Greater Than the Sum of Our Parts

a miscellany of the wonderful and the banal

Posts Tagged ‘review

Places To Eat in London

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I was reminded recently that my “where to go in London” post which I made in about 2006 hadn’t really been updated in a while, so I thought I’d make a series of new ones. Click the “where to go in london” category for more of the same.

RESTAURANTS

Balans, Soho

Atmosphere: Located smack bang in the middle of the Gayest Bit of London. I would say it’s impossibly trendy, but trends change every second, so what I will say is that it is very flash, very “vibrant”, and very loud. It’s the kind of place you go to eat if you have plans to do something afterward, like heavy drinking, dancing, or watching a show (very well situated for this given that it’s a stone’s throw from the West End, and you can walk in off the street and get a table).

It’s snazzy and loud and excitable and filled with cocktails and cute young waitstaff; there are mirrors on the walls and indirect lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows and a general sense of happening.

Food: Good stuff, reasonably priced. There is a wide range on the menu and a good selection of specials, and it serves breakfast through to supper; my favourites are the Big Chips and their steak is really quite good. Definitely worth indulging in the cocktails.
Goodman’s, Mayfair

Atmosphere: This is in Mayfair, so there is an instant sense of upmarketness; it is also quieter than a Soho restaurant. Unfortunately this does mean you will occasionally have to rub elbows with wankstain businessmen, but thanks to Goodman’s being large you at least won’t have to sit too near them. Waitstaff are not only polite and soft-spoken, they are knowledgeable about their area (MEAT) and will bring the cuts out to demonstrate exactly what you get when you order each thing. Recommendations are given with restrained enthusiasm.

“Quiet” is absolutely the key to this place – the oak panneling and and depth of the rooms from the street give a sense of being removed from the world in order to enjoy good food. This place is all about the food.

Food: Superlative. Their deserts are mouth-bothering, their starters are inventively delicious, small enough to whet the appetite but not to diminish it, and the meat is beyond description. Lindsay has made so-so motions about their burgers (the best burger place in London is Byron’s in High Street Kensington) but you don’t go to Goodman’s for burgers. You go for steak.

Guys. I cannot say enough good things about their steak. There simply aren’t words. I can fling about specifics of my favourite there – Irish grass-fed dry-aged for 28 days, T-bone – but it won’t do it justice. This is BEEF. BEEF the way BEEF should be fed to people – rich and red and virtually raw (well, the way *I* ordered it, which was blue, because I am a disgusting carnivore), and tasting extremely meaty. It stuns people to silence.

Succulent, perfectly-prepared beef. To use the sauce (choice of four) given with it would be sacrelige. Save that for the chips. Which are also delicious.

Banners, Crouch End

Atmosphere: Homely. Crouch End is a middle-class-ish area with a history rooted in stand-up comedy and 60s music, and although Banners is on a busy road it’s still a fairly secluded busy road. I cannot stress the eclectic, comfortable, laid-back charm of this place; covered in ancient posters, cork-boards advertising local community things, and framed prints in a strata of interesting things, a motley collection of naked, unvarnished wooden tables and chairs, odd hanging lamps, and a bar equipped with a cinema popcorn warmer. The menus are garish and strange and drawn by children; there is a slight emphasis on ethical interests, long-past boxing matches, and biker culture. It is like being in the living room of someone with a wealth of funny and fascinating anecdotes to tell and a warm and welcoming nature.

Very, very-much child-friendly.

Food: One of the things which sells me on Banners is their variety of choice which, in opposition to Ramsey’s rantings, they cook to an equitable and thoroughly delicious standard. There are small-portion options, a children’s menu with free ice-cream, and a slight bias toward Caribbean dishes. However, like the decor, the selection of dishes is delightfully eclectic and not wedded to one particular style or place.

The quality and presentation of the food is gastro-pub rather than restaurant, in that it is not fussy or frilly, and comes in sizeable, satisfying portions. “Comfortable” is the key with Banners, and rolling sittings from breakfast to supper it would be quite pleasant to spend an entire day there.

NB: While it is possible to book at all three so far, Goodman’s is about the only place it is really necessary to make a reservation at; walk-ins at Banners and Balans are the norm.

Grieg’s, Mayfair.

Traditional English food. Extremely good traditional English food and justly famous for its steaks. The key word for everything – fish, starters, prawns, steaks, pie, anything they serve – is succulent. Idiosyncratic and anachronistic setting, an impressive winelist and good service. Not for the faint of wallet.

