Sunday, 1 April 2018


1.    Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
2.    Let England Shake – PJ Harvey
3.    Over the Ice – The Field
4.    Tugboat – Galaxie 500
5.    You Made Me Realise – My Bloody Valentine
6.    Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr. Hitler – Wild Billy Childish & The Blackhands
7.    Take a Ride – The Questions
8.    Damaged Goods – Gang of Four
9.    Stardust – Billy Ward and His Dominoes
10.  El Toro – Chico Hamilton
11.  I Put a Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
12.  Tramp – Lowell Fulsom
13.  Come on In – The Music Machine
14.  Como El Agua – Camaron de la isla y Paco de Lucia
15.  National Shite Day – Half Man Half Biscuit
16.  Ingenue – Atoms for Peace
17.  FFunny FFriends – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
18.  Flowers – Galaxie 500
19.  Swing Easy – The Soul Vendors
20.  Blow Your Head – Fred Wesley and the JB’s
21.  Late in the Evening – Paul Simon
22.  Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits
23.  Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart

Bouldering is indoor climbing utilising plastic holds, without ropes; you’re never so high off the ground that a deep crashmat won’t do should you fall. I bouldered at The Arch before they were kicked out of their premises by British Rail. They then moved to a warehouse in Bermondsey called The Biscuit Factory. This was a great shame, but London Bridge station was to be expanded, and now has been.
Contrary to the music those loons at the Vauxhall Climbing Centre like to subject their clientele to, at The Biscuit Factory they normally do all right, and it was there that I came across the Unknown Mortal Orchestra. They had released two albums at this point: an eponymously titled work and II. Both are represented here. Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) is taken from their second record. It works well as an opening track, although it isn’t used as such on the album. The music has been deliberately recorded to sound like the psychedelic records it takes inspiration from. That is to say, it sounds like you’re listening to it through an old Dansette record player, even though you’re more than likely not.

When I first became interested in indie music, PJ Harvey was one of the artists introduced to me. She was, by today’s standards, relatively unknown – this was around the time of her second album, Rid of Me – and the approaching juggernaut that was Britpop suggested it might remain that way. Instead, just as Britpop was nearing its critical mass – early 1995 – she released To Bring You My Love, which was a success critically and to some degree commercially. And whilst bands like Suede, Radiohead and The Verve would be conveniently co-opted into the Britpop movement, once it had established itself, PJ Harvey stood apart. She was succeeding on her own terms, and Britpop’s sustainability was not her concern.
I took note of all this but PJ Harvey’s next album, Is This Desire, released in 1998, eluded me. Her fifth, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, made more of an impact but not enough for me to go out and buy a copy. 2004’s Uh Huh Her barely even registered. White Chalk, forget it. I guess I had my ears pressed against other things: Latin jazz, funk, soul, ska, psychedelia, garage rock, new wave.
It was my lady friend who broke the embargo. In 2012, she bought for me Let England Shake, reinvigorating my appreciation of PJ Harvey’s oeuvre as whole. I especially appreciated the use of the autoharp and zither on many of the tracks. This is Polly Harvey’s great strength: an ear for euphonic textures, off-beat rhythms, sound collages.

Living alone and left to his own devices, my Cornish friend was listening to various electronic music. He played me From Here We Go Sublime by The Field. Billed as techno, it’s closer to trance, although not of the Goa kind. Perhaps it’s neither for it leans heavily on sampling, inhabiting a wistful sort of groove. That said, Over the Ice is fairly upbeat, even if the tune it borrows from – Kate Bush’s Under Ice – isn't.
My nostalgia for late ‘80s/early ‘90s indie music, which had started with Sebadoh, led me back to Galaxie 500 (although it was Dean Wareham’s other band, Luna, that I was more familiar with). It seemed to me that Galaxie 500 held more in common musically with the more sixties’ influenced groups on Sarah Records than it did alternative indie American rock. Dreampop, slowcore, shoegaze… whatever you want to call it, it’s the folksy flipside to Dinosaur Jr. Wareham’s ostensibly simple guitar work is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground after John Cale was kicked out and their music became prettier. Except Wareham’s voice is far thinner than Lou Reed’s.
Up pops My Bloody Valentine on a second, consecutive compilation. This time around it’s one of their more conservative numbers, You Made Me Realise. Conservative in the sense that it possesses a verse and a chorus, what passes for a riff, vaguely melodic harmonies, and an instrumental breakout about halfway through. That said, the song descends into a mess of feedback that has been known to last, in a live setting, for over half an hour – what’s been referred to as the ‘holocaust section’. It’s like The Pastels jamming with Sonic Youth.

Adolf Hitler. There’s a certain attitude towards this monomaniacal piece of work that’s distinctly British. In the lead up to the Second World War and during it, the Fuhrer was perceived as a figure of fun, a caricature to be ridiculed and laughed at. This attitude is manifest in Allied propaganda: in posters (American placards were very much more aggressive than their British equivalents), songs (Hitler Has Only Got One Ball), films (The Great Dictator), plays (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui), even cartoons (the Bugs Bunny short Herr Meets Hare). Charlie Chaplin said that had he been cognizant of the holocaust, he would never have made The Great Dictator, which appears to be the general consensus. After 1945, once the strange terror of the Third Reich had been revealed to all, portrayals of Hitler became more considered and generally light on laughs. Just don’t mention the war. (I say ‘strange’ because so inimical to the German war effort was the holocaust that early reports of it were dismissed as preposterous. Knowing that it did indeed take place does not render it any less so.)
But we do mention the war. I mentioned the war, albeit obliquely, on a friend’s stag-do in Berlin that I’d been called upon to organise. Somebody had got wind of this thing called the Berlin Beer Bike Tour, and I took it on board. A beer bike is no such thing. Although it is pedal-powered, it has four wheels and can accommodate up to 16 persons. It also incorporates a sound system, and so I prepared a CD especially for the occasion. As well as some old Acid Jazz numbers to bring back memories of the Quay Club in Plymouth, and few Britpop favourites to evoke Saturday nights down at JFKs, I included Wild Billy Childish & The Blackhands’ cover of the Dad’s Army theme tune. Billy Childish’s tribute is recorded in the ska tradition, and recorded live. It’s actually quite difficult to catch the words, all the more so in an open-air, urban setting. Nonetheless, a song was played that asks of Mr Hitler who he thinks he might be kidding, in the very heart of the German capital. Just to add another layer of subversion, I was done up like a member of the Red Army Faction: khaki field jacket, slim-fit black cords, cable-knit pullover, brown shoes. I doubt anybody made the connection.

