Are Tuesdays easier than Sundays? Yeah, kinda. On the other hand, it's Wednesday, so maybe not.
Let's face it, this is all going to shift around some as the weeks pass, and quiet weeks like this are likely to be skip weeks. Feels like this year's taking a minute to switch into gear anyway - for various reasons, Xmas came in bits and pieces, an oddly segmented holiday that stretched out over a long time. I just delivered my last presents yesterday, so it's all mixed in with getting back up to speed on delivering for deadlines and worrying about the people I care about getting older and frailer. Meanwhile, I'm starting to get pains in my back and shoulders at odd moments. So it goes.
Turns out real living human beings with back pain write these books! I know, I'm as surprised as you.
Anyway, it's a quiet week - nothing from me hitting the stands, though big things are, as ever, looming on the horizon. Maybe bigger than usual! I can say no more, for now. Instead, let's talk about someone else's book...
WHAT'S ON FINAL ORDER CUTOFF THIS MONDAY?
The first TPB of Golden Rage, that's what!
I seem to remember writer Chrissy Williams describing this as "Golden Girls meets Lord Of The Flies", though I might be misremembering exactly what Golden Girls met - and, like any good piece of art, Golden Rage is vastly more than any attempt to wave vaguely at its location on the map by describing two other landmarks, which is all any "meets" description is. Suffice it to say this is a great series that goes to places you won't expect it to - without wanting to give anything away, I did particularly enjoy the clowns and the meditations on the art of clowning. If that whets your appetite, ask your local comic dealer to order you a copy.
IT'S GOT SOME RATHER LOUD GUITARS ON IT
Still more of 2022 to pick the bones out of. Let's talk music. New Year 2021 - when Twitter was functional and somehow so was I, after midnight - I posted a month by month on what new music I'd been discovering, but it doesn't match up so neatly here - there are a couple of months where I found some decent songs but nothing to set the world on fire, and then months where I discovered banger after banger, the algorithms, these digital Tony Blackburns of the new age, electric Steve Wrights in the endless afternoon of the techbro future, actually earning their keep.
I was getting used to a new music delivery system, too - this was the year of the move to Tidal. They pay their artists more than Spotify, I'm reliably informed, both by having a different and pricier pay structure and also, presumably, by not paying big chunks of change to every asshole podcaster who wanders into the office. Roughly the same listening experience, though - hunt down tunes, build a playlist, and when it runs past the end because you've been concentrating on work, the machine will try to search out something to keep the flow going. It's as good a means of finding tunes as any, though it's important to vary things up or it'll stay in the same groove forever and you'll have a very Harry Chapin sort of year.
So - rather than a play by play of the musical journey, I'm going to just do a Fab Five Songs I Found In 2022, in chronological order of when I found them. Maybe now they'll be songs you find in 2023 - I'm hoping sticking to the Fab Five Format will result in a strict bangers-only policy, or at least lead to five songs I want to talk about.
So, at NUMBER FIVE...
There are a lot of great songs called "Psycho", so it takes a true banger to make a meaningful contribution to the canon - step forward Maisie Peters. This has the smell of dancefloor smash about it, something I'd follow an emergency play of Carly Rae Jepsen with - lyrically, it makes a lot of hay with the repeated "call me, psycho" in a way that invites further listening. Is the ex a psycho because he keeps calling on his second phone long after he's been told where to go? Or is he using these calls to call her a psycho, in the manner of toxic ex-boyfriends throughout history? Is it both, it's probably both. Also, it's the first time I'm seeing the video, which takes it in another direction still, playing the relationship as still active on the surface and Peters as a mastermind taking vengeance on a supervillain budget.
At NUMBER FOUR, in a purely chronological order so why am I presenting it as a countdown...
Made a command decision not to link the video to this one because it's extremely stylistic and I don't want to imprint the imagery on you before you've heard the song - 'cos it's a classic "story-song"... but with a space twist! Sonny And The Sunsets here with "Green Blood", a tale of a love triangle between an android, a cyborg and a kind of self-centered-seeming dude. The love triangle seems to take months, but it's related to a... friend? Friend with benefits? Computer psychiatrist losing batteries?... like a weekend adventure. Time is different and strange in the After-World. Extend your antennae and look deeper.
NUMBER THREE, the covered "wank in a tree" spot...
