Jun 10, 2021

Cover me bad: Flow Coma by 808 State

Cover Me Bad: Flow Coma by 808 State

Dear reader,

This is the blog police. It has come to our attention that there has been suspicious activity on this Blogger account for the past five days, masquerading as a blog series called Cover Me Bad.

The conceit of the series is that the writer and performer Fat Roland thinks he's brilliant at creating cover versions of electronic music tracks. The 'joke', and we use that word loosely, is that he's really bad at it, and each blog post ends in a stream of idiocy.

According to the Weblogs Policing Act 2005, this is really bad blogging. Let's use an example.

Artist: 808 State
Track: Flow Coma
Year: 1988
Reviews: [Mr Roland would then insert a genuine review here, but make it look like nonsense]

He would always print something like that. It is alleged this is a random song choice, picked from his record collection. We have evidence to believe the decision is actually more half-hearted, plucked carelessly from thin air. He clearly is not researching his blog posts.

He would then take elements of the track, in 808 State's the case the dirty acid and the skippy snares, and then imagine how he would mimic the sounds. However, instead of a serious tutorial on Ableton or similar music-making equipment, he usually resorts to bad puns or forced literalism. 

For example, taking the dirty acid and the skippy snares, he would have then talked about getting some actual acid and putting dirt on it, or placing a snare drum in a skip.

This is, at best, lazy writing and, at worst, a crime against blogging. The evidence is written in black and white.

In a recent post, Mr Roland pretended to have a conversation with his own blog, thereby breaking the structure of the Cover Me Bad blog series. This was a particularly heinous crime and we hope he doesn't do this again.

The reader is advised not to have any contact with Fat Roland's blog, otherwise the reader will be charged with accessory to poor interneting.

Yours sincerely,

The Blog Police, 999 Letsbe Crescent (near Letsbe Avenue), Blogford, Bloggington, Greater Bloggery.

Jun 9, 2021

Cover me bad: Eggshell by Autechre

Cover me bad: Eggshell

Nope. Not doing it.

Ah, go on.

I can't keep ruining my blog like this. The previous days' posts have just been embarrassing.

It's what your public want.

No it's not. I've seen the visitor stats. The whole website's tanking. I've lost 20 followers on Twitter.

Just a little one. Go on. Do it.

Absolutely not.

Artist: Autechre
Track: Eggshell
Year: 1993
Reviews: "Muestra el lado más minimalista y bailable del trabajo." 4.5-star Rate Your Music review 

Look, you can insert that text, but I am absolutely not doing one of my parody cover version blog posts.

But it's Autechre. You love Autechre.

Yes, and that's one of their best early tracks. Weirdly euphoric despite being all wibbly and downbeat. That's why I don't want to do a cover version.

Is it because you're not good at doing cover versions?

Shut up. I'm brilliant at cover versions, me. That's why I'm setting up a cover version band-- wait, no. You nearly got me. I am NOT doing this.

How would you make the main tingly keyboard line?

Nope. Not going there.

The smoky IDM chords? Maybe get some smoke?

Stop it. I'm not playing along.

The crunchy percussion? Perhaps get something crunchy, like crisps, autumn leaves or fried chicken.

That's done it. I'm switching you off.

What? You can't switch a blog off. It's not possible.

Yes it is. Stay still. There's a switch here somewhere. Is it round the back?

GET OFF MY BUM.

Do you promise to behave? Stop all this 'Cover me bad' nonsense? It was a vague idea that turned out confusing and bad.

Okay. I'll stop.

Promise?

Pinky promise.

Good.

...

Artist:Aqua
Track: Barbie Girl
Year: 1997 
Reviews: "Garbage!" 1-star Amazon review

AAAAAAARGH! 


Jun 8, 2021

Cover me bad: De-Orbit by Speedy J

Cover Me Bad: De-orbit

Look, can everyone just get off my back?

I've accidentally ruined by blog. For the past three days, I've got caught in a daily loop of (a) pretending that I'm making cover versions of other songs and (b) then posting one of my favourite electronic music tracks and being silly about it.

If I post one more stupid blog post about covering a song then not actually taking it seriously, this blog is finished. You're all hating it: you've made that much clear. Just leave me alone. This has to end.

No more stupid 'Cover me bad' blog posts. 

It. 

Stops. 

Here.

Artist: Speedy J
Track: De-Orbit
Year: 1991
Reviews: "Spine shivering" 4-star Discogs review 

Oh crap.

This is perhaps the only track I love that has, at its centre, a Kool & the Gang sample. It's the breakbeat that persists throughout the track. Sigh. Are we really doing this? Alright then...

To do a cover version of De-Orbit, I'd kidnap Kool & the Gang and make them perform for me under duress. If they don't cooperate, then I'd threaten to withhold their comfort blankets / Gameboys / Pot Noodles / crochet sets / whatever gets them through the day.

There's a squeaky square wave keyboard motif that sounds like a guinea pig having a tantrum during a game of Monopoly. So I'd have a guinea pig. And a game of Monopoly.

Look, I said I would stop doing this. It's demeaning. No-one wants to read this.

There are warm pads adding rich melody in the background that sound like a whale quietly appreciating Water Lilies by the impressionist artist Monet. So I'd use a whale. And I'd get that painting from wherever they keep Monet paintings.

This blog used to matter. It won two awards eleven years ago. That MEANS something, y'know.

As the track fades out, there's some DJ-scratch style detuning going on. The effect is something akin to a malfunctioning laser in a science fiction film. So, er, I'd get Fatboy Slim and detune him. And get a laser. From a film.

Look, I don't know. It's a classic track and nobody should be doing a cover version of it. This whole thing is ridiculous.

Never again. There will definitely not be another stupid 'Cover me bad' blog post tomorrow. Definitely not.

*looks to camera*


Jun 7, 2021

Cover me bad: Chime by Orbital

Cover Me Bad: Chime

I have to make a huge apology. For the last couple of days on this blog, I have pretended to launch a covers band. I then spooled off a load of nonsense about whisks, washing machines and constipated cows. I am sorry to everyone I disappointed.

Please do not read the last two blog posts. They were a waste of valuable internet resources.

Let's take this seriously. I'm going to write a proper cover version, with proper instruments, and people are going to respect me as a musician. Let's choose a random song from my record collection.

Artist: Orbital
Track: Chime
Year: 1989
Reviews: "What a tune!" 5-star Amazon review (I genuinely couldn't find a comedically bad Amazon review)

Bells. We're going to need lots of bells.

Tubular Bells. Cowbells. Church bells. Anything that goes clang.

Kettle bells, which I don't think are real bells, but are the kind of things weightlifters lift up to show people they can lift things off the ground. I want those kind of bells.

Bell's whisky. I need to drink as much Bell's whisky as possible even though I read a booklet once that said blends aren't as good as single malts and I never learnt why but I remembered it so I could sound intelligent when I talked about whisky.

The TV programme Saved By The Bell. Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone even though it was probably one of those urban myths where he got the credit but the telephone was actually invented by Ainsley Harriott or something. 

Ali Campbell from UB40! He's a bell. A camp bell. I'll have him as well. While I'm at it, I'll have David Bellamy, the Scottish band The Bluebells. And Belle and Sebastian. Actually, I'm not that bothered about Belle and Sebastian.

I think that's going to sound lovely. Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “without music, life would be a mistake.” My beautiful cover version of Chime by Orbital, with its infinite cacophony of bells, finally gives Nietzsche's statement true meaning.

Chime has got bells in, right? I can't remember.

Told you I was going to take this seriously.

Jun 6, 2021

Cover me bad: Block Rockin' Beats by the Chemical Brothers

Cover Me Bad: Block Rockin' Beats

Yesterday, I decided to form a cover band. It didn't go well. I've literally had billions of messages accusing me of cruelty to the clergy. So ignore yesterday's blog post. I've decided to try again, properly this time.

