Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Lloyds TSB have put in a bid for Abbey National. 20 billion pounds. Dear Abbey!
I have a ticket to see Soft Cell.

I still can't quite believe this. You see, I grew up in South Africa where, due to the cultural boycott, no band with any political savvy would ever tour. So I never got to see the two bands I loved most: Blondie and Soft Cell. And when both bands split up in the early 80s, I knew I never would. When I came back to live in the UK in 1995, I had a list of bands I simply had to see before I could die happily: Prince, Pulp, Kirsty MacColl, U2. I saw them all. And Marc Almond, solo, many times. But obviously, not Blondie, not Soft Cell.

And then... the lure of money brought Blondie back in 1998. I was there, at the Lyceum, screaming like a 15-year-old. It was as brilliant as I had always known it would be, and it fulfilled one of my life-long dreams. I had finally, somehow, seen Blondie. Now if only Soft Cell would reform, I could die happy...

They have. I can.
To the Retro Bar last night for our weekly pop quiz. And, no, we didn't win. But nor did the Freaky Trigger-Pumpkin Publog lot. And there were a lot of them, playing in a 2-4-1 formation. Pete from Pumpkin Publog tracked me down, but didn't quite recreate that Tom-Ewing-in-an-indie-disco moment. Pete, you were meant to say "excuse me, are you David from Swish Cottage?"

We scored 16 out of 19. The FT-PP axis got 17. But the winners scored a vital extra half-point. The theme to last night's quiz - DJ Lush's anatomy lesson - meant every answer included the name of a body part.

The ones we missed: Patti Smith [again - has Lush got a new compilation or something?] with some dirge about a foot [sour grapes? us?]; we didn't know the year in which Rock Bottom was our Eurovision entry; or which year Legs by ZZ Top was a hit. We had a half-point deducted for thinking the Small Faces song was called "Lazy Sunday Afternoon". It's not; there's no "Afternoon". We also didn't know the title of the Echobelly song - Dave was convinced it was a one-word title starting with 'S', so we spent five minutes shouting at each other: "Swoon!" "Swerve!" "Swish!". The correct title was, er, "Great Things".

Sailed through the rest, though, recognising such diverse songs as Fred Astaire singing "Cheek To Cheek"; Dollar performing "Hand Held In Black And White"; The Cramps with "Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?"; The Stiff Little Fingers' "Alternative Ulster" and Lloyd Cole & The Commotions' "Perfect Skin", sparking another Dave-David debate about which album it was originally on. (You were right, Dave, I concede.) Jonathan once again revealed his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Dire Straits, and Ian looked on. But in a very knowledgeable way.

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Oh. My. God.
Marc Almond and Dave Ball will reform as Soft Cell to perform live on March 16th 2001. The event will be the launch of a new venue, 'Ocean' in Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8.
There's a great deal of confusion about the tickets. Ticketmaster have two dates listed (the 15th and 16th) and were apparently selling tickets for one of the nights, although they've now stopped. Marc's official site announces just one night. The Ocean site doesn't have the event listed at all. Apparently tickets go on sale today at 1pm from the box office 24hr booking line (tel: 0207 314 2800), in person from the venue (Monday to Friday 10am-6pm), HMV stores nationally, Tower Records nationally, Stargreen Box Office, WayAhead Box Office and on-line from Ticketmaster.
Pop quiz tonight.
Meg writes "You wouldn't believe it was possible to have a forty minute discussion about whether V.D. comes with or without apostrophe these days."
Had me puzzled for a second until I realised that for her, VD means Valentine[']s Day, while for me it means a trip to the clap clinic. In case you're thinking of going for a check-up, are a gay man, and live in London, I recommend East One on Thursday evenings at the Royal London Hospital.
On the subject of 'social diseases', I loved the Dame Edna Experience's anecdote this week: "My doctor asked me if I knew who I got it from. I replied, 'when you eat a can of beans, you don't know which one made you fart!'"
They didn't last long, did they?
This morning on BBC1 news, during a discussion about the Alder Hey report on the organ removal scandal:
"Isn't it just going to be opening up old wounds, making them wider?"

