Archive for January, 2012
This one’s been in the works for a while, and I apologize for not getting it done in a more timely manner last week. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this about most of the TTT posts already, but when I chose the Manic Street Preachers, I had absolutely no idea how deep the well would run. To some degree, I still don’t.
The original recommendation for the Manic Street Preachers came from one of my oldest friends, who has been serious about music since back when I was buying whatever Tiffany was selling because, well, did you see Tiffany*? She had red hair and curves and, well, I was, like, 14.
Hey, don’t judge pubescent me. The shame burns enough as it is every time I happen across that old cassette in my special shoe box. What? Of course I still have it…oh, hey, you know what…never mind.
Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying, the original album suggested for my Preachers research was The Holy Bible. From what I’ve read, it’s supposed to be dark and bleak and garnered quite a bit of critical acclaim.
Unfortunately, it was never released in the US. That’s not to say I couldn’t probably get a hold of it somehow, but, as I’ve said, I believe in actually paying for the music I listen to. My other alternative, going on a hunt for an import copy of the CD is, sadly, not something I have time for these days**.
I did manage to listen to three of the 13 tracks from that album, She Is Suffering, Revol, and Faster. That was enough to confirm what I’d read. But, of course, that wasn’t enough for me by a long shot.
The one after it, Everything Must Go (1996), was the band’s most commercially successful release and is a very different animal than The Holy Bible. That should come as no real surprise, though, because the previous album was heavily influenced by rhythm guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards (James). Unfortunately, he was plagued by mental illness, which ultimately led to his disappearance in 1995. His car was found, abandoned, near the Severn Bridge in Bristol, which was known for suicide.
The surviving members of the Preachers pressed on without Edwards, and Everything Must Go was their first release as a trio.
In my very lay opinion, his presence is missed. The band’s work since, especially the aforementioned Everything Must Go and it’s follow-up, This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1999), are certainly competent, but tend to have a more pop-like feel and somewhat lighter focus. Send Away The Tigers (2007) and Know Your Enemy (2009) seem to shift back towards rock and are generally edgier, but not to the same degree as the Preacher’s early work. It isn’t until 2009′s Journal for Plague Lovers that some of that original darkness returns, which makes sense given that each track features lyrics left by Edwards.
As you can see, it seems I bit off a lot to chew in a week or even two. I’ve listened to nearly every Manic Street Preachers album produced between 1995 and 2009 (I confess I haven’t gotten to National Treasures or Lipstick Traces, yet), and the only thing I know for certain at this point is that I need (or want) to listen to most of it more. That’s especially true for the later releases. Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours, though, seem like the kind of albums I’d only queue up in the right mood.
Lyrically and topically, the Preachers have been on quite a journey over the past twenty years. While that’s mostly evident, I’ve only picked up on it in a contextual sense; I couldn’t go into much detail about what each song is really about. In other words, there’s undoubtedly an awful lot I’ve missed as I’ve been trying to drink from the Manic Street Preachers’ fire hose these past couple of weeks. Especially considering that their lyrics aren’t always easy to follow or disassemble. They are Welsh, after all, and have a unique style of squeezing words into a piece of music that can be challenging to say the least.
In the end, I think it’s safe to say that the Manic Street Preachers aren’t the rock and rollers intent on bringing back the revolution that they were when they started out. But then, it’s equally safe to say that hardly anyone else really is, either. Bands must evolve over time, or quite simply, just don’t last over that time.
And in this case, I’d say that the evolution was pretty successful, rough patches and all.
*Hey, look at that, Tiffany put out new albums in 2003 and 2011. Score!
**Of course, I happened to think of it today, and it appears to be available on iTunes.
Rule One was to just breathe normally.
Rule Two was to remember to have fun.
For something as complicated as S.C.U.B.A*, with all the hoses and gauges and that big, heavy tank, you’d expect maybe a few more rules than that. Like an entire rulebook that reads like stereo instructions or at least one of those fancy armbands that NFL quarterbacks wear.
