Tuesday, 27 May 2008

100 Pop Songs (41 to 50)

Again in no particular order (though vaguely chronological) ...

(41) Spandau Ballet – Instinction

I always thought Spandau Ballet were merely okay at best. The band were a little too squeaky clean and shiny for me and I couldn’t whip up much enthusiasm for them at all. “Instinction” changed all that (though what “Stealing cake to eat the moon” means is beyond me).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOIINRlDqjo

(42) Icehouse – Hey Little Girl

I think that “Hey Little Girl” is a lovely little song, sung by a vocalist who I originally thought was Bryan Ferry. It is one of those typical early eighties songs that sends a major shiver up my spine whenever I hear it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9MM02-26no

(43) Simple Minds – Waterfront

Early music by Simple Minds passed me by. Although I was exposed it, thanks to my sisters, the band didn’t interest me at all. However, “Waterfront” marched up to me and said “What do you think of THIS then?” and I became a convert. From that point on I loved the band, though this is still my favourite song by the band by quite some distance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4jJ6hoq7YM

(44) Tears For Fears – Change

I am not embarrassed to say that Tears For Fears were one of my favourite bands of the eighties. Every one of their singles from their first two albums were all absolute gems, “Change” being one of their greatest efforts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2P7zp9ykwl8

(45) Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Two Tribes

I was totally swept along by the phenomenon that was Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 1984. Their first single “Relax” surprised me but “Two Tribes” absolutely blew me away with its sheer brilliance. I bought the album “Welcome To The Pleasure Dome” and my sisters between them had every twelve inch version of this incredible song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTOQUnvI3CA

(46) Jon And Vangelis – State Of Independence

Donna Summer famously did a cover of this song that reached a much higher position in the charts. While that is not a bad effort, I much prefer the original version with Jon Anderson’s unique voice and the keyboard talent of the brilliant Vangelis. I’m sure that this version hasn’t received as much airplay but if you listen carefully you will hopefully agree with me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3v8Wden1LFs

(47) Talk Talk – It’s My Life

Gwen Stefani’s version of this song rode high in the charts recently and I have to say it was a superb version. Call me a traditionalist if you like but again I prefer the original by Talk Talk, one of the most underrated bands of the 1980’s. A great song by a great band.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvAVJTQeFiQ

(48) Tears For Fears – Shout

“Songs From The Big Chair” is my favourite pop album of the 1980’s and just about every single song on it as a masterpiece. I bought the album on the strength of “Shout” and played it so much that the vinyl almost melted. It is a true work of genius.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bqgy1mebh8

(49) ZZ Top - Legs

I suppose that ZZ Top possibly falls into the “rock” category but they are a little too mellow for that grouping in my opinion, hence the reason why the song appears here. That said, I loved the album “Eliminator” and the singles and videos that came from it. “Legs” is a typical example of the video selling the song; the girls, the car and those spinning furry guitars!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNvOPN1LoQ4

(50) Godley And Creme – Snack Attack

“Snack Attack” is a track from the album “Ismism” and what makes it good for me are the amusing lyrics, sung, supposedly by a man who has had his jaws wired together in order to lose weight. Sounds a bizarre concept for a song but it is a good song nevertheless.


51 to 60 to follow ...

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Cult of Celebrity Madness

Jamie Oliver is losing the plot but I propose that he never knew where the plot was in the first place. With Jamie, the people’s chef, it’s not just a question of being a celebrity cook that drives him, it’s his desire to impose his ideals on the rest of us.

Take his latest outburst, as published in today’s Sunday Times: Women should deny their men sex unless they offer to start cooking.

Well, personally I think that is the most idiotic statement I have read for a long, long time (and I have read a few believe me). Just because he had some success in his campaign for healthier food for school children, something I actually agree with, the additional fame has gone to his head and now he feels the need to air his own private bugbears and impose his principles on the general public, presumably with this latest trick, to turn the entire male population into Jamie Oliver clones.

I have a message for you, Jamie. Just because cooking is your thing, it doesn’t mean to say that you have to impose it on every male in the country.

The sad thing is that there are women who will take his words to heart and actually follow his advice. How good will that be for marital relations?

Stick to the cooking, Jamie, and keep your philosophies to yourself.

100 Pop Songs (31 to 40)

Again in no particular order ...

