You think it's King Lear

There once was a time, a darker time, let’s call it the late 1990s, when I was a big, big fan of the band Manic Street Preachers. I’ve mentioned that before, no big whoop. I didn’t do the whole eyeliner-and-tiara thing that many MSP fans used to go for – and, I presume, still do – but there do exist photos of me in a feather boa. On the scale of obsessive Manics fans, I was pretty tame, although I did go to a fan convention in Cardiff once, which was a lot of fun. For me, being a fan of the band was more of a social thing: it provided a group of friends who loved the same songs and went to the same gigs.

One time, my friend Tom and I bought a bootleg tape from Camden Market of the Manics’ headline slot at V99. At this gig, the band debuted their forthcoming single ‘The Masses Against the Classes’, and so Tom and I sat for a couple of hours, trying to transcribe lyrics from the terrible quality recording that we’d just dropped a fiver on. We thought one of the lines was “Attack me wearing Tommy Girl”, which it obviously wasn’t. The reason we were trying to figure out all the words was simple: we were members of the newsgroup, and nobody had yet posted them. There was a real sense of pride when we posted our take on the lyrics, plus an mp3 file, encoded at a dial-up friendly 32Kbs, of the song. Man, we felt pretty cool when the praise and admiration started pouring in from people we didn’t know.

The reason I bring up this episode is because I just finished reading an advance copy of the new Nick Hornby novel Juliet, Naked, and there’s a very similar situation in there. One of the main characters is an obsessive fan of an obscure American singer and longs to be envied in the eyes of fellow fans, people who he’ll never meet, who share his passion for a musician that most people have never heard of. There are three main players in Juliet, Naked, and they all have very distinct personalities and motivations, but I found Duncan, the music fan, to be the most interesting. He’s pretty much dedicated his life to being an “authority” – whatever that means – on the life and work of singer-songwriter Tucker Crowe. He’s dismissive of anyone else’s opinions, be they about Tucker or anything else.

The book begins in a toilet. In Minneapolis. Duncan has dragged his long-suffering girlfriend Annie on a pilgrimage across the States, going to various places of interest to Tucker Crowe fans, all six of them. And this toilet is supposedly where the singer made the decision to disappear from the public eye. That ought to explain to you the levels of Duncan’s devotion, and also why Annie might be a little sick of it.

Tucker Crowe, meanwhile, is portrayed as a quiet parent of five, from four different mothers, who is trying to settle down with his young son, having made a lifetime of mistakes. He takes his kid to little league games and doesn’t think about his earlier glories and transgressions. The book charts the relationships between the three, and I found it very good. I don’t know when Hornby became really uncool – was it the Songbook? – but this is a solid piece of work. There are some parts that call for serious soul-searching from Tucker, where he has to reconcile with his many estranged ex-wives and even more estranged children, which I found rather unsatisfying and hollow, but those aside, it was fun to read. Hornby makes good use of Wikipedia postings and message board posts to convey the joys of being an internet fan of a musician. There's even a troll who loves Morrissey!

Best part of the book? There’s a couple of guys who are really into Northern Soul! Shout outs to Major Lance and Dobie Grey! I'm a big Northern Soul fan.

I’m a dork.

One of the plot points in the book involves the rival reviews of an album from Duncan and Annie, so why not read a review of Juliet, Naked by Lauren over at HalfDesertedStreets?

Can't wait to come home from school because it's a drag

Well, I'm back, everyone! The Bar Exam has been taken and - hopefully - vanquished, and now I'm back home, searching for jobs, swimming in pools, rediscovering reading for enjoyment and generally being quite cool. Here are a few bits and bobs to warm you up for what I hope will be more regular posts in here from now.

- I was in severe danger of failing my exam because of PFT and Kid Jersey's discussion about the Gathering of the Juggalos. It's been a long time since I've laughed this hard. Listen to it here - it's the fresh-ass-est comedy you'll hear today.
- After the first day of my two day exam, I returned to my hotel in Tampa, feeling a little deflated, turned the telly on, and was greeted with Southland Tales on Starz. A film that I rather like despite everything. It is just insane, and I appreciate that. Once I played it for my (now-former) housemates, and one of them got up and left within six minutes.
- Saw 'In the Loop' - it's very very funny. Maybe I'll write more about it another time. Weird to see all those people from 'The Thick of It' as different characters, except for Jamie and Malcolm.
- Charlie Brooker's newest column contains the phrase "Nic Cage: My Life as John Lennon the Cow", which is very funny, but his TV show 'You Have Been Watching' is surprisingly not very funny. I blame the involvement of other people.
- Friend-of-a-friend Ross appears in this music video as Edward Cullen. It needs to be seen to be believed. The band is so earnest! None of the deliriously silly fun of Harry and the Potters.
- These STFU facebook sites are pretty funny. Some more than others.
- We got rid of Adebayor and Kolo. We'll miss one of them.
- There was a great series that just finished on UK television called Inside Nature's Giants, which enabled me to say "That woman is knee-deep in whale" for the first time and hopefully the last time. Look it up on youtube, it's amazing.
- Got rid of a bunch of old CDs through - turns out, someone wants my neglected Blue States albums.
- Congratulations to Slipknot for winning big last night.
- Guerrilla is ten years old! I still remember when Nico bought an advance copy, and we all listened to it while studying for our GCSEs. Here's my copy signed by the artist Pete Fowler. What a great, summery album.
- Last week some relatives came over, and one of my nephews asked "How OLD is this?" in reference to my Game Boy. When I told him it was from 1992, he said, and I quote, "Wow, that's three years before I was born". I felt old.

[download Super Furry Animals - The Teacher]

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