Thursday, 3 July 2008

Love Triangle

The London Transport guard looks at me, no doubt speculating on the level of terroristic threat I pose to the network, "So what's in the box, then?"
"A hundred triangles."

"A hundred what?"

Triangles - you know, the ones you play..."
He looks at me as if I am insane. And it's true, it can't be very often that a passenger asks to leave a large box by the turnstyles of an Underground station these days, unless they're planning for mass panic. But I do in fact have one hundred of yer very finest Chinese 5" triangles with me. I'm on route to the West End (of London not Glasgow) to deliver them to the Scottish band, who are in town the day before the Glastonbury weekend to play a warm-up show. The triangles are part of their merchandise - more observant readers will already be making a link between the triangles and the name of the band but relax, I'm not in the least bit close to spelling it out for you.

Anyway, in true managerial plate-spinning style I have a whole load of different meetings and deliveries to make and of course given that I have so much to remember, one thing has fallen through the net - I've forgotten my mobile. However, thinking that the LU official won't be quite as forgiving if I tell him this, I have told him that I've left my tube pass at home, and asked if I can leave my heavy box with him briefly, while I pop back to my nearby house and pick it up. At this point it's worth remembering my recent experience with that bus driver, who not only would not let me off his bus but wouldn't actually even talk to me. If this fella has been to the same London Transport School of Customer Service then I'm in trouble. Not only do I have to drop off an important package for a former eighties pop star, who I'm trying to impress so he wants to work with me, but I also have to sort out the industry guest list for the night as well as smooth out pretty much everything else before driving to France tomorrow.

I'm actually writing this from France, by the way, something which may seem an entirely irrelevant piece of information but which still makes me throw my hands in the air with amazement - I can walk for the half hour it takes to get from the remote house
where we're staying to the tiny village of Prayssac, find a little cafe opposite the town square and suddenly I'm back managing the band, talking to friends and writing the blog. Please forgive me if I sound like someone who's just discovered the mobile phone but this is the first time I've actually used an Internet café and I still full of the excitement of a new convert. Although it must be said that le French keyboard is exceptionally annoyment for the touch typist; I mean, if I was to type this sentence without taking into account that some Frenchman has rearranged half the letters it would look like this: if I aqs to type this sentence zithouth tqkingh into qcctount thqt so,e Frech,eqn hqs reqrrqnged qll the letters it zoulg look like this. Qnnoying eh§,

Anyway where was I? Yes, all that stuff to do before I came here. Plus I had to decide on what music to take in the car. Actually, that's the bit of going on holiday I always enjoy the most. Of course, I always take the iPod which has all the newest stuff I'm listening to on it but the car is still in the dark ages, having a CD player without the seemingly now ubiquitous iPod socket, I notice in all my A&R friends cars. Actually, this is quite ironic really, I can remember the days not so long ago when record company people used to covert DAT players in their cars in order to listen to mixes in perfect studio quality. Now all anyone wants is the convenience of the Pod, and to hell with perfect sound - everything is so compressed these anyway you may as well listen in the same way as everyone else.

But actually I quite enjoy the old school aspect of having a CD player in the car as it means I can select the holiday listening; I have to decide in advance which is half the fun. For those of you who are interested in this (and having just listened to another Word podcast where this sort of thing is discussed every week, I know there are lots of you out there) here's some of what I brought with me:

-- The latest Bruce Springsteen
There are actually some open, winding roads in The Lot region, which will finally do this widescreen album more justice than playing it in Walthamstow.

-- Five Leaves Left
Very obvious but I always pack a Nick Drake with me along with the suncream and hayfever pills.

-- Otis Blue
Not, I stress, the recently reissued, unnecessarily double CD of this album, just the original in all its unadorned glory.

-- The new Mystery Jets album
Really enjoying this at the moment. Are they the heirs to the Cure's accessible altpop crown? Sounded great driving back from Saint Cirque La Popie yesterday. And a hidden Aztec Camera cover as a final treat!

-- The new Coldplay album
Say what you want about him, Chris Martin has the songwriting chops; just when you think he's lost the tune and gone onto autopilot, he twists the song in such a clever and deft way that you have to try really hard to resist.

-- Kraftwerk's Man Machine
Along with all the other penetrating and salient stuff he says, LCD's James Murphy pointed out that kids love Kraftwerk and he is not wrong. This one from pop's finest year (1978 of course!) has The Model on it as well as We Are The Robots, which sounds great when sung by Maddy from the back of the car and makes a refreshing change from Valerie by The Monkees which we had to listen to five times in a row on the way to Dover.

