What’s the point of beautiful books?

Beautiful books — IMHO — are more likely to be read. Which could well be a brill thing if the book is a good’un.

I’ve long appreciated the Penguin series, Clothbound Classics. The Snufferjog bought us Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray which was beautifully produced, and the footnotes added interest. That whetted the appetite.

A few years down the line, my Father-in-Law generously gave me a bit of dosh for Xmas, so I decided to treat myself to another.

But which one to buy!?

I’d noticed that this series were numbered, (our Dorian was number ten, por ejemplo). So I began my internet hunt for which book was number one in the series, a task you might think was very easy, but oh no. No reference on any Penguin affiliated website of any sort of enumeration.

Hope came in the form of Google Image Search which showed me a wealthy woman’s full collection. In numerical order. And the first in the series is… Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.


“Didn’t do it in school so ‘aven’t ‘eard of it.”

Well, uninitiated. It’s French. That’s all you need to know.

I bought it and I read it. That’s an achievement. (This was an English translation, so not that much of an achievement).

One minor issue though, the edition I bought was not numbered, so there was no real reason to buy that particular book. Oh well.

But I’m hooked anyway. So what to buy next is the question?

Well, let’s stick with the French theme he says, buy a book written around the same period he says. And by the following Thursday Les Miserables is on my doormat.

Wow. 1,231 pages… ABRIDGED.

So that’s that phase over. Although I did see that next month, Augustine’s Confessions is being released in the series. A two birds one stone killing asking to be made if ever I saw one, I’m only studying ruddy theology. So that’s getting pre-ordered. Maybe.


One more thing. I feel I need to explain to the ethereal head-shrinker why I have a desire in the first place to buy the number one in a series of somethings.

It all began in Brent Cross Shopping Centre, Disney Store, 1994. I’ve got some Christmas money to spend (sounds familiar) and I’m keen to get me a VHS of Sing-Along-Songs, fronted by the inimitable Jiminy Cricket. The one I wanted to get was the one with Peter Pan on the front because I liked the one with Peter Pan on the front. But Dad jumps in.

“Heyheyheyheyheyhey, don’t be so rash there son. Think about it. What you’re gonna wanna do is get Volume One and work your way up to Peter Pan which is Volume Seven. Think about it.”

“But Volume One has Bagheera on the front and he’s got more tough love than my four year old brain can handle”

“You’re getting volume one.”

“Um… okay.”


And from that day forth, I was PROGRAMMED to seek-out the first in the series of stuff.

Right, I’m off back to my Hugo. Only 1,147 pages to go!


Arctic Monkeys + Them Crooked Vultures @ Brixton Academy

Arctic Monkeys Brixton Academy

The new album was officially out on Monday, and I’d been greatly enjoying it for a week or two previous to that due to a leak. But having properly bought it by now and listening to it on a proper CD player, a new sound for the Arctic Monkeys was becoming apparent to my ears.

Official owners of the crown ‘fastest-selling debut album in British music history’, this is the bit where I tell you that their success was all down to a “DIY marketing campaign”, and that they were an “Internet phenomenon” speaking for “the youth of 2005.” What it ultimately comes down to is whether they can say something, whilst also sounding good to my ears.

Before I get on to assessing how they got on last night I must briefly mention the support act. As any gig-goer will assure you, the warm up/opening/support/special guest act is never something to be excited about. If you’re lucky you’ll get an exciting promising new band, or with the bigger gigs a good 6 out of 10 type outfit. However this was not the case last night. Support came from a new super band known as ‘Them Crooked Vultures’.

They consisted of…


Josh Homme

Josh Homme


and him:

John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones

off of them:

oh and him:

dave grohl scream shout


I think you’ll agree they do definitely fit the requirements for a super band.

So apart from the awesomeness of seeing Dave Grohl smack those drums like there’s no tomorrow and watching Josh Homme slur with effortlessness and seeing John Paul Jones and thinking… that guy recorded Stairway To Heaven! Were they any good?

My immediate reaction as they played through new songs such as, Elephant and Gunman was – this is heavy. This was a hard rock masterclass, a similar sound to what Velvet Revolver are going for, but with a bit less of the obvious riffs. There didn’t seem to be anything particularly fresh here, they just rocked hard and harder.

Things got slightly more interesting when they played Caligula, and John Paul Jones switched from bass to keys.

Overall first impressions were reassurance that these guys really can play. As well as noticing that their experience and enjoyment was very evident.

However, I think they were just too heavy for anyone to gain any sort of true impression as to what they were like. Homme’s vocals were drowned out by the rest of the instruments and Grohl’s phenomenal mental muppets’ Animal style drumming was not enough to redeem the band’s live performance.

I suspect that when given the chance to listen to some studio recordings from the band, more can be deciphered from this potentially promising super duper crew.

After a far too long wait, the Monkeys eventually wandered on, aided by a torch to get them through the thick dry ice that coated the psychedelically lit stage. They opened with sure-fire next single My Propellor. A song which is topped by some catchy backing vocals. This sound was still hard, just like the previous act, but the lyrics could actually be heard and the band seemed less intent on making a racket and in gear to play some good tunes.


Next came an unusual choice of song, in the form of a Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds cover, Red Right Hand.

This nicely gives me the opportunity to add to my rant about the duty of a live touring band. Now touring is not essential for success, Kate Bush for example has famously only ever toured once, and that’s fair enough. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re a popular band and you’re gigging, you have a requirement to play the songs that made you famous. This was something that first got to me with Radiohead, when they omitted Paranoid Android & Creep amongst other accepted classics. Punters have paid good money to see their much beloved band play all their favourite tracks, and don’t care if you’re bored of the songs which were your hits; we paid good money! We don’t want to hear covers or B-sides! We want hits & classics!

The Arctic Monkeys played a great set. Some of the best moments came in the form of Brianstorm, I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor and View From The Afternoon. Guys,I understand your hesitation,I’m just as bored of those songs as you Monkeys are, I skip them when they come up on shuffle too! But you knew best to play them, because when you see a song live, it gives it a whole new angle, and you’re fans like you for those very songs, plus they paid money.

So that’s where they fell short, there was no Fake Tales of San Fransisco, or Mardy Bum, or Scummy Man, or Leave Before the Lights Come On. Come on lads.

Other than that oversight it was a great gig. Familiar tracks from the second two albums were appreciated and Still Take You Home was adored.

Music is a wonderful thing, I’d recommend it to anyone, so would Oliver Wendell Holmes as it happens;

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.

I haven’t had a water bath for a while though. What does that mean?