Steve Mannion

Mar 05

THE FT TOP 25 ANIMALS – 9. Hedgehogs

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I never really understood the porcine reference in the name as the little beasts have much more of the rodent about them than the darling/delicious pig (and indeed they are closely related to the mole and the shrew – but not the same as porcupines, alright?). That said, hedgehogs did experience their own dalliance with the culinary world courtesy of this legendary 80s meme
– alas (sorry, I mean, fortunately) said chips were flavoured of nothing more than pork fat. Still I can think of a few out there who probably harbour secret desires to sample the spiky variant, though they’d have to catch them first.

I never believed that hedgehogs were actually as fast as the pixelated wry blue show-off of gamelore but do recall an incident a few years back when staring out at the night sky from my back door one night I heard a rustling in the bushes and a dark blur racing out from the vegetation at an alarming pace, pursued by the neighbour’s cat (not Knuckles). Also impressive is their general noisiness as they forage around your garden (fortunately this does not extend to making a fox-esque cacophony at 3am) and their alleged ‘invulnerability’ when curled up into a ball, pointy bits out – though not quite tough enough for the deadliest predator of them all, SUV MAN. Hedgehog entrails spilled out all over the road in front of your house is not a pretty sight, so if they are to continue trying to cross busy roads at night I would not be adverse to powdering their diet of insects with crushed up steroids, just to boost their chances of making it from one kerb to the other in time. But it’s probably illegal. In the meantime we can only stand back and simultaneously deplore and admire their human-like willingness to dice with death in this way. Erm, hooray?

Mar 05

Great Pop Discovered Whilst On Holiday #1 (New Series)

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Bikstok Røgsystem – ‘Cigar’

One of the great things about visiting other countries: lying in bed in the hotel room after midnight (in this instance I was in Stockholm) flicking through the selection of free cable channels on the TV provided. I count three or four music channels, Annie’s ‘Heartbeat’ and Bertine Zetlitz is are played on MTV Europe and the general vibe takes me back to MTV’s pan-continental incarnation that we used to receive in the UK before someone decided to segregate us from the rest of Europe by creating MTV UK & Ireland. This did as much harm as good and we lost as much as we gained if not more (those incessant gabba compilation adverts were annoying at the time but I’ve come to miss them since). Because Britain today would appear to have no place for the likes of Bikstok Røgsystem, a Danish pop-dancehall combo who entertained me greatly by cropping up on Swedish music television with their excellent new single ‘Cigar’. Very little information about them in English on the interweb it would seem but there is this with a link to the fabulous video therein which I urge you all to peruse.

The official website is also worth a look for some lovely artwork and much fun to be had attempting to learn and translate ‘Cigar’s lyrics into English. Let the campaign for more of this sort of thing in our stagnant, somewhat lacking British music charts begin…

Jan 05

45 RPM

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45 RPM

As in, 45 resolutions per minute. That’s roughly the number of them I seem to come up with every sixty seconds. Now the hangover has worn off it’s time to put one’s money where one’s booze-guzzling mouth is and actually start acting on them.

Diet-related ones tend to be among the more popular and practiced. The scary thing being that age seems to have forced me into thinking about doing the same. I’m not planning on an entirely alcohol-free month though. Resolutions should really be fun and about adding something not taking it away.

So rather than become a fully fledged alcoholic I am excited by the idea of trying to watch a lot more films this year. Inspired by many things including Pete’s list of films from 2003, many of which I still haven’t seen. So MY Resolution #1 is to watch at least three films in the cinema every month. The cheapest place I have found to do this is Peckham Multiplex (only ‘3!) so expect to find me there a lot more regularly from now on. I also only recently discovered the mysterious Renoir cinema in the equally mysterious Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury which in turn leads me to wonder if there shouldn’t be some sort of Publog-esque review of all French-sounding cinemas in London to accompany my challenge. The answer is, of course, no. But I will away and think of more interesting proposals for this month’s theme while you chatter away about your own resoultions in the comments box (please?)…

Dec 04


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This one has it all!*
– Classy Cocktail Kylie but with added good song!
– Smooth and modish production
– Genuinely good lyrics (“I don’t believe I’d fall in love just topass the time”)
– Great whispering bits!
– Middle eight that gets the moves going on the office party dancefloor (as proven last Friday, cheers Ms Minogue)
– A proper ending, and quite an arch one too.

*except a good singer. Oh well. 8 (Tom Ewing)

One of the greatest singles of the year. Unlike a certain other single recently reviewed by the Square Table, this is immediate (without kitsch), fluid (without limpness), and permanent (without obnoxiousness). And the lyrics (“I don’t believe I’d love somebody just to pass the time / but I believe in you”) are great too. 10 + JOKER (Atnevon)

As opposed to her asensual dreams of late, Kylie has slipped back into the lush orgasmic universe with “I Believe In You.” A Moroder-synth-throb produced by Jake Shears and Babydaddy from the Scissor Sisters, this is a song dedicated to Pop religion: Kylie and the listener are willing to believe the dream. The endless repetition and the robotic synth beat are enchanting. It all feels remote and alluring at the same time. This is “I feel love” for the 21st century, a coke-filled fantasy you can’t escape. 8 (stevienixed)

