Oct 20, 2020

Blog-rolling back the years: my 2010 writing awards

It's a full decade since I won the Manchester Blog Awards, the world's most prestigious accolade after the Booker Prize, the Nobel Prize and the Darwin Award.

The story goes like this. I gave up my telly to allow more time on this blog. Better writing, a more frequent posting schedule, a few design bells and whistles. Less than a year later, I won at the blog awards. The resulting networking, fizzed with euphoria, cemented a bunch of new friendships that led me into a life of writing and performance. The win was a big kick up my ego's bum.

I won the category of Best Writing and then jointly-won the overall Best In Show prize (shout out to my co-winner Love Levenshulme). I was an extremely happy puppy. According to this account of my win ten years ago, in my acceptance speeches I apologised to James Blunt and namechecked Venetian Snares.

On the back of that night, I ended up prancing around Manchester's spoken word open mic scene with increasingly ambitious and silly props. This led to three Edinburgh Fringe shows and a crazily fun theatre commission from the Lowry Theatre. I produced two collections of my own short stories, and co-edited a third with a bunch of writing friends. I ended up hosting a leading spoken word night and, ultimately, the wacky world of literature events became my main source of income.

I'll forever be grateful for my blog awards win: I cannot overstate how much confidence it gave me, almost as if I needed that permission to take my creativity seriously. I'm also grateful to Caribou's Sun for being the anthem for my drunken celebrations that night. Listen to the radio edit of Sun below.

Here I am a full ten years later, and life couldn't be more different in a Covid-curtailed 2020. I've spent seven months cancelling literature events and spending an awful amount of time not seeing those friends who'd made the last decade so amazing. No shows, no silliness, no props. Just me sitting in a dark room writing this, my 1,394th blog post, reminiscing about the good old days when men were men, sheep were sheep, and blogs had readers.

I'm not sad, though. The elapsed time means nothing because the feelings are still so immediate in my mind: the announcement shocking me so much it felt like an arrow to the forehead, walking up to the stage in slow motion while trying not to fall over, the awkwardness of the unprepared speech, and that woozy drunken glow for a long time afterwards. And a whole decade of amazing collaborations and friendships. Proper grand.

Sun, sun, sun, sun...

Further Fats: Hammer time for Fatty Bumchops – how to blog properly (2011)

Further Fats: Blogging highlights 2004-2014 (2014)

Oct 19, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Megatonk's Belgium and Frendzy's Can't Stop (these are real tracks, honest)

Megatonk and Frendzy

I've been blogging my way through the 1990s house music compilation Full On: Edition One. But then I stopped for a bit. I had to take a break. 

I've been living a slightly isolated life during the whole coronavirus thing. No partner to say good morning to, no elderly relatives to mouth greetings at through a window, and no Fat Roland clones in my basement lab, not since they escaped. I can spend days locked in my own head.

Which means my mental health ebbs and flows, like the tide of an ocean, only with less seaweed. Sometimes I need to step away from things to allow myself to be a bit mentally quieter. Hence not blogging for two weeks.

Let's get back to the 1992 Deconstruction compilation, which most of you won't remember, but which all of you can look up on Discogs.

Megatonk's Belgium is a perky house track with sampled diva vocals that were the staple of Moby tracks back in the 1990s. Have a listen here.


Megatonk was one of the many aliases of Charles Webster, a remixer and label owner who once engineered for the likes of Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson. 

There's not a huge amount to say about Belgium. The track appeared in a mix by Sasha at the Universe club back in 1992, blended in with Lil Louis's Club Lonely. The two tracks work nicely one after the other. On an Azuli Classics compilation a number of years later, DJ John Digweed would mix into Belgium from an INXS track, which sounds terrible but I'm sure worked just fine. Probably.

A more interesting track, in my humble opinion, is the next Full On tune: Frenzy's Don't Stop. I'm pretty sure that echoing saxophone sample is from a Grid track. Have an earful:


The track's actually called Can't Stop and the act seems to be actually called Frendzy, but let's not let a wonky CD listing get in the way of a good tune. This track is deep and hypnotic and everything good about house music in the 1990s.

I can find naff all information about Frendzy, a name which sounds like a failed social network. Production was by Hari, a long-time DJ fixture at Glasgow's Sub Club, and Shug Brankin, who has remixed Apache Indian and, if my googling is correct, once got a load of college kids to make balloon hats.

What can we conclude from these two tracks? One reminds me of Moby and the other reminds me of The Grid. No bad thing.

More Full On faffing to come.

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Oct 5, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Eternal's Mind Odyssey and Felix's It Will Make Me Crazy

Eternal (not that one) and Felix

Next up on Full On: Edition One is Eternal's Mind Odyssey

Eternal was Melbourne club promoter Mark James, who set up the Eternal project with uber massive DJ legend and drag racer Carl Cox. 

Mind Odyssey came out on Warp Records in the UK, with a catalogue number WAP 27 which places it at around the same time as Polygon Window's Surfing On Sine Waves. This makes him proper techno royalty.

Pop this in your ears:

This Eternal is not to be confused with 1990s r'n'b popsters Eternal who wanted to "be the only one, the only one". 

Having said that, Mark has his pop side: he was in a band called Bass Culture with his then girlfriend Gina Gardiner, who later had a big Eurovision hit as Gina G with the appalling Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit. Gosh, is this what it's like to write a gossip column?

Eternal would be the star of this blog post, but next up on the Full On track listing is Felix. 

The track is Felix's second biggest hit It Will Make Me Crazy, remixed by Rollo of Faithless fame. Listen here:

If Mark James is techno royalty, in the world of Euro-flavoured progressive house Felix is even bigger: a huge pulsating techno God larger than the known universe.

That's not to say Felix was more successful: James' career is huge. But the Felix sound summed up the Full On experience for me. Big cheesy chords, big housey vocals, super-sharp snare clicks, moody minor chords, simplicity throughout. 

It has to be said, this did sound a lot like his biggest hit Don't You Want Me, and the album was very samey. But if it was a formula, it was such a satisfying formula, and I got the impression that a lot of people were copying the Felix sound. Including me at the time on my little Korg keyboard.

Stylistically, Felix's sound isn't a hundred miles away from 2 Unlimited, whose career was taking off at the time of Full On. 2 Unlimited were much bouncier and stoopider, and had far less credibility. 

The lyrics are hugely different for a start. Here's the words for It Will Make Me Crazy:

It will make me crazy!
It will make me crazy!
It will make me crazy!
It will make me crazy!

And here are the lyrics to 2 Unlimited's Get Ready For This:

Techno!
Techno!
Techno!
Techno!

See? Totally different. 

Incidentally, and sorry to keep bouncing between the two Felix singles, but Don't You Want Me hit the UK top ten twice, and then charted a third time when it was used in a Tango advert. 

