Friday, 25 April 2008

Diamond Hoo Ha

Finally I got to see one of my favourite bands live this week.

Supergrass played the London Astoria on Tuesday (22ND) as part of a UK tour to promote their latest album Diamond Hoo Ha.

I've been a fan of them since their debut album I Should Coco. There was something totally refreshing about their sound, and I look back at this album as part of the soundtrack to my life at the time. It also contains what I consider to be a perfect pop moment - Caught By The Fuzz. This track was championed by the late, great, John Peel, and must have reminded him a lot of his favourite track Teenage Kicks. CBTF also contains one of my favourite lyric lines of all time: "here comes my Mum, well she, she knows what I've done" - I cannot explain why but I think it's a moment of genius and it still makes me smile when I hear it.

Rather unfairly, Supergrass are considered by some music fans to be a bit of a novelty act, mainly because of their song Alright & their wacky videos like Pumping On Your Stereo. I see them as one of the most underrated bands around. Since their debut they've released one quality album after another - they're also great songwriters; craftsmen of their trade; what I consider to be A Proper Band.

OK, I'm sitting on the fence a bit here, so onto this week's gig. It was my first & possibly last visit to the intimate Astoria (due to close soon) - a nice unpretentious, dark grubby venue.

Supergrass didn't live up to my (admittedly high) expectations. I felt that they played too much of their new album (about 7 tracks). Now, you may argue that part of the purpose of bands playing live is to showcase new material. This is fair comment, and actually their new album is very good. The track Diamond Hoo Ha Man blows my socks off - easily up there with their best songs (although it does remind me a lot of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes). But I digress. A lot of people watching would have not been familiar with their new album; in fact thanks to CD WOW's incompetance, I only got hold of my copy a week prior to seeing them live.

Having not seen them live before I suppose I was hoping to hear a play list that resembled their Greatest Hits album. This is unrealistic, but I would have certainly preferred more of their back catalogue, and maybe 4/5 of the new tracks.

It was still a good gig though. It seems weird seeing them as a 5 piece band now, having started off as a 3 piece all those years ago. They're great showmen and play with a lot of energy. Songs like Moving, Pumping On Your Stereo, & Sun Hits The Sky all sounded great live, and they didn't disappoint by ending the encore with Caught By The Fuzz. Nice work fellas!

Thursday, 10 April 2008


I used to love Countdown when I was kid. It was the very first programme on Channel 4 when it launched it 1982. I remember it quite well, because up to that point there had only been 3 terrestrial TV channels (you kids today have got it made with your #zillion satellite channels), so to suddenly have more TV programmes available to choose from - well, it was exciting times.

As a geeky schoolkid I instantly grew to love Countdown, as it tested out my blossoming Maths & English skills. The format was great, it was good clean family entertainment, and I particularly liked the laid back style of the show. No jazzed up nonsense or over the top presenters like on The Price Is Right. It was 30 minutes of TV Perfection.

Another great feature of the show was the clock music, composed by Alan Hawkshaw (who incidentally also composed the theme music to Grange Hill). Even now it's difficult not to join in with a chorus of ", de-de, de-de-de-de - booooooooooooop!"

As the 1980's drew to a close, there increasingly was another reason for watching - the delightful Carol Vorderman. Some people might view this as a 'Guilty Pleasure', but even to this day I still think she's my ideal woman. Carol, if you're reading this, please get in touch via the comments section, and we'll arrange a date sometime.

A large proportion of Countdown's audience are Students - not surprising given the slot it occupies in the TV schedules. When I was at Uni, me and my flatmates were regular viewers, probably avoiding another dull Econometrics lecture in the process.

And then there was tragically early death of presenter Richard Whiteley, in 2005. I was gutted when he died - along with Carol he made the programme. I still can't fathom out why - he was extremely cheesy and his banter with the contestants/audience could be cringe worthy at times. Despite (or perhaps because of?) his northern quirkiness he was the ideal front man for the show - I couldn't help but warm to his presenting style. There was something quintessentially British about him.

Since his passing Countdown has just not been the same. Des Lynam faced the unenviable task of trying to fill Whiteley's shoes. I've always been a fan of Des's presenting style, but he was a poor substitute for Richard. I must confess I've not tuned into the show since Des O'Conner took over as the main presenter.

Due to work I don't get the chance to watch Countdown any more. I'd love to be like Hugh Grant's character in About A Boy and watch it every day. Another consonant please, Carol......

Saturday, 5 April 2008