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Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Journeys from the fax

Top Secrets to Better Blogging.

Since the children have learnt to use the TV remote and subsequently made me obsolete, blogging has been a reason to wake up in the morning, If only this were true. It’s still a cup of tea, or beer and sausage rolls (in the evening obviously) , but these events sadly do not justify a blog post.

The key to blogging is something happening to you. Blogging is like declaring intention to write an autobiography before anything has happened. It’s the pressure of writing a weekly newspaper column but not getting paid for it; if anyone still is. You start questioning the blogability of everything you do. Oh, I tripped over a shrew while putting the rubbish out  – ‘Blog about it.’

However, it’s actually been a busy week. On Thursday some charming woman calling me a white piece of shit punched me in the face. The fact I was holding a terrified 3 year old did nothing to deter her. She had been driving past a primary school at a speed high enough to justify a brief word of advice. Her battered car also needed a clean, but there was no time to mention this before she had lumped me in the eye and driven off. I called the police to report it; the racially aggravated assault, not the dirty car. It’s become quite a talking point. It’s like nothing has really happened locally for six months. Ironically, it was during something actually happening to me that for once I was not assessing it for blogability

The trick to blogging is knowing what to write about. And nothing triggers panic like suggesting you know the secrets to blogging. There are none. Although it’s best to avoid politics, particularly these days, when the arguments are so polemic they make north and south appear like buddies that have drunk in the same pub for 30 years.

It might be timely to express indignation about Trump, but so many people already are that you wonder if he’s simply an indignation-conducting rod. It’s hard to know if he created the anger, or if it was there already. Either way, none of it is healthy, and I’m already furious enough about missing the last of ITV’s Ninja Warrior. No matter how much you might be struck by the irony of pacifists accusing Therese May as an appeaser, it’s best to keep quiet.

Trump’s existence creates such outrage that even his sensible comments (he has made one I believe about NATO) are lost in the pursuit of umbrage. Twitter’s #notmypresident was blatantly untrue in the States, yet perfectly accurate anywhere else in the world. Anyway, I wouldn’t have voted of him, but I don’t have the energy for outrage at an elected Head of State doing what he wants to do. It’s probably the human rights of Saudi Arabia or Iran hanging gay men that upsets me more, but let’s leave it there.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

La La Land or Trainspotting 2..?

Generation X have been faced with a difficult decision. It’s of the sort impossible to shy away from; the sort that might affect families for generations to come. While some friends have voted one way, declaring their decision as irrefutable, others are reaching for the sick bucket, or rather Sick Boy. In such divisive times it’s hard to find middle ground. On one hand you have La la Land, which has the charm of a singing box of milk chocolates, while on the other you have a return to the adrenaline soaked underworld of Trainspotting 2.

As an alternative choice someone suggested Manchester by sea, declaring it as an emotional gut punch of a film, ‘though not many dance routines. He made it sound like latter day Take That.

The sequel to Trainspotting has taken a while, as Danny Boyle wisely waited for his cast to look older enough. In Hollywood this can mean a long time, and Euan Mcgregor’s career-requiring youthfulness is even referred to by the enigmatic Sick Boy.

John Lee Miller inhabits his hair-bleached role like it’s god-given, but from the loafers up he’s a legend in his own mind, even if his bedraggled pub suggests that he might want to take a closer look.

Euan McGregor, while not as bad as his cardboard Obi Wan, is acted off screen by the others. Mostly by Ewen Bremner, who’s Spud was the heart of the first film and the soul of this. Trainspotting 2 somehow succeeds in being a 117 minute trailer for itself, which is quite a feat, but it’s Spud who stops the film only being an extended pop video. He’s the vulnerable anti-hero we’re all chanting for.