Monday, January 29, 2001

I'm very aware that, despite my thrusting mission statement, "The exploits and listenings of a mid-30s gay Londoner", it's been all exploits and very little listenings so far. But what do you expect? It's January. There's nothing new in the shops. Now is the winter of my disc-discontent. But at lunchtime I bought The Kings Of Convenience: Quiet Is The New Loud. Why? I know nothing about it, or them. I just like the cover. Two geeks and a girl in sandals. I think February's going to be twee month round my house.
This is scary. I have no idea what he or she is on about, or indeed what they're on, but they're clearly insane.
Thank God I'm an amiable drunk.
If I were the miserable sort, last night could have been a tragedy. Instead, it was a farce.
As an amiable drunk, you can:
  • laugh when you can't find your wallet in McDonalds.
  • laugh still more when you realise that your wallet has, in fact, been stolen.
  • laugh uncontrollably when you realise you have all of 5p on you, no cards, no travelcard, and no way of getting home.
  • contemplate walking. To Kilburn.
  • phone your bestest friend in the whole world and persuade him to jump in a cab and come all the way from Wapping to Comptons Cafe to bring you some money.

    Thank God I'm an amiable drunk.
    And thank God I have lovely friends. Thanks Ian, I owe you!
  • "On January 31st, at 8am Basildon (UK) time, will host 2 exclusive extracts from the forthcoming Depeche Mode album, Exciter. Further extracts will be updated at the same time on a daily basis, 2 tracks per day."

    Saturday, January 27, 2001

    Out last night with Ian. And what an aint-I-fabulous? evening. Met Phil outside Barcode and dragged him to Comptons. Got chatted up by a gloriously, garrulously drunk guy. Then off to Barcode, where we bumped into Little Steve and Nyk (who seems to be speaking to me again). Then we went to Duckie. Or at least we tried. "If you haven't got a ticket, you're not getting in." Still, the evening wasn't entirely wasted, as Ian showed me a shortcut through an NCP parking thing. So back to Barcode it was then. Ian left at some stage, and I went to Escape, where I got chatting to drag legend Ebo-knee, and finally, wonderfully, to Rob.
    My left kneee is bruised, though. That'll be the vague recollection of walking straight into a lamppost on Regent Street.
    Excellent article by Hywel Williams [presumably not this Hywel Williams] about Mandelson's downfall in today's Guardian:
    It's a gay thing
    It takes one to know one, and believe me, Mandelson's behaviour has been recognisable. I'm afraid he could not have been queenier if he tried. The tousled locks, the quivering lower lip, the nostrils poised to flare: all signalled a gay at bay....
    What Peter Mandelson did was the political equivalent of bare-backing. And as with all such discovered episodes of unprotected sex, it's the presumption of further unrevealed audacity which thrills both voyeur and victim. How many other times did he do it?...
    This is a gay thing - the story of a man who politically was once one man's bitch and then became another's...
    As the most famous gay man in Britain he was a cardboard cut-out figure, the political Village People's Machiavelli, a parody of the gay man as the shifty fudge-packer in the corner...
    Chris Smith and Nick Brown show how in New Labour even the gay men are strait-laced. Old Labour had a brave stab at it all with Tom Driberg ¡V a cruiser of ocean-going capacity but there have been no worthy successors to that prodigy of the cottage epiphanies. That Tories are camper is a law of British politics...
    When it comes to gay identity there's a double discharge of drama. Here the sexual is the political. Hence the flight to the common and the race to the heath. At some level there is actually a desire to be found out. Mandelson's call was both exploitation of office and a challenge to be discovered in an amoral world. He was gagging for it.

    Friday, January 26, 2001

    Overheard in the office part 1:
    "Zoe, have you got any headache tablets?"
    "No, but I've got lavender oil."

    Did I really say that out loud? Part 1:
    To a man who stopped the lift as it was leaving ground floor of Waterstones Piccadilly, and who then pressed the button for the first floor:
    "Stairs not working then?"