I still reckon I could pick any random track in my record collection, and I could perform a brilliant cover version. I am, famously, as talented as Mozart at doing music things, with the added bonus that I can play the kazoo way better than him.

So let's pick a tune and see how we go. I've got my record box in front of me, wedged between my thighs. Eyes closed. Let's choose!

Artist: Chemical Brothers
Track: Block Rockin' Beats
Year: 1997
Reviews: "One, two, three, goodbye!" 1-star Amazon review translated from Spanish

Crikes. This is a tough one. The first thing to note about Block Rockin' Beats is the really tight drum rhythm. They sampled this from a Bernard Purdie drum solo, so I suppose I could sample something as well. Let me just fill my washing machine with coat hangers and put it on fast spin. There we go. A lovely sound.

The next main thing is the screechy sirens bit. Sounds like constipated horses alarmed at a particularly aggressive cow. I haven't got a horse or a cow. Can you buy them off of the internet? Crikes, there's one website that says people drug horses at auctions so they appear calm. Nope, I'm not buying a horse. Let's compromise. Let's find a cow, get it constipated, and wait until it makes a noise. From either end. Sorted.

The final main bit of the song is the voice that goes "Back with another one of those block rockin' beats." Apparently this is a sample of Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D, who narrated Aqua Teen Hunger Force and played a big part in inventing gangsta rap. Simple. All I need to do is become a gangsta rapper, and I've completed my cover version of Block Rockin' Beats,

A Gangsta Rap
by Fat Roland

Roland Fatty Fats is bustin' down your door
So back up otherwise I'll, erm, do a poo on your floor
Gimme the microphone and make sure it's plugged in
Compton and Long Beach, they are places I've never bin
Dibbly bop a-wah-wah-woo
Insert something about g-thangs, although I'm not quite sure what they are
Put a glock on your, um, AK-47
And then put it back again because you don't know where it's been
Inglewooooood!

So there you go. That's my Chemical Brothers cover version done. Got a bit side-tracked there with rapping a different song, but let's not question the artistic process.

Please send complaints to the usual address.

Jun 5, 2021

Cover me bad: Are We Here? by Orbital

Cover me bad: Are We Here?

I've decided to form a cover band.

Ages ago, I found a bunch of tribute band flyers in a pub. Among them were Korn Again. Guns Or Roses. U2-2. Bon Giovi and Slipnowt. The latter being from Yorkshire, I presume.

Tribute bands are the extremists of the cover band world. Committed to one particular act, one particular musical backlist. You can't stray if you're a tribute band. Perhaps a Busted tribute band called Busted Flush could get away with a McFly track or two, but you have to stay within your own chosen discography.

Not so for other cover bands. You know the kind. They play every Tuesday night in the back room of the Duck & Testicles, with the same old playlist. Achy Breaky Heart, Simply The Best, Knocking On Heaven's Door. They'll play anything that gets someone's foot tapping over a warm pint of John Smith's. Instead of going balls deep into a single act's oeuvre, their repertoire is wide and shallow, like a puddle or similar spillage.

You know what? I can do this. Let's dive into my pile of gramophone records and choose a song at random. I bet you ten billion pounds I could do an ace cover version of any song. Okay. I'm flipping through now. Eyes closed. Here we go!

Artist: Orbital
Track: Are We Here?
Year: 1994
Reviews: "Hasn't grabbed me yet." 1-star Amazon review

Oh. Right. I was hoping for My Way or something. We can work with this, don't worry.

The first main element are the questioning vocals. Some bloke waffles on asking questions, as if they're bugging a woman on Twitter. Are we here? Are we unique? What does God say? I'd recreate this by kidnapping a vicar and make them read a sermon under duress.

Then there's the drum and bass-y stuff. Easy. Set up an obstacle course of kitchen implements on the hill near my house. Whisks, toasters, knives, that kind of thing. Anything metallic that will make a clattery noise when hit. Put the vicar on roller skates, and as soon as they starts their sermon, give 'em a good push down the hill.

And finally, the other thing about Are We Here? is that it's long. So once the vicar has rolled to a stop, their battered body embedded with various kitchen gadgets, yank them back uphill with a rope and start all over again. It'll be like Sisyphus with his boulder but, y'know, not that at all.

Like I said, I can do an ace cover version of any song, and I've just totally proved it. You now owe me ten billion pounds.

Who said blogging doesn't pay?

May 31, 2021

This is not an interview

Hello, Fat Roland. Thanks for joining us.

My pleasure. I've always wanted to appear on this talk show.

It's not a talk show. Tell us what you've been up to this month.

I've been busy. I was the venue keyholder for a polling station. I went to the cinema for the first time in ages. I saw Judas And The Black Messiah, which was great. I bought a Playstation 4, long after it was cool to buy one. A chat show, then? Is it a chat show.

Nope. Is it right you had a gig? With a socially distanced audience?

Game show?

Just answer the question.

Yes, I had a wonderful time at Making Waves: Queer Edition, a cabaret night for Pride In Trafford. I did some silly cartoon things that involved gay pop anthems, a comedy strip tease and an unexpected Annie Lennox.

That must have been strange, being in a room with an audience.

Not at all: it was lovely. I'm going to guess reality show. Quiz show? I'm not sure what other kinds of shows have interviews like this.

Did you have to put much work into the performance?

Tonnes. That's why I've not blogged much.

What's a blog?

I'll explain later. There was quite a bit of new material so I spent a lot of time on props and making new music. And just the basic writing, of course, which takes forever. What with me being an artiste and all.

Erm. I suppose. And do you have lots more gigs coming up?

Is this a roast? Like they do in America? I've heard about those.

No, it's not a roast.

Oh. I'll answer the question, then. I don't have much in the pipeline. I'll be doing the Sunday Assembly on June 27th. I'd love to be booked for more stuff, performing and compering, but there aren't that many things going on just yet. Things will get busier as we continue this rocky road out of lockdown.

It's a soap opera.

What?

It's not a a talk show or a game show or a roast. It's a soap opera.

I don't...

This isn't an interview. It's a script for a soap opera.

That doesn't even make any sense. In form or content. It's clearly a question and answer session.

Yes. Like a melodrama. You're the hen pecked husband, I'm the wronged wife looking for revenge.

That sounds terrible. I'd like to go now, please.

Thanks for joining us, Fat Roland. Have you anything you'd like to plug?

Yeah. Your face. WITH MY FIST.

Ha ha ha! Brilliant roast.

What?!

May 7, 2021

Noel Gallagher: mask-avoiding shopper and... Record Store Day Ambassador?!

Record Store Day and Noel Gallagher

Record Store Day is amazing. In an era when record shops should be crumbling to dust, Record Store Day has helped record shops not only retain customers, but turn them into destinations worth cueing for. Like Boxing Day sales, butchers at Christmas, or donkey rides.

So whatever I'm about to say, you need to bear that in mind. Record Store Day is a wonderful thing. Yes, vinyl is so expensive, it would be cheaper to make them out of diamond-encrusted mortgages, but it is still a fantastic project and long may it thrive.

Earlier this week, Record Store Day UK announced Noel Gallagher as their official ambassador. The announcement was accompanied by a video of Noel praising Sifters Records, where I bought my first ever seven-inch singles. And yes, as it says in Shakermaker, I would have been just 16 when Mr Sifter sold me those songs. 

So yeah, I get it. Noel. Record shops. Makes sense.

However, Noel has been a naughty boy during the pandemic. Last year, he took against face coverings, wibbling something about liberties and not being able to catch the virus, and eventually getting challenged in a supermarket for not wearing a mask. "It’s not a law," he said about the, er, law. Why is this such a mantra for so many older men?