Abeno Too, Leicester Square

Small and closely-packed, busy at every time of the day and therefore worth making a reservation; service can take a while due to this and the nature of the food, but it is worth the wait; food falls within the £10-£30 range and is mind-bogglingly tasty. The restaurant specialises in okonomi-yaki, a kind of Japanese Spanish Omelette which is prepared in front of you on a hot plate; the process of preparation is honesty some of the best dinner entertainment I’ve had in a while and there are few things as pleasing as watching a skilled professional plying their art.

Advice: Order smaller-sized okonomi-yaki as they are extremely filling, and try the plum wine squash, which involves diluting plum wine with lemonade to create a less sickly-sweet cocktail which pairs very well with the mains.

Haché, Camden

A gourmet burger place within easy stagger of Camden station, sandwiched between bars and a market, Haché is narrow and gregarious, and very welcoming; the décor is interesting to the point of distraction. The burgers themselves are fat and juicy, prepared however you wish, with a variety of themes – my party ate our way through the Mediterranean with a Spanish-themed burger featuring choritzo, a Scillian burger topped with parma ham and mozzarella… the most charming touch, to my mind, was the fries, served in tiny little frying baskets.

Recommended: the chocolate brownie. Highly satisfying, if you can fit it in after one of Haché’s substantial burgers.

Not recommended: hot chocolate. It was rather unpleasant.

[Review] Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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Amneisa: The Dark Descent is a notoriously scary game, so allow me to begin by listing all the things it has given me phobias of:

  • purple liquid
  • blood
  • orbs
  • bulls
  • naked people
  • water
  • piano music
  • being in the dark
  • being brightly lit
  • pyramids
  • cockroaches
  • drills
  • syringes
  • mushrooms
  • wheels
  • strawberry jam

(Minor spoilers under the cut)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

July 11, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Review: Emmy the Great, “Virtue”

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Album cover showing Emmy next to a gingerbread house

I was fortunate enough to see Emmy perform some of the material from this album at the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre back in March (which is, by the way, an excellent venue to experience any kind of music in, given how perfectly acoustically designed it is for listening), and so listening to the album now does tend to bring back images of blue filtered lights and Emmy tapping hypnotically at a string of sleigh bells. It also moves me to use that tired old saw of reviewing, “it sounds better live”, with the addendum “please don’t listen to this album through rubbish laptop speakers”. Really, Ms Moss’s voice deserves better reproduction than that.

As to the album itself, I suspect the term “mature” should be used to describe what has happened both to the subject matter and the lyrics; imagine a whole album of “Absentee”, with the aching undercurrent of loss toned down to barely subliminal levels. This is what maturity means in writing – becoming more literary, with more allusions to more out-of-sight touchstones that can be appreciated by a wider audience, but losing some of the bite that characterised First Love.

“Creation”, for example, is an examination of the coming-of-age story and the way it is always focussed on the achievements and trials of the young man, never the young woman; it is musically beautiful with hints of threat, and Emmy’s voice has become clearer and more powerful with time, it is a more passionate and chilling essay than anything anyone has ever written in their exercise books come exam time, but it is still an essay.

“Cassandra” is one of the the more solid songs on this album, and has been the one which caught in my head for the longest. The song itself cycles through images and notes on the unavoidable nature of beginnings and endings, with the motif of Cassandra (“keep it down”), the tragically-ignored prophetess of Greek legend, revising itself downward toward the question that makes up the backbone of it all: “What good is love if it always ends?”.

“Iris” is an uptempo track, which makes skillful use of dissonance; the twinkly melody and mentions of radiance bouncing off “what if the sight of you could take my eyes”. Like “Cassandra”, Iris is a single-statement/question song, in this instance, what the word is for the emotion the narrator or the subject (it’s not clear) is experiencing. It seems a little empty, made up of syllables to encase the central question, unlike the capsule stories which filled out much of First Love.

“A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep” is, along with “Dinosaur Sex”, for me the stand-out track on this album; performed at the Purcell Room gig as the first of Emmy’s new material it produced shivers under the blue light, and the floral imagery seemed to crawl along the verses as it does over the walls of the house in the lyrics, punctured and punctuated by reference to pipes running bleach, or pipes running bone. Ordinarily I am not a great fan of anything which declares “I am a w0man” (being raised by second-wavers tends to leave one groaning “oh not this bloody affirmation again”), but as with “We Almost Had A Baby”, the shadows at the edge of the words keep the affirrmation from becoming too saccharine.