I'm a fan of cover versions, but I thought long and hard about whether that consitutes a new discovery for the purposes of this list - I think in this case it does, because a) this is the first I'm hearing of this song, and b) further listening made it clear that there are strong differences between this and the Oingo Boingo original. (Mostly in the realm of slap bass.) So what makes Ninja Sex Party so different, so appealing, with their cover of "We Close Our Eyes"?
To get the obvious out of the way - this band excel at cover versions, especially of eighties songs. The rest of the time, as near as my admittedly limited research into them has uncovered, they're a parody band with an emphasis on sex and ninjas and probably partying, but all good parody has to have an undercurrent of Actual Chops and so we find ourselves here. Anyway, first I heard of this song - it slaps, it's got a groove, listen closer, what's this? IT'S ABOUT DEATH! A groovy eighties dancefloor magic potion about whether to try to find some meaning in the face of limited time and encroaching mortality or just give in to hedonistic sensation? That is absolutely my whole deal, more please. Then I pulled up the original and ehhhh, needs more bass. I'm a philistine!
Another story-song - I'm a sucker for these, evidently. Once again, I'm looking for one song and stumble on another - searching for a song called "Taxi" with an illicit sample that probably means it can't be found on streaming, I instead discover Harry Chapin. This is very much a 70s number - the story in the song is about a relationship that failed, from the "dude's feelings" end of the spectrum - but it goes to some places that fascinate me. "Harry" in the song is neither particularly sympathetic nor unsympathetic - he's failed in his dreams as much as his fare-slash-ex has failed in hers, in that for all his talk of having a wizard inside him that's illuminating his mind, he's still driving while stoned and going nowhere. It's messy - messier than these songs often get. That culminates in the moment where this woman - whose thoughts have been entirely closed to us (why should we have access to them, Harry's a stoner not a mind-reader) - gives Harry far too much cash for the fare. He's pitying her - her obviously straight life in her big mansion - but there's a whole other song we don't get to hear, about someone living a good life, wild days behind her, coming across the drugged wreck of a man who had once been someone special. So, out of her own pity, she gives him a twenty after the conversation's dried up.
It's made clear that Harry's ego should smart at this - but like any good wizard, he's got no ego left. He pockets the money, tries to justify his life and what's left of it, exeunt omnes.
(I kind of wish he'd left the story there, but there's a sequel on YouTube - I think it's actually called "Sequel" - which you can check out if you like. The ending is still messy, but happy and even a little smug - it's a little bit of fanfic, making clear that there was no other story but the one the narrator saw, and then telling what didn't need to be told about what happened next. It noodles and explores, but not to segue into meditations on death and the inner magician like the original, just to keep everybody's attention. I can't see the wild-man-wizard inside the guy rhyming "just as well" with "time will tell" up on the concert stage.)
And at NUMBER ONE, by virtue of being found a couple of days before New Years...
Jungle are good. There's no two ways around it. They are in the business of making you feel, making you dance, and business is good. Their videos lean into this - they're in-house, they focus strongly on dance as the main element, they're a celebration of movement and rhythm. "Smile" is off their second album. The video is structured around a dance, this time from one guy - Che Jones - and around his smile, that he flashes repeatedly and naturally. It feels good to see it. It feels good to see the man dance. The music feels good, the concert feels good, this is a moment where living feels good. It feels good to live in our bodies, sometimes. Everybody should be allowed to feel good to live in their bodies, and that's going to mean different things to different people, but right here it means dancing and celebration - and after the celebration, the video ends with over a minute of comedown, the good kind, Jones and the camera crew keeping the cameras rolling, babbling with the adrenaline of capturing the perfect dance, the perfect shot, hyping the third album a little bit just because they can't help themselves. It feels good. It makes you feel good. It is good.
They're a good band.
END OF NEWSLETTER
With no news, and hitting on a Wednesday! A new low. But this is still where to find me. Love and strength, folks.
Playing us out with a song that didn't quite make the cut, but I did have repeating on loop when I was writing STORM AND THE BROTHERHOOD - it's the 1978 version of the ANDOR theme, from the Auralnauts. Did I play you this already? I don't care, I'm into it. I'm only two episodes into the show so far, but it's pretty decent, and I say that as someone who, like Nic Cage, is Not A Star Wars Guy.