I had a moan on Twitter (hey, I'm an older man too) saying that mask avoiding puts all retailers and shoppers at risk, which it does, and this decision to appoint a 'mask denier' should be reversed immediately.

I also wrote an email. For the sake of transparency, and to show off the fact that I know how emails work, here's the text. I got a quick response from Record Store Day, or rather the Entertainment Retailers Association, the organisation that drives RSD. Their reply follows my email below.

Hello Record Store Day pals,

I’m writing to ask you to reconsider appointing Noel Gallagher as ambassador for Record Store Day.

Following a difficult year for high street shops, Record Store Day will play a more important role than ever in restoring activity to indie record stores. Appointing inspiring and characterful ambassadors is a great way to promote publicity for the project.

However, Noel Gallagher is an insensitive choice at best, and an irresponsible choice at worst. He received widespread publicity for his refusal to wear a face covering as a mitigation against Covid-19. “They’re pointless,” he said, railing against the removal of liberties and referring to mask-wearing podcaster Matt Morgan as a “cowardly germophobe”. This is despite clear scientific evidence that, alongside other measures, mask wearing helps to protect ourselves and others from the virus.

Opening up a high street shop presents an instant Covid-19 danger to customer-facing staff. Mask avoiding puts all retailers and shoppers at risk, and choosing Gallagher as the ambassador for RSD legitimises dangerously complacent views and puts at risk those people that will be working and shopping to make Record Store Day a success.

Ethical considerations are part of the DNA of Record Store Day, whether it’s supporting high street shops, promoting War Child or raising donations for the AAPI Community Fund. This appointment undermines the image and ethos of your organisation.

At least you didn’t appoint Ian Brown.

Please, for the sake of RSD fans, customers and retailers, reverse your decision to make Noel Gallagher as Record Store Day ambassador.

That's alright, isn't it? Covered my points, didn't waffle too much, didn't say 'bum' or 'willy'.

Here is the reply from the Record Store Day people.

Hi Roland,

Thanks for contacting us about this.

I appreciate your concerns and have contacted Noel Gallagher’s team about this issue.

As background, the record stores chose Noel Gallagher as their ambassador as he has a long and celebrated history of supporting them and their businesses. He has taken part in RSD many times with special and thoughtful releases that so many of their customers love. What is important for RSD is that he shares their love of vinyl and independent shops, and for that reason RSD do not believe it is appropriate to reconsider his involvement as our ambassador.

However, we have been reassured that Noel won’t be making any other comments about it whilst he is an RSD ambassador. 

We know just how hard every single RSD shop has worked to keep their customers safe throughout last year’s 3 Drop events and Black Friday and are confident this will not impact on any of the official social distancing rules in place.  All our shops enforce mask wearing for all their customers.

Thanks again for your email and for supporting your local record stores.

No doubt written through gritted teeth, but a very cordial response. That's enough for me. They've made their point, and I'm not going to labour mine: it's not as if they're toasting puppies over a burning orphanage. OR ARE THEY? No. No, they're not.

I have some take-aways from this.

1. The record stores chose Noel as their ambassador. This pretty much deflates my argument with one sharp prick. My worry was the message it sends about mask-wearing in record shops, but if the shops ain't bothered, then why am I moaning.

2. Noel has been told to shut up about not wearing face coverings. This is brilliant news, and should ensure he sends the right signals as RSD ambassador. And if he suddenly goes all David Icke, they can fire him from the role, preferably out of a cannon.

3. Noel's love for record shops is far more important to RSD than his skriking about masks. This is another indication, echoed in my last post about plague ravers, that there are many people in the music industry far less vexed by viral risks than me.

That last point rankles the most. As we move into Covid 2.0, learning to live alongside this new element of our lives, mask-avoiders and plague rave DJs will thrive without consequence of their previous statements or actions. That somehow seems wrong.

Record Store Day is amazing. Remember that bit? It's still true. And when next I go to an indie record shop, I'll trust their Covid precautions, if indeed they're still required by then. However if Noel Gallagher walks in, I'm pouncing on him and sellotaping album sleeves on his face. It's for your own good, Noel.

Further Fats: Glastonbury's got 99 bands, and Jay Z should be one of them (2008)

Further Fats: The Battle of Britpop – the dullest beef in the history of beefs (2020)

May 3, 2021

The First Dance: scientific clubbing versus plague raving

A clubber and a crowd in Liverpool

The sight of thousands of revellers crammed into a Liverpool club the other night was initially quite disconcerting.

Where were their masks? Why weren't they distancing? Where were all the awkward elbow bumps?

Circus's The First Dance was actually one of two nightclub experiments at the weekend to see if large-scale music events could work with the right safety measures in place. The clubbers went through a scientific testing and monitoring, turning them into guinea pigs with glow sticks. Which obviously is the cutest thing in the world.

These are the first official club events in the UK since the virus hit, and it was a delight to see. Big up to Liverpool for pioneering our way out of lockdown: until now, the city was only famous for Richard and Judy, The Zutons, and Ken Dodd.

The line-up included the Blessed Madonna, Fatboy Slim and Sven Väth. The last name impressed me: he's one of my all-time bestest faves: here's me raving about him in 2010. Sven Väth helping end the apocalypse. Brilliant! I knew I could count on Sven...

Except...

I mentioned Väth on Twitter, and I was immediately put right by Posthuman, who in non-virus times runs a night called I Love Acid and is an all-round good egg. Turns out Sven is a plague rave DJ. Posthuman was hugely positive about the event, but likened Väth's booking to a "having an arsonist on the fire safety board".

What's a plague rave? These are big club events held in places in the grip of Covid-19, with headline acts flown in while the virus spikes with deadly effect. In fact, the events are probably possible precisely because the host country has lax virus regulations. Clubbers arrive in their thousands and the virus claims its victims, putting pressure on already inadequate levels of testing and health care.

Sven Väth has been touring India, a nation suffering a brutal Covid surge. Väth has always had an attachment to the iconic clubbing destination of Goa, so it was no surprise that particular Western Indian state was on his gig schedule. His appearance behind the decks at a particular Goa event in early March was described by one giddy electronic music website as going "viral among fans of electronic music." No irony whatsoever. I won't link to it here.

Let's draw out a timeline. In the month after that March Goa gig, Covid cases across India rose by a multiple of six. Now let's extend that timeline. On the day of writing this piece, around two months after that Goa gig, the number of cases across India was 26 times larger. And in Goa specifically, cases were 64 times higher than they were in early March, albeit rising from a comparatively lower base. 

Excuse the number crunching, but this helps us understand that any big-name DJ show taking place in India in early March could easily have had the consequence of being a super-spreader event.

This isn't just about Sven Väth, of course. Business Teshno has been raising awareness of such Covid-calamitous behaviour for months, calling out the likes of DJs Dixon, Luciano, Solomun and Nina Kraviz.

There are plenty of acts criticising plague ravers too. Carl Cox said in Mixmag

"It’s irresponsible to be out there at the moment... Having a party in a pandemic, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. People are still suffering from this and we aren't out of yet. This isn't a Steven Spielberg movie called Panic, you know: we are in it."

And Bicep called such Covid-careless DJs "disgusting", saying:

"They don’t need to do this. Take a year off, write an album. So many people lower down in dance music are struggling and this paints the whole industry in a bad light."

I feel weird linking to Mixmag considering they've been raving about Väth's Liverpool appearance on social media, but anyhoo...

This brings us back to the Liverpool experiment. This project was a shining example of science-led creativity, and everyone involved deserves a jolly good pat on the back. The line-up had its problems, but the larger picture could mean a route out of the apocalypse, and the revival of a zillion careers across the entertainment industry. 

