June edition: Things on the internet that are worth their URLs – 7/6/17

Some things you can look at on the internet other than this blog post: a list, by me. 

Why, hello there! I’ve been meaning to post something on here for so long, but then other things always crop up (Food shopping! Commuting! Clipping my toenails!) so it gets pushed down to the gutter of the to-do list.

Alas, while I’ve been knees deep in spreadsheets, sorting out my personal finance – when I should be packing a lifetime’s amount of hedonism into my newly entered 21st year – other people on the internet have been making some REALLY good shit, some of which I am honoured to share with you here.

There’s some serious stuff re: tomorrow’s impending election (duh duh duuuuhh), enthusiast audio #content in podcast form and a beautiful article about the process of making an album that’s going to be one of the greatest of 2017, because Our Lady Patti Smith has a test pressing in her sacred hands and she is SMILING:

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So rather than this blog post being a DESTINATION this evening, think of it as some guidance within the vast abyss online that is the World Wide Web, pointing you towards URLs worth your time. But if you’re reading this on Thursday, and you’re a UK citizen, stop scrolling right now and go and VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! I’LL MAKE EVERYONE WHO VOTES A BUTTON BADGE OR SOMETHING! WELL, NOT EVERYONE OBVIOUSLY, BUT YOU! YOU! VOTE! VOTE! BUTTON BADGE! VOTE! TAKE AN ‘I VOTED’ SELFIE IF YOU HAVE TO! AND I WILL MAKE YOU A BUTTON BADGE! JUST GO AND VOTE!

Anyway, and on that note:

If you want to see how women across the UK have been feeling in the run-up to this snap general election, watch this video series from The Debrief interviewing 20-somethings across the UK about their thoughts on the policies, the parties and the politicians themselves (why does alliteration always induce so much smugness?) This particular link brings you through to the article about Derby North, the most marginal constituency in the UK. But – as you’ll see in the video – the marginal seat doesn’t spark the sort of enthusiasm and excitement you’d think a two-horse race might. Vice has also released a video about the upcoming election, focusing specifically on the issues that Brexit has pushed aside, and ones that don’t feature heavily in the manifestos, including homelessness, climate change and ‘forgotten cities’. It fucking breaks my heart when Vice journo and hilarious human being Amelia Dimoldenberg hears from a group of Stoke lads that every single nightclub in town has closed down and she’s like, “What!” My hometown is a bit like that – or was heading down that way for a bit, anyway – and while it might not seem like that much of a big deal, it can have such a detrimental effect on the city and the people living there, it’s mad. (Ooh, just so I can share this again because I think it is excellent, Vice also ran a feature called ‘Home Coming‘ where its writers revisited the places where they grew up and it makes for COMPELLING stuff. Or maybe not. Idk. I’m obsessed with the idea of growing up in a dead-end town, so much so, I WROTE A PLAY ABOUT IT! But I can’t link out to that cause it’d be a 30-page PDF. If you missed it at the time, you’ve missed it. Anyway. Anyway.)

If you want a podcast, listen to these wonderful pop music musings on Unbreak My Chart. It’s a half-hour chat between two music writers, Fraser MacAlpine and Laura Snapes, having a jolly ol’ time talking about the top 10 singles in the chart that week. They also talk about new releases across the genres, so if you’re too cool for Bieber, you can be mildly content with the fact that they also mentioned Arcade Fire and Liam Gallagher in the last one. It’s not at all sneering or pretentious, just two people bouncing off each other, reveling in the glory of all things pop. With great adjectives! As shown by the outpour of emotion following the tragic terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester last month, and the OneLove megastar concert last weekend, this podcast places the importance of pop music highly – right where it belongs. 

If you want to read about how the creative process isn’t any one thing, read this interview with Robin Pecknold about Fleet Foxes’ upcoming album Crack-Up. FF frontman and indie-folk dreamboat Robin Pecknold spoke to the New York Times about ‘getting out to get back in’, in preparation to record an album that is so hotly anticipated by me, and others, that I GENUINELY HAVE A REMINDER ON MY PHONE TO GO OUT AND BUY IT.

