Friday, 29 May 2015

Delta's dad jokes

Oh, shame. Delta clearly put a lot of effort into smooshing as many memes as possible into this video in an attempt to appear relevant and switched-on... but it actually just comes across like someone's unhip dad desperately trying to be cool. Swing and a miss.

Alternative election behaviours

2 Kinds of People

Some neat observations here about basic human differences. Clicky.

Gluten Free

Gritty stuff, this.

'...and he held on to the beer.'

Cat-like reflexes.

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Top 20 Punk Albums of the Seventies

Oh look, it’s another JuicyPips ‘Top [x] albums of [genre y] from [time period z]’ list. Hurrah! You presumably swooned with nostalgia at the ‘Top 50 Indie Albums of the Nineties’, and wept with joy at the ‘Top 50 Indie-ish Albums of the Noughties’… well, we’re going a little more retro this time. And, er, a lot shorter. I don’t want to bankrupt you with all of these absurdly long shopping lists. (Although it shouldn’t be a problem, as you really should own most of these albums already.)

So, what’s the theme this time? Hold on to your hats and start bouncing up and down, it’s…

Buzzcocks – Another Music in a Different Kitchen
A belter of an album to start this list. Buzzcocks aren’t just one of the greatest punk bands ever, but one of the best bands full-stop. Their 1978 debut contained such ballsy treats as I Don’t Mind, You Tear Me Up, Fast Cars, No Reply and Fiction Romance, and demonstrated a mature take on the punk genre that fused acerbic thrust with complex songcraft. This is one of those albums that you can listen to over and over, and always discover new things about it. Essential.

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model
It was a tough call choosing between this and Costello’s 1977 debut My Aim is True, but ’78’s This Year’s Model just pips it by virtue of having Pump It Up, (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea, Lipstick Vogue and Watching the Detectives on it. In fact, every track on this record is sublime – groovy bass, frantic drums, catchy hooks, it’s glorious.

The Clash – The Clash
Yeah, you can’t talk punk and not include The Clash. We’re going with their debut LP here because it shows them at their most raw and urgent; over the years they experimented with countless genres in fine style, but this first album from ’77 is a rollercoaster of angry-young-men-with-guitars emotion: stripped to the bone, the likes of White Riot, I’m So Bored with the USA, Garageland and What’s My Name? are things to be cherished.

Ian Dury & The Blockheads – New Boots and Panties!!
Dury had a gift for poetically representing everyman issues, which is what made his work so accessible. Well, that and an enthusiasm for artfully chaotic live shows. Plaistow Patricia and Blockheads are beguilingly shouty, My Old Man is so beautifully tender it’ll make you weep every time, If I Was With a Woman and Wake Up and Make Love With Me will get you dancing, and you can’t not sing along to Billericay Dickie.

X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents
Deliberate underachievers X-Ray Spex, fronted by Poly Styrene, released just one album and a handful of singles, but they’ve gone down in history as one of the most important bands on the late-seventies punk scene. Just listen to the urgent banshee wails of Identity, Let’s Submerge, Obsessed With You and The Day the World Turned Day-Glo and you’ll see why. (Also, do a little digging in the archives and find the tracks Oh Bondage! Up Yours! and I Am a Cliché – unmissable stuff.) 

Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material
Formed in Belfast at the height of the Troubles, Stiff Little Fingers had a lot to be angry about. There was never any posturing or artifice with them – the gritty subject material of Suspect Device, Law and Order and Wasted Life wasn’t fiction, it was stuff they saw every day.
They had a knack for setting it all to kickass tunes too; very distinctive sound, Green Day couldn’t exist without SLF.

The Stooges – Raw Power
‘I’m a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.’ Go on, write a better opening lyric for an album than that.
See? You can’t.
Iggy Pop’s band’s 1973 LP effectively wrote the rulebook for punk rock, with ineffably awe-inspiring tracks like Search and Destroy, Raw Power and Penetration inspiring a generation of disaffected kids to pick up guitars and find a voice. The dirty sound of this record is unrivalled to this day.

Dr. Feelgood – Down by the Jetty
Proof that boredom drives creativity, Dr. Feelgood were four lads from Canvey Island who defied the bleakness of being trapped in a grim estuary by punching out creatively, forming one of the most successful R&B pub bands of the era; their drug-fuelled live shows crossed neatly into the frenetic energy of punk, earning them a place in this list.
Down by the Jetty is at once dark and bluesy, and upbeat and poppy. Best listened to in the pub, drunk, when you’ve got nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing to lose.