    Did I really say that out loud? Part 2:
    On a packed Hammersmith & City Line tube last night, listening to Guy's excellent Vauxhall Tavern mix CD. During "Top Of The World", when Karen Carpenter sang "and the only explanation I can find," I shouted out, a-la Dame Edna, "Is the what?"
    [Don't worry, if you're not a Vauxhall regular you won't understand this.] is back up and running, and it really is an excellent guide to London gay clubs. There's news of what's on this week, a comprehensive [if "slut-hut" heavy] listings page, and some excellent features on Amsterdam, Berlin and, er, Vauxhall. Plus a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to drugs. You can subscribe to the weekly email newsletter, which sounds like a must.
    Tonight is Duckie's fifth birthday party. I want to go, if only to wear the badge I got at their first birthday party. Trouble is, it's a tenner to get in. The venue should be interesting, though: the swanky Eve Club on Regent Street. They seriously need to update their website - it hasn't been updated since the Lesbian Beauty Contest in July 2000.
  • David is the 6th most popular male first name in the United States
  • David is the 873rd most popular surname in the United States
  • David is the 1,269th most popular female first name in the United States
  • I've started dreaming in hypertext. The weirdest thing last night: I had all these different dreams on the go at once, and could right-click on a dream and open it up in another window. And then I could ALT-TAB between the dreams, to see if anything exciting was happening in them. And I kept checking Stats4All every five minutes to see if anyone had visited my page. Oh, hang on, that last bit wasn't a dream...

    Thursday, January 25, 2001

    Sim is the 7,126th most popular surname in the United States. How about yours?
    Go to Google and search for dumb motherfucker
    [thanks Jacqs]
    I really want to like "Free news & reviews for and by gay & mixed clubbers in London." Trouble is, all the links point to a folder on his own hard drive. Dreamweaver, don'tcha just hate it?
    Once you've finished testing your knowledge of 80s lyrics, mount your spacehopper and rediscover those wild and crazy fads of the 70s and 80s. Then tune into the best (or worst) of 70s and 80s television.
    My crazed stalker asked me last night how he could send a virus to his ex, that would completely screw up his computer.
    I haven't the faintest, and I'm not getting involved.

    Wednesday, January 24, 2001

    To the Retro Bar last night for the weekly pop quiz. In a city of Identikit gay bars, the Retro Bar is refreshing. There's a jukebox packed with Noo Wave Classix, a variety of events throughout the week [I'm fairly tempted to try my hand at the DIY DJ night], and most importantly the management really care about the place and its clientele. The Pumpkin Publog people would like it.

    Anyway, back to the quiz. We were two players short last night. Karl was staying in to play with his new widescreen telly, and Dave is on a new-year-must-get-in-shape craze. So it was up to me and Jonathan to hold the fort.

    We got three-and-a-half out of five for the new releases [who knew, or cared, that Terrorvision had a new single?]; we knew that Slik's lead singer was Midge Ure; we got all the Duran Duran covers [earning a vital half point for apparently getting Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and the Furious Five exactly right, though a quick trawl on the net reveals no-one's really sure]; we couldn't name the musical that "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" came from; we knew far too much about Dire Strait's Money For Nothing; we knew Marilyn Manson's real name and the title of his current album; and we did incredibly well in the disco round [sadly I remembered Leif Garrett].

    But we didn't think we'd done well enough to win. 15 out of 20. Wendy, the manager, started counting down: "Has anyone got 20? 19? 18? 17? 16?" Our hearts stopped. "15?" We screamed. So did another team. A tie-break resulted. I went head-to-head with a girl from the other team. "First one to shout out the name of this band wins."

    Now, Wendy wasn't to know this, but when I was a teenager, my walls - and ceiling - were literally covered with pictures of Debbie Harry. I had a scrapbook filled with yet more photos of her. I know everything there is to know about Blondie, have everything they released, owned a "Blondie Is A Group" badge, and I still come over all funny everytime I hear one of their songs. So it wasn't really fair that the tie-breaker was the first few bars of One Way Or Another. But fairness be damned, we won.

    We didn't win the big money though. We drew the wrong envelope. And ended up with oh-so-stylish Retro Bar T-shirts. But we won.

    Take on the reigning champions at 9pm next Tuesday at the Retro Bar, St George's Court, off the Strand, London.
    "Towards the end of Judy's Garland's life, agent Irving 'Swifty' Lazar gave her a tape recorder and told her to dictate her autobiography. At this phase of her career Judy had just been ripped off for the television show she never wanted to do, and plagued with ex-husband Sid Luft's gambling debts and his trying to get custody of her children -- and boy, is she PISSED! Judy yells, Judy nods out from pills." You can listen to audio extracts from the tapes or order them here.
    Thanks to Mike Daddino for this.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2001

    On my daily commute to work, I carry a rucksack containing a CaseLogic CD folder. At present there are 16 CDs in it. Quite a wide range of stuff, the theory being that I can always find something to listen to, whatever my mood.