I’ve been on cruises and Caribbean vacations, but somehow I’d never been snorkeling or scuba diving. I think that mostly stems from my desire to spend as much time as possible on vacation either a) napping, b) consuming vacation beverages, c) lounging on a beach with a book, or d) all of the above. You’ll note that nowhere does "spend potentially significant amounts of money pretending to be something other than terrestrial species" appear on that list.
The ocean water is very pretty, of course, and lots of people enjoy it, but I’m quite content with a book and a drink with a paper parasol, thank you.
It’s coincidentally amusing, then, that something else not typically me ended up getting me into a pool of water with a scuba tank attached to my back in the middle of land-locked Northern Kentucky. Which is exactly where I found myself Saturday, on an excursion with the older boys’ Cub Scout troop.
That’s not to say I dislike the Cub Scouts or anything. But as I’ve noted before, it’s just not me. It wasn’t me as a kid (I was never a Scout), and it still isn’t me now. When it comes to the Pinewood Derby, I’d perform better if they had maybe a video game version where you decked out your cars and raced digitally. And I’ve always thought camping out is great fun, as long as it includes a 27 foot-long RV with electrical and plumbing hookups.
Sleeping on the ground is fine for bugs and four-legged animals, but I bought a perfectly good bed a few years back; seems silly not to use it.
Which is all to say, of course, that when the zombie apocalypse comes and society crumbles, I’m probably screwed as a survivor. But I think I can live with that.
Anyway, so I went to the scuba dive center with my two older sons on Saturday, and we jumped in the pool and donned the well-known equipment. We learned underwater hand signals, to squeeze your nose and blow to pop your ears as the pressure changes, and how to make the tank/vest more or less buoyant. Then they turned us loose in 12 feet of water, and not one of us surfaced until the instructors shepherded us back to the World Above.
What struck me almost immediately was how insane the whole thing seemed. Before going under the first time, with the regulator mouthpiece firmly clenched between my teeth like a horse’s bit, a distant cloud of panic exploded in some far off corner in the back of my head.
"This is ridiculous. People don’t breathe under water. There’s no air. In 2 minutes you’re going to be blue like Papa Smurf and your eyes will be bulging out of their sockets!"
But then I remembered Rule One: Breathe normally.
So I did just that.
And then I dropped my face in the water and kept on doing it. Oxygen miraculously filled my lungs. When I exhaled, carbon dioxide bubbled away in a sheet just in front of my face, giving the whole thing a kind of fairy tale transitional feel (you know, like when Ariel realizes she’s in trouble and then bubbles cut to a scene with the mean Sea Witch).
After a few minutes of getting used to it, you forget all about the equipment and just do what want to do, hardly even aware you’re underwater. Every now and then, though, it would occur to me where we were and what we were doing, and an angry bees’ hive-like buzzing sense of panic would bloom again in that dark recess in my mind.
Then again I’d remember Rule One, and the distant hint of panic would go away.
Which would allow me to get back to Rule Two, the having fun.
After some pre-measured amount of time known only to our scuba instructors — it could have been ten minutes or ten hours, really, because time didn’t seem to work underwater — we were directed back to the surface to dry off and return to our previous lives as terrestrial mammals.
Which is fine, really, because I needed to get home to make dinner. Eating doesn’t work so well with a scuba regulator in your mouth.
Much later that night, I grasped the more fundamental lesson at work here.
Most of your life, you’re probably going to be underwater in one sense or another. If you want to make the most of it anyway, you only have to follow two simple rules:
Rule One: Remember to breathe.
Rule Two: Have fun.
Because if you can’t follow those two rules, you’re going to embrace the panic instead and end up floundering, Smurf-blue and bug-eyed.
The boys and I had a great time learning to scuba dive, and I’m thankful the Cub Scouts gave us the opportunity (although I’m sticking to my camping-is-better-in-an-RV assertion).
Even more, though, I’m thankful of the reminder about how to win at Life, above or below water.
Those are two rules everyone should remember.
*The word "scuba" is based on an acronym (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), so you know the word geek in me had to present it that way at least once.