Felix was born in Chelmsford in Essex, as was Squarepusher, Ceephax Acid Crew, Hazell Dean, Sarah from St Etienne, Grayson chuffing Perry, and, er, the drummer from McFly. There's something in the water in Chelmsford.

What does this all say about Full On and its significance for 1990s dance music? I dunno: I stopped paying attention around about Gina G.

Have an advert:

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Oct 2, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Orson Karte's Tonight

Orson Karte

My deconstruction of the Deconstruction album Full On: Edition One continues. I realise this is niche, but it was a great compilation that deserves more attention. See all my Full On posts here.

The next track is Orson Karte's Tonight (Original Mix), a smooth-as-a-sausage progressive house track with sampled voices drifting loosely above warm ambient chords. It doesn't stay in the same place either, as it gets its head down for some skippy breakbeat action later in the track.

Have an ear-check here:

Let's have a bit of context. I'm about to throw a lot of information at you. If this following paragraph had a montage sequence, it would freeze at each person's face like a Guy Ritchie film to give you time to absorb all the names. 

Orson Karte was not a well-known act in itself, but its members Julian Dembinski and Lex Blackmore also recorded as Positive Science for Ascension Records, an offshoot of the legendary ambient label Rising High Records probably best known for releasing music by The Irresistible Force, A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funki Dredd and Luke Vibert. In short: no-one's really heard of Orson Karte (terrible name) but they come with some considerable pedigree.

More interestingly, Alexis Blackmore – Lex to his nearest and dearest – is responsible for one of the most memorable top ten hits of all time.

"Which memorable top ten hit?" I hear you ask, as you gasp in awe at your computer screen. "Is it Vienna by Ultravox? Blue Monday by New Order? Lovin' Is Easy by Hear'Say?" If you can just shut up asking questions, I'll tell you.

Lex ploughed a furrow on the dance music scene touring with The Shamen, apparently contributing to the rap on the Mysterons-sampling Make It Mine. Following the untimely death of The Shamen's Will Sin, he moved to Glasgow and became... drum roll... Blue Boy.

"Who?" 

Who?! What do you MEAN "who"? You definitely know Blue Boy. They had one of the most memorable top ten hits of all time. Positively iconic. Here are the lyrics, which you definitely recognise:

Remember me?
I'm the one who had your babies
Remember me?
I'm the one who had your babies
Ging-giggaging giggigiggiging etc etc etc

Yeah, you know it. Incidentally, Remember Me sampled Marlena Shaw's 1973 live version of Woman Of The Ghetto, which is definitely worth a listen right here. The "babies" line later on in the song contains so much sorrow.

So here we have another insight into Full On. A relatively anonymous act called Orson Karte can be tracked to, five years later, a big stonking top ten single which went some way to defining a '90s 'sound'.

There is plenty more Full On analysis to come (see the track listing here), but it will all be a bit less interesting than this one.

"WHY won't it be interesting? I want everything to be interestiiiiing! Waaaaah!"

You're really starting to get on my nerves, imaginary reader's voice.

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Oct 1, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Lionrock's Lionrock and Little Rascal's Movin' To The Beat

Lionrock Little Rascal

After a bit of Italian and Spanish flavour, the next two tracks on Full On bring us to Northern England.

Track four is Lionrock by Lionrock, or Lion Rock as they are also listed. Is the emphasis on the Lion or on the Rock? Who knows.

It's another early progressive house classic. Justin 'Lionrock' Robertson worked in Manchester's Eastern Bloc Records and built up a neat line in banging four-to-the-floor tunes. Get your ears around this:

 

What's most interesting about Robertson is how his music went on to progress throughout the decade. 1993's Packet Of Peace was notable not only for its acidic lines, but for its conscious-style rap from MC Buzz B. (Not an actual bee.)

By 1995, he was pumping out breakbeats in the form of Straight At Yer Head, and in 1996 he blessed us all with his brilliant Sherlock Holmes-themed big beat album An Instinct For Detection. Oh how this Mancunian trilled at the Manchester-themed track titles: Snapshot On Pollard Street; Wilmslow Road. If memory serves me correctly, he was living in Withington at the time.

His inclusion on 1992's Full On album cements Manchester's reputation as a far-flung Balearic isle: shake those maracas, Bez.

The next track on Full On keeps us in Northern England. Little Rascal's Movin' To The Beat is a lively piano house track with a dollop of Newcastle attitude. I'm pretty sure this would have stormed the Northern clubs back in the day. It's insanely happy:

The Little Rascal himself is label owner Chris Scott, who has electronic music projects coming out of his ears. He's a member of Lexicon Avenue and Echomen, and scanning his list of remixing and production credits, you can spot names like Darren Emerson and John Digweed. This is a bloke hard-wired into club culture.

I know very little about Newcastle. The only time I have been in the North East, at least as an adult, was a visit to a single pub in which a guitarist was playing Jimmy Nail's Crocodile Shoes.

Do you know what I like about this album already? There's something gratifying about a club sound that can slip so easily from Northern Italy to North-East England. It's deliciously European and delightfully unifying.

Speaking of careers progressing throughout the 1990s, the next progressive house track on Full On – Edition One features someone responsible for one of the most memorable top ten hits of the decade. Think blue...

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Sep 29, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Havana's Shift and Ramirez's Hablando

Full On Fat Roland Havana and Ramirez

Let's continue on my very niche journey of deconstructing the Deconstruction house music compilation album Full On – Edition One (see its Discogs listing here).

The second track on the album is Havana's Shift. I can't find a stream of the particular remix, but here is a version.

Slightly tribal progressive house, setting the tone for the Full On album. 

Shift was released on Limbo Records, a label that arose around Glasgow record shop 23rd Precinct, a place frequented by the legendary and uber-cool Slam DJs. 

You've heard of Slam: they're responsible for the Slam tent mentioned by Limmy here.

So yes, Glasgow is a very clubby city. I once hung around in Glasgow kebab shop after a club kicked out at 4am: these folks know how to party.

Limbo Records once held an online poll between Shift and Havana's other big track Schtoom. The latter won with 69% of the vote. It's like Brexit all over again, although with totally different voting numbers and no direct comparison to be made so please ignore this paragraph.

Let's move along. Havana, who sometimes spelled their name with a double N, was followed by Italian-Columbian house act Ramirez and a track called Hablando (it means 'talking' or thereabouts).

Ramirez was a project of the DFC (Dance Floor Corporation), another pioneering underground label that was an advocate in Italy for house music before any Italians were bothered about house music. 

The imprint was the dance offshoot of Expanded Records, who'd struggled to sell new wave and punk records. They got into dance music in the late 1980s because their Bologna heritage. Label boss Giovanni Natale told Billboard in 1994:

"We got into the dance field, and it works because traditional Italian melody is ripe to be recycled into Euro-dance riffs."

I wonder if this is what is going on with the accordion line in Hablando. Have a listen. Again, I don't think this the exact same version that's on the album: let's just assume a whole bunch of the Full On tracks aren't available online, and we'll have to settle with different mixes.

