Sunday, November 17, 2013

The most disappointing band reunions, ever

As I sit here in my acid washed jeans, Doc Martin’s, oversized jumper and high peaked baseball cap I can’t help but think two things. One, my God I look like an insufferable prick and two, haven’t we seen this before...? The answer is yes. It was called the 90’s and it was a bleak time characterised by a Gulf War, a crippling recession and a relentless and out of touch conservative government. While the thought of this might seem beyond comprehension to us now in 2013, its influence is clear, especially with today’s music.

Regular readers will be aware that I am by no means a music fan and prefer New Balance to New Order, WH Smiths to the Smiths and Maoam to Duran Duran, however the never inaccurate Wikipedia reliably informs me that 90’s music was a time of convergent ‘alternative’ styles of music. From across the Atlantic we welcomed ‘grunge’; its pioneer Burt Cobain who was tragically lost during a gang related drive-by but his influence is far reaching and recognisable amongst popular acts such as the Foo Fighters. Meanwhile, the UK scene was exploding with a ‘Brit-pop’ shaped IED, Spearheaded by the likes of Oasis, Reef and Menswear, the 90’s were halcyon times cocaine on cornflakes, dating members of All-Saints and befriending Jimmy ‘five bellies’ all considered acceptable norms. But over time the ‘mod’ imitation haircuts grew out into ‘curtains’ and ‘undercuts’, and by the mid-point of the decade boy-bands were ten a penny. With music as infectious as their STI’s, young girls across the land were put into frenzies not seen since the Beatles, Slade or the Proclaimers. Such wholesomeness was characteristically followed by a full scale revolt and by the Coalchamber hoodie epidemic of ’99, nu-metal was all the rage. But these collective flames could only burn so brightly for so long and sadly the talent, momentum and most of all interest simply ran out.
Or so we thought…

History has been fairly consistent in reminding us that remakes, re-vamps and reunions have a tendency to be in the main, shit. Recent revisits to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, ITV’s ‘Catchphrase’ firmly back this up, and we can’t overlook the horrors of the Total Recall, Arthur, Italian Job, Halloween and Alfie remakes. But music is a different, somehow more personal and because of this some reunions don’t just damage the memory, but also the integrity and legacy which were once so precious. The past year saw Blur, Pulp and the inexplicably popular Primal Scream returning to the stage, but none came close the madness which accompanied the reunion of everyone’s default favourite band ‘The Stone Roses’ who come in fifth as my disappointing reunion. Fans flocked to catch a glimpse of the now literal ‘second coming’ and while I have no problem with them per sae, I also have no problem with magnolia, chicken korma or Nokia.

Reunions are big business and the Stone Roses were reported to make £10,000,000 for their recent live shows. Though not in the same league (but still obscene), the Libertines are also thought to have received a 1.5 million for their Reading and Leeds performances…which will buy you a hell of a lot of military jackets, Raybans and smack. The thing is, with falling CD sales, easy access to pirated material and streaming sites it’s easy to see why bands continue to return to now the densely populated scene. I mean, how else are these stars going to afford to put rocket fuel in their space ships…? But while money must be a motivating factor, it can’t be the only reason and we are often told that new tiurs and albums are ‘for the fans’. Indeed the recent Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath comebacks both proved incredibly popular with their huge international fan base as well as being tasteful and respectful to their catalogue. Therefore, with ‘metal’ in mind, the fourth most disappointing reunion has to go ‘Limp Bizkit’. 

While their return has been ultimately successful, it does somewhat undermine their very public and acrimonious split which culminated in guitarist Borlan going as far as to call his next musical output ‘Big dumb face’ - no doubt related the vast, stupid face of man-boy frontman, Fred Durst. While da Bizkit’s albums are certified meccas to cringiness, fans say that to fully appreciate their brutality they must be witnessed live, but then the same could be said for a murder. 

