Posts from 20th September 2000

Sep 00

The main problem with KP Pork Crackling

Pumpkin Publog2 comments • 998 views

The main problem with KP Pork Crackling is that the size of the bags is preposterous even by pork scratching bag standards. The huge transparent sacks of scratchings you can get in the North cannot surely be in competition with this microscopic specimen. My suspicion is that KP are minded to the health issues surrounding pork scratchings (how long before a scratching tax escalator?) and are trying to disguise their involvement in this fraught market sector by making bags invisible to the naked eye.

Personal thoughts on the scratching

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 307 views

Personal thoughts on the scratching merely from a Southerners perspective. The bags featured in the Guide To Pork Scratchings have not been sighted south of the Watford Gap (with the possible exception of Butchers’ Choice, which I fear is a non-brand much like Happy Shopper). The scratching, as shown by this site though, has always been the territory of companies that appear to make nothing else. Now I am not sure if this is sound financial practice. Whilst I am partial to the crunch buggers, especially if the innards are fluffy, I don’t see them racing off the shelves – or the cardboard racks. The profits on London wide scratching sales would probably feed a family of five in my estimation.

And of course, that family would have no need of food, what with them already making the PS. No, what has recently disturbed me the most is the existance of KP Pork Crackling. This is far too large a brand to be entering the market – and I think boycotts should be set up. Unless of course, you’re two pints in and feeling peckish.

RIght – off to the Fitzroy.

‘Can you look after our stuff mate?’

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‘Can you look after our stuff mate?’ You, the pub drinker, nod mid-sentence in your own fantastic conversation as nearby table couple nip off. What for, you vaguely wonder keeping an eye on the toilet stairs. (This occurs in the Crouch End Hogshead). Now I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the couple, that they had been arguing for an hour or so, and were hogging a four man table in sit-com style: ie leaving a couple of chairs for camera access. No, its more the response to this kind of question. Yes, I will look after your stuff, but like all good club cloakrooms I will take no responsibility for damage or loss.

So we saved the dregs of their drinks from the pot-boy, and no-one half inched her shawl. That said, the pub was full and when another, admittedly friendlier looking couple rocked up we told them that whilst the other two seats were taken, they could quite happily occupy the other half of the table. Its not as if the first couple needed too much privacy, their dirty linen had been aired quite comprehensively. Yet when said couple returned from washing their linen they were rather short with us.

Could I have handled this situation any better? What are my rights? Consumer watchdogs, watch out.

While I personally feel that the Pint Pot

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 340 views

While I personally feel that the Pint Pot has been unjustly maligned – the roof garden is very nice bar the occasional chill breeze or fight over packets of crisps – I must take issue with this “community spirit” malarkey. Community spirit is as far as I’m concerned a monster turn off in pub terms, as what it in fact means is “The kind of pub where everyone stares at you with their one good eye the second you walk through the door”. Friendliness: yes. Community: no. The pubs in my native Leatherhead, for example, are full of community spirit, indeed the Bull was closed down for the first time when the community got a little too spirited. Also com. spir. tends to involve such horrors as pub singalongs and knees-ups, anathema to the modern drinker whose purpose is to sit and talk shite with his mates.

Incidentally do any pubs have pianners any more? The last one I saw was in The Mall off Kensington Church Street, and lo and behold an old boy did indeed regale us with a rendition of the first five bars of “The Entertainer” on repeat. But that was two years ago.

Future Primitive – Old Tunes

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Future Primitive – Old Tunes: Oh my GOD. Unbelievable archive of hardcore MP3s, found by Tim. If you have any love for music at all (and also have a fast connection, working speakers, etc. etc.) you’ll be there before you even get to the end of this sentence.

The Guide to the Guides

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The Guide to the Guides: review of bulky rock guides, which is generally pretty successful, though obviously filtered through the point of view of an indie fan who wants namechecks for his indie faves (indie rock kids know too much about music anyway and shouldn’t be encouraged). Hence Spin’s entertainingly crass Guide gets dissed. But then again so does Colin Larkin’s doughy doorstop – and generally the reviewer gets it right.

Every American music fan I know seems to hate Spin!, a magazine I’ve enjoyed on the few occasions I’ve bumped into it. That may be a grass-is-greener situation, though: most American music fans seem to have a far-too-healthy respect for Q. I suppose, too, I wouldn’t find Spin!s cooler-than-thou pretensions so amusing if it was the only thing I had to go on. (link via Us Vs Them, still the acceptable face of indie rock online).

Well its obvious that using

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 221 views

Well its obvious that using Blogger has already quadrupled the number of people looking at the pub reviews. I have already had one correspondant bristling with our look at the The Pint Pot (Pentonville Road, Islington).

Purdy writes “Well mister le chair should sling his hook coz when the community spirit shone bright from the pint pot in the seventies I was their to soak its warming rays and tip toeing into the eighties it was a place that moved even the saddest bastard to admit that he/she was having a good time. The nineties ,,,,,,well ,,,,,,,,we just had it large full ‘no bloody’ stop!!!”