Leaving my favourite song from this album for last, there is “Dinosaur Sex”, which I am going to include a video of (from the performance of it that I saw, in fact – isn’t YouTube wonderful?).

“Dinosaur Sex” has a broader, almost country feel to it musically, and shows a return to the darker and more final imagery and language which I am more familiar with from songs like “Paper Trails” and “Two Steps Forward”. The chorus is simple and catchy, the verses haunting and somehow sounding like the memory of long-ago summers. It is a very evocative and ties in with “Cassandra”, prophecying doom in sweet tones.

In conclusion, then, Virtue is a more mature album, a more literary album, but one which in moving away from the adolescent themes of death and love has lost some of the emotional weight that First Love carried; however, almost all of the songs Virtue contains are given a significant polish by being performed live, so if it is possible I would advise going to see Emmy’s gigs.

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

June 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Review: An Utterly Exasperated History of Britain by John O’Farrell

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Or, to give it its full and wonderfully unwieldy title, An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always. The sequel to the equally unwieldy An Utterly Impartial History of Britain: (or 2000 Years Of Upper Class Idiots In Charge), this employs the familiar facetious tone and modern angle on recent history that O’Farrell previously used in summarising vast swathes of British History until the end of WW2.

Image of the cover of the book

Once again, O’Farrell abandons the “people were different in the past and everyone knows that” starting place of drier history books and adopts a childish, irony-heavy, almost Carry-On approach to the past, littered with modern references and elbow-nudges designed to link the situations in years past with the current world via humour. It is childish, quite frequently, but the silliness is part of its (very British) charm.

There is one area, which O’Farrell notes in his introduction, in which Utterly Exasperated differs stylistically from Utterly Impartial; the clue is in the title. Most of the events – or certainly, a sizeable portion of the book – take place within the author’s lifetime, and he can hardly be expected to be as without opinion on them as he might have been about the antics of William the Bastard. Heavy hints are dropped in the introduction – along the lines of “yay, Nye Bevan” and “Boo, Thatcher”, rather less hints than outright flagwaving – of his bias, but as it’s a bias I agree with (having grown up in the 80s in a single-parent, unemployed family and therefore been one of Thatcher’s bete noirs I am more than comfortable with loathing almost everything she did) .

As this book is covering a mere 60 years, rather than roughly 2000, in the same number of pages, there’s a lot more detail on individual events and figures than in the prequel. It is also, I’ve discovered, a lot easier to find oneself moved by the  idiocy of one’s government when their pettiness, sloth, cowardice, or incompetence, and their general scrabbling efforts to stay in power at the expense of the well-being of the country (or to pander to their pet discredited theories at the expense of the country) is still having palpable effects now.

Moreso than Impartial, Exasperated is a political history. It discusses technological developments, but the majority of the book is given over to the circumstances and consequences of political decisions and the way in which various elements of life in the country were (and continue to be) affected by the most unexpected combinations of forces. Entire weapons programmes were drawn up because someone was once rude to the Foreign Office, and whole industries razed because someone got some ridiculous idea into their head and didn’t want to be seen to back down.

As a catalogue of human failings in Britain from 1945 to roughly 2009, An Utterly Exasperated History of Britain is quite depressing and angering; that it succeeds in being funny at the same time is a credit to the author.

However, I would recommend this book not to those who are already well-versed in modern British history, but rather to those who, like me, either opted to take Geography instead or who just weren’t paying attention in school, as it is – sneakily, facetiously, and surprisingly – very informative for the “layperson” (where layperson = “I spent my history classes lobbing pens at Jimbo”).

An Utterly Exasperated History of Britain by John O’Farrell generally retails for about £7.99

Post by Delilah

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

March 30, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Heston Blumenthal’s “Dinner” and mine

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I had the extremely good fortune, yesterday evening, to join my friend Burge, her partner Stu, our mutual friend Doug, my partner Lindsay, and Burge & Stu’s friend Sarah in celebrating Burge’s 40th at Heston Blumenthal’s “Dinner” at the Mandarin Oriental at Hyde Park. I should point out that this good fortune was down in part to Burge’s extreme foresight in booking a table some time last year, and funded by my increasingly impeccunious and not wholly-amused boyfriend.

