Posts from 21st May 2001

21
May 01

LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS – “Why I Love Country Music”

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LLOYD COLE AND THE COMMOTIONS – “Why I Love Country Music”

“We feel fine / We’re killing time / Well what’s the crime?”

One of the first pieces of music criticism I remember reading was a cold dismissal of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ Five Easy Pieces which said something like, oh he overreaches himself, writing these naive sketches of situations he can’t possibly have lived. As if the first album’s heartsick-student persona was any less unliveable for me, 15, listening! But the seed of doubt was planted and I started mistrusting the record, and mistrusting my own reasons for liking it – that I hoped I’d grow into some of these situations, that they seemed dramatic and tragic to me. If that was the reason Lloyd had written the songs, though – well, that seemed a bit of a cheat. They had been showstoppers in my heart’s secret theatre: now they were just short stories, as matt and unreflecting as the ones I picked apart in English Lit classes.

Still I liked Lloyd’s flared, quavering voice and the hooks seemed to come in packs: I sold a copy and soon bought it again, cheaper. And of course the stories all came true – the lost weekends and brand new friends and minor characters and perfect blues all rolled into my life sooner or later. They weren’t as neat or dramatic as Lloyd had made them seem, and I understood what that critic had been talking about. That by writing the songs Cole had made these people narrower-than life. That by finishing the songs with a neat turn of phrase and a chorus Cole had given these people a bit of drama, and somewhere in the unspoken distance, the chance of an ending.

Which is unrealistic, you know.

And that makes me like the songs more again. Country music works like that too. The couple in “Why I Love…” listen to country, and drink, to escape something awful and dark at the heart of what used to be their love, but also I think to deal with it. In “Faron Young”, Prefab Sprout lambasted country songs – “They offer infrared instead of sun / They offer paper spoons and bubblegum” – and years later Paddy McAloon would shamefacedly admit he was wrong. But he was only half-wrong – what the music offers is a simplification, sure, but that’s why it’s great. Country music provides a language for the couple’s – for our – pain, turns something too big to think about into a song you can sing along to.

I can never remember, though – couldn’t when I started writing this, even – whether Lloyd Cole’s song is called “Why I Love Country Music” or “Why I Hate Country Music”. I’d like it even more if it was called both.

THE PUB OF FAILURE – Revisited

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THE PUB OF FAILURE – Revisited

Those with long publog memories will no doubt remember The Blue Posts Pub Crawl which took place just before Christmas last (after which it is safe to say that the Rupert Street Blue Posts – or the pub of sexism as it became known – has installed itself as a firm favourite). Nevertheless said Route Of Kings was sullied by the fact that we could not get in the final Blue Posts, that in St James.

Another Saturday, another excuse to go drinking and finding ourselves at a loose end in Shepherds Market (the kind of place that has Twee TM branded on it) we decided on another stab at The Pub Of Failure. We reckoned that since last time we tried (10:20 on a Saturday) the place had just shut, an 8pm stab at the place would finally allow us to finish this page of our Eye-Spy book. Unfortunately Big Chief Eye-Spy will have to be delayed again. Big Chief Pumpkin Publog was nary resigned to the fact that at the day we decided to go at 8:05pm, the pub shut at eight. At least this time we managed to get inside the damn thing.

So we ended up wending our maerry way through the pub desert that is St James (where every pub shuts just before you get there) to end up at my latest find – the Glasshouse Stores on Brewer Street. Nothing overwhelming to say about the place, its yet another Sam Smiths which pretty much meets the Sam Smiths formula (two levels of differing trad style decor) music without a jukebox. However it is notable for being the only pub I know in Soho with a Bar Billiards table. And for that it should be praised.

I’ve been travelling round the country a lot with work lately, and usually end up on licensed premises, since the meeting I go to take place in pubs. A few recent visits are worthy of a few notes.

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I’ve been travelling round the country a lot with work lately, and usually end up on licensed premises, since the meeting I go to take place in pubs. A few recent visits are worthy of a few notes.

The Elephant and Castle, Wakefield – Situated opposite Wakefield Westgate station, it looked a like a dream. Station pubs are often crackers (The Swan and Railway near both Wigan stations is a favourite), and this looked magnificent. Imagine a Leslie Green tube station with brown exterior tiling instead of oxblood and you’ll have the idea.

But wait – a man stumbles out looking and acting like the father in ‘Rita, Sue, and Bob too’. Apprehension. The three police horses and van outside aren’t a good sign either. Ah, here comes a middle aged respectable couple exiting as they begin a civil Saturday night around town. And so we enter.

Which was a mistake. To use the vernacular, the place was a khazi. It had for some god-forsaken reason, been renovated.There was a lovely reconditioned ceiling design, which was helpful, as looking up was a good idea so as to not make eye contact. In case I was engaged in conversation, I pondered where to declare myself from. Saying London might incite resentment, whilst the true answer (Manchester) might re-awaken Wars of the Roses sentiments, so decided that if asked, I would say ‘Workington’ since whilst Cumbria is resolutely northern, the far coast of that county is so remote as to mean that they have no rivalries in far-flung places like Yorkshire, mainly as most people don’t know where it is. But then there’s always Rugby League emnities…

Luckily, it wasn’t needed. The man nearest looked like he’d wiped his bum on his grey jumper, but I didn’t dare use to toilets to find out whether there was a shortage of paper. The dominoes were set up, which I took as a good sign, but it wasn’t too last. A party arrived who were beginning their Saturday night fun, and the banter started. I can’t honestly remember what comment preceded this particular gem, but when one woman opined that ‘I’ll tell you who says so, my fucking cunt says so’, we thought we should make like Sunday newspaper reporters and make out excuses and leave.

This place is amazingly also residential.

Ye John O’Gaunt, Lancaster – My favourite pub where I used to live is still a good ‘un. The World Dryer Corporation model is an antique model, when the company was based on Edgware Road, and still works brilliantly. The same toilet has a wonderful thing that every pub should have – a padded cushion over the urinal. Whilst I don’t have too much truck with the dedication on the cushion – Oliver Reed RIP is a bit too Loaded – I appreciate the facility. It really does make that aspect of pub drinking almost a pleasure, which has got to be a good thing (I think). The beer is excellent too, and so is the impressive single malt collection. The food is just right and the pub as a whole is a well run tight ship.

The down side is the sad affliction many a good pub suffers from – namely, Jazz, which usually means the CAMRA folk aren’t too far behind, and in this instance, they’re not. A certain times, the pub becomes unusable, as various acts perform to a packed crowd making conversation impossible, movement less so. There’s also the annoying kick out time habit of playing the Monty Python theme tune (can’t remember the name of the Sousa march it really is) which bespeaks a revue-type mentality and accompanying sense of humour running through the pub that is confirmed by cartoons from Punch in the toilet. Admittedly, they seem to have got the funniest cartoons ever seen in Punch, but nonetheless, that would involve reading it for years…