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Kyle Johnson for the New York Times

In it, along with other juicy revealers as to why Father John Misty packed up and left, he dishes out this gem for anyone who is ever considering recording an album/creating something, ever: “[We thought] If we’re going to do this, it has to be something that’s not going to make us want to kill ourselves.”

And on that note, I’m out. Not in the way you’d think I mean by saying ‘on that note’ – but logging out. Bye.

How ‘Girls’ (Season One) changed the game – 13/02/17

If you’re anything like me, you might be finding it a little bit tricky to get excited about the final season of Girls out tonight (Monday 13 February). Since the show began five years ago, there’s been soooo much controversy surrounding the series and its outspoken creator/writer/director Lena Dunham that it’s easy to forget the impact the show made when it first came out.

Girls was an uncomfortably relatable insight into a group of young people learning how to adult: juggling unpaid internships, dealing with weird sex situations and finding their place in the world. Its no-filter sex scenes were gritty, hilarious and sometimes a bit gross; relationships were never even slightly simple, and the drive to succeed in the world of work led Hannah to do some seriously strange things (including some really creative things with an eyebrow pencil).

In the pilot episode, Hannah asks her parents to fund her life for just a little longer because she believes she could be ‘the voice of her generation, or at least, a voice, of a generation’. Ironically, Lena Dunham achieved such acclaim when the first season won a Golden Globe for Best Television Series in 2012, and its initial success snowballed into something that got way bigger than anyone could have imagined.

The writing was so refreshingly honest, so evidently personal to her own experiences, that it became hard to watch the show without seeing Lena Dunham The Celebrity stamped all over it.The similarities between the plot of Girls, her memoir Not That Kind Of Girl and her directorial debut Tiny Furniture meant that we felt we were watching the actors’ real lives, and Hannah Horvath’s self-absorbed tendencies could often get a little (okay, really) annoying. When the characters did something far from perfect, people were seldom happy about it.

Actress Allison Williams AKA Hannah’s BF Marnie Michaels, backed this up: ‘A lot of people dislike my character, Marnie. Initially I took it personally and wanted to defend her. But now I’ve realised a lot of the dislike comes from the fact that it’s uncomfortable to watch somebody make such bad decisions again and again. It hurts because we know how close we all come, on a regular basis, to make those exact same choices.’

Jemima Kirke, who plays British-American boho Jessa, added: ‘We’re so blended into our characters that people don’t see us separately. For example, when Hannah has a line that’s delusional and uninformed, that’s taken as Lena being delusional and uninformed and that’s why so much criticism comes to the show.’

Admittedly, the show has gained its fair few critics, and it’s never exactly got everything right. But having recently re-watched the first season in its entirety and remembering how fresh it once felt, I feel like season six will be one worth tuning in to. We’ve come this far, anyway. Here are some of the themes that Girls got so totally right from the very beginning, bringing taboo subjects into everyday conversation right from episode one.

Modern career girls

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When Hannah’s parents cut her off in the first episode, she calculates that she can survive living in New York City for ‘three and a half days, or six days if she doesn’t eat anything’. Yes, it’s melodramatic, yes, it’s so Hannah Horvath, but we can definitely relate to that feeling when pay day is one week too far away. And it’s not just Hannah who job-hopped through all five seasons. Remember the time before Marnie covered ‘Stronger’ by Kanye West at her ex-boyfriend’s work party and decided she was the next Carly Rae Jepson? Well, before that, she worked in admin, as an art curator – and more reluctantly – as a hostess. Jessa did a fair bit of babysitting as well as working in a children’s clothing shop, and Shoshanna was unemployed and still in college during the first season, sitting at home binge-watching episodes of reality show ‘Baggage’. Essentially, the message is: if you don’t feel like your have your shit together career-wise, you’re most definitely not alone.

