Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I'd say she was his sister but she doesn't have his nose

Since I first heard them on LastFM where they came up as a recommendation, I've been smitten with Frightened Rabbit. Their plaintive vocals and jangly melodies combine in a beautiful bittersweet union which leaves you punching the air and singing along about improbable things... like lepers and being poked in the iris.

Having not yet had a chance to see them live and, having nothing else pressing to do one night last month, I took the chance of a jaunt down to Stereo in Glasgow to catch the Rabbits frontman, Scott Hutchison, play a charity gig.Though slightly shambolic in places, this subterranean sweatfest of a show was an absolute cracker. There's a good review of it here at Spinner Music - though I'd have to question the use of the word 'vitriolic' to describe the crowd's singalong to "Keep Yourself Warm"...the reminder of the segue into Jay-Z's "99 Problems" is a welcome one though, not an encore you expect to hear at an acoustic singer-songwriter's gig.

There were a few real highlights in a night of general excellence, from the singalong stomp of set-opener "Old Old Fashioned" to the mass gathering of "Steves" (below) for the song "Nothing Like You" which, when first played in Ediburgh, apparently, was unnamed, resulting in the audience christening it Steve. Obvious really. Almost as obvious as the fact that some of the "Steves" were women who were almost certainly not called Steve, Steven, Stevie or even Stevo. Steph(anie) at a push....

Jaw-dropping-unable-to-concentrate-on-anything-else-long-enough-to-hold-the-camera moment of the evening went to the gorgeous signed performance of "Poke" (from which the title of this post comes) from the band's second album. A member of the audience, near the front, announced to Scott that she was an interpreted for the deaf and would like to sign her favourite Rabbits song for the audience. And that's just what she did. It was lovely to watch - I'm fairly sure sign-language isn't usually so expansive but her exaggerated, flowing gestures meshed perfectly with the tempo of the song and gave the whole experience a floaty, balletic feel.

Those familiar with the song's lyrics would undoubtedly have been intrigued, as Mr. Hutchison proclaimed himself to be, to see how the young lady handled a particular slang term in the third verse...

Since I went to this, now almost eight weeks ago, I've had the Rabbits on near-constant repeat in the car. The live album, "Quietly Now!" and debut long-player "Sing The Greys" are particular favourites. I'm really, really looking forward to seeing them at the Barrowlands in December; more perhaps than I've looked forward to a gig in a long time, which is saying something.

When a band, or in the case of the charity gig, a musician gets things this right, this charming, this lovely, it's really hard to see how people could fail to be won over by them. Frightened Rabbit - catch them before they're bigger than Jesus...which, as Scott and the boys know, is "just a Spanish boy's name"

GraveMaurice's Flickr set from the gig.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Tank, fly, bus, walk, jam, nitty gritty...

For those of you wondering - and I know you're out there - "hey, just what exactly did happen to those delicious looking blackcurrants harvested just a few weeks ago?" I can exclusively reveal that they gave their all to join with their friends from the worlds of sugar and water to provide us with a glorious, gloopy coulis/jammy/compote type thing...

"All well and good," you might say as you try to stop the drool from ruining your best shirt, "but what are we supposed to do with that?"

How about dolloping a load of it on top of a delightful homemade cheesecake? Oh yes.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Song Remains Inane (sic)

Cover of "Knee Deep in the Hoopla"Funny how the human brain works, isn't it? Well, mine at any rate...

My wee boy, who shall be eight in just over a week, was asking tonight about Napoleon...my knowledge, I must ashamedly confess, of the man is limited. My brain, however, did its usual Rorschach's/mind map thing and - as I suspect most people's would - told him that "at Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender."

Childish I know, and I've promised to help him find out a bit more but it got me thinking. What on earth were Agnetha and Anni-Frid (albeit directed by Benny and Bjorn) playing at with those lyrics? Not only, it transpires, did Napoleon in fact surrender at Rochefort some four weeks after the battle of Waterloo, but how does a lovestruck female "meet her (sic) destiny in quite a similar way"? At what point does a Swedish maiden give in to the combined might of an Anglo-Allied army...or should we not ask?

