Having moved house recently, I have had to find a new gym to frequent. It has been something of a shock to go from the spacious environs of Virgin Active to the slightly less salubrious quarters of the Fitness First situated under the gap between platforms 17 and 18 of Liverpool Street station. One receives similar looks from overburdened commuters of a morning disappearing down into this subterranean netherworld as those seeking out the intra-mural platform for the Hogwarts express.

One of the compensatory features of my new venue is that lots of the exercise machines have their own TV screens. I was very impressed with this at first, as it allows you to control what you watch (since Midsomer Murders is never the most inspirational programming to be cycling along to), and allows people with rubbish eye sight like me to watch the TV without straining and looking like a puffed-out mole on a hamster wheel.

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The other day I was, nostalgically, if a little ill-advisedly, perusing the NME website, when a couple of reviews caught my eye.

Firstly the 1/10 review for Frankmusik’s album, with which I, as an early (only in very relative terms) champion of Mr Frank, took particular umbrage. I suppose he is something of an acquired taste, and did himself few favours with the choice of his 3rd single and what even I will admit is an annoying video starring Holly Valance, but I really don’t think he deserves 1 out of 10; the first 2 singles at least are ace. And frankly, (pun slightly intended), NME criticising anyone for being attention seeking can jog on. (more…)

Three wrinkly gig suggestions for the autumn:

Magazinehttp://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/music/productions/magazine-46563

Probably of those ‘more important than they were good’ bands, join former Buzzcocks front man Howard Devoto for a night of post-punk. Everyone from Morrissey to Radiohead has covered them – check out their flagship tune Shot by Both Sides.

Dinosaur Jrhttp://www.koko.uk.com/gigs.php?event=848

Back with the original line-up and a new record, Dinosaur Jr can’t really be classified as anything. Noisy yet melodic songs that don’t really go anywhere; heavy guitar solos, lots of feedback. And really really loud. Check out what they did to The Cure.

UK Subshttp://www.meanfiddler.com/?content=2

What’s not to love? An old school punk band fronted by a former R and B singer, and with tracks such as ‘Drunken Sailor’ and ‘666 Yeah’, the Subs have been going for 33 years and have gone through no less than 28 drummers. Also each of their albums starts with a different letter of the alphabet; they’ve got to V already so time is running out…

A colleague told me a while ago that he doesn’t listen to new music because to do so would be pointless when “it’s all been done before”.

This struck me as attention-seeking.

But Radio 1 was playing in the room at the time, as it does most of the time at my place of work, and over the next few hours my ear drums were treated to the following pieces of music (some of them twice):

 Pussycat Dolls – ‘Hush Hush; Hush Hush’

The Dolls’ execrable new record began life as a ballad on their slightly scarily-named album Doll Domination. But in order to prepare it for release as a single, it was decided that the track should contain a baffling interlude during which it turns into Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’. Nicole Scherzinger, taking time out from the Grand Prix circuit, sings a verse from the 1978 disco tune for no apparent reason, before returning to the original melody for one last excruciating hurrah. In the video she even dons a comedy afro last seen on one (or indeed other) of Harry Enfield’s Scousers.  (more…)

BandWagonesque

Why is it that, like the proverbial London buses, films seem to come in twos?

There are a whole series of films that came out within a matter of months or even weeks of each other which share oddly similar themes, for example: Dante’s Peak and Volcano [which, incidentally, is graced with the brilliant tag line “The Coast is Toast”]; Deep Impact and Armageddon; Antz and A Bug’s Life; Mission to Mars and Red Planet; The Illusionist and The Prestige; Tombstone and Wyatt Earp; and, one from the old school, Turner & Hooch and K9.

This has to be more than a co-incidence. Whether it is because there is a hot script going round all the studios which gets made by one studio and the others make a similar (but invariably worse) movie, not wanting to miss out, or because they get wind of a rival’s big project, I can’t believe that all these films with similar plots and/or premises just happen to come out in the same year.

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Hats off to Visage and Cranium for getting us started – it’s now DJP’s turn to enter the fray. Patroclus has no domain per se, he will write about what he knows and about what he likes, and sometimes a heady combination of the two. This inaugural post fits into the latter category – perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea – but then esotericism is a fundamental tenet of Radio Free Puma, so deal with it children.