But the ‘real’ bands weren't the only ones enjoying the nostalgia-wagon and after the surprise success of professional waist-coast wearers ‘Take-That’, it was the time for other defunct manufactured bands to prove their worth. Fueled by a passion to be taken seriously, what better way to solidify integrity was there than to appear in ITV2’s reality show, ‘The Big Reunion’? The series saw many of the 1990’s ‘stars’ compete for a second chance at stardom and collectively they make up third position in my disappointment run down. Amongst the quagmire of double denim and repressed homosexuality was ‘Blue’, best remembered for their hit singles ‘All Rise’, ‘One Love’ and ‘Butchered at Birth’, as well as their unparalleled stupidity. But I guess it’s easy to be cynical about Blue, so long as no elephants are being harmed, eh? Self-styled boy-bands’ bad-boys ‘5ive’ added to the murky mix. Undeterred by the fact that the one who rapped decided not to join in, the band soldiered on as a 4 piece thereby entirely undermining their USP and indeed name. The aptly named disaster that was ‘911’ also featured, singing like angels but looking more like drug dealers and dog fighters than we remembered. It’s hard to say who the winner of the ‘Big Reunion’ is, both because I don’t know and as such a term seems a bit sarcastic.

Perhaps most controversial (by people who think that what bands choose to do of their own free will is news) surrounded the return of fair weather anarchists Rage Against the Machine. The 90’s was a time where ‘Rage’ ruled, and their idealistic world view and social commentary frequently found themselves tip-ex’d on many a 90’s teenagers’ ruck sack. However the 2008 X-Factor winners were heavily criticised, whether this was due to their lacklustre live sets or the fact that the nihilism of 20 years ago just felt forced or wasn’t relevant anymore, frankly I can’t say. I do however understand that similar feelings were evoked by the surprise reformations of At the Drive-in and Refused, who had both maintained that reunifications were ‘off the table’. This station is now profitable I suppose.

But no run down of crushing musical disappointment would be complete without mentioning the big ‘guns’. Fronted by archetypal rock blueprint Axl Rose, Guns ‘n Roses dominated the 80’s and 90’s and the band came to embody the spirit of very spirit of rock and roll. Axl (whose name is an anagram of Roal’s Ex) was such a badass that he had been known to go as far objectify women as well as use full four letter swear words in his lyrics. But after 2 top 10 singles and inclusion in the ‘One’s to watch’ 1986 things fell apart after Axl unceremoniously fell out with the other members of the band while on a Strepsil fueled temper tantrum. After a wilderness of seventeen years the much anticipated ‘Chinese Democracy’ was released, costing $10 million as well as every single other member of the band. The album, which universally uninspired, was supported by a vigorous and relentless touring schedule and Axl (who now resembling something between Mickey Rourke and a hot meat pie) promised that their live return would be every bit as exhilarating as the new album. He was right. Llive performances also came under fire for Axl’s aggression towards the audiences and consistent lateness, clearly unlike Rihanna and Justin Bieber the world’s greatest rock band just weren't ‘cool’ not cool enough to pull this off this level of tardiness. It’s not like people had waited 17 years or anything.

Perhaps I sound bitter, but not every comeback is ‘bad’. As I write I’ve just read that the ‘Through the Keyhole’ is to be remake and presented by one man 18-30’s holiday, Keith Lemmon. Also get excited kids, Shed 7 are said to be discussing their imminent return and while we’re at it I imagine it’s time to wheel out Dirty Den, Harold Bishop and Hulk Hogan. This said, while there’s life in some old dogs yet, I think the lesson here is that sometimes the memory of things are a better than the real thing. Others are simply best left in the past. Forgotten. Buried. Like Noel Edmunds.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pirates of the sky

Ref: Ryanair Reservation XXXXXX

Mr Leary,

I genuinely prayed I would never have to write another letter to you, but sadly you have left me no choice. This is not a metaphor – you literally have given me no choice as I can’t locate a phone number or e-mail address (which I am sure contravenes trading standards policy…?). But let’s not get bogged down with such trivial matters when there is so much left to discuss with reference to my flight from East Midlands to Dublin on Wednesday 10th March 2013.

