Monthly Archives: December 2008

Another Year Remembered

Much in the style of last year, I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to 2008. It wasn’t 2007, let’s be honest with each other, but it had its moments, and I will now discuss a few of them.

I’ve moved cities again. Discovered The Wire. Discovered Lisbon. Lost two great venues. Listened to a claxon on the summit of the Empire State Building, illuminated midnight New York stretching out below. Read in a tree. Opened an envelope too quickly, thought about it too slowly. Got an e-mail. Got a text. Walked an enormous number of streets. Saw some awful films. Failed to go in an inflatible Quasar. Got charged fifteen quid for a bowl of cereal. Been gangsta in front of Five Ways Tower. Played in a toilet. Snuck into a lecture. Read some adverts. Thrown a stick for a dog in salt marshes on a perfect day. Half-watched the first fifteen minutes of The Lion King. Fully watched every minute of The Devil’s Backbone (in arctic conditions) and Lord of the Rings (in sickening conditions). Invented a duck and a detective. Saved the Peug’s life, chilled with cheese, seen a train turning, learned about life, and love, and forgot most of it. Got given a thermos.

I’m disappointed because I feel like all the big opportunities of the year were ones I failed to capitalise upon, and whilst most of them went of pretty well the thing could have been a lot better if I’d approached it with more vim, which I suppose is something to learn from.

But really, there’s not much point really in doing the 2008 < 2007 sad. They really are just groups of days, as the swindler has been reminding me whenever I say "A year ago I was doing this..." in a forlorn voice. Still, I think it's good to have anniversaries and times to remember things, like this one, if only because it steels my determination to try and make more out of the arbitrary group which lies ahead. I can already picture myself doing this next year, remembering this moment, so long ago and yet so recent, reading these words, reacting to them I’m not sure how yet. Time is very weird, but obviously we have no choice but to go along with it. On which note… Happy New Year.
Not necessarily the best things of this year, but the things that are most “this year” about this year-

‘Watchmen’ Moore/Gibbons
‘The Floating Admiral’ Detective Club
‘Bleak House’ Dickens
‘Picadilly Jim’ Wodehouse
‘The Master and Margarita’ Bulgakov

‘Swordfishtrombone’ Tom Waits
‘Feel Good Ghosts’ Cloud Cult
‘Super Taranta’ Gogol Bordello
‘Hold On Now, Youngster’ Los Campesinos!
‘The Good, The Bad and The Queen’ The Good, The Bad and The Queen

‘Skinny Love’ Bon Iver
‘Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side’ The Magnetic Fields
‘The Swimming Song’ Loudon Wainwright III
‘Not a Thug’ Plastic Little
‘I Can’t Bring the Time Back’ Misty’s Big Adventure

Mass Effect
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
The World Ends With You
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3

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Epicked Out

Well, yesterday was Lord of the Rings day – you guessed it, all three films (extended editions) on a cinema projector screen, back to back. No pausing, no real meals (just piles of crisps) and NO SURVIVORS!

Well, I say that, but actually, everyone survived. Admittedly some people left early (PARKES! who when challenged replied “It’s cos I have a girlfriend, which none of you do”, which is a fair cop I suppose) but not only did all present make it through this Everest of movie marathons, but we actually had a really good time – something I genuinely wasn’t expecting.

That’s right, kids, despite a somewhat nauseous feeling in my brain and stomach, by the time the Rohan dudes turned up at the siege of Minas Tirith I was on the edge of my seat, and I had tringly flesh in various other key areas, too. Obviously, there remain swathes of painful, pointless material and vast tracts of unintentional hilariousness- but that’s because you’re on the rollercoaster. Visiting a range of key emotional areas over the twelve hour duration, and leaving you that little bit better inside. And a physical wreck.

Two important lessons were gleaned:
1) Frodo says “Sam!” or “Oh, Sam!” nine times during the trilogy.
2) Return of the King isn’t actually worse than the other two, it’s just that you HAVE to watch it with the other two in order to see that

Props to all those who came along, and this seems like an opportunity for me to unveil our next bout of hardcore slovenliness: we’ll be watching every episode of Dr. Who in which Tom Baker appears, back to back, on the summit of Mt Baker. See you there.

