6 February 2010

Death Pays A Visit part 2

This morning, at 3am, I awoke to the sound of someone being murdered.

How's that for a hook-line?

It had been a most eventful Friday evening indeed. After leaving work, I braved the hordes of meandering, slack-jawed oiks in Sainsbury's to purchase supplies for the weekend.

Now, ordinarily I'm uncomfortable with using the phrase 'purchase supplies' as I consider it most disagreeable and aggravating. Rather like the phrase 'a good bit of kit' I find that it's used largely by armchair warriors with an unnatural predilection for spouting vaguely-military sounding jargon in the vain hope, presumably, that it will make them sound dangerous, knowledgeable and exotic.

Well it doesn't. It simply makes them sound like idiotic wannabes, re-reading Andy McNab books and mentally masturbating over pictures of MIG 29's. Such people will often claim that they are "going out to 'recce' the pub situation" before trotting off down the road to smugly quaff warm ale while standing at the bar, surveying the other punters and considering which ones they could take out with a well-aimed karate chop to the neck. (Answer: none)

Nobody is impressed, so stop it at once.

However, in this particular case, the 'supplies' comment was actually fairly accurate for the following reason. When I go home on a Friday night, my ultimate plan is to walk in through the front door, close it and then not re-open it until Monday morning. To spend the whole weekend indoors (or partly out on the balcony if I'm feeling particularly adventurous) without having to rub shoulders, look at or talk to another human being is a thing of joy and I recommend it to all. And, of course, getting in enough food, booze and cigarettes to see you through is an integral part of this.

Having purchased lasagna, milk, bread, eggs, booze and plentiful cigarettes, I was ready to 'dig in'* for a couple of days.

*Yes, another military term. I was using it ironically. Fuck off.

Due to a minor week-long obsession with coconut which has involved the consumption of several bounty bars, I took the unusual measure of buying a small bottle of Malibu as the thought of delicious coconutty alcoholic drinks seemed like rather a jolly idea. Sadly, the reality wasn't as satisfying as the fantasy. Despite the deliciousness of Malibu, it is only 21% proof which means you have to drink 3 litres of it just to dull the shame of actually having bought the stuff in the first place.

Still, it was rather pleasant and I topped up my alcohol quotient with several very large, very harsh, dark rums, whilst eating a pleasingly cheesy lasagna, to which I had added extra cheese for the lovely bubbly, crispy topping effect.

I was in bed asleep by about midnight, belly full, and was dreaming by 3:00. I seem to recall that I was involved in a telephone call about work in which I was talking on my mobile to a group of people in the next room. For reasons unknown, one of the people was Simon Cowell, so it already had something of the nightmare about it. I was explaining the work I do, why it's important to the organisation, how I 'add value' and various other things that had me cringing in embarrassment as I remembered the details this morning.

As I schmoozed my way through the telephone call, I was staggered to suddenly hear the sound of someone being attacked.

A high-pitched shrieking could be heard over the phone, punctuated with furious, frenzied growling and roaring. In my dream, I ran into the other room to see what the hell was going on.

As I entered the room, I immediately saw several mutilated corpses littering the chintzy sofa and one person in particular being savaged to death by some sort of invisible force, rips and gouges opening up in their flesh right in front of my eyes.

It was such a shocking visual image that it actually woke me up and I lay there in bed, on my right hand side, eyes wide open. It took 2 or 3 seconds for me to fully move from dream-state to wide-awake, during which time I came to an awful dawning realisation that I could still hear the screaming.

This was no dream.

I froze, absolutely rigid, eyes like saucers, breath caught in my throat. There, unmistakeably, was the sound of some horrific creature roaring, spitting and shrieking. I listened, blinking myopically, still rooted to the bed, desperately trying to ascertain where the sound was coming from.

Was it outside? No, too close for that. Too loud. Which meant that...it was inside.

I still lay there, hearing that awful sound, as my brain flickered through the possibilities - was it in the living room? The kitchen? The bathroom?

The answer to every one of these questions was a resounding 'no'.

It was coming from the bedroom - the very room I was in.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was absolutely terrified. In a ridiculous, instinctual move, I slowly started to lift the duvet over my head in the hope that it would make the sound go away. I stopped after a few seconds though, scared that I might attract the attention of whatever was in the room. I hesitate to admit this, but I was almost on the verge of tears.

What is this? What's making this noise? Am I going to die?

I was half-asleep, confused, frightened out of my wits and sort of wished that I was already dead so I wouldn't have to listen to it anymore. I know that you're all used to my exaggerations for comic effect, but I'm telling the absolute truth when I say that I can't ever remember being that frightened in my life, and I genuinely thought I was going to die.