We're three tracks in and we're already feeling the full Italian flavour of this Euro disco, via the underground Scottish club scene. Which is why we're about to take a detour to, er, Wilmslow Road in Manchester. What? Stay tuned for the next instalment of my peek into Full On – Edition One.

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Sep 28, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Usura's Open Your Mind

Usura Open Your Mind

I'm deconstructing the Deconstruction house music compilation album Full On – Edition One. Let's start with the first track on the album: Usura's Open Your Mind.

This was a pumping hippy house number that went top ten all over Europe. Have a listen.

The lyrics are pretty easy to get to grips with:

Open your mind (oh)

Open your mind (oh)

Open your mind (oh)

Like a lot of dance tracks at the time, it was heavily based on samples, with the "oh" exclamation taken from the very beginning of Ashford & Simpson's 1984 single Solid. The "open your mind" hook is taken from the bit in Total Recall when Arnie meets a grotesque belly baby. No, really.

The main chord sequence is such a heavy sample of Simple Minds' New Gold Dream, it's essentially a cover version. I didn't like Simple Minds when Open Your Mind came out, but I hadn't twigged the connection. They were secretly feeding me Jim Kerr's rock sludge, like sneaking vegetables into a child's dinner.

The choice of Open Your Mind as the opening track on Full On – Edition One was an obvious choice. The bloke from Usura ran Time Records in Italy, a label that played an important part in pushing Italo disco and euro-house. I presume Decon had a deal to release Time tracks in the rest of Europe and beyond.

I bought Usura's album, also called Open Your Mind. It contained their follow-up single Sweat which sounded so much like Open Your Mind, I felt pretty ripped off. You're not allowed to release soundalike tracks in an attempt to replicate past successes. Little did I know this was exactly how pop music worked.

There you go. Track one on Full On – Edition One. Only 15 more tracks to go. Oh. Only 15 more tracks to go. Oh. Only 15 more tracks to go. Oh. *cue belly baby sample*

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Sep 27, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: introduction

Full On

When Kylie Minogue moved to Deconstruction Records to release Confide In Me, she gained an indie credibility entirely absent from her Stock Aitken and Waterman past.

And yet, Deconstruction was no less pop. Co-founded by Mike Pickering of M People, they had the big piano anthems of Black Box, K-Klass and Bassheads and M People. Taking on Kylie seemed an entirely sensible choice.

There was one compilation, however, which cemented Deconstruction's underground credentials. It was Full On: Edition One, subtitled "a year in the life of house music". This was Decon sticking a massive flag on the moon, and that moon was underground dance music. Not that moons can be made from abstract nouns, but you get the idea.

Full On Edition One cover
The cover design wasn't great. Here is its Discogs image in all its low-resolution glory. It looks like the front page of a financial company's glossy annual report. "Yah, Damien says the VAT changes have had a peripheral effect on out-sourcing but the bottom line remains pretty solid."

I shouldn't knock the designers, Farrow Design. They have pretty solid credentials, helping define the look of post-Richie Manics, Orbital's 20th anniversary, and recent Pet Shop Boys.

Anyway, I'm not here to talk about whether navy goes with burnt orange. I'm here to talk about the music.

Full On came out in 1992, which made it pre-cool-Kylie but post-Italo-house. 2 Unlimited had taken the charts by storm with their lowest common denominator "techno" sound. Full On had a foot in similar bouncy Euro-house, but there was something so much more listenable about it.

It had Felix and Usura banging out thumping anthems for blocky pre-Windows-95 visuals. It had an early appearance from Justin 'Lionrock' Robertson', laying an early warning shot for the rise of big beat. And it had a nascent appearance from someone who, five years later, would score one of the most memorable top ten singles of all time.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to analyse one track a day and I'm going to call it a Full On Guide to Full On. I'll do two tracks a day if I don't have much to write about. Three if I'm really struggling. You can see the complete track listing on Discogs.

Don't worry: if you never listened to this album, you should still enjoy this. I'm going to shine a light on 1990s dance music by, er, deconstructing this Deconstruction album. At least, I hope so: I haven't written any of it yet.

Stay tuned for the Full On Guide to Full On.

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Sep 21, 2020

Not the best music recommender in the world

Icarus

My spiritual blogging brother Benjamin Judge has been asking for music recommendations. 

A simple request, you might think. But Ben is a clever bunny. He has been turning the spotlight of criticism onto his recommenders as well as the music they have been recommending.

It's a cruel twist. That's like going to the opera, settling into your seat with your glossy programme and those little binoculars stolen off an Action Man, then the befrocked cast turning to the audience and gruffly demanding "Entertain us, scum!"

It's exactly like that.

The Best Music Recommender in the World is a competition in which Ben spends his weekends listening to music nominated by his readers, then ranks everyone's choices. There's a leaderboard and everything. He's been working through the alphabet and this coming weekend will be about acts beginning with Y.

This is natural territory for me: I consider myself a pretty decent music recommender. It's why this blog exists. I write album reviews for Electronic Sound and have been guffing on about bands since my first ever job, music columnist for the South Manchester Reporter, in 1991.

I have recommended to Ben the likes of µ-Ziq, EOD, Rival Consoles and, perhaps less successfully, Transglobal Underground. Overall, I was pretty confident I would win this thing.

It all went wrong when I tried to game Ben's system, switching one of my recommendations on the basis of a Twitter conversation. I lost points for cheating. In fact, I was penalised a number of times. I was so desperate to win the affection of Ben's ears, I cut off my nose to spite my face. I became addicted to cheating. I became the Lance Armstrong of music recommending. 

My ego got the better of me, and it cost me bad. [Takes long drag on cigarette as camera pans in.] I suppose I flew too close to the sun, just like Icarus. Also I failed to covert Ben to the joys of Underworld, just like Icarus. 

I have no chance of winning the competition now. That said, I'm still in the top 20, and 261 points ahead of Rufus Hound (no, really). I'm going to keep recommending as we pass through the final letters of the alphabet. Also I'm totally going to check his tweets to see if he's into any bands beginning with Z.

Give him a recommendation. Just don't get too cocky.

Further Fats: Meet the Manchester bloggers: the gathering, July 2010

Sep 15, 2020

Looking for a top ten hit: Paul Woolford does good

Paul Woolford Fat Roland blog

This blog seems content to trundle along in obscurity, like a beetle scuttling underneath rocks, or a Beatle scuttling underneath rocks. We see you, Ringo, there's no use hiding.

I rarely expect anyone mentioned on this blog to break through to the mainstream. In fact, it's hardly ever happened. There was Skream in 2010. And that same year, I mentioned Diplo "breaking dubstep" a year before he hit the charts with Tiësto, and five years before his all-conquering Jack Ü project. But other than that, I'm usually talking about acts long after they've hit the big time.

