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Stitches Out

I got my stitches out today. Left Arran on the 11:05, got to Ayr hospital for 14:15. My appointment was at 14:30 so my brother headed off and said he’d be back to get me after 16:00 (well, he said after 4, but I’ll stick with the 24-hour clock for the sake of consistency 🙂 )

The nurses fast-tracked me because I live on Arran and so I was back out on the pavement before my appointement time. Unbelievable. Of course my brother had gone so I got the bus into Ayr, thence to Prestwick. I took a look at the iPhone tariffs in the 02 shop (still to expensive: cheapest is £30 p/m or PAYG for whatever it is but it’s unworkable as the price of data goes up after the first 12 months to too much), got a box of choc toffee from Thorntons and then got the bus to Prestwick to see my folks. My dad was away to hospital himself so I didn’t get to see him.

I also visited Kustom PCs in Ayr to pick up a new video card. I had narrowed the non-working new computer down to the video card and was sure that a new one would be the answer. It wasn’t. It must be the RAM. I’m getting rather sick of this whole debacle. Trouble is I don’t have the means to test everything. One can’t have spares of everything laying around, can one?

I read a bit of the newspaper on the way over and it got me thinking once again about my lack of knowledge on British politics. I took a look in Waterstones when I was in Ayr and they did have one book that might have worked for me,

Britain Since 1918: The Strange Career Of British Democracy by David Marquand, but it was £25 and I wasn’t able to read any reviews. It’s the first time for a long time that I’ve went in to a book shop to browse with a particular topic in mind, and I realise that Amazon reviews (or whichever site I happen to be on, i.e. hardware sites, etc) are now an important part of my shopping experience and, without them, I feel too poorly informed by close the deal.So, after spending time trying to get the fucking computer working, I spent some time on Amazon, browsing politics books and listening to Muse’s new album. I didn’t even know Muse had a new album out, and I’ll tell you what, it’s really bloody good. Loads of recognisable snippets of classical music (why is I can never remember the whos and whats of classical music? Except Shostakovich of course, which Muse don’t touch, and Moonlight Sontata, which they do). I decided on Exploring British Politics, by Dr Mark Garnett. It’s completely up-to-date, has good reviews (at least the previous edition does; the new editions is likely too new). The Look-Inside feature on Amazon is also very useful, taking the book-shopping experience closer to the brick-and-mortar analogue, whilst also giving all the advantages of online shopping.

And now my torrent of Good to Great has finished downloading (as recommended on this week’s TWiT (this week’s This Week in Tech ;)) by good old Jason Calacanis) so I can stop wasting time waffling on my blog and get tae ma scratcher. Night all.

Albums of the week and a bit about my history with Genesis

The Muse research I did for a week prior to the gig last month has changed the way I listen to music. A week before I decided to go to the Muse gig, I knew only one of their albums, and that one not very well. So I got hold of their other three and spent an entire week listening to all four albums as much as I could. It paid off big time and the gig was one of the best I’ve been to. I knew every song they played and now I’m listening to them a lot (twice through Absolution today — awesome album!)

The thing with the Muse albums was that I only had a week and so the albums weren’t really distinct in my mind. It was more like one big album really and, being an album kind of guy, I like to listen to entire albums from start to finish.

So, what I’ve decided to do is, when I get a new album, I’ll listen to it through several times during the course of a week so that I can become familiar with it.

The girl I went to see Muse with is a U2 fanatic and so I thought I would listen to U2’s albums, starting from the beginning. I’m also going to see Genesis in Brussels on the 24th so have been filling up the holes in my Genesis collection with iTunes Plus (DRM-free at last!).

I got a pile of freelance translation work through from an agency a couple of weeks ago and our almost-one-year-old likes to fall asleep to music in the afternoon. So it’s a perfect time to put on an album on repeat and get as much work done as I can. I can also listen to music in the evenings when I’m translating. After a few listens in the background as I work, I become familiar with the music, but it’s still not enough. So, after the familiarisation process, it’s time to start listening a bit more intently and seeking out some lyrics. Wikipedia also gets a visit (both U2 and Genesis have fairly comprehensive Wikipedia entries).

So, this week’s albums are U2’s first album, Boy, released in 1980, and Genesis’ album from 1976, A Trick of the Tail.