I played out my own death in my imagination and it seemed to go on for hours. In reality, of course, it was merely seconds. But I lay there and almost accepted that I would probably no longer be alive in a few more moments. All common sense and rationality completely evaporated. I kept telling myself "there simply can't be something in the room. It's impossible", but my mind wasn't listening. A deep, primal fear had kicked in and I was convinced of my impending doom.

Then, after a few more seconds, my eyes adjusted slightly and I realised that the room wasn't in complete darkness; there was, in fact, a bluish tinge to the walls, rather like the one you get when the television is on...

If I hadn't been clutching the duvet between my fists and silently weeping into the pillow, I would have slapped myself on the forehead with a sound like a starting pistol.

All at once, I recalled what I'd been doing when I'd gone to sleep 3 hours earlier...

...I'd been laying in bed watching An American Werewolf in London on DVD.

Turning over, I looked to my left and saw the TV was still on, and the DVD was endlessly looping. Griffin Dunne was on the screen, slathered with blood and gently steaming in the cold air of the moors.

I almost wept with relief.

Yes, folks, I fell asleep watching a horror film and woke up thinking there was a monster in my bedroom. I appear to have reverted to being 8 years old again.

I'd hoped that if I wrote about this, it would somehow cathartically absolve me of the enormous shame that I feel. Sadly, it hasn't worked. I am a moron. A blithering idiot of such extraordinary magnitude that I can barely believe it.

Thus, we learn these important lessons:

1) Don't eat 'extra cheese' before bedtime.
2) Don't fall asleep watching a horror film.

Oh, and:

3) Don't use military jargon. Ever.

Related Posts: Death Pays A Visit

1 February 2010

Music Review of 2009

Steal from the best*. That's my philosophy on life. So, in that spirit, I have decided to pinch an idea from Piley, the author of the excellent 'Start The Revolution Without Me' blog. The idea, as presented on his blog, was thus:

E. F Rice hit on the genius idea that we all create a CD made up of your favourite tunes from the last 12 months, burn enough copies for everyone and then dish em out. The rules were simple, all of the tracks had to either:
a) be taken from an album released in 2009; or b) from an album you bought in 2009 Either way, the CD was to contain songs that had shaped 2009 for you.

Seems like a rather good idea. Therefore, for your listening pleasure, I present to you my songs of 2009.

Note: I have removed all links to music where there is a potential copyright claim. Blame the Digital Economy Act. Those that remain are either available for free online from the artists in question, or in the case of Baddies, one of them is a friend of mine and I'm sure won't mind me giving them some free advertising.

*Stolen from Francis Ford Coppolla.

Artist: Cybraphon
Album: Automaton Number One (2009)

Track: Coxsackie

This is an odd one. 'Cybraphon' is a project by an Edinburgh-based collective called FOUND. Essentially, it's a collection of robotic instruments residing in an antique display case, and the music it plays is affected by any comments made online about itself. It's mood changes from 'Desolation' all the way up to 'Delirium'. Utterly bizarre, of course, but it's been producing some rather impressive music. This track in particular, 'Coxsackie' reminds me a bit of recent Tom Waits' fare like his 'Black Rider' album and I keep half expecting a gravelly drawl to begin floating around over the whole thing. A very interesting piece of esoterica.


Artist: Brand Violet
Album: Retrovision Coma (2005)

Track: Alien Hive Theme

I'm not sure what's happening with these chaps as their website states "Brand Violet have released two albums and have plans to release a third album in 2009", yet this fabled third album has yet to make an appearance. Despite this, their first album, 'Retrovision Coma', makes my list of 2009 purely because I'd never heard of them until a few months back. They were brought to my attention by a Twitter chum, @GarethDEdwards who has been responsible for directing me towards some fantastic music this last year. This track in particular simply delights me every time I hear it.


Artist: Sparks
Album: Hello Young Lovers (2006)

Track: Dick Around

If you're a follower of Piley's blog 'Start The Revolution Without Me' (and if you're not, then shame on you) you'll be well aware of his devotion to, indeed 'obsession with', those insane Mael brothers and their creation Sparks. Like many others, I thought Sparks had done one song years ago and disappeared off the face of the planet. I was very, very wrong and Piley has successfully coaxed me onto the path of enlightenment. Sparks are very much alive and kicking, having produced something like 22 albums, and their later work is absolutely wonderful. Their 2006 album 'Hello Young Lovers' is that CD you simply can't stop listening to, no matter how much you might want to. I've played it so many times I should really be sick to death of it, but it's a truly wonderful accomplishment. Piley himself has described this track 'Dick Around' as a song on a par with Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in terms of its epic scale. Worryingly, I don't disagree with him...


