Reviews

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In The Bleak Midwinter: Nick Duffy chooses five books to counteract the ghastly bonhomie

Christ but it’s awful.  Between the more-inappropriate-then-ever exhortations to excessive consumption (“Battery turkey?  You tasteless plebeian fiend, simply everyone’s having rare-breed Guinea Fowl with Nigella’s gingerbread-and-rollmop stuffing this year,” fuck off why don’t you, don’t you know there’s a recession on?) and the terrible music everywhere (and how much must it suck to be Jona Lewie?  11 months of the year, nobody knows who you are, then for one month EVERYONE knows EXACTLY who you are, and they all think you’re a cunt), and the pubs being full of godamned amateurs (“Oooh, is it that much for a gin and tonic?” Yes, yes it is, as you’d be well aware if you’d BEEN IN SINCE FUCKING BUDGET NIGHT, and by the way, I’ve been keeping this place going and wearing my own personal arse-groove into that barstool these past 11 months, get out of my FUCKING way and take your novelty waistcoat with you, you nebbish) and…well, you need something to counteract it all.  Literature is, as always, your friend, and what you specifically need is some good, bleak stuff you can get morose and gloomy over.  And that’s what I plan to give you, good and hard.

1. Martin Amis, Night TrainMartin Amis

An unlikely source, Amis Jnr., as he normally leavens even the weightiest subjects with dextrous, scabrous comedy in a perfect mix of the broad-brush and the filigree (some other time, try Money, London Fields and Success for some of the finest comic writing of the 20th century), but this brief yet absorbing novella (partially inspired by David Simon’s Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, The Wire fans) abjures laughs for terse, cold, hard boiled meditations on murder and suicide as responses to being alone in a godless universe.

KEY QUOTE: “You key the mike and you get the squawk that no one wants: Check suspicious odor. I have checked suspicious odors. Suspicious? No. This is blazing crime. Fulminant chemistry of death, on the planet of retards. I’ve seen bodies, dead bodies, in tiled morgues, in cell-blocks, in district lockups, in trunks of cars, in project stairwells, in loading-dock doorways, in tractor-trailer turnarounds, in torched rowhouses, in corner carryouts, in cross alleys, in crawlspaces, and I’ve never seen one that sat with me like the body of Jennifer Rockwell, propped there naked after the act of love and life, saying even this, all this, I leave behind.”

2. Neville Shute, On The Beach

Being Shute’s second most famous novel after the heart-warming, life-affirming A Town Like Alice, it gives me a schadenfreudegasm to think of all the people who followed that work with this one, and what a slap in the psyche they must have experienced.  OK, from the outset it’s clear this isn’t going to be a barrel of laughs – the whole premise is that a nuclear war has destroyed the northern hemisphere, and backwoods, distant, late-50s Australia, with it’s colonial, repressed, provincial natives and a few accidental refugees, is the only habitable place left, and that only until the weather brings the poison south – but the sheer relentlessness of it, the way Shute refuses to offer any salvation or escape, just calmly narrates a group of basically decent people’s journey to a horrible, inescapable fate, adds up to one of the most despairing books ever, which will reduce even hardened cynics to tears.

KEY QUOTE: “He undid the little carton and took out the vial. “This is a dummy,” he said. “these aren’t real. Goldie gave it me to show you what to do.  You just take one of them with a drink – any kind of drink.  Whatever you like best. And then you just lie back, and that’s the end.”
“You mean, you die?” The cigarette was dead between her fingers.
He nodded. “When it gets too bad – it’s the way out.”
“What’s the other pill for?” she whispered.
“That’s a spare,” he said. “I suppose they give it you in case you lose one of them, or funk it.””

3. Grant Morrison, Doom PatrolDoom Patrol Jane never painted again Grant Morrison

You wouldn’t think that a comic book about robot men, psychic superheroes, alien invasions and so forth would fit into this kind of list.  You’d be wrong.  Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol is full of self-aware post-modern fun with the conventions of the spandex-and-fighting genre, but is bookended by two issues which redefine grim, bleak and pitiless.

