Apr 30, 2022

Chemical bother: Covid finally got me

I finally caught Covid-19. Despite daily baths in 5G and regular hot tubs with Bill Gates, the bug finally got me.

I had Covid for 18 days, followed by a week of fatigue. Pretty much wrote off the whole month. This has been the worst April since R Kelly knocked Block Rocking Bears off the top of the charts. 

How did I catch it? Good question, thanks for asking. I got Covid at a book launch. A book launch! This proves that books are evil and must be stopped before they destroy us all.

Those 18 days were so weird. The NHS website lists 12 distinct Covid symptoms. I had every single one, some lasting a couple of days, others lasting longer. An ever-evolving patchwork of ailments,layering over each other for extra annoyance.

Of course, I'm lucky. I'm fully jabbed and I made it through to the other side in one piece. But it's not an experience I'm keen to repeat. The brain fog, the isolation, the lost weeks. It's the most upsetting thing to happen since Boyzone knocked Setting Sun off the top of the charts.

All those extra antibodies have now made me immune to almost everything. That's how virology works. Science. As soon as I finish this blog post, I'm going to stick my head in a wasps' nest and shout "ha ha, you can't get me, you buzzy berks". 

I'm perhaps most sad to report that Covid hasn't given me any super powers. It's not like being bitten by a spider and turning into Catwoman or something. Levitating, flying, instant sexual allure - none of this seems to be working

What can we learn from my Covid experience? Good question, thanks for asking. Nothing. There is nothing to be leaned from any of this. Human gets ill. Human has rubbish time. Life is pointless. Fish fingers are good for testing whether your sense of taste has returned. Fish fingers are pointless. 

Apr 7, 2022

I am a Mancunian and yes you can taste my honey

Bee design on a yellow wall

I am, it has been rumoured, a Mancunian. This means I was born in Manchester, which famously invented Vimto, the computer, and mouthy lead singers who say "sun-sheeiiine" instead of "sunshine".

What Manchester might not be as famous for is the apiarian emblem of the worker bee. The Victorians invented this when their graphic design department was trying to come up with something to represent Manchester's industrial ambitions. They made a coat of arms with bees buzzing around the globe. Cute, if impractical for international trade.

There are bees everywhere in Manchester. On the street furniture. Sprayed onto walls. Actual bees. I do like the symbol of the bee. It reminds us of the mill workers in the olden days who used to dress in stripes and suck on flowers. Even today, if you squeeze a Mancunian, a little bit of honey comes out.

Other cities' emblems are much worse. Birmingham is just a pile of spaghetti to represent its road system. No sauce, no nothing. London has a corgi driving a red bus. And Glasgow has a man screaming into a drain. Lovely, but not as good as Manchester.

This vague bee blather was inspired by this bee design on Manchester Metropolitan University's student union building. It doesn't quite work because the lines are too thin, and are lost amid the brickwork. But I like the idea of students getting bee-indoctrinated. I imagine tannoy announcements calling people "busy bees" while everyone works in hexagonal hive pods.

I'll leave you with one of my favourite bees. This is Are You Okay by Mason Bee, who is not a bee but is also very much a bee. Enjoy.

Further Fats: There goes the hear: Manchester has enough gigs (2011)

Further Fats: The cowardly Arena attack won't stop Manchester buzzing (2017)

Mar 31, 2022

17 interesting postman trousers: a contractually obliged blog post

A picture of a hippopotamus

I haven't blogged all month. And I'm okay with that. Blogging is yesterday's news, like reel-to-reel tape recorders, castles and the Bubonic plague.

Of course, I started the month with good intentions. I had lots of blogging ideas. So many great ideas that if I listed them now, you would cry well into the night. But like an over-worn pair of underpants, they slowly sagged at the seams and fell to the ankles of lost memories.

Still. Here I am. Blogging. I'm sat on my sofa with a half-eaten pack of Fruit Pastilles and my washing machine chugging away in the background. I genuinely don't know where this blog post is going. I should come up with a click-bait title. Fat Roland blogs: what happened next will amaze you. 17 interesting things I found in my toilet. You won't believe what my trousers just said to the postman. That kind of thing.

I feel itchy when I don't blog. I've been doing it most of my adult life, so even if I'm just being silly about Ed Sheeran or MC Hammer or whatever, it definitely feels like some kind of foundation stone. An unbloggy Fat Roland is a sad Fat Roland.