The Questions were (Les) Lou’s by another name. In their incarnation as The Questions, they appeared briefly in the obscure French punk flick La Brune et Moi, performing Take a Ride. This track can be found on the hard-to-find compilation entitled My Girlfriend Was A Punk! Rare Early Female Punkrockers. I suspect The Questions were formed for the purpose of the film, because I can find no trace of anything else recorded by them. Not that Lou’s were prolific either, but they did at least support The Clash on their 1977 ‘Get Out of Control Tour’ (playing under Richard Hell and The Voidoids).
With their choppy guitar parts and slinky bass lines, Gang of Four are sort of like England’s answer to Talking Heads. Their debut album, Entertainment! might be the best album released under the auspices of post punk (unless of course you think The Fall were post punk, which I don’t). Footage of Gang of Four playing To Hell with Poverty on the Old Grey Whistle Test drew my curiosity. The song, taken from the EP Another Day/Another Dollar, is available as a bonus track on the re-issued version of their second album, Solid Gold. If I hadn’t quickly followed up with Gang of Four’s first LP, Entertainment! then it might have been that track, rather than Damaged Goods, that ended up on this compilation.
Sometimes a shift in musical style can be so pronounced that it somehow works. From post punk to R&B with a doo-wop slant; you may be familiar with Stardust from its inclusion in Martin Scorsese’s film Goodfellas. The tune itself dates back to 1927 but the Dominoes version was released in 1957, and it was a big hit. The lead vocal is sung by Eugene Mumford, who died in 1977, a month shy of his 52nd birthday.
I made the mistake of assuming that Conquistadores was representative of Chico Hamilton’s output. The associated LP – El Chico – is an exercise in Latin influenced jazz that takes full advantage of Gábor Szabó’s underrated ability on guitar. The Dealer is not, although it is an interesting record in its own right. But a strange thing: reading up on where I went wrong, I discovered that the reissued CD of the album included another collaboration with Gábor Szabó, entitled El Toro, which had been recorded four years earlier for the album Passin’ Thru. It’s not as full-on bossa nova as Conquistadors but there’s enough ‘exoticism’ going on to fulfil my remit – a sort of North African, hard bop vibe – so I downloaded it.
In 1993 I became fascinated with a Levi’s advert that depicted an inevitably handsome man, dazzling in a pair of pristine indigo 501s, laying to rest the jeans he’d just replaced. This all plays out to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins singing Heartattack and Vine, which its author Tom Waits objected to. I’d been mesmerised by both the song and the jeans themselves, the iconic Red Tab looking almost violet beneath the colour-balancing filter. If Levi Strauss had produced a limited edition 501 jean with a purple tab, I’d have bought them. Anyway, I must have needed a new pair of jeans or something because I looked up the commercial on YouTube and reacquainted myself with ‘Procession’ (did you know Levi’s gave their adverts actual names?). This in turn prompted an investigation into Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. The rest is history. I was familiar with Nina Simone’s recording of I Put a Spell on You but not Screamin’ Jay’s. I prefer Screamin’ Jay’s.

I have previously alluded to my quest to replace all my old hip hop cassettes with their vinyl counterpart – original pressings if at all possible – as and when I come across them. I was lucky enough to chance upon an immaculate copy of Cypress Hill’s first album for a very reasonable price, either in the Music & Video Exchange in Greenwich or Reckless Records on Berwick Street in Soho. (Whichever one it wasn’t may have been where I picked up an equally immaculate copy of Bazerk, Bazerk, Bazerk by Son Of Bazerk.) Released in the summer of 1991, How I Could Just Kill Man was Cypress Hill’s first single. The eponymously titled record that followed teems with samples in the way It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back does: ambient noise and people talking buried in deep amongst horns and percussion to create a mise-en-scène that evokes the sounds of 1960s/70s Los Angeles. How I Could Just Kill Man is built around a guitar riff employed by West Coast bluesman Lowell Fulsom in his song Tramp, although Lowell regulates its intensity to create a very different effect.
Another song sampled in How I Could Just Kill Man – and there are at least five – is less congruous. The Music Machine were a sort of psychedelic proto-punk outfit in keeping with the sort you’ll find on the Nuggets and Rubble anthologies I’d been buying ten years earlier. Come On In represents one of their more delicate moments, almost worthy of The Left Banke. The Music Machine were visually ahead of their time. Dressed in black and wearing pudding bowl haircuts, the singer and guitarist sporting single black gloves, they surely inspired the way bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Telescopes or My Bloody Valentine presented themselves in the 1980s.
A bit of a jolt but I didn’t know where else to put it. Como El Agua is sung by Camarón de la Isla, the definitive singer of the flamenco revival that occurred in Spain in the latter third of the 20th Century. Likewise, Paco de Lucia, with whom Camarón often collaborated, was a virtuoso flamenco guitarist at the forefront of the same movement. Como El Agua was selected to round off an edition of the Vuelta a Espana highlights. I was onto it, and downloaded it from somewhere or other. Camarón de la Isla was revered in Spain as a sort of ‘gypsy’ take on Mick Jagger, although his recreational habits were apparently more in keeping with Keith Richards – hence is premature death at the age of just 41 from lung cancer.

New bike near Chiswick.

The day after returning from Berlin, probably slightly worse for wear, I journeyed to Highgate to pick up my latest bike, having decided that my existing one, purchased just six months earlier, wasn’t up to the job of transporting me from London to Brighton, which was scheduled to happen in June. In the meantime, I’d just finished a three month tenure working as a website assistant at an independent tour operator in Kingston, for peanuts, during what was a cold and protracted winter, and I was skint. So not ideal. Half Man Half Biscuit captured the mood:

Down in the High Street somebody careered out of Boots without due care or attention.
I suggest that they learn some pedestrian etiquette:
i.e. sidle out of the store gingerly;
Embrace the margin.