(31) Godley And Creme – Under You Thumb

From the ashes of 10cc, came Godley and Creme and in 1981 the duo produced this memorable song that was the signature tune to my first term at university.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ85eeZL7yA&feature=related

(32) Jean Michel Jarre – Magnetic Fields II

I first heard this track on “The Concerts In China”, recording the first time a western pop star had performed in that country since the cultural revolution. It is a magnificent example of electronic pop music at its very best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aibQMYOiofs

(33) Tubeway Army – Are Friends Electric?

“Are Friends Electric?” was ground-breaking for me at least. Initially I dismissed it as just a another novelty record but the more I heard it the more I loved it. It is a pop song but with a darkness inside that appeals to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLK6x1cx_tk

(34) Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Electricity

“Electricity” is a pure pop song with a highly addictive tune that immediately makes your feet want to leap onto the nearest dance floor. I loved the song and made a huge fool of myself (usually after one two many beers) leaping around with other similar fools who loved the tune. It is another fine song from the soundtrack of my life at university.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq2vl99iIEc

(35) The Police – Invisible Sun

In the late seventies, I dismissed the Police as another teenybopper band who produced chart fodder for teenage girls (especially my sisters who drove me up the wall with their previous efforts). However, with the album “Ghosts InThe Machine”, I detected a distinct change in their style that appealed to me. What a great song this is.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hFydh-QhPA

(36) The Teardrop Explodes - Reward

Julian Cope is as mad as a badger’s wig but his eccentricity has allowed him to produce some of the greatest and strangely compelling songs of the last twenty or so years. “Reward” was the first song I heard by the great man and it set the scene for what was to come. Wonderful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cU3XjOwwfJE

(37) The Police – Spirits In The Material World

I was wrong when I thought that “Invisible Sun” was the only song by the Police that I would like. Also from “Ghosts In The Machine”, this song is in many ways a better song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-Obdx0nnM0

(38) Visage - Visage

There aren’t many people who are more aptly named that the main man behind Visage, Steve Strange. Whatever you think of him, it is hard to deny that the same named song is not an electronic pop masterpiece.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdsC--CV3Iw

(39) Blancmange – Living On The Ceiling

I can’t really explain why but this is one of my favourite pop songs of the eighties. It has a superb beat, bizarre lyrics and a distinctive eastern feel. Everything about the song is appealing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L03PJeB38dI

(40) Dire Straits – Telegraph Road

“Telegraph Road” is the magnum opus of Dire Straits. The first time I heard the song I sat listening in stupefied silence as this fifteen minute epic revealed itself to me. It was like nothing I had heard by the band before and nothing I have heard by them since. I don’t know what inspired Mark Knopfler to write the song but I am so pleased that he chose to work on it when his creative genius was at its zenith.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgYzzJWW4nY&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQX1QoTbJKc&feature=related

41 to 50 to follow ...

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

100 Pop Songs (21 to 30)

As usual in no particular order ...

(21) Kate Bush – The Man With The Child In His Eyes

This is a breathtakingly beautiful song, in which Kate really shows her vocal talent. There is no high pitched singing (as in “Wuthering Heights”), no mad dancing, just a piano and orchestra escorting the listener slowly through an exquisite melody. I love it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzbw-53g2CU

(22) Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Davy’s On The Road Again

This is a great feelgood song of the seventies that was so firmly etched into my brain that I used to embarrass myself singing it in public, when walking to school etc. Even hearing it now, I can still remember all the words. Great tune.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIkAX2bIzGI

(23) The Stranglers – Five Minutes

Punk rock largely passed me by; it wasn’t that I was offended by it, nor did I dislike the style particularly. Most songs sounded the same to me and at the time I wasn’t feeling especially rebellious. However, one song did tempt me to jump up and down like a manic pogo stick – “Five Minutes” by the excellent Stranglers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEui2pouQWk

(24) Electric Light Orchestra – Don’t Bring Me Down

As I moved into the eighties and drifted into heavy metal, I began to lose interest in ELO. However, they always somehow managed to surprise me, with hidden gems that reminded me why I liked them in the first place. This is my favourite song by the band – a true rocking classic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTjy_LW8DGM

(25) Supertramp – Child Of Vision

Hidden away on the album “Breakfast In America” is a true diamond of a song. I was indifferent to the record until this song appeared. Supertramp at their very best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmIBL5JKPLk

(26) Blondie – Atomic

Like every adolescent teenager, I was totally in lust with Debbie Harry and preferred to watch her music videos with the sound down so that I could look without having to listen to the music. However, I was delighted to find a song that floated my boat. “Atomic” is a masterpiece of pop music. At least I now had an excuse to watch the videos.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qW6OrdLkCLU