The past few days, I feel like I’ve been constantly try to catch up to that "normal" spot in the schedule of life. Too many plates in the air, all perilously close to hitting the ground in an impressive symphony of shattered ceramic, and I’m only just barely grabbing them and chucking them back up in time. Of course, that’s probably pretty apparent since my most recent posts have centered on socks and hockey sticks.
At yet, somehow they didn’t catch fire and circle the interwebs in a tornado of re-linking.
Just how crazy have things been? Well, yesterday was one of those days where you throw the daily ritual right out the window pretty much first thing in the morning and fly by the seat of your Underoos* (Spider-man, if possible). And today wasn’t much better, which is to say, I had "lunch" at 4 PM this afternoon and it consisted of a handful of stale pretzels and the remaining third of a dark chocolate bar someone gave me after Christmas.
What? Oh, come on. Chocolate never goes bad.
Given, then, that I still haven’t had a solid opportunity to really listen to the Manic Street Preachers, that post will have to continue to wait a few more days. Instead, I figured after all the hub and the bub buzzing around, this would be a good time for a 10 Reasons Life Doesn’t Suck list.
- Lunch might have only been pretzels and dark chocolate, but I really like pretzels and dark chocolate. Also, it’s awesome that I don’t take all my meals through a straw; solid food rules!
- I don’t work for the kind of corrupt, avaricious, evil, spirit-crushing company that would ever expect someone to make lunch a handful of snacks, four-hour late. I do that sort of thing because I’m a freak who doesn’t like leaving my problems unsolved.
- Antiperspirant. Is it good for my body chemistry? Hell if I know. But it keeps me from reeking like a dead fish in the July sun. Woot! Trust me, you prefer it that way too.
- Writing. At the end of such a span of days, it’s damn nice to be able to sit back and unwind by spitting out a few hundreds words about nothing important (see #3).
- All the kids are in bed, fast asleep. And it didn’t take either a three-ring circus or a S.W.A.T Team to get them there.
- Tonight’s lavish dinner of ham, greens beans, and potatoes. Yeah, I know it sounds simple, but sometimes simple is best. Especially when lunch consisted of well, you know.
- I no longer have that damned Red Solo Cup song stuck in my head. I mean, it’s cute and fun and all, once or twice, but I’ve heard it 856 times in the last 72 hours (well, it sure seems like it).
- Let’s have a party. Prooooo-ceed to party. (DAMMIT!)
- Inspiring, in-your-face-rubbing-it-in-that-I’m-here-and-you’re-not vacation photos from coworkers. Oh, wait, that’s right, nobody likes those. And people who post such shots to social media while on their trip should be shunned by society. Oh, now, I’m just kidding (mostly). Deep down, it is nice to know when your friends are off enjoying themselves. And yes, by the way, the gorgeous mountain shot above is just such a photo.
- A nice frosty glass filled with a malty beverage, a blu-ray player, and a new disc – things that together can erase quite the quantity of "Life be Whack". Like, from the past couple of days.
Which is exactly what I’m going to go do right now.
I recommend you act accordingly.
*Yes, spell-checker, that is too a word!
So it’s Tuesday, right? Time to stop rambling about…socks (?) or whatever…and make with the weekly music post.
Really, I’m thinking maybe that whole socks thing wasn’t the cleverest moment in my writing adventure. In fact, maybe I should bounce ideas for these posts off of someone, anyone, once in a while. Even a mostly delirious crack-head would have been scratching his noggin at that nonsense. Then again, that might just be from the lice.
Anyway, so, yes, it’s Tuesday. And that should mean a bright, shiny new Tunes Test Tuesday post, full of first impressions and wide-eyed enthusiasm.
Yeah, um, about that.
I finally settled on the Manic Street Preachers for this week, and I’ve been giving them a go the last day or so. But I need more time, you know, to actually listen. Seems that’s still an important factor in all this.
So, then. Later this week, I promise.
For now, though, um, let’s see, what can I bore you with?
Oh, I know! Look what came for me yesterday:
(*squees gleefully like a schoolgirl with a pony*)
Why, yes, that is a Brand. New. Hockey Stick, thank you for noticing, and you thought I was just happy to see you.