Of my dining partners, Burge and Stu (the latter, Stuart Nathan, is to blame/credit for the photos in this blog entry) are slightly closer to being Blumenthal officiandos than I am, having actually been to the Fat Duck in Bray, albeit in hiking boots. For people like me, who regard the world outside of the M25 as “here be dragons” territory and for whom the internal combustion engine is wizardry conquerable only by Other People, The Fat Duck has never been a possibility.

I am largely aware of Heston’s particular brand of culinary genius in part because of said friends and in part because my boyfriend is a cookery TV junkie and will watch anything that involves food being prepared unless it’s That Awful Woman (Delia Smith) or That Awful Man (Worrell-Thompson); this means that I was secretly anticipating exploding puddings, sea monsters made of whale vomit, minced mouse, and fire and eyesballs. At the very least, snail porridge.

I should point out, I am not the kind of person who is accustomed to Fine Dining. I like good food, and have been known to bellow delightedly “thank evolution for my tastebuds” in the middle of a very nice dinner, but the fine dining atmosphere is one of stomach-clenching terror for someone who looks as if her face has been attacked by a mad stapler and who considers barking to be a perfectly reasonable form of communication with friends and acquaintances.

Therefore I’d intended to lessen the impact of my presence by showing up well-dressed, with my hair re-dyed and curled and a full face of make-up so as to refrain from frightening the other diners with my “former alcoholic and practicing eschewer of face-washing” complexion; unfortunately the best-laid plans of would-be gourmets aft gang aglay and instead of bleaching my roots and ensuring I had nice clothes laid out on Sunday night I actually went drinking with some friends from Singapore and spent a while discussing tattoos with some large gentlemen in Soho before passing out with all my clothes on and I wasn’t really well enough the next day to contemplate things more complicated than “where is the bus-stop” on my way to college.

Happily a swift change of at least some of my clothes in a public toilet in Hyde Park (after being arbitrarily stalked by a man on a bicycle who wanted to tell me about his digital speedometer) left me looking a little less like I’d been dragged through a bottle of Johnny Walker backward, but I still felt enormously self-conscious and out of place when my (similarly dowdy) boyfriend and I rocked up at the Mandarin Oriental.

This is mostly because they have a lot of staff.

One man indicated the door to us. Another held open the door for us. A third pointed the way up the stairs to a meeting area where Doug and Sarah were looking equally comfortable beside some exceptionally fine armchairs and an open fire (and in Doug’s case, also looking a little like Lemmy and Frank Zappa had a baby together). Once the whole party had been rounded up – six in total, as this is the largest group booking Dinner allows – some more people pointed our lost selves toward the entrance to “Dinner”.

A word on the decor here: the Mandarin Oriental Hotel likes pillars and dark red polished stone which may or may not be marble, and it likes archways. The entrance to “Dinner” is preceded by a massive glowing pear which changes colour from green to blue. There is a bar which has a faintly modern-Japanese feel to it but could honestly be anywhere vaguely cosmopolitan; there is an ovewhelming archway of booze encased in glass through which yet more staff ushered us (only after about forty people had shown us the way, and yet only one poor, poor man had dragged away our countless coats and bags away to the cloakroom) through to a normal-looking dining area.

Having said that, there is an excellent view through to the kitchens through huge windows (unless you’re me, and sat with your back to it), and also through to the private dining room, which has wooden pig heads on the wall for some reason.

This may sound like a long lead-in to a review-with-pictures of a three-course-meal, and I promise I am not going to do a Giles Coren on you all, but there was an obscene amount of fuss prior to the actual food:

A very prim and personable chap whom the receipt informs me was called David spent a while explaining the menu to us and talking about how the backs of the menus showed where the original recipes which had inspired the current dishes hailed from, and all-but-begged us to question him on any aspect of the Dining Experience. Despite my original angry mutter of “yes thank you I know how a fucking menu works” to my boyfriend, I did have one question regarding the “Salamagundy”, to whit –

“What are chicken oysters?”

I was eagerly informed that they’re a specific area of a chicken somewhere between thighs and the sides, “a combination of white and dark meat regarded by some to be the best part of the animal” (yes, David, but there are people who think the nuggets are the best part of a chicken) and promptly lost all interest in the Salamagundy, leaving it to my boyfriend.

“I was hoping,” I told the table, “that it would be something properly mad. Maybe oysters injected with chicken fat.”

“Well,” I was told, “at least they weren’t its bollocks?”