The song National Shite Day recounts a set of circumstances so infuriating that its protagonist is left to conclude that the day in question has been contrived to annoy. Really, it’s a frustrated rant offering up the sort of banal irritancies that afflict contemporary living. I could feel Nigel Blackwell’s pain.
Aside from Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tom Yorke’s Atoms for Peace is really the only current music included on this playlist. (I’m not going to bother painting the musical backdrop to all of this, because I took almost no notice then and so it would be disingenuous to pass comment now.) Ingenue is mere filler, albeit of a pleasing kind, and not markedly different to anything Radiohead had been up to lately (which wasn’t much: 2011’s The King of Limbs had been their last release). FFunny FFriends is the older of the two Unknown Mortal Orchestra tracks I've included, although there’s no way of telling that. Flowers, on the other hand, is from the same Galaxie 500 album as the earlier included Tugboat.
Swing Easy by The Soul Vendors is an instrumental rocksteady track, a hangover from my ska binge the previous year. The Soul Vendors were a band Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd threw together to tour England, comprised mostly of members of Studio One’s studio backing-band The Soul Brothers, who were in turn cobbled together after the dissolution of The Skatalites. Keyboard player Jackie Mittoo seems to be the guy who wrote most of the songs, and would continue to do so once The Soul Vendors mutated into Sound Dimension.
The rest of this compendium represents an exercise in mopping up – more filler. Nothing wrong with Blow Your Head by Fred Wesley and the JB’s, but I used to listen to all of that back in the day with the guy who used to own a pager, around his flat and on holidays in France. Late in the Evening by Paul Simon is pure whimsey, and although I’d often found myself riveted by the bass line to Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing, since when had I been inclined to include it on any playlist of mine?
But not Rod Stewart. Every Picture Tells a Story is taken from the same album that contains Maggie May but more redolent of the songs he recorded with the Faces. Of course, the Faces were still very much extant and even contributed to Stewart’s solo endeavours. I don’t really know what Rod was playing at, but he got away with it. I can’t say what brought Every Picture Tells a Story to my attention – drinking in The Blue Lion on Grays Inn Road opposite where I worked for a short while, or in The Sussex on Twickenham Green, which had its own record player, or the St Margarets Tavern, which had improved on its music policy no end. I’d like to think it was the short break I took with my lady friend to Paris in the middle of the year, but it could have been anything.


Thursday, 1 March 2018


1.     Licence to Confuse – Sebadoh
2.     Bad as Me – Tom Waits
3.     It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue [Version 1] – The Byrds
4.     Al Capone – Prince Buster
5.     The Vampire – The Upsetters
6.     Concorde – The Prophets
7.     Typical Girls – The Slits
8.     52 Girls – The B-52's
9.     Boredom – Buzzcocks
10.   Neat Neat Neat – The Damned
11.   Leave the Capitol – The Fall
12.   This Night Has Opened my Eyes – The Smiths
13.   Whoever You Are – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
14.   Sometimes – My Bloody Valentine
15.   Dead and Gone – TOY
16.   Any Day Now – Elbow
17.   The World’ll Be Ok – Teenage Fanclub
18.   My God – Bombay Bicycle Club
19.   Lorelai – Fleet Foxes
20.   The Look – Metronomy
21.   Rock Lobster – The B-52's

Sound is analogue, comprised of continuous waveforms. The music derived from a phonograph record is likewise analogue and as such is a reproduction of the original sonority. Compact discs are not: they are the result of analogue-to-digital conversion, whose values must be derived from a discrete set. Digital signals are simply ‘snapshots’ of information that are converted back into an analogue waveform by way of an amplifier. By definition, the digital recording can only ever be a simulacrum of that which it purports to represent. That all said, a hi-fi system is only as good as its weakest link, and there are many external factors at play: the quality of the shellac, where one positions a set of speakers, the acoustics of the room, and so on. I am not a vinyl evangelist.
A photographic negative is the result of a chemical reaction arising from light being projected upon a transparent plastic film coated with microscopic, light-sensitive halide crystals. The photograph itself is also born of a chemical reaction on a molecular scale: from the projection of the negative upon paper coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. As such, its optical texture is random. Digital photography does not capture light on photosensitive film but by means of an image sensor (usually a charge-coupled device, or CCD) which converts the variable attenuation of light-waves into electronic signals to convey the information that comprises the image. Thereafter, the image is printed directly onto paper using a peripheral device, such as a laser of inkjet printer. This method of printing lacks the continuity of tone associated with traditional photographic processing techniques, whereby the image is ‘developed’.
Digital music and digital imaging are analogous then. Yet whereas vinyl is undoubtedly superior to its digital alternative, with the photography it’s not so clear-cut. For one, the ear is more discerning than the eye. Or is permitted to be. You could in theory record digitally with such a high sampling rate to be almost indistinguishable from vinyl, but this would be both expensive and impractical. With digital imaging, the extra level of detail doesn’t impact much on the size of the device or its relative cost. There’s certainly a difference between the photograph and the digital print, but it’s not – or at least not any more – much of a hierarchical discrepancy. (A bias towards saturating the colour green, to reflect the physiology of the human eye, backfires in verdant landscapes, but it’s nothing that can’t be remedied either in-camera or in post-production.)
No, the catch with digital photography is that it’s ephemeral. Those of us who used to shoot on film will recall sending our rolls off to the developers or taking them into high-street chemists to get them printed. It was not an instantaneous process, and I think we paid more attention to the results because of this. Not to mention the fact that we took greater care over the composition and the conditions of the each shot, knowing that we were limited to a certain number of frames. Those of us who could be bothered, which included me, would also collate our prints into an album. At the very least, you’d keep them in the paper wallet they came in, along with the negatives should any of the human subjects be desirous of reprints.
Digital images live a much more precarious existence. They’re lucky if they even make it off the camera and onto a computer. Those that do may well end up in the 'recycle bin'. The chances these days of an individual photograph being appreciated are as about as likely as surviving an encounter with the Ebola virus. And when an image is deemed worthy of sharing, where is it normally displayed? On Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or some other on-line vanity showcase I’m not aware of.
The practical purpose of (amateur) photography – to record specific events in one’s life, or to make something aesthetic out of it – has become secondary. The picture is no longer a representation of time and space but a symbol of time and space. It has become freelance, to be viewed when browsing through My Documents, whenever you’re retrospectively tagged or commented upon in somebody’s else’s on-line posts, or as an avatar – a personal ‘logo’. It’s as if the photograph has embraced libertarianism, to exist for its own sake. The idea that images should live side-by-side in an album – even a ‘virtual’ album – and form part of a narrative is nearing redundancy. Instead, photography’s primary purpose has become that of a marketing tool for the individual, a precession of simulacra intended as a primary source of self-identification.