    Right now, the folder contains Death In Vegas (The Contino Sessions); Saint Etienne (Foxbase Alpha); XTC (Wasp Star); Mirwais (Production); Kirsty MacColl (Galore); Until The End Of The World (soundtrack); Future Sound Of London (Accelerator); Leftfield (Leftism); Chilled Euphoria (Vols 1 and 2); Two Lone Swordsmen (the new one); Shirley Bassey (the remix album); Lemon Jelly (Lemon Jelly KY); Mekon (Relax With Mekon); Tim Keegan & Departure Lounge (Out Of Here); Goldfrapp (Felt Mountain); Haig & MacKenzie (Memory Palace); Black (The Collection); and Tosca (Suzuki). Surely, from among that lot, I can find the perfect soundtrack for now?

    Nope. For the last week or so, I keep opening the folder, flipping through the albums in it, and putting the folder back in my bag, and continuing my journey in silence. This is the curse of January. I've got those post-new year blues. I need something new. Suggest something.
    Last week, in an untypical fit of houseproudness, I bought some potted hyacinths and daffodils. As I was leaving for work yesterday morning, I noticed that the hyacinths were about to flower. I returned home from work last night and as I unlocked my front door, I was hit by a wave of heady, sickly, overpowering perfume. My house smelled like a branch of Lush. It was so strong I had to open all the windows, despite the icy temperatures. However, I soon got used to the smell and closed the windows and went to bed. This morning I woke up with the most incredible hayfever. I've gone through half a box of tissues already. That's the last time I try to pretty up my home.

    While searching for links about hyacinths, I came across:
  • A Freaky Trigger review of the 6ths' album Hyacinths And Thistles
  • Hyacinth AIDS Foundation
  • the life of St Hyacinth of Cracow who, during an attack on a monastery, saved a crucifix and and a statue of Mary, though the statue apparently weighed far more than he could normally have lifted. He was obviously a bit of a weakling: see this picture of the saint shown holding these two items.
  • The Manic Street Preachers release a summery, Beach Boys-y single in mid-winter. Listen to the whole song here.
    I found this written in my notebook. I have no idea when I wrote it. I have no recollection of the incident, but I assume it really happened.

    On the tube. Gorgeous guy opposite testing his pen by writing on ugly girlfriend's hand. Writes at length, intensely. Eventually shows her what he has been writing. He's been filling in an job application form. She looks at it, makes as if to throw it away. He looks hurt. He tears it up. My pen runs out. We look at each other suspiciously. He hands me his pen.

    Monday, January 22, 2001

    If one can be said to be a Kirsty MacColl fan, then I am. But even I have to admit she was never cool, never iconic, always somehow a little naff, making rabid devotion unlikely. Or any strong feeling either way. A recent thread on I Love Music, called Kirsty MacColl - why never cool? petered out after a couple of messages into a discussion on her husband, Steve Lillywhite.

    Yet I own all her albums, and saw her in concert four times in the past year alone. She was a wonderfully relaxed, witty performer. I will miss her quirky repartee. At Dingwalls: "Sorry it's so packed in here tonight," she said, "I tried to get the Millennium Dome. But the government didn't want it full of dope-smoking homosexuals. Still, what can you do, that's my audience - dope-smoking homosexuals." [Big cheer]

    "I was shopping in the supermarket today, and the woman who works there - she's seen me in there for about five years - says 'Ooh, I saw you on the telly; you're that Kirsty MacColl aren't you? You did that duet with Malcolm McLaren, didn't you?' [pause] Then the woman in the shop went on, 'You know who else we had in here the other day? That man who played the robot on Dr Who. He's about seven foot, you know.' "

    The way I heard about Kirsty's death was cruel. It was just before Christmas. I'd spent the whole day drinking on Old Compton Street with my mate Andy, when my mobile rang. It was my friend Jonathan: "Have you heard? Kirsty MacColl has done a collaboration with The Propellerheads!" I gullibly replied "Really? What song?" Jonathan still didn't realise that I hadn't heard the news and carried on: "What was her last hit?" "Um.. .well..." "No, a speedboat, ha ha!"

    More sick ironies: her last two albums were called "Tropical Brainstorm" and "Titanic Days".

