Friday, April 30, 2010

Concert Review: Mark Lanegan - Academy 2, Dublin, April 29th

Was lucky enough to get to see Mark Lanegan in the tiny environs of Academy 2 in Dublin. The venue is small and intimate, and the best thing about the venue is that the sound is excellent. Nevertheless I wasn't sure what to expect. Lanegan has no album to promote, so is this tour just a money-making exercise between recording commitments? The man clearly has no hobbies beyond music, as he appears to have been constantly recording or touring for the last 6 or 7 years!

The venue was full in anticipation of his first solo gig in Ireland for nearly 7 years. Support act Joe Echo was pleasant enough, a Northern Irish balladeer, with some good tunes and a cheery demeanour, though his voice is pretty average.
So on to the main act. Lanegan shuffled onto the stage, walking through the crowds with guitarist Dave Rosser in tow. He played a fair selection from most of his solo albums, while also touching on his collaborations with Soulsavers and Queens of the Stone Age, and also reached back to his Screaming Trees days.
The crowd was mostly pretty respectful, barring a few people chattering at the back. Lanegan himself was in pretty good voice for the most part, at least in his most comfortable range, though he struggled a little with the higher notes. He was his usual gruff self, with little between song banter, just allowing the songs themselves to do the talking.
Some of the songs were transformed in this format, in particular Little Willie John which mutated from bellowing blues on Bubblegum to a kind of muted glory here. It worked really well. Other highlights included obscure B-side Mirrored and Message to Mine. As for his Screaming Trees stuff, Where the Twain Shall Meet struggled a little with the acoustic setting but Traveller got a great reaction.
The funny thing with Lanegan which sets him apart from most artists who've been around as long as he has is that for most artists, the crowd are baying for old favourites. Not so for Mark Lanegan. If anything, the newer Field Songs / Bubblegum material got the best reaction, while older songs such as River Rise and Wild Flowers were received with polite indifference.
Just a word on Dave Rosser, he provided slightly strange sounding backing vocals to some of the tracks but was pretty much overshadowed by Lanegan, whose ability to reconnect with his older material showed a degree of vulnerability not seen since his late 90s days. A minor gripe was no new material, but he breathed new life into some of his back catalogue here, showcasing raw emotion in the likes of One Way Street and Resurrection Song.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Album Review: The Cult – Love

The guiltiest of pleasures. This was the Cult in their most “goth” phase. Though not as much out-and-out “fun” as Electric, this album did provide a much needed breath of fresh air in 1985 as this indie band rediscovered their desire to rock, as opposed to using intricate layers of jangly guitars a la Smiths et al.

To fully enjoy this album, you have to bear in mind that the 2 main men are 2 of those most ridiculous (in a good way) characters in music. On riffage you have guitarist Billy Duffy, who on this album was starting to find his true sound, though he clearly hadn’t discovered ACDC yet. Frontman Ian Astbury was in his red Indian phase at this point, as opposed to his later incarnation as “yayowing rock god mutha".

The band do take themselves quite seriously on this album (though not as seriously as the likes of the Sisters of Mercy). I implore listeners to ignore the pseudo-goth cover art, and the nonsensical lyrics and song titles (Brother Wolf, Sister Moon anyone?) and focus on the rockier tracks. The one track on this album that really became popular was penultimate track She Sells Sanctuary, which is still is a staple of most ‘indie’ discos. The tune is a little obvious for my liking, built on a descending guitar riff, but it’s very catchy.

Opening track, Nirvana (which I’m convinced Cobain and co named themselves after) sets the tone nicely for the album, with the drummer counting out a beat, before a driving Bully Diffy riff enters (sorry, getting too excited, I meant Billy Duffy) backed up by a pulsing bass line. The track is quite anthemic, with a fine vocal by Wolfman (I mean Ian Astbury) leading into a simple chorus which carries the music superbly. The guitars sound great in this one, particularly in the 2 bridges within the song. There’s a lovely touch at the end of the track when the music dies away and the drummer gives a little flourish on cymbals.