(27) David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

“Scary Monsters”, the album, is a work of genius and by far my favourite album by David Bowie. This is the last true Bowie album in my opinion, the ones that followed being relatively poor in my humble opinion. And what better song is there on the album than the superb title track?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHywdqH3F6Y

(28) Adam And The Ants – Ant Music

Two sets of drums and a wicked beat made “Ant Music” a firm favourite. As I began gingerly to explore the world of alcohol as an eighteen year old, “Adam and the Ants” were reaching their peak and where ubiquitous. Rather than “unplugging the jukebox” we avidly fed our coins into pub jukeboxes to play this gem repeatedly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPjfD8ulnpw

(29) Madness – Baggy Trousers

By sheer coincidence I was close to leaving school at the time Madness released “Baggy Trousers” and the relief of no longer having to face teachers and sit their pandering to the requirements of power-crazed teachers was so tangible it almost became my best friend. The song is a typical and great effort by the nutty boys.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJOLwy7un3U

(30) Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Messages

I never thought I would hear a song full of synthesizers and keyboards that would have the effect “Messages” has. Although it is a pop song, it has a haunting quality to it that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and is their best song in my humble opinion. As a rock fan I was at the time ashamed to admit that I loved the band. I’m not ashamed now. This is a pure classic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88VKpfBTtxU

31 to 40 to follow

Monday, 19 May 2008

100 Pop Songs (11 to 20)

Again in no particular order ...

(11) Manfred Mann’s Earth Band - Starbird

This song was the B-side for “Blinded By The Light” and in my opinion far superior to that song. Sadly not many people from that time shared my enthusiasm, which I guess is why it only made it to the flip side of the single. I still love it though.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY-EwIsqjNk

(12) Donna Summer – I Feel Love

It is a bit of a shock for some that I love this quintessential, synthesizer-driven electro-pop classic from the seventies disco diva Donna Summer, when I claim to be an old rocker. In my defence I was around twelve at the time of its release (but I still love the song).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_AqSbgKKS8

(13) Electric Light Orchestra – Turn To Stone

ELO were my favourite band in the seventies (well until I discovered heavy metal anyway). Taken from the brilliant “Out of the Blue” double album, this is Jeff Lynne and the boys at their very best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Itv6Kt8M-v4

(14) Supertramp – Fool’s Overture

Yet another spine-tingler from one of the most underrated bands of the seventies. “Fool’s Overture” has absolutely everything you could wish for, an impressive ten minute roller coaster ride of emotion. It is a truly glorious epic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzlT0AmQKMY

(15) 10CC – I’m Not In Love

10CC have never written a better song. It reminds me of failed attempts at trying to attract members of the opposite sex as an ugly spotty adolescent. I had neither the courage nor the charm to chat up girls and on the rare occasions I did so I failed spectacularly. So I pretended to be friends, struggling with inner turmoil to take it one step further. Despite the trauma of those years, I still love the song. The meaning is more touching to me now because it reminds me of that past despondency.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIiWBPdhPH8

(16) Electric Light Orchestra – Mr Blue Sky

Another gem from “Out Of The Blue” and the perfect remedy for a rainy day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98P-gu_vMRc

(17) Elvis Costello – Pump It Up

Elvis Costello is known for writing some classic songs but in my opinion this is by far his best, even being covered a few years ago by The Wildhearts, one of my favourite bands, thus proving that it has stood the test of time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbhIzN9-p0

(18) The Moody Blues – I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)

Whenever I mention the Moody Blues, most people immediately think of their enormous hit “Nights In White Satin”. While that is a great song, this one is much better – a cracking number.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-ZcBFeF1a0

(19) Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street

I read an article once claiming that Bob Holness, the presenter of children’s quiz show “Blockbusters”, played the saxophone solo on “Baker Street”, and for a split second I actually believed it. That urban myth aside, the song itself is possibly my favourite single of the seventies. This is yet another classic that has been covered by one of my favourite current bands, The Foo Fighters.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgbGaYTkkPU

(20) Jeff Wayne – The Eve Of The War

“The War Of The Worlds” is an epic musical masterpiece based on one of my favourite stories. The opening track, “Eve Of The War” is the best possible introduction to that album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFfZFvvuXWc

21 to 30 to follow ...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

100 Pop Songs (1 to 10)

These songs are in no particular order (other than vaguely chronological).