Which is why this week's UK singles chart is a delight. Paul Woolford has notched up a top ten hit with a track called Looking For Me. An actual top ten hit! He's better known as Special Request, and has featured several times on this blog before now.

I gave Special Request the accolade of second best album of 2013 (behind Jon Hopkins), which I described as "a breaks album that is interesting, innovative and exciting" while bigging up his farting basslines. 

I also mentioned his collection of "dancefloor-mashing" EPs in 2015, a 2017 album that was a "Burial-inspired chill-out room", and a 2017 EP that was "beautiful, devastating, ear-bending and all kinds of wonderful".

Last year's Vortex was a "speed-fuelled hymn to BPM" and featured in my favourite albums of 2019. More recently I nominated Spectral Frequency as a highlight for Picky B*stards:

"Mr Request shoves you face-first into a raging waterfall of plunging junglist drums and low-flowing bass. It’s a heavy hit, and we spend the next five minutes concussed as the track becomes a flashback to every sweaty rave and every drug-soaked festival tent in history."

"Mr Request." Heh.

And now he's a top ten superstar. This means he gets loads of limos and flowers and his very own private island, just like Elton John or Madonna or Jedward. People will be told not to make direct eye contact with him, and he is legally allowed to throw a hotel window through a television.

Looking For Me is a big summery slab of 90s house music, and was produced by Woolford in collaboration with someone called Diplo (never heard of him). Have a listen here.

Further Fats: Top ten ways to write a top ten music list (2012)

Further Fats: Do we really want Vengaboys in our room (boom boom boom boom)? (2016)

Sep 13, 2020

Flatulent balls: lockdown thoughts and a cartoon of a bull

Electronic Sound illustration for issue 69 by Fat Roland 

Issue 69 of Electronic Sound is out now. Alongside a smattering of finely honed reviews, you'll find my latest full-page column. This one is inspired by my lack of exercise throughout lockdown.

I wanted this latest piece to feel quite physical, quite fleshy. So I start with a beautiful image of a cassette tape wedged into a roll of fat and take it from there. I also use the following words: balls, flatulent, gonads, groin, horns, nipples and orifices. Lovely.

There's also my illustration, a section of which you can see in colour above. I've included a couple of first draft sketches which show I find it much easier to draw a big old bull than stupid annoying dumbbells.

I don't mention the Covid crisis in my column, although that's where the writing process started. It's nearly six months since the UK tumbled into a viral dystopia. It's been heartbreaking for those who have lost loved ones or their income.

Here are some personal thoughts about the whole coronavirus thing. I entered the pandemic as a (a) venue guy who did (b) journalism and (c) performing: the three e's of eventing, editing and egomania. Those elements of my work life have been affected in different ways.

The venue bit of my life (running the gorgeous event space at Manchester's Burgess Foundation) has changed considerably, but I've been able to pivot my job into other things, namely coming up with clever online things that make people interested in Anthony Burgess. On this score, I am lucky to have a supportive employer, and I've found this work to be a boon amid the bedlam.

The journalism bit of my life has remained unaffected. At the start of the year, I started illustrating my own monthly column for Electronic Sound, and if anything the lockdown bought me more time to work on the words and pictures. Long may it continue – you can subscribe here.

The performing? Here's the interesting one. In fact, this is what I really want to talk about. Brace yourself.

Over the past six months, the world of spoken word and comedy has moved to video. Twitch streams, Zoom gigs, Facebook premieres and the like. Rumour has it the internet is now made up of 692% TikToks.

I did one video for The Old Courts, which was a huge amount of fun, but it made me realise that the whole point of my own performance is to react to the audience in the room. I need those surprise moments, those face twitches, that slow glorious 'failure' on stage. 

Online performing is kind of fine, but it doesn't thrill me. It doesn't scratch my egomaniacal itch. Thank goodness for that Garden Fringe real-life gig which still gives me a buzz every time I think about it. 

I have similar reservations as a consumer. I've enjoyed being part of the audience at the online XS Malarkey, chatting to techno heads in Orbital premieres, and a few fun things friends have done. However, the Burgess and journalism elements of my work life mean a lot of screen time: adding even more screen time into my day hasn't proved healthy. 

Added to that, sitting on my own in a distanced community just emphasises how far away my real actual friends are. There's a tinge of the blues to it all.

All of which is to say: I have felt increasingly left behind by Covid-era entertainment. As audiences start to return to actual venues, comedy performers will start earning again, and an industry will slowly rise again. I hope that day comes soon. But this presents me with a dilemma.

My own performing life, which was starting to move from spoken word into comedy, will be much slower to recover. Thing is, although I miss it, I don't *need* the money, and I'm not going to start hustling for paid gigs when a tonne of entertainers need to rebuild their income from scratch. I will gig again, of course, but my previous performance rate – a gig every couple of weeks and my 'residency' at a monthly spoken word night – is pretty much over.

This all sounds depressing, doesn't it. However, I am an optimist: there is a silver trouser lining to this cloud of pants. I need to see this performing pickle as a challenge to up my game. 

Firstly, I need to become a facilitator (not that I wasn't already) by putting on alternative weirdo comedy gigs myself once audience distancing is less of a restriction. Create my own stuff, like that tall bloke out of Pointless. This will give me valuable stage time for my own material while giving a bit of cash to silly, funny performers. 

Secondly, I'm going to come up with an online series that leans heavily on my cartoons. I don't know what that is yet, but it needs to happen and no, it won't be a traditional performance for reasons I've waffled about already. I'm thinking possibly an animated guide to electronic music (caveat: not properly animated).

All of these thought processes swirled around my head and ended up solidifying into a column about rolls of fat and groins and gonads. Funny how the mind works.

I haven't mentioned blogging, by the way. I'm very sad to announce that this will continue unabated, and I will carry on pummelling your face with word-zingers for a long time to come. Sorry, face.

Further Fats: Fats at the Lowry – a Curious trip to the North East (2017)

Further Fats: The quarantine raves: Top one, nice one, get Covid? (2020)

Sep 10, 2020

No mood for sniffing: five September 2020 electronic music album recommendations

Rui Ho

Here are five different flavours of album due for release in September. Think of this as an ice-cream cone stacked with five scoops. Better gobble it down quickly before your hand becomes a drippy mess.

There's a line on Marie Davidson's album Working Class Woman which goes “I want to smell you, even from far away”. On her new single Renegade Breakdown, she's in no mood for sniffing: "I feel disgraceful whenever you're around." Her new band, called Marie Davidson & L'Œil Nu, is quite the change in direction, with DIY pop influenced by Fleetwood Mac and Kraftwerk. Have a nosy at the album, also called Renegade Breakdown, here.

Berlin-based RUI HO (pictured) mixes Western dance music with Chinese melodies, and has built a reputation as a DJ and purveyor of futuristic sound collages. Her debut album Lov3 & L1ght takes a typically leftfield move into glittery EDM-tinged autotuned pop. Not for everyone, but the production is really on fleek, as the cool kids say.