Let’s talk about sex

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Girls arguably became most well-known for its no-holds-barred sex scenes and the frank way it spoke about things like consent, casual relationships and sexual health. Again, the weird situations that all four girls found themselves in were so horrifyingly relatable and so different to the way sex had been previously portrayed in shows like Sex and the City that it felt almost semi-educational. Scenes with full-frontal nudity and more-than realistic sexual encounters airing out to nearly one million American viewers every week was a huge deal, allowing taboo-topic conversations to take place in mainstream media. There was, however, a serious lack of condom use in the first season, but again, Girls definitely never pretended to lead the way morally, and was instead about mirroring the lives of 20-somethings not previously seen on TV. Sex in season one is lolz: There’s the time where Jessa re-dumps an ex-boyfriend after a quickie hanging out of a Brooklyn window, proclaiming herself ‘unsmotable’ (great word); *that scene* where the ‘uptight’ Marnie runs to the bathroom at a party to, er, relieve her sexual frustration after meeting super-creep Booth Jonathan and, of course, ALL of the wonderfully-written scenes about Shoshanna’s losing her virginity to Ray at 21, which she feels is kind of late (Message from the show? It totally isn’t.)

Friendship goals, kinda

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‘You are gorgeous and a vision, you a brilliant genius – when I look at both of you, a Coldplay song plays in my heart,’ quoth Hannah to Jessa and Marnie in episode one (after drinking an entire cup of opium tea). Although she wasn’t totally sober, the first season of Girls arguably felt like the one where they all got along the best – but true to form, nothing ever ended too happily. Hannah and Marnie lived together for a whole nine episodes before Marnie dramatically moved out, Jessa and Marnie went on an NYC night out ending up in a weird man’s flat that one of them would end up marrying, and Jessa promises to look after cousin Shoshanna after she accidentally smokes crack at a party before ditching her to go off with her older man boss. Nice.

Okay, so they’re definitely not the blueprint for a perfect group of friends, but it seemed easy to draw similarities between certain traits of the girls and my own group of friends. As the generation before did with Sex and the City, you and your people just might have assigned each other group-specific Girls personas (I’m mostly a Hannah with Shoshanna tendencies, who can get so Marnie on less than eight hours’ sleep).

Boys boys boys

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Girls wouldn’t have been Girls without the girls. Obviously. But Girls also features boys, and Season One reflected pretty much every (straight) relationship you could find yourself in during your 20s. There’s Adam, the guy who confuses the hell out of you but someone you can’t seem to let go of. Marnie’s clingy college boyfriend Charlie is your first boyfriend who you once thought you’d be with forever but then have to decide if and when you should move on with your life. Jessa’s less able to commit to one guy – until she gets married at the end of the series (remember that!) – and flits between flings with older guys, exes and strangers. Shoshanna’s first time having sex is stopped in its tracks by a guy she knew from college who claimed he ‘didn’t sleep with virgins’. Nice one, bro.

Although it’s more likely your girlfriends will be tuning in on Monday, Alison Williams thinks that Girls is ‘extremely helpful for guys to watch, on an anthropological level’. She said: ‘If [guys] want to understand women, to see the mistakes that it’s possible to make and the kind of breakdown of communication between partners that can be disastrous, crack on.’ That’s the guys told, then.

And finally, the iPhones show just how far technology has changed in five years

Perhaps the most jarring thing about Season One is how weirdly old iOS 5 looks. The existential crises of 20-somethings may be timeless, but that technology is already looking dated.

(Yes, this is my recently dug out iPhone 4, of which I am so fond of)


 

 

This week’s rack round-up – 29/01/17

In a weird, flu-induced haze in TK Maxx a few weeks ago, I decided that what I really needed was an organiser for all the piles of magazines and papers that were accumulating on my desk, rather than what I really went in for, which was new pants. The only paper organiser I could find instore was adorned with glittery butterflies, which I was kind of into, but was subsequently won over by the above rack with its gloriously tacky-not-tacky London skyline. The less stuff that’s stored in it, the more [landmarks] you can see, which is kind of a metaphor for life. If anything, these fortnightly posts might inspire me to keep my desk tidier. The rack is there for things to be in easy reach at any given moment, so it’s an apt representation of things that I’m currently into reading/listening to/consuming in all its forms. Welcome to the first instalment of this week’s rack round-up!

1) Been reading… this (glorious) copy of The Fader!

