Friday Music


I am ‘switching off’- a long break from work.

That is a rather corny link. I have been listening to some old music these past few weeks. This Cd made it into the car- I wanted to find out what got me into Elbow after I had heard of them from one of the lead singer’s close friends who used to be a member of a church I led.

Once again: this song hit me. The tune is haunting, but I have been aware that with so many changes over the last year, I need to switch off….and once I switch on, look at what comes back.

Friday Music


I could just keep posting ‘Duke Special tracks, since the gig in this village has been confirmed & I am incredibly excited ( I may put a few up in forthcoming Fridays.

However, back to Elbow & the new album has got staying power: it keeps calling to me and I hear something different each time I put it on. I often find myself singing or humming this one.

The lyrics are allusive which I appreciate. One of the many things I like about Elbow is that they are able to use lyrics that could sound twee, but in their hands don’t seem to be. Viz this line:-

‘Where all the stories meant for you have already started’

..which I think is unutterably lovely….


Friday Music


I first got into Elbow through a childhood friend of Guy Garvey who was part of a church that I used to be the minister of. In the 12-13 years since then I have got a lot out of their music: never bland stadium rock, but heartfelt emotions, Northern and about real life. I saw them once, in the open air, supporting U2.

This came out this week and was part of my birthday present. I have just started to listen to it and it hasn’t ‘lived’ in me yet, but I warm to its reflections of being 40 something, being aware that there is plenty of life to live yet, but being aware that time is slipping away.

This track stands out at the moment as for the first time in my life, I have a collection of ‘sad captains’: 40 something men who while away most of the time after Friday teatime together.

Top ten album listening during 2011 meme…


I commented on this from Banksyboy and on this penultimate day of the year, it is time to take up this meme and for a long post.

This is in no particular order as it took me long enough to winnow out just 10 albums that I have bought (some are not 2011) during this year (thank the Lord for friends, freebies,ebay and amazon marketplace).

Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz. He tours Britain for the first time in 5 years and owing to severe fixture congestion during that particular week I do not make it. Not one of my better 2011 moments.

This is still discernably him but so different. Not quite ‘doing a Kid A’ but close. A definite grower.

Low: C’mon. I saw them again this year. Utterly fantastic. ‘$20’ melts anyone with a heart.

Radiohead: The King of Limbs. A new Radiohead album is always salivating over- this one one definitely so. Never to be filed under ‘easy listening’.

Gruff Rhys: Hotel Shampoo. An album that your 7 year old son and you can share without it being cheesy is good. This one is brilliant and the gig that I saw him at was one of the best gigs I have ever been to. A bonus is that I can almost play ‘If we were words we would rhyme’ on the guitar. That is a bonus for me and not for you.

Elbow: build a rocket boys! One of the good things about this year was freakishly reconnecting with the person who introduced me to Elbow years back. This guy was (and is) a friend of Guy Garvey. His story, of being left a single parent in his mid 30s following the death of his wife, always reminded me of the back story of ‘The Seldom seen kid’ (and during this year I worked out that another friend’s referencing of her friend Brian years back was indeed Brian Glancy ‘The Seldom seen kid’……. I am so close to fame). This album is not as immediate as the last but I love it’s themes of friendship and community.

(Ahk-toong bay-bi) covered. If I have a simple rule it is that albums by ‘various artists’ or ‘best ofs’ are to be barely tolerated. This one confounded that rule. Normally ‘best ofs’ given as freebies (this one with Q magazine) are album tracks or spares given away by a band to drum up sales. This one was different: specially commissioned to mark the 20th anniversary of ‘Achtung Baby’. Amidst the straight readings there were some suprises like Snow Patrol reinterpreting ‘Mysterious Ways’ in an un Snow Patrol way. I could not stop listening to Jack White doing ‘Love is blindness’; maybe this track is only effectively played by people undergoing marriage break up.

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins ‘Diamond Mine’. If you forced me to chose a ‘best’ it would be this one. Small, yet perfectly formed. I also saw them with a very good friend in a very small venue. The best two chord song in the world: ‘John Taylor’s month away’.

James Blake ‘James Blake’. This year I met and spent some time in his house. He recommended this and I bought it. I listened to it the first time and thought ‘What on earth have I bought?!’. Then I kept listening and I grew to love it. My children like ‘Limit to your love’ as the car shakes when the dub beat comes in.

