Posts Tagged ‘hoary old long in the tooth prog folk rockers’

Hey, Santa, pass us that bottle, will ya?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

You’ll be glad to know that I won’t be jumping on the Best of the Year list bandwagon that most blogs will be foisting on you at the moment. This is partly because I like to subvert expectations, not run with the crowd and challenge the accepted norm, but mainly because I only saw about three films this year. But if you really need to know, Cloverfield mu’fuh!

At this time of year (as Craig from Big Brother 1 would say) I normally post links to my favourite Christmas songs. It’s good to have traditions in these secular times, wouldn’t you say? However, my absolute favourite isn’t really a Christmas song in the truest sense, seeing as how it celebrates the Winter Solstice, but I guess people don’t really care about such quibbles. It certainly sounds pretty damn Christmassy.

Even though the original is utterly perfect in its evocation of medieval England by way of the mid 1970s, a rerecording of this song appears on The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, in which the long in the tooth folky progsters offer some jazzy versions of Christmas carols, a few jaunty originals, and, like the aforementioned Solstice Bells, revisit some of their old songs that have a seasonal theme.

A Christmas Song first appeared on 1972’s Living in the Past album, and, while being a beautiful litle acoustic vignette features some of the clumsiest lyrics Ian Anderson ever wrote. Try this: “Once in royal David’s city/ stood a lonely cattle shed/ Where a mother held her baby/ You’d do well to remember the things he later said” not to menton the line “You’re missing the point I’m sure does not need making” which manages to be both grammatically mangled and completely nonsensical. It is clearly a song written by a very young man, struggling to articulate his frustrations at the contradictory nature of the festive period.

About twenty years later, Anderson wrote Another Christmas Song. Although shot through with a sense of melancholy, it is by contrast is an altogether more optimistic piece of music. It’s clearly written by an older man, accepting that even though the world isn’t necessarily the way it should be, we should surround ourselves with the people we love and wish that ohers can enjoy it however they can. “Hope everybody’s ringing their own bell this fine morning” indeed.

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They’re all resting down in Springfield

Friday, March 20th, 2009

I recently saw The Simpsons episode Girls Just Wanna Have SumsIn it, Lisa realises that the girls aren’t being taught very much in the newly sex segregated Springfield Elementary, and masquerades as a boy so she can attend the boys’ school and actually learn something important (ie. doing a “Yentl“).

At the end of the episode the buffoonish and fey Martin Prince appears, in typically daft Rennaissance Fayre garb, playing a flute and singing Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick. The song then plays out over the end credits.

This is not just a Family Guy style non sequiter. An episode about a bogus educational system failing a generation of schoolchildren seems an ideal venue to reference what Wikipedia describes as “a poem by an intelligent English boy about the trials of growing up”.

Maybe I am reading far too much into this, but of all the Simpsons characters, Martin does resemble none other than Brick ”co writer” Gerald Bostock himself.

Martin & Gerald

Martin & Gerald

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Out Damn Spotify!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Spotify is a rather wonderful online tool with which you can listen to an ungodly amount of music, FREE*. You are all no doubt aware of its existence, and I have no illusions that I am anything other than a late adopter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but if we had put our comics online back in 1998 we would now be hailed as some kind of trailblazers, rather than the blip on the webcomics radar that we currently are.

spotify.com

The problem with being obscure is that there is little to no chance of there ever being a Hope for the Future TV series (I always saw it as being on BBC2 at 9pm on a Thursday evening, with a cast of largely unknown but staggeringly charismatic and attractive actors. Sad isn’t it?). By extension, that means that there won’t be a soundtrack album. 

However, with Spotify we can sort of pretend there that is. I have created The Hope for the Future soundtrack, made up of songs that relate to the various episodes, and a lot of songs that inspired the comic in the first place. And some stuff I think is cool.**

Of course, a lot of stuff I like, particularly the late 60s/early 70s creepy, creaky acid folk rock is absent. A bit esoteric, no doubt, although with Vashti Bunyan being used to sell mobile phones I have no doubt that in a couple of years the largely forgotten likes of Comus, Mellow Candle and the Water Into Wine Band will be chewed up by the corporate machine.