I didn’t actually consider that much of a consolation.

However, I stopped sulking somewhere between the bread board (wholemeal and sourdough, with very nice little pats of sea-salted butter) and instead began constructing our imaginary Mathematical Meal while we waited for starters:

Lindsay offers the starter: “Mandelbroth: all the ingredients of mandelbroth themselves have ingredients, all of which are the ingredients of Mandelbroth.”

I forget who came up with the main: “The Mobius New York Strip, a cut of beef that only has one side, served with fractal (Romanesco) broccoli.”

But of course Burge brought us to a graceful halt with dessert: “Pi. Pie. Pi-Pie.”

Nothing quite so mad, pretentious, or trite awaited us at “Dinner”, although it cannot be stressed enough that efforts were made in this area, and the food itself provoked noises bordering on the sexual.

The Meal

Meat Fruit

Meat Fruit

I did not, in the end, avail myself of this starter, the perplexing and oft-referenced “Meat Fruit” from the menu. But Burge did: this is “Mandarin, Chicken Liver Parfait and Grilled Bread”. The citrus skin conceals the parfait, so it really is Meat. Fruit. Burge did not consent to share any of this with me, but judging by her expressions it tasted bloody delightful.

Rice & Flesh

Rice & Flesh

This is what I had instead. “Rice and Flesh”, £15.00; a kind of saffron-filled rissotto with calf tails in a red-wine based sauce dotted around it. “Abusively delicious” is about the best description I can come up with, which I realise is not useful in categorising it. It was rich. The entire meal was rich, intense, and flavoursome, and in a strange way the calftails were more delicate than the heavy, dense rissotto. On a scale of one to ten I have to give it around a 9/10 because I was at least capable of maintaining a conversation throughout it.

Spiced Pigeon

Spiced Pigeon

For my main course I miraculously avoided consuming steak – my default for judging restaurants (oh hello, my name is Delilah, I have Asperger’s, I am a creature of habit) – which was recommended medium rare (abuse of a cow!) and entered into my boyfriend’s mouth instead. He let me have some and I broke down a little. There may have been some histrionic crying.

The spiced pigeon itself was oddly lacking in spice, and I think I preferred the smoked artichokes and the potato puree I ordered as a side; which is not to say that the pigeon itself wasn’t exquisitely cooked, delicate, and practically falling apart on my tongue, just that I was expecting it to be a little more … spiced. On the other hand I would have happily eaten a plate of smoked artichokes on their own.

Perhaps not for £32.00 though.

Poached Rhubarb with Rosehips and Rhubarb Sorbet

Poached Rhubarb with Rosehips and Rhubarb Sorbet

Dessert. I have a mildly unsettling obsession with rhubarb so there was very little deliberation in the choice of my final course (nor in Doug’s – after a mouthful of “Chocolate Bar” he threated to stab with a fork anyone who so much as looked like they might want to try any of his; sampling some of Lindsay’s I can safely say I am surprised he didn’t die of the intensity of chocolate). This was the “weird” I’d been looking for in earlier courses, containing what looked like a freeze-dried wafer of rhubarb, and some rose sugar “glass” shards which again constitute a perfectly marvellous concept on their own … but.

Some time previously to this I have died at the much-less-fêted but wonderful Allium in Fairford, and there consumed a fantastical confection combining floral tastes and rhubarb, crunchy and smooth textures, and it was better.

Sorry, Heston.

I should point out that while we were consuming this, Mr Blumenthal was spotted talking to Raymond Blanc about four metres away, and we were all very well-behaved and no one did anything at all stupid, although Burge later remarked that she did want to stroke his head.

Dinner was concluded with a espresso cup full of white chocolate ganache, and a glass of rosebud tea (“Iran”, quoth the menu) which smelt heavenly and tasted “quite nice”.

I have a note on my arm telling me to talk about the service, which was solicitous and attendant to the point of being intimidating; which is not to say that the staff were anything other than impeccably turned-out, friendly, helpful, and willing to comply with almost any request made of them – more that I find it unnerving for it to need four people to “take care of you” when all I am doing is going to relieve myself. I don’t think I ever want to be famous!

… Sensible people go home after a meal like that, but I went to Academy in Soho, where the bouncer grumpily made me take off my tie (to prevent suicide? The cocktails weren’t that bad) and I drank things whose names I cannot remember while shouting about lizards and ex-boyfriends (often the same thing).