(1) The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations

Aged four, my critical appreciation of music was limited but something about the song appealed to me even in my infancy. I’ve listened to the song many times over the years and it still appeals even now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEGmd-3Gg-s

(2) David Bowie – See Emily Play

David Bowie released and album of cover versions called “Pin Ups”. It is a superb album and
the cover of Pink Floyd’s “See Emily Play” is the best song on it. It may seem strange but I regard this as the definitive version, simply because it was decades before I heard the original version by Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd and, although I hate to say this, Bowie’s version is superior.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yykP24h_sVE

(3) Ike and Tina Turner – Nutbush City Limits

The first time I heard “Nutbush City Limits” was in 1973 when it appeared on the Top 20 countdown. My dad hated it and it was the first time I began to exhibit signs of musical independence from him as he tried to saturate my musical taste with his rock and roll and country and western.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipOz_k9zvzo

(4) The Sweet – Block Buster!

The first song I really loved, the song that I wanted to play over and over again was the exceptional “Block Buster!” by the Sweet. I remember when my two sisters and I heard it for the first time in 1973. All three of us loved it; it appeared to be a pop song that transcended the girl/boy cultural pop music divide. The elder of my two sisters, and I used to wander around the house singing Buster Buster Block Buster usually instigated by me being the elder child. My parents hated it and my dad in particular must have exercised monumental control every time it appeared on the Top 20 countdown.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgiDINcZ-q4

(5) Mud – Tiger Feet

A mate, who was a few years older than me at the time, taught me how to dance to “Tiger Feet”. At the time I felt a right pillock and thought that I was being taken for a ride. However, when I saw the song recently on a repeat of “Top Of The Pops” I realised that he had got the dance spot on. And the sad thing is I can still do it – but before you ask, I’m not going to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFHxPyUd-hc

(6) The Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us

I loved this song and it goes down in history as the first one I played air guitar to as a kid. How embarrassing …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ax8JYmoRhy4

(7) Bruce Springsteen – She’s The One

Bruce Springsteen is a legend and before he achieved massive commercial success worldwide he released a superb album called “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”. This is the best track from that album and my favourite by “The Boss”

(8) Supertramp – A Soapbox Opera

“A Soapbox Opera” is a song that quite literally brings tears to my eyes. The thing is I don’t actually know why. It is full of atmosphere and plays my heartstrings like a manic rock guitarist would. Roger Hodgson’s voice is tinged with sadness as he delivers the words and this feeling is transferred to the listener untainted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OypGg5qTW8E

(9) Elton John – Pinball Wizard

If you’ve ever watched “Tommy”, the Who’s magnificent rock opera, you will know that one of the most memorable scenes is the pinball contest between Tommy, the deaf, dumb and blind kid, and the Pinball Wizard, played of course by Elton John. The scene is spectacular but the music is out of this world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHxpy7O004s

(10) John Miles – Music

“Music” was my favourite pop song of the seventies for a couple of years after its release and I’m glad to say that it still stands strong even today. It reminds me of a time when you could actually blend styles and produce a heavenly and powerful song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaMApWem9RM

11 to 20 to follow ...

Friday, 16 May 2008

The Musical Life

Isn’t music great!

I recently bought a few more CDs to add to my collection and while ripping them onto my PC in preparation for putting them onto my mp3 player, it struck me that in my 40 odd years of existence I have listened to hundreds of hours of music and thousands of songs, some of which has passed me by like a distant ship in the night, some of which has walked up to me and slapped me in the face, screaming “LISTEN TO ME”, and some of it has burned its way into my heart.

I have a preference for rock music, heavy metal and anything that is aggressive and dark but I also like certain other types of music as well. Many of my mates think my musical taste is narrow, mainly because I rant about music I do not like (and usually it is their music that I am ranting at).

Anyway, back to the point of the post. As I catalogued my new CDs I decided to listen to a few songs that had disappeared from my radar. These were mainly old songs that had influenced my taste in one way or another since the sixties. It was very nice to bring them back out of obscurity and into my life, even for a fleeting moment. The more I listened to, the more nostalgic I became and I found myself noting down those songs that had struck a heart chord over the years.

I decided to simply list them and, because of my preference, split them into two groups, broadly “rock” and “pop”. Before I knew it I had a massive list and, in a slightly geeky way, I listed my favourites. In the end, after a week or two (I know it sounds really sad) I had accumulated a list of 100 pop songs and 200 rock songs. These lists were just the tip of the iceberg.

Having done this, I was wondering what to do with it. Being a budding writer (well in my dreams anyway) I began to write about them. And it was good to air these songs as I put keypad to electronic paper.

