Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Friday, March 25, 2011

You Wanna Piece Of That?

The only way I get to see the popular musical charts these days is keep one eye on the tunes they play in my gymnasium, which tends to be thumping, dizzying nonsense with lots of people ‘featuring’ people and rapping. That’s until 9.30am, when all the hardcore people have trotted off to their proper jobs, and then they play somewhat more sedate things for the likes of me who is more content to do a weight set and then pick at their nails for five minutes. Music similar to that in a supermarket when they start playing Duffy’s ‘Warwick Avenue’ to make you plod in time down the Haberdashery aisle in slow, dead-eyed steps and get beguiled by the overly-stimulating packaging of Jayes Fluid.

Anyway, in that golden post-9.30am gym playlist, a brand new Take That song came on. I was beguiled. It is called ‘Kidz’ and if you care to, you can watch it here. I advise you do, because I did the same and couldn’t quite get my hat on. Take That have gone steampunk! We have lisping homunculus Mark Owen giving us social commentary from underneath a cloak stolen from the Scottish Widow. Now I'm not a fan of Owen's reedy voice, certainly not when he's asking for us whether we 'wanna piece of that?!' where he's apparently inviting us to fight, and not offering us a section of Terry's Chocolate Orange. Later on in the album he sings an unfortunately visceral apology to his wife for his numerous affairs that have been made public in the last year. "And I," he sings, chewing the words as if they're made of packing sponge, "still wanna have sex with you." his sibilant 's' making 'sex' far more prominent than I'm comfortable with, and I'm really not comfortable with the idea of Mark Owen rutting at my leg like a horny spaniel.

I love trying to follow the plots of videos through a band's career. I did formulate my own storylines through the many promos of pop reality show Frankenstein's monster Liberty X (pronounced 'Liberty Kiss' to my mind) which would explain why one video they were stealing (and unfortunately dropping down a drain) a giant diamond one week, hanging around a luxury house in the Bahamas the next, before times becoming hard and finding themselves working in a factory under pop overlord Richard X making clones of themselves. There was a clear path in my head how one situation got from one to the next; Take That less so. We last saw the grinning five-some accepting down-on-his-luck Robbie Williams back into the group so they could enter a rowing competition and mournfully sing about the weather in a boat house (cf. 'Take That and The Flood') before rowing off to sea. They must have rowed all the way to their secret Thunderbird-style base, because they now inhabit a grimy space ship on the edge of the Earth's atmosphere where Robbie is happy to tinker with his BMX like he's 30 years younger than he actually is and Jason Orange can wear inconvenient steampunk spectacles while drinking cups of tea.

Oh lovely Jason Orange. He's always been one for me since I saw him cavorting topless on a beach during a formative moment of our childhood (cf 'Take That and the Pray'). He's so... Lithe! And I'm still holding out on the rumours fuelled by the fact he's the only one not wearing a ring on his finger. Well, a wedding one, if you catch my drift. If I fluttered my fan any harder, the Butterfly Effect means we'd probably cause a tornado in Texas. Yes, Jason was always my number one of the boys to accidentally meet at a premiere to something, where we'd hit it off over a bag of popcorn and a diet Sprite before he whisked me back to his glamorous London pied-a-terre (is that right? I do mean townhouse, not potato) where we make love on beautifully upholstered sofas. And as it's a fantasy sequence, I'm not fishing popcorn bits out my teeth or have to stop three times to empty my bladder of the bucket of Sprite.

But. Well. You see, I had this dream once. About his band mate Howard. A dirty, dirty dream. In real life, I tend to bumble through situations and events with barely any cares in the world and it takes something monumental to make me sit up and listen. And to my mind, there's nothing better than a dream to make my molasses-slow brain finally get the time to put all the pieces together and go 'hang on a minute...' It happened recently, waking one morning from a dream to discover I'd become smitten with a certain make of toaster (I shan't name names - I'm not completely about free advertising) and that I'd been popping my hand in and out of the gap between the pillows every three minutes until quite sore.

You see Howard is much more ‘Premiere Inn’ than ‘premiere, film’ (sorry, very tortured, but there you go). Honestly, it was a revelation! He took me this way and that in some ghastly hotel room. He was in his dredlocked stage as well, and I noticed that his hands that pawed at my 'Clarissa Explains It All' underwear had the most shockingly filthy fingernails. I've put this down to my semi-inexperienced youth and equating dirty hygiene to dirty sex. My therapist had a field day over that. We then proceeded to enjoy each other with such vim, vigour and finality that I remember coming away from the dream and going to check that my backside didn't actually look like a donkey's yawn after all. I haven't been able to look at Howard in the same light again. Thankfully, Take That broke up before my fixation became an obsession, but even to this day, each time a Take That video comes on, I get a misty look in my eye. And I was doing fine, thank you for asking, right up until this moment in the video:

That noise you just heard was the deafening clang of dropping knickers. Look at him! Look! What a man. You'd barely get away with your life in one piece, let alone your dignity. As I speak, I'm recalling the odd sensation of polyester sheets rubbing against my cheeks. The ten dollar, not the five dollar cheeks.

