ve felt. By being wonderfully ambiguous about it.

The rest of the record has some nice slow haunting stuff, and some trippy sampling stuff. All of which is great. It’s a bit hypnotic, this record. Someone could come along and remix it. There are oddities, like the less than a minute long Pam Berry.

So I’ve listened to this record at least once a week since the start of the year and there are still things I’m learning about it. I think Chutes… might just edge it out, but if they come up with another great record before 2010, they will have ruled this entire decade for me.

4. Easy As Humming A Song

4. At My Age – Nick Lowe

Nick Lowe’s last three albums have found him exploring a new sound. Gentle, country-soul, match against his fantastic wit, and songs that sound simple because they are.

At My Age is no different. It’s a subtle record, but it’s a red wine, late night record. It’s country, but with that dash of soul, of jazz and of torch songs too. None of the musicians are showing off here. Everything is second to the song.

Some of Lowe’s best songs are on here.; in the classic heartache mode. Just the titles alone…Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day, I Trained Her To Love Me, Hope For Us All.

It’s not a terribly inventive record. It’s not Radiohead. It’s just a very, very good one. It’s sweet. It’s sad. It’s funny. It’s groovy. It’s smooth. And I listened to it a lot this year.

I don’t actually have much more to say about this record. Or most of Nick Lowe’s albums. Like Paul Westerberg, what he does is just candy to me. I will always go back to this kind of stuff.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

5. My Thoughts Keep Returning To You

5. Time On Earth – Crowded House

When I first fell for Crowded House, everything about music was a mystery. I couldn’t tell a bass from a banjo. I couldn’t tell a bridge from a coda. At best, I could tell you a key change is where the song gets a bit more exciting. As a band that I loved in my youth, I hold them dearly, but also see them through a mist of nostalgia.

So it’s lucky that the record is fantastic. It also helps that, as a solo artist, Neil Finn has continued to deliver great records. And if I’m honest, whether this was a Neil record or a Crowded House record, it would mean the same to me.

Don’t Stop Me was such a weird song. Could it stand up with the classics? It was pleasant enough on first listen. And on repeated listens, it really warms up, and you realise there’s something weird going on, lyrically. I’ve had quite a few conversations this year about this song, mostly along the lines of, it’s good, isn’t it? Which is the thing, Neil just let the song talk us into it.

Gorgeous, subtle moments abound. Nobody Wants To is so relaxed, it’s like a Whiskeytown ballad. Pour Le Monde, although sounding a bit like Coldplay’s The Scientist, is full of confidence. Slow burning (and long, for CH), it’s a song about the current war. Which makes the only really poppy moment, She Called Up, stand out all the more.

And yes, there is a stench of death on this record. If not directly taken from Paul Hester, the theme of losing people here. Most of the record is steeped in sadness, but not in a whiny, woe-is-I way.

My favourite song, and very much not indicative of the album, is You Are The Only One To Make Me Cry. Recalling Tim Finn’s All I Ask from Woodface, it’s a string laden jazzy ballad. No one can touch this guy when he wants to write a really song-y song. This is pretty much showing off for such a master songwriter. And like most Finn songs, I don’t know who he is thinking of in that song, but I know who I think of when I hear it. Oh, the power of songs.

I can’t think of another reunion album I’ve liked as much. But again, I’ve bought an album by Neil Finn every couple of years anyway. And I don’t care who’s name is on the cover, I just, as always, look forward to some more songs by Neil Finn.

6. Now I Have To Start All Over Again

6. Angie Hart – Grounded Bird

Some facts-y stuff: Angie Hart was the former singer for Australian pop band Frente. They had one massive hit (Accidentally Kelly Street), then burnt out after their second album (Shape, 1996, a personal fave). She then left Australia with her husband, musician Jesse Tobias, and formed a second band, Splendid. They did one album, one of the best I ever heard, called Have You Got A Name For It. Some tracks are in the Buffy TV show but otherwise, her career ended there.

So did her marriage. A couple of rare EPs and things since, Angie, single again, has moved back to Australia and has decided to take her first steps as a solo artist, some 15 years after she was first heard.

At first, I missed the guitars. Without Jesse Tobias or her Frente backing band to rock out behind her, it seemed like something was missing. But this IS a slow record, but it’s also a beautiful one. It has the keyboard-y, trippy sounds that made Beth Orton’s early records so great. It’s maybe a bit rock, and a bit heavier than that. Still, it’s a hushed, Sunday morning album.

And the voice! The record starts with a short blast of harmony. And ends with one of the best tracks of the year, Start My Day, which is built on a sample of Angie singing;

Get back up when I fall off

Then layers on top, verse after verse of beautiful, simple, life affirming stuff. It’s a mantra, mixed in the thoughts of modern life. Bits of feedback drop in and out and all, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard, except maybe Spiritualised’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space track.

And the songs, usually co-writes, are top notch. Lyrically, Angie is on top her game. The heartbreaking album centrepiece is ‘Kiwi’, the wingless bird, capped off my the fantastic line;

If I don’t set my sights too high
I can fly

Every song ticks every box for a wonderful song. Thoughtful lyrics. Wonderfully sounded. Heavenly singing. Smiley moments. Sad moments. A place to start is the current single ‘Care’. Although it’s pretty straight compared to some of it.

It’s the newest album on this list. I’ve had it just over a month and I’m looking forward to spending more time with it. And I’m so glad to have her back.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

7. The Devil And John Berryman

7. Boys And Girls In America – The Hold Steady

The name that gets dropped with this band is Springsteen. They mix that urban poetry, that hopeless romance, that growing old feeling, with grinding guitars and rapid fire lyrics.

But many have done this before (hello, Marah) but the Hold Steady have gone for the throat. The album is called Boys And Girls In America for fuck’s sake. Let’s put aside the freakiness of a 37 year old (lead singer/songwriter Craig Finn) singing about teenage girls, and celebrate a doomed youth.

Most of the songs have to do with the great unwashed, and how beautiful that is. Chillout Tent is about being taken out of a festival and catching the eye of another outcast of the opposite sex (and never meeting). You Can Make Him Like You is about a girl who is seeking boyfriend who comes from a better school.

I love the album cover. Just a bunch of kids partying. And how those weekend nights will add up to their life. And how important it is to them, to us. And the title of the album, declaring that they are going mass market. Indie band is going for the suburbs. It’s all there in the standout, Massive Nights, about liquor runs, fights, girls with something to prove, and one of my favourite lines:

“Everyone was funny, everyone was pretty
And everyone was heading to the centre of the city.”