So light perfect for day dreaming. Treads the space inbetween “Spinning Around” and “Slow” perfectly and although throughly constant in pace it never bores or drags. Could have been so easily spoilt by over complication but thankfully isn’t. Kylie has left the dancefloor people. 8 (Paul Thomas)

It feels Kylie-by-numbers from the word go, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Scissor Sisters turn in quite a decent string-laden tech-disco production complete with fiddles (so hot right now!) adorning the middle eight and ending nicely. Kylie’s breathy chorus almost operatic were only her voice capable of such grandeur (I’m quite glad it isn’t I think), but it’s well conceived, and concealed. It illustrates the difference between laziness and effortlessness pretty well, as despite the ‘knocked out sharpish’ feeling I can’t help but get from it, there are some sublime moments that strike me as as perfect as anything from the cream of her earlier work. 8 (SteveM)

K is for Kyle and K-hole and that’s just being redundant. This is what the girl in that old “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” album cover must have felt like: oily and beautiful and swimming in soft soft white. Not many songs make me want to turn on the iTunes visualizer to “watch along” but that’s exactly what this one did. Couldn’t be more vapid and dreamy and that’s just fine. But listen, could I just touch you? I mean, to make sure you’re real and stuff? 7 (forksclovetofu)

Like an old pair of shoes, new Kylie singles these days are pretty comfortable and reliable. She may misfire now and then, but we believe in her! The only complaint I have about this collaboration with the Scissor Sisters is that her voice overpowers the shiny synth hook in the chorus, when it should be the other way around. Otherwise, business as usual. 7 (Michael F. Gill)

We take Kylie for granted now, but who thought, nearly twenty years back when she had a hit with ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, that she had any chance of a long and successful music career? Anyway, this is another good single, sweet and pretty, with a slightly mournful almost-’80s electro beat (maybe that’s what made me think back to her ’80s stuff, though obviously she didn’t sound like this then), which doesn’t entirely match the very positive lyric. It’s a nice tune, and the production layering is very attractive. A drawback is that her voice doesn’t really get the expressiveness it reaches for in parts, but I don’t think that turns out to be very costly to the overall success. I dislike the silly noise on the ‘joker’s always smiling’ line (exactly the kind of moment of aural humour that Shadow Morton always got perfectly right), but otherwise I like this. 7 (Martin Skidmore)

The Product has been perfected over many years, but the visible seams and stiches on the music (and body) spoil the effect almost totally. Here, the [half-]track is merely an 80s pastiche that sound uncomfortably similar to New Order played at +16 (tightly sequenced bassline / nervous singing / vague melancholy / crap lyrics written on a napkin). It’s merely a langorous electronic backdrop for another identikit sexy video, the vocals slow and breathy to allow Kylie to sashay leggily around red-mouthed in shot without breaking her couplets. Despite a rather lovely arcing melody in the chorus (they’ve have around ten years to perfect pop kylie of course- a ludicrous amount of time), it’s as ersatz as the photoshopped girls in a glossy men’s mag. Summoning up enthusiasm for it is like trying to arouse yourself staring at the Girls Of FHM 2004. 3 (Derek Walmsley)

Dec 04

Human After All

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Human After All

For many of you out there, there may be none more seismic a newsflash over the festive season. The prospect of a new Daft Punk album has excited me for some time, but hang on, it’s not been mentioned on The Raft, only NME from what I can tell. And, that title! Those track titles…it’s all rather fishy isn’t it? Risky to speculate either way if you want to avoid getting a plate, getting your words, putting those words on said plate, and eating your words…BUT if it IS true then it did bring to mind an interesting ‘tactic’ for bands as they bid to distinguish their new great work from the last. Supposedly, by denial or retraction they go forwards…almost too keen to convince everyone this one will be different from the previous effort, at least in concept and premise. Not that another Discovery or Homework would probably be a good idea, I think I just adhere to a rather ‘boyish’ (and both appealing yet disturbing) ideal about machines or indeed man-machines being superior to the human, an ethos that’s resulted in some of the most amazing, dynamic electronic pop music of the last 30 years or more. And I hope Thomas and Guy-Man still recognise that and don’t ‘sell their turntables and buy guitars’ (to paraphrase ‘Losing My Edge’) as it were.

So I think I’d prefer ‘We Are Still Zer Robotz’ for the title…

Oct 04

John Peel (1939-2004)

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John Peel (1939-2004)

Sep 04

Lore! That new Robbie Williams single may be the worst thing he’s ever released…

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Lore! That new Robbie Williams single may be the worst thing he’s ever released…

but combined with the new Beastie Boys single ‘Triple Trouble’ it has prompted me to think about the pros and cons of putting on a silly accent in a song for reasons hard to discern. On ‘Radio’ Robbie comes over somewhere between Roger Moore and Neil Hannon – but it doesn’t work for me at all but the song is so weak (I haven’t done my research but this can’t feature any residue of the partnership with Guy Chambers surely?) and perhaps it was felt this sort of gimmick was required as a booster. Then again, you might not even notice it, and it may even make a nice change from his usual jarring Trentian nagging tone. It is a dubious portent for how this proposed ‘Pure Francis’ material will go down though, and a tad irritating that ‘Radio’ will probably knock Alcazar or someone else good off the #1 spot.