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A N Update

Well everyone, it’s been a little busy with life-things for FaceOmeter to make a scandalously huge appearance the last few weeks, but let me use the first of a slew of upcoming posts to explain what I’ve been gadding at:

Last week I was up in York for a very lovely night seeing the Mountain Parade and the Middle ones and also filming some great ABBA confusion footage which you may or may not ever see. Regardless of that, fun times were had by all, most especially in the National Rail Museum.

I’ve spent much of the time since my return from there mainlining episodes of The Wire, which I might blog about properly at some point but I’ll just add my voice to the choir and say it’s almost certainly the best TV show I’ve ever seen. Then it was down to the central south coast (uarnghgk) on family business for the Christmas period. The weather came through for us and I got a remote controlled UFO which really flies, as well as a copy of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which I’m enjoying a vast amount. Its creator, Alan Moore, thinks that the Wire is almost certainly the best TV show he’s ever seen.

And that’s my news. I hope you all had good christmases and are looking forward to some FaceOmeter treats as New Year hoves into view. Also if anyone has any idea what I should do with my life I’d appreciate suggestions.

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The Jones faces a difficult decision

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The fruit has fallen from the tree

It’s the first ever FaceOmeter music video, everybody!

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Oh this train I ride on is a hundred coaches long

So it’s another ambiguously red-letter day in the World of FaceOmeter: I see from obsessively-compulsively checking my stats that we’ve jumped over 10,000 plays on the myspace page.

It’s a big milestone, and a reasonably significant achievement for a solo ginger singer-songwriter from Birmingham, right? Er, wrong. Myspace is a woefully designed website and I trust the stats tracking about as far as I trust myself to not take those stats as a cue for a slough of introspection. Speaking of which-

Firstly, full disclosure. Myspace has no way to exempt oneself from one’s stats, and I’m frequently on my own page to make sure it’s working and to follow links to my friends’ profiles and so on. Plus, I have the page set to autoplay whenever someone taps into it, which means that a lot of those “plays” will be the first few seconds of a song overheard by someone who doesn’t care and navigates away almost instantly. And 10,000 plays is not only a fairly arbitrary milestone but also a fairly diminutive achievement given that I’ve been on myspace for three years this Wednesday (nice little coincidence there). It’s 9 plays a day, at a rough estimate, which by the time you’ve filtered out me and the bumph hopefully means two or three interested parties a day are listening to a couple of songs each. Mountain Parade have almost hit 10,000 after 10 months online; MC Lars gets about 400 plays a day.

Does any of this mean anything? Of course not. I’ve seen my numbers go down as well as up in the past, so there’s absolutely no reason not to think that my real figures are significantly higher than these. I get a fairly low myspace turnover for three other main reasons, I estimate: firstly, there’s only one of me and I’m terminally misanthropic, so my immediate network of potentially-interested friends is much smaller than that of a five-piece band. Secondly, I don’t change up the tracks availiable online often enough to encourage repeat visits. Thirdly, FaceOmeter has always been better live and I’ve yet to do a record which sounds good enough that you’d be interested if you hadn’t already been to a gig.

I’ve got more excuses, trust me, and they all ignore the wider point, which is that despite becoming something of an industry yardstick for how good you are, the number of people passing by your website is much less important than the number of people who are enjoying your music. Enough people have been nice about me in person that myspace stats aren’t going to psych me out too much, though it’s obviously a little wearing to spend a week sorting out a track and watch its play count inch into the thirties over the following months.

The Dapper Swindler would, I’m sure, be quick to advance the argument that internet play count doesn’t matter at all as long as we’re continuing to produce tunes we’re proud of and making them available for others to hear. And he’s almost right, but the baser part of my artistic being still finds it extremely difficult to look at the profiles of really insidiously average bands and see them raping me on a daily basis in what it’s all too easy to start thinking of as ‘the charts’. Perhaps that’s why it’s bad that myspace keeps track of things at all – it’s supposedly a networking tool, a community, a way for muscians to bond with each other, meet their soulmates and opposites. The stats turn the whole process into a competition if you don’t approach them in the right way, and if you’ve just come back from a terrible gig then approaching them in the right way can sometimes be difficult.

