Issue #3 October 18th - 24th 2002

Schooldays (Part1)
We catch up with Cooney a day or so later. He's not embarrassed at all, which makes us think that he MUST be mad. No one dares mention what he did, because we figure that if he is mad, then there's no telling what else he could do
By Paul Williamson

The 'Sunny Delight Generation'
Come the next election day, the party leaders are enlisting the help of figures from the world of pop music in the hope that their endorsements might spark some activity in what remains of the brains of the 'Sunny Delight Generation'.
By Paul Williamson

Family: 8 years of magic pop. No spanish lessons required.
If you ever dreamed about a record that combines the innocence of 60's pop with the magic of The Magnetic Fields, The Field Mice or even the best New Order tracks, this record is still the answer
By Jordi Trenzano

Saturday night, Sunday not Mourning
"arghh! Do we have to listen to that depressing rubbish again? Turn it off and put something more lively on!" ...perhaps dragging her along to two nights of indie music at the Chickfactor Ball was going to be the last straw.
By Rachel Queen

Twenty thousand beats under the sea with aqualung
One of these sons of Satan has at last validated their pithy selecting the song 'Strange and Beautiful' as the musical backdrop for a worldwide advertising campaign for Volkswagen.
By Paul Williamson

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Part One.

Jock Kennedy had me today about the adidas stan smiths I was wearing. I had stolen them the week before from the locker room cupboard. There were loads of pairs to choose from. It just so happened that the ones I chose actually belonged to him. I didn't know this. If I had, then I would never have taken them. So here he is, showing me the soles of the trainers with his initials neatly printed in felt tip in the corner. I still deny it, of course, deny all knowledge, say they belonged to my cousin. But he has me. He knows it, I know it, but then I suddenly have a brainwave and I tell him to prove it. He looks at me like I'm stupid or something, but he's the stupid one because he can't prove anything really, I mean just because they have some crappy letters on the soles that correspond to his initials, I tell him, that doesn't prove a thing. So he stares at me for a while, and I stare at him, pleading all innocence through my angelic eyes, and there's nothing he can do. He tells me to get changed into my PE kit, and then he tries to catch me out by asking the name of my cousin, the one I got the trainers from, he just drops it into the conversation, but I'm wise to this and I reel off some fictional name or another in no time. There's some more staring, longer this time, harder, as if he is trying to see right down into me, but I carry off my look of innocence with aplomb, as they say on those arty programmes my older sister is always watching: ''Yes Shakespeare was done with consumate this and that and carried off with aplomb'' and all that sort of thing these people say as they sit around a little wooden table in a dated TV studio, and I'm sure my sister wants to be like them, but me, well I can't work out what there is to get so passionate about in books. It's only words, after all.

So we're out on the football pitch, except Kennedy has decided that he wants us all to do a lap of the pitch first before we even kick a ball, so me, Cooney, Tommy, and Vinny sprint off to get it out of the way. We finish before most of the others have even ran half a lap. You would think this would please Kennedy, to have such strong, fit young men in his charge, but he's not happy, he's not happy at all, the way we have shown him up, so he tells us we have to run an extra lap seeing as we think we are so good. No problem, we think, no problem at all. Except for Cooney. Cooney has been in a foul Irish mood all day. I think he was drinking last night or something, and so as Tommy, Vinny and I head off on another sprint to really wind Kennedy up, Cooney decides to walk at a leisurely pace, which will wind Kennedy up even more. Then I wonder what Cooney was drinking last night because he just begins chuckling to himself and taking off his top, then his shorts, so he is walking around the pitch in just his pants and his trainers. Then he takes his pants off, and carries on laughing to himself, and everyone is cheering him except me and Vinny and Tommy because we think there must be something really wrong with Cooney to make him do that, like he is having one of those breakdowns the Hollywood stars have or something. Kennedy runs the whole length of the pitch, his fat frame wobbling in the morning sun, and just as he has about got to Cooney, Cooney takes off on a sprint. Of course, Kennedy can do nothing but watch and holler and scream breathlessly, but Cooney is having fun with him. He runs off the football pitch, and onto the playground, still naked, holding onto his shorts and top, past the girls who are playing netball, and I wonder how many of them have seen a naked boy before, and it's funny but sad at the same time as Mrs Hickman tries to rugby tackle Cooney but misses completely as Cooney sidesteps her, and I think she gets hit in the face by his thingy, and Cooney keeps on running and running and running...