But I'm not sad this month. I've been a busy boy, so I'm going declare this past month a blogging holiday. And all the weeks I didn't blog before that: they were blog hols too. And blog holidays are allowed. The only reason why I'm writing this post now is so I've published something in the month of March, and I don't look back in a few years' time and feel disappointed at my blogless month. But hey. I'm still on blogging holiday. Look, I'm wearing a sombrero and drinking a pina colada. Holiday.

Tomorrow is different. Tomorrow is April. I need to get back to blogging in April. If I'm not posting sixteen blog posts a day throughout April, I am a failure of a human being. Every blog post will have complex diagrams and be translated into four different languages. It'll all be in 3D and also rendered as a liquid. It's going to be the best wordings on the internet ever. No pressure.

It's weird how well Blogger works for me. I'm not interested in its custom domains or its new themes. I just want a nice plain design that I can Photoshop into looking a bit better. It's immediate and encourages play: a sandpit of a writing environment. Blogger has served me well for the past, approximately, 17 and a half years.

Okay. I've written some words. I'm going to put a picture at the top. What would you like? A hippopotamus, you say? Sure, you can have a hippopotamus. That's do really well in the Google rankings. Ahem.

Further Fats: Defending blogging against Blogger (2010)

Further Fats: Blog your spleen out (with added Balki) (2014)

Feb 28, 2022

What is the best track on Orbital's green album?

A collage of Orbital Green album covers

Orbital's first album Orbital was called the Green Album because the cover was green. Actually, it was quite a yellow hue of green, but Quite A Yellow Hue Of Green was never going to catch on as a nickname.

The album was released in 1991 and still holds up today. That said, this diamond is a little rough. Primitive production, percussion with all the grace of a sledgehammer, loops where you can easily see the join. I caught onto the Green Album a couple of years after its release, and even then I remember it sounding dated. In a charming way.

Like a lime-liveried "go" light, the Green Album started something special. And not just because it had the stone-cold classics Chime and Belfast. Music production was about to advance at light speed. Along with their NME-recommended Brown Album two years later, the Green Album launched Orbital's transformation into stadium-filling techno gods, changing the face of techno album production.

Okay. Serious talk over. Because I have to reduce things to lists or binary choices, it leads me to the question. Just what IS the best track on Orbital's Green Album? Let's have a bit of fun and rate each track according to how close it is on the colour wheel to its own cover colour, Quite A Yellow Hue Of Green. We'll be using the UK track listing.

1. The Moebius
We start off pretty strongly. This is a solid blue. Not bland Tory blue: it's Star Trek science officer blue thanks to its sample of a Next Generation episode. It's a metallic delight, all clanks and whirring machinery, part of that taken from the opening percussion in Mad World by Tears For Fears. Extra kudos for the mobius introducing a circular theme that would repeat during the band's career.

2. Speed Freak
Speed Freak feels pretty far from yellowy green. I love the bassy bouncy orchestral stabs, and the splashy snares would return on The Brown Album. But the yelps and exclamatory interventions sound a little try-hard. The parpy theme that drops midway through is... okay. Speed Freak is a throbbing purple. No. Wait. There's the whole acid bit later on. It's a tastefully muted purple, almost fruity.

3. Oolaa
Oh crumbs. The great thing about Oola, apart from its intensity, is the rising acidic line that feels like a precursor to the ecstatic brass on Impact (The Earth Is Burning). Amid the enthusiastic synth washes in the tracks closing cacophony is a discordance that has always slightly bothered me. Therefore, this is not yellowy green. It is orange. A pleasing orange that would look good on a racing car or a cat. 

4. Desert Storm
Desert Storm is the slow one. It writhes, it snakes, it plods along in a dubby way that isn't entirely unlike (a) the loping gait of the titular beasts in the 1970 film it samples, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and (b) an Andrew Weatherall production. It feels less like an Orbital track than the rest of the album. The fact this was track-listed instead of Satan or Choice means this is pink. Not just pink. A blushing pink.

5. Fahrenheit 303
This track is somewhere between a burnt orange and a deep brown. Crumbs. There's not a lot of yellowy-green in this part of the album, is there. The jazzy keyboard riffs and knowing guiro scrapes are pure Jools Holland. Or Adamski on a bad day. Somewhere inbetween. The squiggly acid completely saves the day, as does the moody bass that closes out the track.

