Merry Christmas

23 Essays I Could Theoretically Write About Ketchup

1. Ketchup and childhood: Comfort foods and their Proustian links to growing up.

2.”So the big tomato squashed the baby one and shouted…” : Ketchup jokes and their relationship to society.

3. Ketchup with everything: The eating habits of those who require sauce on all things.

4. Ketchup and Class: What ketchup and its consummation say about status.

5. Ketchup or Catsup? : The etymology of why Americans have two words for this condiment.

6. Ketchup or Catsup? : What the knowledge of Britons about Americans two words for ketchup says about Anglo-American relations.”

7.”I don’t like tomatoes”: People who won’t eat tomatoes and love ketchup – a study on insanity.

8.”Do you want red sauce with that?” – Is takeaway sauce strictly ketchup?

9. Ketchupophaelia: A study of those sexually attracted to ketchup.

10.”That’s not blood, it’s just ketchup” – Common place items used to placate children.

11. Ketchup as signifier: Ketchup in film and its use to set scene.

12. Ketchup branding: How the brand changes the way we taste.

13. Ketchup on Roadkill: Ketchup, the great palletiser.

14. The ergonomics of the ketchup bottle: How ketchup bottle design shows changes in British design throughout the twentieth century.

15. Ketchup, Salsa and Pickle: The tricontinent development of tomato based condiments.

16. A bath of ketchup: Ketchup and charity stunts.

17. Heinz, HP or Daddy’s: which feels best in your pants?

18. The Ketchup Pit! : Use of condiments in obstacles in 1990’s kids’ TV shows.

19.”I prefer mayonnaise”: Choice of condiment as self-aggrandisement.

20. When is ketchup not ketchup? : Can you make recognisable ketchup by removing base ingredients?

21. The perfect ketchup: Scientific dreams of a madman.

22. Ketchup as anarchist activity: The use of condiments in protest movements from 1960 onwards.

23. Why is ketchup the only foodstuff I don’t like? : Shoulder shrugging with John Perry.

John, Dec 11

Band Connections

The Wednesday Club doesn’t exist in a band vacuum, oh no. We have lots and lots of bands we love in our local area and some of these we’ve been in. Or been in a band with someone who’s in that band. Or been in band with someone who’s been in a band with someone who’s been in that band…With this in mind, and to stave off my upcoming breakdown, I’ve made a map of all these (which is nowhere near al- inclusive…). Enjoy!

Who dey?

The Acutes – two piece Davecore band

All My Friends Are Dead – Now defunct post rock band

Anderson Congress – Now defunct psychogaze band

Bear Driver – melodic dream pop

Biscuit Head and The Biscuit Badgers – many instrumented funny band

The Blanche Hudson Weekend – a more restrained Manhattans

Boy Racer – indiepop band from der 90s

Broken Chairs – on hiatus spazzcore band

Crayon – Now defunct up tempo 3 piece Glaciers

The Contortionist – rigid beautiful indiepop – see also Japanese Sleepers

Downdime – Leeds’ premier indiepop band

Folk Theatre Partisans – Now defunct folk supergroup formed of David Broad, Fran Rodgers, Mike Rossiter and Ben Weatherhill

Fonda 500 – Hull indie electro legends

Glaciers – yearning downtempocore ish

The Half Hour Skiffle Hour – On hiatus skiffle

Hawk Eyes – Capital M metal band, formerly Chicken Hawk, fairly successful

HOTMIM (Heroes of The Mexican Independence Movement) – 3 piece indiepop with a side line in hilarious banter

Hookworms – noisy melodic stuff

The Hospital Bombers – Now defunct all new Leo Trout

Ian Williams – broken/delicate alt country

Leo Trout – Mine and Adam’s first band, sloppy indiepop

Manhattan Love Suicides – Now defunct Jesus and Mary Chain influenced indiepop, fairly successful

The Medusa Snare – Millercore

Nir Death Experience – Lemonheadsy wonderfulness

Nir (Vana) – folk/electro rap project

Olfar – mid rocking alt country

Pulled Apart By Horses – Capital R rock band, fairly successful

The Rocky Nest – Now defunct brass heavy Indietracks fave

Samsa – Now defunct rock 3  piece

Sky Larkin – noisy guitar three piece, fairly successful

The Stay At Homes – 2 piece blues-pop

The Seven Inches – Leeds legends, once and future kings

T.O.Y.S – 3 piece power kraut

Ten – Avante-laptop post rock

Vest For Tysso – On hiatus indie folk

Wallaby Willington – now defunct avante-folk band

The Wednesday Club – pretentious talent wasters

Wonderswan – awesome lofi slackpop

John, Dec 11

13 Simpsons Scenarios Since Season 10 James Lavender Won’t Like

James Lavender and myself often argue about the relative merits (or lack of) of The Simpsons since its (approximate) Season 1 -10 heyday. He thinks it stinks since 1998; I don’t. So I thought I’d show him what’s what.

