Hell of a Distraction

Today I’m trying to organise myself. I have several ideas for future articles to pitch, research and upon acceptance write, I also need to crack on with my novel, ‘52’. But I’m being distracted. The source of this distraction is a five track EP from Stoke on Trent band, Moscow. I should be sorting files into folders and other interesting tasks, but listening to the EP titled Hell Fire is robbing me of my concentration.

One thing I do miss from England is the wealth of music I came into contact with. I’m not a fan of the radio, I can’t stand DJ chatter, so discovered new bands mostly by word of mouth. I miss having my office chats about new music with Becky, who has similar tastes to me. (I don’t miss the stress of having an office though). Here in Italy the music I get to hear is mostly pop from the UK charts, but it’s always about two or three years out of date. At a recent barbecue there was an Italian DJ, playing vinyl and every song played was English. We had a little bit of disco, some T. Rex and Bowie, a smidgen of northern soul and a blast of James Brown. Don’t get me wrong, I have quite an eclectic taste in music so can enjoy most offerings, I’m not partial to classical or instrumental music but do like a bit of opera. I’m not keen on musical theatre, for me it’s a bit twee, I much prefer music that has meat on its bones. I guess I’m essentially an indie kind of guy. My youth witnessed the emergence of punk, the new romantic scene with its androgynous images and the dark brooding gothic movement. Yes I was a safety pinned, lip-stick wearing, pink haired pop junkie. Honestly some days I’d emerge from my bedroom looking like the love child of Toyah Willcox and Steve Strange. (Sadly I never did grow out of the sticky-up hair stage.)

I have no one here in Italy to talk to about music, none of my friends have the same passion for new music that I do and the occasional message to Becky on Facebook doesn’t really quench my addiction to music related jibber-jabber, so I’m resorting to previewing music on iTunes and scouring the web for anything new and interesting.

Today I came across this EP by Moscow on Facebook, I’d heard a taster previously of one of the tracks Lizard Lords and it sounded promising. The four piece, made up of Matt – guitar, Nic – vocals, Tom – bass and Mark – drums have an edgy yet urgent sound; It’d be lazy to call them simply indie, rock or even post-punk, their music is a fusion of all these genres with touches of frenetic thrashing: epileptic music.

Hell Fire EP

I don’t really like comparisons, but can see how people could compare Nic’s vocals to those of Editor’s frontman, Tom Smith, but it’s not that simple, there’s something darker in Nic’s timbre, its almost menacing, daring you to listen. On the track Cold Hands, there’s touches of Echo and the Bunnymen singer, Ian McCulloch hidden between the lines, but Nic defies all comparisons on the track The Night, two minutes and forty-one seconds into the song and the music fades leaving Nic alone, his vocals become trapped: an inmate inside a musical asylum he calls out, giving the listener twenty-one seconds of uncomfortable joy.

But what makes one band better than another? That’s the rub. In my opinion it’s that mix of people that just works. It’s something evident in the music. It’s not image, stage presence or pretty boy looks that makes a great band, (apologies to One Direction), it’s something that you cannot define but you can hear it when you listen to the music they produce.

Being someone who makes a living out of words, I believe an essential ingredient any band needs is a clever wordsmith. Someone who can weave lyrics into something more than a formulaic format of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, etc. Bands like Scouting for Girls and dare I say it, Kaiser Chiefs all know the importance of getting the lyrics right. Back in the 1980’s Haircut 100 singer Nick Heyward was applauded in the music press for his clever phrases and wordplay, so much so he once said he was looking for a way to fit the word, Toblerone, into one of his songs. This is all rather excessive and a tad pretentious, you don’t need to use clever words and phrases like, Drifting apart like a plate tectonic, (Kaiser Chiefs), you just need the right turn of phrase. On Don’t Look Back, the track starts with a repetitive guitar riff and a bass line akin to a heart patient with arrhythmia: A simple introduction to the song, add to this the opening lyric of, ‘Don’t look back, you’ll see’  and you’re hooked, but simple is not the case here, words like, transmission and rearranged are tossed into the mix with phrases like ‘robot eyes never blink’ and ‘the most effective kind of cage, is the kind you can’t see’  and you can see why as writer I’m distracted by this band. In my opinion, I don’t believe this is four guys who just set up and jam in a mates garage, before sloping off to the local for a few pints, this is a band that think carefully about the important craft of song writing.