Tricky seems to be back on form for the first time since, well, Victorian times or something. Fall To Pieces is his 14th studio album: that's as many albums as the Prodigy and Oasis combined. He's got a great new(ish) vocalist called Marta and it's got some pretty mournful vibes.

Field Lines Cartographer took inspiration from an elusive island for The Spectral Isle – it's full of UFOs or ghosts or Westlife fans (I might be wrong about that last one). If you want big fat soundscapes to make your ears tingle, then this is the album for you. The vinyl is 'seafoam' which means you can play it with a fish.

And finally, a quirky 1990s album is getting a fresh rerelease. Help was a hastily-assembled War Child charity compilation and featured tracks from Blur, Orbital, Portishead and Massive Attack. It had early OK Computer material, the first post-Richie Manics appearance, and a bizarre return by the long-deleted KLF under the pseudonym The One World Orchestra featuring The Massed Pipes and Drums of the Children's Free Revolutionary Volunteer Guards. The album's available to stream again in all its quirky glory.


Further Fats: My greatest idea once more crumbles to dust like a great big crumbly bit of dust (2010)

Aug 31, 2020

August in brief: Poom Gems, Kylie's horse, doing a Bush, Elton flipping John

MNEK

What an amazing August that was. Do you remember the bit when the meteorite smashed into the Earth and the skies were made of fire? That was my favourite bit.

Lots happened in the world of music. Fitness trainer Joel Corry spent all month at number one, with vocals from the rather wonderful MNEK (pictured). Hudson Mohawke put out an album called Poom Gems, which sounds like an anagram for something disgusting, and no I'm not going to check. 

Smash Mouth made a fantastic contribution to the spread of Covid-19 (well done, chaps). Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion had the audacity to be body-positive women in a video, and a lot of men weren't happy. Kae Tempest came out as non-binary. Taylor Swift released some music I haven't been bothered to listen to.

Kylie Minogue released a new video:

"So we're agreed, the video will be Kylie and a pretend horse?"

"Yes, just that, nice and simple."

"Just Kylie sitting on the horse or standing near the horse or singing near the horse? Nothing else?"

"We could add in one or two sparkly bits, perhaps..."

Some people farted on about Last Night Of The Proms (Last Night Of The YAWNS, amiright?!). Harry Styles became more successful in America than the UK, which is known as "doing a Bush" (the band not the presidents). And speaking of presidents, Neil Young sued Donald Trump while Kanye West continued standing for president yet not standing for president

The shy and retiring Elton John called for more "proper songs", which as far as I can tell means music made without computers. I'd expect this fusty attitude from some old bald bloke called Reg, but not from the pop superstar Elton J— oh wait.

But most of all, I liked that bit when the meteorite wiped out all human civilisation. Do you remember that happening? It trended on Twitter for a whole afternoon. Strangely the burning space rock hovered momentarily above the ground before zeroing in on Nick Clegg. Poor guy. I know he lied about tuition fees, killed off PR for a generation, put a Bullingdon boy in number 10, and is now a shill for Facebook, but being the first human to get flattened in an apocalypse seems a bit harsh.

Oh and this happened. Roll on September, readers.

WOMAN PASSING ME IN THE STREET: Hey, you look like Mike Ashley.

ME: Okay.

WOMAN: Has anyone ever told you that?

ME: Actually they have.

WOMAN: He drives a Rolls Royce.

ME: Oh, right. I don't have a Rolls Royce.

WOMAN: He's got a Rolls Royce.

ME: *-*

Further Fats: Do stop believing: the rock music fad is over (2011)

Further Fats: Ten things I did in September (2018)

Aug 30, 2020

What do you MEAN you haven't heard of Acid August?

Josh Wink

As we approach the end of the month, I really hope you've enjoyed listening along with Acid August.

Pardon? You've never heard of Acid August? Have you been living under a rock?

The whole idea of Acid August is that you spent the whole month listening to acid house music and nothing else. Are you telling me you've not done this? Have you that much disrespect for Acid August?!

Admittedly I didn't mention Acid August, but it was difficult to figure out. It's the alliteration. Acid in August, Metal in March, Jungle in June and Off-Kilter Space Jazz in October. I shouldn't have to explain this to you.

Despite your wilful negligence of Acid August, I've hastily cobbled together a list of well-known acid classics you should have been listening to. Maybe you could invent a time machine to rescue the month you just wasted. Harrumph. You people.

  • Hardfloor's Acperience 1: maybe the band's most famous track, and a template many people have copied

  • Josh Wink's Higher State Of Consciousness (pictured): a silly track that put acid-tweaking fun into the charts

  • Hydrochloric acid: a kind of bubbling sound, especially when it's burning off your skin

  • Ceephax Acid Crew's Sidney's Sizzler: a lo-fi tempo-twiddling joyful track designed to move your tootsies

  • Carbonic acid: makes a fizzing sound when you open the bottle, as long as the Diet Coke or sparkling water hasn't gone flat

  • Spanky's Acid Bass: Phuture's much-missed Earl Smith Jr turning in an early stomping acid house classic

  • Citric acid: doesn't make much of a sound, unless you jam a lemon into your eyes for a delightfully citrus-y scream

  • 808 State's Flow Coma: the Manchester boys in a moody acid mood, a feeling replicated on their most recent album

  • Amino acid: something to do with compounds (I've honestly no idea) – probably sounds like Westlife

  • A Sid: just a man called Sid, who looks angry and disappointed on the rare occasions someone makes an "a sid / acid" joke, while mumbling "what kind of hack joke is this"

  • Maurice's This is Acid: A stone-cold classic with the added frill of rave chords and sexy gasps

Why not go through that list and tick off all the acids you have listened to this month? And in the future, please don't forget Acid August.

See you this time next month when I'll be checking on your progress in Soft Rock September.

Further Fats: 467 (2010, which also mentions Acid August!)

Aug 27, 2020

Mark Morrison pumps up the world and lets down my dreams

Mark Morrison

Last night, I dreamt I presented a live stream of Mark Morrison performing his hit single Pump Up The World

"Wow, Fat Roland, that is really impressive. You are presenting live streams with pop stars. Your career seems to be going very well, in your dreams." Thank you for pointing that out, reader.

I would have preferred him to have sung his famous 1996 number one Return Of The Mack, but Mr Morrison insisted on going with his lesser known follow-up single Pump Up The World. Who wants him to perform that? That's like being rickrolled with Together Forever instead of Never Gonna Give You Up. Still, in my dream he seemed like a tough guy: I wasn't going to argue. 

When I woke up, I did some googling. His discography is full of awfully-named singles like HornyMoan & Groan and MYLIFE 2.0, but the one he sang in my dream doesn't exist. Pump Up The World isn't a Mark Morrison single: there's no such song. 