Then I decided I might as well just prop up his point by going for the stupidest Simpsons episode ideas since Season 10.

*I include the episode production number as Lav’ is a nerd who likes them

Season 11 Bart is put on ADD medication. “Brother’s Little Helper” AABF22

Season 12 Homer becomes really smart after having a crayon removed from his brain. “HOMR” BABF22

Season 13 Lisa lies about her age and becomes a college student.  “Little Girl in the Big Ten” DABF15

Season 14 Marge becomes a bodybuilder. “Strong Arms of the Ma” EABF04

Season 15 Homer pretends to be a robot to win Bart’s respect.  “I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot” FABF04

Season 16 Homer becomes an ordained minister in order  to marry gay couples. “There’s something about marrying” GABF04

Season 17 Bart is kidnapped by an ape, who takes him as her son. “Bart Has Two Mommies” HABF07

Season 18 Bart becomes a jazz drummer. “Jazzy and The Pussy Cats”  HABF18

Season 19   Homer becomes a successful  opera singer. “Homer of Seville” JABF18

Season 20   Bart has a double; “Prince and the Pauper”  style hijinks ensue. “Double, Double, Boy in Trouble” KABF14

Season 21  Homer wins the lottery and has to pretend he hasn’t for some reason. “Million Dollar Maybe” MABFO3

Season 22  Homer and Principal Skinner form new comedy duos with Cheech and Chong,  respectively. “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream” NABF09

Season 23  Bart and Homer write a fantasy novel with some other Simpsons characters, for some reason. “The Book Job” NABF22

John, December 11

Soapy Dave Acute

Dave Acute/T.O.Y.S is pictured here getting nice and clean in Adam’s old house. Dave has been featured talking/singing on “Soap” and “Katapult” and is ambivalent towards The ‘Club.

Prince’s Princely Moments

Max Broady lists his favourite Prince albums, offering you a beginner’s guide to the purple one’s purple patch.

In his Purple Reign


Although it doesn’t seem to attract as much kudos as some of his records, 1999 was the most overblown expression of all Prince’s eccentricities, and is accordingly my favourite Prince album. He frontloads the album with the big singles (‘1999’, ‘Little Red Corvette’, ‘Delirious’ – all exceptional), but it’s only once he’s got these out of the way that we get to the heart of the album and things get deliciously odd. He follows the three hits with three epic songs, each over seven minutes long, that are individually astonishing and collectively ridiculous. ‘Let’s Pretend We’re Married’ interrupts its pulsing kraut-ish groove only for Prince to deliver a foul-mouthed monologue and then closes with a semi-rap telling us how he loves a) God, and b) partying, in that order; ‘D.M.S.R’ is a party jam that sounds like the music from Sonic the Hedgehog; and strangest of all is the ten-minute ‘Automatic’, a litany of sexual boasts that descends into a maelstrom of multi-tracked moaning women whilst Prince shreds away on his guitar. What else? If you still need convincing there’s ‘Free’, a cloyingly earnest ballad about, er, how lucky we are to be free; and ‘Lady Cab Driver’, a great falsetto funk number with a raunchy rant about sex, tourists and consumerism. I guess if you don’t love Prince this all might be a bit much; 1999 is by far his most over-the-top album. But you’ve got to admire such unbridled ambition and such wilful disregard for coherence, convention or even the average listener’s attention span, especially by such a popular artist. If you can embrace the oddity 1999 is certainly worth it.