    When my mother died, it didn't really sink in until a month or so later, when I realised I wouldn't be getting any more of her chatty letters. That's when the loss really struck. On Saturday morning, as I was making my way to St Martin In The Fields for Kirsty's memorial service, it hit me that there wouldn't be a new Kirsty album, nor another gig, ever. And that sucks.

    I am going to miss Kirsty MacColl. There's no-one else doing what she did.
    Has this site for Belle & Sebastian offshoot band, Looper, really been hacked, or is it some kind of, like, quirky promotional thing?
    Busy day at work today, and my brain is not in gear, so more later about:
  • the Kirsty MacColl memorial service
  • the Magnetic Fields shows
  • sleep (or the lack of it)
  • Friday, January 19, 2001

    Apparently real quotes from Sky TV's rugby man, Murray Mexted:
    "You don't like to see hookers going down on players like that."
    "He's looking for some meaningful penetration into the backline."
    "Spencer's running across field calling out, come inside me, come inside me."
    "I can tell you it's a magnificent sensation when the gap opens up like that and you just burst right through."
    "I don't like this new law, because your first instinct when you see a man on the ground is to go down on him"
    "Darryl Gibson has been quite magnificent coming inside Andrew Mehrtens, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of the same today."
    "There's nothing that a tight forward likes more than a loosie right up his backside"
    "Everybody knows that I have been pumping Martin Leslie for a couple of seasons now."
    "It's hard sometimes when there's other men coming up your bottom."
    "Give him a hole and he loves it!"
    "I often fantasize about lineouts in my sleep."
    "Easy to expose yourself on the openside when you haven't got your mate up your backside."
    I'll be glad when that new TV channel, E4, starts. Not because I'm dying to watch new episodes of Friends. I don't even have cable or digital or whatever it is. Heck, I've only had a TV for the last year. No, it's because then they'll have to stop playing that damned annoying Ali G trailer for it. Bling-bling baby.
    Oh, and their site doesn't work on a Mac.

    Thursday, January 18, 2001

    Re-Versed Lyrics: Christian lyrics that can be sung to popular tunes Like this, sung to the tune of American Pie: A long, long time ago, A child came down to earth below, To Mary and her husband, Joe, Born in the cold night air, And somewhere in the starry night, Some shepherds saw a wondrous sight, The sky was filled with angels shining bright, Who told them He was there, So they found the baby in the straw, Their hearts and minds were filled with awe, But they didn’t know that the child they saw, Would be their King some day.
    Others include Smells Like Teen Spirit (or Holy Spirit, of course) and this from Biblethumping, every Christian's answer to Tubthumping: My God got killed, but He rose up again, Death could never never keep Him down!
    You just couldn't make it up!
    Spotted on my lunchtime perambulation down Finchley Road:
  • Stop this dotcom madness: A local Thai restaurant has renamed itself "No doubt inspired by," you think to yourself, "they've snapped up the domain name." But no. belongs to the Rice family: Mel, Bettie and Lucky Lady Rice of Stockton, California.
  • Stickers on the lampposts around Finchley Road tube [I've deleted the name and number because I'm not sure about libel laws]: "Xxxxx Xxxxx of XX Fitzjohn's Avenue is an incompetent and abusive therapist".
  • The woman in front of me in the "8 items or less" queue in Waitrose bought just five brussels sprouts. Total: 7p.
  • Online Rorschach inkblots. Should I be worried that I thought one of them was a "spurting penis with wings"? Yes, I suppose I should.
    Courtesy of popbitch:
  • famous penises (penii?). Apparently David Blaine, Leonardo de Caprio and Tobey McGuire respectively. See also this magnificently priapic shot of Duran Duran's Warren Cuccurullo
  • groupie central
  • Er, Five Star are back.
  • Wednesday, January 17, 2001

    "A brief explanation of how I came to live in one of London's premier drag pubs at the worldly and sophisticated age of seven." James McConnon on growing up in the Coleherne and the Vauxhall Tavern. "Someone in the brewery, in a fit of madness, decided to offer The Colherne to an Irishman who had only heard of homosexuality a few eeks previously." [sic]
    A memorial service for Kirsty MacColl will be held at St Martin In The Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, on Saturday at 11am. I'll be there.
    Now this really is a swish cottage! A list of cruising grounds, cottages, parks, saunas, etc, with star-ratings and anecdotes. Thanks to iansie for the link.
    AltaVista have produced a list of links to articles about weblogs. What they are, what they're not, etc. SO that's my day sorted! Link nicked from plasticbag.
    The most significant event in rock? Ever? Go on, hazard a guess before you take a peek. This list is ridiculous. Numbers 6,7 and 9 belong in the top ten. The rest? Piffle.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2001

