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Album Review: “Tits of Steel”

A brilliantly eclectic combination of performance poetry and punk …

I was lured to this album by C. T. Herron’s glowing review that gave me very high expectations for it, and they were not disappointed … much to my relief, as Anna has been a supporter of this blog since its early days, so it is really nice to be able to write of her work with heartfelt praise.

I should point out, though, that the title claim of Track 4, “I Don’t Know Any Funny Songs,” is a blatant lie, or at any rate unwarranted modesty, as this album is a masterpiece in ironic wit. There seems to be something about Celtic accents that lend themselves nicely to that, so that we can hardly concur when Anna sings later on the album, “I wish I was French but I’m Scottish instead.” (Track 7, “Anna en Francais”) Somehow, her combination of pithy satire and utter surrealism just wouldn’t be the same without her dry, laconic, Glaswegian tones.

Which is not to say that the album is purely an exercise in comic poetry. The musicianship is stunning right from the first, heavy rock track, and continues to show versatility throughout, seamlessly tackling hilarious pastiches of reggae, techno, and funk. The only criticism I could make is one of mastering, in that sometimes the music overwhelms the lyrics, although that would well just be the fault of my inadequate setup (so do try to listen to this on decent sound equipment, as it deserves, rather than a phone speaker or a pair of cheap Flying Tiger headphones).

The whole album was an absolute pleasure for me, but if I had to select highlights, I would probably go for “I Don’t Know Any Funny Songs” (an acoustic number and, as mentioned, a total inaccuracy), “Anna en Francais” (witty, surreal, and all-too-easy for this struggling student of French to sympathise with), and “Catch The Tiger” (which starts off as a series of bizarre self-help style affirmations to a driving, upbeat tune, then turns a corner into something downbeat and ironic, which appeals so totally to my inner cynic).

This is a stunning independent production, the skill and variety of the music perfectly complementing Anna’s wickedly amusing lyrics. The very easily offended might not care for it, but I have no hesitation recommending it to everyone else.

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Album Review: “Pesticide”

Having recently received some lovely reviews on my own work, I feel the time has come to share some of the love around, so the next few posts will be reviews of works I have recently discovered and felt were deserving of a wider audience. To commence, a punk-Goth album by an independent local (as in Welsh) band …


“Pesticide” (by Clusterfuck)

pesticide

I should state, for the sake of honesty, that the founder, drummer, and producer of this band is one of my best and oldest friends, and also one of the nicest people I know and one of the first people to support me in my transition, so pardon me if I am a little biased … That said, I can impartially state that I know few people so committed to their art, so perfectionist in their instincts (I have seen him lose faith in and abandon many a promising track, or take great persuasion to release them), and so wonderfully eclectic in their tastes, with musical influences ranging from The Sex Pistols and Daft Punk, to lesser-known 1950s Rockabilly idols, to contemporary classical composers such as Giacinto Scelsi and Arvo Pärt. This commitment and eclecticism is reflected in his latest album project, the second with this particular band following the almost-as-good “Dear Mortal,” (or visit here to listen online) but I would call this a definite artistic progression, more unified in its structure).

It opens on a epic note with “Reach Out,” with soaring vocals reminiscent of the interludes on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” although by and large this album is far ‘punkier’ than it is ‘proggy’. At any rate, though, it makes for a striking overture, and an impressive lead into the first actual song of the album; “Paranoia.” This piece is as dark as its name suggests and one of the album’s highlights, with a sinister, driving techno beat accompanying the eerie lyrics and the whispering ‘inner voices’ chorus. The Gothic mood continues in tracks such as “Death Begins” and the instrumental “We Are the Void,” the latter in particular being another highlight, its dark electronic rhythms being varied by haunting harmonica fills that seem to echo out of the void (appropriately). Also in this mood – and another of the album’s finest offerings – is their cover version of T. Rex’s “Get It On.” It somehow fits seamlessly into the group’s musical and vocal style, carried along by some beautifully haunting guitar work.

