Friday, 9 December 2016

HE CARRIED A TORCH

To carry a torch for someone is an old slang phrase for having unrequited feelings for another. It's a phrase I haven't heard for years but it came into my head recently and prompted this.

He carried a torch for me
far longer than was healthy.
I knew this by the cards,
and the telephones pleading cry in the night
that I stopped giving answer to.

Forty years would pass before I watched
his father cross Bold Street,
and I saw the man he had grown into.
I did not rush outside,
nor did I think of him again.

He carried the torch.
Seated in the anonymous window
of a nameless tea-house,
I hid beneath a sun
that sucked the light from his hand. 
Bold Street is in Liverpool. I imaged the narrator sat in one of the tea houses there suddenly seeing a person from her past walk by.
this is only the first draft- watch this space.
I was listening to Serafina Steer today. Here's a live video.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

VIDAR NORHEIM: BLIND CARBON COPY EP

Vidar Norheim is a multi-instrumentalist, singer song writer. He first came to my attention through his work with Lizzie Nunnery, he produced her two albums, arranging and playing on both. Live he was a sensitive and skilled professional who enabled Lizzie to concentrate on communicating with her audience. 
I'm going to cut to the chase here [and leave you to follow the link to his band Wave Machines], Vidar has just released his first ep and it is as good as you would expect from such a consummate musician.
It sounds like nothing else around at the moment, melodic, organic and with a great delicacy, a lightness of touch to it that simply draws you in. Just what you would expect from a musician named Norway's most promising song writing talent in 2011. Every note on this ep feels like it has been placed in the correct position, it sounds so natural, it's a joy on the ear.

First up on the ep is the title track, Blind Carbon Copy which is a sublime piece of synth pop. Lizzie Nunnery provides an intriguing set of lyrics that add to the tension as the song unfolds. It is a lovely track and Vidar's accomplished vocals are perfect.
Sirens is another piece of sophisticated pop that should be coming out of every speaker in the land. Vidar has produced a perfect synthesis of lyrics and music. 10 More Miles is an interesting love song with lyrics by Lizzie. Crystalised too is a lovely song. 
What my poor descriptions of these four songs have not described is the quality of musicianship and the luscious soundscape that Vidar has created single handed. This guy has chops to spare. 
This ep is a triumph and ends with a brief instrumental that just perfect. 
Blind Carbon Copy is that rare artifract, a perfect piece of art.
Thank you Vidar.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

THE PALOOKA 5 EP!

It's been a great end of year for releases by independent artists, already we have had Brooke Sharkey's superb second album, then there's Vidar Norheim's ep to come next week and hot off the press is the wondrous debut ep by Somerset's premier surf band Palooka 5!
The 4 tracks on this beautifully packed ep are fabulous. Palooka 5 leap from the speakers, firing on all six and you have to dance. They take no prisoners. 
The ep kicks off with La Mancha a superb piece of surf music. The pace does not let up and we are straight into Little Frathouse, a great dance tune, that is followed by Dropzone, which could be the theme tune to a 60's crime show. Then we are presented with the kinetic beauty of Cindy joined a Surf Gang
Lyrically Cindy sees the band narrating the rock and roll epiphany of said Cindy. This is prime stuff in deed, every home should have a copy.
Musically Palooka 5 don't put a foot wrong. The guitar magic of T. G. Baigent channels the spirit of Dwayne Eddy and Dick Dale and quite frankly guitar licks doesn't get any better than this guy. The organ of A.J. McCallum is quite simply stunning, harking back to the glory days of garage rock but still managing to sound like no one else. All this is held together by the rock solid, on the beat drumming of the great S. P. Bide. The ghost of Ed Cassidy is sitting on his shoulder- yes, he's that good. Also rock solid is the dynamic bass guitar of H. P. Banes. The drums and bass are so tightly meshed you'll believe in telepathic communication. Rounding off this triumvirate is the soulful vocals of B. E. Baigent. 
Music doesn't get much better than this. These are the best live band in Somerset.
What are you waiting for?
Go get that ep!

Friday, 2 December 2016

AMID THE CLAMOUR

Famous people become commodities when they die. Their discourse, their story so to speak, can be shaped to suit the ends  of others. Look at how John Lennon has been shaped, or Bob Marley, or any of a hundred others.
This has been especially true of poets, whose stock can rise or fall according to the needs of the current age. You only have to visit Stratford Upon Avon to experience the full flowering of the heritage industries.
It was thoughts like this that led to this post's poem.

Poets are better when they're dead.
Personal life picked over
for proof of something or other.
Private papers pillaged, not burned,
to provide the evidence
for opposing intellectual arguments.