This has got to be the getting-ready-to-go-out record of the year. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s the best record to feel nostalgic about the times when you did that.

The best song on the record though, the one that’s gotten the most talk, is the opener, Stuck Between Stations. An inflated, overly romantic retelling of John Berryman’s suicide. It imagines his depression, walking with the devil over Washington Bridge, the moments before his suicide. And hidden not very far below the cleverness and the wit, is a big fat slab of riff rock.

The perfect record for a massive night.

8. Don’t Care If It Sounds Cliché

8. Structure And Cosmetics – The Brunettes

Oh, great, glorious, silly pop music. The Brunettes are Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield, two New Zealand multi instrumentalists (and perhaps to two sexiest people in music) who have put out previous albums of indie pop fare. Adorable little Jonathan Richman tributes, with titles like ‘When Ice Met Cream’.

That’s all pretty much gone out the window for this year’s best BIG pop record. Opening with Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth, a huge, symphonic, kinda Pet Sounds-y, kind of Queen-esque, but utterly charming opening number. It sounds like several hundred people singing “B-A, B-Y, I love to call you baby”.

And from then we are off. Eight more wonderful pop confections, each moving and swaying with no real sense of strong structure. Just brilliant catchy pop bit after brilliant pop bit.

Heather is singing her heart out. Her layers and layers of vocal melody, matched with the sweetness (and oddness) of the lyrics are the album’s heart. She sings about hairigami sets, banana bread, aliens, and lots of sha-la-las.

But the star is Jonathan Bree. Nothing about the Brunettes before suggested they could make such big leap. Breezy psychedelia, beautiful arrangements…this sounds like a classical record, or a song suite. Keyboards, guitars, trumpets and all manner of noodling swim in and out. It’s very exciting on headphones.

In the end, this record is something new. I can’t really think of anything like it. And I like it. More than like it, I love it. I suggest you start with “If You Were Alien” and go from there.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

9. You Gotta Have A Problem To Invent A Contraption

More ramblings on my fave albums this year.

9. Icky Thump – The White Stripes

I completely gave up on this band until I heard the first single and title track on Icky Thump. The riff sounded like a machine gun, Jack White howling over the top. Like John Spencer says – the blues are number one.

I love the guitar playing on this record. It’s so up front on this record, in ways it hasn’t been in the life of Jack White in a while.

But what makes the White Stripes so awesome is the myth of the White Stripes. They are these almost Chaplin musical characters. They are mariachi spaghetti westerners on Conquest. They are Oliver Twist style hoarders in Rag & Bone. They have their own little (red and white) world so wrapped up. You either have to dive right in or leave the party.

Lyrically too, Jack is on fire and having a lot of fun. “In some respects I suspect you have a respectable side” he sings on You Don’t Know What Love Is. And the highlight, the last track, Effect & Cause is beautiful, playful fuck-you to an ex.

When I first heard the White Stripes, I was so taken with these odd siblings and their candy striped madness. And it’s a feeling that’s come and gone over the years. But this record brings it all back. Even after having become superstars and tabloid fodder, listening to Icky Thump still makes me go “wow, who are these guys?”

I'm still excited to find out.

Friday, December 21, 2007

10. Chocolate Biscuits Wired To A Car Alarm

Welcome to our annual top 10 countdown. Warning you now, a lot of music posts coming up.

10. The Boy With No Name – Travis

This could be considered loyalty buying if not for the fact I almost didn’t buy this album. But slowly, the singles started to get caught in my head, and I pulled out the money to see what my old friends were up to.

There is a lot of talk about a return to form, that the wonderful politically angry Travis has been buried with 12 Memories. And that’s true, it’s not an angry record at all. And yes, it’s full of the optimistic melancholy that Travis mines better than anyone else.

And in the end of the day, what I like about Travis is they are just good. No tacky tricks. No stadium anthems. It’s a very intimate band – which I guess is why fans get so obsessed.

It seems songwriter Fran Healy is in a happier place. There is maybe a bit more optimism than melancholy this time around (and a theme in most of the albums I loved this year – happy albums). It’s slow, beautiful, and at moments very fun.

The slow burn winner is the first single – Closer. The only way to describe this track is seductive. It’s a beautiful love song, nothing more, nothing less. Tremendous backing vocals. A classic that these guys will be playing at every concert for the rest of their lives.

There is, of course, quite a few gorgeous mid tempo-y things on here. One Night and 3 Times And You Lose being top of the list. And some genuine rockers. Selfish Jean was everywhere on radio at one point. Eyes Wide Open is in the same mould.

But two other songs are worth a mention. My Eyes, the current single, is pop bliss. When they abandon the sadness, they always do well. And a great film clip to boot. Finally, New Amsterdam, the closing track. So breezy, romantic and reminds me of listening to French records and having no idea what the singer’s on about. Just a loose collection of images, sparsely recorded, and sweet as truffles.

Maybe it’s me, but I don’t need fireworks. I need just good solid bands. Songs I can rely on. And it’s been used as a degrading term for them, but I love a reliable band.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sleeping in a racing car 2

Next day. Lunch. Talking about spouses, 40th birthdays and divorces.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sleeping in a racing car

You know that scene in the Simpsons? Milhouse's dad is newly divorced. He tells Homer..."I get to sleep in a racing car! Where do you sleep?"

To which Homer replies..."I sleep in a big bed with my wife."

I'm at the pub with 3 others, all on the phone to their wives. My thoughts are my own. This has been happening to me a lot lately.

I'm the loser sleeping a racing car.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It’s the end of the highway…

There is an American folky, country band called the Creekdippers. They have a great, sort of campfire sing-a-long feel to their songs. They have one called The End Of the Highway, and I have been slowly swaying around Sydney, singing it to myself. With one little, minor, lyrical change.

“That’s the end of the highway, Howard.
You’re a sorry, silly man, with a pocket full of mumbles.
Please nod off like the old Generals do.
I wonder if they’d even have you.”

Occasionally, the song doesn’t fit Howard, because of what I figure is his one saving grace – the guy wasn’t evil. He can’t be compared to Bush. Or the Stalins of history. But he was a selfish, backwards, lying prick.

John Howard has been PM my entire voting life. So when he lost the election, even by such a spectacular margin, I had no idea how to feel. As friends (older) punched the air and threw stuff at the TV, I kept thinking, what a relief. And “finally”.

And I don’t want to be forgiving, as this man bows out. I pride myself in seeing the good in most everyone, but the media and Howards team are so good at sweeping things under rugs and tweaking history.