Silly, poor or just plain stupid lyrics have always been present in music: see Joe Dolce's "Shaddap You Face" or anything by Black Lace for evidence of this; but I wondered just how much 'pop' music contains such inaccuracies?

Take, for example, the undoubted song-writing genius that is Paul Simon. His 1973 hit "Kodachrome" (1973, eh? The same year Waterloo was written...hmm) contains the line "everything looks worse in black and white." Really Paul? Can I just ask you for your thoughts on, say, the zebra?

Then of course there's the late, great Sam Cooke. A favourite of mine, for sure but even Sam wasn't averse to the odd idiosynchrasy in his lyrics; 1960's Chain Gang springing quickly to mind. This, let's not forget, is a song about a prison gang out working on, presumably, the railroad or enduring some equally arduous task. "All day long they're singing hooh! ahh!" Are they now? Really? That sounds a tad on the jolly side to me, Sammy. "Hooh ahh!" is Al Pacino's excited battle cry in Scent of A Woman - hardly indicative of hard labour...

Lastly - for now - it's the turn of Starship. 1985 saw the release of the (admittedly Bernie Taupin-penned) single "We Built This City". Here we get examples of both inaccuracy and inanity: witness "Marconi plays the mamba" or "Knee deep in the hoopla sinking in your fight" for the silly side of things. It's not until the chorus, though, that the band start to really test our patience: "We built this city on Rock and Roll" they gleefully proclaim.

Oh, really? Did you learn nothing from the tale of the Three Little Pigs Mister Bernie Taupin? We all know the dangers of building with not only straw but sticks as well! Are we really to believe that your 80's hair rock proteges thought double-four time would be a more suitable construction material for a whole city, never mind a house for a pig? Somehow I doubt it...

I'll remove my tongue from my cheek now...night night.

So come on, come on, do the growth-promotion with me...

It's about that time when the blackcurrants have fallen (or been gently plucked) from their branches and thoughts are turning, as with the strawberries, to how to make them even more productive next year.

The BBC said this about pruning the blackcurrants on their gardening site:

Pruning blackcurrants

  • Blackcurrant bushes need constant renewal to ensure heavy crops. Older branches will bear fruit, but quantity and quality decline with age.
  • For this reason new bushes are planted deeply so that the plant produces vigorous young branches annually from below ground.
  • These are then used to replace older ones cut out after harvest.
  • Each year remove about one third of the oldest stems - the bark is very dark to the point of being black - and any that are weak or very low.
  • Always cut back to ground level or to a strong new shoot.
  • You can combine pruning with picking the fruit, or wait until winter.

So the boy-child and I have been out doing just that. The stems hadn't gone too dark but were certainly much darker than the newer growth so we'll see how it goes. One of our bushes was, literally, fruitless this year so we can't do any worse regardless of how cavalier we've been with the secateurs.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Disappointing Tatties

That's going to be the name of my new folk group. It's certainly looking like a better use of time than planting the scabby leftover potatoes from the shop and seeing what return they give.

A fairly poor yield from some of our shaws suggests we might be better off with seed potatoes next year. Having said that, we splashed out on onion sets this year and so far they look as if they're going to be fairly rubbishy. What a lottery it all is. Still, much more fun - and satisfying - than a trip to the produce department of one's local supermarket!

Death By Chocolate...

...is one thing, but these sleepy, slightly stoner-esque wasps are trying to do themselves in by overindulging on sticky end of season strawberries. Before I came out with the camera there were about six in there!

The berries are past their best now, so it's time to take the BBC's advice and get deadheading and runner-chopping in preparation for next year when it starts all over again.

Absence makes the harvest grow faster...

Housesitting in various 'airts and pairts' over the last three weeks or so has meant that, other than watering, our own garden has been somewhat neglected.

So it is that we've come back to a bumper crop of peas, the beginnings of a tomato fest, one or two tatties and the odd mutant nettle.

Nothing, however, could have prepared us for the craziness of the courgettes. Look at the Bonne Maman jar to the top right of the photo for some idea of scale here...