Sunday 31 December 2017

A Musical 2017

I want to say goodbye to 2017 on a positive note and there is nothing more positive than music in my eyes.

So if you will allow me a moment of self-indulgence I would like to share with you the music that crossed my path this year. 2017 was a great year in terms of music that allowed me once again to consolidate my collection with a couple of new artists and a couple of established ones.

First of all, I acquired the latest album by heavy metal superstars Metallica, called Hardwired..To Self-Destruct. As you can imagine, subtlety is a word that struggles to establish itself in any Metallica song and this is something that endears me to them. They may be getting on a bit now but the music is still terrific. Here is Now That We’re Dead:

Riverside, a magnificent Polish progressive rock band, released an album that is really a tribute to their guitarist, who sadly died in 2016. The album, Eye of the Soundscape, features experimental material that was released over the past few years as bonus tracks on other albums and is like nothing they have done before; it is mellow and atmospheric, and totally instrumental. The good news is that the band will carry on, which is great for me because at the moment they are one of my favourite bands. Here is Machines:

Also, in 2017, I enhanced my collection of Devin Townsend albums adding four of them, all of which are completely different. Ghost is an ambient album featuring flutes and laid back songs that you can listen to with scented candles in a dimly lit room. Ki is more subdued but with hints of Devin’s metal mayhem. Epicloud is a fantastic album featuring a mixture of ambience, pop, rock and heavy metal but the craziest album is Deconstruction, which is 75 minutes of pure heavy metal mayhem that grabs you by the throat and screams at you. Here are two songs, one from Ghost and one from Deconstruction. Do you think it is the same artist? Believe me it is. First here is the title is a song called Texada from Ghost:

Now we have Juular from Deconstruction. The song is as crazy as the video.

And with the promise of four albums in 2018, I am looking forward to next year.

Veteran rockers, Deep Purple also released an album in 2017. The album may prove to be their last but it proves that they still have something. Here is Time for Bedlam:

Gary Numan is also still going strong. He was very prominent in the 1980’s when I was into electronic music and his new album, Savage: Songs From a Broken World, reminds me of that time, albeit with a much darker sound. Here is My Name is Ruin:

Supergroup Black Country Communion reformed for a new album, featuring Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian and Jason Bonham. The album, BCCIV, is an excellent collection of hard rock and blues rock songs. Here is The Last Song From My Resting Place – a truly beautiful piece of music:

Foo Fighters also returned this year with a new album Concrete and Gold.  And they didn’t let me down with some great songs, my favourite being Run with its highly amusing video:

You may not have heard of Neal Morse, but he is a progressive rock legend who was a founding member of a band called Spock’s Beard. Now he has a band called, unimaginatively, The Neal Morse Band that grabbed my attention because it features Mike Portnoy, the ex-drummer of Dream Theater. I decided to listen to an album they released a year or two ago, called Similitude of a Dream, which is a concept album based on The Pilgrim’s Progress. Neal Morse is a born again Christian and the album very much embraces this but that doesn’t detract me from enjoying what is a superb progressive rock masterpiece that I am proud to have in my collection. Here is Man in the Iron Cage:

I plan to investigate Neal Morse and Spock’s Beard next year.

Steven Wilson also released a new album this year and to me that is a major event. To the Bone marked a more pop oriented direction and he actually made a dent in the charts, forcing an appearance on BBC news as “the most famous British artist you have never heard of”. I hope this is the beginning of the recognition he deserves. The album itself is not as good as the previous masterpiece but still has amazing songs, my favourite of which is Detonation, a song about terrorism:

And finally – do you remember this pop song from the early 1980s?

The bass player in the band, Nick Beggs, has been playing with Steven Wilson for the past couple of years but has also branched out to form his own band called The Mute Gods. I picked up their second album called Tardigrades Will Inherit The Earth. I was amazed at how good it is – and it is a far cry from his Kajagoogoo days. Here is the title track:

And if you are wondering, Tardigrades are microscopic animals that are, apparently, indestructible, able to survive radiation, extreme cold and heat and have even survived in low earth orbit, subjected to the extremes of space. It stands to reason they will be around after we have destroyed ourselves and the planet. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen for a while.

I am truly looking forward to a musical 2018.