Lets we forget:

Being elected on the promise of NO GST (the thing that killed John Hewson) and then with no apology, in his first term no less, brings it in. I don’t mind the GST so much. The flat out lie, however, was fucked. As an early adult I thought that was a nasty, fucked thing.

KYOTO. I missed the lead up to the campaign, and missed how big this issue was. And thank God! Now we’re not the only modern nation left out. What exactly was the problem here. Yes, environment is good, it would be good for the planet to survive. However, we need to make money. This isn’t sifting through your garbage and sorting out your plastics. And much, much bigger economies in the world have been behind the Kyoto treaty, and taken bigger losses on less healthy economies. Really, can someone do a Howard debrief and just go – “John. Kyoto. What the hell was going through your thick skull?”

BABIES OVERBOARD. I’m descended from boat people. My family didn’t give up their entire living and worldly possessions so they could come to Australia themselves! They did it so their baby children could have a better life, education, a warless society, fair working conditions and maybe a suntan. Would they really throw them overboard?

It brings up the Liberal party’s constant HATEMONGERING. Of immigrants, both before and after September 11. And not to mention Howard’s old nemesis, the Asians. As someone who is not a Howard Battler, it was pretty clear to see they guy never once spoke to me in any forum. He was talking to the whites, with whom I sometimes mingled. This culminated in the party’s disgraceful Fake Flyer campaign. That guy should be shot.

But when it comes to racism, how can we forget the CRONULLA RIOTS. It was the boiling point from years, if not decades, of racial tension. The Liberals, and Howard, did nothing to stop the racial tensions. Under their watch, they bred the cautious, suspicious White Australia – leading to Pauline Hanson. But the worst thing about Cronulla, was the chance we lost. I just thought, this was so disgusting, such an act of unbelievable racist hate, that it would be a turning point for us as a country. A humbling look at ourselves would follow, and we would be better for it, having seen how ugly our distrust have become.

But no, John Howard came along, and played it down. Wiped it under the rug. Not a racist act, he tells us. There is no problem. Nothing needed to be done. Lets all carry on with no effort to understand eachother. That’s not an answer, Howard. This is the scar you left on my country.

But the word that I hope someone writes on John Howard’s grave for all time is SORRY. Again, an act of such ignorance, and a blind refusal to admit a problem in the interest of solving it. How can he stand by this? How can you not say sorry to a generation of kidnapped children? It happened. It shouldn’t have happened. Howard hid behind the legal liability card. That any official admittance of “sorry” could leave the government open to legal action. This, from our great government ever, in an economic sense. You could afford it.

There have been so many times that I thought about meeting Howard. Maybe years and years in the future. Somewhere, I will see him. Like in a Scorcese movie. Out on the docks somewhere on Sydney Harbour, as the early evening sets in. I’m standing there in a trench coat, looking out at the harbour, the bridge, and the skyline. A black van pulls up behind me, slowly. The back doors open up, and a sorry figure in a wheelchair rolls up beside me, and looks at the view. The van drives away, leaving us to talk.

“Hello John.” I would say, without looking at him.

“Hello Danny.” He says, as we both continue to look out in the distance.

“You know, John, you were a terrible Prime Minister.”

“I did what I thought was right, what I thought was best, with the blessing of the majority Australian people.”

“But you’re not the majority of Australia. You’re our leader. We needed you, who sat in those meetings about finances, and environment, and more, and to make the right decisions for us. You failed us, ad you can’t fall back on I-was-voted-in, I’m-always-right.”

“The people trusted me. And I stand by my decisions.”

“I know you do, John.”

And with that, I take a pistol out of my pocket, and I shoot the little fucker in his little fucking wheelchair in the side of the head. I kick the body out of the chair and into the harbour. It makes an ugly splash, as the man pollutes Australia one more time. I walk away and don’t look back.

We will never be sorry to see you gone.


PS. The original of End Of the Highway is about Donald Rumsfield.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

If we can't get it together

I'm at one of my favourite spots in the world - town hall steps, Sydney.

Was it only ten years ago I was here, as a couple fought, but we couldn't hear what they were saying, so we made up our own story?


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ambition Makes You Look Pretty Ugly

I am finally, officially, completely and utterly over Radiohead.

There is an article in Billboard today about how Radiohead’s back catalogue enjoyed a spike thanks to In Rainbows. This is the most non-news that news can get.

I don’t care if you’re Coldplay or Seasick Steve; if you put out a new record and don’t get a decent spike in the older albums, you might as well shoot yourself in the head right now. To give some perspective, a recent Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac promotion enjoyed a 1000% spike. It sold ten times more in one month than the month before. This is not news.

Except it is. Because it’s Radiohead.

I have a handful of records that have been given away. Wilco have been streaming albums for free since 2001 BEFORE release. Harvey Danger’s last wonderful record has been free, one of many American indie bands doing the same. Prince gave away his new album with a newspaper (granted that made the news). But so did Ray Davies. And the new Travis single.

Sure. I hear ya. The old “band at that level” clause. BUT, that’s the thing. They can get away with the financial risk. It’s no risk at all really. It’s really easy to be charitable from the Ivory Tower.

And lets talk about what didn’t work with the In-Rainbows-Oh-God-Everything-Is-Over model. No preview? You could have been buying anything. Which for me screams that this is not about the music. It’s about the band, and the brand. This past week, the Eagles debuted at number 1 on just about every chart in the planet. Radio play? TV? What drove the sales? The Eagles name.

And Radiohead are becoming the Eagles.

And they are continuing to appeal to just their fanbase. This back catalogue boxset. That just smells of the Eagles. Expensive deluxe versions of the albums, aimed t the people who already own them all.

Any why donations? Why not give the record away? That charitable band of rich people just earned a lot of money. Let’s not forget that major fact that they are laughing their way to the bank.

You might not agree with me. That is fine. But all this talk about Radiohead being the future… they have presented a new way of releasing music into the world. Fine. They have given us one way.

And I don’t agree with it. If anything, it’s made me think about what I value in the music-to-listener process, and Radiohead goes against everything I believe in. Paying for music. Choosing track by track. Previewing; that is allowing people to judge you on your music (first two, heart of the iTunes model).

I believe in music for everyone. Putting your album in record shops and supermarkets so some 12 year old kid can get it. In having your music exposed far and wide, first and foremost.

The coolest thing you can do in my world is to put out some corker song on a cheap single and put it everywhere, so everyone can hear it and anyone can buy it if they want. Radiohead is the opposite of this.