It's a shame about Sven. I'd been slow to pick up specifics on the whole plague rave thing, hence me initially praising Väth's involvement. I'd seen Business Teshno's social media activity, but it all seemed rather confusing. Mainstream outlets like Resident Advisor and Mixmag don't seem particularly vexed with the plague rave thing, and there appears to be a widespread suspicion that once the clubbing industry gets back on its knees, the offending DJs will continue to coin it in, with no consequences of their pandemic actions.

As for me? I'd love to go clubbing again – I Love Acid have committed to not booking plague rave DJs, and it will be one of the first nights I go to. That said, as someone who's higher risk, it'll be some time before I have the confidence to get all sweaty and giddy with strangers. We'll see.

More importantly, what about the awkward elbow bumps? Honestly, a little wave is a lot less cringy. Let's stop the elbow bumps. Please. For the sake of future clubbing coolness, let's stop the elbow bumps.

Further Fats: A ticket to ride: bumbling into MC Tunes and putting the green suit away (2007)

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

Apr 30, 2021

A rainbow of Aphex Twins

Just because. The orange is too red, I didn't really nail the cold colour spectrum, and the final 'violet' pic is a record cover because I couldn't find anything more interesting.

Still. Here's Aphex Twin express as the mainstream seven colours of the rainbow.








Apr 28, 2021

What was the best 1990 UK number one single?

Snap - The Power

1990 was a big music year for me. I was 16 going on 17, blossoming from a snot-nosed teenage misery into a slightly older snot-nosed teenage misery.

This mean I have OPINIONS about chart hits in 1990. That's OPINIONS in capital letters. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could grade all of 1990's UK number one singles without much thought at all.

Let's do it. A first-draft blog post, no editing, no research (apart from getting the list from Wikipedia). What were the best UK number one singles from 1990?

Let's go through every dang one of them. Firstly, we have Band Aid II's Do They Know It's Christmas? Bros and Sonia? Pretty terrible, although not as embarrassing as the third one in 2004. Then there was New Kids on the Block's Hangin' Tough, which sounded as tough as a floppy curtains fringe (which hadn't quite hit the mainstream just yet). A bad start to the year. 

Then we have a half-decent run of number one singles. Kylie Minogue turning into a career artist with Tears on My Pillow, a weeping Sinéad O'Connor being iconic on the Prince-penned Nothing Compares 2 U, and Norman Cook foreshadowing his 1990s dance music dominance on Beats International's Dub Be Good to Me. Let's put Sinead and Beats into the top tier, which I will discuss at the end of this blog post.

Remember, this is all first reactions. Looking through the list, typing these words, zero post-editing.

Ah, now here comes Snap!'s The Power, a strange, angular block-party jam with Turbo B looking like a president or something (pictured). I hated this track when it came out: so strange and discordant. I was wrong, of course. This genius track goes straight through to the top tier.

Madonna's Vogue was a huge hit, but it was no Like A Prayer. Adamski's Killer rocked my world in so many ways, and despite a pretty ropy album, this goes through to the top tier, as does England New Order's World in Motion which is the only acceptable football song alongside that crowd-chanty Pop Will Eat Itself track. 

From June onwards, it's a pretty rough run of number ones. Elton John's Sacrifice was the one where he started giving all his royalties to charity. Then came the novelty hits: Partners in Kryme's Turtle Power, which taught kids about the names of classical painters, and Bombalurina's Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini - Timmy Mallett later became a painter himself and has a website called Mallett's Pallet. No joke.

Is it one T or two Ts for Mallett? No time to check: this is all first-draft.

Those novelty hits were bad, but nowhere near as bad as The Steve Miller Band's The Joker, which is one of the worst singles of all time. I'm getting upset just thinking about it. Was this the one with the guitar wolf-whistle? I want this song to die.

This next bunch of number ones, taking us from September through to November, I kind of respect, but they're not for me. Maria McKee's Show Me Heaven is an undoubted tune, The Beautiful South's twee A Little Time has its own charm, and The Righteous Brothers rerelease of Unchained Melody was a chance to revisit one of history's greatest anthems. My mum loved that one. No top tier for any of these, though. 

That leaves us with Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby, only really good for karaoke, and Cliff Richard's Christmas number one Saviour's Day, which I don't think even God would listen to.

So that's the year. Most of the good stuff was in the first half of 1990. Now let's visit the top tier choices, and sort them into some kind of order. We had weepy Sinead and Norman's Beats International and angular Snap! and Adamski's Killer and New Order's football fun. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can grade this lot without much thought.

The bestest UK number one singles from 1990, as decided on the spot by me.

5. Snap!: The Power 

4. England New Order: World In Motion

3. Beats International: Dub Be Good To Me

2. Sinead O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U 

1. Adamski's Killer 

There you have it. Killer was easily the winner: it gave me permission to become my own bedroom-based keyboard wizard. To live my life the way I wanted to be-ee-ee-eee, yeah! I hope I didn't make too many mistakes in this entirely unedited blog post. We should do this again: 1991, maybe. *hits publish*

Further Fats: The Designers Republic vs B12 Records: are the 1990s dead? (2007)

Further Fats: The doctor (Adamski) will see you now (2018)

Apr 22, 2021

Hitting the Sweet Spot and not going to the circus

Sweet Spot promo card

What is word? How is sentence? How grammar work does it?

I'm glad you've brought those questions to me, a literary genius. 

Alongside blogging for the past gazillion years, I also like to tell stories. I've not written much this past year due to general apocalypse concerns: it's amazing how much headspace is taken up by a constant low-level of panic. I'm keen to get back into it. The writing, that is, not the panic.

Arts organisation Spot On Lancashire has a series called Spot On Shorts, where professional writers, storytellers and actors make short films to impress you with their narrative, poetic and artistic wizardry. I was born in Lancashire – just: they renamed it Greater Manchester when I was seven months old – so I was delighted to get involved.

My contribution was released today and is called The Sweet Spot. I won't spoil the story for you, but I can tell you it was inspired by (a) eating too much during lockdown and (b) not going to the circus during lockdown. Not that I went to the circus much anyway. Hardly ever, in fact. Anyway, shut up and watch The Sweet Spot (watch it on my video page if you want to browse more of my gubbins).

That's a real helmet, by the way. Honest.

I want to do more story things this year, more narrative oddities with my stupid cartoons, and more performances in actual real rooms. If you're planning an event that you want improved / enlightened / confused / ruined with my mad entertainment skills, then get in touch. My email address is next to Lionel Richie at the bottom of my About page.

As Covid restrictions ease, venues will re-awaken like neon-lit kraken. I've missed the terrifi— er, I mean, entertained looks on audience's faces in the heat of performance. In fact, there won't be long to wait because, as long as regulations allow, I'll be appearing on the bill at Pride Trafford's Making Waves: Queer Edition on May 22nd alongside especially commissioned works from Cheddar Gorgeous and Jason Andrew Guest.

What is word? Eggs. How is sentence? Verb-handles. How grammar work does it? Absolutely jackson. I'm glad I could clear that up for you.

Apr 4, 2021

From catatonic breakdance to a need for speed: new electronic music for April 2021

Eomac

Are your ears stupid idiots? Do you want to punish your ears? How about punishing your stupid idiot ears with some brand new electronic music?

Here's a smattering of bleepy albums due for release in April 2021.

Murcof's rejoins the Leaf Label for The Alias Sessions, an album written for a dance company in Geneva. I'm not much of a dancer, myself: my moves are limited to confused salsa, catatonic breakdance and eyebrow tango. Murcof's music often resides in little ripples of waveforms, but there are great big tidal washes of noise on this new album. One of my favourite Murcofs for a while.

Jimi Tenor's putting out Deep Sound Learning (1993 - 2000). This scoops up a load of unheard stuff from, you guessed it, 1993 to 2000. Apparently Jimi bombarded Warp Records with endless DAT tapes, presumably using some kind of cassette cannon, and much of it remained in storage until now. I really want a cassette cannon. A tape trebuchet. A reel-to-reel rocket launcher.