Sign o’ the Times

It might seem daunting – especially given Prince’s fondness for excess – but for a double album it’s actually pretty tight. And it was originally slated to be a triple album called Crystal Ball until his record label finally learned to say ‘no’. He was so prolific over this period that he had a number of projects on the go that never saw the light of day, including an album of songs by his female alter-ego Camille (pre-empting Kevin Barnes by over 20 years). Sign o’ the Times was a synthesis of these various projects. It lacks the poppy polish of Purple Rain, but it feels more intimate and personal than just about anything else he’s done. There aren’t many famous songs, but it’s a really solid and varied collection all pulled off with consummate ease. It works a bit like a ‘best of’, showcasing the all-encompassing range of his talents. The title track is probably his most successful ‘message’ song; ‘Play in the Sunshine’ is a breezy ready-for-the-stage pop romp; ‘Housequake’ a James Brown-esque one-chord jam… and that’s just the first three songs – I could go on. Props in particular must go to ‘The Ballad of Dorothy Parker’ which invents the sound of TLC, and the ethereal ‘If I was your Girlfriend’, which was in fact covered by TLC (and was the only vestige of the Camille project on the album). You’re also treated to two of his most enjoyable pop songs: ‘Strange Relationship’ and ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’. It took a bit of time to grow on me, but it’s an incredible example of his prowess.

Ballad Of Dorothy Parker

Parade: Music from the Motion Picture ‘Under the Cherry Moon’

Not his most feted album, and lacks that certain something which would propel it to being truly great, but it’s solid all the way through and benefits from a nice, warm production (following the ghostly Around the World In a Day). It doesn’t start that strongly but has a great run of songs at the end, from ‘Kiss’ (deny its brilliance at your peril) to ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’, which is hands-down my favourite Prince ballad. Plus it has ‘Mountains’, a lovely gospel-ish pop banger, and ‘Girls and Boys’, which is silly bilingual fun. For good measure it also has ‘Venus de Milo’, a slightly pointless but inoffensive instrumental, and ‘Do You Lie?’, which I thought was awful on first listen but is actually really quite passable. NB: apparently the film is rubbish. I’d rate this record only very slightly above…

Sometimes The Snow Falls In April

Dirty Mind

This is a lean batch of songs clocking in at less than half an hour, which is in marked contrast to the excess of some of his later records. It’s way too economical to be home to any of the weirdness that arrived with his next record, Controversy. Even its song titles are literal and blunt (‘Sister’, ‘Head’). The playing is slick, tight and irresistibly funky. It features the surprisingly touching ‘When You Were Mine’ and ‘Gotta Broken Heart Again’, and the peerless dancefloor-fillers ‘Uptown’ and ‘Party Up’. But I think special mention has to go to ‘Sister’, a sub-two-minute rocker extolling the virtues of incest, and ‘Head’, where the outré subject matter is echoed perfectly by the slobbering synths. Not a weak song and not a second wasted.

Purple Rain

This one’s a bit over-rated, I think, but then I’m not a massive fan of ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ or ‘I would Die 4 U’, or even ‘Purple Rain’ for that matter. And when there’s only 9 songs on the whole album that leaves… what? an okay ballad (‘The Beautiful Ones’), a bit of filler (‘Baby I’m A Star’)… oh, and his best ever song, ‘When Doves Cry’, in a nicely extended version. From the cocky-as-hell guitar intro to the simple three-note riff (which always reminds me of the melody to “three blind mice, see how they run…”), the notoriously bass-less mega-hit shouldn’t work on paper but is Prince’s crowning achievement. To give Purple Rain its dues you also get the fantastic ‘Take Me With You’, ‘Darling Nikki’, which I’ve always had a soft spot for, and ‘Computer Blue’, which is not much of a tune and is just about the most ‘80s-sounding song ever recorded, but it does have some cool guitar and the charming spoken intro (“Wendy?” “Yes, Lisa?” “Is the water warm enough?” “Yes, Lisa”).


After the straight-ahead Dirty Mind, Controversy took a step into the off-the-wall territory that would go overboard on 1999. Crucially, it introduced an artistic mainstay of Prince’s peak period: the spoken word section (a motif also popular with the Wednesday Club). The title track delivers perhaps the first genuine WTF moment of his career. After five minutes of squelchy synth funk the music dies down and Prince slowly intones in a deep, distorted voice the Lord’s Prayer. In full. Seriously. And, if that wasn’t enough, the song kicks back in and he begins to chant: “People call me rude, I wish we all were nude, I wish there were no black or white, I wish there were no rules”. The next song, ‘Sexuality’, is perhaps even more unfathomable. After the second chorus of “sexuality, let your body be free” you think you’ve got the song pinned down. But then Prince launches into a lengthy and completely incongruous rant against tourists (again! What’s his problem with tourists? They’re “a bunch of double drags who teach their kids that love is bad”, apparently) and television (which teaches children “to cuss, fight and breed”). Um, thanks Prince. Mercifully we’re back on familiar ground with the next song, ‘Do Me Baby’ – “ooh, give it to me”, he croons soulfully. Controversy is a slightly awkward transitional album, but is unfairly maligned and has some unmitigated triumphs – particularly ‘Private Joy’, typical perfect pop, and ‘Jack U Off’, which is pretty much the same as ‘Delirious’ from 1999.