We catch up with Cooney a day or so later. He's not embarrassed at all, which makes us think that he MUST be mad. No one dares mention what he did, because we figure that if he is mad, then there's no telling what else he could do, but he has this look in his eyes that tell us that he's not afraid of anyone or anything anymore, as if he has walked through a blazing housefire or something and came out the other side, and I think to myself that maybe it actually takes guts to go mad like that, to walk through fires, and I begin to think that I wouldn't mind doing that for myself one day, but I'm not sure that I'd run naked like that in front of the whole school, maybe I'd something equally as insane, there's surely other ways to walk through fires....

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The 'Sunny Delight Generation'

Politics and music. Ah, that old, well worn, but nonetheless enticing chestnut. From uber-mullet-era Bono waving a white flag about like a girly cheerleader whilst whining on about some bloody Sunday or other, to that other Irish bloke with a bad perm bleating on and on about some wee kiddies starving in one of those third world countries. Christ, he even organised a concert for them! Cue more sissy flag waving antics from his mulleted compadre...

However, one thing that the leaders of all the political parties can agree on is the perceived apathy among the current crop of first-time voters. Spurred on by the thought that millions of eighteen-year-olds will fail to drag their hides to the nearest polling booths come the next election day, the party leaders are enlisting the help of figures from the world of pop music in the hope that their endorsements might spark some activity in what remains of the brains of the 'Sunny Delight Generation'.

First out of the blocks, rather amazingly, are the Conservatives, who have signed up hard-hitting, streetwise gangster rappers Sclub7 to appear in a string of party political broadcasts. However this is being viewed as yet another planning faux pas by Ian Duncan Smith (he's the leader of the Conservative party, folks) following certain comments made by group members Hannah Spearitt and Jo O'Meara on the subject of asylum seekers ("I think there should be more jobs for British people", "Why are we paying for all these people to come into the country anyway?" etc.).

In an effort to deflect attention from the whole nasty affair, Mr Duncan-Smith paid former Steps stars, now an extremely talented duo in their own right, H and Clare, a reputed £2.24 of party funds to appear in the next Conservative Party broadcast. However, Clare's desire to see public executions reintroduced has even been too much for the bloodied mind of Anne Widdecombe, and Ian Watkins is remaining non-committal as to whether his nickname 'H' is a homage to his mentor Adolf Hitler. H's one-time affiliation to Combat 18 also came under close scrutiny, and looks sure to de-rail the whole project.

Finally, it looks as if the Party Big wigs have at last got it right, by recruiting porcupine-tousled t-t-t-t-taff, Gareth Gates, who took no time whatsoever in pledging his allegiance to the 1922 Committee and promised to put his hectic miming schedule on hold to do a painting-by-numbers picture of Winston Churchill.

And what of the other parties? Well, Charles Kennedy, clearly a man with his finger on the pulse of youth culture, has persuaded controversial rap artist Eminem to pen lyrics for the Liberal Democrat Party's new anthem, to be trumpeted from the tannoy system of their bright yellow battle bus. Although the artist was initially a little queasy about being re-christened 'Lib-Deminem' for the purposes of the project, he has evidently happily agreed to contribute his work based on a meeting of minds with Kennedy.

The Lib Dem leader's two manifesto commitments to women's issues - the much considered 'SIDDOWN, BITCH! IF YOU MOVE AGAIN I'LL BEAT THE SHIT OUTTA YOU!' and the timely 'SHUT UP SLUT, YOU'RE CAUSING TOO MUCH CHAOS, JUST BEND OVER AND TAKE IT LIKE A SLUT, OK MA' - were cleverly worked into Eminem album tracks recently. The success of the partnership has prompted many within the party to press for further electoral change, specifically that 13-year-old middle class Big Mac munching 'I want to be misunderstood' white kids be given the vote. This, officials believe, would swell their share of the seats enormously.