    The official Fox TV description of their new reality TV show, Fantasy Island: "blah, blah, blah". Quick, take a look before they change it.
    No blog should be without one: Stortroopers. The little avatar at top-left which, after a bit of Photoshopping, looks a teeny bit like me.
    "Imagine the love song were a person. She would be very old and very sad. And she would live in Portugal." Stephin Merritt writes in the Independent on Sunday.
    Gwyneth Paltrow at number one in the Australian singles chart? And number two in New Zealand? Surely some mistake. At least South Africa shows more sense. Oh hang on, what are Erasure doing in the top ten in the year 2001?

    We Brits (if that is indeed what I am) are no better. Bob The Builder is still hanging around, after becoming the best-selling single of 2000.

    Monday, January 15, 2001

    An oldie but a goodie. The Guide To Taking A Dump At Work. This should be updated to include Having A Fart In The Lift when your bowels are rotten after the weekend's excess; Having A Piss when the horny half-caste guy in customer services is next to you at the urinal; Sneaking A Peak At His Cock without getting caught; and Pretending You Weren't when you are.
    Friday: Yet another work farewell. This ship is sinking rapidly, the wiser rats have long-since packed their bags, leaving only those of us motivated more by inertia than ambition. Very, very sorry to lose Karen and Tom. The former is going off to join Reed, the latter taking three months off to go snowboarding in Canada. Big, boozy party at fine bar The Adelaide, after which I really should have gone home.

    Instead, I arranged to go to One Nation Under A Groove at 333 with Ian. It was all right, but I wasn't really in the mood. Allowed myself to get picked up by an Asian man who lives in Leytonstone. Well, it was cheaper than a cab home - I bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "cheap sex". Ahmed was clearly well-practised at this sort of thing: "horny" music on the stereo; porn on the TV; poppers, lube, Crisco, cockring (x2), dildo - all the regular accoutrements of irregular practises - laid out on the bedside pedestal.

    Was dropped off at Leytonstone tube in the morning, and after wandering round Stratford and Tower Bridge in a post-drunk, pre-hangover, post-e, pre-comedown, post-shag, pre-cum state, decided to stop being silly and go home.

    Saturday: Met up with the gang at a restaurant in Covent Garden. The sight of 12 skinheads in a fancy restaurant piqued the interest of an American who handed us a business card. His name: Barry Z, presenter of his own New York cable TV show. He said he'd love to do a feature on us!

    Then to the Theatre Royal, to see The Witches of Eastwick, which was far, far better than I had thought it would be. This may have something to do with the fact that we were in the front row, exchanging meaningful looks with the cast and orchestra, or with the fact that certain cookies were handed along the front row as the show began, or with the three bottles of champagne that had been ordered as interval drinks. Showy queens, dontcha just love them?

    After a few more drinks at Barcode, I decided to go to XXL. Why, I'm not sure. Where it was, I wasn't sure. What I did, I'm not willing to discuss here! I did, however, bump into a shamefaced guy who works on the same floor as me. Which is always nice. Once I left there, I put into action my usual cab-fare-avoidance policy. So, while I rambled on at length on my mobile to Ian, I made my way to Bloomsbury Square, and then to Comptons Café, and then to a flat in Camden.

    Best thing that was said to me this weekend: from the boy in Camden, "I don't think I could take your cock, it's too big." Funniest thing I said this weekend, "Oh, come on, it's no bigger than a nice, fat shit."

    Sunday: Stayed in. All day. And slept. All day. Started to watch "Heavenly Creatures" on TV, but fell asleep before it finished. If anyone can tell me how it ends, please do.

    Friday, January 12, 2001

    My top twenty albums of the year 2000

    1. The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs
    OK, this was my album of the year for 1999, too, but it only got a UK release this year, so it qualifies again. Sure, there are maybe ten non-starters on this three-CD set, but that still leaves 59 brilliant songs.

    2. Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain
    By turns beautifully calming and shockingly jarring. Imagine Portishead fronted by Shirley Bassey, then throw in some unearthly sounds. A perfect album to chill out to.