Let me begin, as with most tales of woe, at the beginning. My fiancée and I booked to fly one way to Dublin for the weekend. This would be an opportunity for her to visit a new city and catch up with my family before our upcoming nuptials and the flights were so cheap that we almost didn’t mind flying with Ryanair…despite it being at 06:30am.

Due to the early start we were forced to take a taxi, and while this was in every way our choice, it began a notable theme of the day which was to waste money - the amount of which I will now begin to tally (£30). We arrived at the airport in good time, just before 05:00am and given the large queues and my own apprehensions about waiting times, decided to ‘treat ourselves’ and bypass the other travellers by purchasing a Express pass each for boarding (£6).

Security, though frustrating went without a hitch and seeing that our flight had not been allocated a gate number we decided to relax with a coffee, a hot chocolate and a croissant (£5). You will observe from the attached receipt that the time of this was 05:46. We sat in the café with an eye on the LED screen above our heads and before long the screen indicated that our flight would be leaving through gate 3. Travelling to Ireland some 10 plus times per year I am familiar with the process which follows and to we patiently waited for the ‘proceed to gate’ notice to appear. Such a notice did not appear at 0615 our flight listing changed to ‘Final call’. While we were confused and frustrated by this notice we did not procrastinate and immediately began the short 60 second journey from Café Lavazza to gate 3.

On arrival at the gate I was surprised not to see a queue, or indeed any staff for that matter. When I did manage to speak to someone I was informed to my horror that flight had already boarded and was awaiting departure. Fortunately the plane was still in full view and given a ‘final boarding’ call had appeared not two minutes previously there was still time left to board. At this point we realised that we were not alone and another passenger was having a similar ordeal and tried to engage their dialogue. We were both to wait, which we did patiently 30 metres from the Boing 737 jet on the runway. A few more minutes passed but then the sense of relief I had gained combusted as door to the plane door closed.

I approached the staff member enquiring as to what was going on. She responded curtly telling me ‘the plane is ready for take-off’ as if I didn’t know how a plane worked. ‘And…’ I replied ‘does that mean we can’t board’? Sensing my frustration she replied defensively ‘the captain has done his final count and the door is shut, sir’. I failed to see the relevance of this point and enquired why they didn’t just open the door? ‘You can’t just open the door, sir’ she replied to which I retorted that I imagined that you probably could. At this point the stock responses and deflection and was told I was too late and that they close the gate 20 minutes before the flight is due to leave. I reminded the young lady that I was in fact there 20 minutes prior to the flight time, and had in fact been in the airport for over an hour and a half at this point.

You see Mr Leary; there is no conceivable way that I would wilfully book a plane ticket and travel to the airport simply to miss it. I might as well set my money on fire. Thus I believe that I am not at fault, but rather your airline and that the processes which indicate flight departure were either not followed this morning or done so in a sufficient way. The upshot of not being ‘allowed’ to fly was that my girlfriend and I have had to book other flights with you at a cost of £110 per person (£220). This process would perhaps not have been so awful were it not for the staff members on the Ryanair desk who, to put it bluntly, did not give a shit. They were rude, disinterested and unhelpful which given the events which brought us there took every fibre of my being to remain my composure – which I did.

The reasons for our journey, through arbitrary still hold relevance. You see, I could have been travelling for an interview, a wedding or even a funeral but this did not matter to your staff member who remained indignant and callous to the point of robotic. The intended purpose of our journey was to attend a premier in Dublin, thus the next scheduled flight from East Midlands was too late meaning we had to travel to Birminhgam airport involving a Skylink bus to Leicester (£12) followed by a coach to Birmingham (£24). It is on the coach to Birmingham that I write to you, the time is 9:56 and I have already spend close to £300 on a journey which initially was supposed to cost only £33.99. Writing is difficult, not because of the motion of the coach or the stench of the chemical toilet, but because of the sheer rage which is pulsing through my bones. I accept some human error, perhaps in the future I will never veer to far from the departure gate but it is not so much the missed flight which frustrates me today, as much as the sheer apathetic indifference offered by Ryanair staff. Today, before 7:00 am I had been deceived, oppressed and robbed by your airline and for all these reasons I expect to be refunded (as a minimum) for the costs of our ‘replacement’ flights which total £212 (there as an additional fee for the use of my credit card). Any payment method is fine.