I do realize I probably shouldn’t get giddy and ridiculous about it. I mean, it’s a few feet of composite fiberglass (I think), not a pair of tickets to the Game That Shall Not Be Mentioned (for fear of the NFL’s Lawyer Brigade). But it’s rare nowadays that I spend money on myself. Well, on anything that isn’t consumed and reluctantly filtered by my curmudgeonly liver.
Truth be told, though, this is actually a birthday gift from the Puddinette from last March. At the time she told me I should order what I wanted rather than having her blindly pick one by playing a quick game of web browser tab roulette. For reasons beyond my understanding, I took my sweet time about it.
But, HEY! That’s all over now. My sweet new lumber is standing by, ready to hit the ice.
But, Puddin, you say, why not get one of those uber-fancy graphite ones with the replaceable blades that all the cool professional kids are using?
Well, Mr. Italicized Voice, the things is that I’m a mediocre hockey player, at best. Heck, I didn’t buy my first pair skates until I was 26 years old or something (the pair I still wear, for what it’s worth). My on-ice nickname is "Puddin Boy", for cripes’ sake, and I’m never going to upgrade that to something that sounds all flashy and quick like "Jet", "Rocket", or even "Big Wheel". So dropping two or three times what I spent on this stick – which makes me giddy enough – on a high-end stick would have just been kind of silly.
Really, let’s be honest with each other: at my age and skill level, I think we can all agree that that’s money better spent on post-game beer anyway.
But you know, if you want me to have one of those fancy sticks, I’ve never been known to turn down a gift.
I’m just sayin’.
As mentioned in Saturday’s impromptu post (with actual photographs!), ice happened over the weekend. As I generally have no interest in seeing whether or not I can replicate Tony Hawk-ish 1080-degree spin in a motor vehicle, I took it as an opportunity to not go anywhere unless absolutely necessary.
Yes, I do realize that the roads were all very well salted and drivable by noon. Did I ask your opinion? I didn’t think so.
The long and short of it is that if you want to know what I did over the weekend (and why wouldn’t you really? I am the very definition of entertainment, obviously), the answer’s pretty simple: damn near nothing.
And it was glorious.
Of course, when I say nothing, I actually mean “nothing further away from my house than the mailbox”. Try as I might, I couldn’t not get the mail; my Publisher’s Clearing House entry might have come!
The most important point here is that even with an admirable amount of domestic productivity, I managed to avoid putting on a pair of socks nearly the entire weekend. If that’s not winning, well, I don’t know what is.
We built the Fire of Melodramatic Hissing and then basked before it all evening. For the record, though, if you’ve never attempted to collect an armload of firewood that’s been encased in ice, let me assure it’s enough to frustrate even the most patient of us. Seriously, it was like trying to hold half-a-dozen Crisco-covered bowling pins in the crook of your arm.
Our happy circumstances also allowed for plenty of time for leisurely entertainment. In fact, I sat and watched a DVD Saturday night. I don’t care what anyone tells you, I Am Number Four is every bit as mediocre as your instincts told you. Honestly, I’m surprised to have made it through the whole movie. In fact, after the first 5 minutes, I was ready to cut and run like a playa hearing the words, “I’m looking for commitment” on a blind date.
Look, I understand that “starting with the action” is a popular writer’s trick, but when the audience doesn’t know anything about what’s going on and don’t yet give two flying wet noodles about the characters, a big fiery boom is kind of just a extraneous pyrotechnics followed by some screaming.
Much to my surprise, though, I stuck it out, largely because Saturday Night Live was a repeat. And sure, the movie’s got a cute doggy, a few youthful, attractive ladies, that guy that kind of reminds me of that other guy from the Transformers movies, and an angsty teenage fella with uber-bright LEDs in the palms of his hands. All the elements for success, right? Well, I guess, but a story would have been appreciated too.
Having a weekend uninterrupted by trips to the store or any of the myriad of other places I find myself between workdays meant bonus reading time. I spent most of that with The Hunger Games, and it was much more well-written.