Resistance is of course futile. I persisted to shoot on film for longer than most but it soon became clear that the industry was now calibrating their equipment primarily to cater to digital imaging (this was in 2008, but places like Boots were making a mess of it as early as 2001.) There were independent businesses that still utilised traditional ‘wet lab’ technology but they’d become very expensive. So I went digital and bought a Ricoh R8.
Digital images don’t make for very good 6 x 4 inch prints. For one, the default aspect ratio for most compact cameras is different to film. This shouldn’t be a problem, but service providers continue to follow the standard 3:2 ratio, and so your prints are either cropped or a boarder is imposed to accommodate the whole image. For two, colours are often overly saturated and skin tones can appear unnatural. My advice would be to do away with prints altogether and instead compile A4 sized ‘photobooks’, which are more forgiving. The dilemma presented is this: holiday snaps aside, is it really worth incorporating all those random pictures of buildings, meals, cloud formations spotted on the way home from work, feet, abstract close-ups of road markings and street signage, roadkill, shadows streaming through windows at oblique angles, into any sort of album? And if it is, would you get anything out of looking back over it?


Sebadoh’s Licence to Confuse reminds me hanging out with the guy with the indie tapes during my first year at university, early 1994. It does not remind me of a weekend I spent in Lyon with my lady friend in August 2011. Licence to Confuse is taken from the album Bakesale, which was released on Sub Pop in August 1994. Ergo, I couldn’t have listened to it in the guy with the indie tapes’ room at our halls of residence. However, I could, and did, listen to the EP 4 Song CD, which I bought on vinyl in or around June 1994. The four (proper) songs that feature on 4 Song CD all appeared on Bakesale, which I assume I finally listened to around the new house of the guy with the indie tapes from September 1994 onwards. I’ve only just worked this out, which means back in 2010, when I bought a copy of Bakesale on CD, I was erroneously attributing most of its content to something it couldn’t be attributed to. The Sebadoh album that I did actually listen to with the guy with the indie tapes in our halls of residence must have in fact been Bubble and Scrape, which is a markedly different album. Anyway, I’d been getting a bit misty-eyed over the alternative music scene as it was before Britpop got out of hand. If I had to explain to somebody what this all sounded like I might just play them Bakesale.
Neither does Bad as Me by Tom Waits recall being in Lyon, but it does evoke the period. It might have been recorded off the lad who used to beat me at snooker, although it could just have easily been downloaded from iTunes. Either way, the lad is a big fan. Bad as Me is as frantic and barmy as Big in Japan. If you crave something milder, check out the deliciously paranoid What’s He Building? off of Mule Variations.
It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue reminds me of the Heart and Hand in Brighton, one of my favourite pubs. It does not remind me of drinking in the hotel lobby of the Grand Hotel Tazi in Marrakesh, October 2014, one of the few places around the old town that sells wallop. The Byrds first recorded this Bob Dylan tune during the sessions for Turn! Turn! Turn! but it never made the cut. A slower, country-inflected iteration later materialised on the Ballad of Easy Rider in 1969, but I wanted the faster, rougher version they recorded in 1965. The Heart and Hand had it on their jukebox – still do – so I assumed that it had seen life as an early B-side. It hadn’t. It was re-released in 2004 as part of a collection of 7” singles entitled Cancelled Flytes, which is how the Heart and Hand must have got hold of it. (If you’re interested, it’s also available as a bonus track on the extended CD version of Turn! Turn! Turn! as well as the 1987 compilation Never Before.) This is not the first rendition of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue to have featured on one of my compilations. I included the 13th Floor Elevators’ much slower interpretation on 2002’s Come on Let’s Go, which lasts 5 minutes and 17 seconds. Bob Dylan’s original recording comes in at 4 minutes and 12 seconds, whereas The Byrds complete their ‘version 1’ in a little over 3 minutes, which should give you some idea of the relative cadences.