Radiohead has released no music, made a multimillion payday on the faith of their fanbase, and can happily give up now. Why even try and push the album any further. I guess most of those people will buy the box et next year.

Anyway, all this Radiohead business has made me sick to the stomach. Word is Oasis may do the same. And that’s when I will opt out. That’s when you’re too fat and have started eating yourself.

So before you continue being dazzled by these Radiohead figures, please, think about what you believe in music, and how it should get to people, and ask yourself how well Radiohead’s ideas gel with yours.

Don’t follow. Think. They might be wrong.



If you think Radiohead are just doing what they are feeling as right, and it’s the media that has caught on this story, then…well, you’re not naïve. That’s fine. But in the end they are still doing what they think is right, and I’m allow to challenge that.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Start today tomorrow

I had a big lazy day today.

I haven't had one in long time. It wasn't even a day where I was catching up on emails or anything useful. Just lazy.

Woke up far too late. Stayed in bed and finally got back into reading my book which I haven't touched in weeks (JR Reid's The United States of Europe - guy writes a little too much from an American perspective but the history and the facts are great). Read most of the new Mojo, and flicked through quite a few of the CD booklets I've gotten lately and not spent any time with.

Conversations about the death of music artwork interests me. So many poor album covers. And so very few timeless ones these days. And liner notes are a lost art. Which made reading the notes to David Gary's new Greatest Hits so great. I don't know half the songs on there, but he writes about everyone, and does it so well, that I put every one of those tracks on my ipod.

I also caught up on my podcasts. Absolutely top of the lot is Sound Opinions. They call themselves the world's only rock 'n' roll talkshow. And it reminds me how much I love good radio, and how much I loved making it. They really get into talking about albums...really, it's like the Panel, but about rock.

The boring day continued with catching up with the Office (Joss Whendon directed) and Heroes (so poor so far). Dusted off the guitar and tried to work out every Neil Young song ever (almost). Very little blackberry, or even TV. It felt so good, because next week will be so very busy.

Although, I missed fireworks. It's on my list of things to do next year.

So not a very interesting post, I know. But you have to write about what interests you, and being totally lazy is very exciting for me. It wont last...


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Who Do You Love?

I have fallen in love with Doctor Who. 6 months ago I’d never seen a second of the show. As of the current writing, there is probably nothing in the silly world of pop culture more important to me.

It’s good to note that this happens to me sometimes. And I think many people I know too. Getting really, really into stuff. Watching a whole season of some TV show in a weekend. Looking up all of a band’s interviews on the internet. Every live performance of some comedian on YouTube.

Obsessive? Perhaps.

I think it’s a bit more like finishing your food.

Anyway, back to the Doctor. Of course, I’ve heard of him. And I’m completely aware that the Doctor Who phenomenon is one of the biggest, longest running sci fi franchises in the world. I know a Dalek if I see one. I know Billie Piper is in the new one. That’s about it.

But being here, one of the things I wanted to do was get into British culture. I’ve been watching British movies. Buying best of CDs by bands like James and Squeeze. And when the huge, inescapable publicity of the start of Doctor Who season three was everywhere, I sat myself on the couch and decided to give the thing a go.

And it’s love.

See, the problem with American sci fi, as typified by Star Trek, is it has to be believable and plausible. You can find books discussing the science of Star Trek. Whereas British sci fi has a long tradition of being just unexplained. The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf and so forth. Sure, they screw around with what can possibly happen for drama (destroying the world to build a highway) or laughs (playing billiards with planets)…but at the heart of it, British sci fi will choose inspiring over plausible.

And Doctor Who, which from a distance seemed weird and cheap, is the most inspiring of all. The new series has shed the old crap production values. It’s a super slick, modern show. No wires. But the stories are so excellent.

Every week, the Doctor travels through time to a new adventure. He is a Time Lord, the last of an ancient race. His ship is a TARDIS, which due to a malfunction is stuck looking like a British Police Box. He’s usually got a companion or two in tow, who has befriended the friendly Doctor.

From that flimsy premise, we can go anywhere. Werewolves attacking Queen Elizabeth the first, to the day the sun finally goes nova. The fall of Pompeii, to the upcoming London Olympics.

At the heart of it all is the Doctor himself. Played by so many actors over the years, he is the same person who has fired the imagination of so many people for so many years. An adventurer, who rarely resorts to violence. An intellect and proud of it. An optimist and a knowledge seeker. Always wanting to see what this universe can be, always excited about new challenges. A man who always does good, an loves life.
And it’s easy to forget the bloody thing is at heart, a kids show. One Saturday morning, possibly because I was still up, I watched Totally Doctor Who, the kid’s talk show devoted to the Doctor. How lucky are these kids though, to have stories written for them that win sci fi writing awards, and best drama TV awards, year after year.

So for me, of course, I love the Doctor. I’m an optimist. I’m always excited by new things. I also like obsessive things. Things with rich histories. And a sense of funny. I also love good TV. The sad scenes – up there with some of best teen drama I’ve ever seen.

The Doctor explores every corner of the galaxy, hoping there is something amazing he has never seen before. And for me, after so many years of loving music, TV, movies, books etc…it’s a great feeling to know there are things out there I can fall in love with. I’m not that sad dude who still misses the X-Files.

Below: this Halloween, I dressed up as the Tenth Doctor. The raincoat came in handy for the weather, I tell you.

The Doctor

Danny Yau

Walk Out to Winter

Summer is still a vivid memory, but the last few weeks we have fallen straight into a cold snap. With my crutches, for a few weeks I felt like Richard III. I wanted to stumble up to kids at bus stops, point a crooked finger and go “Now is the winter of our discontent…”

It’s not yet the pretty, winter-y London. It’s this odd middle ground. There’s plenty of cute girls in cool jackets, scarves and hats about. The outdoor areas of pubs are empty. It’s noticeably darker all the time. People are settling in.

Which is the opposite for me, a cripple who has finally lost his crutches and cast. Although the cold has meant bits and pieces of me have started to hurt again. I’ve accepted the fact that during the cold I will always be Uncle Danny with the funny limp. I am seriously thinking about Mia’s suggestion of getting a walking cane. Unfortunately, my shoulder is the only part of me which is still in pretty bad shape, and the cane needs that. One day…

It’s a been a big few weeks for visitors. Thomas Heymann, Hawker, James, my brother, Chris and Ian from Prague, Katy…and I can almost keep up. Liz has had some visitors too. Her sisters and her friends Colm and Luke. It’s been a very social house of late, a big change from living alone.