Turns out the phrase is a lyric from the chorus of Return Of The Mack. "Return of the Mack (once again) / Return of the Mack (pump up the world)," says the song. My dream separated it out into a separate track. What's next, dream brain? One Cheeky Girl single? The J bit of Jedward going solo? 

I was devastated to find this falsehood. As he stood there on the steps of some bustling US public building (my dream didn't specify the city), the Mack sang some bogus, non-existent single. I remember enthusiastically announcing the song for the live stream, giving every bit of charisma for the camera. I did my part, but Morrison let me down with a egregious lapse of integrity. Dream Morrison is a liar and a charlatan and cannot be trusted.

I know he's done some pretty violent stuff in his life, but if he turns up again in my brain, I'm kicking off. In my dreams, I'm well harder than him. I *am* going to argue. I'm gonna tweak his nose and give him an arm burn and do some v-signs at him. To misquote his own number one single, Mark Morrison lied to me. Yes, he tried, yes, he tried. He lied to me.

I've posted about my dreams before on this blog, and I realise banging on about them may be a little tiring for my readers. But this really upset me. If you can't trust an imaginary version of an r'n'b singer to perform a song your unconscious self made up, then who can you trust? Huh?

Aug 17, 2020

Issue 68 of Electronic Sound: if Humpty Dumpty sues, I'm as stuffed as him

The cover of Electronic Sound issue 68 flanked by Humpty Dumpty and Dot Cotton

In issue 68 of Electronic Sound magazine, I turn my attention to a box-shaped hole in my life: my lack of a television.

Ten years ago, I gave up my telly to write more. I have mentioned this already on my blog: people who don't have televisions always mention they don't have televisions. TV is such a part of normal conversational discourse, it's useful to duck out of these conversations early while appearing as pious as possible.

In my new column, I reflect on my lack of a telly while shoe-horning in references to Kraftwerk, Orbital and Future Sound of London. I also besmirch the names of Humpty Dumpty and Dot Cotton. I hope nobody reads it: if Humpty Dumpty sues, I'm as stuffed as him. You can pick up a copy of Electronic Sound in shops or online: it's the one with Devo on the front cover.

Not that any of this matters because I now have subscriptions to about 52 streaming services. I have allowed television back into my life through the back door. Well. A very wide open front door. As I say in the column:

Television streaming helped during lockdown because everyone could finally spend all day watching ‘Floor Is Lava’ while power-chugging Häagen-Dazs just like they’d always dreamed.

This new edition has Electronic Sounds' biggest review section of the year so far. My own contributions include an appraisal of the new album by Erasure ("this neon flickers with regret") alongside my takes on GLOK, Nicolas Bougaïeff and Ellen Fullman & Theresa Wong. M'colleagues have also written about new albums from International Teachers of Pop, Rival Consoles, Scanner and Daniel Avery. Well worth a read.

Must stop writing: I'm about to miss the new episode of Eastenders / Only Fools And Horses / Birds Of A Feather / Brush Strokes / Howard's Way / the test card / Network 7 (delete as appropriate).

A photo of Fat Roland's Banging On column


Aug 15, 2020

The Battle of Britpop: the dullest beef in the history of beefs

Blur versus Oasis newspaper graphic

This week, it's 25 years since the Blur / Oasis 'Battle of Britpop'. They went head to head in a battle for number one in what became a definitive moment for 1990s indie music. 

The battle lines were clearly drawn. You were either a chirpy Blur fan prancing around like a jolly Cock-er-nee chimney sweep, or you were a swaggering Oasis fan ready to have a scrap with "our kid".

You had to choose one or the other, like the Mods or the Rockers, like the Beatles or the Stones, like Gordon the Gopher or Edd the Duck. And if you couldn't chose, you just feigned a Jarvis Cocker swoon and kept your nose out of it.

Blur got the number one spot and Noel Gallagher tried to curse them with "catching Aids", but the victory meant nothing. This all-consuming pop war was hollow: a clanging bell full of sound, fury and cobwebs. Yes, there was the class war aspect: the Leadbetters against the Goods, upstairs versus downstairs. But my real issue is one of quality.

It now seems criminal that two bands used their worst singles to create the dullest beef in the history of beefs, resulting in half a million record buyers being ripped off with sub-standard product.

Roll With It is a leaden dirge that wasn't even worthy of a Slade b-side. Country House was Blur at their most annoying, so faux posh that you could imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg enjoying it. That's right: just imagine Rees-Mogg snuggling under the covers with his gramophone, flicking himself off to the line "everything's going jackanory".

I wouldn't mind if this had been a couple of crap bands scrapping it out: if the Cheeky Girls wanted to have a fist fight with Las Ketchup, I'd have just left them to it. But these lads were at the top of their games – and they farted out such nonsense. I can only drool at some alternate universe in which The Masterplan went up against The Universal. Instead we got, in the parlance of South Park, a turd sandwich versus a giant douche bag.

That was only the beginning. The massive media attention then morphed into 'Cool Britannia', the broadsheet-friendly Union Flag-waving version of Britpop that saw Ginger Spice become ruler of South Africa or something. Meanwhile, indie music never quite recovered: this fatal breach of quality opened up the beige hell-mouth that was the Stereophonics, Travis and Satan's favourite band Coldplay.

I'm not necessarily saying that the Oasis versus Blur battle killed indie music forever: that's for you to decide. But what a con it was. Thank goodness for the Chemical Brothers and the Prodigy soldiering on during it all, cementing a glorious electronic future, otherwise there'd be no music left worth listening to apart from the ever-fading echo of disappointed sighs. 

As a great philosopher once wrote, "I think I've got a feeling I've lost inside." You, me and the rest of us, Liam.




Jul 31, 2020

POP RATS ANAGARMS: the answers

TEH ANSREWS: POP RATS ANAGARMS

As sure as the sun follows the rain, as sure as the buffalo follows the rabbit, it is now time to complete my pop music anagram series with... drum roll... the answers.

If you've not been keeping up with my anagrams, then catch up on parts one, two, three and four. Go there now before you see the answers.

Ready?

Here we go. My two criteria for choosing the musicians I did were (1) they were well known and successful, and (2) I didn't like them. With each answer, I will justify point 2. Or at least, I'll try to.

FLAKED MORNING ANUS (5,3,9) is Simon and Garfunkel:
Their music seems weedy to me, as if it's not really trying. They need to back things up with a techno beat, or perhaps a spectacular pom-pom dance routine. Which one is Simon and which one is the other one? No-one really knows.

I AM LUBE BELCH (7,5) is Michael Bublé:
He's so middle of the road, it's like watching painted road lines dry. If he was a cat's eye, its eyelid would be half drooped with boredom. I realise things like Michael Bublé need to exist, like tables or shoe horns, but that's no reason to get excited about him.