The Adverts – Crossing the Red Sea with The Adverts
The Adverts played at the Roxy a lot in its early days (the Roxy being London’s first live punk venue), so they’ll always be held up as pioneers of the scene. Living out the mantra that it’s better to burn out than fade away, the band only existed from 1976-79, but they were relentless in their touring during their time. This first album is a perfect period punk snapshot – One Chord Wonders, Bombsite Boy, Bored Teenagers, No Time to be 21, it sparkles with 1970s energy.

Gang of Four – Entertainment!
A post-punk band from Leeds, Gang of Four fused punk with funk, dub, reggae, and highly politicised lyrics. Prominent bass, staccato drums, jagged guitars, it’s forthright stuff. You can’t really live without Damaged Goods or I Found That Essence Rare.

The Jam – Snap!
It may seem incredibly lazy to put a ‘greatest hits’ album in a list such as this, but it’s the only way to squeeze in all of the essential Jam tracks. Besides, it’s not like Alan Partridge saying that his favourite Beatles album is The Best of The BeatlesSnap! is commonly acknowledged as being a compilation that transcends the compilation genre. Anyway, screw you, it’s my list.
With this record you get Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, In the City, News of the World, The Butterfly Collector, That’s Entertainment, Beat Surrender, David Watts, The Modern World, plus countless others. Dive in.

Madness – One Step Beyond
Stalwart of wedding discos the world over, Madness are an essential fibre in the fabric of British music. The late-seventies Two Tone movement mixed a ska revival with punk sensibilities, and Madness were at the forefront of it along with The Specials, Bad Manners and The Selecter.
One Step Beyond laid out a blueprint for the many Madness albums that followed, but this is the band’s genesis. Stick it on at your next house party. Drink some cheap lager and pogo like a nutter.

Magazine – Real Life
Howard Devoto left Buzzcocks in 1977 and formed Magazine, as he was keen to create work that was more progressive and less mainstream.
Shot By Both Sides is probably their best-known track, and there’s much more to enjoy on Real Life too – Definitive Gaze could have been written for a scary 21st-century video game, while Motorcade and The Light Pours Out of Me are sprawling, Hollywood-esque cinemascapes of sound. Odd, but very rewarding.

Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Ah, of course – they were bound to crop up, weren’t they?
Inarguably one of the most influential bands of the late-1970s, their angry lyrics tackled conformity, consumerism, abortion, the Holocaust, the monarchy, and all with a rasping leer and a riot of delinquency.
Their one and only studio album is an all-time classic; Submission, Bodies and EMI are pretty much perfect, and Problems is one of the greatest songs ever written. Sure, they’re an obvious choice in the punk genre, but with good reason.

The Rezillos – Can’t Stand The Rezillos
Good fun, this. A Scottish band formed in 1976, they employed the punk sound of their contemporaries but without the nihilism or viciousness; in fact, this is all pretty light-hearted. There’s a bit of glam in there, a bit of classic 1960s rock ‘n’ roll, but all unmistakeably within the seventies punk aesthetic.
Their sole studio LP is studded with gems – Flying Saucer Attack, Top of the Pops, No, It Gets Me, (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures, Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight, Bad Guy Reaction, it’s the sound of drunk teens and twenty-somethings having a great time. Lovely stuff. 

The Stranglers – No More Heroes
I was tempted to include 1977 debut Rattus Norvegicus simply because it contains Peaches, but instead we’re looking at their second album of the same year. (Remember when bands used to do that? A lot more freedom from the record labels back in the good old days…)
Released just five months after their debut, No More Heroes opens with the devastating I Feel Like A Wog (reviled in period by people who didn’t understand satire, but ultimately held up as an anthem for racial unity), before passing through the amusingly annoyed Bitching and, of course, the stunning title track No More Heroes. Impossible not to love.