The album I'm most looking forward to in April is Eomac's Cracks. This is darkly desolate Dublin bass music that blends the atmosphere of Rival Consoles with the melodic motifs of Aphex Twin. Eomac (pictured above) is 'Cameo' backwards, but I don't know if that means he does backwards walk-on parts in movies, or whether every track is the 1986 party track Word Up! played backwards.

What else? Look out for Facta's Blush, a debut album of folky electronics released on the label Facta jointly owns with the equally pastoral K-Lone. K-Lone's Cape Cira made my best-of-2020 list and Blush certainly feels like a sister album to some extent.

By the way, I'd like to point out that I'm typing all this without the use of one of my index fingers. When cutting bread, I decided to use my hand as a chopping board. This wasn't a good idea, and I cut my finger. It's not a big cut, but it's in a really annoying place, so my middle finger is putting extra work in while my index finger has a long hard think about what it's done. I'm amazeb any og these words sre coming out okau.

And finally, look out for: Caterina Barbieri's Fantas Variations, an album of remixes of a single track from her excellent Ecstatic Computation album; Dawn Richard's Second Line which promises chart-friendly sassy bangers and a whole lot of fun; and Herrmann Kristoffersen's thoroughly listenable Gone Gold, an IDM-influenced imaginary soundtrack for the Need For Speed racing game. Vroom flipping vroom.

Take THAT, stupid idiot ears.





Mar 31, 2021

Justin Bieber's Justice injustice

Justice and Justice

Here's the Justin / Justice story. The cover art for Justin Bieber's new album Justice appears to have ripped off the logo of the French house band Justice. A big cross for a T is the clue: this was very much Justice's thing, particularly on their cross-emblazoned debut album.

In itself, this isn't that incriminatory. In a past life I worked for a Christian bookshop and people plastered crosses on everything. They turned Ts into crosses, Xs into crosses, laugh-cry emojis into crosses. Maybe not that last one. It's a pretty route-one design technique, like turning Ss into snakes or turning As into anarchy symbols.

However, there's a paper trail (and no, we don't mean this joke doodle from Justice's record company). We all know from cop shows that paper trails are bad. Apparently one of Bieber's people wrote to Justice's people, according to an email seen by Rolling Stone (the magazine, not the wrinkled rockers). No-one got back to the Bieber peeps, so they pressed ahead anyway, but now Justice's people are cross (geddit?!) and have issued a cease-and-desist letter. The war is on.

Bieber also used audio of Martin Luther King on the album, for which he received permission. This is, of course, problematic in a different way. It's good that a famous white man is introducing black history to his fans, many of whom may never have been exposed to this stuff before. But it's also dodgy that a famous white man is appropriating stuff like this to sell records, especially when there are current black voices being silenced. This is, of course, from the same bloke who said Anne Frank would have been a belieber. It's all a bit icky.

It also seems that the justice theme is pretty perfunctory. There's the Justin / Justice wordplay. Yep, I get that. Then there's the MLK samples, including the line "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." But according to Buzzfeed, that's it. Hold On is about holding hands with his girl. Holy is about having a nice hug with his girl. Lonely is about the isolation of fame, probably while playing pat-a-cake with his girl. This is not an album about justice: it's just a selection of his usual watery pop guff.

Let's think about that for a moment. Someone came up with the Justice title because it sounds a bit like Justin. They made an apparently half-arsed attempt to get permission to use Justice's cross logo, then used it anyway. And then they dumped some MLK speeches about justice into an album that is otherwise nothing to do with justice. 

That's like setting up a lemonade stall dressed as a lemon, with a whole range of home-made lemonades laid out neatly on a a table-cloth displaying a lovely tapestry of carefully illustrated lemons, with little handmade paper lanterns in the shape of lemons, then stealing someone's overweight poodle and calling the stall Look At This Massive Poodle. 

Just stick to the lemons, Justin. The unnecessarily purloined stuff is just complicating things. It's a distraction and it's getting you into trouble.

I guess what I'm trying to say is if this ends up with a load of overblown proggy Justice remixes of Justin Bieber songs, I'm moving to Mars and never coming back. Now excuse me while I edit this blog post to ensure every small-case m looks like a pair of testicles.

Mar 30, 2021

A mad March catch-up with Fat Roland, i.e. me

Hey Fat Roland, what have you been up to?

Thanks for asking, opening sentence. I've had a busy March, hence the lack of blogging. Here's a quick summary.

I broadcast a show for Turn On Fest. This was Seven Inch, the one-hour solo work originally commissioned by The Lowry and adapted for the Edinburgh Fringe. It was great fun to film, and hugely gratifying to dig out my 200+ props to discover they hadn't all been eaten by piranhas.

If you bought a ticket, thank you from the bottom of my bloomers. I'm not sure where the show will go next, but I will probably do a live audience version once things are a bit less socially distanced.

I've been working on a couple of other projects too, including a video thing which will plop onto your internet fairly soon. Hush hush. (Please imagine me winking at your screen, but in a teasing way rather than in a creepy way.)

I got vaccinated. This isn't really news because it's so dang common. As I pointed out on Twitter, the annoying thing about the vaccine is now everyone seems to be getting it. It's gone mainstream, like Feeder, Daft Punk or hummus. We need an alternative, cool rad vaccine: one that turns you purple and your head falls off or something.

I launched the F1 Losers League. The what now? The F1 Losers League. This is an upside-down fantasy league dedicated for Formula One fails, a project which fizzled off in 2014 but revived for 2021. It's too late to enter, but have a look at the website here if you fancy it (I spent a lot of time on it so I hope you like it).

Alongside my venue getting busier, thank Lordi, that's pretty much it. But that's quite a lot, right? All this plus long walks in the park.

What? You want more? Right then.

I climbed Everest. There. How'd you like that? Did it in one big step. I won the lottery fifteen times. I went to Mars for a bit, dropped some litter, came back. Didn't even apologise. I invented the snorkel. I joined then quit Good Morning Britain. I became an NFT. I did all that while getting wedged in the Suez canal while people tried to tug me off,

See? Told you I was busy.

Here's to a fun April with hopefully more blogging. Then again, if I wrote a blog post for every time I apologised for not blogging enough, I'd be blogging too much. What? Did that make sense?

You can stop writing now.

Thanks, penultimate sentence.

Mar 21, 2021

Tiësto is doing very well, thanks for asking

Tiesto

Admit it: the last time you paid attention to the pop charts, you were doing wheelies on your penny farthing during your job as a chimberly sweep.

Let's talk about the current singles chart. In fact, let's talk about one particular artist in this week's chart: Tiësto. 

For me, Tiësto's name is associated with one era of music: millennial trance pop. I'm talking clean-shirted four-to-the-floor melodic house music with big fat chords, cheery basslines and chunky snare fills, all ever so Euro. Think Ferry Corsten, ATB, Armin van Buuren, or William Orbit doing Barber's Adagio For Strings.

His 1999 track Theme From Norefjell is a perfect example. A big synth line, a no-nonsense driving beat, sweeping strings, and no vocals. In all honesty, it could have been produced by anyone. 

That's the point of all that post-Chicane / post-Insomnia stuff: just a "pop-trance, pop-trance, pop-trance" rhythm at a merry 140BPM. Good and solid, like a Volvo.

In these modern times, I'd assumed Tiësto was an irrelevance, like VHS rentals, milkmen or smallpox. Dance music is way beyond that basic trance pop stuff, right? These are the days of trap, of mumble rap, of moombahton. 

Nope. Turns out, the dancing Dutchman is still going strong. 

Not only has he been busy remixing John Legend and Avicii, and teaming up with big hitters like Martin Garrix and Post Malone, he is currently enjoying what might be the biggest hit single of his career. The Business peaked this month at number three in the UK singles chart, and is currently only a few places behind that awful sea shanty thing that's ruined TikTok. Tiësto is *big* right now.