Truth be told, I’ve been trying to read The Hunger Games off and on for nearly a year now, and just haven’t gotten into it. On Saturday, though, I started the kind of reading marathon that I haven’t managed to accomplish very often since before the onset of my parent-of-young-children days.
As for the book itself, once it hooked me, I enjoyed it very much. The way Collins handled the brutality of the Games while simultaneously dealing with Katniss’ internal conflict was impressive. That said, I have to admit I’m not sure about the ending. I don’t want to say anything spoilery, but it seemed to me the reader is clearly shown evidence of certain aspects of personal growth throughout, all to come to naught in the end. It was like watching a boy scout spends six hours rubbing sticks together and then throw a bucket of water on his work just as it began to smolder.
But hey, there are sequels! Maybe I’ll give the next one a shot and see what happens.
And either way, at least I’m looking forward to the film version now.
Between those two things and a love of making slow-cooked stews, I’m looking forward to icy weekends of the future.
Which probably guarantees nothing but clear skies from now until April.
When I fell asleep last night (note I didn’t say went to bed), the world outside was wet and foreboding, much like that giant log flume at the amusement park when you were 5.
When I woke up this morning, everything last thing as far as the eye could see was encased in ice. It seems Mother Nature wanted to teach me not to complain about rainy days in January instead of getting "real" winter, so She gave me a taste of both.
For the record, diminutive half-beagle/half-Chihuahua dogs like mine don’t much care for walking on ice-crusted lawns. Apparently it made her paws all cold and offended her delicate sensibilities. Believe me, you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a small dog hove her back end in the air somehow while taking care of the morning business.
Where was I? Right, the world was, well, is encased in ice. Which means all the Big Weekend plans have officially been cancelled for today. The Puddinpop’s afternoon basketball game was called, the Puddinette’s standard Saturday trip to "The Store" –which somehow always becomes about 4 stores – is postponed, and we’re all basically stuck in the house looking at each other, waiting for someone to snap first.
Of course, I see this as a particularly fine opportunity to slip in one of those legendary 3-4 hour winter afternoon naps, but it seems my better half hath declared that since we’re going to be just hanging around anyway, we might as well clean up around the house.
As you can imagine, this plan was met with nothing but boundless enthusiasm.
But I digress.
I suspect we’ll compromise on someplace in between an afternoon of utter, shiftless laziness and one of immeasurable productivity.
My money’s still on the nap, though.
Later on, I’m going to slow cook some beef within an inch of it’s life in a hearty barley stew. If I’m lucky, I’ve got a Guinness squirreled away someplace to cook with.
Either way, odds are good that between dinner and the big fire I’m about to build, we’ll all survive Icepocalypse 2012.
If your Saturday plans too have been waylaid by an icy cocoon, may your hearths be warm and your cocoa sweet. And try not to slip and crack your coccyx when you go to check the mail.
In fact, why not just forget about the mail?
Wouldn’t you rather take that nap, anyway?
First off, “whoopee” is a strange word. It looks strange. It sounds strange. Say it with me, “whoopee”…”whoopee”…”whoooopeee”. See? Hardly seems like a word. I even had to check online to make sure I had it spelled right. Thank goodness all that anti-SOPA blackout stuff is dictionary.com and wikipedia were available.
Anyway, so, yeah, it’s “whoopee”.
Also, I should probably mention before I write too much more that I’ve been fighting a particularly nasty cold all week. And by fighting, I mean whimpering softly to myself while wiping the incessant flow of snot from my now-blistered nostrils with what seems like those special kind of tissues that are embedded with 40-grit abrasive sand.
Of course, after three days of nose-blowing, all tissues are basically sandpaper.
Beyond the whining, the point is that I’m pumped full of cold medicine, and the volume of oxygen my brain has been receiving lately is but a fraction of the usual amount. Thus, I’m wandering around a fugue state that alternates between the random expression of nonsense (curly soup! Dancing Oompa Loompas! Michele Bachmann!) and outright hallucination (please stop eating my ring-tailed lemurs, Mr. Elephant, and why are you cauliflower blue?).