‘Triple Trouble’ on the other hand is the sound of washed-up salesmen with the same old schtick coming through the other side, appealing again somehow. Adequate fodder livened up by comedy English accents from the boys themselves, of the more gruff Cockney variety this time if I’m not mistaken. The point? I have no idea, amusing though it is. And the only difference between it as a throwaway gimmick here and what Robbie does in ‘Radio’ may just be that one is funny and the other isn’t. I can think of a few other examples in hip-hop and related areas where it occurs (Ugly Duckling’s ‘Samba’ (“yoo rook marvellous”), The Streets ‘Too Much Brandy’ (“yes you’re paranoid!”) but if others spring to mind then do write in…

Sep 04

I have a stupidly early flight tomorrow morning…

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To delightful Amsterdam – one of my favourite things about the place possibly being it’s relative proximity to where I am now. An hour in the sky and you’re back on the ground, wham bam. My attitude to flying veers haphazardly from excitement to trepidation and even on these ultra-short haul flights I find I can never really relax fully.

I made this exact same trip on the exact same date two years ago and that was the first time I’d flown anywhere in eight years, so everything about the experience felt new once more. How did I forget so much? Of course back then there was a little more tension in the air, and however irrational it would seem then and now I will probably always have it.

I recognise that the ‘solution’ may be to fly more often, near and far, to get more used to the experience. This year alone I’ve actually doubled the number of flights I’ve taken in my life from the previous total, which is pathetic really considering that total is now a measly twelve.

I want to love it so that I can start seriously entertaining ideas of travelling halfway round the world and back before I’m too old, and the prices get jacked up again. But for now, another chance to visit the Tuschinskitheater and purchase smoked eel from Schipol duty-free will do…

The Fall And Rise Of Fiorentina

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The Fall And Rise Of Fiorentina

As related here, an extraordinary sequence of events has ensured that Fiorentina will play in Serie A only two years after being stripped of the rights to their old badge and team colours and relegated to Serie C2 after financial irregularities and crippling debts.

I had no idea how severe Fiorentina’s descent had been until I read this article. What I find most interesting is how it highlights what seems to be a farcical method of managing not just a football club but an entire national league – at least the lower echelons. By rights we should be expecting a movie, for this story has everything; power, corruption, lies, honour, humour and family ties (to paraphrase; ‘(Gori) briefly handed control (of the club) to his 82-year-old mother Valeria). I’d watch it. And perhaps I’ll try and watch a bit more Serie A this season too.

Sep 04

‘Greatest’ ‘Greatest Chatshow Moments’ ‘Moments’

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‘Greatest’ ‘Greatest Chatshow Moments’ ‘Moments’

1) The camera was on the presenter from the start but took about a minute to inch slowly forward enough so we could actually see her face properly, revealing it to be…

2) Quasi-famous star-adultering Rebecca Loos. Perhaps we get what we deserve for watching this tripe but really, what on earth is this woman doing on TV at all let alone presenting a show. I expect these kind of cynical nudge-wink tactics from Channel 4 but not the fine broadcasting network and upholder of all that is pure and wealthy in televisual spirit that is Five. Anyway, of course, she was bad. REALLY bad. But this was to be expected by everyone so it’s OK right? No.

3) Loos introducing her own appearance on the interview she gave to some woman on…Five during the time of the star-adultering. A bit like looking at a mirror opposite another mirror. Except not fun.

4) Gyles Brandreth and Brian Sewell lowering themselves, if that were possible, by joining in the pundit fun. I was relatively impressed by the range of pundits though (Serge Gainsbourg’s biographer!)

5) Okay there were actually some great clips in amongst the ones we’ve seen a gazillion times already (hello Bill Grundy, Shabba Ranks, Myleene Klass) – nice to see Paul Morley looking like the World’s Worst Dressed Man on the ‘guy who would later become the World’s Worst Dressed Man’s show all those years ago (One Hour With Jonathan Ross), David Icke not saying ‘Goodbye Ruby Tuesday…’ and best of all Peter Cook’s fabulous turns on the Clive Anderson show back in the mid 90s. Just about worth all the other dreadful gubbins.

6) David Schneider confusing Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Parridge with something that was actually real.

7) Not being able to figure out what was going to be number one…

8) Remembering this was a ‘public vote’ and that the nation has the collective memory of a lobotomised goldfish…so Hello Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. Again.

9) Feeling as if I’d been caught masturbating by my own mother when the credits rolled, such was the shame. Would’ve been better off watching Laid Bare on Bravo or something…for the first time, you understand…

10) No really, this is horrible. Rebecca Loos! She could show Richard Blackwood a thing or two with an autocue but this felt too much like Five punching you in the face then holding up a mirror singing that new Alcazar song in a horrendously off-key falsetto. Stop the planet of the instant nostalgia-obssessed list fetishists, even I want to get off now… Oh but wait, it’s Greatest Soap Moments tonight with Mike Reid. Maybe just one more then…