But don’t just take my word for it, check out Moscow at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lizardlords?fref=ts and their Bandcamp page: http://moscowmusic.bandcamp.com/

Download Hell Fire, I dare you. But if you do I take no responsibility for your inevitable distraction.

Photo used with permission

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Paloma Faith and the Inexpensive Cauliflower

Everyone who knows me, knows that music is an important part of my life. I’ve always liked to be surrounded by it, and as my taste is eclectic my iPod is constantly on shuffle. One minute a track by Linkin Park can be replaced by the electronic sound of Kraftwerk and that then by the operatic timbre of José Carreras. Occasionally though, as it shuffles its way from punk to pop and rock to reggae, it seems to favour one particular artist or band. Yesterday was a day like this. As the coffee machined bubbled, I opened the doors to a wonderful Italian morning,  before turning on my iPod. The last few bars of Doctor, Doctor by Thompson Twins faded out, to be replaced by the hauntingly, wonderful acoustic version of, Just Be, by, Paloma Faith, from her 2012 album Fall to Grace.

I’ve always been drawn to unusual artists; I mean that in a positive way, and probably unusual isn’t the right word, maybe I mean different: different as in interesting. There’s been a few women in the music business over the years who have caught my attention because of their individuality, Toyah Willcox, Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux and Poly Styrene are four that spring to mind. Each one was original, with a desire to project their personality rather than become music industry puppets. Image is imperative in music and each of these women had a strong, definite look, and Paloma Faith sits very well within this circle. Like Willcox, Bush et al, Faith, has that rare ability to write a lyric that stabs you where it matters, add to this her kookiness and intriguing voice and you have the perfect pop package.

After breakfast, I’m driving through Perano on my way to the builders merchants where the handsome Pietro works, unaware of the 51 year old school-boy crush, he serves me with my twelve sacks of cement, and as I drive off the iPod shuffles again and this time, Paloma sings Agony. Oh how apt, I think.

I drop into the small fruit and veg store before the roundabout on the Atessa road. Every day there are cars parked outside, often double-parked like today. I go inside, curious why it’s such a popular store considering it’s within a few minutes of three supermarkets. It doesn’t take long to see why the store is popular, the service is excellent, the assistant smiles and chats as she helps people with their purchases and the prices are low. I pick up a cauliflower, it’s almost half the price of those in the supermarket on the roundabout, As i do this the radio in the corner plays Stone Cold Sober, I smile as another Paloma Faith song enriches my day. I leave with a bag of vegetables complete with some freebies thrown in by the smiling assistant and climb into my car and drive home.

Back home I’m sitting in the sunshine as I free broad beans from their pods, the pizza eating cat turns up calling for food and the iPod does it’s job sat in its dock on the kitchen windowsill. This time a Jamie Cullum song begins to play, I then move the track on while making a mental note to remove Mr Cullum’s album from my collection, as his voice is monotony to the extreme. I’m happy again as another song by Paloma plays, This time it’s Do You Want the Truth or Something Better.

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Sorry, as I don’t own the copyright on any photos of the lovely Ms Faith, and a snap of a cauliflower would be just boring, here’s the rainbow over our valley this morning.

Evening update: It would appear my iPod really does favour Ms Faith today, as later as I pour a glass of wine on a warm Italian evening she shuffles to the fore again, this time with My Legs are Weak. I raise a glass to Paloma and say, “A couple more of these and mine will be the same.”