Star ratings are for people who know what they’re talking about. Dinner was scary, but for the more socially-confident and wealthy I imagine it is a fantastic place to dine regularly, and I would like to steal some of the waiters.

Post by Delilah.

On Being A Patron of the Arts (when I can be)

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I would dearly love to be a patron of the arts, but I am broke, so instead I am an occasional but enthusiastic buyer of prints & art books, and commissioner of people I know well enough to give me “mates’ rates” (and then feel guilty about wasting time they could be using on proper clients!). A couple of the artists among the manyI have a particular fondness for are Coey Kuhn and Shy Custis, whose work I have been following on various websites for several years now.

Though both artists are capable of tooth-rottingly cute styles, which affords them a degree of popularity with the kawaii-kawaii crowd, the majority of their work is darker and more complicated – intricate and stark at once, with themes of decay, dissection, and agony.

One of the most fascinating things about having followed the evolution of Coey & Shy’s work over the course of these years has been seeing how their personal styles have been influenced by each other as they have also improved with practice and study – but retained the innate core of their original artistic characteristics, their identity as individual artists at the same time.

Prints have been purchased and adorn my bedroom wall alongside the work of Gillian Blekkenhorst and Matthew Woodson:

A study of Coey Kuhn with arrows and an appleA throat being violently sewn uptwo prints: one of a man tied to a tree, the other of a man sewing up a corpse

I stumbled over my own paypal to pre-order the individual sketchbooks for 2009-2010, both:

Front covers of Coey Kuhn and Shy Custis's sketchbooks

Shy’s:

Interior art from Shy Custis's sketchbook

And Coey’s:

Interior art from Coey Kuhn's sketchbook

I also bought an art book which features both of their work, a 13Crowns production, which was as far as I’m concerned an excellent investment as it also features work by another favourite artist of mine, Lois van Baarle:

The 13 Crowns Studio Art BookInterior art from the 13Crowns book

And now I’ve managed to make a tentative agreement with Coey Kuhn for a tattoo design commission in the future, about which I am very excited.

I admit, this level of admiration and awe does make me feel a lot like a stalker in some respects, and I’m sad that I have neither the wealth nor the social cachet to be a “patron” rather than “an annoying fan”. I hope both women in question aren’t too annoyed by it!

If you want to buy the sketchbooks, they’re on sale here.

Post by Delilah

Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer: I Say!

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My boyfriend likes to buy presents for me which are actually presents for him; fortunately for peace in the household this Christmas, he opted to give me something which both of us could enjoy – the latest long-player from Chap-hop superstar and rival of Professor Elemental, the great (but appropriately humble) Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer, entitled I Say!. I also have this most excellent Chap’s first album, Flattery Not Included, which I thoroughly recommend.

I Say! album cover

Tracks:

1. Hail the Chap
2. Lord Byron
3. Shoot the Cuff
4. You Just Can’t
5. Guy Debord
6. How Many Brilliant Minds Are Lost to Work?
7. A Thoroughly Modern Break-up
8. I Say, You!
9. Everything Stops for Acid
10. Hermitage Shanks
11. Crazy Knights
12. Lady C
13. Let’s Get This Over and Done With
14. The Impossible Dream
15. Songs for Acid Edward

Hail the Chap

Being a gentleman of impeccable manners, Mr B typically begins his records with introductions; in this instance he lays down the origin of Chappism and the “ten rules of the Chap Manifesto”, in reference to both the oft-applauded Chap Magazine, who in effect were the vanguard of the Chappist movement and the originators of the rather entertaining and heavily-attended annual Chap Olympiad, and to the excellent Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip song, “Thou Shalt Always Kill” (“Thou shalt always doff thy hat.”).  Off to a good start, then, with his very English wordplay (“We’ve upped our standards, now up yours too!”) and frenetic banjolele strumming. Marvelous.

Lord Byron

Naturally the place to look for commentary on the hazards of fame turning someone into a wanker who refuses to acknowledge his friends is in a chap-hop song concerning the famously arrogant Romantic poet. “We’d been out on the sherry three nights on the trot, but when I knocked on your door this is what I got: ‘Lord Byron doesn’t accept requests from fans’ – I can’t believe the ruddy cheek of the man!” It references Beau Brummel, but there is a certain issue of imperfect scanning and perhaps a little less good production on this track than on those from Flattery Not Included.