The Ramones – The Ramones
Yes, much as a punk list has to include The Clash and the Sex Pistols, you also have to have The Ramones. They’re far more than just a ubiquitous t-shirt worn by people who’ve never listened to them, you know…
Often cited as the first band to really define the punk rock sound – taking cues from the aforementioned Stooges, of course - it’s tricky to choose a favourite (Road to Ruin has I Wanna be Sedated on it, while Rocket to Russia features Sheena is a Punk Rocker, you can see the dilemma), but let’s go with the first, eponymous LP from 1976. Beat on the Brat, Blitzkrieg Bop, Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue, you can’t go wrong.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
When a band is named after the prostitution wing of a Nazi concentration camp and fronted by a tragic figure suffering from severe depression, you can’t expect their output to have the cheeriness of, say, The Rezillos. What you can expect, however, is some exemplary songcraft – this debut album, from which no singles were released, features such unalloyed masterpieces as She’s Lost Control and Shadowplay that will haunt your soul.

The Damned – Damned Damned Damned
Gothic punk band The Damned famously had members named Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible. That sort of frames the pantomime scenescape you witness as you open up a Damned album.
Their 1977 debut is packed with cheekiness, from New Rose to Neat Neat Neat, and demonstrates that you should sometimes play the bass like it’s a lead guitar.

The Undertones – The Undertones
Another Northern Irish punk band – but unlike Stiff Little Fingers, The Undertones’ material sidestepped the Troubles and instead focused on teenage angst and adolescence.
Obviously you’ll know Teenage Kicks – although that wasn’t actually included on The Undertones originally, the album was re-released to pack a few of the big singles in – but there’s far more to this record than that. Male Model, True Confessions, Here Comes the Summer, Jimmy Jimmy, this is joyful.

Blondie – Parallel Lines
The world would not be the same without the existence of this watershed album. Gigging as an underground punk band with a former Playboy Bunny at the front, it took a few years for Blondie to find major commercial success, but it was this, their third album, that thrust them firmly into the limelight. And rightly so – One Way or Another, 11:59, Heart of Glass, Hanging on the Telephone, Fade Away and Radiate, Will Anything HappenParallel Lines is just so gorgeous it defies belief. (Sure, it marks the band’s shift from punk to pop, but it still belongs in this list.) Count yourself lucky that it exists. Listen to it often.

OK, that was actually twenty-one albums in the end. But every one is essential. Go forth and listen!

Friday, 8 May 2015

08/05/15 - Bananas

Bananas. They’re good, aren’t they? You can slice them lengthways and fill them with ice cream to create a ’50s-style dessert, drop their skins on the floor to stymie any passing video game characters in go-karts, or leave a trail of them into a big cardboard box that you’re propping up with a stick on a string, so that you can easily trap a monkey and take it home.
They’re interesting things, ’nanas. If you put them in a bowl of unripe fruit, they emit ethylene gas to ripen everything up. Why do they do this? Because they’re frickin’ magic, that’s why. And here are some other things you might not know about your favourite unzippable yellow fruit:

Bananas are berries
True story. The botanical definition of a berry is ‘a fleshy fruit produced from a single flower and containing one ovary’. Also joining bananas in the ‘Strewth, are they really berries?’ category are grapes, honeysuckle, pumpkins, tomatoes, watermelons, and avocados. (Incidentally, many of the things you think of as berries actually aren’t; blackberries and raspberries are aggregate fruits, mulberries are multiple fruits, strawberries are accessory fruits – don’t let the names fool you.) 

Bananas are radioactive
Don’t get excited, loads of things are radioactive to some degree or another – it doesn’t mean they’re spurting dangerous levels of plutonium all over your kitchen. But bananas are noticeably more radioactive than other foods – they contain a lot of potassium, and potassium decays.
There is actually such a thing as a ‘Banana Equivalent Dose’ (BED), referring to the level of exposure to radioactive isotopes from eating a single banana. The average daily exposure to radiation is 100 BED, or the equivalent of eating a hundred bananas. The maximum permitted leakage at a nuclear power plant is set at 2500 BED. If you have a CT scan to your chest, you’re exposed to 70,000 BED. And so on.
Fear not, a lethal dose in banana terms is around 80,000,000 BED – to be honest, you’ll die if you eat eighty million of anything.

Bananas make you happy
…in a roundabout sort of way. These little yellow treasures contain tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid. Such acids cannot be synthesised, so they need to be part of our diet. Brilliantly, tryptophan is a biochemical precursor for serotonin, and serotonin is a thing that sits in your central nervous system spreading feelings of wellbeing and happiness throughout your brain and body. It’s possible that eating lots of bananas will make you giddy with glee – you’ll have to experiment for yourself.