Whether this letter gets lost amongst the myriad of other complaints is at present irrelevant to me as I will have satisfaction. I have already emailed the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Watchdog and a number of bloggers with the details of my farcical morning and will continue to write to you until I receive a response which I deem satisfactory. Before I sign off I wish to reiterate the pertinent issues so that they can be clearly understood; I do not book flights to miss them. My partner and I were at the airport in plenty of time and, despite the fact you are not a ‘contact’ airline, there was no alert that the plane was boarding and you did not allow anytime following your final call. This, I would suggest, is not acceptable in large buildings such as airports.

You Ryanair, you are the pirates of the sky.


Tiernan Welch

Friday, March 22, 2013

Frolics, foals and perfect felony

Last night my phone was stolen while I was at a bar. In addition to having to be interviewed by the police here I have been informed by my insurance that in order to have a 'successful claim' I must provide an account of the events which must 'include as much detail as possible of the event' in support of my application...on top of a £100 excess fee.

Here is my account:

To whom it may concern,

Here is my account of the events that led to the theft of my phone on Thursday 21/03/13.

My girlfriend and I were having a pre-dinner drink at the ‘trendy’ ‘O-bar’ cocktail bar/bistro located on the Braunstone Gate part of the city. The time was roughly 19:30 and my phone was on the table in front of me as we had just been taking using it to take humorous pictures of ourselves using photos from ‘style’ magazines to obscure parts of our faces (the most successful by far being the lower part of Yannis from Foals’ grumpy little beardy face juxtaposed with my girlfriends’ delicate facial features). See below:

Its important I add that neither of us were intoxicated in any way, in fact this was our first and only drink - however midway through our merriment two males came in to the bar holding what appeared to be flyers. This was most unusual as the bar does not ‘welcome’ this sort of thing and there is a strict dress code enforced by bouncers who normally suss out potential criminals. The two men appeared to be from a South Asian origin, one roughly 5’9 and the other 5’6 (a more accurate description is available if required); they approached us holding said flyers feathered out like a large pack of cards – he was asking me to ‘buy one’ of these cards for 50p. Naturally I said I was not interested, but he insisted and in doing so got very close to me. So close in fact that he obscuring my vision of the table and allowed me to smell his musk of Joop. Fortunately for the pursuit for 'as much detail as possible' I am able to confirm that on closer inspection the flyers were for a World War 2 battle re-enactment that had occurred the previous October... 

But then as quick as they entered they left. Poof. My girlfriend and I looked at each other recognising the bizarreness of the situation before we stopped the two men through the large window as they (literally) skipped down the road.

Some twenty minutes later we got up to leave, I padded my pocket down and became aware I did not have my phone. I immediately realised what had happened…WE’D BEEN HAD. I immediately altered the manager  who was shocked and apologetic (he didn't offer us a drink for our nerves however) but assured me there was CCTV which he checked and confirmed the men were identifiable from their footage. Naturally I was quite upset and while I obviosly didn't cry or anything cause I'm hard I was discussing the events to loudly to another member of staff and while doing so girl I did not know overheard. She had been at another bar across the road and reported that two men had offered her flyer also. I asked if she had her phone, she laughed for a moment until she checked her bag and found that she too had been a victim. We both contacted the police who were busy and disinterested and advised that CCTV was available and the two suspects would likely still be in the area. I then cancelled my phone and went home, sad and feeling violated.

Yours sincerely,

Tiernan Welch