Saturday, 30 August 2008

Nobody Likes To See That...

Thanks to my good mate Carl for e-mailing me this clip of some underground 'fight-club' kinda deal. I've been laughing at it ever since! I mean, nobody likes a show off right?


Sunday, 24 August 2008

Your Time Is Gonna Come..

It's weird how your perception of time changes as you get older. In January 1977 I discovered David Bowie, when I heard his latest single 'Sound and Vision'. I was blown away with the song and was desperate to find out more. But the more I found out about the man, the more I felt as though I'd discovered some old codger on his last legs!! From what I was reading, it seemed like all his glory days were way behind him (Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans etc), and at the age of 10, five years ago (when he was Ziggy) seemed like a million to me... why it was half a lifetime! Yet looking at it now with my '40 somethin' head on, I wasn't far out at all, and I was slap bang in time for what is arguably his best work (the Eno trilogy). The modern day equivalent of this (2003) seems like only a few months back... and to prove it, all these things were happening just 5 short years ago:

- The invasion of Iraq began;

- Apple unveiled this weird iTunes Music Store idea (it'll never work..);

- The final flight of Concorde took place;

- 5th Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) published;

- 3rd and final film in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy released;

- Madonna and Britney snogged at the MTV awards;

- Phil Spector was arrested for investigation of homicide;

- Goldfrapp released their 'Black Cherry' album;

- Blur released their most recent album to date, 'Think Tank';

- Iggy Pop released 'Skull Ring', including his first new recordings with the Stooges;

- Johnny Cash, Robert Palmer, Bob Hope, Barry White, Bob Monkhouse and Adam Faith all died.

Scary huh??! It's weird how 5 years in history (i.e. a 5 year period before you were around, or at least before you were aware of it) seems a lot longer than a 5 year period that you've lived through.

Here are some more freaky facts from the perspective of the 10 year old me in January 1977, all of which at the time, I no doubt felt had happened in black and white, during the 1800's....

- Jimi Hendrix died 7 years ago;

- Punk started last year!;

- the 45 RPM single was invented 19 years ago;

- Stan Laurel died 12 years ago;

- Sid James died last year;

- Marilyn Monroe died 15 years ago;

- Harold Lloyd died 6 years ago;

- Elvis is still alive!!;

- Some old dudes called the Beatles split up 7 years ago (they were SO old, that their 1st single came out 15 years ago!!);

- Top of the Pops TV show has been going for 13 years;

- Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister 22 years ago;

- World War II finished 32 years ago, and food rationing in England only finished 23 years ago.

Ain't it weird how all of these things seem quite recent when you read them now??

Well I've made myself feel ancient... how about you??


Saturday, 16 August 2008

Start The Revolution Without Me - The Comic Strip! Issue 2

Here are another couple of strips I came up with recently. Doubleclick on the pictures to view them at their full size. As always, I'd welcome any feedback.
If you missed the first two strips you can view them here


Sunday, 10 August 2008

Silvery Produce Gold!!

I stumbled across em last year, and was even lucky enough to interview lead singer James for the blog back in November. Since then, the Silvery buzz has continued to grow, with plenty of radio coverage (including a blistering live session for Steve Lamacq and a Marc Riley session to come shortly), magazine articles and sold out shows.... which all leads to the perfectly timed debut album Thunderer and Excelsior, which is out tomorrow (11th Aug).

I received a promo of the album a few weeks back, and have listened to little else ever since. This fully realised album captures the band perfectly, and is sure to catapult them into the heart of the indie scene. For me, Silvery are a dream come true, tapping in to so many influences that appeal... Take Blur at their coolest, the Kaisers at their strongest, XTC at their most majestic, Bowie at his Ziggy-ist, add the keyboards and quirkiness of Sparks, throw in a Wurlitzer fairground organ sound for good measure and mix it up with 14 insanely addictive songs... and you are on the way to discovering one of the most exiting debut albums of the year.

The album bursts into life with Horrors - 1minute 45 seconds of perfectly manic punky pop. It's the ideal scene setter for what's to come, and before you know it, new single (also released tomorrow) Devil in the Detail is unleashed on you. It's a relentlessly frenzied attack on the eardrums (check out that 70's Bowie guitar riff mixed with an organ sound straight out of a Hammer Horror!), and if there is any justice this single will do well for them. Silvery have never made any secret of their love for Ron and Russell Mael, and Action Force is testament to that... as it just about 'out-Sparks' Sparks! A Penny Dreadful reminds me of Blur, circa Modern Life is Rubbish... Only 4 tracks in, and you've already heard 4 potential hit singles. There really are no fillers on this album, this is eccentric Britpop at it's very best... every track is bursting with energy, and almost every one of 'em is 3 minutes or less.

Animals Are Vanishing is the perfect final track. This swirling, dreamy, almost emotional song wouldn't fit right anywhere else on the album (much like 'This is a Low' was the ultimate way to complete Parklife). It's the ideal way to bid the listener farewell... but it's unlikely that one play will suffice, my copy has been stuck on repeat for the last 3 weeks!!

It's great to see a band making a proper indie noise again.... The current indie scene has been abysmal for some time (more like easy listening pap that your parents would like), so the stage is set for Silvery to make it credible once more with their exciting and intelligent brand of madness!

Buy it, listen to it, cherish it!