6. Steel Cube Idolatry
Dave Angel did a cracking Mutations mix of this track. But we're not talking about that. Cube is clanky and clumsy in a really good way. The unsettling vowel utterations sound like a diva trying to escape from a drain. Ace. It all feels adjacent to found sound, which makes me fond of the whole thing. This is not far from green. A blue. A dark block blue, so not something you'd decorate your bathroom with.

7. High Rise
Now we're talking. This is another blue, but it's more than that. It's bluey-green. High Rise is often overlooked, but it's one of the few tracks on the Green Album that stops me in my tracks. It's Belfast-soft yet Steel Cube-hard. Nicely underplayed acid blurps, tickly synth scales, loops ratcheted into hypnotic repetition, and those rolling snares. PLUS a random key change. This is all the Orbital I need.

8. Chime (Live)
Although not the single version, this is their crossover hit. It got them onto Top of the Pops in 1990 and it's still in their live set today. Does it hold up? Of course it does. The electronic take on church bells. The suspended chord line. The flanging. The stuttering percussion. The cool-ass acid. Even the hand claps. Almost the yellowy-green of the album cover. Banana yellow. Lemon yellow. Very yellow.

9. Midnight (Live)
Yellowy-green! We're at yellowy-green! Even though Belfast is still to come, Midnight is the staggering highlight of Orbital's first album. Such omen. So potent. The minor chords and staccato hi-hats set a moody scene before we're plunged into a swirling, exotic world of deep, deep techno, all beautifully structured. Even the playful low-pass knob twiddling is great. A song I can play again and again.

10. Belfast
There's not a lot to say about Belfast that hasn't already been said. It's beautiful and balaeric and most definitely a light shade of green. If Midnight is yellow-tinted, this is perhaps lime. Pretty dang close. Its clubby beach vibes and choral sampling are hugely hooked into the zeitgeist of the time: think Future Sound of London, Energy 52, The Beloved, Rhythim Is Rhythim, even Enigma.

11. "I Think It's Disgusting" (Outro)
This is just a run-off track, so not worth rating despite this loopy coda idea being emulated in many smokers' beats albums later in the decade. Okay. It's red. This is a red track. And a lovely red it is too.

So there you have it. Orbital's first album rendered into colours with the quality of content rendered as proximity to the album's cover art. Bet you never expected to be reading something like that today, did you.

In summary:

A cheerful colour strip representing the colours in the article


Feb 17, 2022

A finger of Fudge is not enough

Finger of Fudge advert image: "only 10p"

I felt a bit unsettled the other day. Something at the back of my mind, niggling me like an annoying puppy or a ghost. I get these moments more frequently as I get older, and I have to stop to assess my general state before continuing with my day.

I realised I was fretting over whether a finger of Fudge really was just enough to treat a child, or whether or was just a bit stingy, what with increasingly affordable modern gadgets available on the high street.

You know how the advert goes, right? If you're reading a Blogger blog, you're totally old enough to remember the song in the Cadbury's Fudge commercial. Supposedly, a finger of Fudge is "just enough until it's time to eat", which is essentially advocating chocolate dessert before the meal.

And do you know what? I'm in favour. It's a long time since I've fingered a buffet, but I love going to an All You Can Eat place and alternating between sweet and savoury. I reject John Shuttleworth's philosophy in I Can’t Go Back to Savoury Now that you can't return to a shepherd's pie once you're halfway through a treacle sponge. Mix and match. Use the same spoon for both.

The Fudge song describes the chocolate bars as "very small and neat", which is true. They are incredibly small, which brings me back to my main concern that they're too small. Not quite enough to give anyone a treat. You'd have to follow it up with a Boost or a Toblerone or an entire chocolate egg. Sorry, did I type "or"? I meant to say "and".

So anyway, that's what's been bothering me recently. The miserable months of January and February are definitely getting to me. The highlight of the past few months was when I ate Mentos and drank Diet Coke and didn't explode. Harrumph. What an insufferable drudge. Why can't we have six Augusts?

I need a new project. Maybe I should watch some Cadbury's adverts to get some ideas. I could become a drumming gorilla. Shove a flake in my mouth dead sexy-like. Perhaps I should become a Milk Tray man, parkouring over wheelie bins without dropping a single Hazelnut Swirl.

Jeez. Next time I get a niggle in the back of my mind, I won't stop to think about it. Did I want to be writing about Fudges? No, I did not. Damn you, brain.