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Oh, Fader, how I love thee – thee who I can pick up in various vintage shops for free! What a seriously gorgeous-looking magazine, though. The quality of the paper, the heaviness of it, *breathes in smugly, nose-deep in the spine of the most-perfect perfect bound publication*. I picked this up in the Covent Garden branch of Rokit – the last in the pile – and now I’m doubting whether it was actually free for the taking. Oh, well. Whoever’s copy of Fader I stole, thank you. The interview with Girlpool by Patrick D. McDermott is one of the best things I’ve read about a band in ages, clearly trying to suppress a fan-boy admiration for these two teen queens of nursery rhyme grunge. You can read the entire thing here (thanks, internet!) – it’s kinda long, but bookmark it for later. Me and my mate Chloe saw Girlpool a couple of years ago at End of the Road festival and it was the highlight of the weekend. I didn’t realise that they were the same age as the both of us at the time, which now just makes me even more heart eyes for everything they’re about. Share the love with me! Like this YouTube video! Now!

There’s also a great feature about faith and what it means to yung thingz today. Everything with the world has gone batshit crazy and I’ve often caught myself thinking about faith of late (particularly over Christmas). Here is that feature for you to read/bookmark/print off etc.

2) *Also* been reading… this book from the School of Life series about how we can exist in cities without losing our collective shit.

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I’m not going to write at length about this (yet), because as you can see, I’ve been busy furrowing through it flagging up its golden morsels of info about how one can best get on in, and with, the city. I’ve been a Londoner now for six months and I love it so much, but as with all relationships, it requires work. Anyway, I’ll write something longer about this when it’s not a Sunday and I don’t have to get to the supermarket before 4pm. City life, amirite.

3) Been listening to… this: over and over and over and over and over. 

fullsizerender-2If a film were to be made following me mooching around in my bedroom over the past three months, this would be the soundtrack. Not the soundtrack in the sense of the album’s politically-charged and so-very-important messages, but the soundtrack in the sense that it just would be on in the background. Seriously, there’s a button on my CD player where you can repeat an album over and over – I don’t know who I wrote that for, perhaps those born post-2000 – and it fills me with an enormous sense of comfort to press that button after I hit play, snug in the knowledge that it’ll be playing as I’ve been tackling monstrous to-do lists. I’ve just graduated from a really intensive fast-track diploma (in journalism! Please hire me!), and the last few months have essentially been an uber-sized task in time management. The way each song flows into the next, how the chord progressions resolve, the way he sings about God – the album was like a lullaby (and sometimes not even ‘like a’, but rather an actual one, having to play it quietly through my phone in order to sleep). Please, for the love of the world, spend your Sunday listening to it. Its themes are particularly pertinent at the moment, when one has to truly ask ‘What [the fuck]’s [really going] on? Read more about the album in this Pitchfork review, here.

Thanks for reading!

T.A.L x

Reasons why I loved Groundhog Day at the Old Vic, or, a very personalised ‘review’

I went to see Groundhog Day the Musical at the Old Vic a couple of weeks back and wrote this silly thing about it. It was originally posted on the Obviously a Hobby page, which you can find by clicking the link on the right sidebar. It allows for a lot more garish orange than WordPress does, so obviously it has my heart.


Reasons why I had to see Groundhog Day, a new musical based on the 1993 film – yes, that film, at the Old Vic in London.

1) I’ve only seen Groundhog Day (the film) once. I’m not a die-hard fan. I watched it, coincidentally, on 1 February this year, which, if you know the story is the DAY BEFORE GROUNDHOG DAY. I’m easily spooked by cult-ish films – I watched The Truman Show for the first time the week previous and am still creeped out by the story and its mass appeal – so I found the coincidence of watching G-hog Day the day before life was to be repeated over and over again as some kind of warning to get out of my room, stop watching pirated movies and learn how to play the piano or something – lest my life be stuck in a time loop forever. So that meant the film and I had a special kind of connection (I like to think, anyway) and when I heard the Old Vic were doing it as a MUSICAL, I was kinda stoked, as:

2) I love the Old Vic. I love the Old Vic because I always confuse it with the Queen Vic, the pub in Eastenders. The Gourmet Burger Kitchen in Waterloo, near the Old Vic, is also the first Gourmet Burger Kitchen I ever went to, with my friend Sam. We went to see Much Ado about Nothing in 2014 at the Queen Vic – I mean the Old Vic – when they had Vanessa Redgrave playing Beatrice. All I remember about it is that we didn’t see Redgrave – it was an understudy – and just how HIGH UP we were sitting in the theatre. And BEHIND A GREAT BIG FUCKING PILLAR, no less. All for £12! And they wonder why they struggle to get new audiences into theatres.