Finally New Labour have plumped for identikit chart-toppers Hear'Say and pubescent covers collective axemeisters A1 to win the teen vote. This subtle pincer movement should ensnare many youngsters not already swayed by the Government's adolescent-friendly policies (it says here). Mylene, the feline temptress from Hear'Say, is holding an auction in aid of party funds; the lots will consist of recent pop memorabilia such as Westlife's interchangeable heads, Robbie Williams' first liver and some homemade chutney supplied by Atomic Kitten (What? That's not chutney? That's their boyfriends? Oh right). Ben Adams, the fopp-haired abortion from A1, is thought to be a surprisingly astute signing for Labour. Unbeknown to many of the band's fans Adams is a voracious reader of Labour doctrine. What he doesn't know about Keir Hardie, Ramsey MacDonald and Dennis Skinner you could apparently write on the back of a postage stamp.

This current wave of political pop has drawn hoots of derision from some of the Music World's elder statesmen. Paul Weller and Billy Bragg have both commented that mixing music and politics is never a good idea. To counter this argument and to quell thoughts that the soul of pop music has been sold to the devil, a cross-party trio of politicians has formed to record an album of unaffiliated, floaty-light candy floss tunes to try to redress the balance. So you can anticipate seeing Woolsack (Ken Livingston on tea chest bass, John Redwood on comb and paper and Simon Hughes on spoons) on 'Top of the Pops', if not this week, then the week after, or the week after that. It's coming kids, you have been warned, the perpetual trundle-wheel of politics and music goes on and on and on...

Paul Williamson

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Family: 8 years of magic pop. No spanish lessons required.

Writing a piece about an "unknown" band (at least for most of the lovely audience of this website) might be some kind of starting point, a way to get into a world of new & marvellous music. That's the point with Family. Even if you don't speak a word in spanish.

But with Family, the decision of getting into their music is even easier to take. Why ? because their whole history is just inside one album. "A blow in the heart". Definitely, an album that changed the vision of indie-pop music in Spain. And the perfect reason why you shouldn't be a lazy ass and get it: everything you can ask of pop music is contained in it's 37 minutes. This is the story:

We are back in the first half of the 80's, and in San Sebastián (also known as Donostia, in the Basque Country, northern Spain), graphic designer Javier Aramburu and Iñaki Gametxogoikoetxea want to follow a musical path that links the new bands of the "movida" (the most interesting spanish music scene from the 80's, some kind of "after-punk" reaction) with the sounds of the 60's and the electronic beats of New Order & Kraftwerk. They play some gigs under the name of La Insidia, and in 1989 they record some demo tapes using the name of El Joven Lagarto ("The young lizard"). However, we have to wait until 1992, when they're definitely using the name Family, for the only precedent to "A blow in the heart": a cover version of a song from the spanish band La Décima Victima recorded with Fangoria, the last (and still remaining) project of the genius-diva Alaska & her music mate Nacho Canut.

Later, the tiny but bright record label Elefant records sign them to make an album. At the same time, the spanish indie scene gets familiar with the label of "Donosti-sound", which has on it's books wonderful bands such as La Buena Vida and Le Mans. Combining the candour of 60's pop with the new beats of the 80's, both bands get well deserved attention. But Family would take it to it's highest peak of creativity.

"A blow in the heart" gets released in early 1994. And it's magic spell is still alive today. "Draw me a night full of orange rockets", begging for fantasy on "la noche inventada" (an invented night), the opening song. "Blue is her swimmer heart" is the magic description of teenage love on "nadadora" (swimmer), and there are lots of other examples showing the magic of the album. An album that shows almost all the possible faces of Family, as they barely give interviews, play gigs or let the media take pics of the band. On ("El bello verano") "The beautiful summer" they pay tribute to the homonymus poem-book of the italian author Cesare Pavese, hoping for a return to the days of the first love experiences: "we'll be dolphins or blue whales, living at the bottom of the sea". What is probably the symbol of the album is "Viaje a los sueños polares" ("Trip to the polar dreams"), "Until the bottom of this world / of infinite birch-trees / glacier's and polar woods paradise". The title of the song still names one of the most popular indie radio shows in Spain.

If you ever dreamed about a record that combines the innocence of 60's pop with the magic of The Magnetic Fields, The Field Mice or even the best New Order tracks, this record is the answer. What ? don't you speak spanish ? it doesn't matter, believe me.

Jordi Trenzano

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Saturday night, Sunday not mourning.