This post is not sponsored by a chocolate company. Honest. *jumps naked into a bath of Minstrels*

Further Fats: Spoons! Marshmallows beware! and other conspiracy theories (2006)

Jan 22, 2022

Electronic Sound 85: blowing my alpine horn

In issue 85 of Electronic Sound magazine, I do a deep dive on the new Bonobo album. Meanwhile, in my column I take on cancel culture while my fictional self blows a horn. All pretty normal, nothing to worry about here.

The Bonobo review is the lead review in this latest edition, which is always a nice spot to be in as a writer. You'll have to read the magazine to find out what I think, but I can tell you it contains the phrase "frozen fish aisle". I also review the latest album by Pan Daijing ("a forest of startled birds") and Arca's new clutch of albums ("witches and queerness").

This month's column has me getting outraged about cancel culture. "Are you telling me I can’t prance around as glam-rock Brian Eno, complete with unbuttoned motorbike jacket and feather shoulder-pads, while hooting Van McCoy's ‘The Hustle’ on the alpine horn?" And yes, that ended up being my illustration for the column, with added conkers for eyes. It'll all make sense if you read the column. Probably. Ahem.

Elsewhere in the mag, in gubbins that wasn't written by me, there's a piece about the Hacienda's design, a chat with Suicide and their "battered old keyboards", Tim Hecker talking about writing soundtracks, and a piece about the ace new electro-pop project Telefis. And loads more.

85 issues, 85 columns. Good grief. Incidentally, Erasure's Oh L'amour only got to number 85 in the charts when it was released, only surpassed by Dollar's cover version in 1987 and Erasure's slightly weedier remix many years later. All the best things are number 85.

Jan 19, 2022

You wait for one Better Days and two arrive at once

Better Days artworks

I was tottering along the street a while ago when a black cat appeared from under a hedge to say hello. I always stop to fuss cats. They're cute and fun, and you never know if one will suddenly start talking French or lead you to an abandoned whelk mine.

The moment I stroked this friendly black cat, another black cat appeared. Same hedge, same appearance. I suddenly had two black cats greeting me. It was like being in The Matrix except without the pill popping and questionable spoons. 

Apart from the brief concern that I had developed a special power that duplicates whatever I stroke, a talent that could get very problematic very quickly, I handled the situation fine. Two very similar cats. Two very similar hands. The maths worked out: double petting commenced. 

Why am I telling you this? Because at the moment there are two songs in the UK singles chart called Better Days. This concerns me, because singles are less cute than cats and I don't like having two of them. 

One of the Better Days is by Neiked, Mae Muller and Polo G. It's a sunny slice of Tik Tok-famous retro pop in which US rapper Polo G asks "can I get an amen" so politely, it sounds like he's ordering afternoon tea. 

The other Better Days is a yearning torch song by Irish singer Dermot Kennedy. In the video, he falls into a puddle and stays there for a bit. It's pretty wet physically and musically, but Snow Patrol fans will like it. 

Two Better Days in one chart? I thought this wasn't allowed. I thought you had to give songs different nicknames so you could tell them apart, in the same way we all have friends called Big Tony, French Tony, Naked Tony and Seven Years In Strangeways Tony. I thought songwriters had these things allocated to them, making them queue with a numbered ticket as if they were waiting for fancy cheese.

In the past, duplicated track titles were easily navigated. Adele and Lionel Richie both had a Hello, but the songs were decades apart and Adele didn't have a bonce made out of clay. Orbital and Boney M both had tracks called Belfast. Neither are likely to get confused, unless the Orbital brothers suddenly start coming up with disco dance moves. Mariah Carey and Big Bird both had different songs called All I Want for Christmas Is You, but only one of them was about a snuffleupagus. 

It gets more difficult the closer the songs get. In the mid-1980s, there were two number one ballads called The Power of Love courtesy of Jennifer Rush and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Close in time, close in style. Meanwhile, Robert Plant, World Party and Erasure all had different hits called Ship Of Fools within 20 months of each other. It's such a colourful metaphor that, in my mind, all three songs have muddled into one vague image of a bunch of clowns on a pirate ship doing karaoke.

Whitesnake and Alison Moyet both had mid-1980s songs titled Is This Love. Go and look at the videos for the songs. Moyet and David Coverdale sport the exact same shaggy dog hairstyle. It's ridiculous. There have been 20 hit singles called Stay. It's such a bland track name, I could sing you the Shakespears Sister one but absolutely none of the others, despite the rest of the list featuring big hitters like Rihanna, Mica Paris and Simply flipping Red. Not helpful.