It looks like the next few months will be very different, as each of us will be jetting off again. Between now and the end of the year I’ll be away from London more than I’ll be there. I’m not the only one. Next thing you know it will be Christmas.

So bits and pieces have been going on but not much to report. Got back from Paris. Saw Paul McCartney play, which fulfilled a life long dream. Back at work full time. Even started setting the CD player alarm again and trying to keep normal hours (currently it's Camera Obscura's lovely album from last year, Let's Get Out Of This Country). Very much back into old, bad habits.

Feels like I’ve been here before. Chilly London. People pulling their scarves up, scurrying into shops. The sky threatening to rain. Long nights in. I'm looking forward to it again.

It feels good to be home.

Danny Yau

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Don't change your plans

I am sitting in a cafe in Montpanasse, on my own, after several coffees and beers. And god knows how many more cigarettes.

I just spent €200 at FNAC. The radio is playing You're Beautiful. Its not helping my mood.

Bottom line, I don't know where I will be next year. It's now a major issue. My plans have, well, not completely fallen through, but has definitely dropped 16 floors, smashed hard against the floor and is now lying heavy on cracked and creaking floorboards and can go very south from here.

I'm being dramatic I know, but its one of my good points, really.

So point is, where to next? I'm having a big think about it all. Maybe it is time to move on...again.

The worst thing in life is confusion. I don't mind when things go wrong, I can handle that. It's not knowing. It's like when you don't know where you stand with someone. Its better to be bad and know than to not know. I think so anyway.

So I can only look down at my plans and hope it all works out. Of course, it will all work out in some way.

Just WHAT?

I wish I knew.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bonjour encore de Paris

I am in Paris, again.

Here sorting out last minute visa stuff.

I'm so utterly seduced by this place. Not in a teenage crush way either. I'd like to think it's a more mature love. I know its flaws. But I love the city inside. I'm ready for her to grow old and fat and I will still see the face I love.

I just missed hawker being here last week. Its a shame, we would have been perfect, sitting around cafes, looking at the people. The obvious tourists, the girls who look so cool and would never talk to us, the baffled locals, the dodgy scamsters.

But I've always loved a sense of place. It seems every part of my life is pretty tied to a location. Be it King St, Newtown or Portobello Rd, I like going somewhere and feeling I'm FROM somewhere.

Paris has that is spades. How could you not feel pride if you are from here? It seems even in Barcelona, the street performers could be from anywhere, performing anywhere. Here, its a dude with a beret, a hot tall french woman, dancing to accordians. Being French is in everything they do.

I almost want to scream out my window and ask them to turn the french down. Let's take these buildings and make them look less interesting. Let's turn the cobblestones to asphalt. Widen the streets and put up more McDonalds. Replace the scattered rooftops with metal and glass skyscrapers.

Thank god they don't.

They could make the place more friendly to the disabled though. Its been a semi struggle today. I'm going to relax all night. Leah found me the best hotel, high in Monmartre. I can see everything from my window. I could just stare at it, listen to the street noise and practise my french.

Most importantly, after this trip, I'll finally know where I'll be next year. Fingers crossed.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chapter 26

It’s been an amazing year. On my birthday last year I had a day off. I remember a phone call I got at Belfield train station, from a great friend, laughing there on the platform, early evening in the impending Sydney summer.

It was one of my last rehearsals with the Reservations that day, and then I ran off to spend the night with someone lovely. I wrapped up my life, spent good times with my best friends, said goodbye to my family and got on a plane.

26 has been about moving. Moving country, moving on and just moving in general.

To Paris! And others…but it’s Paris that lives in my heart still. Walking around Monmartre, meeting great people. Beef bourguignon and beaujolais. Napping in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The friends I met here who I don’t think I’ll ever get rid off.

Running in all directions in Europe, seeing Alicia is 5 different countries. Countless loss beanies, boarding passes and public transport day passes. That jumper from Barcelona I lost and I’m still heartbroken about.

Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope has been the soundtrack to all this. Easily my most listened to record this year. Anything that my life threw up just stuck on her songs. But also a year of rediscovering rock. Arctic Monkeys. Fratellis. The Killers. Muse. Been a long time since I’ve listened to so many guitar bands.

A beautiful Christmas and a snowy London was my home. I walked through Hyde Park almost every weekend. I read The Virgin Suicides, awash with romance. Managed to borrow a copy of Leviathan, but also trying to read and see British things. And god knows how many hours I spent with my head buried in Lonely Planet guides.

Also managed to see a few gigs. My first Fountains Of Wayne experience. London Live Earth at Wembley. Muse, Wilco, the Shins, REM, Amy Rigby, Prince…even managed to see Bob Evans. But really not been doing that too much. Missed all the festivals but I’m promising myself a couple next year.

I am also so happy. I’ve met hundreds of people this year. I got a great job which I love, and the people there are fantastic. I’ve managed any challenge that came my way. Sorted out the red tape, and even survived a nasty accident. I found a great house to live in, and met many a lifelong friend.

Now I have some close friends here, both old and new. And a steady stream of foreign visitors. And also still managing to get away from London a bit too. In fact, I’m back in Paris in 3 days.

It’s amazing how I got here. I wonder what the next year will hold. I don’t feel like I’ve even found my stride in London sometimes. And next year I will go to America. I just have to. There are changes coming. People coming. People going. The cast is changing.

It’s been the best year of my life, easily. Not only have I done so many things I dreamt of doing, I’m actually struggling to think of unhappy moments. Maybe there are none. And that is amazing. Thank you everyone who shared any of it with me. Whether a few days drunk in a strange city, every weekday at a cubicle, or old friends from home who keep in touch and keep me grounded…and all in between and outside and more.

London has dialled up a rare sunny day in October. Happy birthday indeed.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

You Send Me

I know I’m not the only one has ever made the bold claim that I could be happy in a country house in the middle of nowhere. As long as I had access to Amazon and the like. Being homebound, I have been putting that to the test.

The most important of which is ordering groceries online. What a world this is. Click on some sausages, some milk, some eggs. Then, select a delivery time, usually the next day, specific to the hour. Then there’s a dude knocking on the door, with all of it in shopping bags. So easy. You can even save your order. No need to remember to buy more detergent. Just save it from days before. You can even get Mojo Magazine home delivered! God bless Sainsburys.

Amazon UK has also been my friend. I’ve spent a lot of time on Amazon in the past, but it’s always been this faraway thing. Not anymore. I blew £200 before I knew it. It’s just like shopping in a store. You just browse around and pick stuff up. And again, before I knew it, a knock on the door and there you go. It’s not just CDs, but DVDs and books too. Being housebound and crippled doesn’t stop me spending (all moneys spent is justified by me not going out).