Rachel has stuck with me through thick and thin for the past 7 years. Indulging my strange obsessions, cheering me up through break-ups, and even threatening to punch people when they spill their drink on me. We have even coped with our differing tastes in music through compromise:

"arghh! Do we have to listen to that depressing rubbish again? Turn it off and put something more lively on!"
But perhaps dragging her along to two nights of indie music at the Chickfactor Ball was going to be the last straw.

When I reminded her about the event a few days beforehand she seemed to have forgotten all about it: "are you sure I agreed to go to that?!"
I was afraid.

When we arrived at the Bush Hall, having purchased a glass of wine each, we sat down in our red velvet seats and looked at the chandeliers. Rachel was impressed. "its quite nice here isn't it?"

We were informed that it was the 10th anniversary of Chickfactor, a self-confessed "pop obsessed magazine" who had organized the two day event. For those of you (like myself) thinking the magazine is named after the Belle & Sebastian song let me now correct you. It is in fact the other way around. The magazine, which began its days, being folded, stapled and collated by hand, had inspired Belle and Sebastian's Stevie Jackson to write the song.

First on stage was "Pipas", smiling and mumbling their way through catchy happy tunes. Rachel was happy. She told me they were good. I relaxed into my seat and enjoyed the performance. As they left the stage I noticed Rachel wasn't making a run for the door. She seemed fairly relaxed sitting in wait for the next band to appear. I gave her a glass of wine. Just to be sure.

Next up were the "Would-be-goods", be-suited, full of confidence, and enthusiasm. Rachel didn't quite warm to them in the same way that she had to Pipas. But after a song or two she was looking happy enough. They playeda range of songs from quiet melodic numbers to the more upbeat and louder.

The mood of Rachel and the audience changed sharply as "the montgolfier brothers" appeared onstage, and how could it not? The songs filled with desperate stories, matched with equally unhappy melodies that could make even Del Trotter utter the words "this time next year we will be destitute" within two songs. And whether or not you like this type of music you have to admire its ability to make you feel such contrasting emotions within short spaces of time. Rachel's outlook on this was somewhat different: "he smokes, drinks beer and is crap" the tortured artist had not impressed her.

The last band of the evening was "Camera Obscura". The minute they came onstage the clouds lifted and people clapped enthusiastically. The effect of the mood of the audience was completely opposite from, but as equally strong as, that for "The Montgolfia Brothers". Camera Obscura play music perfect for raising the spirits. Even the quieter, more thoughtful songs leave you feeling optimistic. We left the Bush feeling happy, and Rachel agreed she would return the next night.

Surprisingly enough when I called her the next morning, she picked up the phone and agreed to meet me as planned. She didn't protest a great deal either. We arrived slightly later at the Bush Hall to find it appeared to be busier than the night before. There was no time to look at the velvet seats or the chandelier as a few minutes after we arrived the first band appeared.

The Pines appeared on stage armed with an acoustic guitar apiece. Joe Brooker announced that the audience was so big that he might even miss Lloyd Cole if he was present. Very soon they had charmed the audience and Lloyd, with touching harmonies, clever lyrics and all accompanied by the sound of two lone guitars. When I hear guitar playing like that it does make me wonder why bands have any other instruments. Rachel looked happy, smiling at the lyrics, laughing in the appropriate places. I could tell she was a convert in the making. I was impressed.

Harvey Williams alongside Josh Gennet were next to appear, replacing a band called "a girl called eddy". Both started the performance side by side but moments later Harvey ran to the piano to continue the song. Midway through the performance he admitted it seemed wrong to be standing there after "The pines pure honest set pouring out snidey cynicism" Rachel noted that he sounded like the guy from the beautiful south. In fact she made me tear out a piece of paper in my notebook so that she could write just that. I thank her most graciously for her contribution!

The next band, The Clientele, remind me of the summer time, when music drifts though open windows and out onto the street. It was strange to sit surrounded by other people listening with the band right there in front of me and still feel the music was floating off somewhere in distance, not quite real. I watched the performance in this somewhat dreamlike state keeping an eye on Rachel, who also seemed to like the band, and definitely did not seem as though she was about to run off.