It’s actually better than the first film, with a new found pathos that was lacking from the youthful original. These characters have grown up. Well, perhaps not grown up, but grown older. Sadly they are not the same thing, which is what interests us. It’s not just the characters that have changed (or have they?) but Edinburgh. It’s a different time, where the brutality of the past has been replaced by Starbucks and trams. Of course Begbie remains psychopathic, although his taste in well-cut Pringle jumpers has to be admired, even if he’s likely to glass you for mentioning it.

We’re on side from the moment Mark Renton flips the vinyl record in his hands with an ease that is second nature to a now aging generation; a demographic that like all others never believed it would. There are elegant shadows of the original throughout, as an ambient version Born Slippy provokes mass soul searching throughout the cinema. What have we been doing for twenty years? Fallen in love. Given up drugs. Bought not rented. Bearded or notVinyl or download.

The film has been accused of lacking female characters, which is right-on bollocks, if you’ll excuse the pun. It’s a film about men struggling with the loss of youth, so why would it not focus on male characters? Anyway, there are enough females, who spend their time raising their eyebrows at men’s inability to grow up. Either that, or shafting them with strap-ons obviously.

Last time we watched this film was while coming up for air after bongs, so it’s lucky the perfectly edited flashbacks to the 1992 original negated the need for homework in re-watching it. There are even 80s songs, which the surge of Brit pop and house music had hoped to replace. The unmistakable pound of Frankie goes to Hollywood’s Relax has the surge of intent lacking from most national anthems. Meanwhile the kick of Run DMC’s It’s like that and Queen’s Radio Gaga provokes grins like supporters of La la Land also claim to have found on their faces.

That Mark Renton and Sick Boy are still having a beer at the close of  Trainspotting 2 is telling. Have they grown up? Who knows, but it’s Spud who is the one who needs saving, and perhaps he is. I for one look forward to finding out, as the UK finds it’s own version of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. See you in twenty years time.

My novel – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – the Life Assistance Agency is available now here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance  – read the book before it’s made into a film.

WHSmith Fresh talent 2017. In-store Promotion

In light of having once blogged about someone eating yoghurt in the street it would be false modesty not to write about the inclusion of The Life Assistance Agency in WHSmith’s 2017 Fresh Talent selection.

The last time I was in WHSmith’s for an hour was in 1988, when the music department couldn’t find the LP to match the sleeve of Roachford’s debut album. I eventually walked out with Talking Heads’ (best) forgotten Naked album, which was my first exposure to reputation outstripping reality.

Anyway, with a hangover best left undescribed I don’t feel particularly talented, far less fresh. I keep finding myself near bacon sandwiches, which I am not at Euston station to promote. I’m here as one of 12 new writers to watch out for. I am utterly chuffed and in shock. However, there’s a thin line between looking chuffed and appearing smug and I keep crossing it. So, I hope people are not watching too closely. I also keep closing my eyes. It was not my intention to bring my best Bukowski impression to a book signing. Mind you, Hunter S Thompson would have flown in on mescaline, so an ale & crisps induced headache barely registers on the reckless writer scale. I’m pleased my supportive publisher is there to keep me standing.

I’ve done my best to look like the photo used in the promotional poster, but I’m not in back and white, which I’d prefer to be, as colours are making my head spin.

I’m joined by seven of the other writers lucky enough to have been chosen by WHSmith Fresh Talent. It’s good to put a face to the prose. Even if they also look so little like their photos that I wonder if I’m surrounded by imposters. That is until I see the horror in their eyes as first drafts of next novels are mentioned; of the kind that cannot be faked.

Thankfully the staff have been told why seven writerly-looking types are loitering and scrawling all over front pages of novels in their shop. Then Matt Bates, WHSmith travel Fiction buyer, arrives with the sort of barely-contained enthusiasm that encouraged 27m books being purchased last year to read while travelling. He’s so passionate about my novel that part of me thinks I’ve made him up.

Promoting your book in store is not the sort of thing that writing a novel prepares you for. It’s very flattering, and of course a fantastic opportunity to flog a few copies. I was delighted to see WHSmith celebrating new authors, even before I was included. Now I’m evangelical about it. There was also a cake with all the book covers on, which seemed a shame to cut. For about 10 seconds.