Artist: ThumperMonkey Lives!
Album: We Bake Our Bread Beneath Her Holy Fire (2009)

Track: If it works for the cast of LA Law, it's going to work for me

Another recommendation from @GarethDEdwards of Twitter fame, this album has been a firm favourite on my MP3 player for some months now. How to describe Thumpermonkey Lives!? Well, their own website says, "Over-egging the pudding of good taste, Thumpermonkey shake up an ill-advised cocktail of post-metal sludge, Bowie-esque warcries and mathematics homework; dropping in a brine-tinged olive of 70's progressive rock, and finishing it off with a gaudy little umbrella."
I think that sums them up quite nicely, actually, even though it is cheating for me to use their own press in such a lazy manner. This album is, quite simply, wonderfully moreish. Most times I listen to it, I immediately put it back to track 1 again and sit through its insanity at least twice more in a sitting. Amazingly, their earlier albums are available online completely free of charge so, as the man says, "Fill your boots".


Artist: ThumperMonkey Lives!
Album: We Bake Our Bread Beneath Her Holy Fire (2009)

Track: Abyssopelagic

Thumpermonkey Lives! again. I make no apologies. They're wonderful.

Artist: The Clockwork Quartet
Album: None released

Track: The Doctor's Wife

OK, I have to admit that I'm a fan of Steampunk - that glorious medley of Victoriana and steam-driven futurism. It's an extraordinary world. But, for me, there has never really been a Steampunk band that I could get behind. Sure, there are some who claim to carry the Steampunk banner, but as soon as I hear an electric guitar in there, the bubble is burst and I'm no longer lost in that world - yes, I'm looking at you Abney Park. Until, that is, The Clockwork Quartet came to my attention. This group of people (actually 13 of them, not 4 as the name suggests) create their music with banjos, accordions, violins and even typewriters. Yes, that's right, typewriters. Their sound is quite unique and utterly addictive. They have an album in the works, but there are two songs available on their website, both of which I have played far more than is actually healthy or sane. I'm actually giddy with anticipation about the release of their new album which, I'm hoping will be available some time in 2010. Listen to them. Fear them. Then love them.


Artist: The Clockwork Quartet
Album: None released

Track: The Watchmaker's Apprentice

Another from the undisputed masters of Steampunk music. Did I mention that they're brilliant? OK, just checking.

Artist: Baddies
Album: Do The Job (2009)

Track: Open One Eye

I've mentioned Baddies in the past and I continue to be amazed by them. Their debut album is an utter joy and has been in my CD player so many times over the last few months that I've now resorted to just leaving it in there at all times. I saw them play live in Southend around Christmas time and it was a fantastic gig. Piley was there too and seemed to really like it, so I feel I've repaid the favour of him introducing me to Sparks. This particular track was my favourite from day 1 and continues to be the one that always makes me grin like a shitting chimp. Buy it, listen to it, then thank me later.


Artist: Diablo Swing Orchestra
Album: Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious (2009)

Track: Lucy Fears The Morning Star

Diablo Swing Orchestra are, I believe, clinically insane. But I love them all the more for it. They're a Swedish avant-garde metal band who...wait, wait! Come back! Trust me, these guys are good! Right, what these lunatics produce is some of the most epic, swelling, thumping, tracks you're likely to hear. It's utter madness and sounds rather like a Friday night in the bowels of Hades where, of course, you can most definitely still smoke at the bar while sipping your fire-water. I'd like to see this group live, but fear I might never recover. You'll love them or hate them. Or fear them.

Artist: Matt Stevens
Album: Echo (2009)

Track: Spencer Park

Of course, no review of 2009 would be complete without mention of Mr. Matt Stevens. He was, you may recall, my blog pick for this year. You know that bit in The Big Lebowski where The Stranger says, "It's good knowin' he's out there, the Dude, takin' her easy for all us sinners." Well, I kind of feel that way about Matt - I find it strangely comforting that in the helter skelter insanity of modern life, he's out there somewhere, with his guitar and a bottle of something beery, happily making this wonderful music. The dude abides.


Artist: MooV
Album: Fold (2008)

Track: Fall Away

In the continuing spirit of lazy theft, I shall quote this: "Led by composer Colin Riley and featuring the distinctive voice of Norwegian vocalist Elisabeth NyƄgard, MooV are made up of the enticing combination of voice, 'cello, bass guitar, percussion, keyboards and electronics'. Following three years of exploratory recording and development this bewildering band of cross-genre musicians has put together a musically aesthetic & evocative album of songs which challenge the rich territories between pop, electronica, the avantgard and jazz. Categorise if you can."
Yep, that about sums them up. One minute you're listening to a track which reminds you of early Diamanda Galas and her insane glossolollia, the next there are beautiful Bjork-ian melodies. This one, as they say, is a keeper.

There were, of course, many other songs/albums that I loved over 2009, but these are the ones that have sprung to mind. I hope they give you as much pleasure as they did me.

Next time on The Blog of Eternal Disappointment: something shouty about an unimportant event that is of little consequence even to me. Stay tuned!