This is starting to sound like one of those hagiography Wikipedia articles, but honestly, this really interests me. It seems weird to have Tiësto in the charts in 2021, because it doesn't follow a standard dance music artist career trajectory. Standard in my mind, anyway.

Take Underworld or Erasure or Orbital as an example. They don't have hits anymore because they now occupy the Old Act Precinct of the dance music world. They'll make money from making soundtracks, or BBC commissions, or selling tour tickets to original fans whose wrinkled bodies could do with a good old dancefloor shuffle every couple of years.

People like them aren't meant to be mixing with the cool chart kids after all these years. That's like going on your first date with the boy from school and dragging your Uncle Kevin along. Jeez, face the other way, Kevin, you creep.

However, unlike my underwear, Tiësto has changed with the times. He doesn't sound like he used to. Instead of being indistinguishable from every other millennial trance track, he now sounds like every other Calvin Harris track. Again, solid, like a Toyota. The Business fits in brilliantly with recent dance music trends, and it's no wonder it's a hit.

And watch out, because all that old trancey pop gubbins could be coming back too. Climbing to number 11 this week is ATB / Topic / A7S with Your Love (9PM). Yes, it's *that* ATB. Yes, it's *that* 9PM track.

So maybe there's not much point in paying attention to the pop charts, because it all comes full circle anyway, like that big old penny farthing wheel. Encore une fois and all that. Either that, or next time you look twenty years later, the hit parade is still full of the same clean-shirted millennial trancers.

You could say that Tiësto (there's a really good joke coming up, so get ready for it) has stood the tiëst of time. Ha ha ha ha. No? You just wait: that joke will be cool in a couple of decades' time.

Further Fats: How to keep cool in a heatwave if you like dance music (2015)

Further Fats: Soaking up the rays with Way Out West (2017)

Mar 3, 2021

303 blog posts (actually, just six, but who's the heck's counting) about the 303

It's 303 day, which celebrates a very special Roland. Me. It celebrates me.

Apparently some crazy people think 303 day celebrates the Roland TB-303, a silver box originally designed to create a 'transistor bass' sound but instead adopted by rave kids to create acid tweakin' mayhem.

Let's humour these crazy people. Let's combine the two: me and the acid machine. 

Here are some of my blog writings on the 303 and/or acid house. Think of this as a flashback episode, churned out due to budgetary restraints...

Some 303 writings

"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?!" [What do you MEAN you haven't heard of Acid August?, published August 2020]

"For a couple of days last week, I took over @303OClock, a Twitter account dedicated to posting acid tracks twice a day at 3:03 O'Clock. I thought I would record my takeover here, because Twitter is ephemeral like mist or memory or biscuits, while a blog post is forever, like Jesus or shame." [I recommend three, oh, three great acid tracks, published May 2020]

"This is like One Direction relaunching as a thrash metal band. Or like The Beatles returning as a drum 'n' bass act. Or like Jive Bunny revealing that all the music was made by actual bunnies." [Calvin Harris launching an acid house project is the biggest music news of all time, published February 2020]

"I'm no stranger to a filter-tweaking acid house night, so I'm delighted to see that the latest Electronic Sound is dedicated to acid house records." ["Acid house - it's not real music, is it" said the idiot, published November 2019]

"Luke Vibert calls the album, out in May on London's Hypercolour Records, an 'ode to the era of M25 convoys, mobile phone hotlines and raving amongst dogs on strings in British aerodrome fields.' That, my disco-brained friend, sounds like a challenge." [Luke Vibert just made me do a poetry, published March 2017]

"Acid, though, is the music I'll always go back to whatever my mood. Because of its technological restraints (imagine having a genre of music that can only be made on the banjo), acid barely changes. One Josh Wink record aside, it has never commercialised, nor has it ever faded to nothing." [I love acid and the acid loves me, published October 2015]

Feb 28, 2021

There is one John Cage joke and it is this:

John Cage

There is one John Cage joke.

The avant-garde US composer had a long and fascinating career, but he's best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″.

The whole thing with 4′33″ is that's it's silent. Four and a half minutes of nothing. That's the schtick he's known for, whether he liked it or not. Kenny G's got his saxophone, Cher's got her autotune, Eric Morecambe's got his glasses, and Cage had this weirdly silent record.

Of course, it's not silent. The record is actually a bunch of musicians sitting down in a room for a bit, not making any deliberate noise. What you're hearing is the sound of a room in which nothing much happens. 

But it's easier – and funnier – to think of 4′33″ as a silent record. Because then you get jokes like this in Viz:

John Cage joke in Viz

Let's zoom in:

John Cage joke in Viz

Hat tip to whoever I saw post about this online: the origin is lost in the depths of an infinitely scrolling timeline.

There are plenty of other similar cartoon jokes on the internet about this quietest of records. A pianist messing up the song by accidentally playing a single note. John Cage carol singers standing shtum in the snow. And this XKCD cartoon.

I'm not immune either. My show Seven Inch (March 17th tickets available here) has a silent John Cage joke. Of course it does. I leave no hack comedy stone unturned.

There's a bit in the show where I talk about lyrics. This gives me a repetition joke as I recite the ad infinitum inanity of the Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling (although I'm swapping this out for a different song at the March 17th show).

It also gives me a chance to recite the lyrics for John Cage's 4′33″. The joke is, of course, there are no lyrics: there's a whole load of nothing. Ha ha ha ha. So funny. Look at him standing in silence, confused. Sigh. It comes across as a special joke for music nerds, even though 4′33″ is stratospherically famous for a piece of experimental classical music.

This is the point in the blog post where I hilariously include a quote from John Cage about his famous work, but actually it's just a few blank lines. Ha ha bonk: you just laughed your head off.

Maybe I should do something in the show about the loudest song ever. Ten minutes of me yelling into a microphone, and then I explain that it was a tribute to AC/DC or The Who or one of those screamo metal bands that sounds like a malfunctioning washing machine.

Please don't leave a reply in the comments. It's what John Cage would have wanted.

Further Fats: Reviving my shrivelling grandma and getting out of my depth with Mahler (2007)

Feb 24, 2021

Warning! Dinosaurs are taking over the UK album chart!

A dinosaur and an album chart

You know that movie where Richard Attenborough breeds a load of dinosaurs and then they stomp all over a theme park while Jeff Goldblum from The Fly doesn't turn into a fly and Richard's all like 'screw this, I'm off to play Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street instead'?

Well, that exactly what's happening to the album charts.

The dinosaurs are taking over. Instead of the album charts being full of cool young bands like The Kneepads, Post Office Flip Flop Explosion or Digital Colostomy, it's packed with bands that have been around the block so many times, they've worn a groove in the pavement.

By the way, those cool young bands don't exist. I made them up.

Mint Royale pointed out that this week's album chart is full of incredibly old LPs because music fans are streaming the same favourites over and over again. "An Oasis compilation is getting enough steady streaming to probably just sit in the top 30 for ever," he says.

He's not wrong. The current number one album is brand new: Tyron by that cheeky scamp Slowthai has been around for precisely one week. But that's not typical. 60% of this week's top 100 has spent more than a year in the charts, which is a big rise on five years ago when it was just 35%.

Let's take a look at the longest-toothed dinosaurs in the current album chart. Here are the LPs sitting in the charts right now that have clocked up the most chart weeks since their release.

