Monthly Archives: July 2013

Songs from the Peug

Since the demise of my faithful motor 18 months ago, one thing I’ve started doing way less is listening to whole albums. Public transport headphone listening somehow seems to discourage putting on a whole record and going start to finish – and the rise of iTunes/Spotify seems to be drawing down the curtain on the album as an artistic unit, refocussing everything on the individual song.

In a car, though – at least, that is to say, in an old car, a shit car – you can’t change records whilst driving. Full-length listens are part of the motorist’s menu. I’ve been thinking about the car with renewed emotion recently, possibly because it’s finally summer here (the joy of the first sunroof-open of the season, enhanced by the mild fear that it’ll never shut again because of the shonky electrics) and possibly because of the display of self-seeding poppies that have grown up through the gravel in the spot where I used to park it.


And then I caught myself listening to some full-length albums on public transport, re-approaching songs I hadn’t heard for years and reminding myself of the vibe of the Peug, the joys of a long-listen, and the quality of some specific artists and records. Here’s a small selection:

Swordfishtrombones – Tom Waits


There was a period when I was driving between Birmingham and Oxford quite a lot, and I’d always put this on – each track therefore reminds me of a certain section of the route. But aside from these sentimental connections its a glorious record, Waits’ first major rejection of the piano-balladeer he was starting to become, his debut with Asylum. It seethes an ambiance which makes it more than the sum of its very considerable parts (parts which include ‘Just Another Sucker On The Vine’, ‘Soldier’s Things’, and, of course, ‘Johnsburg, Illinois’). Books have been written about this album. It’s really good.

Two Shoes – The Cat Empire


This is an obvious choice because it contains ‘The Car Song’, soundtrack to the special bond I formed with the Peug shortly after it saved my life for the first time. But it was a Peug record long before this – the Swindler and I were listening to ‘The Lost Song’ whilst cruising the nighttime roads of the Southwest as early as 2006, and the combination of joy and righteousness still make it a solid listen from ¬†beginning to end. Nearly every song is exceptional, but I especially look forward to ‘In My Pocket’ these days, and ‘Two Shoes’ itself is fierce, and happy, and moving. Don’t hesitate to get this, especially since it’s summer.

The Car Talk Podcast – NPR


Not an album, but definitely a long listen, this podcast is a radio call in show hosted by two exuberant mechanics. I developed a superstition that it should only be listened to in the car, and now I associate the hearty laughter of the hosts and the banjo fiddling intro tune with numerous memories of happy times on the road. The show is about cars in much the same way that a restaurant is about crockery – what you listened for was the human stories behind every call, the sense of the vasty continent of North America in all its variousness tuning in, phoning in, sharing problems and solutions. The show, which is a real NPR establishment, has been discontinued since the Peug days, but back episodes remain available and extraordinarily listenable.

FaceOmeter vs the Metropolis

(An excerpt from a strange manuscript, apparently for some kind of theatrical production, found during building work at Paddington)

[Flourish, within.
LONDON: In order to even leave my expensive, expansive sprawl, you must allow hours to get to the station. You must run through nameless corridors, be bashed against by nameless people, and miss your train by twenty-two seconds anyway. Sweaty and hungry and thirsty and carrying All Things, you must then pay peak rate for an entirely new ticket.
TATTERSDILL: You are the worst of cities, and only an arch moron would contemplate taking up residence with you. Noting myself amongst the arches, then, I pay your exit tithe gladly, and so depart. [Exit, stage West.

Of Flamingos and the Double Bass

After playing ping pong in a basement in Deal, Kent, the Dapper Swindler and I hopped onto a Javelin and sped back into the vertical concrete wilderness of Stratford International Station. We strolled the deserted Olympic legacy, caught a DLR to avoid the Westgate Shopping Temple, and ended up back in Palais du Crackque, a building whose obituary I wrote last October but which seems to still be ticking away.