    3. Kirsty MacColl - Tropical Brainstorm
    When I first heard about this, the thought of Kirsty MacColl going all Latin American filled me with dread. But she pulls it off with verve and wit. The feelgood album of the year, it will have you dancing around in your socks. No album made me smile more this year. And no news made me sadder than that of her death.

    4. Bent - Programmed To Love
    Entertainingly eclectic. Techno, sweeping strings, country, nursery rhymes, 80s synthpop, and a Johnny Cash impersonator, with no regard whatsoever for what's "cool".

    6. Mekon - Relax With Mekon
    An embarrassment of riches featuring house, dub, 50s ballads, and Marc Almond on one of his strongest tracks in years.

    7. The 6ths - Hyacinths and Thistles
    Yet another eclectic ragbag, with pithy writing and some of pop's most eccentric voices: Clare Grogan, Gary Numan, Melanie. Oh, and Marc Almond on one of his weakest tracks in years.

    8. Tim Keegan and Departure Lounge - Out Of Here
    Depressingly uplifting. Cheerfully downbeat.

    9. Badly Drawn Boy - The Hour Of Bewilderbeast
    Classy songwriting, allied with home studio productions values produces a generally satisfying yet underperforming album.

    10. Various - Chilled Euphoria
    Shedloads of dance and trance tracks, digitally remixed (whatever that means) by Red Jerry (whoever he is) - this combines Moby, Underworld, Chicane, etc, with whooshing wave noises. Lovely.

    11. The Delgados - Great Eastern
    More mumbling, drum loops, strings, brass and wonky xylophones from Scotland's finest. Introspective lyrics, subtle melodies and swooping production.

    12. XTC - Apple Venus Vol 2: Wasp Star
    A return to a rockier sound after last year's orchestral Vol 1. Great riffs abound, and the lyrics are as wry as ever. Stupidly happy.

    13. Shirley Bassey - Diamonds Are Forever: the remix album
    Take over-the-top classics from every queen's favourite diva, and throw in more strings, more beats, more drama. Over-egged? You betcha.

    14. Prince - Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic
    A partial return to form for the purple one. There are way too many weak tracks, but a few rank with his best: The Sun, The Moon And Stars, and his cover of Every Day Is A Winding Road, in particular.

    15. Mirwais - Production
    Great deep house basslines, acid production, vocoders and acoustic guitars. Works wonderfully half of the time, but produces some real clunkers too ("Junkies Prayer").

    16. Paul Haig & Billy MacKenzie - Memory Palace
    Released posthumously, this was Billy MacKenzie's last work. Soaring vocals and cinematic production, with two real classics: Give Me Time and Transobsession.

    17. The Aluminum Group - Pedals
    Take a bit of Roxy Music, add a pinch of Stereolab, stir in some Magnetic Fields and fold in a Cardigan.

    18. Elliott Smith - Figure 8
    It's your standard Elliott Smith album: a bit Beatles, a bit Simon and Garfunkel. Worth it for Everything Means Nothing To Me alone.

    19. The Wondermints - Bali
    Take the Elliott Smith album, cross it with the Aluminum Group one, and add some ELO. The result - a mess of quirky cheerful pop, too clever by half, with the occasional gem.

    20. Lemon Jelly - Lemon Jelly KY
    Buy it for the packaging alone - groovy gatefold psychedelia. But the music's cool too. Like Air without the vocoder, a more chilled Orbital, a more melodic Sabres. Silly spoken-word samples like you used to get on early Orbital and St Et albums. Lush piano, shuffling percussion. Music to complete javascript tutorials to.
    The Pet Shop Boys are back. Almost. Their forthcoming musical - Closer To Heaven - which is a collaboration with Jonathan Harvey, is due to open in the West End in summer or autumn this year. Listen to three songs from the show.

    In other Pet Shop Boys news, their video for Liberation is used to apparently stunning effect in the IMAX film Cyberworld. Mauricio saw it last night at the BFI IMAX cinema after a couple of joints, and had barely regained the power of speech when I saw him.
    Barcode last night, for one of their "let's throw a surprise party for David and invite everyone he's ever shagged" nights. Mauricio, Marco, the bloke I snuck into the bathroom at Christmas, Andy Almighty, and far too many others to remember. (Which, of course, I didn't.) Didn't I look fabulous? Or a slapper, perhaps.