-- Best of the Monkees
Which I now never want to hear again (see above)

-- Consolers of The Lonely by The Raconteurs
Time will tell whether releasing this album without submitting it to the press was a good idea, you don't get the feeling that many people have realised just how fantastic a record it is. It's the thinking man's White Stripes - with bass guitar (at last!), added Benson melody, and a whole Zeppelinesque stature to Jack White. It's pretty good at 120 kmh round bends too.

-- In A Silent Way by Miles Davies
It's the one with only two tracks on it, the first of which, Shhh Peaceful, is a beautiful end of afternoon driving home groove. Robyn finds it a bit annoying and Maddy is still shouting for Valerie but quite frankly, I'm the daddy, OK? Actually, Maddy hasn't got a leg to stand on as far as in-car music taste is concerned: the last time we were here two years ago, when she was two and a half, she insisted on hearing Monster by The Automatic the whole time. "And look where they are now!" I say triumphantly, "people are still listening to Miles Davies though!" She doesn't understand though, and in the end I relent and let her have The Monkees again.

-- The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow
I still can't get over how bad the band name is compared to how good the group are. One Day Like This is on all my compilations at the moment - I put it on the one for the famous eighties pop star who I am trying to impress - I hope he gets over the name Elbow and realises the transcendental nature of this song. It manages to do all the things they promise great music does like make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and the blood flood into your brain. I think I also put it on a CD for the Scottish band for their trip to Glastonbury in their new van. But it turns out that the van doesn't have a CD player, surprising since one of the things that recommended it to me (of course I, as manager, was the one required to part with the cash for it) was that it had a PC on board. A PC but no CD! I assume that this meant a personal computer as opposed to a police constable although given that the van is an ex-police vehicle perhaps the law requires that it does have one last remaining officer on board. Anyway, Elbow: a good album, although the opening track is a bastard for getting the volume right on - starts really quietly then explodes, then gets quiet again. Bit like Maddy after 8 hours in the car. I tell you, washing sick off the car seat whilst on the hard shoulder was not a high point.

-- Quite a lot of other stuff that I can't remember...
Give me a break, I'm sitting in a Café D'Internet! I can't be expected to remember everything - there's a bloody family in the booth next to me conducting a joint exploration of the Web in extremely audible French. I've had to retaliate by sticking on Olafur Arnalds to drown them out. Actually I wish I had brought
Olafur's stuff with me for the car. He's a twenty-something Icelandic pianist with a hardcore rock background who now tours the world with a four piece female string section, playing beautiful, melancholy, orchestrated instrumentals, comparable with Eno's 70's stuff, Michael Nyman and of course Sigor Ros. I saw him headlining the Barbican last week and it was quite wonderful. And the audience was the sort of crowd you kind of want to see at all gigs - from really young to really quite old. All of them presumably having discovered Oli via the BBC's eclectic Late Junction. Here I have to come clean and confess that I actually publish Oli's first two releases - it's the first time I've been a music publisher and frankly if I can find a more talented, more amenable person to be the publisher of then I'll be surprised. Let's hope he's reading this, eh?

If the Scottish band are reading this they'll know of course that I did make it to the soundcheck of the London Glastonbury warm-up show in time. The London Underground guard grasped the concept that what was in the box was not going to endanger anyone's life unless they had a deepset trianglephobia (there must be a word for this, I'll look it up when I don't have the clock against me.)

"What triangles, like the ones you play at school?"he said, his face softening a bit.
"Yes; exactly like the ones you play at school," I quickly agreed.
"Oh go on then, I'll look after your box"
So I rush home, grab my phone and return to my guard, who hands me back the box. He's obviously been burning to ask me the question ever since I left.
"What are you doing with all them triangles, anyway, you a teacher?"
"No, I manage a band - we're selling them to the fans."
"Oh right, what are they called your band?"
I tell him.
"Oh right. Funny name for a band."
"Well, we like it. Thanks for looking after the box."
I ran off, got my train, drop off the compilation and package for the famous eighties pop star, sort out the guest list that the venue, after several years of emails and phone calls, have finally confirmed with me, buy some guitar strings and plectrums for the band in Denmark St, have dinner at a posh London club with a handful of A&R men who still have jobs and then escort some of those to the gig.
And the triangles? Yes, I deliver them safely to the guys. I later hear how they got used at Glastonbury a couple of days later, but that's another story ...

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