We pose with our novels, as the line between smug and chuffed is not only crossed but nuked from recognisable existence. I’m unsure how near I should hover to my book. It might put people off, although nothing repels customers quite like a shop full of smug writers and their publishers, but as we leave I notice customers (clearly with excellent taste) approaching the wall of the 12 Fresh Talent novels. .. I leave before announcing  to them ‘I wrote that’ in the kind of louche manner now banned in the 21st century. I need to eat my own body weight in cheese burgers and go to bed.

How to use Music in Writing your novel

There are clearly more important things in life than musical taste. Just ask Gavin Rossdale, who has recently joined the Voice; presumably at the cost of being able to sleep ever again. Yet playlists remain central to our lives. When I say ‘our’ I mean people that consider gifting song compilations as integral to the wooing process, and even in moments of crisis will be thinking ‘I wonder what song would best soundtrack this?’. For some people Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell says more about them than their CV ever will. Even at 54. (Not that I’m 54, it was just an example).

Of course a novel is no different. It needs songs. Of course most writers, or car salesmen are failed musicians. I should know, I’ve been both. Not that I was in a band for long. Gothic Poodle was a mistake from the name down.  None of us could play instruments, but that didn’t stop if from amassing a back catalogue to rival no one’s. We split up over creative similarities. Mind you, Runaway Girl remains an unrecorded classic, at least in my head.

Anyway, it has taken a long time for me to accept that my influences are not Bergman or Camus, Paris’ left bank or Bob Dylan, but 2000AD comics, Smash Hits and Highlander. This 1986 film is best known for being the only watchable film Christopher Lambert ever starred in. It features a sleek soundtrack from Queen including  It’s a kind of Magic and th majestic Who wants to live forever? Similar themes and practical issues of eternal life underpin the premise of my debut novel, the Life Assistance Agency, and Who wants to live forever? is a question anyone pursuing immortality is unlikely to have fully explored.

The challenge of asking Queen and Freddie Mercury to write music for the Life Assistance Agency, was mitigated by the fact they had already done so in the shape of Highlander. It made a great starting point. My protagonists are keen music lovers, so Bruce Springsteen rubs shoulders with the apt Oasis’ Live Forever and Robbie Williams schmaltzy Angels, which not only healed a Britpop rift, but anchored the story in real life by playing Radio 2 in the background.

The novel found itself with a soundtrack that could have written the story itself, that’s if playlists were able to write novels, which sadly they are not. But they do help. They provide the story with rhythm, even if it’s with songs you don’t like .

My new novel even features a retired pop star. After all, who hasn’t wondered what happens after your huge hit single, and all you have on your hands is time and money with which to fill it. After all, there’s only so many Rolls Royces you can crash into a swimming pool before it starts to affect your fitness regime.

It was on completion of the novel that someone suggested I compile the soundtrack. Annoyed I had not thought of this myself, I noted every song as it appeared and did so, while adding a few extras. I wish I could claim this did not take up an entire day, but like writing a novel, it needed to find its own poise. So, here you go….

The Spotify soundtrack to the Life Assistance Agency can be found here:

And the novel – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 – the Life Assistance Agency is available now here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

 

 

How to write while Staying at Relatives.

 

Nothing says visiting relatives at Christmas quite like wheel-spinning out of a cul-de-sac at the crack of dawn heading for home. Most writers hate Christmas, as their alluringly private work finds itself exposed and appears to look more like sitting around doing nothing at a time when you should be acting busy.

It’s hard to know what the worst thing about going away at Christmas is, at least it is until someone books an 9am ice skating slot. I mean who wants to go ice skating at 9am. What’s an ice rink even doing open at 9am? It’s a first world problem and the staff are having an even worse time, but still, this is volunteered fun. And everyone knows that fun is hard to spell before lunchtime, particularly when it involves clutching to hoardings to stay upright. This is the sort of entertainment I left behind at university, and even that involved thin ice.