Other tracks, especially to the midsection of the album set a lighter, more relaxed mood, especially the infectiously catchy “Besties,” “Electric Distortion,” (a track on synesthesia, the vivid lyrics delivered in a comically deadpan fashion by the guest vocalist), and the wickedly satirical yet outrage-inducing “Trumped,” consisting mostly of ‘lyrics’ culled from the 45th US President’s most reprehensible statements, along with well-chosen mocking, comically-timed samples. One would love to imagine him hearing it … The satirical mood becomes much darker in the final tracks, with “Money” and “Tazer” dealing with poverty, prostitution and police brutality, but it all concludes on a mercifully upbeat track with “Death Race.”

With tremendous energy, variety, a social conscience, a wicked sense of humour, and a remarkably strong production (especially considering its humble origins, with no big studio or equivalent backing), I have no hesitation in recommending this (with the sole caveat that their language can be quite strong … as the band name itself implies). On a final note, here is me in some rather old footage (taken around 2015) being in a music video for their first album …

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Transgender trend ‘School resource pack’ – A teacher’s perspective

Much as I normally keep this blog apolitical, I will make an exception for this, as it strikes close to home. Recently, a group known as “Trangender Trend” (immediately setting off alarm bells) produced a rather slick-looking PDF brochure titled, rather disingenuously, “Supporting gender non-conforming and trans-identified students in schools“: disingenuously, as even a cursory read of the thing will quickly inform one that said “support” consists of discouraging children from socially transitioning at school, and promoting a scaremongering view that greater trans visibility is some sort of dread social epidemic and an intentional, ideological war designed to erase lesbian and gay identities (The author seems convinced that trans children would be better off being encouraged to grow up as gender nonconforming gay people, equating sexual preference and gender identity in a way that totally ignores the fact that trans people have as wide a variation of sexualities as cis people). As someone who was once a trans child in the 1990s, too scared to come out at that young age for knowing that there was no support or protection available, it is deeply harrowing to read such a supposedly well-intentioned work that aims to take us back to that time, just when it is becoming possible for trans children in school to be their true selves (and thus not waste many years of their lives trying to fit in with someone else’s idea of ‘normal’).

On the positive side, however, the responses I have seen to this document by actual teachers have thus far been less than impressed, and here is a particularly trenchant example …

via Transgender trend ‘School resource pack’ – A teacher’s perspective

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Musical Interlude

The next proper post I plan to make will be a review of albums by some friends of mine who have helped support my morale over these last three years … so these reviews will be predictably favourable, but I shall make every effort to justify that artistically. 😉 That will require some thought and careful listening of said albums, so I don’t feel quite ready to tackle that just yet. In the meantime, on the subject of music, here is some low-fidelity video of me murdering some J S Bach …

(Apologies for all the pauses: the music was on my screen, and needed scrolling on. I was feeling too cheap to buy a proper score book.)

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Shot by the Dark Side

I thought I’d given up modelling, but thanks to a few bigoted a**holes who felt the need to resurface my body image insecurites (possibly to alleviate their own sense of stupidity at having been lured into voting for Brexit) I got the urge to put out some feelers for another shoot. Modelling has always helped me to cultivate a bit more body-positivity. Eventually I connected with a local photographer (known as “Dark Side“), and we arranged a very local shoot at the industrial estate right next to where I live. We’d hoped for some more dramatic scenery, but the natural light was not on our side (which serves us right for arranging this in January). Still, I’m not displeased, and if nothing else it was a chance to work on my future “cabaret” image assuming I stick with the burlesque dancing (which I fully intend to, as long as I don’t make a complete fiasco of my first performance … here’s hoping).

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Far, Far Away …

For anyone lucky enough to be in exotic Cardiff on the evening of March the 16th, yours truly will be performing in …

flyer

… albeit only in the chorus line, so to speak. Still, after what will have been a mere ten lessons away from the time when my feet could barely distinguish left from right, I would call that major progress, assuming I don’t just make a complete fiasco of it on the night, of course. I hope I don’t, as it has been a huge amount of fun so far, and being driven from it in shame would be a sad culmination. I’m even getting ideas for solo routines if I ever ascend to that skill level, mostly very Gothy ones, no-one will be amazed to hear. For now, though, I know not to count on quick and uninterrupted progress, as it cannot be long before the hospital in London has me lined up for surgery. An obvious positive, but one that will put me physically out of action for weeks. If I must prioritise, though, so be it. The dance group will still be there when I get active again. Would be nice if they didn’t dread my return, though, so wish me luck … xxx