A dead poet is a commodity,
clay to be shaped by critics fingers.
A really good one can sustain an industry:
biographers, academics, guide books, guides,
taxi drivers [who picked the poet up regular like]
and houses bought for a grateful nation.
Then simplistic television,
built around the available footage,
that somehow misses the point.

Yet within the clamour,
if you are patient enough,
the poet's words will retain their truth.
I think that we are in danger of losing sight of the real treasure, the beauty of the individual's creation and our relationship to it.
This week I've been listening to lots of Anna Ternheim while I wait for her new live album to arrive. Here's some live songs recorded in Paris.
When will she play the UK?

Friday, 25 November 2016

WATER WITH ATTITUDE

I was fortunate to attend a writing workshop with Harry Parker this week. It was excellent and I would recommend his book Anatomy of a Soldier. It is beautifully written and thought provoking.
One of the exercises based around memories prompted this.

I remember mercury puddles on the mezzanine, mirrored, like water with attitude, that ran down a slope faster than a raindrop, splitting into hundreds of molten ball bearings that left a smear on the metal plates. 
I've been revising this poem. You can read the first draft here

it was one of those days

an i'm living in a novel type of day
that brought the realisation
he was a minor character
whose only function
was to be bumped off
by a more interesting protagonist
an act that would illuminate
a particular facet of his killer's personality
such days are not good

his head rests on the cold window pane
it is 4:13am not yet light

he will wander through today's chapter
carrying a sharp sliver of sleeplessness
Essentially I've changed the layout, I was not happy with the one long line. I think this version allows the poem to breathe and it is easier on the eye of the reader.
Tomorrow sees the launch of Palooka 5's first ep. I leave you with them playing La Mancha. They have to be one of the best live bands around at the minute.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

BROOKE SHARKEY, WANDERING HEART

From the opening track Your Tomorrow you can tell this is a special album. The space, the soundscape and Brooke's peerless voice captivate. This is Brooke's second album and it is possibly the best thing I've heard this year. 
Lyrically Brooke continues to develop, we are presented with images that are enhanced by the music. There is a dream feeling to this album that spills over to the cover photograph.
There is a feel of the liminal, Brooke sings from the borderlands, the threshold of something other. She is:

living out of boxes..holding both hands out for rain...

There are no straight lines:

Now I cannot seek you out
Cos you still owe me that kiss
On my peach lower lip
In the morning you were gone

And:

I wanted to beat each and every boundary
And dig the surface of eternity,
But when I returned, I felt the cold

Brooke has such an individual vision, the lyrics repay reflection. I am still unravelling the songs.
The sound palette has broadened since One Dress. There is an organic feel to the arrangements, nothing present is not necessary, no note is superfluous. This is about as good as it gets.
Adam Beattie stands out for both his bass and guitar playing. Jez Houghton's French Horn is just perfect, and Brooke sings like no one else you've ever heard, slipping effortlessly between English and French. 
You can buy the CD here, and this is the link to Brooke's website. If you only buy one CD this year let it be this one, you will not be disappointed.
Here, to whet your appetite, is Brooke and Adam.

Friday, 18 November 2016

SHAVING TIME

I was depressed to read yesterday that here in the UK universities employ up to three quarters of their teaching staff on zero hour contracts. Organisations using such shoddy strategies should be ashamed of themselves but in this present state of affairs they appear to regard it as a good business model. It is not. Humans deserve better.
Since the crisis of 2008 employers are expecting their staff to do more work for less money. Trans National Corporations pay pitifully little tax and contribute even less to the common good. Such a situation is not sustainable.
This poem was forming in my head before I read the latest shameful statics.


SHAVING TIME

Today, as every other,
it's the 6:30 am hurtle,
50 in the 30 zone.

Zero contracted,
a quart of tasks pours
into his pintpot of hours

He juggles rent and food,
fuel and debit,
hand to mouth.

There is no trickle down,
there is no end,
it will get worse.
Bleak, is it not?
But bleaker still is an article in Science that reports a study into the 94 ecological processes that are the basis of healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Unfortunately 80% are already showing signs of distress and response to climate change. You can read about it for yourself here.
We appear incapable of treating members of our own species fairly let alone of curtailing our destructive behaviours. There will be a price to pay for our actions.
he swapped his wife for the radio
by acrimony not by choice

and here he is in the night
twisting in memory soaked sheets

balancing recrimination
against sleep

the pressure of the night
compress the voice on the World Service

dream switch

to a grandstand view
of his hopes falling at the first hurdle

then dead horse heavy
he is trapped beneath


it will take years to get free
I have revised this poem. You can read the first draft here. Discussing it with the Secret Poets led me led me to expand the middle stanza. Hopefully this makes it clearer.
Bob Marley came to mind as I wrote this post. The lines: think your in heaven, when your living in hell seem to me to sum up the perspective of those with the power. 
Peace, love and unity. Until the next time.