Bananas are all asexual clones
Supermarket bananas, that is. Every banana that you see on the shelf has been produced via a process called parthenocarpy, which literally means ‘virgin fruit’. It’s a form of plant-based artificial insemination, leading to seedless fruit.
Bananas as we know them, you see, are not naturally occurring fruits, and wouldn’t survive without human intervention. Wild bananas are pollinated by bats and produce very small fruits; the plump bananas we know today are the product of generations of human manipulation, selecting and refining parthenocarpic fruits and propagating them en masse.

You’re eating a Cavendish banana
…probably. If you’re eating a banana at the moment.
The asexual ’nana you’re most likely to find in the supermarket is a Cavendish. Their history dates back to the 1830s, when William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, received a shipment of bananas for his gardener, Sir Joseph Paxton, to cultivate in the greenhouse of Chatsworth House. Cavendish bananas, proving successful and delicious under Paxton’s watch, were then shipped all over the world, including to the Canary Islands, where they thrived, and from whence they were ultimately imported back into the UK by Thomas Fyffe in the 1880s.
Cavendish bananas entered mass commercial production in 1903, eventually moving to the no.1 banana spot when the Gros Michel variety was decimated by Panama disease in the 1950s.

There’s no point smoking bananas
If we’re to believe the late-1960s Donovan song Mellow Yellow, it’s possible to get high on bananadine. This is, of course, nonsense.
A hoax recipe for bananadine was published in the Berkeley Barb, an underground counterculture newsletter in California, in 1967; it detailed how it was possible to extract a psychoactive substance from banana skins which you could then smoke to achieve LSD-like effects. This gained some credence when William Powell, who thought it was true, reproduced it in The Anarchist Cookbook in 1970. In fact, the original feature in the Barb was a satirical piece questioning the ethics of criminalising psychoactive drugs; smoking banana skins may create a placebo high at best, but there’s no scientific reason why you could actually get stoned on bananas. You can’t.

So there you have it. Bananas: interesting.

Ordering McDonald's like a boss

Try this next time you’re at the Golden Arches.


Everybody's favourite goat simulator has received an apocalyptic zombie twist. Excellent.

Really, really big arms

Really, really, really big. Bloody loon.

'Absolutely Anything'

I hope this is good.

Friday, 1 May 2015

01/05/15 - Gum, etc

Saying this might make me sound like an old fart, but I really hate chewing gum. I hate the way it makes the chewer look like a thug – or, worse still, a football manager - and I hate the way no-one knows how to dispose of it properly, so every pavement and platform up and down the country is peppered with ugly little circles of discarded goo.
I used to work on Oxford Street, and every morning I’d see a council worker operating a machine to remove gum from the pavement. I worked there for a year, and every single day he was steaming the same few feet of pavement. What an utterly thankless task.

It’s not just me who feels this way either. So does the whole of Singapore. ‘Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations’ may sound like a made-up thing, but it’s genuine legislation that exists in Singapore. You are technically allowed to chew gum for therapeutic or dental purposes over there – as long as it’s prescribed by a doctor – but in the main, chewing gum is illegal. No gum can be bought or sold anywhere in the country, and there’s a $500 dollar fine for being caught spitting out gum in the street. It sounds brilliant.

The seeds of the idea were planted back in 1983 by Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister at the time, who was fiercely aware of the spiralling costs of public gum removal along with gum-based vandalism in shared buildings (shoved into keyholes and lift buttons in blocks of flats and what-have-you), although a total ban was considered too drastic at the time and wasn’t followed through. However, the launch in 1987 of the $5bn Mass Rapid Transit rail network became a catalyst for change, as people pretty much immediately started sticking gum on the automatic door sensors and thus fouling up the whole network. Having invested so much money, the authorities were annoyed that it could all be stymied by such a simple act of mischief, so in 1992 the new Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong called for a total ban on the distribution of chewing gum.
Imports were halted, and retailers were gifted a short transition period to clear their stocks before the sale was completely outlawed. Hardcore chewing enthusiasts were forced across the border to Malaysia to procure their sticky hits, but clandestine importers were winkled out to be named and shamed by the government in order to discourage a chewing gum black market. It worked too, such a thing doesn’t exist. People just don’t chew gum in Singapore.

Wrigley’s aren’t happy about it, of course, but who cares? Singapore doesn’t have pavements that look like they’ve got grey measles. I bet those annoyed spearmint fans wish they’d put their gum in the bloody bin now, eh?