Shoot the Cuff

The thing about Mr B’s tracks is that they are almost always parodies of popular hip-hop or dance tracks, and the problem with that is that my hip-hop education is woefully lacking. Dance music I stand slightly more chance of identifying, but as a far-from-afficionado who came to the genre via indie, metal, techno, and trance, I haven’t the foggiest to which this song refers. A shame, but no great loss as I find it’s just as bouncy and charming in my ignorance as I’m sure it would be in my ignorance. “Button up your shirt unless you wear a cravat” is also a sentiment this blogger can get behind.

You Just Can’t

This song because with a sheep sound effect. I’m not sure this bodes well. Ah, I see, it’s a cautionary tale about how one can’t rape a goat because it’ll end up on Facebook.

Guy Debord

Yes, that Guy Debord. Pronounced “G-ee”, as the song informs me. This track is noteable for the lengthy playout and rather pleasant brass solo; apparently “boredom can never ever be revolutionary”, a message which will doubtless pain and then be discarded by the audience of hipsters.

How Many Brilliant Minds Are Lost to Work?

Once upon at time your dear blogger scribbled a partly-plagiarised poem combining the witticism “work is the bane of the drinking classes” (ascribed to Oscar Wilde, although as Dorothy Parker noted, that’s no guarantee of its origin!); Mr B here has done a rather better job in advising his listeners to “get off your phones and back on your arses”, and creating a perky pean to the art of slacking off and knocking a few back.

A Thoroughly Modern Break-up

Apparently Mr B wants his tits back. I mean – oh, a wanking reference  – that this is an unexpectedly upfront (pun very much intended) piece of bawd from the Gentleman Rhymer regarding a failed relationship and his desire to remove the breast implants that he paid for. A little childish and possibly out of keeping with the Chap Manifesto, but very funny all the same.

I Say, You!

Straightforward parody of Hey! You by the Rock Steady Crew. Not sure what else there is to be said about it aside from Mr B is causing a broadening in my musical knowledge.

Everything Stops for Acid

For some reason I am picturing this being MC’d by a clown. That is all.

Hermitage Shanks

It’s a song in praise of the people who manifacture lavatories and other bathroom furniture, in which all the rudery is left to the imagination with the glaring omission of the rhyming word, in finest end-of-the-pier entertainer style. The intimated coyness of sidling up to an explicit description of the obscene but catching himself just in time and the juvenility of writing an entire song devoted to the smallest room are so quintessentially English that it’s almost enough to make me consider this – very briefly – as an alternative National Anthem. I’m not exaggerating the brevity of my consideration, though.

Crazy Knights

Gentle mocking of the Kiss song/album; Mr B’s idea of a “crazy night” may not line up with that of the average rock ‘n’ roller but to me it sounds extremely enticing. Except the part about early nights, which I have yet to master. Again it is a fairly straightforward parody/mockery, and what with Kiss not being a hip-hop group Mr B is somewhat straying from his remit.

Lady C

A dancefloor-filling track at any Chappist event, presuming that the floor will fill entirely with ladies, right up until the part where Mr B has to be bleeped out for saying “wankstain”.

Let’s Get This Over and Done With

The biannual battlecry of the genteel when faced with the noisy enthusiasm and flag-flying of the Euro Whatsit Football Thing or the World Cup has long been “let’s get this over with and get back to the cricket.” Set to a tune immediately recognisible to most as “that bit from The Great Escape“, this is a firm march through the loutishness of the World Cu, hurling a bridge of criticism of the “nouve-riche” and the failings of the modern footballing elite, featuring penny whistles, an “aaahing” chorus, and the strong desire for a cucumber sandwich. Easily the best football anthem my country has ever produced.

The Impossible Dream

“To fight for the right to make ‘party’ a noun, and have those who use it as a verb run down” numbers among the ambitions of Mr B’s impossible dream – “to make hip-hop gentlemanly”. I think he may be fighting a losing battle there, especially as this song is far more West End than West Side.
Songs for Acid Edward

Several immediately recognisible parodic references here, from “Move Any Mountain” by the Shamen through a menagerie of much loved trite dance classics. Don’t take my word for that – watch the video.

Overall, then, a charming album although if I’m honest it lacks a little of the novelty value and enthusiasm of its predecessor, and the “hissing record” noisebed has been somewhat overused. Still, he is a jolly good banjolele-playing, and Mr B does have a very fine moustache…

Written by Amelia &/or Delilah

December 27, 2010 at 3:01 am