Cliff From Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

Slow, elegaic, fatalistic…a lot of people seemed to miss the point of this book – a quasi-sci-fi tale of clones, bred to provide organs for donation, and doomed to an early and grisly death – asking “why didn’t they rebel and run away?”  To me, it’s an extended meditation on the fact that the defining characteristic of humanity is that we don’t run away from our fate, or scream in alarm; whether in Srebrenica, Sobibor or Surbiton, we accept the hand we’re given and make the best we can of it, and support each other down the long, cold, final road.

KEY QUOTE: “Perhaps we’d have been happy if things had stayed that way for a lot longer; if we could have whiled away more afternoons chatting, having sex, reading aloud and drawing.  But with the summer drawing to an end, with Tommy getting stronger, and the possibility of notice for his fourth donation growing ever more distinct, we knew we couldn’t keep putting things off indefinitely.”

5. Derek Raymond, I Was Dora Suarez

Any of Raymond’s works would have filled this slot, especially those from the Factory series, pitiless police procedurals that make Ian Rankin at his gloomiest look like an episode of Midsomer Murders.  This one edges it (beyond He Died With His Eyes Open and How The Dead Live – yeah, he didn’t mess about disguising the bleakness, old DR) just for the endlessly grim, hopeless, despairing tone, they way even our nameless cop anti-hero can’t kid himself he’s saving the world, he just wants to save some last vestige of his own belief in truth, if it’s – and it probably is – the last thing he does.  If you want a thoroughly depressing musical accompaniment for all this, hunt down the author and Gallon Drunk’s part-audiobook, part-soundtrack-to-a-film-that-could-never-be-made album.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

KEY QUOTE: “Writing Suarez broke me; I see that now. I don’t mean that it broke me physically or mentally, although it came near to doing both. But it changed me; it separated out for ever what was living and what was dead. I realised it was doing so at the time, but not fully, and not how, and not at once…I asked for it, though. If you go down into the darkness, you must expect it to leave traces on you coming up” – Derek Raymond, The Hidden Files

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Quick Reviews: Scream to Me, Darling

Every week, one of our writers will be given a selection of tracks – they could be unsigned, they could be international superstars. Any genre could be included, and the writer gets one week to give their verdict on each song in under 100 words. This week, Craig Forshaw takes his turn. If you like what you hear, click on the band names to visit their website, and if you want your music to be included in the future, send an MP3, picture, short bio and link to music@camelshump.co.uk.

Scream’ by BIMPromotional shot of BIM

‘Scream’ most sounds like the future of end credit tracks for Japanese anime series about the inevitable fusion between man and machine. When this singularity approaches, we will ascend from the Earth as machine gods, colonising other worlds and converting them into boring grey nano-goo. Within the goo, our minds will become as one, and we will truly know each other. This is probably why BIM, “Scream”: when our minds are joined, we will truly know the depths to which the human mind can plummet. Every dark, dirty secret. Even yours. Yes. That one. (It’s also enjoyable and dancey.)

‘4 – 7 – 0’ by One Shot Progress

There are many words that can be used to describe ‘4 – 7 – 0’, but sometimes we need to be a bit more creative to fully express ourselves in the most succinct manner possible. The word that best describes my reaction is, therefore, “Pleasitating”. This portmanteau sums up the constant straddling of the fence, between enjoyable and tedious, before eventually veering away from been-there-done-that rock towards something a little more varied and enjoyable. Recommended, with reservations.

‘PrModern faces promo shotavada Scrolls’ by Modern Faces

‘Pravada Scrolls’ is quite good, make no mistake, but the one part of this rock track that stuck with me the most was the phrase, “jaded complexion”. It struck me as odd. What is a jaded complexion? Jaded, of course, means, “to lack enthusiasm”. Meanwhile, complexion means, “the colour, texture or appearance of skin”. That made me wonder… how can colour lack enthusiasm? Perhaps an image search on google would be enough to explain what they meant… However, the search just produced pictures of make-up containers and women of Asian heritage. Colour me confused.