Around The World In A Day

This is supposed to be his psychedelic album, but it just sounds hollow and really cold (if anything, I’d say Parade is his psychedelic album). Also, the songs aren’t really up to standard, though ‘Paisley Park’ and ‘Pop Life’ are pretty good. ‘Condition of the Heart’ is a quite nice ballad, I suppose, though it does go on a bit. But then it does have ‘Raspberry Beret’, which is probably my second favourite Prince song and about the most infectiously enjoyable song one can imagine. But this towers above the rest of the album, and is outweighed by the hugely overwrought plodder ‘The Ladder’. I tried really hard to like this one but it doesn’t quite work.

And finally…

You’re thinking that’s probably as much as you need, but if you’re  interested enough to have read this far then you DEFINITELY also need to get down with the B-Sides album – it’s actually the 3rd CD of a 3-CD compilation album he did called simply Hits (a fair enough title). If I could take just one Prince disc to my desert island it’d be this. It’s amazing to think that he could relegate material this strong to the flipside: ‘Erotic City’, ‘She’s Always In My Hair’, ‘17 Days’ – probably all 3 would be in my top 10 Prince songs – and the latter is the B-Side to ‘When Doves Cry’, making it one of the strongest A/B singles ever. And there’s a song called ‘Horny Toad’ – what’s not to love?

Max, December 11


A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece on how every artist puts out work that isn’t “good-or-better” at some point during their life. Originally I was going to do a list of people who bucked the trend. Haruki Murakami was one of them. Alas no longer.

At this moment I can empathise with The AV Club when they published this,16591/ on Harvey Pekar, explaining why they couldn’t do an official review of Harvey Pekar’s The Quitter. They loved Pekar and really, really didn’t want to put the knife in, but this work wasn’t up to scratch.

Actually alright - just not his best

(As an aside I also love Pekar and understand their position. He ‘s one of the finest-writers-to-have-ever-lived but definitely a cult proposition and wasn’t a rich man. To give him a kicking just wouldn’t have been right. Fortunately he got back on track after a couple of years of post-main-job-retirement mediocrity.)

So here I am, similarly, going to say Murakami’s  latest, IQ84, just isn’t up to scratch. I wish it was. And I’m going to say yes, I did enjoy it, and yes I did read all 1000+ pages of it, so it can’t be all that bad, right? well…

To start again, let me mention the AV Club again , and also the word “again” again. I was 3/4 of the way through IQ84 when I read this article,64876/ . And I found myself agreeing with it a lot – at one point I considered doing a “review” of the review but decided that would be too “meta” and, well, wanky even for me.

What I will say, after reading a few other reviews of IQ84 and interviews with Murakami, I was so pleased to see that one finally pointed out the clunkiness and, to be honest, downright shoddiness of lines such as “when it comes to being gay, I’m in the big leagues.”  What the AV Club’s article fails to point out that the blame may not lie in Murakami himself but in a time-pressured translator – tIQ84 was translated by two people in order to cut down the time taken in translation.

The Av Club does point out nicely that a lot of what Murakami does in this book he’s done before and better. You can see elements of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka On The Shore in here, for sure. In fact it got to the point where I began to think of it as Murakami by numbers. Choose 4 or 5 elements – little people, an assassin, domestic violence and cults- and write a Murakami novel around it. The other elements fill themselves in: a couple kept apart, a everyman writer-protagonist, lots of meals, a sense of inevitability, half explained supernatural events, some classical music and some pop music. Yup, they’re all here.

Although Janacek’s Sinfonietta is pretty awesome.