HAIRY CAMERA (6,5) is Mariah Carey:
What's with the warbling? If someone did that to you on the street, you'd punch them on the nose. No-one needs to scale five octaves: just stick to the one octave. In fact, stick to the one note. There are too many notes.

LIAR CHEAT USING AIR (9,8) is Christina Aguilera:
It's so long since I've heard Christina Aguilera that I've forgotten what she sounds like. Was she the one in ABBA? Was she that X Factor winner who sang that song? Was she the baked potato one out of East 17? All I can remember is I didn't like her music.

PERTURBING SCENES (5,11) is Bruce Springsteen:
I know he's the boss and everything, but he's not the boss of me. I don't get the whole American blue jeans thing, or the whole stadium rock thing. Mainly the jeans. Why can't he wear a nice pair of cords? Or some orange slacks? Yes, orange slacks would be nice.

BLAND BOY (3,5) is Bob Dylan:
Hey, I get this guy's place in history, but I can't stand the voice. I think he's the reason I don't like folk music. I heckled Bob once, at Manchester's Free Trade Hall. I demanded he play some Judas Priest. I think people misheard me.

TA, LEUKEMIA (5,5) is Katie Melua:
Katie's music is warm and comforting, and I don't want warm and comforting. I want cold and uncomfortable: it's why I'm into techno. She should make some techno instead of counting all the bicycles in major Chinese cities.

BYE, PISS RANTER (7,6) is Britney Spears:
I didn't like the sexy schoolgirl thing: very worrying. I didn't like the whole Toxic bad behaviour thing: it was a bit meh. And as for her dubstep moment? For the love of Springsteen, poke out my ears with a Garfunkle.

There you go. Some fun anagrams, some revealing answers, and a torrent of negativity to cast a shadow over this whole enterprise. Why not make an anagram out of someone you love by shaking them until all their innards get scrambled? What fun! Thanks for readgin (it's an anagram of reading).


Jul 29, 2020

POP RATS ANAGARMS 4: Thank you and goodbye

POP RATS ANAGARMS

I've just spent 24 hours in a police cell. My crime? Posting anagrams so good, they should be illegal.

Get ready for life sentences all round, because here are two more POP RATS ANAGARMS! (It's an anagram of POP STAR ANAGRAMS, as you may or may not have noticed.) 

This is the final pair of anagrams in this series. Thanks to those who have played along on Twitter: in dedication to you all, today's anagrams are themed on "thank you" and "goodbye". The next post on this blog will have all the answers.

As with the previous posts, there are two pop acts to name. Both are successful enough to be well known names, and they're also artists I don't especially like. This whole word game is some kind of masochism on my part.

Get solving! Leave a comment or tweet me the answer, and look out for a clue further down this post.

First anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): TA, LEUKEMIA (5,5)

TA, LEUKEMIA

Second anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): BYE, PISS RANTER (7,6)

BYE, PISS RANTER

A brace of final bafflements for you to solve. Clue? They are both solo artists. That's all you're getting this time.

Comment if you're old school or tweet me if you're trendy and modern.

Answers coming up soon.




Jul 28, 2020

POP RATS ANAGARMS 3: perturbing and bland

POP RATS ANAGARMS

I'm delighted that my POP RATS ANAGARMS (it's an anagram of POP STAR ANAGRAMS) have made international news. They were on the front page of every newspaper on earth, got 96% coverage on the entire internet, and a farmer in Somerset sent up a skywriting plane which said FAT ROLUNDS ANAGRMS ARX GXFRQPPT (it was a windy day).

Here are two more pop music anagrams. The golden rules are the same as previous anagram challenges: Firstly, these are very successful pop acts, and secondly, I think their music is well rubbish. You may like them: I don't. With that in mind, today's pop star choices might prove controversial.
Rearrange these anagrams to make a famous music star. Leave your answer in the comments or, more likely, tweet the answer at me. There is also a clue below. 

First anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): PERTURBING SCENES (5,11)

PERTURBING SCENES

Second anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): BLAND BOY (3,5)

BLAND BOY

Want a clue? Both of these American solo acts were born in the same decade.

Comment or tweet me up. Another pair of anagrams in seven shakes of a goat's beard (i.e. soon).




Jul 27, 2020

POP RATS ANAGARMS 2: two (h)airy pop music anagrams

POP RATS ANAGARMS

Yesterday, I challenged my blog readers with two fiendish pop music anagrams. Some of you got it, while some of you broke down in tears. "No more, Fats," you wept while ripping your clothes asunder.
You: Hello, I'd like a refund on this designer jacket, please.
Tailor: But it's all ripped.
You: Yes, I ripped it real good. I'd like a refund please.
Tailor: We can't refund items you've damaged.
You: But... Fat Roland did this anagram quiz where—
Tailor: You've said enough. Here's a thousand pounds.
Here is more, so may the tears flow into rivers. Below are two further POP RATS ANAGARMS (it's an anagram of POP STAR ANAGRAMS). Remember: (1) these are all very successful pop acts, and (2) I don't like any of them because I'm a music snob.
Solve these two pop music act anagrams by leaving a comment or tweeting me the answer. And pay attention because I've given a little clue below.

First anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): HAIRY CAMERA (6,5)

HAIRY CAMERA

Second anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): LIAR CHEAT USING AIR (9,8)

LIAR CHEAT USING AIR

See if you can unscramble each anagram into the name of a pop music act. And here's a little clue – you'd definitely notice if either of these solo artists started singing in your neighbourhood. They've got range!

Comment or tweet. Another pair of anagrams shortly.

Further Fats: See part 1 of POP RATS ANAGARMS here



Jul 26, 2020

POP RATS ANAGARMS 1: two flaky pop music anagrams

pop rats anagarms

I've noticed an increase in stupidity among my blog readers. Putting the cat in the fridge, stirring your tea with the loo brush, going to the shops in clown shoes, that kind of thing.

What you need, readers, is a mental challenge.

Welcome to a short series of POP RATS ANAGARMS! These are actually POP STAR ANAGRAMS, but what I've done is mix up the letters in each word (I swapped the Ps in POP). This is because I am well clever.

Two things connect the pop music acts featured in these anagrams:
1. They are all very successful pop acts. Some of them have a whole bunch of number one singles, and the acts that don't are still very much household names. Mostly solo acts, but not all.

2. I don't like any of them. That's right: I've picked some of my least favourite names in pop. This won't help you solve the anagrams necessarily, but it will tell you which CDs not to get me for Christmas.
This is the first of five POP RATS ANAGARMS blog posts. The first four posts will each have two anagrams to solve so if you find one too easy, there's always another to unscramble. The fifth blog post will have the answers.

Let's go. Solve these two pop music act anagrams! Either leave a comment or tweet me the answer (oh and look out for a clue below).

First anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): FLAKED MORNING ANUS (5,3,9)

FLAKED MORNING ANUS

Second anagram (length of the solution's words in brackets): I AM LUBE BELCH (7,5)

I AM LUBE BELCH

There you go. Two absolutely delightful anagrams for you to unscramble into the name of a pop music act. Pssst: here's a clue – one of these acts had their hits many years ago, while the other is a 21st century act.