It’s a tough act to follow, and the next 2 tracks are perfectly fine, but a bit more like bog-standard rock songs. The riffs are kind of cool, though Big Neon Glitter suffers a little from a certain U2-ish 80s guitar sound. Title track Love is a good brainless rock song, but is unfortunately followed by one of the Cult’s moodier moments. This is one band who cannot and should not carry off a moody song, as the aforementioned Brother Wolf, Sister Moon is just substandard will-to-live sapping Doorsy nonsense, even featuring laughable storm studio sound effects. It’s also about 4 or 5 minutes too long.

However this bluster is blown away by another massive anthem, Rain. It’s a really uncomplicated song, which is the Cult’s forte, but it features a really good riff and growling vocals before exploding into a nice basic chorus (“here comes the rain, here comes the rain, here she (she!) comes again, here comes the rain”). Guitar soloing is kept to a minimum across the album as Duffy plays with great economy.

After a metalish experiment (The Phoenix) which sounds like an Alice in Chains prototype the band manage to tone things down to great effect with the relaxed Revolution, which stays on the right side of cheesey, lumbering along likeably with a nice pay-off in the chorus, which is just want you want from the Cult. You don’t want anything complicated, or worse, innovative from them, you just want great rock riffs with big choruses. They would refine this formula to even greater effect by teaming up with Rick Rubin on the follow-up album Electric.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Album Review: Smog – Red Apple Falls

Smog’s 1997 album saw mainman Bill Callahan team up with producer/multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke to flesh out the sound with French horns, trumpets, piano and steel guitar featuring prominently in a bid to shrug off the ‘lo-fi’ tag. Whatever lo-fi means.

Callahan still had his rickety buzzing guitar at this point, and a fair degree of vulnerability (gone in his most recent work) remained in his vocals. This combination, along with generous helpings of horns and piano is how the album kicks off with the track The Morning Paper. The music mirrors the subject matter, sounding a bit like dawn breaking, the piano in particular here is quite lovely. Callahan’s vocals on this one sound a little ‘generic singer-songwriter’. Things get a little darker with Blood Red Bird, where Callahan retreats to his electric guitar and his lower register for a somewhat brooding number.

Red Apples is a pretty sparse gothic dirge featuring mainly piano as he sings about going “down to the river to meet the widow” and sleeping “in her black arms for a century”. I Was a Stranger picks up the tempo and the country influence with prominent steel guitar. To Be of Use is as vulnerable as Callahan gets as he sings in a high register for him over gently plucked guitar, with some borderline disturbing lyrics: “most of my fantasies are of to be of use.” Red Apple Falls, the title track continues with the ‘red’ theme in the song titles, and combines some warm countrified music reminiscent of Joni Mitchell's Amelia, again led by steel guitar, with harrowing subject matter (“when I think about my brother dying and my parents trying to slowly do themselves in”). You almost feel like you’re intruding, eavesdropping on a private catharsis.

Ex-Con lightens the mood, an almost jaunty, trumpet led song backed with some gentle synths, though lyrically it’s far from light, this time singing about kidnap and abduction, Inspirational sounds like a country song written by Lou Reed, strange to say as he hasn’t recorded any country music to my knowledge, before the final number, Finer Days, which is sparse enough featuring mainly bass and guitar and some muted horn. The atmosphere of this track is like the coda to the album, taking the musical themes from The Morning Paper and putting a nice twist on them to resolve the album.

Avoid this one like the plague if you’re a country music hater.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Album Review: Sonic Youth – Washing Machine

The great thing with Sonic Youth is they have so many albums at this stage, all of which are of a reasonably good quality so there’s always going to be the overlooked album which rewards a bit of delving into. In this case I’m taking Washing Machine as said album. After a brief flirtation with the mainstream with albums Goo and Dirty, they followed up with the poorly received Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. This album is denser than the 3 aforementioned albums, with more layers to decipher.

The album opens with blistering opener becuz. It’s sung by Kim Gordon, but her more dissonant tendencies are kept in check here. It’s a good driving rock song with a fair degree of squalling guitar noise in the bridge. Later in the song there is a great melodic outttro. Junkie’s Promise follows, a sort of tough number sung by Thurston Moore. The album becomes calmer with Lee Ranaldo’s Saucer-Like which features great guitar work before a dischordant ending.

After the noisy title track, things get calmer still with Thurston’s unwind. The odd nursery rhyme sounding Little Trouble Girl follows, featuring not only Kim Gordon but also Kim Deal (Pixies). The melody of this is rather child-like, and something which I can’t explain about the tone of Deal’s vocals sounds very 90s.