IQ84 compelling enough but there is soooo much repetition. Every couple of pages someone makes a “simple meal” . Events and phrases are repeated ad adsurdum. I assume this is a stylistic choice but does not make for an interesting read over hundreds of pages. Then there’s the issue of the length. I  genuinely believe that Murakami let this book take him where it will take him. Unfortunately this means there’s half as many ideas as in other books he’s written and twice as many loose ends picked up and never explained. He’s done this before, notably in his masterpiece The Wind Up Bird Chronicles. But the important difference there was it felt as if everything was intentionally up in the air, mysterious and confusing. For all the supernatural thingys in IQ84, there is no real sense of mystery in IQ84 here, just another world with different rules, as mundane as our own.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle: Better

From an early interview about the book it just feels like there are so many missed opportunites. Murakami spoke of writing about Manichea, Japanese occupied China circa 1930s, an interesting subject but one that is skimmed over here. He writes about cults but from such a distance as to shed no light on the subject. He said he was going to be writing about little people. I had visions of an extended  version of his “The Elephant Vanishes” – one of the finest short stories ever written (IMHO) – but nothing of the sort.

But as I said before I read, almost devoured this book. Why? Well, I think no matter what he’s writing about Murakami is readable, very readable. I just miss the early days when he was special too.

Amyas and Louise

After recording several hits back in the 60’s, Amyas and Louise fell on hard times and were reduced to providing backing vocals on Katpult. Later on, he became a senator, she won an oscar, the rest, as, they say, is, history,

Three Obsessions

I have OCD. Doctor says so.  It doesn’t manifest itself in a “must turn lights off 15 times” kind-of-way. Nope, I just get words, phrases or certain scenes stuck in my head. And I think about them over and over again.

It’s not like I consider every aspect of these things, plumbing them for all the hidden meaning and depths, oh no. That would be  almost sensible.I just think about them, repeat them and they go round and round my head like a screen saver (flying toasters anyone?). Einstein spent his spare time mulling over the speed of light and relativity, Bob Dylan runs over old songs in his head until a new one forms, zen masters consider koans. Me?  I  think about these three things (amongst others):

The Cosby Show – We’re Still Soup

From 4 minutes on.

This. This. This – I think about it every time I have soup. And also times when I’m not having soup. Theo Huxtable, Bill Cosby’s on show son, is at a corporate meeting and he tells the people that make soup that their slogan “We’re not just soup” is terrible as people love soup, it’s “hearty and honest”, they should stick to their core business and have the motto “We’re still soup” instead. That’s it.

Have I seen the episode a lot of times? Nope. Am I a big Cosby Show* fan? Nope – this is the only episode I even remember watching. So what is it about Theo Huxtable’s speech about “We’re not just soup” that sticks with me. I have no idea. It’s not really deep or profound. It tells me nothing much apart from what the show’s (and presumably Bill Cosby’s) world view is.

If I had to make a slight guess, I may have been impressed by the “honesty” and insight of the character when I was 7. And that was enough. Enough to make me think about it weekly for the past 20 years.

*isn’t it strange that it’s called the Cosby show even though Bill Cosby is called Dr Huxtable in it?

Tom Jones – If I Only Knew

Again another thing that goes through my head far to often. Obsession with Tom Jones? Nup. Love of the song? No siree, Bob.  Now for this one, I can almost put a finger on why this song comes into my head so often…

This was Tom’s modern comeback record, making number 11 in the charts. I remember being slightly intrigued by Tom Jones before by an advert for British Gas (maybe?) where a wife tells a husband not to worry and put his feet up and listen to Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual, I think it was.

“Who is Tom Jones?” My young mind wondered. And here he was. Back. Back. Back!

Then the song disappeared (but stayed in my head).

And then he did the Reloaded album that was massive and was really his “comeback” album and it had the Talking Heads cover on it with Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics. I some times think about that too. But it mainly supports/has supported my thinking about this song.

Madness – Lovestruck

Maybe it’s a comeback thing? This was Madness’s comeback single in 1999. Definitely (defiantly?) Not Their Best Song. I think that was important for it sticking in my head. Not as an earworm but more as a concept. The lyric “I’ve fallen for a lampost” gave me something to make me think about it – yes, whenever I consider (e.g. look at) a lamppost I’ll start thinking of this song. And the final thing? The terrible pun of “Love’s Truck” that appears in the video.

This was all it took for me to think of this often.

Until I put this on now I’d only ever heard it once. It’s kind of Beatlesy.

John, November 11