From the very start of Boy, it’s apparent that you’re listening to U2 and couldn’t be anyone else. It’s got a raw, sort of unpolished sound to it, but for a début album from a bunch of kids, which they pretty much were at the time, it’s really quite astonishing. I did have a passing familiarity with U2, having had the Joshua Tree on cassette back in the day and had a taped copy of Achtung Baby. For some reason, I never really followed up, even though I liked what I’d heard. So I guess in some ways, there was a large U2-sized hole in my musical knowledge. Boy sounds very much of its time, and to that end, a bit dated. So it’s fun to come at it as a newcomer almost 30 years later. It was well worth spending a week on this album and it’s whetted my appetite for the following albums.

I’ve been a Genesis fan since Invisible Touch back in 1987. In fact, the first concert I ever went to was the Invisible Touch tour at Hampden Park in Glasgow. At the time, all I had was Invisible Touch, but the concert was played on Radio 1 soon afterwards, so I taped it and listened to it over and over for years.

After that, I got Genesis (1983) and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1975). I loved both and used to listen to them on my Walkman. I grew to love the Lamb a lot and used to try and force it on whomever I happened to be with after a few bevvies. It’s not for everyone of course. It’s a journey into the mind of Peter Gabriel, which is a weird and wonderful place. The next album I bought, and the last one until recently, was Selling England by the Pound (1973), which I also loved.

So, that’s my history with Genesis pretty much.

Not too long ago, I reclaimed Invisible Touch from my brother and was in seventh heaven belting out all those songs and being caught up in a flood of memories. Then I found out, after blogging about my first ever concert, that they’re touring again with Phil Collins. Long story short, I scored some premium tickets on eBay for half-price for the gig in Brussels on 24 June.

Then Apple announced the DRM-free iTunes and it was time to get some more Genesis albums. I got Duke, Foxtrot, We Can’t Dance and A Trick of the Tail. I’ve listened to them all, but I decided to spend the week with A Trick of the Tail.

It was released in 1976 and was the first album after the departure of Peter Gabriel following The Lamb. It still sounds quite Gabriel-esque; it’s quirky as ever with weird lyrics, and ever-changing time signatures. All in all, I love it. I knew Los Endos from the 87 gig but what I didn’t know was that they used a lot of bits and pieces from this (and other) albums in the medleys they played in 87. It was a pleasant surprise!

So, all in all, it’s been a good week. Next week I’ll be working on U2’s second album, October, and need to figure out what Genesis one to work on. In fact, I’ll probably work on two Genesis albums as I only have two weeks until the gig. So I’ll do something old and something new, so that they don’t meld in my mind. I’ll keep the U2 one to add some balance.

This is fun!

Feeling Good – Muse Live

Muse do a pretty good cover of Feeling Good on their Origin of Symmetry album and I was treated to a live version of it at the gig last Saturday night.

They had some good visuals during the song — bees on flowers, that kind of thing.

Here’s a video some kind soul shot and YouTubed:

Muse – Feeling Good at the Rockhal

Not too shabby, huh?

 

Muse gig, Luxembourg (26 May 2007)

Some time ago, a friend of mine lent me the first Muse album, Showbiz. I listened a couple of times and liked it, thinking that it reminded me of Jeff Buckley. For some reason, I never followed up and remained oblivious to the rest of Muse’s albums.

Then I heard that they were playing in Luxembourg, but I still wasn’t that bothered. The girl that loaned me the first CD asked me at work if I had ripped that CD to my iTunes at work, which I had, so I stuck it on and was bopping away and thought to myself, why not go and see them? The gig is only about 15 minutes away from my house, so why the hell not?

That was when I discovered that it was sold out.

I borrowed and listened to the other three albums from someone else at work and really started to want to go and see them. So ensued a long search on eBay for tickets. To my dismay, they were going for silly amounts of money, up to double the face value. Thankfully, Lorraine is rather clever at finding stuff on eBay and she found a pair of tickets on eBay.fr. Being a Brit, I normally search on eBay.co.uk and click the box for European Union. But the seller in France had agreed to ship only in France, which meant that they didn’t show up on eBay UK or eBay.be. Long story short, I got the tickets for face value and the seller was only 12 kms from my house so I went that night and picked them up from her house.

Then commenced a week-long research period of listening to all four Muse albums. The more I listened, the more excited I became. I have not been so pumped about a band for many a year. I listened at work with headphones on, I listened in the car, I listened in the kitchen, I listened when sat working at my PC at home. I loaded up the Muse website and began reading lyrics along to the songs and watching the videos. I read reviews of the US concerts. I read Wikipedia articles and even wrote notes as I was listening to list the influences I could discern. In short, I became a fan in that short week.