Happy New Year to each and every reader

Friday 29 December 2017

Goodbye 2017

I wasn’t going to bother with my traditional summary of the year this year because, frankly, 2017 has been a stinker of a year, much worse than the previous year, which was bad enough.

However, despite the pain, there have been some highlights and it would be unfair to confine these to the skip. So shall we explore the mound of crap that was 2017?

Let’s do it!

1.What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

I reached the age where I can get my hands on my pension pot, should I be stupid enough to do so. I’m not ready to do that just yet.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I started off with a quest to be more positive and to be fair, it worked until March. I also enhanced my French a little and revisited German, a language that is fascinating but very difficult to learn.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not this year,

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Yes – but I’m not ready to talk about that yet.

5. What countries did you visit?

This year we had a massive family holiday to Corfu and also visited Majorca for a well needed week break in September. A bunch of us also revisited Amsterdam to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday.

A flight arriving at sunset in Can Pastilla Majorca
6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

No pain!

7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Thinking positively, the week’s holiday in June – before the year turned to shit.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Nothing leaps to mind.

9. What was your biggest failure?

To remain positive all year. Fate is like that sometimes.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

No, thankfully.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

That has to be my new Samsung Galaxy 8 phone, by a country mile. My poor old decrepit S4 mini survived for as long as it could before the weight of my expectation pushed it beyond its limits. My new phone is absolutely amazing.

What a beauty!
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Nobody famous has done anything to deserve a PM award this year. However, I would like to single out Mrs PM who has been my rock during a time of hardship.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Donald J Trump – the biggest dickhead ever to be elected into the White House. I could spend a year ranting about this waste of humanity every day for the next five years.

Also, Harvey Weinstein and all similar horrific sexual predators deserve to be inaugurated into the hall of absolute shame.

Theresa May (and her government), Nigel Farage and Piers Morgan also deserve the title “Dick of the Year” too.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Same as usual – my house and holidays.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Nothing really. As far as excitement goes, this was a rather mundane year.

16. What song will always remind you of 2017?

I will sum up the music I discovered in a subsequent post but this song deserves a special mention:

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

I am sadder (but improving), definitely fatter (but determined to go on a diet in January) and possibly a little richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

After a great start to the year in terms of blogging, I have definitely neglected it in recent months. I was thinking about giving up the blog altogether but I think I have decided to carry on for a while.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Again, I’ve had another angry year where the antics of politicians have made me fume. I wish I had stepped back from the precipice and ignored them more.

20. How will you spend New Year's Eve?

I’m not sure yet, but suffice it say, that Mrs PM and I will be somewhere that serves alcohol and has a dance floor playing cheesy music.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017?

No need. Mrs PM is still here with me.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

I have to say that the best new program I saw was Daredevil. Sorry – it is yet another Super hero series.

I also enjoyed Peter Capaldi’s last season as Dr Who.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

Well we all know who I disliked last year and I still dislike them now. Add Kim Jong Un to that list.

24. What was the best book you read?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Atlantis trilogy by AG Riddle.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

A lot of established bands have been brilliant this year but I particularly enjoyed a relatively new Progressive rock band called the Mute Gods. More details in a later post.

26. What did you want and get?

My new phone.

27. What did you want and not get?

Common sense to prevail and for the government to admit that Brexit is such a huge mistake.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

Two superhero movies (sorry):

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Mrs PM took me for a weekend away in Warwick. Photos of this wonderful little city and its amazing castle will follow in a future post. I was (and am) 55 years old.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Bugger all.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2017?

Fashion? You’re funny. I’m 55 – what do I care about fashion (other than to mock the absurdity of it).

32. What kept you sane?

That honour goes to Mrs PM.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Having watched Wonder Woman, I have to say Gal Gadot is worthy of admiration.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The inexorable slide towards economic disaster that is Brexit and the constant barrage of insanity that is happening in the USA under Donald Trump.

35. Who did you miss?

I’m not ready to talk about that yet.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I met a few good people this year, so there were a few shining lights in the hellscape that was 2017.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

I’m stronger than I thought I was.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

It didn't turn out the way you wanted it to 
It didn't turn out the way you wanted it to, did it? 
It didn't turn out the way you wanted it to 
It didn't turn out the way you wanted it to, did it?