ABBA: Gold – Greatest Hits (981 weeks)
Bob Marley & the Wailers: Legend (965 weeks)
Queen: Greatest Hits (933 weeks)
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (876 weeks)
Michael Jackson: Number Ones (483)
Oasis: What's The Story Morning Glory (476)
Eminem: Curtain Call – The Hits (449)
Amy Winehouse: Back To Black (411)
Oasis: Definitely Maybe (392)
Foo Fighters: Greatest Hits (392)

Just outside that tyrannosaur top ten? Time Flies 1994-2009, that aforementioned Oasis compilation which has spent 389 weeks in the album chart, 216 of those weeks consecutive.

This is theoretically fine. People are caning their favourite music, maybe having living room discos on Saturday nights while their pet dog looks on in confusion, and there's nothing wrong with that. You spin that old ABBA record, daddio.

However, these craggy dinosaurs will sell bucketloads of albums come rain, wind or scattered sunny spells. And they're clogging up the charts, reducing the number of chart opportunities for newer acts further down the pecking order: active bands who are writing and releasing fresh tunes in a Herculean effort to gain chart recognition.

Just a couple of blog posts ago I raved about the appearance of bleep techno in the hit parade and how it blew my tiny mind. I'm fascinated by new shiny things, like a magpie or a baby or a magpie looking at a baby. I don't want to delve into the latest album chart and see the same ancient faces with their expensive microphones and branded plectrums and anecdotes about how they met George Harrison once in a Tandy electronics shop. Serious yawn.

That's like searching on YouTube for bitcoin investment advice, or the Mars landing footage, or the latest Taskmaster challenge, and every time the only result that comes up is that bloke singing Chocolate Rain. Every time. Chocolate Rain. You try adding quote marks or searching in Welsh. No luck: just Chocolate Rain. You try the 'Contact Us' link to get help, and Mr Clippy pops up and starts singing Chocolate flipping Rain. You keep rocking those 2007 trends, daddio.

Mint Royale goes on to suggest that perhaps the album chart should be subject to ACR. This stands for Accelerated Chart Ratio: in the singles chart, this is used to weaken the chart position of songs if they've been around a while. It's a modern oddity that became necessary after Ed Sheeran almost monopolised the charts in 2017 in a move that even the Roman empire would have called "brazen".

I hope they sort it out soon. Otherwise the dinosaurs will continue to rampage unimpeded, and before we know it we've got a Lost World situation on our hands. And nobody wants Lost World.

More Fat Roland: No new electronica in the singles chart, repeat to fade (2009)

Even more Fat Roland: What's happening with the not-so-current current album chart? (2016)

Feb 22, 2021

Daft 'n' defunct: it's the end of Daft Punk

Daft Punk 1993 to 2021

Daft Punk broke.

I figured their batteries would never run out, or maybe they were eternally powered by Nile Rogers' electric guitar licks. Alas not. Daft Punk are no more. The duo has split up.

Their split announcement came in the form of a video in which one of them explodes in a desert and the other one's all like "hey, you just exploded in a desert so I'm gonna walk off now". Even though it's just a clip from their 2006 film Daft Punk's Electroma, it's a pretty devastating watch.

Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter formed Daft Punk in 1993 after becoming disillusioned with guitar music. They got their name from a Melody Maker review that slammed their crappy rock band as "daft punky thrash".

The pair cemented their electronic music foundations when they hooked up with Stuart from Glasgow techno legends Slam, who signed them to his Soma Records and put out Da Funk. When Virgin Records came sniffing around, stratospheric success beckoned: platinum albums, oodles of Grammies, producing Kanye West, becoming actual French knights.

Maybe their greatest legacy is comedian Limmy's oft-repeated tweet "Check out Daft Punk's new single 'Get Lucky' if you get the chance. Sound of the summer." A gentle dig at their commerciality from a man who obviously knows the band's true origins: he has a pilled-up character whose catchphrase is "where's the Slam tent?", a reference to the aforementioned techno Glaswegians who discovered Daft Punk.

Daft Punk are responsible for one of my strangest clubbing experiences, as recounted in this blog post:

"When I saw Daft Punk DJ at Sankeys Soap back in the 1990s, a French stranger tried to roll my torso like plasticine while saying 'wide boy, wide boy'."

In all fairness to the glad-handed Gaul, he looked absolutely mortified. He bumbled off pretty promptly, no doubt in search of that elusive Slam tent.

Daft Punk's output was one of diminishing returns. At one end of their career, Homework was astonishing, an abrasive analogue assault with crowd-pleasing sass. At the other end of their career, Random Access Memories was pretty rank. In 2013 I criticised its "awful MOR pop" and the "horrible, horrible rest"

It gave them their only number one single and studio album, indeed one of the best-selling singles in UK chart history, but it dented their reputation forever. Which is saying something considering their commerciality had never been a problem previously, such as getting sponsored to only wear Gap clothing, or hawking Star Wars merch for Adidas, or having Coca Cola launch something called Daft Coke (!).

Despite this slow eroding of their underground cool, they delivered a career highlight in 2010 with their superb Tron Legacy soundtrack, an album I once cautiously predicted would be "at least ten per cent better than the Moomins film". No, I don't remember a Moomins film either. It's most probably my favourite film soundtrack, despite the movie itself being rather eggy.

Here's something else you might not remember: Thomas Bangalter gave us Music Sounds Better with You as Stardust, a top ten smash from 1998. Not only that, with his work on Bob Sinclair's workout-sampling Gym Tonic, later covered with great success by Spacedust (no relation), he's partially responsible for a zillion house music videos with lycra-clad dancers. Put those leg warmers away, Madonna.

Daft Punk lit a tricolour touchpaper under the backside of dance music, showing that you could produce club-credible tracks and still appeal to a mass audience. Although they didn't quite roll and scratch as they used to, I'm gutted about their demise. Salut, boys.

Feb 14, 2021

LFO'S LFO

LFO by LFO

I was thinking today about how much of an incendiary bomb LFO by LFO was.

The single was Warp Records' first big hit, peaking at number 12 in the UK charts in August 1990, wedged between Timmy Mallett and Craig McLachlan from Neighbours.

"We'd just been messing around with drum machines since we were, like, thirteen, tapping away at them like they were arcade games," said LFO's Mark Bell.

And that's what it sounds like. Computer-y. Geometric. Made of pixels. It was kind of house music, which had been around for a while, but lacked any sass. No diva was going to start wailing over this kind of club sound. 

This was a track from a Leeds band, released on a Sheffield label. Is this relevant? I think it is. I'm tired of lazy generalisations about "the north" but there's no way this would have sounded as good if it was made in London. It needed a Yorkshire dourness: a sense of the industrial. After the burst of yellow smiley colour that was the rave explosion, LFO seemed to be built from actual scaffolding. Structural and metallic; absolutely clanging. 

Also they said "LFO" in the track. They were called LFO, they named their single LFO, the lyrics were "LFO". What a statement of intent. Tricky Disco's Tricky Disco, which was a hit at the same time, pulled the same stunt, a chirpy and childish "tricky disco!" spicing up the bleeps. That's like Orbital chanting "Orbital!" right in the middle of Chime, which they'd need to rename Orbital.

LFO spent one week at the giddy heights of number 12 in the charts: it would go on to sell 130,000 records, solidifying Warp's future and beginning a whole new chapter in electronic music history. Mark Bell would go on to produce Björk, helping move her from a spiky popster into a baroque techno experimentalist on Homogenic.

What replaced LFO at number 12 the following week? Together's Hardcore Uproar, the legacy of which should probably be saved for another blog post.

As the Pharisees attacked Jesus, and so it was that pop music fought back against LFO. In the second half of the 1990s, a band called the Lyte Funky Ones appeared. They shortened their name to LFO, thereby confusing everyone forever. I hated them. These New England popsters were NKOTB wannabes who were about as techno as a Barbie doll head on a spike. 

Actually that's quite techno. I may need to think that analogy. 

Within a month of (the proper) LFO's commercial success, Timmy Mallett would top the charts, followed by the Steve Miller Band's The Joker which I think is one of the worst songs ever written. Vanilla Ice would try the eponymous lyric thing by saying "Ice, Ice baby" but it would sound all wrong.