In addition, and with a view to fostering a sense of community, there is also a collaborative playlist, for readers of HFTF to suggest suitable music, recommend bands and show off what cool music taste they have. Here’s some nice songs to start you off. No rules, just go crazy (although if you add entire albums people will think you are stupid). In a recent survey it was found that HFTF readers are amongst the most intelligent, discerning and goddamn sexiest people on the internet, so this is your chance to prove it.

 

* It’s a bit jarring to have an ad for Take That popping up between Gentle Giant’s Mister Class and Quality and Three Friends, but what are you going to do? Listen to Roberta and pay a tenner a month? I think not!

** Hopefully it’s at the very least original. I never really understand why people put together soundtracks of songs that everyone already knows. I’m not saying they should be wilfully obscure, but what’s the point of using  Misirlou if everyone already associates it with Pulp Fiction? There should be a few surprises in there.

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The Hazards of Love

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Revenge

It’s not very often I hear any new music that really excites me, partly because I don’t go out of my way to find it, and partly because there’s just too much of it. But I was recently introduced to The DecemberistsThe Hazards of Love album, and it completely knocked my socks off. I’ve long been a fan of creepy, creaky acid folk (since I heard the Lammas Night Laments CD series), and was certainly not expecting to hear anything new in that admittedly narrow genre. Well, not since The Eighteenth Day of May knocked it on the head, anyway.

The Hazards of Love has been compared to the music of hoary old long in the tooth prog folk rockers Jethro Tull, and I can hear that, but only in a couple of lurching moments of guitar and organ interplay. The thing is, a folk rock concept album (!) about a fair maiden, her shapeshifting lover (!!), infanticide(!!!) and a fairy queen (!!!!) is exactly the sort of thing people think the Tull got up to. However, they never did, and even in their explicit folk rock period of the late 70s, their songs were shot through with a sardonic air that never really took traditional music at face value.

Having said that, The Decemberists’ album is a fantastic piece of work, variously subtle, thrilling, and melancholic. Taking a look at their website I noticed that they have a “Fan Art” section, (which is a rather charming idea – I bet Buckcherry haven’t got one. Come to think of it, that’s probably a good thing). So I was sufficiently inspired to illustrate (this may be considered a spoiler) the spookiest bit of the record.  A fanboy I may be, but if there’s an opportunity to draw some dead children, I say go for it.

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Hot Leg and the pursuit of fun

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Why do we listen to music? Sometimes it’s a way of associating ourselves with something cool or exclusive. Alternatively it can be purely for the pleasure of it. Often i suspect it falls somewhere in between. When a certain type of music is makes us happy, but posesses no inherent cool factor or arbitrary stamp of approval from the media and tastemakers, we are tempted to brand it  a “guilty pleasure”. But should there really be any guilt involved in something as simple as enjoying a piece of music?

Hot Leg’s Red Light Fever could never be accused of being hip. Shamelessly unreconstructed 80s hair metal with cheesy synths and twiddly guitar solos was never going to make them a critics’ favourite, and the too cool for school brigade left their affected and ironic love of rock behind a long time ago (although the ironic rock t shirt still lingers like a bad case of crabs  – case in point Agyness Deyn pictured in this week’s Heat wearing a Jethro Tull tour t shirt. Do you think she prefers Songs From The Wood or Heavy Horses?).

 

Great music. Great.

 

However, there are plenty of people who loved The Darkness for what they were, a great rock band that made brilliant pop records, to be out in force to appreciate Hot Leg’s particular brand of “Man Rock”. We went to see them at the Academy in my old stomping ground Sheffield (although I didn’t get to do a lot of stomping when I lived there – during The Indie Wars, y’see). Interestingly enough, because of The Academy’s policy of booking two bands to play on the same night (albeit in separate rooms) we nearly went to see T-Pain by accident. I don’t know him personally, but I think Mr Pain needs to turn the bass down when he performs live, because from what I heard between the songs in Hot Leg’s set, he’s going to suffer from terrible tinnitus in later life.