And finally

Let’s hope 2018 is a better year. I know I said that this time last year, but I’m trying to be positive. I’ll start off by saying that I am planning to revamp The Plastic Mancunian blog sometime next year. 2018 sees the 10th anniversary of the nonsense I have been writing and the next month or two will hopefully see something different.

Of course, procrastination may kick in – but I hope not.

See you soon for a summary of the great music that crossed my path in 2017.

Friday 22 December 2017

Top Ten Pink Floyd Songs

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Top Ten post so, for a laugh, and just in time for Christmas, I thought I would share my 10 favourite Pink Floyd songs. After the year I have had I feel the need to do something I enjoy and, though Pink Floyd don’t have anything directly to do with Father Christmas it makes me smile anyway. So here goes:

10. Don’t Leave Me Now (from The Wall)

I’ll start with a very depressing song about the pain of a relationship break up. If you haven’t heard it before, make sure that you’re in a happy mood before hitting the play button. Despite the obvious melancholy, this really is an enjoyable song, particularly when the guitar kicks in at around the 3 minute mark. And you can really feel the mental anguish of the singer as he pours out his pain. It’s depressing but it pushes a weird button in my head whenever I hear it. And yes, I have plenty of weird buttons.

9. Us and Them (from the Dark Side of the Moon)

Talking of weird buttons, this particular song pushes another. I’m not a huge fan of saxophone solos but sometimes they can add a wonderful moment to a song and such is the case with Us and Them. The song just wouldn’t be the same without it.

8. The Great Gig in the Sky (from The Dark Side of the Moon)

There are many amazing things about The Great Gig In The Sky. The opening piano is so atmospheric that I can imagine drifting along on the wind in the sky approaching a sunset. Even better is the amazing vocalist who uses her voice as a musical instrument. It’s one of those rare songs that is so full of emotion that there have been occasions when a tear pops out of my eye.

7. Sorrow (from A Momentary Lapse of Reason)

This is the only song in my top ten not to feature Roger Waters. I think Pink Floyd lost something after he left the band but, having said that, Sorrow is still a great song with a definite epic vibe to it. I particularly like Dave Gilmour’s excellent guitar playing. I hope you agree.

6. Run Like Hell (from The Wall)

Run Like Hell has a very distinctive guitar sound that makes it obvious from the first notes that this is Pink Floyd. It’s not dissimilar in texture to their most famous hit from The Wall, Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two). However, the upbeat nature of the song gives it the edge, for me, over it’s more famous counterpart.

5. Time (from The Dark Side of the Moon)

I can really relate to this song because ultimately it is about wasting time and not realising that time is running out for all of us and it contains some of my favourite lyrics in a Pink Floyd song, lyrics that epitomise my struggle with procrastination:

And then you find, ten years have got behind you. 
No one told you when you run; you missed the starting gun.

The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way. 
The time is gone, the song is over; thought I’d something more to say

4. One of These Days (from Meddle)

What makes this song great is the bass line that dominates the song almost from the very beginning. I remember when I first heard this song and I remarked that it was a Pink Floyd song you could actually dance to. I proved this one time at a student house party way back in the 80s when the host popped on a mix tape and, fuelled with a fair amount of red wine, I managed to find a space amongst the crowd where I could strut my funky stuff. At least a couple of people agreed with me and joined me in making a complete arse of myself. Happy days.

3. Money (from The Dark Side of the Moon)

Money is a song about greed and is yet another song featuring a decent saxophone solo that enhances its appeal, but that isn’t the best part. I love the key change and the amazing Dave Gilmour guitar solo in the middle of the song.

2. Comfortably Numb (from The Wall)

This song almost made it to number one. In my opinion it is the pivotal track on the Wall. Again it features an amazing guitar solo by Dave Gilmour. A word of warning – Scissor Sisters covered this song and utterly destroyed it. Mrs PM loves their version of the song even though I reiterate time and again that it is an abomination spawned in Hell itself. Don’t ever listen to it. It’s absolutely dreadful.

1. Sheep (from Animals)

It’s quite amazing that any band could write a ten minute song about sheep but that’s exactly what Pink Floyd did. Worse, it’s not really about chewing grass in a field – it’s much more disturbing than that – and I love that. Even better, the song is just amazing with one of my all time favourite guitar pieces at the very end of the song.

And Finally

That’s all folks.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and I hope Father Christmas brings you everything you want.