Good. Now that that‘s out of the way…
In case you missed it – although I don’t know how you did since I talked about little else for a while – I finished my first novel last year. Since then, it’s been edits, edits, revisions, and edits. Two full passes later, I’m now mostly happy with it. Truth be told, though, I’m beginning to suspect that an author is never truly, completely happy (or done) with a book.
I still have a few questions about whether everything makes sense, and worst of all, I’m no longer a credible resource when it comes to that plot. After all the writing and revising, I need someone with a clear, fresh set of eyes to tell me if what I suspect might not be the best way to handle a couple of things are actual issues or just me being hypercritical of myself. Someone with an opinion I trust has the latest draft right now, and is (hopefully) doing exactly that.
So then, what now? And I don’t mean, what do I do when Beta-Reader Prime (a key Transformer in the next installment of the film series, no doubt!) finishes? See, that’s an easy one: fix whatever is still broken and then begin the arduous process of amassing query rejections from agents.
Unless it’s massively broken or just crap, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
No, what I meant by that question is, what project comes next, Puddin? I mean, after 2010′s “120,000 Words About Nothing” challenge and the 2011 push to finish the novel, what now? Surely I’m not going to just sit back and rest on my (remarkable short and unimpressive) laurels, while the cold medicine and copius pints of beer pilot me through another year of blog posts, right?
As I said in my belated New Year’s post, 2012 will be the year of my first non-fiction book.
But wait, you say, why non-fiction? Why now? After all the effort to pick up momentum on the fiction side of things, why drop that to focus on something completely different?
Well, because all my life, I’ve envisioned myself writing novels. I always wanted to create imaginative fantasy worlds where people deal with the same problems we deal with, but while, you know, occasionally having to blow stuff up, shoot things, maybe escape the undead, or train unicorns. But, you know, half-dressed and without head colds.
The thing is, though, just because I dreamed that doesn’t mean it’s the right – or only – path to take as a writer. Which is honestly something I never considered until after I started Puddintopia. Even since the long-ago 2003 and 2005 versions of the blog that have been lost to the vagaries of time (not really, but I never migrated those posts into the current blog software), people have been asking me why I didn’t try to write professionally. When they asked, my brain always translated that to mean I should buckle down and write my fiction books, but eventually, after enough of you asked if the book in-process would be Puddintopia-esque, I began to understand that there might be other options.
What I’ve realized is that some of you, at least, seem to enjoy the quirky, often-a-mere-step-away-from-abject-nonsense approach I bring to Puddintopia (and to a lesser degree, Hoperatives, although I do try to make sense with those) posts. And, to be honest, I enjoy the kind of silly-but-pointed view I take here. I’m not trying to slap myself on the back in a fit a congratulatory gymnastics or anything, but if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it. My first goal is to entertain the Puddinette, by which I mean to make her wet herself in laughter; the second goal is to entertain myself.
So with that percolating in my noggin, sometime early last year I had one of those Eureka! moments, and I’m not talking about vacuum cleaners. I thought of a topic that I have enough personal experience with to develop into an entire book and that could definitely use a quirky/fun approach as compared to what else is out there. It’s something that touches most people’s life nearly every day, but is still incredibly misunderstood.
And, no, I’m not telling what it is. Not yet. Although I might drop hints every so often.
So, then, there you have it. I haz a supra sekrit non-fiction book project on the front burner for 2012, and The Heavy Lifting starts next week. I’m hoping to have a first draft completed much faster than the novel, because a) I’m a more experienced writer now, b) I can write non-fiction faster than fiction and c) this book should be a good bit shorter than the last.
With any luck, then, I’ll be back in the edit-edit-revise-edit Loop of Doom before Independence Day. And then I can start sending queries to a whole slew of non-fiction agents and accumulate their rejections.
So…who wants to race? Most rejections by New Year’s wins!
There once was a fella named Puddin
who wanted to breathe, but he couldn’t.
Stuffed up in the head,
he longed for his bed,
so here’s the only post that you’re gettin!
If you’ve stumbled here to Puddintopia today, it’s probably because half of the good sites you usually go to on the internet have gone dark as part of a mass demonstration to SOPA. S.O.P.A, if you were aware, is the Stop Online Piracy Act currently being batted around in Congress.