The lyrics to NOFX’s ‘Kill Rock Stars’ are as follows:

‘Kill the rock stars’
How ironic, Kathleen
You’ve been crowned the newest queen
Kinda like the punk rock Gloria Steinem
You can’t change the world by hating men
Can’t change the world by blaming men
Alternative slash Republican

Just ‘cause I don’t know the reason you’re so pissed
Don’t dare tag me misogynist
I thought the goal here was mutual respect
Not constructing a separate sect
I wish I could have seen Courtney
Demonstrate some real misogyny
Can’t change the world by hating men

Ostensibly this is a decent stab at an anti-feminist punk song (and is by no means a NOFX classic) but its references merit further investigation and Patroclus hopes readers find the results vaguely informative:

•‘Kathleen’ is a reference to Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of Bikini Kill, raging feminist, and chief exponent of the so-called ‘Riot Grrrl’ movement of the early 90s, which can be crudely surmised as a load of uppity feminists trying to be punks. Readers should note that crude surmising is an activity Patroclus has a tendency to engage in.

Kill Rock Stars was the name of Kathleen Hanna’s record label and home to many of the Riot Grrrl groups.

Gloria Steinem was (and still is) a notorious feminist, most active in the 70s and famous for her Address to the Women of America – less famous for marrying Christian Bale’s Dad. As a youngster Kathleen Hanna went to see Steinem speak, and so the seed grows. Whether Fat Mike had realised this before penning the lyrics we don’t know, but let’s assume not because it makes him look that bit cooler.

Anyway, Hanna got her knickers in a twist (perhaps unsurprisingly) when Fat Mike dedicated the song ‘Liza and Louise’ to Bikini Kill whilst performing live in Hawaii. ‘Kill Rock Stars’ is his riposte to her criticism. The ‘I wish I could have seen Courtney…’ lyric relates to a long-running feud between Courtney Love and Kathleen Hanna which culminated in them having a scrap backstage at the Lollapalooza festival in 1995. Love was eventually charged with assault and had to go to anger management classes. The reason for the fracas, regardless of a snide comment or two, was essentially because Love saw Hanna as a threat; she had known Kurt Cobain since the late 80s in Seattle and her band mate Tobi Vail had dated him during the pre-Nevermind years.

In fact, Kathleen Hanna is responsible for the world’s greatest ever piece of graffiti (apart from this perhaps). She wrote ‘Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on the wall of his flat (teen spirit, as you may or may not be aware, was a cheapo deodorant brand at the time and worn by Vail). And, well, we all know where that went.

So there you have it – five minutes of your life wasted or an insightful glimpse into 90s subculture? You decide. Just remember ladies, you can’t change the world by hating men.

The top 5 Opening Tracks to Debut Albums

1. Rock and Roll Star Oasis

2. I Wanna Be AdoredThe Stone Roses

3. Turn the PageThe Streets

4. Round Here Counting Crows

5. Break on Through (To the Other Side) The Doors

So, it seems like beginnings would be an apposite topic to start with, and few beginnings have such an immediate impact as the Opening Track to a Debut Album (“OTDA”). It has always been an object of fascination to me how bands view the opening track of their debut album; this is after all the first thing that they will ever commit to tape and to posterity, and not only creates the first impression people have of a band but also sets the tone for the whole album, their first (and potentially only) stab at greatness.

There are a number of types of OTDAs, and they will vary between genres. A lot of Rap and/or Hip Hop albums start with skits, which is pretty much going to count them out of the running, irrespective of comedy guest appearances from the likes of McNulty from The Wire (who continues his journey from Eton to Detroit via West Baltimore).

Some are simply brilliant tracks (the likes of I Wanna be Adored by the Stone Roses comes to mind, which shares with Round Here by Counting Crows the courageous distinction of opening a debut album with a sustained period of silence and/or indistinct mechanical noises).

Others, such as Rock and Roll Star from Definitely Maybe by Oasis, are, as well as being great tunes in their own right, perfect distillations of the sound or tone of the rest of the album, doing at the beginning of a debut what A Certain Romance does at the end of the Artic Monkeys’ first outing. Rock and Roll Star is such a swaggering, aggressive, and ultimately, cool introduction to what Oasis are about that it arguably remains the best showcase for Liam Gallagher’s talents.

But you get the impression that Oasis simply hit the ground running and carried on in that vein, whereas some ODTAs set out to be spectacular curtain raisers. It may be a function of the sheer variety of the album, but Turn the Page, from the Streets’ debut album, doesn’t really feel that indicative of the rest of his work, although it is undeniably a massive tune. It’s as if, both lyrically and musically, he’s set out the make the most self-consciously epic track possible, and while some may feel it over-eggs the pudding slightly, those who share my musical sweet tooth (to blend the culinary metaphor slightly) won’t complain.

Which I suppose goes to show that there is more than one way to skin your first cat, but there is, I think, something special about having your first recorded work stand the test of time so well. Here’s hoping…