3) Obviously, Bill Murray. But like, not Bill Murray. Therefore: Intrigue.

Reasons why I fucking loved Groundhog Day, a new musical based on the 1993 film – yes, that film, at the Old Vic in London.

1) It was really, truly excellent. I smiled throughout this show. For the most part it was totally hilarious, but for the parts that weren’t quite laugh-out-louds, I was just sat there grinning like an idiot. I remember thinking about how wonderful it was to be at the theatre, genuinely enjoying myself. The actors all look like they’re having the best time doing it too. It has such a nice fizz to it; buckets of conviction.

2) Tim Minchin’s not bad at all, is he. I still really want to see Matilda – another musical he’s penned the lyrics for – and I might just after this. People in the audience were roaring with laughter (okay, people = me). The creative team have made a well-loved film into an innovative piece of theatre; it’s really smart and fresh but still tells the story in a perfectly different way.

3) It’s (probably) going to Broadway, and I’ve already seen it. Although the ticket cost me £12, and I sat behind another great fucking pillar, it’s still absolutely way cheaper than it’ll be when it moves to New York. It was supposed to be heading there in January, but organisers have postponed the date – hopefully it’ll stay in London for a little longer and transfer first to the West End. There were these student kiddos stood up behind me – they had an even shitter view than I did – and all they kept saying was: “I don’t even care about the fact we’re literally sitting with the top of our skulls touching the ceiling, this is AMAZING value for £10! We’ve got to see THIS for £10!)” It was lovely. It made me smile even more than I was already. When the woman who sat next to me found her seat at the beginning, she just looked at me and said ‘Fuck!’: That’s how high up we were – she swore. She then went on to drink four glasses of wine – two in the first act and two in the second – and turned out to be a real hoot.


If you haven’t got a tenner, or can’t get to London – or a ticket – in that case, watch the film on quality pirated streaming sites (or buy the DVD here).

If books are your thang, Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake is a great book about time-lapses, if time-lapses are also your thang.

I Me Mine: 3,872 characters of stuff that’s happened in June – 18/6/16

I have become so supremely talented at Twitter that I’ve started writing top-class tweets I don’t want to post (of which there are many) in my journal, as to not bombard my Twitter page with Dad jokes that no-one understands. Here is stuff I’ve been up to, in 140 characters plus:

I have been apologising to myself a lot lately for not writing ‘creative stuff’ as much as I’d like to. The two people that live inside my head, the cool, rational, laid-back one, whom I like to refer to as Tara (hoping that this rational, calm side is actually who I am, 95% of the time, when not riddled with anxiety), is all, DON’T WORRY, you write for your job, you continue to write religiously in your journal, you do not owe your life to a Tumblr account. And that’s fine. I trust that voice, with the safe knowledge that I’ll get back to writing again soon, and in a big way.

The other person that lives inside my head, whom I will call Martha (disclaimer: I do call her Martha, IRL), starts telling me I’m not doing enough, I need to be writing more, writing for every website, seizing every opportunity, paid or unpaid, time or no time. I felt quite glad the day I renamed my anxiety ‘Martha’, because now I can just tell Martha to shut up, get out of my head, and continue to listen only to Tara, to whom I have total loyalty to (as she always knows what to do, kind of. She’s done stuff before).

When I don’t know what in the hell I’m doing, when my brain does a wonk and I need to sit down and focus on singular thoughts, I heed these wise tweets of yore from Our Lady Caitlin Moran, one of which suggests: Just Listen to David Bowie. It has yet to fail.