Now, did anyone get Amazon’s Alexa for a present? Even if you didn’t, you’ll know who she is. She’s a personal assistant, who promises the world, without moving, much like a fortune teller. In dulcet tones she claims to not understand perfectly reasonably requests, while arranging Amazon deliveries with liberal use of your bank details. Humorous interactions throughout Christmas are gong to look less funny when Elton John’s entire back catalogue and sixteen spare chairs arrived in January. She’s basically a parent that when is asked to turn your music down, actually does so.

It’s all gadgets these days, making one feel like having been thrown forward in time without paying attention to what year was pressed into the machine. One young relative spent the day with a virtual reality plastic box over his head. At least it means he couldn’t see enough plastic toys and wrapping destined for landfill to speed up plant’s demise by a decade.

Christmas obliterates the week and the hardest thing is not knowing what day it is. You can ask Alexa, but she’s too busy negotiating musical requests that barely give a song longer than its opening 4 bars, before someone yells for Chris Rea again. When asked ‘Who’s round is it?’ she claims to not understand, so in some ways she’s more human than is comfortable. It might be funny to ask her bra size, but she’s likely to delay answering this until someone rejoins you in the room.

Not only is finding the time to write a struggle, but you’re surrounded by so many cliches that its hard not to even think in them. Of course Christmas is all about the children, even the one who got a new recorder without any previous knowledge in how to play it. Strangled notes of Three blind mice played with the musical prowess of a whistle stuck in a vacuum cleaner prevented any adult from recovering the 5:00am start, and even stopped the elderly relative from dying on the sofa.

Staying with people means you need to be sociable (not a leading characteristic of writing, which mainly involves swearing at yourself for another poor plot turn). And you don’t know where anything is. Even the port. All you want to do is take your bloated cusk to the gym, although your gym is a 100 miles away, which is probably for the best, as they would be invariable refuse entry to anyone smelling that strongly of stilton and surplus crackers., while calling everyone Alexa in the hope they’ll do what demanded.

The Life Assistance Agency is available now and can be purchased with book tokens, hard cash and by asking Alexa to order it. At    and in Foyles.

 

 

 

 

Last Blog of 2016, & Review of Look at me by Anita Brookner – Penguin books.

For my last blog of the year I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who visits my site, and comment. It means I’m not idly shouting into the ether. Or if I am, at least it’s yelling back occasionally. Since the Life Assistance Agency was published in September support has come from unlikely places, and from new friends. You all know who you are, so I won’t bore you with a list of names. Besides, as already discussed in the politics of the Acknowledgements    – https://tomhocknell.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/how-to-write-acknowledgments/ – it’s a minefield. Here’s all the very best wishes to every reader, writer, editor and designer out there for the next year.

So, to close the year, I review of one of the favourite novels I read this year: Look at me by Anita Brookner – Penguin books. 2016

The joy of a local bookshop is its algorithms. Much like the Internet reminds you of trainers you once browsed but couldn’t afford, a bookshop knows what you read. Hence, I was recommended the 2016 reissue of Anita Brookner’s Look at Me. It’s a slim novel concerning a young woman in West London, and of the sort I would never normally read! It’s a glimpse behind curtains not of street-tough suburban streets, but of the moneyed tenement blocks of Mayfair. It’s populated with old ladies sitting lonely amongst accrued opulence, and bright thing things grasping for life’s meaning beyond having everything.

It’s a world in which charm combats time, and indeed the librarian, Frances Hinton. She is mesmerised by the charismatic Nick, who ‘seemed to be totally ignorant of the sad compromises and makeshifts, the substitutions and the fantasies, that constitute the emotional baggage of the average person.’