I don’t intend to bore the population of cyberspace with these words, but I will post a list of songs for anybody who happens to stumble onto the blog and who may have a vague interest.

I think it is too much for one post so I will scatter them over the next few days/weeks.

If you read this list I would be interested in your thoughts. Somewhere out there is somebody whose taste in music is very similar to my own – I hope.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Black and Yellow Peril

Today I saw my first wasp of the year and it lead me to ask the question: what is the bloody point of a wasp?

I have asked many people this question and nobody has ever given me an answer that convinces me that they serve any function on this planet other than to torment humankind, the little black and yellow buggers.

I have to confess that I am scared of them, hence the point of this post. Bees also sting but at least they appear to be productive and, unlike their detestable cousins, actually serve a purpose in life’s great machine. Wasps are just criminal insects that should be butchered.

There are people out there who love wasps and preach about the good that they do. These people are typically gardeners or naturalists. I think they are crazy. To me there is no argument for the ongoing existence of these yellow and black striped stinging pests but to some their continued presence during the summer months is wholly justified. I mean, how can the fact that they kill other pests be a good thing? The pests they sting and eat are not the kind of vindictive creature that would stab you and then laugh about it as they buzz away in search of their next victim.

So what’s so bad about wasps?

Wasps sting. Not only do wasps sting, wasps sting repeatedly. Not only do they sting repeatedly, they sting for no bloody reason as far as I can tell. Gardeners bleat on about wasps only stinging when provoked. What a load of old cobblers. How can I provoke a wasp just sitting outside a pub in the summer drinking and chatting with friends? Are the little swines jealous? No of course they’re not; the little bleeders come in groups and attack a table full of innocent people causing the people to react in one of three ways. A person will throw their arms around, screaming like a little baby as the wasp hovers close by laughing its little head off. Either that or they will run around like a demented imbecile being chased by the giggling black and yellow bugger. Or maybe, the so-called brave ones will sit there and allow the wasp to indulge by letting the warped creature wander over their body. And then the little sod will sting (of course in this case the person probably deserves it).

Unlike bees, who really do only sting in self defence, when a wasp stings it does not die. Bees therefore have to think very carefully about who or what they sting. The pro-wasp lobby would argue that wasps, too, only sting in self defence but let’s just look at the evidence. Ask yourself how many people you know have suffered a bee sting and then compare that with the number of people you know who have been stung by a wasp. I think you will find that there is no comparison whatsoever.

Wasp stings can be fatal. Just let that statement sink in. I hasten to add that this is not a normal reaction; however, there are extreme cases where people have suffered a wasp sting and suffered anaphylactic shock. Again the pro-wasp lobby will say that such cases are very rare indeed. Having never been stung by a wasp I personally do not want to find out the hard way whether I am one of those rare cases.

Wasp nests can contain from 3000 to 5000 individual wasps in late summer. If you are unfortunate enough to have a wasp nest in your garden or, worse, in a roof space of your house, then the likelihood of being stung increases quite a lot. The experts say that if you discover a wasp nest that is occupied then you should leave it undisturbed. What fantastic advice – especially if it is in your own home.

From my experience, wasps love to persecute humans and instinctively know when a person is scared to death of them. During the summer months, if you see a person running around screaming and waving their arms in the air like a demented windmill you will usually see one or more wasps in pursuit and I’m sure that if you listen closely to the buzzing noise you will hear a form of insectile laughter. And that person will almost certainly be me. When confronted by a wasp, a primeval survival instinct takes over and I run, fuelled by fear and adrenalin, knocking over tables, chairs and children and screaming like a banshee while other people and wasps observe and enjoy the impromptu comedy performance.

Wasps humiliate me. Wasps annoy me. Wasps can hurt me. Wasps could kill me. Wasps serve no other purpose in the big picture than that.

That is why, if I were given a single omnipotent wish, I would give serious consideration to committing insect genocide on a global scale, removing all traces of the little yellow and black stinging bastards from planet earth. That’s what wasps do to me; I could solve all the world’s ills in one go but instead I want to eradicate billions of insects.

Regrettably I will never be granted such a wish. In the meantime I will approach the problem in my own tiny way by killing any wasp that crosses my path and eliminate the buggers one by miserable one.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

What shall we do on a beautiful Sunday in May? - Spend it in Ikea

Shopping is a trauma for me unless I am going out there to buy something I desperately need and want. I would love to spend two hours wandering around shops to buy a gadget, a decent book, anything for myself to be perfectly honest. Unfortunately any luxuries I desire are near the bottom of the joint shopping list, that of Mrs PM and me that is. Sadly most of the things on that list are for the most demanding thing in my life – the house. This means that I have to endure a trip to Ikea, via other furniture shops.