I demand that each Better Days song changes its name. The first one, the Tik Tok one, should be called Afternoon Tea. And the other one, the wet one, should be called Oh Look I'm In A Puddle, While I Think About It Whatever Happened To Snow Patrol. That should sort it. Who do I contact about this? Is it the Queen? Paul Gambaccini? Greg James?!

The other solution is to enact a new law in which every song is called Song. Every song ever written. All of them called Song. 

Hey, I've written a new track.

Brilliant, what's it called?

Song. 

That's great, what's it about?

Stuff.

Sounds wonderful, here's a Grammy.

I wonder if the existence of two Better Days is a Matrix glitch caused by the appearance of two similar cats. I'd ask Keanu Reeves if this is possible, but he's done four films with the word 'Matrix' in, so I'm not going to take his advice on anything. There is no spoon? I've got loads of spoons, mate, all of them identical.

Further Fats: No-one wants songs about the moon these days (2017)

Further Fats: A little cat story (it's the story that's little, not the cat) (2018)

Jan 12, 2022

Selected tweeted works: pigs, peanuts, Paul, pricks and polywonk

A broken Twitter logo

Sometimes I go onto Twitter then I give my opinions on Twitter and then I expect the whole of Twitter reads it and think "thank goodness that guy put something on Twitter".

If you are not on Twitter, you're in luck, because I'm about to spew some tweets all over this blog. Here are some highlights from my recent Twitter feed. And by "high", I mean "pretty low" and by "lights" I mean the encroaching darkness that will one day swallow us whole. 

Enjoy my stupid thoughts.

1. Genres
A guide to the different types of ambient music. 1. Ambient = chill-out music. 2. Hambient = pig-out music. 3. Diagrambient = lay-out music. 4. Wigwambient = camp-out music. 5. Victoria Beckhambient = out of your mind featuring dane bowers music.

2. Clock part one
Even a stopped cook gives the right thyme twice a plate.

3. Rockers
Have you noticed how heavy metal fans can't wink? Every single one of them. Now I've pointed it out, you'll spot it all the time. Heavy metal fans. Can't wink. Or crochet.

4. Snack part one
I ate some peanuts. Licked each one clean good and proper. Sang them one-hit wonders.

5. New year
I can't reveal my sources, but I've heard the only music we'll be allowed to listen to in 2022 is Roxette.

6. Pricked
I had my booster jab today. On leaving the pharmacy, a phalanx of seahorses escorted me on a hammock of golden plumes into the street then dumped me in a puddle. Please advise.

7. Snack part two
I'm eating Mentos and drinking Diet Coke. Pray for me.

8. Shopping
I once spotted Paul McCartney in a Currys. He was shoplifting three hoovers, trying to hide them in his enormous side flaps. He evaded security using his invisibility conch, while playing Eleanor Rigby through his gills. Three hoovers. What a guy.

9. Clock part two
I love that Orbital sample 'even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day unless it's a 24 hour clock in which case you probably paid a little more for it so why's it stopped ffs".

10. Indifference
No-one cares: a tweet reply hammered into the keyboard, shift key pressed with stressed-white fingers. No-one cares: a caption on a gif hurled at the internet, shattering on impact. No-one cares: the strained yelp of a purple veined man, scrunching his no-one cares face tattoo.

11. Reaction
"No PCR" is trending in the UK. Quite right. Can't stand Phil Collins Records.

12. Festive food
Remember, folks, you have until January 6th to eat your Christmas tree. Make sure you start at the thin end. Good luck!

13. Movies
Se7en should have been called 5even. The Fifth Element should have been called Th3 Fifth 3l3m3nt. The 4th Matrix film should have been called MatrIX. No reason. I just like things to be wrong and annoying.

14. List
There are some things I will just never understand no matter how hard I try, namely duck hands, the concept of jeleb, the word 'xthw))rd', cloud anvils and late-career polywonk.

15. Girl power
The Spice Girls would have been more successful if they'd been called the Spine Girls i.e. they were just a bunch of dancing spines. We're all thinking it.

16. Token
This tweet is an NFT. If you read it, you owe me 92 bits of ethereal coins or something.

17. Optimism
You know it's going to be a good day when you've laid a load of blue eggs and they start whistling Van McCoy's The Hustle. No? Just me? Suit yourself.

Further Fats: Tiny promises that get me through (2016)

Further Fats: Selected tweeted works: bagel, beards, bungs and beaches (2021)