As she walks home past Christmas office parties, Frances struggles to equate her quiet life with that of Nick and his equally beguiling wife Alix, yet perhaps things are not as perfect as they seem. Brookner expertly lures Frances behind those historically closed doors. This genuinely timeless book is beguiling, and the perfect back pocket novel.

 

The Life Assistance Agency is available now and features in 2017’s WHSmith Fresh New Talent promotion.   and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.

 

 

 

Star Wars – Rogue One. A review.

There’s been much talk about Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One requiring reshoots to address a grittiness more associated with war films. Whether we’ll see Stormtroopers writing home to a loved one they’ll never see again and puking into their helmets as their landing craft hits a faraway beach is about to be answered

If you’re the sort who drops their coffee mug at first sight of a Star Destroyer casting a shadow within a planet’s atmosphere without considering how this might be gravitationally possible then there’s little you won’t already know about this film. But for those not sleeping under a Salacious B. Crumb duvet cover, it’s basically a film based upon a line from the original Star Wars’ introduction crawl  – ‘Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR.’

This is a weapon of such magnitude that it can only be spelled in capital letters. Rogue One is set in those halcyon days of the Empire, before they had two DEATH STARS blown up and started constructing a third without anyone pointing out the poor statistical chances of its survival. This film is essential Episode 3 ½.  There are no spoilers here, at least none that can compete with the 2 hrs 5 mins of Episode 4, which picks up where this film finishes quicker than you can drop coffee mugs at the sight of Star Destroyers within a planet’s atmosphere.

Rogue One is a good name, and explains the radio call codes in episode 4. It is a rogue one, as it’s the first time for no introductory crawl. Nor, thankfully are there any battle droids from the prequels, with their propensity for throwing themselves at enemy laser fire with all the intelligence of Red Setters chasing donuts off cliffs. Mind you, Stormtroopers still shoot with all the accuracy of a bent shotgun.

The Force Awakens introduced new characters by mixing them with the old. This brings us Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, who unlike Rey, (who appeared to be taking a break from exam revision rather than scrap metal scavenging) is someone you would follow into battle. Which is lucky, because the film grabs your bootstraps and never lets go, other than the occasional motivational speech about hope that the addressees are probably only half listening to anyway. It certainly gives episode 4’s title A New Hope new meaning.

It’s still Star Wars: there’s a pessimistic droid (K-2SO) obsessed with statistical chances of survival – I bet the Imperials wish he’d been there in the DEATH STAR planning meeting. There are also the familiar man-made chasms and ravines of space stations, and even the iconic silhouettes of dutiful guards in watchtowers of Yavin 4. There’s even a cameo from Walrus Face from the Tatooine canteen. But it’s the explosions that are most, well, striking. They’re stunning, as is much of the cinematography. There was even a moment in the fantastically depicted holy city of Jedha, in which it was impossible not to think of those poor people trapped in war torn Aleppo.

There was an admirably restrained use of a certain Darth Vader. Edwards could have milked the opportunity for extra screen time with the dark lord, but in fact it’s expertly rationed, and all the more powerful for it. Most importantly it erases the memory of Jim Henson muppets destroying the imperial Empire on Endor, via far more authentic action that doesn’t involve destroying top-grade military equipment with logs. Even more importantly, it addresses why the original DEATH STAR had such a vulnerable air duct resulting in its destruction.

Rogue One is basically the Star Wars universe, but not quite as we know it. It’s like filming a royal ball but focusing upon what’s happening in the kitchen. It’s not as unashamedly entertaining as the swashbuckling originals, or The Force Awakens. But, dare I say it, it’s more realistic, including the tiniest details for die-hard fans. And speaking of royalty, the end segues into episode 4 with such speed and ease that you barely realise it’s happened.

My debut novel, the Life Assistance Agency is out now and available to buy from Foyles, other book shops and at Amazon – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

Albums of the year – 2016

Anyone looking for a comprehensive count down of 2016’s best albums might be best looking elsewhere, as this list is FAR from exhaustive.