So what do we need for the house? Having just redecorated the smallest bedroom, we have to buy:

(1) A wardrobe
(2) A small chest of drawers or other storage unit.

Simple? No! My dreams were shattered, in particular when Mrs PM suggested the inevitable trek along the M60 to the shop that metaphorically speaking exists in the storey below Dante’s seventh level of hell – Ikea.

I’m not having a go at Ikea, by the way. I love the furniture in there and I think it is reasonably priced and excellent quality and value for money. But, as with most other furniture shops, I detest the shopping experience and what I am about to write applies to just about all of them. Every time I have been furniture shopping, I have entered the shop an optimistic customer and departed in agony, both mental and physical, with a hole in my bank balance.

This time was no exception. It started badly as we were driving because I told Mrs PM in no uncertain terms why the furniture shopping experience was so awful for me. This didn’t go down to well because Mrs PM assumed that I was criticizing her. I tried to explain that perhaps the problem was me but I gave up having realised that I had dug a hole big enough to bury myself and an elephant three times over.

To cut a long story short:

We got lost in the showroom because we couldn’t decide whether to buy a bedside table or chest of drawers, and the wardrobe we wanted was available but not in the colours that Mrs PM wanted. I wandered aimlessly in the maze that is the showroom floor, trying to work out from the “easy to use” store maps, where the bloody hell we actually were. When we eventually found something recognisable, for example, the TV bench area, we couldn’t agree on a style; should we choose the Leksvik or the Mark├Âr? What do these words mean? It wouldn’t surprise me if they were Swedish for “moron” and “stupid”. We argued about the wardrobe, we wandered about between bedroom, lounge, office etc. sections looking for anything we could. At one stage I was caught short and had to find the toilet. When I got back, could I find Mrs PM? I think you can guess the answer to that. Eventually we bumped into each other and discovered that she was frustrated because the colours she wanted were being phased out and I was frustrated because I wanted to get home to watch the Manchester United game on TV.

The worst thing is, we thought we were ready for this trip to Ikea but in reality we were totally ill-prepared. Oh I thought we were prepared; we had measured, discussed, measured again, discussed again and we both approached the building with a firm plan in our minds. However, we just didn’t plan enough.

We couldn’t decide on a colour (well personally I didn’t care; I would have selected purple with pink stripes and yellow spots to get out of there); we couldn’t decide on a style or shape (again I could ant would have accepted a wardrobe shaped like a pyramid to get out of there). And the result was that we moaned and argued as we wandered around the shop, trekking back and forth with other like minded and equally frustrated couples.

I’m sure that staff working at any furniture shop love to watch hapless couples reduce each other to gibbering wrecks after hurling vitriolic abuse at each other over the shape and size of bedside tables. I can imagine that in their position I would love it.

Well in the end, having trudged around a hundred miles in the confines of Ikea, we finally made a decision. And what happened? We discovered that the exact model and shade we wanted was out of stock and furthermore the shade we desired (or more accurately Mrs PM desired) was now being phased out.

We left the shop three hours after we had walked in with nothing.

On the way home, I plucked up the courage to suggest that Mrs PM, the more difficult to please of the two of us, do more research on the Internet, decide what she wants and where she wants to get it. With a snarl, she agreed and this afternoon I have left her to it.

Suffice it to say, we will probably spend next Saturday hiking around MFI for hours.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Nine Inch Nails - Giving The Slip

It’s not often you get something for nothing these days and I’m glad to say that Trent Reznor, the man behind one of my favourite bands, Nine Inch Nails, has done just that. In the past releases by the enigmatic frontman have been few and far between but in recent years we have been treated to a couple of superb albums and tours. And now with the new album The Slip we have yet more brilliance from the man at no cost whatsoever.

There was a mild feeling of apprehension because I thought that maybe the standard of the music would dip, given that the album was free; on the contrary, it is a hugely enjoyable album and typical of the high quality output I normally associate with the band.

Highlights for me are:

1,000,000
Letting You
Discipline
Echoplex
Corona Radiata
Demon Seed

That said, the remaining tracks are all good in their own way.

I have just ordered the album Ghosts I-IV, yet another release that I discovered on the back of The Slip. Trent certainly is becoming more prolific in his middle years. I look forward to more of the same and sincerely hope that he doesn’t forget Manchester next time he ventures out on the road.