And if you're in or around London, you can even see the band FOR FREE this week! To celebrate the 1st birthday of Rough Trade East, Silvery will be performing a full 'in-store' show this Friday (15th Aug) at 7.30pm. Shop details:

Rough Trade East
'Dray Walk'
Old Truman Brewery
91 Brick Lane
E1 6QL

Silvery Links:

Buy Thunderer and Excelsior at Amazon

Link to the Silvery Website

Link to Silvery at Blow Up Records

Link to Silvery on MySpace

Further details on Rough Trade East (including a map)

My exclusive interview with lead singer James Orman

Finally, here are a few Silvery video clips..

The video to Horrors:

The brand new Devil in the Detail video:

An old Devil in the Detail video:


Friday, 1 August 2008

Man Bites Blog: Harvey Pekar Inspires Piley to Strip!

Regulars will know that every now and then I bang on about comics. I know that they aren't every ones cup of tea, but if I could convey one message to the 'non-believer' it would be that there is such variety out there. Approach the subject with the wrong person and you'll no doubt be told that comics "are all about superheroes" and\or "are made for kids". This would be like me saying books are rubbish because they "are all Mills and Boon romance stories" &\or "all written by Enid Blyton"! Both the book and the comic book are legitimate ways of telling a story (it's jut the medium of books has better PR!) You can buy a book on pretty much any subject, and these days the same can be said of comics, both fiction and non-fiction.. and that includes autobiographical work too, my favourite of which is Harvey Pekar's American Splendor comic, which he has been making since the 70's.

In 1962, Pekar 's love of jazz led to a meet with a fellow fan who'd just moved into town - Robert Crumb. They became good friends and Harvey was very interested in the sketches and stories that Crumb was always working on (in between his day job of drawing greetings cards). A few years later and Crumb's career as an underground cartoonist had really taken off, and it gave Pekar some real food for thought. He saw the potential in a different type of comic, one about every day life... HIS every day life! But there was one small problem, he couldn't draw! Undeterred, Harvey drafted some stories using simple stick figures, and showed them to Robert Crumb. Crumb loved them, and offered to illustrate them for him, and American Splendor was born! Harvey still works in the same way to this day, the only difference is that these days, there are many more top quality cartoonists who are only too happy to illustrate his work.

Although his work fits in well with today's 'all new' comic scene, in the 70's his stuff must have been nothing short of revolutionary. At that time the comic industry really was all "superheroes and kids". There were a handful of people around making adult oriented comics (the aforementioned Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton with his Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers), but these were mainly "adult" because of their explicit content.

In some ways, Harvey Pekar is the godfather of blog. He's been blogging for over 30 years, but in comic format. Subject wise, nothing is too ordinary or mundane for Harvey, and his tag line has always been "ordinary life is pretty complex stuff" (CONFESSION: I may well have been influenced by this when I first set up my blog... check out MY tag line above! Sorry Harvey!). This phrase encapsulates the world of blog too.. although blogging is diversifying these days, originally it was all about capturing the everyday lives of everyday folk.

Harvey's not to every ones taste, and he seems to evoke a 'Marmite' style divide - love him or hate him. Mrs P is interested in a number of comics, but has never warmed to his work (although she did really enjoy the film adaptation of American Splendor a few years back). She finds him just too grouchy and his stories just too mundane... which ironically are the two things I love the most about his stuff! But I guess I see more of myself in Harvey than Mrs P does! On the face of it, his work may not look like anything special... a story about the growing awkwardness of someone giving him a lift to work, a conversation he's overheard in a shop, how a vague acquaintance became a better 'friend in need' than any of his true 'friends' when help was needed.... it's everyday stuff. But scratch beneath the surface and see yourself staring right back. I don't find gold in every story, occasionally one will leave me a bit 'non-plussed' thinking "and??" at the end of it. But that's the nature of this particular beast, and no doubt someone somewhere read the same thing and it really spoke to them. I remember reading one of his comics where he was reminiscing about old relationships, how the break-ups had affected him, his thoughts on love and loneliness etc. It was really profound and I kept re-reading it over and over again.

Comics have been a constant companion to me, right from an early age, yet until I discovered Harvey I never considered it was something I could do. I can't write a superhero story, a horror yarn or a futuristic novel... but i can write about the stuff that I see and the things that happen in my life (in fact, I'm pretty certain I'm the best qualified to do it!!). However, like Harvey, I can't draw either, and I don't know Robert Crumb (or any budding Robert Crumb's!), so all my ideas for comic strips have remained just that... until now! Recently I discovered some software to create comics. It certainly has its limitations (not least the fact that you can only do a maximum of three panels, and the small amount of characters you can fit into those panels), but I've been squeezing a few of my ideas into this package to see what happens.

I'm not claiming to be in Harvey's league, but like his, my strips are very personal, using my own experiences, thoughts and fears to create them. Neither do they finish with a pun, like the traditional three panel 'newspaper' strips... although hopefully one or two of them may raise a smile. I've not really been sure what to do with them, but I've decided to start uploading some of them here on the blog. There are a couple below, and I'll add a few more over the coming weeks, I'd really appreciate any feedback... Try as I might, I can't get the strips to display any bigger than they are shown, so do please doubleclick on them to view them at full size.

Oh and if by any chance an artist is reading this, and would like to collaborate and do these strips properly... do contact me!