Anyway, back to the plot. Mark Owen is singing about authority and how it's all going to go out the space-window as soon as 'the kidz' come out, which I took to be a reference to the student riots that rampaged through London. Rampaged? Is that the right word? I didn't think the British rampaged at anything to be honest. We'll tut if someone pushes in front of us in a queue, but rampage? Just not us. Besides, that would be a complete volte-face for Gary Barlow, who revealed his support for the Conservative party by appearing at a school with then-Prime Minister candidate David Cameron hanging off his piano, one sequined dress away from Michelle Pfeiffer's role in 'The Fabulous Baker Boys'. He really does have an unpleasant face, that Cameron. My boyfriend says it looks like a freshly-wanked cock and I can kind of see his point.

So I think this is the moment where the 'kidz' come out - in this case the budget stretched to one teenager with a Polaroid camera. Clearly steampunk spectacles and tea cups are more expensive than I thought. Take That leave their space station for a bit of a jig, and the soldiers look on impassively. Now I'm not knocking jigs; I'm reliably informed that people used to turn up for the traditional trip around the stage at the end of the play just as much as they did for any of Shakespeare's works preceding it. It's just... All that effort and just for a bit if a dance? It does remind me of the mid nineties where I'd spend the afternoon getting ready just to go on the dance-floor for the Spice Girls' 'Who Do You Think You Are', the only song I knew how to dance to. But I wasn't arriving in a space station. Usually a clapped out Vauxhall Cavalier driven by a taxi driver who always tried to get a little fresh when you said you were going to Streetlife, the only gay club in Leicester.

But then, as Robbie Williams jumps on his BMX and rolls back and forth with all the charm and intent of a bored teenager in front of the local Spar, you realise that Take That are meant to be The Kidz. Good lord. Does the 'z' at the end now imply middle age? Gary Barlow's saddlebag cheeks are thrown wide in a bygone approximation of a cheeky chappy grin that doesn't quite meet his buried eyes. And this - this! - is why a band like this should never do anything as dismally serious as this, because we remember them cavorting on the beach, or having jelly thrown at their arseholes (cf. 'Take That and the Do What You Like'). Can you imagine them causing the trouble that Mark Owen promised in the first verse? Can you bogroll. Wisely, they just get back in their spaceship and go back into space. The kidz came out and the revolution never happened. Fancy.

Frankly, I went back to picking my nails and wondering if that man behind me in the gym had a job.

Monday, January 24, 2011


New Year's Eve. Someone gleefully pointed out that you don't get a blindingly shiny new year after midnight. You don't get the promise of a exponential list of possibilities. What do you get? You get January.

I was sober for New Year's Eve due to complications of having my wisdom teeth out and fallen foul of a 'dry socket', which is where the hole where the teeth once were doesn't scab properly and you get an infection. You also get a group of whimsical gay friends completely without sympathy when you mention you have 'dry socket' because there's lots of braying and "...I'm not surprised at your age, dear..!" leaving you with little more than a wry smile and a glass of water to swill whatever crisps are left in what feels like chasms where your teeth used to be. I find New Year's Eve to be a miserable affair anyway, with a forced Butlins-style jollity forcing everyone to stay up to 2am to fire weak party poppers off a balcony somewhere. Celebrating that you're now into the dank joys of January, where you're going to be inundated with interminable Facebook status updates of how many days people haven't drunk a drop of alcohol, how people's diets are going, and how hideous the Sales were. Although those Runkeeper things on various smartphones are an utter joy, updating us all to how far around the park people have wheezed on the 2nd of January before the updates slowly disappearing til next year. I love those things. Highly detailed monuments to human failings, chittered off with technological indifference and accuracy, and only just stopping short of how many times you stopped to lean up a wall and clutch at your chest before limping back via the newsagent for a Mars Bar.

I take against January because its meant to be a time of change, and it never is. And it certainly isn't going to help eating my body weight in yoghurt, Martine McCutcheon. And I have to do my taxes because I'm self-employed graphic designer and I will now be spending four weeks flopping dramatically around my office with my back of my hand against my forehead, wailing "Why me? Why do I have to find the reciept for those pencils?" The whole thing is an up-hill struggle for me as I now only use one side of my brain and the side for numbers has atrophied like Samantha Mumba's career. It is not helped by my accountant, who steps up the somewhat tart-in-tone letters to almost daily during this month. They tend to start 'As per the letter we sent you dated August 23rd...' with a following request for how much I have spent on blank DVDs, cinema tickets and drinks for 'entertaining' 'clients' for my tax bill. These letters are fine in September, but as you're actually in another year now, it's just a little embarrassing. Add to that the appearance of pre-dame Moira Stewart, the lovely trustworthy newsreader on banners and billboards around the city, telling me that I really should do this by the 31st or I'll be fined. The only way to calmly do this is to imagine the lovely Moira is sitting behind me, coaxing me on. Her honied voice telling me that I'm doing really really well, and as soon as I do this, my reward will be the entire presenting team of Blue Peter will enchant me into a dark closet where they will proceed to lightly lick my forehead. But they never come. They never come. All that happens is I send them off and my accountant will stop the letters. And you can stop looking at me in a sassy, accusatory manner from your billboard perch, Moira Stewart.

Worse, this January atmosphere of semi-revolution is infectious. I promise myself that I'll do it earlier next year, that I won't cause the fuss and the drama. That I won't make fun of people's statuses or sudden can-do attitude that will last for a fortnight. And yet, if I look back over this blog I reckon that this proclamation will be there every year. And that's human nature. And that's January.