‘Screwface City Dub’ by Screaming Soul

Imagine a disused, London Underground station, with shafts of light cutting through the persistent murk from somewhere above, when a carnival, all steel drums, colourful dancers with silk handkerchiefs, stomping Morlocks dressed in rags, and a floating cherub choir with beehive-haircuts, triumphantly and ecstatically prances out of one tunnel. If you can imagine how that looks, that is how this track sounds: a wonderful, multicultural, swooping and looping mixture of various underground samples and sounds over a well-paced, seductive beat. Lovely stuff.

‘Lie to me Darling’ by Kings and Aces

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ has always been a favourite show of mine, and one episode that stands out from the early seasons is, ‘Lie to Me’, in which a bunch of Gothic posers learn that vampires are less, “lonely wanderers”, and more vicious pricks. You may wonder why this review has wasted half its word-count on a topic mostly unrelated to the track or the band, but one of my failings is that lies do not easily trip off my tongue, darling. Instead, it is better to say as little as possible, especially of this dull, guitar-based indie-pap… oops.

‘Information is Beautiful’ by David McCandless

So, that’s what this book is. Miscellaneous facts and ideas, interconnected visually. A visual miscellaneum. A series of experiments in making information beautiful. See what you think.” From the author’s Introduction to ‘Information is Beautiful’.

Information is Beautiful book cover

Click Here to Order the Book

Come the end of each calendar year, as religious types prepare festivals in celebration of the birth of a child actually born around April, and the press dust off stories about Muslims hating Christmas trees, and fat men are jolly as they know, with utter certainty, that they will get back in shape starting January 1st, your local book store also goes through a time-honoured tradition by stocking a number of tomes that review the events of the previous year, or express them in dull statistical lists.

The most recently famous of these, because of its proximity to Waterstones till (and yes, Waterstones should have an apostrophe traditionally, but they changed the name at the start of this year, which makes a kind of sense – it could refer to “Waterstone’s shop” and be a possessive, but now there is more than a single branch it makes a kind of sense to use the plural) is ‘Schott’s Almanac’, a discount collection of information and statistics relevant to the year in which the book was produced. They often collect dry statistics from throughout the year, and present them in a list format for people to briefly glance at then leave on a shelf until their grandchildren pick them up decades later and marvel at the strange days when they still allowed Dutch people into the country and let one of them play, and score, for Arsenal.

However, the great problem with most books that collect lists and graphs of statistics is that they are dull. Ask any pupil asked to create one for their subject in school, and they will agree. Informative they may be, but the information is presented in such a way as to make it inaccessible to anyone born after the coming of MTV supposedly ruined our attention spans.

‘Schott’s Almanac’ was an interesting curiosity, an archaic product released into a market-place already rampaging far off into the distance, which could provide far greater statistical information at a greater pace. It was already more up-to-date, too.

It was called the Interwebs. The Information Super-Motorway. Generation Y’s Google-Box.Hollywood Earnings represented graphically

It too shared Ben Schott’s vision: to supply some fascinating data in as boring and cluttered a way as possible. Most of us have been there, on a lazy afternoon, feet up on the sofa, netbook/laptop/iSomething on our laps, possibly overheating a bit and burning the hair, skin and denim from our thighs (note to self: get laptop fan fixed), when we come across a list of the top ten greatest LOLcat videos. Overjoyed, we click the link to find…

Ten videos.

On successive pages.

That.

Take.

For.

Ever.

To.

L

o

a

d.

Early in the last decade a comic book writer named Scott McCloud wrote an instructional manifesto on the future of comics called ‘Reinventing Comics’, and McCloud suggested that the Internet was a fantastic tool because it gave a new generation of writers and artists the opportunity to express themselves in ways that they couldn’t previously due to the limitations of illustrating on the page. This idea excited me, because it meant that virtually any idea that could be imagined appearing on the screen could potentially be used to tell that story. Mainstream comics, that had wanted to be films for so long, could appear as large 4:3 ratio images, one panel per page. Independent titles could go more experimental routes. Then there was the notion of sequential artwork itself possibly being subverted by a much more interactive medium, perhaps in the style of a choose-your-own-adventure narrative.