I wasn’t keen on my new job but it paid fairly well and my manager would regale me with stories about surviving avalanches, the efficiency of the French town councils, and what London pubs had been like in the 1960s. This place of work was located in Brentford, which hadn’t changed much since I’d lived there ten years before. I was able to cycle there and did so most of the time. On Wednesday nights I began ‘bouldering’ with Mr Wilkinson, one of the guys who used to live at The Grosvenor and a couple of their acquaintances. I drank mostly at The Turks Heads and the St Margarets Tavern in St Margarets, The Fox in Twickenham and The Prince’s Head in Richmond. I was fit and working again.
Despite the two year timeframe and the confused associations, I consider The World’ll Be Ok to be one of my most accomplished compendiums. This is in no small part due to the renewed involvement of ska and rocksteady: Al Capone by Prince Buster, The Vampire by The Upsetters, and Concorde by The Prophets. These three instrumental tracks allow the listener to rest their ear after the earlier onslaught of guitars, as well gearing up for what follows. Al Capone by Prince Buster isn’t completely instrumental; he asks that we don’t call him Scarface because his name is not that, it’s Capone: “C. A. P. O. N. E. – Capone!” The Upsetters were the house band for Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s record label, Upsetter Records, which he established in 1968. I don’t know much about The Prophets other than they were signed to Big Shot, a subsidiary of Island Records that was later taken over by Trojan. Al Capone is certainly ska but The Vampire and Concorde would be described as rocksteady, which came after ska and before reggae. I don’t feel qualified to fully explain the differences between these genres, except to say that the shifts between them represented a slowing down in tempo, a diminished interest in brass and a greater focus on bass. (Legend has it that the ‘slowing down’ of rocksteady occurred during a prolonged spell of hot weather unconducive to dancing.)
All this leads neatly into Typical Girls by The Slits. The Slits were a punk band with an appetite for dub. In a nutshell, dub is reggae with the drum and bass turned up and the vocals taken off. Just as ska informed two-tone, dub and reggae had an effect on post-punk: The Clash, The Ruts, PIL, and dare I say it, The Police. The Slits debut album, Cut, is probably more experimental than any of that lot, its intricate rhythms reaching far beyond reggae. But, a bit like The Fall, if you can’t get on with Ari Up’s vocal inflections, it might not be for you.
The 30th birthday of the girl who was going out with the former cohabitant from Brighton was to be celebrated at Fitzherberts in Brighton, and I was invited. Now, such is the fallibility of memory, as has been proved, I hesitate to say whether I heard the B-52’s that night or not, but something of that type was certainly played. I cannot be sure either if it was before or after this party that I purchased their eponymous debut album. I do know, however, that the record had been on my mental ‘to buy’ list ever since I’d heard Planet Claire on BBC Radio 6 whilst working at Nikon between 2003 and 2008. In any case, I was looking for something to proceed Typical Girls by the Slits, so 52 Girls seemed appropriate. Both songs display a strong rhythmic element, both have female lead vocals and harmonies, both incorporate ‘girls’ into their title. Despite The B-52’s reputation for kitsch, they could certainly rock – this is a band that cut their chops at CBGBs. Ricky Wilson’s guitar forms the backbone to many of their best songs, a guitar tuned to taste, sometimes shorn of a string or two.
Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP was purchased from Really Good Records in Plymouth a few years earlier (possibly on the same visit that yielded Tom Tom Club by the Tom Tom Club) on 7” (the brevity of its four sings allow for that) in a sleeve that had seen better days. The hassle of recording vinyl onto my laptop had precluded its inclusion on any previous playlist so I decided, finally, to download it. Spiral Scratch was the third punk record ever released by a British band, the first and second being New Rose by The Damned and Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols respectively. Boredom is its lead track, as fast and frantic as Neat Neat Neat by The Damned, which is what comes next. Both records were released in early 1977 within less than a month of each other, implying that Neat Neat Neat can’t be far off being the fourth punk record ever released by a British band.
The Fall’s body of work can be categorised into four parts. The first phase spreads from the group’s first album Live at the Witch Trials, published in 1979, through to the their fifth, Room to Live, published late 1982. Thereafter, Brix Smith joined the group, whose tenure embodies The Fall’s second phase. She departed in 1988/89 after the release of I Am Kurious Oranj, and the third phase then begins, probably ending around the time of 1997’s Levitate following the sacking of guitarist Craig Scanlon and the resignation a little after of bassist Stephen Hanley. (Those more familiar with their later work may wish to break the canon down even further.) I embarked on my relationship with The Fall in 1993, between The Infotainment Scan and Middle Class Revolt, by way of Extricate – so during their ‘third phase’ – and proceeded to work more of less backwards, reverse-chronologically. Live at the Witch Trials exempted, this fervid exploration of The Fall’s back catalogue ran out of steam after I’d reached 1984’s The Wonderful and Frightening World Of... (although I did also own Hip Priest And Kamerads, a compilation that gathers tracks from some of their earlier albums). It wasn’t until The Wilkinsons gave me The Complete Peel Sessions 1978–2004 in 2005 that I was inspired to carry on where I left off.
Neither a single nor an album, 1981's Slates is an EP highly regarded amongst Fall followers. It’s far more upbeat musically (by Fall standards) than the work that preceded it – the LP Hex Enduction Hour – and Leave the Capitol in particular. In May 2012, I saw The Fall play at The Coronet in Elephant and Castle.
And never seen again.

I wandered into The Vintage Showroom on Earlham Street off Seven Dials, as is my want. Never bought anything from there but I like the feel and smell of the place. This Night Has Opened my Eyes by The Smiths was playing on this occasion, and it had me captivated. Why had it not resonated with me before? Maybe because it only appears on The Smith’s motley compilation album Hatful of Hollow, a collection of Peel Session tracks, singles and B-sides. I retrieved the CD from my collection and added This Night Has Opened my Eyes to this playlist.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre double compilation album Tepid Peppermint Wonderland does not include the song Whoever You Are. This surprises me as there’s plenty of footage on YouTube of it being played live – at the Hove Festival in Norway, for example – and it’s amongst their best work. No matter, I simply bought Give It Back!, which also features Anton Newcombe wrestling with the sitar on a number of tracks.
My nostalgia for old-school indie music pushed me in the direction of shoegaze, and My Bloody Valentine in particular. They’d completely passed me by the first time around – in the late 1980s/early ‘90s I only really listened to hip hop. It was the soundtrack to Lost in Translation that provoked my interest. Their early records aren’t really shoegaze at all and have more in common with the alternative American indie rock. Loveless is the where the association comes from, and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, although Sometimes is probably the most accessible song from it.
I would have thought TOY like My Bloody Valentine. They display the hallmarks of shoegaze – although the noise pop of Split-era Lush might be a more accurate point of reference – and they don’t look too dissimilar to how MBV did at the start of their career: long hair, drainpipe jeans, leather jackets, not a beard in sight. After watching the video to Left Myself Behind and a live performance of Dead and Gone on YouTube, I was persuaded to purchase their album. The band still appear to be active, although it looks like a case of diminishing returns.
If you’ve read my liner notes to the 2002 compilation Come On Let’s Go then you’ll know that I purchased the single Powder Blue by Elbow expecting it to be their album track Any Day Now. I soon realised my error, but settled for Powder Blue in that instance because it’s still a very good song. Elbow had since hit pay dirt with their albums The Seldom Seen Kid in 2008 and Build a Rocket Boys! in 2011, neither of which impressed me much but may have provided the impetus to finally get hold of Any Day Now.

I resigned from my job in March 2012 (although I ended up staying on until June). It doesn't matter why, except to say that my manager was very stuck in his ways and had quite a temper, although he never directed it towards me. So I was unemployed again. Perhaps to reassure myself, I fixated on the The World’ll Be Ok by Teenage Fanclub, recorded especially for their greatest hits album Four Thousand Seven Hundred And Sixty-Six Seconds - A Short Cut To Teenage Fanclub. I also needed a song to jolt my compilation out the reverie of its third-quarter, which is very welcome reverie but an unsustainable one.
Bombay Bicycle Club’s album Flaws had endured, and this time I reached out for one of its moodier moments. Mumford & Sons aside, I quite like the ‘indie folk’ sound, despite lacking the chin follicles to fully embrace the look. Fleet Foxes suffer no such encumbrances. The band bring a fuller sound to bear than Bombay Bicycle Club, a wider repertoire of instruments, grander gestures, production values more akin to those of Phil Spector, and beards. (I can actually grow a pretty good moustache, and did so under cover of Movember in between jobs.)
The Look by Metronomy reminds me of revisiting the likes of Uniqlo in Richmond. It does not remind me hobbling around Porto, having turned my ankle whilst bouldering three weeks prior. I suppose Metronomy were born out of that electro-pop scene that flourished in the mid-2000s, although it was their third album, 2011’s The English Riviera, that brought them to the fore. I didn’t buy the album – The Look was downloaded – but the song is more than a mere novelty, despite the quirkiness of the accompanying video, and I made a mental note to keep an ear out for them.