2013-07-08 10.00.16We spent a few days amusing ourselves with work and cooking, also taking time out to play a show in the delicious surroundings of the Woodburner at Dalston Junction Station (last three words to be sung to the tune of ‘Californication’). Finally, it was time for me to pack the world’s most gratuitous bus picnic as we embarked for Alice Day, courtesy of front row seats on the glorious Oxford Tube. There were foam bananas.

Alice Day was fantastic – it always is, but this year the weather made it particularly special. It also made it hot. The Swindler’s Hatter costume comes in several dense layers, including long johns, whilst this year I debuted my Maflingo costume, which includes a large pink bustle stuffed with an entire issue of the Saturday Guardian¬†and two rolls of wadded up toilet paper. We made so many children cry.

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It was a relief to slip these costumes off for the Swindler’s special Rooftop Caprese at lunchtime, and to stand atop Oxford with a renewed feeling of warmth and ownership. But the greatest relief of all came later, when, after a gruelling hike to Port Meadow carrying All Things, we joined some happy friends for a river swim/barbecue. Hot air balloons floated lightly overhead, and geese kept entering and exiting the river in enormous numbers.

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After twilight fell, we were kindly given a lift back to the residence of top-hole sound lecturer Dean “All I Want Out Of Life Is Blood Sugar But You Keep Doing Take After Take Instead Of Letting Me Have Any” McCarthy. The Swindler basked in the awe of the Xbox Kinect, whilst I tormented a cat with a thing on the end of a string, as is my wont. Liz “Stop Doing That To My Husband” McCarthy being fortunately absent, we had decided to reopen the Vibe, Drill, and “It” files at SAE the next day.

2013-07-07 13.20.41After I got up early for a preliminary inspection of the writer’s retreat venue in which I’ll be ensconced for the rest of July (starting Wednesday!), the Swindler and I spent a long time sitting respectfully behind Dean, watching him breathe new life into our two-year-old recordings. I redid some vocals and ate a few crisps, then we sat in the sun waiting for our session bassist to arrive. Colin (for ’twas his name) brought a fantastic vitality into the studio, and worked with the Swindler to produce a fabulous new bassline which really brings the tune into itself.

2013-07-07 15.23.08It was great to hear those old sessions from 2011 take on a new life, and perhaps this will spur us on to completing the record at last! We hurled ourselves back onto the Oxford Tube and blasted our way over to a friend’s birthday gathering on the Hackney Marshes, capped off with a very strange scrambled egg curry in the small hours of Monday morning. From there to right now, via the obvious route of a lecture on Agatha Christie’s friends, a coffee meeting about Dinosaurs, a thawed-out freezer, Mickey Baker’s jazz lessons, the Kray twins, and a demo tape of me beatboxing, surely requires no further explanation.

Dogs on the Front

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The sun’s beaming right down right now
On to the beach where we once spread our things
And though they’re long packed up and grown indistinct,
The breakers continue to crash anyhow.

We can’t see the tight fishing lines –
Can’t gaze at the seagulls who’re raiding the chips
But although the salt taste has dropped from our lips
We know that the sun still continues to shine

On the cracked promenade and the ’50s wind shelter
With close-crooked houses behind,
In which to have a sit
Which might be the best

Bit of the set that we’d seen,
The scene that’s still set by the legs of the pier,
To which the barnacles proudly adhere
Not caring that we’re away staring at screens.

The hounds, who aren’t strictly allowed,
Continue to dance on the edge of the shore
And though we can’t see the exact shapes no more
We know that they’re tearing it up thereabouts.

On the 2p arcade and the old ice cream parlour
The sunlight continues to fall.
And though we’re now elsewhere,
Each paint-fleck is still

There, getting warmed by the rays
Which pour down on shorts and adventures and tea,
We’re no Famous Five, but we might have been Three
(somewhat less famously) for the time that we stayed…

It’s all going on, just a train ride away
In the autumn and winter and night-time and day
Even now,
Any old how,
The hounds, they aren’t strictly allowed.