I also managed to spend a lot of money on that new iPod. Delivered straight to my door. It was so great. And I do that thing where some guy hands me a clipboard and I sign it. Very professional-like. I also like when they give you a tracking number, and you can look online at where your order is.

I’m now looking at Argos. The behemoth of Argos. You can get ANYTHING from Argos. I have my eye on some more CD shelves, a DVD player and an electric piano. How crazy is that? Can't afford it, but I can save it to my cart.

All this made me very disappointed by the service offered by Forbidden Planet, the main sci-fi/comic book shop in London. You figured they have their home ordering sorted. But no, orders could take two weeks according to the site.

Bloody amateurs. It would take me an hour to get there on a bus. If I could get on a bus.

Although, this short lived love affair with courier deliveries may soon be over, as I am getting so much better every day. Pretty soon I’ll be hobbling around HMV in person. I can go get those comics on my own. I’m able to get by okay without the crutches. The foot is getting better. There is little strength in my legs though. Muscles need to warm up again.

Very exciting is that I have friendly visitors helping me out in the last few weeks and for the next couple of weeks. It’s been quite a ride but I know the ride is coming to an end. It’s been a good practise run for when I buy that house in Dapford, Victoria, but that little glimpse into the future is fading like the end of a movie flashback.

Goodbye to being housebound and window shopping on the web. Hello world.

Can’t hardly wait.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

A very flickr update 7: Krakow

Some lovely pics from my lovely time in Krakow last month.

Wawel Hill

Me at Wawel Hill, and the wonderful storybook like castle grounds.

The Wawel Dragon

Heading down from Wawel Hill you can find the Wawel Dragon. Legend has it that it did something once and it was cool. Now it's a tacky tourist thing and actually BREATHES FIRE. Sigh. They ruin sudh good stuff.

Auschwitz Entrance

Auschwitz Death Wall

Auschwitz 2: Birkenau

Aushwitz and Birkenau, the famous Nazi concentration camps. I am so fascinated by modern history, and this was one fo the big draws for me for Krakow. Such a harrowing, somber expreienc to walk through there.

1. Entrance to Auschwitz 1.
2. The execution wall at Auschwitz 1.
3. The entrance of Auschwitz 2, also known as Birkenau.

Oscar Schindler's factory

Interest in war stuff continued when I found Oscar Schindler's factory. I had a surreal afternoon there fixing a projector and walking through the abondoned ruins, and buying batteries. I'll tell you about it sometime. It's probably my best travel story yet.

Rynek Glowny

Tessa & Sarah

St Mary's Church, Krakow

It wasn't all doom and gloom in Krakow. It is such a beautiful place and the people were just wonderful. Best was he town square called Rynek Glowny.

1. Rynek Glowny, and the building in the middle called Cloth Hall.
2. Tessa and Sarah, friends from the Hostel
3. St Mary's at night. Lopsided funny church that is also in Rynek Glowny.

I loved Krakow. If you go, stay at the Orange Hostel. They were so good to me.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Computers and the new rock and roll…

I got a new iPod. Silver, lovely 160GB. And it’s finally time to retire my old one.

I was very late to the iPod. Checking my memory, I think I bought a girlfriend an iPod before I ever got one for myself. I got one just over two years ago. I’m trying to remember how I would listen to music before then. I basically carried around 20 or so CDs with me everywhere I went.

Needless to say, I’m not going back.

I like how the iPod can track what you’ve listened to over the years. It’s a pretty interesting snapshot of my listening habits.

Here are some interesting* statistics

Number of songs on it – 11,390.

That’s a hell of a lot. And I had to start culling when I ran out of room a year ago.

Number of plays since August 2005 – 54,897

Again, not counting tracks that I have since deleted off the ipod, and of course, listening to CDs and stuff which I still do.

It’s pretty much dead on two years that I’ve had this iPod so check this shit out:

Average number of songs played a day in the last two years – 75


Number of songs that have ZERO plays – 742

These are songs that have sat on the iPod that I just never got to. Or kept skipping. Poor ‘Sunday Girl’ by Blondie was added to my iPod on 16th August 2005, and has still not been able to get one little play out of me. Nothing. It’s only 3:06 long. Still, no love. Sorry Debbie.

Top Twenty Songs

Pretty easy this one. The songs that got the most plays in the last two years.

1. Romeo and Juliet – Dire Straits (42)
2. Fluorescent Adolescent – Arctic Monkeys (41)
3. Sentimental Guy – Ben Folds (41)
4. Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen (41)
5. Don’t You Think It’s Time – Bob Evans (40)
6. Girl Sailor – The Shins (40)
7. Phantom Limb – The Shins (39)
8. Turn On Me – The Shins (38)
9. Time – Ben Folds (37)
10. Rattlesnakes – Lloyd Cole And the Commotions (37)
11. Teddy Picker – Arctic Monkeys (36)
12. Sadness & Whiskey – Bob Evans (36)
13. Read My Mind – The Killers (35)
14. No Quick Fix – Nada Surf (35)
15. Sleeping Lessons – The Shins (34)
16. Let It Go – Youth Group (33)
17. Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying – Belle And Sebastian (32)
18. Don’t Change Your Plans – Ben Folds Five (32)
19. Hey Julie – Fountains Of Wayne (32)
20. Mystifies Me – Son Volt (32)

Good to see how much new music is there. I’m not still listening to Big Star and Gram Parsons.

And I totally love every single one of those songs. Especially Romeo And Juliet. And Thunder Road. Corner me somewhere and ask me about those songs. And be ready to lose several hours of your life.

So I have my new iPod now. I’m putting the old girl away. I’m trying to think, and it’s the only thing I’ve carried with me every day for he last two years (I changed wallets this year).

It will be interesting* to see what happens in another two years.


* any claims of anything interesting is ambitious at best.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Injury (and the Blockheads)

When I decided to go travelling, this intensely personal, spiritual journey, it seemed like everyone and their dog had a travel story. Especially the great Australia to London odessey. My sister did that. My friend did that. My dog did that.

And I'm not knocking it. I loved those stories. It lead to what Casey calls Place-Dropping. We would practise imaginary Place-Dropping back home. You lost a lighter? I remember one time I was in Vienna and I lost a lighter. It's cold? Yes, reminds me of autumns in Madrid...

You get the idea.