Then came the night of the concert. I went with a girl from work and she also had spent the week researching! We got soaked on the way in from the car park; the rain was coming down in sheets.

Montevideo were the support band. The were pretty good, even closing with a cover of London Calling. I was surprised when they started speaking French and said they were from Brussels. The lead singer sounded as English as toasted tea-cakes. They did a half-hour set and were gone.

The Rockhal is rather a good venue. I read on a blog that it has a capacity of 5,400, but the Rockhal site says up to 6500. Either way, it ain’t Wembley! It reminded me very much of the Glasgow Barrowlands, with which I am rather familiar. In fact the whole gig had a Barrowlands feel to it. The crowd was pretty damn good, which was a very pleasant surprise as I’ve been to a lot of concerts in Luxembourg and find the crowd usually to be rather dull and inhibited. Not so this time.

Muse came on about 8.40 and they rocked.

The research had paid off in spades.It’s hard to pick a highlight as the whole gig was a highlight. I had found the setlist from the US leg of the tour and so had been listening to that a lot on iTunes as a playlist. I didn’t really expect them to have the same setlist for Europe, and indeed they didn’t.

Set List

I had expected them to open with Take a Bow and finish with Knights of Cydonia. They did the reverse. Cool. Starlight rocked; Feelin’ Good sounded a lot better live than I would have expected; Stockholm Syndrome flat out rocked the house; New Born was superb. And a really pleasant surprise for me was Unintended to start the encore. I can really relate to that song and plan on learning to play it just as soon as I get off the computer. And the juxtaposition of Unintended and Plug in Baby was great, aided by the big balloons that came down during Plug in Baby.

The only downside was that I found it pretty short. They played for only 1h45m minutes. Although to be fair there was minimal banter between songs and they played 17 tracks in all. I just didn’t want it to stop.

Matt Bellamy

It was interesting to be at a raucous gig like that now that I’m in my mid-30s. I used to go to gigs like that in my late teens and 20s and would be pogo-ing throughout with my long hair bouncing around. I did do some pogo-ing at the Muse gig, but I was done in after a couple of songs and I have now have my hair cropped really short. It felt strangely odd pogo-ing with no hair! And now the mobile phone crowd are all busy holding up their phones taking video and photos. And I’m hardly home an hour before someone has posted the set list and a review on the Internet. Cool.

It reminded me a bit of some of the gigs I used to go to in the Grebo era. Bands like the Wonderstuff and Pop Will Eat Itself seemed to craft their songs in a such a way so as deliberately to make people pogo up and down, going from slow, building up and up and then BOOM – you break into the good stuff and are pogo-ing up and down without having intended to.

And a message to the DRM police — I ripped all four CDs from someone else to get to know Muse*. Then I paid 40 euros for a ticket, 25 euros for a T-shirt and will be first in line when the next CD is released or they tour again near me. Surely that must say something about your pointless and unwinnable war against copyright theft.

*I’ve since ordered them all on Amazon

Amazon Order

The opposite of Friday the 13th (Monday the 21st)

I had a great day on eBay today. I found out too late that Muse are playing at a venue really close to my house. It was sold out and tickets were going on eBay for double face value. Lorraine is quite a pro with eBay and knows how to search out auctions that are under the radar. She found one listed on ebay.fr by a seller who had put that she was willing to ship only to France, so it didn’t show up on ebay.uk or ebay.be. I ended up winning the auction for just over the face value! It also turned out that the seller lives a mere 12 km from my house, over the border in France, so I drove over there (passing through Belgium for a bit — three countries in the space of 10 minutes) and picked them up. I now have them in my bag and I only won the auction a few hours ago!

Next up was the more important concert, Genesis! The first concert I ever saw was Genesis at Hampden Park in Scotland in 1987. Tickets for the Brussels concert were selling for just over face value and I’d been monitoring a few auctions. Then I found an auction for two category 1 tickets (face value of 100 euros) with a starting price of 100 and BuyItNow of 250. I put in 100 to kill the BuyItNow and then waited for the closing minute to put in my max. And d’you know what? Nobody else was bidding! So I basically got two for the price of 1!

Muse is this coming Saturday; Genesis is 24 June.

And finally, some other good news…

More on that later. Hoodies will know of what I speak but I’ll post up a hood only post about that some time tomorrow when the dust has settled and it’s confirmed 100%

So, from now on, Monday the 21st is a lucky day and it all balances out. Time for some Mackies ice-cream to celebrate!