Future Bible Heroes, containing Claudia Gonson, Chris Ewen and Stephen Merrit of "The Magnetic Fields" fame were the last band of the night and indeed of the ball. Two cups of tea were brought onstage in preparation for their arrival. Rachel and myself both wondered why the Bush hall hadn't chosen to sell tea to the audience, because at that moment it seemed like a very good idea. However, this thought could have also been inspired by the fact that we were sitting sedately watching bands rather than standing up squashed and sweaty like the "young people" do. The dry humour of the band soon had the audience laughing. Sounds were produced by a mixture of keyboard playing, and little boxes which were opened and closed giving a burst of a strange electronic sound followed by more laughter from the audience. The audience concentrated intently listening to lyrics of each song.

When it was all over Rachel left the Bush Hall, walking quickly and at times running a little. Was she anxious to forget all about the two nights of music? No she simply wanted to catch the last tube home. When we did get on the tube, she admitted that although she had been quite tired she was a little sad that the bands had ended. I decided that it was safe to say we were still friends.

Rachel Queen

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Twenty thousand beats under the sea with aqualung

Being a committed socialist (as opposed to the non-committed type vis a vis 'New' Labour, 'rebellious' upper-middle class student types etc etc), I don't have an awful lot in common with advertising executives, nor can I think of anything that I have ever had to thank them for. Until now, that is. For one of these sons of Satan has at last validated their pithy existence by plucking Matt Hales (for it is he who is, in effect, Aqualung) from pop music's bargain basement (where, sadly, his two previous incarnations, Ruth, and the 45's, reside) by selecting the song 'Strange and Beautiful' as the musical backdrop for a worldwide advertising campaign for Volkswagen. That song, all dripping piano and poignant melodies, seeps into the senses like ripe honey for the soul. Of course, another plus point is that it completely overshadows the advertising campaign. Way to go, advertising exec!

Of course, Matt had always wanted to be a pop star. Way before the failure of Ruth and the 45's, he was in a band with his brother, Ben. Bizarrely, they played sets that consisted mainly of cover versions of Police songs, and sold cassettes at his college for £2 each. At the same time as his pretensions to pop, Matt was living a kind of parallel musical existence, having been awarded a scholarship to study composition and Winchester college or music, and having his first symphony performed at the tender (and somewhat frightening) age of 17. Much the same pattern emerged when he moved to London to study for a degree in music- On the one hand his symphonies would grace religious ceremonies at the Royal Albert Hall, whilst on the other hand, Ruth would be signing a record deal, releasing their first (and only) album, splitting up and reforming as the 45's. All within 18 months. Still Matt dreamed, funding the 45's by selling jingles to advertsing companies (the annoying Wrigleys one is his, for example). When the 45's split up however, Matt, no longer the overtly optimistic adolescent but a disillusioned thirtysomething, resolved to put all this pop music malarky on the back burner and earn a healthy crust instead. That is, until that ad exec heard THAT song. The result, of course, is that 'Strange and Beautiful' was finally released as a single on the 16th Spetember. The album, of the same name, was released worldwide two weeks later.

You might think then, that the album, 'Strange and Beautiful', would be a hastily edited collection of old Ruth compositions and 45's b-sides, such is our tendency to veer towards cynicism when discussing the nature of the capitalist beast in our disposable society. Thankfully, this couldn't be further from the truth. Fast food music it ain't.

The album begins with the title track, which we know all about. it sets the tone for pretty much the rest of the record. Tales of longing, of love lost then found then lost again, permeate much of the album. The melodies don't soar so much as swoon, but they are everywhere, as you might expect from a classically trained composer; gorgeous piano notes, broad sweeps of strings, and understated drum sequences override any underlying bass or guitar riff. Indeed, only once (on 'Good Time Gonna Come') does the guitar take centre stage, with it's fuzzy riff competing with Hale's distorted vocals. Tellingly, it is perhaps the weakest song on the album. Elsewhere, songs such as 'If I Fall' and the heartstoppingly brilliant 'Just For a Moment', recall bitterness, anger, doubt, and envy. Hale's Thom Yorkesque vocals proffer the perfect tool to narrate such stories. Musically, it is hard to define Aqualung. This, in an age of disposable bubble gum pop and indie-rock-by-numbers, is no mean feat and is, indeed, a blessing. Nonetheless, some reviewers have had a go. "Think a less complacent Coldplay" screams one, "Think Radiohead before they became complicated" hollers another. Me? If I'm pushed or bribed, I'd have to say that early Beach Boys is as near as dammit. Aqualung's next record could be very, very interesting...

Paul Williamson