Foy Vance ‘Hope’. I had been tracking this for a few years until finally it dropped into my price range. Sprawling and maybe a track or two too long, I really like the honesty of the voice and the playing. I listen to this and feel like giving up guitar playing- he is immense. Memories of summer evenings driving back from teaching ‘and gently whispered hope’. Someone I spent some time with a couple of months ago had met him…. I hate him (in the Lord of course).

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci: ‘Barafundle’. Yes, I know this is ages old, but I just got hold of it (and ‘The Blue Trees’ and ‘Spanish Dance Troup’). Even though I only lived in Wales for 5 years, I still feel a sense of ‘hiraeth’ and I have recently been buying welsh music. This is incredible: defies genre- quirky, unique and brilliant (and occasionally ‘misses’). I wanted to put the song ‘Sometimes the Father is the son’ in this posting but could not find it; that one stops me in my tracks. You will have to make do with the weirdness of ‘Patio Song’.

I could have easily taken that to 20 albums and added ‘Mwng’ by the Super Furry Animals or ‘Hardcore will never die but you will’ by Mogwai amongst many many others. I cannot ever conceive of a situation where someone has too much music.

Just looking at my list and my description; most of this music seems to involve stories, people and events. Playing it brings those events back. I have a well thumbed copy of Q at my side and I am scanning their top 50 of 2011- my wish list may get bigger…


I just can’t get enough of this…..

Perhaps you know the feeling: you get an album and you keep playing it as everytime you do, you get something new from it. That is how I feel about this:-

It is not as instant as ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, but I love the observations on age and becoming more comfortable with where you are and where you have come from. I think I will still be playing this and not fully ‘getting it’ in a few weeks from now.

This one is currently swirling around my head. It didn’t do a lot for me on first listen, but it has grown. I love the talent that Guy Garvey has in highlighting everyday epiphanies. Plus…. I’m married to a Rochdale Girl….



A chance encounter

They walked into the village chapel, at least 20 years younger than the youngest there. They were living together in a caravan park, trying to feel their way back into a faith that had once seemed so real. Artistic, full of questions and full of life, they stayed; attracted by the love and acceptance shown to them.

In time, they got married, moved away and got their own place. They found a church home, flourished in jobs and eventually became parents.

He had often talked to me about a  friend whom he had known since childhood and was now heading up a rock group called Elbow. I began to listen to them when our paths diverged. Around the time of ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ with its themes of love, life, mortality and the loss of a friend tragically early I got a letter: she had died leaving him on his own with a one year old. All that hope, life and potential gone.

I love the beauty of ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’, I love it more as it reminds me of them and their story. It moves me more because of them. It makes me steer away from anything that seems to say ‘Believe and you will have no problems’.

And then last week, I bumped into him and his son in a North Wales garden. It was the day after he got engaged to a new partner. I met her as well. This was no rush into a new relationship; in that garden his late wife was spoken about with celebration and grief.

Of all the chance encounters I have had, this one was probably the sweetest. There is hope.


One Day like this

It is my birthday today. It is my single birthday:45 (45rpm….geddit?…nevermind).

I haven’t a clue what I will do today (although 6-7pm leading a noisy Beaver Scouts troupe is possibly not the best way to do it), but I hope I will catch something of this spirit:-


I may have disporoved my thesis that you cannot write good, happy rock songs.

I have their new CD on order as a belated present…bliss….

What I love about October half term part 1

In Britain it is half term in our schools. I’ve always liked this time: admittedly more so since I had children.

I love it more since I became a professional Christian (irony intended). In September, the intensity of what I do cranks up from comatose August. Most of this is good; in September I find many people willing to think new things, more so than in January. So there are lots of meetings; many good if churches remember that these are times of openness, dreaming, vision and asking questions. Many bad if churches want to box in the messiness of life and church and make things tidy and in order.

After a while though, I just want to draw breath; ceaseless activity all the time makes me tired and ‘thin’ as a person.

So mostly this week I will be switching off, turning off and letting go. This was never ‘my’ church and this week is a chance to sweep out of me any rubble that is labelled ‘my’church and ‘my’ ministry.

Some Elbow (and you really have to listen to ‘Switching Off’ if only because I love it)

‘You, the only sense the world has ever made
This I need to save
A simple trinket locked away
I choose my final scene today
Switching off with you’