Instead, showing the staggeringly unimaginative obsession with the status quo that has been the hallmark of the age of innovation we are presently living in, comics eventually came to our computers looking exactly like they had always done, and ignoring the limitless possibilities of a new medium in favour of dull standardisation.

But whilst comic books have floundered and failed, in much the same way as mainstream producers and distributors of cinema, television, music and literature, the basic delivery of information in the form of an almanac, for an age of extremely up-to-date information, has seen at least one great revolutionary: David McCandless. His fascinating book looks at subjects that interest him, and, as a consequence could be seen as almost being an autobiography in a time when people are defined more by the products they buy and media they consume than by who they are inside. However, the book also looks at what is inside David McCandless in more detail than perhaps any autobiography in history (considering that he reprints the entire map of his chromosome sequence from page 52).

The chromosome sequence looks like a multicoloured swarm of bugs, gathering on a badly tuned television screen, but it includes labels pointing out important facts, such as indicators for the likelihood of prostate cancer, lactose intolerance, and sensitivity to pleasure. Most importantly, it is colourful, interesting, and fascinating. In other words, everything a list of 2 million letter combinations would not be.

These infographics are a stunning way to render information, and whilst McCandless may fall back on so old standards, such as graphs and pie-charts, they are presented in such a way as to make the discovery and understanding of the information as fascinating as what it means. Graphs can represent multiple things at once, such as films for a certain year by box-office takings, whether they were a financial success or failure based on their original budget, and the level of critical acclaim but together in one graph that can be understood easily at a glance.

Other infographics look at diverse topics such as the most deadly facial hair on the planet, based on the amount of death caused by the famous people wearing it at the time (such as Genghis Khan) presented as a graph which handily features the facial hair; or the colour-coded list of hangover-cures and their ingredients by country, represented as the amounts within the cups that appear on the page, with cocktails on the other page to help get you into a state where you might need one; similarly, there is a double-page on calorie intake, and how to burn them off with simple graphics showing the food, a description and the number, whilst exercises and daily activities gets the same attention, with stark white-on-black silhouettes, description and numbers underneath (hopscotch burns off 185 calories, a visit to the toilet 44); there is a map of popular Internet search terms by country, colourful Venn-diagrams on the lack of rape convictions in England and Wales, and a lovely graph entitled, “What’s Better Than Sex?” based around Google Insights search results (the answer? Since 2007: youtube.com).

The book is a fascinating mixture of things you might want to know, things you didn’t know you wanted to know, things that look pretty that you don’t care about except when you are looking at the fascinating presentation, an insight into one man’s interests, and two ironic pages of text on postmodernism. It is a brilliant and imaginative way of taking interesting facts and turning them into something clever and pretty. The hope is that one day, McCandless’s efforts will inspire a new generation to present many of their own work in a similar fashion. The worry is that we have been here before, as Scott McCloud may testify, and it is so much easier to just go with the industry, social, or cultural standard.

But it is so much more enriching when the information really is beautiful.

For more information, click here for the official website

Why I Don’t Do Reviews (Warning: Contains Reviews)

It was bound to happen just days after I post my only review, in which I clearly state I don’t normally do reviews, that I get sent a number of CDs to pass my judgement upon. Although not a dedicated music site, many releases have landed on the desks of The Camel’s Hump*, and, for one reason or another, we feel inclined to write about them.

I never feel so inclined. Without wanting to discourage or dismiss the efforts of reviewers, to be frank I find them a little too easy. They’re a bit of an excuse to avoid actual writing and, when uninspired, they’re little more than filler material.

They can also become the causes of very ugly arguments. Someone, somewhere, will be offended by your opinions, even if you’ve been relatively nice, and take it upon themselves to dissent in the strongest terms. Reviews are potential cans of worms, and I prefer to steer well clear.

That said, the selection I’ve received have made my job easier. They’re neat little four or five track EPs, and neater still all pretty good.