So the new thing is accident stories. And again I love them. Although some are painful. It seems quite a frightening amount of people I know have seriously hurt themselves in their lives. Tales of collar bones, hips, broken thumbs, broken jaws, flying over the handle bars and in one case, getting hit by a taxi, this time in New York.
The recovery stories are also lovely. 3 months in bed. 3 months in hospital. 3 months hanging in the water tank Luke Skywalker was in at the end of the Empire Strikes Back.

Everyone I know has suddenly become experts in medicine. In particular, orthopedic experts. I'm hearing (and reading) perfectly normal friends of mine use words like 'femur' in conversation. Apparently, all bones take 5-6 weeks to heal, regardless of which one. But according to another expert, foot bones heal quite fast. Maybe I need a 22nd opinion...

So the new game now is Body-Dropping. As Debbie told me, when her uncle got sick, he decided it was from then on completely OK to talk endlessly about his body. Quite inappropriately intimately too. It's stopped hurting to urinate. The scabs on my legs have started to peel off. There's still heaps of dead skin from where the cast was. Want to hold my glass eye?

So for me, my hip is fine, but when I cough or sneeze, my muslces in that area naturally seize up, and it hurts like hell. Laughing is also not as fun as it used to be. I'm getting pins and needles in my left foot a lot. And yes, most of the large cuts and stuff have now scabbed off and odd, innocent-looking, new pink skin has revealed themselves.

(Body Dropping, like Place Dropping and Name Dropping, is only fun for the Dropper. But it's so much fun.)

Which all goes to show

a) how unextraordinary my situation is, really.

b) how much sickness and injury touches our lives. I've spent a bit of time in hospitals, both for myself and to support friends. And none of them have been good times! And...

c) how amazing the human body really is. It really is.


Friday, September 14, 2007

The Greatest Album of All Time

I’ve been sitting in my wheelchair, tired, unable to do much today. I decided I needed some cheering up and I put on Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys.

It’s a very, very important album for me. It’s one a cherish deeply. It’s not my favourite album ever, because sentimental reasons come into play. Not that I’m not sentimental about this album. But if aliens ever come, and they ask me what the greatest album, the greatest achievement of music mankind has ever known, I would point furiously at this CD.

Apart from being a marvellous, complex, involving bit of music, it’s also so pop. So accessible. Anyone who’s ever looked into it could tell you Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys’ resident “genius” (and it’s an overused term, I know), used some amazing musical tricks. It’s performed fantastically. The vocals! Geez. Mind blowing.

But it’s a record you can enjoy when you’re 12. Or 120. You don’t need a degree to get everything you need to get out of this album.

By luck, I came across this album in high school, at a time when I had no right to be finding music this cool. I had some great mentors who pushed me into the past. The Nuggets box sets. Television. The Ramones. All sorts of stuff that you just don’t hear in suburban Sydney.

Sean, the You Am I tour manager at the time, told me this great story. When he was a wee lad, he was given a cassette tape (by his parents? By a friend? I will ask him when I next see him). The tape had Pet Sounds on one side and the Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo on the other.

(I fell madly in love with Sweetheart of the Rodeo many years later, remembering Sean’s sage words. It was an album when every other fucker went psychedelic, they did a country album. And what an album. Oh Gram Parsons…)

Everyone knows the Beach Boys – from golden oldies stations and nostalgia documentaries. I even knew Wouldn’t It Be Nice, sort of. I knew the hooks. But when I got the record and put it on...and after the twinkle of bells, the drum snap! Bam!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?
Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live together
In the kind of world where we belong?

For me, Pet Sounds is about being young. Or not being young anymore. Just listen to the fucking marching band rattling along behind the glorious vocal on Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Isn’t that the tumbling hearts of a million teenage dreams? Isn’t it the power of teen romance. All big and exciting. We are going to last forever. God, this song just rules the school. It’s just a glorious, glorious thing.

I love the line about the kind of world where we belong. It’s something that comes up a lot. That’s Not Me, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times and others all allude to someone feeling kind of left out by the world. Of not fitting in. Is there a more teenage, or post-teenage emotion than that? The feeling that this world is not ours. Yet.

Then there are the handful of love songs. The heartbreaking Caroline, No. The absolutely timeless God Only Knows. It’s done with such hopefulness. There’s nothing complex there. It’s big, sad love.

And then there is just the nice familiarity that comes from loving an album for ten years. I know all the little breaks. The horn solo in I Know There’s An Answer. I can and do sing along to every single bit of backing vocal. It’s an old friend.

I will always say that there is more to the Beach Boys than this one record. And many people I know own this, maybe a best of, and calls it a day with the Beach Boys. Fair enough, really. Can’t blame you. At least you have Pet Sounds.

If you don’t, you’re really missing out. Grab a friend’s copy, a glass of wine and a window to look through. You’ll think of love, of expectations, of hopes and dreams, of the world as a whole. It will also make you happy, ultimately. Nothing cheers me up like this album. There’s something really rewarding about listening to it.

So this world probably has enough writings on this album. All I really wanted to say is, well, ignore all that. It doesn’t matter how revered an album is. All that matters is I had a kind of crappy day and this album made me happy again.

Genius, ain’t it?


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A very flickr 6: Prague

So back to our regular programing for a second...the second installment of my photos from Europe. This time, Prague.

Me in Prague
Me in Wenceslas Square, Prague

So I got to Prague by plane from Brussels. Getting off the plane and onto the bus, I met 5 really nice guys from New york. We spent most of my time in Prague drinking, with me dragging along anyone I could find from the hostel.

NY Friends drinking in Prague
l-r: Nate, Ian, Alex, George, Chris, Sarah, Alex number 2, all from NY

I wasn't prepared for how beautiful Prague was. Simply put, no one told me.

Lennon Wall, Prague

Vltava, Prague

Me at the Astronomical Clock

Prague Castle Steps

Me, St Vitus Cathedral, Prague

Prague Castle at Night

Random Pretties

1. The John Lennon Wall. Still not sure why John Lennon has a wall here, and it's just graffiti, scribbles and things from local youths. At least they are being political and optimistic with their graffiti. Good on 'em.
2. The view of the Vltava river from St Charles Bridge. I had a beautiful moment just standing there looking at the world one afternoon.
3. The somewhat Back To the Future Part 3-esque Astronomical Clock at the Old Square.
4. Steps leading up to Prague Castle
5. St Vitus Catherdal, within the castle walls
6. The Prague Castle itself, but at night, looking over the main city. So beautiful I cannot describe. This photo does it no justice.

Brian, Adam, Prague

Adam's Lego Joker and Batman

More drinking buddies. Above, Brian and Adam. Below, Batman and the Joker.

