pour le monde

…let’s think about voices. For my generation there are many instantly recognisable speaking voices – the pure Englishness of an Olivier or a Coward, the nasal sneer of the wonderful Kenneth Williams, the bluff northern tones of Les Dawson, the spluttering innuendo of Frankie Howerd, the comforting countryman of the late great Jack Hargreaves (hands up for ‘How?’, how monumentally magnificent was that as an example of perfect childrens TV!), Fenella Fielding’s incredible husky chocolate whisper (listen to her dubbing of Anita Pallenberg’s character in ‘Barbarella’ and… well, just melt…). My list goes on and on…
When I think of singing voices, I have those that spring to my mind as definitive in their genre also – for ennui and disinterest personified, Lou Reed. For mystic hub cap diamond star cadillac fairyland it has to be Marc Bolan. John Lennon and his spiritual heir Liam Gallagher for their northern beat group wit and wisdom… Jeff Buckley for Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, a perfect singer singing one of the most perfectly realised songs, the Jagger of 68-72, the best Mick Jagger ever, Tom Waits, always the best Tom Waits, Gillian Welch, the wisdom of centuries distilled into a vocal instrument of staggering beauty, John Fogerty, Roger McGuinn and Tom Petty, my mythical America personified… this is another list that will go on and on and on and on…
Today I realised who (for me) does sadness best. I listened to a track called ‘Silent House’. It’s a song about a person suffering from Alzheimers disease, and that person is the mother of the singer. The singer is Neil Finn, and it’s a track from the new Crowded House album, Time on Earth. It is, quite simply, profoundly moving, very beautiful and incredibly heartbreaking. The whole album is suffused with melancholy, mostly manifested in the magnificence of Finn’s voice and his eerily beautiful songwriting and arrangements. Sometimes modern songwriting can appear to be glossy production values propping up gossamer thin conceits, huge castles built on rapidly shifting sand. Not so with this incarnation of Crowded House. Please, seek out this album and listen to “Silent House” and “Pour le Monde” first. Listen several times, as the magic takes a little time to do it’s work.
I hope you will agree with me then.
Nobody does sad like Neil Finn.



Smiley Smile! Today Otis ate his first solid food (pureed carrot) and learned to ‘swing his pants’ in a Trevor and Simon stylee, to the accompaniment of some of that ‘dang hippety-hoppity music’ that gets played ’round these parts. Big thanks to our friend Ben, who departed these shores on Sunday to return to the USA, but before he did he donated his ENTIRE music collection to my hard drive… over 100 Gigabytes (whatever that means… how many LP’s is that?). Ben has amazingly eclectic taste (regular readers will know how cool he is) and I am very excited at the musical delights that lie ahead… Kiss greatest hits in particular. I’ve been known to ‘play Kiss covers on the jetty in the summer’ as Wilco sang, amongst the many crimes against music I’ve commited (and continue to commit). Perhaps we can incorporate something like ‘I wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll All Nite’ into the next (and last, for the time being) Scary Uncle gig. Scary Uncle have developed into a minor legend in Phnom Penh, despite having played much less than a handful of gigs. We were (are) a two-piece, myself on guitar (and to tell the truth, it probably would sound better if I actually did climb onto the guitar and jump about on it rather than try to play those things that Ulf Goran calls ‘chords’) and ‘singing’, and yet another Ben, the wonderful Ben R, on bass and enthusiasm. Ben is one of the world’s leading monkey anthropologists and a damn fine fellow to boot, although I sometimes suspect he views my more enthusiastic fret mangling as some kind of throwback to my simian past… his son, Tane, is also Otis’ hero, as he is at the ‘running around and causing havoc’ stage of babyhood – Otis gazes awestruck at Tane’s ability to run rings around pursuing adults as he attempts to redistribute the contents of a potato chip bowl to needy ant colonies. Tane and Otis are also Voodoo brothers, but that, my friends, is a story for another time…At our first gig in the truly wonderful Zeppelin Rock Cafe (supporting the even more wonderful Betty Ford and the GT Falcons) we even managed one of those transcendental rock ‘n’ roll moments, when, just about to start our last number, a chap leapt out of the audience and enquired if we needed a drummer.. ‘what do you know?’ I said ‘what d’you wanna play?’ he said’do you know any Violent Femmes”yep!”Blister in the Sun?’ ‘Yep!’…. and he did… he was a fantastic drummer… then he faded back into the darkness from whence he came… it was one of those nights that has passed into folklore, so much so that even Asia Life magazine, the SE Asia equivalent of Time Out reported us as being an Irish/English version of the White Stripes- not bad for a mostly drummerless Scottish/Australian outfit… Take a look at the photos in my media for the sad evidence… Ben R and family are off to Vietnam soon, so who knows what will happen, maybe some long distance rehearsing by Skype, or maybe I will finally take the plunge and perform solo – if you’re out there Michael (and I think you are…), I really wish I’d listened more carefully to¬† Bert Jansch and Leo Kottke and all those other guitar toters albums you used to have instead of sneering at them… now where are my Ulf Goran and Bert Weedon chord books….

‘she started dancin’ to that fine, fine music, her life was saved by rock ‘n’ roll’ (Lou Reed)