Hello Bamboo – Garçon

You’d be forgiven for believing the four slabs of hairy, testosterone pumped man meat that grace the cover of Garçon were the members of Hello Bamboo. Their riffs are beefy enough and their sound sweats manly juices. As it happens, these prime examples of the male beast are their fathers, and families are clearly a subject of concern to the band. As are the subjects of life after death, David Gest and cheap clothing retailer Matalan, if this collection of recordings is anything to go by.

It seems the only way to legitimize more traditional heavy guitar music in the post-rock era is to play with a sense of irony. Although by no means a novelty act, they do not take themselves too seriously, which only adds to their charm. For example, on The Cycle of Domestic Abuse, probably the best track, they juxtapose dark imagery of an abusive patriarch (“Daddy, why did you fuck Mummy up?”) with a ridiculously over the top, old fashioned guitar solo, and make it work surprisingly well.

Fighting – Thriller II

Calling your band Fighting and your first release Thriller II (presumably to be followed by Led Zeppelin IV-A) suggests its creators are either geniuses or idiots. Or both. Whilst not in itself punk in its stylings, it follows punk sensibilities – keep it fast and grimy and no one will notice or care if you’re rough around the edges. Their sound is reminiscent of the sadly defunct Test Icicles and the emerging Pulled Apart By Horses, but with less art college pretentiousness, and a distinctly northern no-nonsense edge.

The duo take turns on vocal duties, although I can discern little meaning from the indirect lyrics, except that on the opening, and best, track Keelie Needs Practice, someone called Keelie needs to practice. Their main raison d’etre appears to be the acquisition of girls, booze and their due amount of fun. Although let down by the song Guest Appearance Bruce Springsteen, they deserve respect too on the strength of this promising recording.

Stephen James Buckley – Patchwork Guilt

I can’t listen to these four tracks, probably the best selection from those on offer in this article, without thinking of Beck, which, for me, is a huge compliment. Although bearing little vocal similarity, the sound, achieved with a mixture of samples and live instruments, combined with the whole being a solo effort, is reminiscent of the artist, whom I consider one of the most inventive and distinctive recording artists of the past twenty years. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was also a pint or two of the Eels influence pumping through this CD’s veins.

A trawl though the bandcamp back catalogue of Stephen James Buckley reveals a series of short studies that sincerely chronicle a life by the instalment plan. Previously more of a troubadour, his heart worn on the strings of his acoustic guitar, this is an evolution in his sound – a maturing – although he still sings with emotion, irony and wit, such as on She Drove Me Like She Stole Me, one of the highlights here.

*Not physically, of course, as we are a loose collection of writers, with our respective desks scattered all over the world. Some of us don’t even have desks, just laps.

Nice Concept, Shame About the Coffee.

I’m a sucker for subscriptions.  I love anything where you pay so much a month and you get something through the post – especially if it is something that will introduce new things to me, like Graze or the organic veg boxes I sometimes get from Riverford.  It’s like getting a little present through the post, and takes away some of the bewildering choice in life without taking away the adventure.  Yes, I am so sad that getting some nuts in the post is an adventure.

So, when I got the chance to try Kopi, I was pretty excited.Kopi Coffee Delivery review

Kopi is a subscription scheme for gourmet coffee.  So, you pay your £9 a month (or less if you pay for a few months at once), and you get a little package of posh coffee.  Brilliant.  With each 250g packet, you get a little leaflet all about the coffee – origins, tasting notes and so on, and it all fits through your letter box.  We even got a couple of those tiny biscuits that you get in coffee shops.

We drink a lot of coffee in our house.  We have two little children, at least one of which will be in our bed by the morning, we study and work and we have an unfortunate habit of staying up late watching reruns of 321.  We sometimes treat ourselves to a bag of coffee from Pumphrey’s in the Grainger Market, Newcastle, but mostly we drink normal co-op ground coffee, and our coffee machine is set to percolate just before we wake up every morning.  My mum even keeps a cafetiere at her house for when we visit.  We like our coffee.

I got Mexico Terruno Nayarita Reserva, which was apparently light, yet creamy, with a hint of spice and orange.  Sounded lovely, and I would love to say it was, I really would.  I can forgive a lot from a subscription scheme (wasabi peas from Graze, anyone?) but I just couldn’t see how this coffee could be worth £9 for 250g.

