Unfortunately, I’ve had little time for the pleasures of literary noodling and digging up tuneful relics over the last few weeks, as I’ve been gadding about Europe eating waffles, drinking brown beer and taking part in less amusing activities such as work. Now I’m back in the red dot to a number of dead pot plants, a fused light fitting, a broken television and a heaped tablespoon full of brain numbing jetlag. So what better way to slip back into routine than to stroke the proverbial wizard’s beard of musical enlightenment and sift through the matted hairs with my gnarled travellers’ fingers for nuggets of sonic nourishment left from previous bouts of comfort eating.
Amongst other things, Singapore is the land of abbreviations. The names of places are shortened (MBFC & MBS in the CBD) The names of the government organisations are shortened, to maybe disguise their somewhat disturbingly Orwellian sounding full names (MOM, MOH, MINDEF). The names of major roads have been shortened to such an extent that the traffic report sounds like someone choking on a throat-full of Alphabetti Spaghetti…
To top that, I work in the technology industry, which has abbreviated itself into nonsensical corner. There are now no more abbreviations left to be used, so we just re-use old ones ad-infinitum requiring us to provide contextual guidelines each time we speak for the listener, lest they may think we are talking through our collective hats. Which of course is more often the case than not. Occasionally I slip a made-up acronym into a sentence and watch as my audience nods with overt apathy, mostly unaware or simply uncaring, hoping I either I will stop or their heart will.
So, the next time you are in SG driving down the CTE in your TVR to the CBD to eat YTF with your BFF in MBFC… Maybe, you should be listening to one of these abbreviated tunes… probably on MP3 from your USB… ok I’ll stop now.
First pigeon out of the basket, with a scrabble score of 6 is P.C.P by the Manic Street Preachers. Back in 1994 the Manics were a different kind of animal. Younger and hungrier I’m guessing, probably Welsher. But also complete as a set of four, prior to the disappearance of lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards in early ’95. The internet would have you know that the Manics were concerned about sounding too American in those early days and in the run up to recording the excellent album The Holy Bible, they subsisted on British punk rock, new wave and probably a fair amount of cheese on toast before they disappeared into a shed in wales with a 4-track recorder. (some of that last part might not be true) P.C.P. is the last track on the album. Considering this is the finale you can appreciate how a full listen of the record end to end leaves you fairly emotionally drained! Cracking stuff.
For this next I’m going with a band abbreviation. R.E.M. or Rapid Eye Movement or possibly Rampant Elephant Mating. Many people’s relationship with the music of R.E.M was born and died during the 4.28 minutes of Losing my Religion. That’s a shame, because whilst there is much they probably shouldn’t have bothered releasing over the years there is a phenomenal amount of under appreciated wealth in their back catalogue. I’ve dug out Circus Envy from their album Monster, released same year as The Holy Bible. This was the first album I bought on CD. Round and round it went for days and weeks until I could afford a brother for it and some respite for my family. Dark, dirty guitars. The whole album sounded different to anything they had done before or since. I love it.
Another band abbreviation here. M.I.A. Yeah right, that made you sit up. Odd choice for me but this is a bit of guilty secret. I sometimes used this tune as a pick-me-up on the last leg of my London commute. As I emerged from Bank station weaving through the suits on the way past the Exchange up Gracechurch street and right down Leadenhall, I would plug in and crank this up very loud. On a grey morning when the rain is a little bit sideways and the city architecture is looming rather than inspiring, Paper Planes is the perfect solution. What about M.I.A.? who cares frankly.
Finally, I’m going to bring you down a little, hopefully just your heart rate and not your mental state. F.E.A.R. is from the 2001 album Music of Spheres by the king monkey man himself Mr Ian Brown. After the Stone Roses there was nothing, a deep void. And then John Squire’s uncomfortable re-imagining in the form of the Seahorses, which thankfully passed quietly into oblivion. When Ian Brown came back to life with his solo career it felt like part of the Stone Roses were back in the room again and we were all grateful. Whilst hugely polished and potentially massively over produced, this is still Mr Brown at full strength.
I’m going to include the video of F.E.A.R with the man himself cycling ‘backwards’ through Soho, because… well, it is some way cooler that dodging up the City on foot listening to M.I.A.