It’s that time of year when I realise how few albums I’ve bought that everyone else has. A flick through the end of year Best Album lists suggests I’ve never been less cool. I flirted with buying the Bon Iver album, despite it insisting upon using song titles like 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄ and ____45_____  I’m so uncool that I want song titles I can use in conversation. I’m sure it’s my loss, as he featured on the falsetto dreamy alt.R&B of Friends with Francis  and the Lights and it was wistful perfection.

2016 had surprisingly few  tessential purchases. Metronomy, AKA Joseph Mount, continues to flirt with being a good band, but his songs somehow never quite justify their existence. It’s like he can write songs, but not great ones. Even the Robyn featuring Hang Me Out To Dry fails to truly grip. It’s a song of two halves that sound like they’ve never met. Nice cover though.

I might yet buy Kanye West‘s Life of Pablo, if he ever finishes it, although I suspect it’ll be nothing on his 808s and Heartbreak.

Bear’s Den : Red Earth and Pouring Rain

This was one essential purchase in 2016. It’s their 2nd album, and the new New Gold Dream. It’s the album every Simple Minds fan has wished for since 1983. An album of such sincerity and lush soundscapes that the mid -80s would have swallowed it whole; mullet and all. But as the electronics pick up in the coda of Broken Parable, your neck hairs have joined them. It’s sublime, and the only album I’ve ever admitted to loving which thanks banjo manufacturers, as opposed to Roland keyboards, in the acknowledgements. It’s widescreen rock for clutching your shirt front to as you bellow out half-heard lyrics like no one’s watching.

Previous albums finds them mooching around in the rain trying to be Mumford and Sons, thankfully this album stops all that nonsense and slaps a heavy dose of Don Henley’s Boys of Summer over proceedings, adding a pop sheen and the sort of ambition U2 buried at the Joshua tree

M83 : Junk 

M83’s Junk album looks and sounds like it might have been recorded by a pack of smacked-out Furby dolls. And this is not a bad thing. It’s the sound of a man dreaming of Rubiks Cubes and Starship singles that were never actually made. It’s utterly bonkers, baffling and rewarding. He might have thrown cool out with the baby, but it’s basically the soundtrack to Netflix Stranger Things, as though the saxophone never went out of fashion. No punches are being pulled, as it’s the sound of the kitchen sink arriving at a studio and never leaving. The opening track plays with discordance, but from then on it’s the celebratory sound of a man in a room full of balloons. There’s little doubt that Moon crystal is pastiche of Hill Street Blues theme tune too far, and perhaps For the kids a one decline into lounge too far, but its imagination and fondness for 80s synth pop is palatable.

Pet Shop Boys : Super 

I’m a little biased, but from the imperial poetry of the Dictator Decides, reminiscent of 1988’s majestic I’m not Scared, to the heavenly italo-disco synths of Undertow and whispered abandon of Burn,  to the wistful breakbeat of Into thin air, Pet Shop Boys have done it again. If you prefer their more reflective string epics this may not be so essential, but this 2nd album with Stuart Price has a joie de vivre of its own. Other than the misstep of techno barn-dance opener Happiness, it’s a rare thing: a pop album that grows with each listen.

Steve Mason : Meet the Humans

The drawback of releasing albums early in the year is the risk of being forgotten in end of year lists. It feels like this utterly marvellous album has been out for so long that Mason has probably forgotten about it himself. This is the ex- Beta Band singer’s 3rd solo album and has an almost baroque intimacy. It’s a blend of folk, indie and smatterings of hip hop/dance beats, and is so stuffed with melodies at unlikely places that you find yourself grinning  without noticing. He’s a criminally well-kept secret in music, which in this case is not a euphemism for acquired taste. It is actually criminal. There’s an aching beauty to all his songs that deserves to be heard. It’s a modern album that is already classic.

