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Friday, May 27, 2016

Comic Cuts - 27 May 2016

Working for home on my own means that I'm a huge consumer of audio. Some people like absolute silence when they're working, and I usually start the day that way. I'm usually in front of the computer by 7.30 am at the latest, occasionally as early as 6.30. I have a morning walk that starts around 8.00 and I'm back in front of the computer from 8.30 until 11.00am, when I take a break.

As I usually tackle a lot of mail in the morning, I tend to keep things fairly quiet so I can concentrate; the bits of your brain that interpret lyrics are also the bits of your brain that you need for writing, so anything spoken word or with lyrics can distract or, as I've found in the past, go through one ear and out the other without making any impact. I once listened to a whole 90 minute Agatha Christie mystery drama and at the end of it I had no idea who had been murdered, let alone who the murderer was.

In the afternoon I'm often revamping press releases, sorting out artwork and putting together material for the Hotel Business website, which requires less intense concentration, so I'll play music or listen to podcasts. I've mentioned the latter relatively recently, so I'll limit myself to mentioning that the second part of the latest epic from The Secret History of Hollywood was released recently—part two of the history of Warner Bros and the gangster cycle of movies starring the likes of James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. The two episodes so far amount to about 10 1/2 hours of listening, and if you have any interest in old Hollywood, they're well worth it. Check out some of the other episodes about the Universal horror movies, Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes and the life of Alfred Hitchcock... they're all worth listening to.

Easier on the ears, even when I'm trying to concentrate, is music. I've always been a fan of rock at the harder end of the spectrum, but I've mellowed—or "mellotron'd"—over the years and my tastes for extended listening these days are towards the progressive end of rock. (That "mellotron'd" gag is for other prog fans!)

Two of my favourite bands have albums out today. I mentioned a couple of week's ago that I was ridiculously excited that Frost* have a new record coming out. At the time of writing, I'm still waiting for my pre-ordered copy to arrive.

What I forgot to mention was that Big Big Train also have a new album out. Their last, English Electric, was my favourite album from a couple of years ago. For Folklore they've expanded their cast of musicians to include a violin player and additional keyboards. The results are a delight. There's a very good review here, which notes some weaknesses in the album (it's not quite up to the sublime brilliance of The Underfall Yard or English Electric) and, as reviewer Brad Birzer puts it, "Folklore is not the easiest of BBT's releases to grasp, nor is it their best. Regardless, it is incredibly good."

This leaves me in something of a dilemma... to recommend you all rush out and buy Folklore or to say rush out and buy The Underfall Yard and English Electric and then come back to Folklore. I think the latter. It's a progression of the band's sound and you need to know where they came from before leaping in. The Underfall Yard was their sixth album, by which time they'd perfected the Big Big Train sound, but the first with vocalist David Longdon, so it's the perfect place to start – and if you have Spotify, it won't cost you to give the band a try.

If you're feeling adventurous, here's the video for the first track of the new album.

Random scans this week are another brief set of Pan covers by Carl Wilton. I did a bit about Wilton a few months ago and these are a handful of scans I missed posting at the time. They show how varied his work could look within the framework of Pan's favourite brief: "Can we have the big head of a woman. Yes, a woman.... Big. Oh, I dunno... maybe a third of the space under the title. Yes, that big."

More from Roger Perry next week plus whatever else I can squeeze in... have a lovely bank holiday on Monday.

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