Also, a wonderful, wonderful friend made me this reminder/poster, to de-wonkify my mind:

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That being said, I have been well, despite the lack of productivity with writing-y bits over the last couple of weeks, and a week-long bout of cystitis that’s hit me worryingly Too Close for (Glastonbury) Comfort. Behold, some updates on me:

  1. My play Fitting Room showed to an audience of around 50 people – 50 strangers at that!- at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich a few Fridays (3 June) ago, and the general consensus was that it wasn’t a total trainwreck. A few people even laughed! So that was really fun, and it looks likely to be developed in 2017. No, there’s no deal with Hollywood people, not yet. Yes, it will be re-written by me. Yes, it means I have to write some more of it. Seeing a new audience watch it for the first time and discuss it afterwards over tiny paper cups of coffee – as one only does at the theatre –  was enough for me to know it’s got something to say and people have latched onto that, whatever it is. (I kind of know what that is – being the writer and all – but only kind of. I was delightfully surprised at how much people had latched onto those initial ideas I’d had last July when I was writing the first draft, so something worked). And my friends came to see it, and we stopped off at Wetherspoons on the three-hour journey down, and I didn’t even get a parking ticket. However, I’m going to be taking a few months’ hiatus from playwriting as:
  2. …I’m moving to South London at the end of August to get some more journalism training as part of a six-month course with News Associates. It means I have to leave my current job – sob – (well, don’t I know it! I should be a poet!) but aside from all the changes and goodbyes, etc, I’m really looking forward to moving out and moving into London, something I’ve wanted to do since forever. And, by George, am I ready to continuing making magazines! Heck, yeah! It’s a risk, but I can’t wait. London!
  3. I wrote a review of Amy Rose Spiegel’s Action on that new site I was on about, Obviously a Hobby. Read it here. If anything, it’s become a lovely place for me to post scans from my sketchbook. I’d love for more people to contribute – my dear friend Ella got the ball rolling with this post – and I’ll get there, it’s a work in progress. Success is long patience, etc, etc.
  4. I’m off to Glastonbury in three days and 17 hours! I have that much time to get my kidneys back in action for a week-long binge of Strongbow. Wish me luck!

 

Until next time,

T.A.L x

‘I want to be a motion picture film/I want to be a ten pin bowl’ – Some words on Cate le Bon’s Crab Day

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Picture from Cate le Bon’s Instagram

Cate le Bon once made me deaf in my left ear. I couldn’t hear properly again for around six weeks. She didn’t deafen me directly, obviously, but her music did when I saw her for the first time at End of the Road Festival in 2014. EOTR has a rightful reputation for being very twee, very folky – so naturally I was so desperate to see Cate because a) I actually knew who she was (there’s loads of obscurities on the line up – some exciting, others not so much) and b) there was more than one electric guitar on stage. I needed to hear something LOUD. Something that wasn’t a variation of Greensleeves by a guy with a beard. c) I’d meant to see her at Glasto a few months previous but couldn’t summon the energy to go as I had such bad heatstroke. (NB: Sometimes when you think you might have overdone it at a festival, and are worried that you might actually die within the next few hours, drink three pints of water. You’ve had too much sun, babe.)

But anyway, I was so excited to finally see Cate (and her amazing haircut) on stage that I stood right at the front, right near the amp on stage right. (Right!)

I forgot how jangly and noisy her music was, but I didn’t care at the time that I was being deafened by it. There’s this incredibly wonky energy to all of her albums (including this year’s release! – Crab Day!), all tinged with these melancholic, dischordant progressions and beautifully deadpan and disconnected lyrics.

I tried to listen to Crab Day while at work on Friday (interrupted by actual work and making the tea rounds) and wrote down a few notes which I’ll begin with:

  • Plinky
  • Twangy
  • Plonky
  • Lou Reed* (I want to be a motion picture film I want to be a ten pin bowl)

So say we didn’t have the internet, and there was no other way for me to listen to this again before writing about it now, those are the ONLY notes I’d be working from.

Luckily, because I’m rollin’ in it, I have a Spotify Premium account and have been listening to it since Friday at 5:05pm on a loop.