SOPA is both foolishly simple and remarkably complicated technical suggested solution to the problem of online media piracy. The long and short of it is that if it passes, any copyright owner will effectively be able to blacklist a website without warrant or any other form of judiciary oversight.
Yesterday, I considered embedding this video in my Tunes Test Tuesday post:
If we lived in a world where SOPA passed, and I posted this clip from the movie The Fifth Element, Sony Pictures Entertainment could have Puddintopia blocked without warning or any form of day in court.
In which case, you’d have seen something like this when you landed here.
Yes, the entire blog would be unavailable because I embedded a 5 minute clip from a decade old movie, from which I was deriving no profit. Oh, and I’d have no opportunity to confront my accusers first.
I believe in a United States based on Free Speech. This legislation is pretty much the opposite of that, and in my opinion violates the Constitution.
Otherwise, you might want to get used to seeing these kinds of screens.
As opposed to the previous acts for Tunes Test Tuesday posts, I had no idea what to expect when I went looking for trakcs by The Joy Formidable. Someone on Twitter suggested them to me when I first asked for recommendations (thanks!), and I chose it one for this week because it came with the advice that I should start with something simple.
At this point, though, I’m not sure The Joy Formidable is simple.
The Joy Formidable is a UK (in this case that’s the United Kingdom, kids, not the University of Kentucky) group that formed in Wales in 2007. Apparently, they drew heavily from "noisy alt-rock" and something called "shoegaze"* to form their new sound.
While I’ll certainly agree that TJF’s sound fits very well with my thinking of noisy alt-rock, I’ll be the first to tell you that I have no earthly idea what "shoegaze" is supposed to mean.
It brings to mind some wallflower emo teen staring at his shoes and trying to hide.
And that’s not what I think of when listen to their work.
Most of the music from The Joy Formidable somewhat aggressive and driving, but not overly so. In other words, I can feel it, there’s some metal foundation in there, but it doesn’t make cringe. By and large, it sounds well-produced, but whereas last week’s group, The Black Keys, were almost exclusively guitar-and-drums, we’ve got quite a range of instrumentation and electronics at work here. To some degree, it reminds me a little of Garbage circa Version 2.0, but then again, I’m not sure I’m musically adept enough to make comparisons. There’s a bit of symphonic sense about it, too.
The vocals, mostly handled by Ritzy Bryan, often have something of a choral aspect layered in the with driving alt-rock lines. It’s like…well, have you seen The Fifth Element? In a weird kind of way, they’re reminiscent of what you’d get from the Diva Plavalaguna if her whole show had been amped up to 11 with a louder, more computer-driven alt-y score.
The bottom line is that I very much enjoyed The Joy Formidable, and I’d love to see them play live. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how often I’ll listen to them day to day. The way the tracks are laid down, the music drowns out the vocals at lower volumes. That’s great for the overall effect, but it’s not so good for me, because while it may not be the case with everyone, I need to be able to hear the lyrics.
Words are kind of important to me, you know.
The problem, then, is that with the volume up high enough to really hear everything, it’s too loud to just be in the background. In fact, in order to really do it justice while listening this week for the Tunes Test Tuesday post, I had to break out the earphones at work.
I hate the earphones.
The point here is I’d never be able work on software – let alone write anything – while listening to "The Big Roar", the first (and so far, only) full-length album from The Joy Formidable. That said, it would be an awesome album to crank up in the car or around the house while giving the family room a minimal enough cleaning to appease the Puddinet—err—your wife.
Was The Joy Formidable "starting simple"? Well, not really, but I don’t know that anything would have been. What I do know is that either way, it was a great place to start. With familiar but not derivative musical roots (not matter what "shoegaze" is) and choral-yet-still-kinda-pop vocals, it’s a lot of fun and a great overall listen. I’m kind of sad I can’t go crank it up in the car right now, actually.
If you’re looking for something that begs to be loud, you’d do well looking here.
And if you’re not looking for something like that, well, why not?
*Reference from Spotify’s Biography page for the group.