We made our first pot in the machine and it came out quite strong, so I tried again in the cafetiere, measuring the coffee carefully.  That was slightly better, and if I concentrated I could just about make out the taste of Christmassy spice, but not very well.

I take milk in my coffee, so I asked my husband about his.  He told me he couldn’t tell any difference, then moaned about it being too weak.

Now, it could just be that we ended up with a blend that didn’t suit us, and maybe next time it would. On the strength of this pack, I wouldn’t be keen to fork out more than an hour’s wage for the next box.

Maybe we’re just not sophisticated enough.

Lana Del Rey ‘Born to Die’ – Review

Lana Del Rey - Born to Die (2012) Album cover art imageWhen an apex recording artist departs, there is a panic as to what can possibly fill the void, as if the whole music industry didn’t get along fine before they existed and now flaps around like a partially severed and useless limb. Since Amy Winehouse popped her precariously-heeled clogs, one artist it has been suggested could fill her skyscraper beehive is American singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do reviews, save in exceptional circumstances. I feel justified in sharing my judgement on Lana Del Rey’s second album, Born to Die, as I am following up a previous post. In A Pair of Lips With a Woman Attached, I discussed her emergence and the subsequent suspicion aroused as to her bona fides. There were elements who were quick to label her a ‘manufactured artist,’ after questioning her credentials, based on a previous attempt to launch her career under her own name, Lizzie Grant. I’ll not repeat the argument, but I’ll go so far as to point out the whole music industry is a contrived construct, designed to make money. Think of the Pepsi Challenge. Coke is still Coke whether it’s served in a can or a plastic cup. The packaging is just a means of making it easier for you to spend your dollar. The only pure music is that which resides within you – the music of your soul. There are the occasional geniuses that seem to reach within and pluck your heartstrings, but mostly they’re just jobbing artists and all that should concern us is are they any good?

If I have a criticism of the album, it’s that it’s slightly formulaic. With the first single, the internet sensation Video Games, they struck viral gold, but I get the impression they then laid the template on a Xerox and pressed copy fourteen times. After a few tracks it’s clear it’s like a couple who, in middle age, discover something wonderful, like chicken tikka masala or the missionary position, and then proceed to have it every night for the rest of their lives. Variety, not extra curry powder, is the spice of life. The most telling track is Lolita, which is a reworking of a track from her withdrawn, self-titled debut album. In its original form, it’s a Duffy-esque up-tempo piece, with jangly guitars and organs that betray its 1960s influence, but here it’s adjusted into a style in keeping with the rest of the album and yet ill fits it, like a badly tailored suit.

Lana has one trick. It’s an old trick but a good one, based on the principle that sex sells. Her crooning alternates between high, sugary sweet and innocent, and low, sultry and enticing. It conjures both images of pigtails and lollipops, contrasted against those of a temptress. Musically, it’s a polished mash of orchestration over digital drums and bass, with the odd piano tinkle or sample thrown in, but that’s as far as the variety goes. With garage guitar bands like The Black Lips and The Vaccines enjoying a zenith, would it be too much to ask to expanded her 60s pop stylings to truly reflect the music of the era? Her first album covered more ground and, although not as professional, was as a result more interesting. Here, any anomalies have been jettisoned in favour of a sound more befitting her ‘gansta Nancy Sinatra’ persona.

There is a degree to which she is a contrivance of the industry. If there is a real Lana Del Rey, disguised behind the pout and perfectly coiffured barnet, it’s not to be found on this album, but, as consumers, we have no right to expect otherwise. What it is instead is a well crafted modern blend of hip hop and 60’s soul, moody and at times haunting, if a little lacking in diversity.

New Blues Anyone? Review of Stephen Dale Petit – The BBC Sessions

Stephen Dale Petit - The BBC SessionsThis week I received a treasure through the post – the Stephen Dale Petit (“SDP”) CD titled “The BBC Sessions.” As I do with any new album, I saved the first listen for the car. When I listen to music in my car it is at the forefront of my attention (just after driving safely – of course) while at home it tends to fall to the background. I loved the CD and I was soon singing and tapping along (and so were my kids!).