Was it the Olympics, the Tour de France, or having time on my hands that got me into cycling? None of those things. It was Stage 5 of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana when, early on, Javier Chacón (racing for Team Andalucía) broke away from the rest of the field, built up a 12 minutes’ lead before being chased down by the pack approximately 30 km from the finish. What did it for me was the instant he must have known it was all over, when Javier glanced back over his shoulder and saw the Team Argos-Shimano led peloton gradually bearing down on him. It was a singular spectacle that evoked both fear and humour, like watching an explosion unfurl in slow-motion. Rock Lobster by The B-52’s does not remind me of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana but recalls that night at Fitzherberts in Brighton, whether it was really played there or not.

Friday, 9 February 2018


1.     In the Mirror – Field Music
2.     The State I am In – Belle and Sebastian
3.     Inimigo – Mercenarias
4.     Rock Europeu – Fellini
5.     Ilha Urbana - Muzak
6.     Sin in My Heart – Siouxsie and the Banshees
7.     Wax and Wane – Cocteau Twins
8.     Poptones – Public Image Ltd.
9.     Jack Kerouac – Gang 90
10.   Leave Me Alone – New Order
11.   Vitamin C – Can
12.   Antenna – Sonic Youth
13.   51st Anniversary – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
14.   Harvest Moon – Neil Young
15.   Effortlessly – Field Music
16.   Constellations – Darwin Deez
17.   Chemistry – Semisonic
18.   Intentions – The Whitest Boy Alive
19.   Ivy & Gold – Bombay Bicycle Club
20.   Many of Horror – Biffy Clyro
21.   Whitechapel – The Vaselines
22.   Down from Dover – Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra
23.   There’s a Ghost in My House – R. Dean Taylor

It was around this period that I came to realise that a spade was no longer called a spade but more likely referred to as a soil redistribution enabler. I knew this because I was now working as a freelance transcript writer/audio typist, which involved the production and delivery of customised transcripts, presentations and summary documents for a broad range of clients. I was assigned jobs at the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Inland Revenue, Ofcom, what was then known as the Competition Commission, the Financial Times, Social Services, the Performing Rights Society (PRS), Stringfellows (staff disciplinary hearings), the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), at various banks (Deutsche Bank, Citibank, UBS, Credit Suisse, etc.) and private investment firms. It was fascinating work but badly paid and quite pressurised, although for someone adverse to stress I cope quite well when put under it. I could handle the short notice, the tight deadlines and meticulous nature of the business, but certain jobs – normally the financially orientated ones – could bring me into contact with some real burks. You know, the sort who use the verb ‘disconnect’ as a noun to describe nothing more technical than a difference of opinion. More to the point, when you’re being paid by the minute to transcribe the unintelligible rantings of a banker who’s just been told they aren’t getting paid their yearly bonus – a dividend that would often amount to more than double my yearly salary – it can do things to your morale.
Some people see no harm in the ‘branding of language’, of jargon, discussing top-down strategies, taking helicopter views, of obfuscation. It saves them the trouble of having to construct sentences that actually mean anything, or communicate something approaching an actual idea. I doubt these are the sort of people who listen to Field Music. If that sounds tenuous then consider that Duffy won Best British Album of the Year at the 2009 Brit Awards, Florence and The Machine the same in 2010, Lily Allen was given an Ivor Novello Award, and Robbie Williams was honoured for his ‘outstanding contribution to music’.
I’m tempted to consider this to be one of the bleakest periods of my life, reflected in the title I gave the compilation, The State I Am In, which was supposed to be indicative of my predicament. At least I wasn’t stuck in an office, obliged to sit down for most of the day, having my lunch at a proscribed hour, whether I was hungry or not. Either I was taking notes and audio recordings on site or was at home writing them up. Or I was in limbo, on a train, a bus, even an airplane, where I took to reading books. It may have been because of this newfound enthusiasm for literature that putting together a compilation wasn’t a high priority in 2009. I didn’t have the money to spend on records anyway, and books were mostly borrowed. The odd focus-group relieved the pressure, but they were few and far between. Although only in my mid-thirties, I had become part of a different demographic whose opinions, apparently, are worth less than those aged between 25 and 34 years.

Richmond Hill looking bleak, just like my life.