1975 : I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

Some albums are not as clever as they think they are. This is one of them. However, it is still very good. It’s shamelessly smooth FM pop. It’s a double album, that would make a perfect ten song album. It sounds like Mister Mister and the Cutting Crew had as much influence as the Beatles. It’s all kind of unlikely, yet works. I’m showing my age, but Somebody Else mines the slick wistful perfection of Double’s Captain of her heart. There are two too many interludes of noodling, but it is the sole album here that appears on other end of 2016 lists.

Song of the year goes to the tender Alchemist by the underrated Just Jack. A kind of more romantic The Streets. Pop is generally more interested in the start of relationships than the end, or the awkward bit in the middle where the house looks like it’s transporting  landfill. But this takes on the bitter sweetness of parenting; of letting them explore the world, while you cross your fingers. He lives in Brighton and despite hearing the moral superiority of tofu in the background, it’s a sumptuous tune (with a twang of Level 42 slap bass) in paean to his daughter . ‘Let’s not make the same mistakes our fathers made,’ he declares, as niggling beats spin a dance spell fit for the sundown terraces of Ibiza without ever leaving his living room.

 

 

HonoThe Life Assistance Agency was also published in 2016 and involves gratuitous references to Bruce Springsteen and other musical artists.  It can be purchased here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

 

The Cure – Wembley Arena. December 1st. 2016.

You might say Christmas has come early for Cure fans, starved of new material since Robert Smith teased them with the promise of a rapid follow up to the 4:13 Dream album – in 2008. The Cure’s legendary 3-hour sets are not for casual fans, not that any are here; any fair weathers would have been elbowed in the face for tickets before they could say ‘will they play Friday I’m In Love?’

Immensely popular, the Cure can be heard throughout modern music; they are no longer a cult, but have found a global niche. They are rock’s least likely success story. At their heart of course is Robert Smith, a man who’s had less of a bad hair day and more of a bad hair career. And from the scratchy, well-knitted guitar lines of Pictures Of You – New Order minus the MDMA – to the forlorn ‘I know we have to go’ of a slow-burning Out Of This World from 2000’s Bloodflowers , nothing has changed.

The sound is immense, as original bass player Simon Gallup stalks the stage like he’s auditioning for Guns ‘N Roses. A neglected lust lies at the heart of these songs: the country walk rush of High, to the swamp funk and machine gun drums of The Walk, to the krautrock early Simple Minds of The Push. You have to admire Adele for covering it, but thankfully they reclaim Love Song’s bedsit romance as their own.

The defiant Play For Today provokes terrace chants, and although BloodFlowers’ title track gropes around unsuccessfully for a tune, the poetry of Primary keeps its rock on the perfect leash. And it’s the inclusion of these darker album tracks that prevents it from being a festival set, and pleases the fans.

Smith stands in a rare spotlight for Three Imaginary Boys and you’re reminded of how they’ve always stayed our side of the velvet rope. Although Bowie’s guitarist Reeves Gabrels has been a Cure band member since 2012, there’s never been any superstar feats. Gabrels sears out skyscraping riffs on Burn, as they twist their sound through so many ports-of-call that it’s impossible to discern if they’re magpie or originator.

As ever, it’s an epic set. The Forest is welcomed like an oldest friend, with the sort of echoed guitar that keeps the Edge awake at night. Any doubts about arena sound will have been put to bed, as will fears of a tendency for meandering sets. Tonight it’s a Cure jukebox, as the visuals magnify each of Smith’s self hugs; not that he needs them, the crowd hold him to their hearts all night.

They disappear countless times, presumably to apply hair spray, and return for a customary 20 encores. For the casual fan it might feel like being at the best party no one invited you to, but it’s not too late to stay. Leave your gothic gloom preconceptions at the door. They even play a needless Love Cats and a massive Hot Hot Hot. But it’s the crisp lines and jerky riffs of Killing an Arab that carry us home.

The debut novel The Life Assistance Agency is available now here  –   , and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.

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