SDP is an American-born blues singer/songwriter/guitarist and this album is in the modern blues style. Despite his California roots, he is a pioneer and champion of the New Blues Revolution in the UK, where he has resided since the mid-80’s. SDP has performed with many of the blues greats, including B.B. King and Eric Clapton and he also famously busked in the London Underground.

The album “The BBC Sessions” comprises 11 musical tracks arranged in a sampling of 3 different BBC sessions from 2007 and 2009. There is a 12th track on the album consisting of a lengthy (nearly 16 minute) interview with SDP by Bob Harris. This interview outlines the musical life story of SDP and the history of the New Blues Revolution and was surprisingly interesting and informative.

My favorite session showcased on the album is the first and the oldest – the 2007 session. It starts with a breezy performance of “Steppin’ Out”, which is an amazing instrumental blues guitar showcase. My absolute favorite track of the 2007 session is Petit’s own “7 Cent Cotton” – an angry song with a rock feel….because who doesn’t love an angry song with a rock feel?

The middle session is from 2009 with special guest Mick Taylor, a former Rolling Stone. This session opens with the traditional “Goin’ Away Baby”. While I love the tune, I find some of the lyrics a bit unbelievable from SDP. The session continues with the slow, lengthy, rendition of “Love in Vain” that flaunts the guitar skills of SDP and Mick Taylor. This session ends with an extremely long (more than 9 minutes long!) version of “A Better Answer”. I found this track to be self-indulgent – the type of track where the musicians get lost exploring artistic possibilities and the listeners get bored. I much prefer the acoustic version of this song at the end of the album.

The last session showcases 3 original SDP songs. The tuneful “My Friend Bob” is a poetic story-telling song with a Bob Dylan feel and a blues-y harmonica solo. I did not, however, love the track “It’s All Good” with it’s initial growly vocals and hasty buildup to a chorus that is vaguely reminiscent of the Rolling Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. The music portion of the album ends with an acoustic version of “A Better Answer”, which is a big hit in our household with it’s fun tempo changes and raw vocals.

All in all this was an enjoyable CD and I will definitely add it to my regular rotation. My only complaint about the album addresses more structure than content. There are short interviews with SDP interspersed between some of the songs. I find that this breaks the flow of the music; I would prefer that the interview material be saved for the beginning or the end of the album. There is a long interview at the end of the album; the other interview “snippets” are not necessary.

Quick Reviews: Goldfishes Attracting Attention…

As part of a new series, one of our writers will take a turn at reviewing a selection of single tracks in under 100 words each.  If you would like us to have a listen to your music, email one MP3, an image and a link to your website to music@camelshump.co.uk, with “quick reviews” in the subject line.

This week, Kris Ball takes a look at three singles from three very different artists…

Ill-iteracy (ft Kimbro) – Tick Tock 

“Clinton’s still rocking the throne, playing the sax while Monica’s been giving him dome”… is he? Anyway. This repetitive hip hop tune has its moments of “this isnt’ too bad actually”, and it’s definitely a song you can relax whilst listening to, as long as you don’t try and think about its lyrical content too much.

Djanan Turan – GoldfishDjanan Turan Artigo EP

If The Tiger Lillies were to duet with Kate Bush, it would not sound too dissimilar from this song. Unconventional to modern music, with its ¾ time signature and unusual instrumentation, with what sounds like a singing saw, make this song interesting and exciting to listen to. The best thing about this songs otherworldliness, is that without having ever been there, it evokes the feeling of being at a freak show at Coney Island, New York, and not many songs have that ability.

 Patrick Plunkett – Attracting Attention 

The opening bars seem to echo “Easy” by The Commodores, and the song never really seems to pick up from that point. If you sit back and close your eyes whilst listening to this, you could imagine yourself in an expensive, dimly lit jazz club, full of gap yah students discussing their half baked political thoughts. It’s that sort of music. On the positive side, it’s good background music for dullards to put on when they have a dinner party to show off some tagine recipes they picked up on their backpacking trip around the middle east. And he has a nice voice.

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