I enjoyed hearing it on that first listen, but I wasn’t able to give it much of my attention (I was pretending to work). Now I’ve listened it to it properly a few times, I can give it the highest endorsement by saying I reckon it’s ACTUALLY WORTH BUYING. No, stronger, I’d happily part with a tenner to store this on my CD shelf. It’s music you want to pay attention to – a mini masterpiece.

It’s got all those plinky-plonks of her previous album, Mug Museum, but takes on another, janglier level. Some songs catch you early on and have you going to listen a second time – such as single ‘Wonderful’ and nursery rhyme-ish ‘I Was Born on the Wrong Day’ – but the atmosphere and flow that runs throughout the entire record gives you an inkling that there’s so much more to discover on every track. There’s so many noises! Ah, noises. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. (NB: On the comment section of that YouTube video, somebody has written ‘If you play Madness ‘driving in my car’ backwards it would sound like this’ – which is the best review ever and I hang up my hat here and retire from my music journalism career forever *hangs hat*.)

*On my sketchy first listen, I immediately thought of Lou Reed on the line: ‘I wanna be a motion picture film/I wanna be a ten pin bowl’ on Wonderful. I was all: ‘Oh my god! What a helluva line! That’s so Lou!’ Then of course, after a fairly long time of my subconscious whirring at top speed (writing about music is a skill that can be practiced and honed, right?) I realised – ‘Ah, yes. I get why this sounds so much like that banana album. She sounds like Nico.’ I also think she sings a bit like Ari Up from the Slits, and some of this album is similar to that ‘Cut’ sound, particularly on We Might Revolve. (Sorry, I’m still as obsessed with Cut as I was when I first discovered it). 

Ten tracks and 40 minutes of wonky, hectic noise that can suddenly stop and come back in again with such conviction and energy you can’t help but play it over and over and over and over. 

Stream it for free here.
Love,

T.A.L x

The girl from the chainstore ~or~ ‘How to start writing again after taking a break’ – 7/3/2016

Christmas Eve
Tired Salesgirl on Christmas Eve, Norman Rockwell, 1947

Okay, firstly, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there is nothing like the sound of a noisy keyboard. In this age of silenced iPhone clicks and shallow laptop keyboards, I love hearing the old PC keys being angrily bashed on, typing quickly and furiously. Or equally when writing to your sweetest beau, hearing your thoughts thumping out when typing up a 20-page love letter (or today’s equivalent, a really, really, er…. really long email) with a noisy keyboard, makes one feel like Carrie Bradshaw sitting at a desk with a Manhattan view. I remember the days when people were still typing with two fingers – maybe that’s why the cacophony of tapping keys sounds so good – it’s the sound of success.

I’m currently re-working a play I started to write back in August, a play that is being performed in front of actual live people on 3 June in Ipswich. The play, Fitting Room, was performed as a rehearsed reading back in November but will now show at Pulse Festival in Ipswich as a reworked, revised version, with the backing of regional theatre company Eastern Angles (big up).

So obviously the best way to deal with this information is to say – “June?! Pnnnah! That’s ages away!” and go about my daily life, kicking dustbins and painting my nails. But when that gets  boring, the panic sets in as I suddenly think: “Why is it so difficult to pick this up again??” When I wrote the first version I was an unstoppable machine of  words – words were flowing out like bloody endless rain into a paper cup, for Christ’s sake!

Although perhaps they weren’t – hindsight can be deceiving. When I look back truthfully, every writing session had some sort of hurdle. One time I had to order pizza and sit in my shed with just a notebook and pen to get writing, such was the allure of Wi-Fi, spending hours cooking something complicated and, when the Wi-Fi was turned off, Minesweeper.

Now I’m in re-draft stage. When you’re re-drafting something, how much do you change? Do you meddle with only the parts that you didn’t like, or do you take it in a completely different direction? Do I have enough battery left in my laptop? Did I forget to buy teabags?  