In the Mirror derives from Field Music’s third album, ostensibly known as Measure, released early in 2010. A slow burner, it begins with a portentous prelude played out on the guitar: then drums, piano, guitar again, this time playing a more ‘measured’ riff, followed by bass, vocals, harmonies. Was this the moment Field Music’s reviews began alluding to Steely Dan? It has something of that about it.
Push Barman to Open Old Wounds is a two-disc compilation by Belle and Sebastian that gathers together their early EPs and singles. As far as I’m concerned you can do away with disc two: the first four tracks are alright, but if that’s what you’re after you may as well buy the original EP, This Is Just a Modern Rock Song. As for The State I Am In, it’s taken from Belle and Sebastian’s first EP, Dog on Wheels, part of a trio released over the course of 2007. I had Lazy Line Painter Jane and 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light but not Dog on Wheels, and so The State I Am In was absent from my collection. It’s a great tune and a reminder of a time when Belle and Sebastian stood outside of the mainstream.
I assume that my Cornish friend wanted his CD back. Why else would I have included Inimigo by Mercenarias, Rock Europeu by Fellini and Ilha Urbana by Muzak lined up in a row. The disc in question is of course The Sexual Life of the Savages, a compendium of São Paulo post-punk I’d borrowed a year earlier. These three tracks are distinct enough – Inimigo echoes The Slits, Rock Europeu brings to mind The Stranglers, while Ilha Urbana sounds like Magazine jamming with Joy Division – but obviously they’re all sung in Portuguese. I’ve tried to mitigate this disparity by following up with something in the same vein, but sung in English.
I think it was the girl who tenuously resembles Emily the Strange who played me Siouxsie and the Banshees – Happy House, Israel, Spellbound. I’m guessing she had The Best of Siouxsie and the Banshees. It was one of those moments when you realise you quite like an artist without really knowing much about them or the names of their songs or whether there’s a particular record you’re supposed to own. I don’t know why I took a chance on the album Juju, but I’m glad I did. Sin in my Heart is the standout track. The tempo slowly increases throughout the duration the song, Siouxsie Sioux plays a simple guitar part, which is the tune’s signature, freeing up John McGeoch to add Adrian Belew-style licks over the top.
I wanted to revisit the Cocteau Twins’ record I’d flirted with in my youth, provided by the guy who’d go on to introduce me to Portishead. The album was Garlands, and the tracks that had taken my fancy back then were Wax and Wane, Blind Dumb Deaf and Shallow Then Halo. I suppose we have YouTube to thanks for all this retrospective knowledge. I certainly wasn’t going to buy a copy of Garlands to find out – not now, in my financially stretched state – and ended up downloading Wax and Wane after concluding that it was probably my favourite of the three tunes that were the favourite of the eight on the original record.
Post punk… it was something that I hadn’t really given much thought. Wasn’t it just another word for new wave? No, new wave was poppier and took itself less seriously. Blondie were new wave. The Ramones, Talking Heads, Devo were associated with new wave. In the UK, maybe Buzccocks and The Undertones. You could dance to new wave. You might be able to dance to post punk too, but there was something of the ‘black mass’ about it, a more earnest, avantgarde, and occasionally political, preoccupation. [Incidentally, I once transcribed an event for the PRS where Feargal Sharkey, formerly of The Undertones, was one of the speakers. Would you believe he opened his panegyric on copyright by quoting the first four lines of Teenage Kicks? To be fair, Feargal didn’t write the song, John O’Neill did, but who in attendance knew.]
I can’t remember where I first heard Poptones by Public Image Ltd. It took a while for Keith Levene’s repetitious groove and Jah Wobble’s undulating bass to persuade me that the song would be worth putting up with Lydon’s howl for, which might be why I don’t recall its origins; normally I’ve a good memory for such things. On listening more closely to the lyrics – again, more than likely by way of found footage on YouTube, possibly the Old Grey Whistle – I was quite taken aback.

Drive to the forest in a Japanese car,
The smell of rubber on country tar.
Hindsight done me no good,
Standing naked in this back of the woods.
The cassette played pop tones.

It’s a song about abduction and sexual assault, told from the perspective of the victim, inspired by a news' article Lydon had come across in a national newspaper. A girl was bundled into the back of a car and driven out to the woods, violated, and left for dead. All the while the perpetrators played the same tune over and over on the car's cassette player, providing a monotonous and surreal backdrop to the girl’s savage ordeal.
Jack Kerouac by Gang 90 is another track taken from The Sexual Life of the Savages, but not quite as punk as three that featured earlier – more like Talking Heads – so I pushed it back. I’m not sure how much I like this tune but I deemed it worthy back in 2010, and so it remains. Maybe I thought it worked as an introduction to New Order? Leave Me Alone is taken from their second album Power, Corruption & Lies and has little in common with the post punk of Joy Division. Again, no idea what inspired me to include this track, but I find Bernard Sumner’s guitar work to be evocative of Bobby Wratten’s with The Field Mice.

Sofia - very cheap.

A lot of this probably had to do with working in London. When I started this racket, the company who employed me would mostly sent me to places like Deutsche Bank in Liverpool Street or Citibank in Canary Wharf, to transcribe redundancy meetings and disciplinary investigations. Occasionally I might be assigned something a little more glamorous: a round table seminar at the Home Office, hosted by the then Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander; a Barclays’ AGM, chaired by Andrew Neil; a symposium at the Financial Times.
I used to like freelancing at the Competition Commission on Southampton Row in Holborn until some old boy gave me a telling off for being late back from lunch. The buffoon had read the clock wrong, and I received a panicked phone call from my employer asking where I’d got to – what a waste of a cup of coffee. Companies wishing to effect takeovers would plead their case to a panel of adjudicators, very often chaired by someone with the word ‘sir’ before his name. These guys would barely look me in the eye; as a transcriber, I must have been beneath them. I asked to be assigned work at the Health and Care Professions Council instead, where you could help yourself to sandwiches and the red-faced legal assessors were more than happy to talk with you, and would make eye contact whilst doing so.
But the Competition Commission was very well placed and if I felt I had the time I would make a detour through Covent Garden or Soho, maybe to browse through records I could ill afford, or to look for second hand clothes. This may be how I came across Vitamin C by Can, although I can’t be sure. Can had been on my radar for a while on account of the supposed influence on groups like Stereolab and The Fall. I couldn’t really see it. Perhaps I needed to listen to an album other than Ege Bamyasi, which I procured from the Richmond Library.
I don’t think this was how I came by Antenna by Sonic Youth – that was more likely by way of The Wilkinsons. I’ll concede to enjoying Sonic Youth’s more tuneful elements, and Antenna is no exception to this. The stuff that sounds like the free-form breakout in Pink Floyd’s Interstellar Overdrive I’m not so keen on.
51st Anniversary by Jimi Hendrix was certainly a London discovery – in one of the bookshops on Charing Cross Road (not Foyles, possibly Borders). 51st Anniversary was the B-side to Purple Haze and only appears on the CD re-issue of the album Are You Experienced as a bonus track. I’ve never owned any Jimi Hendrix, but during my first year at university the guy who used to room next to me played him all the time. 51st Anniversary possess a keener melody and groove than a lot of Hendrix’s work, freed from the psychedelic diversions that normally predominate.
Harvest Moon was almost certainly a Wilkinson intervention. We’d been on a camping trip to Wales, intent on walking up Pen Y Fan, and we shared a car (refer back to the introduction of Old Man by Neil Young whilst driving down to the New Forest in 2003). Harvest Moon, and the album of the same name, was recorded in 1992 as a kind of sequel to Neil Young’s Harvest recorded 20 years prior, to the extent that many of the same musicians appear on both and it was recorded on analogue devices to create the same sort of sound.