Now Purdy brings up a number of interesting points – not all of them regarding the thorny issue of punctuation within e-mails. In general any review of a pub will obviously depend on the night said reviewer was in there. Now in the case of the Pint Pot: it’s by no means a regular of Mr Le Chair – but he has drunk there on a number of occasions and as he mentions in his review, he rather likes it. Part of the Pumpkin Pubs ethos is to try and get to the nitty gritty of why a pub works in less dry terms than “They serve Black Bishop Ale”, or “Jukebox is too loud”. A two pub nutter night is not a bad night out, it’s interesting and gives you a story to tell.

I think Purdy is right that the pub is lively and does have a community spirit. Part of that community is the pub nutter. I can’t say that it is quite a lively as suggested above now, but its certain worth a bob or two of you beer drinking money. I’ll update you on this one, because odds are I’ll be in there some time next week.


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First things first: Garry Mulholland’s Guardian review of this album that Tom blogged last week was absurd and unintentionally hilarious, exemplifying all the worst aspects of the paper’s pop coverage. Familiar by now, the title song is far better than any song called “Music” has a right to be, and its descriptions of what music is, and what it can do, are merely observations (and, though glib, very accurate ones) rather than a complete dramatisation-of-the-self and ridiculous sweeping statements (cf that other song called “Music”). That said, Mulholland’s “naff” description applies perfectly to the second track in, “Impressive Instant”. It’s hideous; the vocoders are indescribably cheesy, and the treatment of her vocals generally is very dated. It’s faux-contemporary in the worst sense, the only song here to fit the hack’s idea of this album as a middle-aged grasp at What The Kids Are Into. I can’t listen to it without cringing, and it’s an embarrassment on a par with her worst mid-90s efforts at chasing clocks (the appalling cod-swingbeat “Human Nature”, which remains probably her worst ever single).

But then there’s “Runaway Lover”, which is absolutely unstoppably brilliant. Remember the rush of “Ray of Light” last time out, the way it seemed to announce her return from artistic / commercial exile, its fearlessness and exhilaration? This has the same quality; it plays much the same production tricks as its predecessor but never touches that cheesiness. She’s rarely sung better. And “I Deserve It” might just be her best ever slow / reflective moment; it’s a defiant semi-autobiography with an edge of sadness but devoid of all miserablism, and ultimately defiant. It’s that rarity; a reflection on her life without being remotely self-obsessed or self-mythologising (cf her fearfully, horribly cloying “This Used To Be My Playground”, from the period when her original myth was beginning to collapse and her years of apparent irrelevance were approaching).

Apart from a few of the production touches, “Amazing” is mediocre by comparison, and “Nobody’s Perfect” is pretty bland (that vocoder returns, along with some nasty synth twiddling that recalls an amateurish Vince Clarke). I don’t think I’ll ever particularly want to listen to “Don’t Tell Me” again. It’s early days yet, but I think “What It Feels Like For A Girl” could grow on me – it has virtually no significant content, but something in its succulent, meringue-like production could well draw me in on repeated listens, though the edge of blandness might make it a guilty pleasure.

“Paradise (Not For Me)” continues from here, and confirms the downbeat, thoughtful feel of the concluding part of this record, perhaps more melancholic than any previous Madonna album. But it sounds curiously dated to my ears – the sound is quite specifically mid-90s. “Gone” is the ideal conclusion, confirming the reflectiveness which is the most “uncommercial” thing about this record, rather than the much-vaunted “strangeness” of the mostly quite ordinary production. Timeless and classicist in a very good sense (perhaps because the sound is quite classicist, therefore lacking the distinct air of the recent past of the track that comes before), and it’s quite beautiful. Will Madonna always be here? Might she disappear, even retire? How will she sustain ageing? What and where will be she be at 50 or 60? Questions unanswered for the moment, and “Gone” gives us no clear answers, all for the better. Rather it has us wondering “where next?”, and if that “where next?” applies to Madonna herself rather than her music, it’s a reflection of her significance and importance.

I’m only reviewing “American Pie” along with the album out of a sense of duty (admittedly, I’ve never described it before and have wanted to since release), because it’s clearly nothing to do with the album onto which it’s been inelegantly tacked on in the UK (though not the US). I couldn’t believe myself loving it on release, the way its enticing arrangement and, perhaps most importantly, its distance from the place and time that originally lapped it up, along with all its worst implications (the cynical, depressed America of the early 70s) made me love a song I’ve hated as long as I can remember, as though something wonderful was lurking beneath its hideous disguise all the time (I still can’t quite believe that anything was, but am increasingly coming to feel that, beneath Don Maclean’s odious nostalgia and hatred of any complexity, edginess or uncertainty entering pop music, there was always a decent song). It’s totally unconnected to “Music”, but it can only be described as a miracle of a single.

And as for “Music” itself? All Madonna albums have fillers; there is one embarrassing track here, three that are pretty uninspired, one already familiar, three very good, and two I’m unsure of. Fairly par for the course, but this is perhaps the first record where she’s introduced regret and melancholia as the key themes, specifically in the second half, without tugging on your heartstrings or going MOR. She may still sink into mediocrity from time to time, but her fascination is still great, and this album is all the better for the lack of certainties and the open-ended questions it leaves.