What I haven’t been doing, and it’s something I know has been the downfall of re-draft Phase Two, is writing. I’ve had so many ideas, endless streams of “Maybe I could do this”, and “It’d be great if she did this instead…” but haven’t been writing them down as anything more than notes on old bus tickets. The mammoth task ahead of me has, at times, started to become quite overwhelming.

The thing is, I know there’s nothing to worry about, and I’m so excited about working on this more, it’s just that once your mind has wandered into crippling doubt, you quickly fall into a hell-hole of irrational pessimism.

I did write a page of A4 though yesterday, so I feel able to write about this a little more. Last week I was totally perplexed as to how to get my brain cogs whirring.

How I got to make the first steps again, to write that page of A4, was by being kind to myself, not getting severely aggressive at a blank document, and giving myself some headspace to think about it. After that, and most importantly, I didn’t think about it for a couple of hours, and it was only then that I was able to start again and write that extra page.

It sounds kind of obvious, but you can sometimes get your head wrapped up in a project so much that it’s constantly playing out in the back of your mind. Of course the problem is is that when you look for things you can never find them. And that becomes exhausting, and then writing isn’t fun. And writing’s the funnest thing in the world ever! That’s why taking a day or two off it (if you have that luxury) can give you the break you need to come back to it feeling excited again. 

How I filled those couple of hours was by driving to the library and getting two art books out: One that related to the subject at hand, and one that didn’t whatsoever. The first is a book called ‘New England: The culture and people of an English New Town during the 1970s and 1980s’, a book of photographs taken by local paramedic Chris Porsz over the course of these two decades.

I’ve scanned in a few of them here, which I hope he doesn’t mind me doing. I love all of the photos so much; it’s a gorgeous collection in a beautifully published book. Please go and look at his website here.

My play is about my hometown, Peterborough, and that point where you have to decide whether to leave or stay in the city where you were born – and what that means for different people. Lots of my parent’s generation have stayed in Peterborough, but almost all teens now jet off to university at the first instance and might return after graduating as a second and not-so-preferable option (this is a huge generalisation but hopefully you get where I’m coming from).

Peterborough has this rep of being ‘the place where you change trains’, and ‘where the passport office is’, but with a population of 188,000, it has 118,000 stories to tell. The city has been, and remains to be, a place of rapid cultural change, and I think these photos really encapsulate those changes.

1. Out from behind the curtains, Chris Porsz

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2. This heart-warming and priceless photo taken outside the Guildhall in Cathedral Square (for all the Peterborian readers):

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3. Wahiwala, Chris Porsz

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I like this one so much because it reminds me of my favourite ever photograph taken by Garry Winogrand in Forest Lawn Cemetry, Los Angeles in 1964 (ruined only by the glitter stuck to my scanner):

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3. Dressing Up, Chris Porsz

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And this (!) – the image of a Peterborough ‘retail girl’ that I am astonished that I found. I went into the library thinking “I need a book about teenagers living in Peterborough working in a clothes shop” – and here it is – the money shot. (The Rockwell painting at the top of this post also made my giggle – the tired, stockinged feet are all too true. Also note the OTT ‘sensible’ shoes of the girl in the photo above).

In his afterword, Chris Porsz apologises to his family for “roaming the streets for hours trying to satisfy some creative urge”. This made me laugh out loud, because the amount of times I’ve walked around Pbo with a camera or notebook, begging to ‘be inspired’, is too real.

I also found this book in the Local Archives section that made the trip to library worth it alone. So camp.

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When stuck in a writing rut, taking an unnecessary journey on the bus or sitting in a cafe can sometimes be all you need to hear a golden nugget of dialogue that can inspire you to start writing again. The minute you go into freak-out mode and say you haven’t enough time to write is not going to help you to write. You won’t be able to write anything at all – or nothing that good, anyway. Be kind to yourself, take your time, and read something completely different – something you wouldn’t normally do. It might offer you that slightly different perspective you’re after.

“Why she’s a girl from the chainstore
Her name was written on her coat
Her life was a miserable anecdote”

– Why She’s A Girl from the Chainstore, Buzzcocks

  • I’ve written something about writer’s block before (excuse the irony of the ‘plethora’ of work about not being able to write), which you can read here.