But all this rumination provokes a deeper question, which is this: if all this is just one of myspace’s many facets of shittyness, what’s the point of it all? Should I leave Murdoch in my dust as I recently left Zuckerberg?

It breaks constantly, it encourages casual attention to recordings, it deemphasises music, the interface is frustrating, it makes bottom-rung music a tournament instead of a hobby – but the fact is, and I don’t admit this without a certain amount of reluctance, myspace works. These days probably about 75% of the gigs I play get offered to me via or are in some way facilitated through the medium of myspace. Myspace addresses are easier to give to casually interested people than websites, and people feel ‘safer’ going to them because of the comforting standardisation (I don’t have figures for, but I’m certain the myspace gets more visitors). I’ve met or re-met some really good musical allies through it, it’s a cheap way of flinging demos at people or introducing oneself, most people understand how it works, and I can disregard criticisms of my online shortcomings on the grounds that “it’s myspace’s fault”. In many respects, it’s perfect.

So FaceOmeter isn’t an internet sensation – it isn’t any kind of sensation, and never will be – but that doesn’t mean the internet can’t be a useful tool. To celebrate the upcoming birthday and the probably-fictitious play count barrier, I’ve put a few new photos up, changed the songs you can get at on it, and published a new interview with some shocking revelations about upcoming releases. To my daily two visitors, I say: thanks for your interest, and please enjoy.

(PS. After just one year on YouTube I’m looking at 5,000 plays, which is a more reliable stat that doesn’t include my own plays and leads to the inevitable conclusion that FaceOmeter videos are about 66% more popular than FaceOmeter songs…)

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Tommy the Cat is my name

So there I was in a field in warwickshire, grasping the peug’s latest acquisition (a thermos generously donated by the superb Lucie from Mountain Parade) and looking between the raindrops on the windscreen out into the darkness. It was a lightning stop, a service station without services, and the lights from the motorway were still visible in the distance. Pretty soon, I thought, I’ll put the keys back in the ignition and trundle the peug onto that road and be back in Birmingham blogging- but right now, right now there’s just me and the tea and the zone. And, admittedly, the man who’d stopped next to me for a piss. But we’ll glide past him.

I’ve never been excellent at “but right now…”. I support the concept wholeheartedly but I can never quite seem to grasp it with both hands – perhaps because my memory is so bad, perhaps because moments seem to slip by even quicker when you’re trying to cut them out and keep them forever. But against the enormous angst of Time Passing, which I’m sure I’ll explore properly in song for you one day*, I was at least able to feel relief in the knowledge that today I’d added appreciably to my little collection of memory-polaroids. I suppose if I’d thought about it I might have said that if you have an inability to live for the moment, you may as well live for an extremely large number of moments, coming at you constantly. But I didn’t think about it, not yet. Instead, I sat in the field for a few minutes, remembering the following things for the first, but not the last, time:

  • Peering out of the window of a former mental asylum to see a hooded man watching the premesis
  • Getting overexcited about Calvin and Hobbes (again) in a classy, empty, arguably blue breakfast caf

Custardy Goodness

It’s been just over four months since the last fOld, and I know you’ve been getting hungry. Fear not! I have just the thing for you:

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Word to the people

With the ABBA Confusion entering its third and most mysterious phase, it’s time to look to FaceOmeter once more. As you all know, I just got back from an extensive trip to New York:

…which has left me behind on some key things. Most notably two fOlds, at least two episodes of fOwl, a decent synopsis of IDIET here on the blog, a music video and an album. All of these things are on my to-do list, but I also need to sort out what’s going on with the portion of my life that is likely to keep me warm and fed, so there might be a little wait in store for you guys.

In the meantime, there are two live appearances on the books, both in Oxford. One is this Thursday, when the Hectic Eclectic will be making another of its trademark rendezvous missions with honourary member Ora Cogan at the Catweazle Open Mic. I’ve also confirmed an appearance at the Wheatsheaf next year on February 28th. So that’s something.

FaceOmeter is entering a new chapter. Come with me on this magical journey.

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Well, I’m back

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