So anyway. If you find the idea of calling a song Cocktails, solely to allow you to repeat the first syllable over and over again amusing, then you’re likely to love a bit of The Leg. Similarly, the titles Trojan Guitar, Gay in the 80s and I’ve Met Jesus should let you in on the fact that Justin Hawkins isn’t one to take himself particularly seriously. Having said that I can’t think of many songwriters that have emerged in the last few years that have anything like his talent for melodic, hook laden tunes. Even the B Sides are fantastic

Chances are you’re not as cool as you’d like to be, and listening to MGMT sure as hell isn’t going to change that. So leave posing to the poseurs and check out Hot Leg. Your ears will love you for it.

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Save Against Obscurity

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Now, some of you may realise by now that your average cartoonist/illustrator/comics creator is an insecure beast. Constantly seeking approval, always suspecting that he is inadequate, and all the while moaning about the fact he is unappreciated. Well, it’s just a fact of life I suppose. Here at Flying Monkey Comics Ltd, we combine this with an obsessive compulsive attitude towards checking our website stats. We are forever checking out how many hits we have per day (on average about 7), and how people have found us.

Often, our site is perused by accident, when some hapless web browser has typed something innocuous into Google. These have ranged from the obvious (“Flying Monkey Picture”), to the peculiar (“Screaming Monkey MP3″), to the downright seedy (“Sexy Aliens”). Now it should become apparent why I always crowbar words such as “sex”, “porn”, “hot girls”, and “full on anal action” into these news posts.

Venger: I AM THE WARLOCK!

Much more infrequently, we are linked by actual real live human beings, like, on purpose! One that springs to mind was a link put on a forum for UK Role Players. Now, both you know and I know that there are plenty of gaming webcomics out there, both good (do I really need to put a link in to Penny Arcade here? If you read webcomics at all, I’m sure you already know about those guys, and they certainly don’t need us to drive traffic to them) and bad (pretty much all the other ones – much harder to link to). However there hasn’t been a great deal of content geared towards the role player here. Maybe I should rectify this as a shout out to our D20 rolling brothers,  but I had enough difficulty getting people together to portray half elves and clerics for a “campaign” twenty years ago, so I imagine it would be even harder now.

It’s true that I spent my teenage years participating in Role Playing Games. I’m not ashamed. I once spent a whole day playing AD&D when I should have been revising for my GCSEs, and a jolly good session it was too (even though we spent about three hours stuck in a corridor dumbly staring at an enchanted statue, trying to work out how to proceed).

Recently I dug out a stack of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks. These were my “gateway drug”, if you will, to the relatively grown up world of Role Playing Games. I only hung onto the ones with artwork I particularly liked (such as Deathtrap Dungeon which was illustrated by Ian McCaig, perhaps best known for painting the cover of Jethro Tull’s Broadsword and The Beast album and creating Darth Maul), so unfortunately I no longer had the ridiculously difficult Creature of Havoc, which would find favour with Otto the Bus Driver, as it’s written from the monster’s point of view.

I always assumed I was a pretty hardcore FF fan, but it turns out that there were, like, a million other books that I knew nothing about. Still, I’m sure there’s a limit to the amount of goblins you can slay while searching a necromancer’s tower for a set of enchanted numbered keys before it gets old.

Steve Jackson & John Blanche's Sorcery!: Weird skinny elfin dudes a speciality

For my money, the FF series reached its peak with the Sorcery books, by Steve Jackson. These formed a four part adventure (it always bugged me that the other FF books were unrelated, so, by implication, you were playing a different generic adventurer in each one, and crucially, could not use all the cool gear that you found in previous books). There were plenty of interesting little details that linked them together, above and beyond the ongoing “storyline” (which was essentially not that different from the others) but Sorcery definitely had a peculiar feel all of its own. This was partly down to the fact that it mostly eschewed the standard orcs and elves template of many of the other fantasy based books, and partly because of Jackson’s knack for whimsical and strange sounding place names (Daddu-Ley, Baddu-Bak, Forest of the Snatta, and so on). The sly sense of humour helped a lot too (again, absent from a lot of the other FF books). But the thing that tied the whole venture together was the creepy, twisted artwork of John Blanche, like a cross between Kay Nielsen, Mr Benn, and something from the fevered imagination of the mentally unbalanced. It all added up to a strange, dark fairy tale atmosphere. And the spells were cool too.