Good old LFO. Have a listen here.

Further Fats: My Warp top ten: it's not all Warp and there aren't ten of them (2009)

Further Fats: Fat Roland's wonderful Warp Records word search (2020)

Feb 7, 2021

Electronic Sound issue 73: for the last time, please do NOT look at the ostrich

A cartoon ostrich as described in the text

I didn't want to have to do this, but for issue 73 of Electronic Sound magazine, I go on strike. And there's my illustration of a confused ostrich. With a piece of paper on its back for some reason. Ignore the ostrich. THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE OSTRICH.

In my column, I rail against the readers and demand that they write this month's article themselves. It's been a long time coming. Stupid readers with their stupid money that pays our stupid wage. Oh. Wait. Dammit.

I'm not really on strike, of course. It's a fiction maintained for comedic effect. In the same way I spent a week after new year dressed as Mr Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street using only crepe paper and taramasalata. I wasn't the real Mr Snuffleupagus. I was maintaining a fiction.

In the same edition, you will find my reviews of the latest albums by Haroon Mirza and Jack Jelfs (something botanical about the croaking synths"), Emeka Ogboh ("bursts with life") and veteran ambient producer Tim Story ("oodles of acoustic space").

There is also stuff in issue 73 not written by me, if you can believe such a thing. Elsewhere there's an interview with Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson, a short story by John Foxx of Ultravox fame, and a piece about Langham Research Centre and their tape manipulation exploits.

There's also a great section dedicated to limited edition record releases, including Aphex Twin's ultra-rare Analogue Bubblebath 5, a bizarrely truncated Boards Of Canada tune for Record Store Day 2013, and that one-off Wu-Tang Clan album that was bought by pill-pushing fraudster Martin Shkreli.

The design of the magazine is another triumph. Plain black text on a plain white background, like the mind control signs from They Live, only classier. Sunglasses on, folks. OBEY. CONSUME. BUY ISSUE 73 OF ELECTRONIC SOUND.

I must go. Blogger spell check is not recognising the word "Snuffleupagus" nor the word "taramasalata". I'm off to write a strongly-worded letter to Ms B Logger, who owns Blogger, about a lax attitude to Greek meze and feathered mammoths.

Electronic Sound issue 73 Fat Roland blog

Further Fats: 

Jan 31, 2021

Talking or not talking about Bad Lip Reading

Buble singing in Bad Lip Reading

This year, Bad Lip Reading is ten years old.

The spoof YouTube channel overdubs pop promos and current affairs broadcasts, getting Rebecca Black into a Gang Fight, having the Black Eyed Peas sing about poop, and giving Michael Bublé a scatological hit song about a Russian Unicorn.

This is the point where my jaw drops to the floor. Where did that ten years go? I can't be bothered to cut and paste emojis into Blogger, but if I did, you would be seeing a little yellow face with an exploding head. Ten years. Ten years!

I really liked Russian Unicorn. It turned something as bland as Bublé, who posted a good natured video reply because that somehow is ultimate Bublé, into something full of unhinged energy. Even better was Morning Dew, which mashed together Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga and Jay-Z to make a peon to furry pet monkeys and broccoli pizza.

Part of me insists I shouldn't like Bad Lip Reading. It revels in the worst pop music (Bieber, BTS, James flipping Blunt) and legitimises it through affectionate parody. It's decidedly off-key in places, referring to women as "chicks" and using a slang word for cerebral palsy that is pretty much verboten in the UK. 

And it's fallen hard for Star Wars fandom, that most tiresome of fandoms, producing songs about seagulls in space, death by chicken-duck, and Yoda's stick ("it's just a stick"). That last one is pretty poor, but then again they did come out with the smooth electro banger Hostiles On The Hill in which the Skywalker guy fights the long leggy things in the Antarctic or somewhere. You can tell I'm a fan.

What's strange about the success of BLR, and channels like it, is its wonky place in popular culture. Take traditional TV as a comparison. 30 million people watched the Eastenders episode in which a vengeful Dirty Den give Angie divorce papers for Christmas. For years, that scene appeared in compilation shows and newspaper lists. It turned Christmas dark, and soaps have never looked back since.

The most successful BLR video has four times the views: their top five videos have racked up a third of a billion watches. Yet in the past ten years, I don't think I've experienced a single 'watercooler' moment about Bad Lip Reading. The same goes for other YouTube big hitters at the geekier end of culture: Tom Scott, Drew Gooden, those never-ending Vox factual videos.

This is all to do with the fractal nature of modern entertainment, where the metaphorical family sofa has been replaced by a wide scattering of deck chairs: the watercooler is now a zillion single water bottles. This more personal method of video consumption means we can spend an entire evening wasted on Fail Army clips without ever mentioning it to anyone ever. Maybe one day you'll mention it on a blog. Maybe.

And yet, I don't fully buy that. It's not fractal, is it. What we've done, in the UK at least, is swap four or five terrestrial television channels (and a wall of DVDs) with fewer providers of televisual entertainment. YouTube and Netflix dominate the market as BBC1 and ITV did in the olden days. I don't have Freeview or anything, but don't tell me that endless menu of things you don't want to watch adds up qualitatively to anything more than a single day of programming on Channel Five.

Anyway. Go and watch Bad Lip Reading videos so we can talk about it one day. A lot of it sounds like Uptown Funk but there are roses among the thorns. One of their BTS videos is childish cack, but the more recent BTS one seems to take ballad writing seriously.

What did we do without YouTube? Actually, we watched Flash videos. Badger, badger, that sort of thing. That is, oh goggle-eyed viewer, a whole different blog post.

Further Fats: Insanity Prawn Boy (2005)

Jan 22, 2021

An update: so whose blog post is this?


Hello. My name's Fat Roland. You might remember me from 'Fat Roland: A Space Odyssey', 'Dude Where's My Fat Roland' and 'The Fat Roland Who Went Up A Hill And Came Down A Mountain'.
I thought I'd plop a quick update on my blog, lest you think I've been kidnapped by monkeys or something. Most of these updates are trivial. One is not (but don't worry, it's nothing too serious).

Update one. I've been listening to a lot of Pet Shop Boys, and I'm in awe of the lyric:
I'm always hoping you'll be faithful
But you're not I suppose
We've both given up smoking 'cause it's fatal
So whose matches are those?
Update two. I had to postpone my Seven Inch show for obvious lockdown reasons, but it's all cool because I'll do an online version that is going to kick ass. And because it'll be online, I'm going to have to storyboard my whole show, which will be equally fun and brain-breaking.

Update three. I've just realised I'm the same age Susan Boyle was when she first appeared on Britain's Got Talent. I also saw a picture of myself which made me realise I'm now properly middle-aged. I'd better do something constructive with my life, like being a brain surgeon or flying helicopters or something.

Update four. A few days ago, I got evacuated. And no, I don't mean I had a bodily mishap with a hoover. The river Mersey got a bit angry and I got a phone call from Floodline telling me my life was in immediate danger and I had better do something about it. I spent the night at a friend's place, then went back to a thankfully unflooded home once we'd be given the all-clear. My main takeaway. A bit of discombobulation, but it was amazing to visit my friends. Thank you, friends.

Update five. Did you notice that update four was the non-trivial one? You did? Good.

Update six. I tweeted "I miss Donald Trump. His touch. His embrace. His warm breath. His fine collection of venus clams" and it only got two likes, and now I'm worried people will think I actually want to touch Donald Trump.

Update seven. Yeesh. I've said Donald Trump too much. Bernie Sanders is way better. I think he looks great in those mittens.

Update eight. That's it. That's all my updates. This was a bitty blog post without much focus, but better to have some scruffy words than none at all.