Comment or tweet!

Another pair of anagrams soon.




Jul 24, 2020

Blimmin' eck! Fat Roland's guide to the 2020 Mercury Prize

Kano

The Mercury Prize has announced its shortlist, and what a list. 

Who is who, why oh why, and what do they look like when you listen to them? I'm here to answer all of your nominee quandaries. Here is my album-by-album guide to the 2020 Mercury Prize.

Anna Meredith – FIBS

Anna is a proper classical music person who chucked all of her violas and trumpets into the sea and waited until a synthesiser washed up to shore. Somewhere there's a fisherman with a barnacle-clad flute wondering if he's found a new species of fish. Meredith's got a proper MBE, which stands for "Music Brilliant Excellent" or "Mercury? Blimmin' Eck!" The album sounds like she's pressed a single loop for ages on a Juno keyboard, but in a good way. It sounds like post rock for people made of cotton wool. Again, in a good way.

Charli XCX – how i’m feeling now

Fact I: Charli XCX is a Roman person called Charlie who lived in the year XCX. Fact II: She recorded this album under lockdown, which means she played the keyboards one-handed while waving goodbye in a Zoom meeting. Fact IIII: The album is full of r'n'b bangers that sound downloaded through an early-2000s modem. Fact IIIIIII (I've lost count): Charli says she sees music in colours, which is a shame because they didn't have colours in Roman times.

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Dua Lipa is the queen of pop. Is she a benevolent queen, or a despotic one? That depends on how many people she's beheaded. Future Nostalgia is packed to the rafters with roof-raising pop bangers: she reminds me of Sophie Ellis Bexter but without a Blue Peter mum. I like that bit in the Dua Lipa single that goes "pa da da daa pa de dah, oh!" although I don't think that's on this album. Swing that axe, Dua! Oh hold on, the phone's ringing. Hello? I'm being sued for what? No, I don't remember telling my readers that the pop star Dua Lipa led a series of public executions in her bid to become the ultimate pop queen. Sorry, you must have the wrong number. Okay, bye.

Georgia – Seeking Thrills

This is not the eccentric electronic duo Georgia from the oddball Edinburgh imprint Firecracker Recordings. Which is a shame, because I liked what I heard. Instead, this is much more straightforward: summery dancefloor tunes perfectly designed for all the festivals that aren't happening right now. Georgia's dad was in some obscure act called Leftfield. The other Georgia, the one I remember, deconstructed music into a thousand Nintento shards: this Georgia rebuilds it.

Kano – Hoodies All Summer

Grime grandmaster Kano (pictured) has tonnes of award nominations: Mobos, Brits, Mercury Prizes, cycling proficiency certificates. They're literally pouring out of his every orifice. His track Trouble is already a modern classic, with the help of a 92-year-long video in which he shows off his spittin' skills. I'd advise against wearing a hoodie all summer, unless of course you've got stuff falling out of your orifices, in which case I'd recommend a number of hoodies placed at strategic points on your body to avoid the very real possibility of something shooting out of your bum and ruining the job interview and/or funeral you're attending. This is great advice: I hope someone's reading this.

Lanterns on the Lake – Spook the Herd

You can't spook a herd of cows by putting lanterns on a lake: let's get that clear from the outset. You could set fire to a sheep, perhaps. Anyway, this Newcastle outfit's blend of folksy indie music provid– no, wait, I can't let this rest. Maybe make the shape of a cow ghost using the lanterns: the lake's ripples would make it move eerily. Or just throw the cows into the lake and chuck a lantern at them. Yeah, do that.

Laura Marling – Song for Our Daughter

Marling, who is not a fish, is one of the most nominated artists in Mercury prize history. She's been referred to as "nu-folk" which is like nu metal with fewer wallet chains. Marling, who is definitely still not a fish, wrote this album for a non-existent daughter. What is also non-existent is my interest in folk music. She'll probably win the Mercury, because a fish hasn't won the prize since James Hake in 2013. Wait. Was she a fish or wasn't she? Am I thinking of marlin? The Mercury needs to choose less confusing musicians.

Michael Kiwanuka – KIWANUKA

If in doubt, just put your name in big letters. This is why I scribble FAT ROLAND on passing schoolchildren and Deliveroo riders. Kylie's first album was called Kylie, so I assume that's the sort of vibe the excellent Mr Kiwanuka was going for. He's got a labrador called Whisky, which is nice, although I doubt Whisky has ever written "Whisky" on anything, on account of not having opposable thumbs. Madonna's first album was called Madonna. This is Michael's third album: he's doing it all wrong.

Moses Boyd – Dark Matter

When I reviewed this album for Electronic Sound, I said Moses Boyd pinballed around his drum kit "like an oiled whippet". This was not meant to be a suggestion. I would sincerely like to apologise to any dog owners who have lost their pets due to unexpected slippage, but you shouldn't have been near the cement mixer in the first place. Where was I? Oh yes. Moses. Boyd. Jazz. Funk. Drums. More drums.

Porridge Radio – Every Bad

Lawks, it's an indie guitar album. I've not heard one of those since 2003. If you're not sure what a guitar is, it's like a synthesiser but shaped like an 8 and made of string. Weetabix Wireless, sorry, I mean, Porridge Radio are from Brighton. The beach in Brighton is most famous as a filming location for the Paul Bettany film Wimbledon. If a guitar album wins the Mercury, albeit one as good as this, all electronic music is dead. Fact.

Sports Team – Deep Down Happy

Sports Team are wacky, like a clown on a sausage, or a barbershop quartet up the nose of a walrus. Their critics say they are posh Cambridge lads who read too much John Betjeman. Why are they even in this list of best albums? I don't even like sports. Or teams. Or being happy deep down. Uh-oh! Coco's fallen off the bratwurst! So wacky! Like a goose in a top hat, or a buffalo in a fez, or morris dancers with googly eyes on their knees, or an office tie covered in cartoons of Stewie from Family Guy, or an inflatable penis dressed up to look like Prince Phillip, or saying the word "Uranus" the rude way, or a piece of poo on a stick, or a stick embedded in a massive poo, or stabbing yourself to death with a poopy stick, stab stab stab until the horror of this album is forgotten forever. Ahem. I think I need to lie down for a bit.

Stormzy – Heavy is the Head

Never heard of him, sorry. Only joking! I am being very hilarious today, I hope someone's reading. Stormzy does actually have a very heavy head and has to carry it around in a wheelbarrow. Sometimes he wears bullet-proof vests just to support his torso, what with the weight of his colossal bonce. Stormzy once did a single about how his head was too big to fit in his boots, which to be honest we could have guessed without learning it in the song. If the actual Mercury prize is a medal worn around the neck, Stormzy is truly stuffed.