Nice one Jackson and Blanche!

HUGELY AFTER THE FACT EDIT: If, like me, you loved the Fighting Fantasy and Sorcery books, you’ll want to get your hands on YOU ARE THE HERO, a great looking book which covers the whole FF phenomenon. It’s being crowdfunded on Kickstarter and you can contribute (and bag yourself a copy) now. Go now, Zagor commands you!

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Young Man Blues

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

I have come to the realisation that all of my favourite music is immature. Prog, metal, glam and folk all have an inexorable appeal to dopey fourteen year old boys.

Prog is all explosive time signature changes and wonky surrealism, songs about cyborg armadillos and severed heads on croquet lawns. Metal is men with long hair and spiky guitars shrieking angrily about the devil, war, and psychopaths (or preferably all three). Glam rock falls broadly into blokes in make up being all weird and arty, blokes in makeup being intentionally daft (both of which are British bands in the 70s), and blokes in makeup singing about shagging strippers while riding Harleys up Sunset Boulevard (American bands in the 80s). Folk music aficionados will object that it’s a genre characterised by a will to continue an important cultural tradition, and its lack of pretension and image, therefore being sufficiently “grown up”, but  I only listen to folk music because 85% of it is songs about witches.

Even indieish types, hailed as brilliant songwriters, like Jarvis Cocker and Ben Folds have written a lot of songs about not growing up and feeling awkward in the face of responsibility.

We live in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable for a grown man to buy himself toys (uh… collectables) and video games (er… they’re a rapidly developing media), and that’s fine by me (although I don’t really think my Dad would understand or approve), and gigs and music festivals the world over are crammed with people in their 30s and 40s who are desperate to prove they are still “down” with Little Boots and Black Kids (delete/replace with more current talking point as applicable).*

So what is “mature” music? Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan? I could never get into either of them. I actually think the most mature music I listen to is Marillion. Now say that name to most people and they’ll just look at you blankly or assume you are trying to say “Marilyn Manson” with a cleft palate). But those that remember them will no doubt sneer, scoff and guffaw, pointing out that they are the most emotionally retarded of bands, with their album covers featuring sad jesters, clunkier version of the standard prog rock widdly widdly instrumental style,  ridiculously verbose lyrics and murky concepts (1982’s Grendel was an 18 minute epic that would at least have found favour with Otto the bus driver, as it was from the monster’s point of view).

However, there’s the rub. Most people haven’t heard (or heard of) the If My Heart Were A Ball It Would Roll Uphill hitmakers since the 80s. Their more recent stuff rejects the histrionic and is sombre, melodic and heart on sleeve emotional. To me it sounds, I dunno, mature.

* I originally wrote Bat For Lashes, but I have checked wikipedia and deemed her not contemporary enough. Not only was she born in the 70s, but her first record was released in 2006! I might as well namecheck Status Quo!

Bat For Lashes and Black Kids
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6 Degrees of Francis Bacon Day 4: Otto

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Congratulations to a young man called Jason Cobley for suggesting Otto from The Simpsons, here joined by the Jethro Tull loving swot Martin Prince.

Otto

Otto is of course the heavy metal loving, license eschewing, school bus driving burnout for Springfield Elementary. He likes books that are from the vampire’s point of view, “double guitars” and exclaiming “Zeppelin Rules!” when apparently facing impending death. Otto is voiced by Harry Shearer, is the son of an Admiral, and once hired Cyanide (a loving tribute to Poison!) to play at his wedding. Plenty of possibilities for connections there then…

What next?  Make your suggestions, along with your connection, for future pictures in the blog comments, on my Twitter feed, or at the Facebook Group.

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