Prague Dancers

I was already completely in love with this city when I stumbled onto this at the Old Town Square. A bunch of beautiful women doing a marching baton dance. To an instrumetal version of my favourite musical ever - My Fair Lady. I was clapping and hooting like a maniac with just pure joy, as the sun shone and the military band played: I'm Getting Married In the Morning, With A Little Bit Of Luck and I Could Have Danced All Night.

Kafka and Me

An artist greatly under-appreciated in his own time, and a statue of Frank Kafka.

Dancing Building, Me

Finally, my fave thing in Prague. The Dancing House by Frank Gehry. From the other angle, it looks like Fred Astaire holding Ginger Rogers as her skirt spins in a dance. It's awesome.

I took so many more photos, these are but the highlights. More on Flickr. But even a billion photos cannot describe how much I loved every second in Prague. I can't wait to go again.


Homeward Bound

I like the fact that this blog, started almost a year ago now, has gone from a travel blog, a loose philosophy blog, the inevitable music blog, a few poems and will now be an accident recovery blog.

So I'm home after my accident. I'm doing fine.

It's day one and I'm pretty much living in my room. Nathan found a disused wheelchair in the street (we live near a hospital) and decided to bring it home. Some people questioned why, but it's come in mighty handy today. I'm been on it, bouncing around the room. Going from the toilet (I have an ensuite, thank god), to my desk, my CD racks, my tall boy and my bed. Quite efficient really. Also, the keyboard stands Josh Pyke left at my house to look after make good handles. One sits either side of the toilet, and I can climb on them. Brilliant.

The only thing I cannot do quite right is stairs. Which means I can't get downstairs, to the front door or the kitchen. So food is a challenge. As is opening the door for people.So I can't even recieve couriers or mail. It's something I hope to look at conquering this week.

But it is so good to be home. Did some work today. Replied to some emails but I'm still behind. Caught up on the news and cleaned the room a bit to give myelf more room. Talked to my folks. It's all going to work out I think.

Me in Emergency

Above is me barrely two hours after the accident. I healthy reminder to look left and look right. And lets not forget look left again.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Such nice things

They say such nice things about people at funerals that it makes me sad to realise that I'm going to miss mine by just a few days.

- Garrison Keillor

Everyone has been so nice.

Having watched far too much Scrubs, or indeed, just pop culture, it's weird to step into a hospital and feel cliche. You think of flowers as dorky, cards as tacky.

But they aren't. I love everything I've gotten. I don't know when I last needed my friends to show me they love me, but they certainly came through. I don't know how to react.

It made me think of the quote above, which I only learnt two weeks ago from a girl in Krakow. And I'm glad I didn't have to die before my friends said some nice things to me.

The medical update is as follows. I have gone from dead, to not being able to use my spine, to a fractured hip, a foot and a torn muscle in my shoulder. That leaves one limb unharmed - my right arm. Insert jokes here.

They've checked everything and that's all they've found. They've looked at those three areas quite a bit and still haven't decided on a course of action. I'm comfy and all, but I really want to know. I'm mentally preparing to kick up a stink today.

I've spent so much time in hospitals, but never as an adult, staying in a long period. Funny to watch the schedule. Breakfast at 8. Sheets at 9. Rounds at 10. Lunch at 1. Visitors at 3. Dinner at 6. Lights out at 10.

My parents are doing fine with everything. I have friends here and Australia helping me in all ways. Lots of people have dropped by. My nurse kids that I have a small library and chocolate shop here.

Talked to many people over the last few days. I'm feeling loved, which is the bottom line. One of the last people I talked to was Bec, my dear muffin. And it took me ages to find her, so by the time I got through to her, it felt like I was calling for the first time.

I'm good, emotionally. I'm optimistic physically. More news soon.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I got hit by a car

At 11:30pm on September 4, I was leaving work after a couple of drinks with colleagues. I walked out, a little woozy, yes, and saw my bus across the road.

The bus was blocking both lanes of northbound traffic, so when there was a break in the southbound traffic, I made a dash for it.

Unfortunately, a taxi decided to do an overtake of the bus. I smashed right into the middle of the taxi, going at 30 miles an hour, and ended up almost 10 metres from the point of impact.

I remember seeing the taxi. Just the split second before it hit me. And I had so many thoughts. How do I get out of this? This is what a car crash is going to be like. This could be the big one.

I did not black out according to others, but I can't remember anything but being on the floor next.

Right in the middle of Kensington Church St. I was in shock. When my mind started to clear a little, I screamed. I could not move. I didn't know where my guts were. My legs could have been in Holland Park for all I knew.

Then the pain hit. And I screamed again.

I owe it all to Gary, another cabbie and a volunteer firefighter. He made sure I kept still, got my details off me before I became totally incoherent, checked my spine and neck quickly and most importantly, he held my hand and told me it was going to be ok.

The Police and the ambulance are a blur. I remember being put in the stretcher and being taken away. I remember thinking of Batman being in an ambulance in a comic I have.

The Ambulance people later told me that they were called in for a fatal. They brought body bags.

I remember them cutting through my jeans thinking, those are good scissors to cut through denim. Even delirious, I took off my leather jacket so they wouldn't cut that.

I was taken to St Mary's hospital, and was strapped down hard so I could not damage anything further. My Doctor, Will, and my nurse, Lizzie, could not have treated me better.

We had to do several Xrays at the base of my spine and my neck. It looked as if there may have been fractures there. And as much as I could feel someone squeezing my foot when asked, all I could really feel was pins and needles. I totally thought I would lose my legs.

The Xrays gave me the all clear in the neck and spine department. They did find fractures in my left hip. It hurts like nothing I've ever felt before.

Later they discovered I broke some bones in my right foot. They put me on pain killers, and after 7 painful hours, let me out of my neck brace. I have been napping all day and in my drowsy state it feels like the neck brace is still there.

I was taken away from Emergency then and put in a bed. Today, I have been doing further Xrays before they decide on a course of action.

The problem is the hip, which destroys my motor functions below the waste. I can't even get into a wheelchair. Also, if the damage is significant enough, they may have to operate.

I hope not. I was very silly, but I've been lucky so far. Very lucky. Being hit by a car front on? And no permanent scars and maybe a funny hip forever. That's nothing.

Even my bag with my laptop, camera, glasses, ipod and all survived. Well the bag is wrecked but the insides are ok.

All my London friends have really stepped up and looked after me. I have a fresh set of pyjamas for tonight, bunch of mags, and plenty of emails wishing me the best.

I am going to be ok. Which is nothing short of extraordinary.