Pen Y Fan, Wales

One of things I really like about Field Music is that they don’t dress much different now to when I first saw them play live in October 2004. They obviously don’t give a flying one about the vagaries of fashion, which is the best way to be. I picture them cogitating on whose turn it is to wear a shirt. They don’t really do colour: navy blue, light blue, grey, olive drab, brown, khaki, black, white. A shirt may be accompanied by a suit jacket, a T-shirt with a cardigan. Press shots rarely reveal their feet, but they must surely wear shoes. Haircuts remain the same.
My job required a level of smartness. This didn’t bother me too much for I had enough shirts to be getting on with, wasn’t much into trainers anyway, and my hair was getting progressively shorter. On my days off, I’d walk to Richmond and look in Gap and Limited Offer for cheap clobber that could double up as work wear. ‘Limited Offer’ isn’t really called that: most people know it as Uniqlo. If you pay full price for anything in Gap or Uniqlo then you’re a mug. The French have laws against this sort of thing, but in the UK life is one perpetual sale, and because everyone loves a bargain we‘re constantly buying things we don’t need. The people who run the shops know this and budget accordingly. They know that light jacket isn’t worth £60, but if they pretend to us it is then we’ll snap it up it when they cut the price in half, sometimes after only a matter of weeks.
Despite the cynical marketing ploys and average quality on offer, I did used to like gliding around the aisles of Limited Offer. I don’t so much now but the branch they had in Richmond felt quite industrial, like a low-rent version of Muji. They could also play good music. I’d listen carefully and try and identify what might be a song’s title, or a phrase distinctive enough that it might bear results if I typed it into a search engine proceeded with the word ‘lyrics’ – the same as if I heard a song playing in Beyond Retro in Soho or Borders on Charing Cross Road.
I have Uniqlo’s music policy to thank for Constellations by Darwin Deez and Intentions by The Whitest Boy Alive. They occupy the same ground, a buoyant sort of easy-listening indie with congenial vocals, conducive to shopping for rudimentary clothes in primary colours. I decided to separate these two tracks with Chemistry by Semisonic. Although it dates back to 2001, it makes the same sort of impression. It’s not my intention to make any of these songs sound ‘unhip’ by association. If anything, somebody at Uniqlo was doing a pretty good job.
It’s by no means improbable, but I did not discover either Ivy & Gold by Bombay Bicycle Club or Many of Horror by Biffy Clyro whilst shopping in Uniqlo or Gap. The more I think about, it was probably from the radio that I was drawing much of my inspiration – in the car on the way to and from shopping for victuals. My lady friend mocked me for liking Many of Horror – Biffy Clyro was what moody teenage boys listened too, she said. I knew nothing about them so couldn’t really say anything other than I thought it was good tune. I haven’t liked any song of theirs since but stand by Many of Horror.
Conversely, my lady friend quite liked Bombay Bicycle Club. I wasn’t aware of this at the time but it turned out that their latest material represented something of a departure. Their first album had been comprised of standard indie fare in the vein of, say, The Mystery Jets or Vampire Weekend. In 2010, they released Flaws, which appeared to be inspired by the burgeoning indie folk scene and groups like Fleet Foxes, Great Lake Swimmers, Beirut. Not that this would have made much difference to me either, because the flip side of all of that was Mumford & Sons, and I had no time for Mumford & Sons. And for the first 53 seconds, I didn’t have much time for Ivy & Gold. Then the chorus arrives, shifting abruptly, and only momentarily, from G to D minor. Normal service resumes and then there it is again, that brief shift to D minor, before the verse carries on as if nothing had ever happened.

The Vaselines were a Scottish alternative band, vaguely popular in the second half of the 1980s, much beloved by a certain Kurt Cobain. They had only ever released one album, but in 2010 they reformed and put out another. Guess what: I came across it in a record shop in central London, propped up on the counter behind a sign saying ‘Now Playing’. I Hate The 80s caught my ear, but I hung around long enough to hear Whitechapel, which is reminiscent of their song Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam, which Kurt Cobain performed in tribute for the album MTV Unplugged in New York. I think the chap who got me into Sarah Records might have been into The Vaselines. It would certainly be consistent with a lot of other things he listened to, like The Pastels and some of the bands signed to Sarah Records.
I doubt very much it was the same day, but I discovered Down from Dover playing in Beyond Retro in Soho whilst looking for checked shirts. It’s a Dolly Parton number, but the version playing was by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. The song tells the sad story of a girl that gets knocked up by a guy from Dover who promises to return for the birth of their child. He doesn’t, and the baby’s stillborn anyhow, almost as is if, ‘she knew she'd never have a father's arms to hold her.’ Lee Hazlewood’s baritone seems especially deep, and Sinatra’s voice trembles with emotion. It’s incredible.
Down from Dover featured on the 1972 album Nancy & Lee Again and allows me to reach further back in time to finish off with the Motown soul of There’s a Ghost in My House by R. Dean Taylor. I’d long known about this tune by way of The Fall. I have no idea why I chose now to incorporate it, but like many of these odds-and-sods, I downloaded it from iTunes.


The State I Am In works as a compilation, but I find it very difficult to connect it to anything that happened during the two years it derives from. This could be put down to a number of things. For one, I’d been living at my current residence for more than five years, which was by far the longest I’d spent in any one place since leaving my family home in 1993. As a consequence, this compendium must vie for association with the numerous other playlists that I’ve made whilst living in the same place.
Then there’s the fact that it was compiled over a two year period, in dribs and drabs, without any coherent strategy (although I do think it’s a perfectly coherent playlist). But then, so were many other of my compilations that manage more successfully to align themselves with certain memories, so why should this one be any different? The answer, I believe, lies in the manner by which I appropriated the material.
In 2009, my lady friend and I managed a trip to Athens. In early 2010, we ventured to Sofia (a very cheap holiday). Later that year, I secured future employment working for a small engineering firm in Brentford. It provided the time, and afforded me the money, to attend a friend's wedding in Thailand in August, before starting employment in October. It snowed heavily for the first time in years. My brother got married (the one who recorded Orbital for me, not the Beastie Boys). A Fullers' pub crawl, trip to Brighton, camping in Wales, the ‘12 Pubs of Christmas’. What does The State I Am In bring to mind? Bloody shopping.