After some noisy, more difficult tracks the album finishes with the 19 minute long opus that is The Diamond Sea. It starts off as a fairly conventional Thurston rock song, with a good melody and nice guitar parts, before the guitars take over and transform the song into a kind of noise piece. It’s kind of in the vein of the Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray, except with a sweeter melody and less drug references.
Washing Machine is a lot less immediate than Sonic Youth's early 90s album. It's dense and can be hard work to listen to, but it's an important step on the journey to the artist they have become.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Album Review: American Music Club – Mercury

When Mark Eitzel and co finally started to get some plaudits (for 1991’s Everclear), a major label deal and a relatively large recording budget, they reacted in the only way they knew how. They enlisted producer Mitchell Froom to make a somewhat difficult album which bore little resemblance in sound to their previous output!

I prefer to call it a subtle album. Those who fell in love with pedal steel guitar player Bruce Kaphan’s contributions to Everclear would be disappointed here, as he is limited to minimal embellishments here and there.

Gratitude Walks is a classic Eitzel song, opening with piano and some steel guitar, before Eitzel croons lyrical gems like “chains on the oasis that leads a man to drink, drunk on the kind of applause that gets louder the lower you sink.” It’s a classic alcoholic insight that needs no explanation. If I Had A Hammer is probably one of the more conventional songs here, again leading off with piano and same great guitar touches. It’s all going along quite nicely till they throw in a weird bleepy bit in the middle, before Eitzel continues on the theme of the last song, singing “I don’t know if I’ve reached the bottom yet… I feel time pass like a joy I tried so hard to relearn, but somewhere along the line I passed the point of no return.”

Challenger is a total change of pace, with Vudi’s raging, murky guitars before we’re back in familiar territory with I’ve Been A Mess. This song is almost self-parody with Eitzel self-flagellating (“I’ve been a mess since you’ve been gone”) over prominent steel guitar. One of my kids said to me once that it sounds just like me singing on guitar!

Most of the rest of songs are reasonably subtle, albeit many of them with lengthy titles (What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn’t Found In The Book Of Life, The Hopes and Dreams of Heaven’s 10,000 Whores), which often bear little relation to the songs themselves. Self-sabotage? If so it’s a thoroughly enjoyable one.

The album is also notable for the presence of Johnny Mathis’ Feet, which is to non-AMC fans, probably the song they are best remembered for. It’s a classic contradiction that it is in fact a fairly atypical song for them, musically at least. It’s pretty much a big ballad, with Eitzel bellowing out a tale of comparing his songs unfavourably with Johnny Mathis, over a big ‘kitchen sink’ style production number which throws in strings, steel guitar and dramatic crescendos.

One of the stranger tracks is the second last one, More Hopes and Dreams, which is a bit of self-indulgence from the band where they recorded sounds from an electrical power station which sounded perfect for the album! The final track, Will You Find Me, is an AMC acoustic-based closer in the vein of Last Harbour from California. It’s downright lovely, with a fragile acoustic guitar riff, sensitive vocals from Eitzel sounding almost at breaking point, and some keyboards which work really well. The middle section with an acoustic guitar solo backed by unconventional guitar work from Kaphan demands to be heard. It’s almost impossibly beautiful, and gives the lie to those who dismiss steel guitar as clichéd country nonsense.

Predictably this sort of stuff did not sell in grunge-era 1993, and from then on American Music Club were doomed to obscurity.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Album Review: Red House Painters – Down Colorful Hill

We’ll skip past the appalling American spelling of “colorful” to bring you a review of the album that foisted Mark Kozelek on the world. The lovely 4AD artwork gives way to an album of only 6 lengthy ponderous songs. But what songs. 24 opens with a barely there plucked guitar before Kozelek’s voice enters. We instantly know what territory we are in as he sings “so it’s not loaded stadiums or ballparks”, navel-gazing, brooding self-analysis. It’s like Neil Young’s Old Man updated for the 90s.

Medicine Bottle follows, and it’s ten minutes of dissection of a failed relationship in painstaking detail over dark, echoey guitars. It’s one of the few long songs that doesn’t feel that long. There is great imagery in the lyrics – “no more breath in my hair, or ladies’ underwear tossed up over the alarm clock.” It's obsessiveness of the highest order, unsparingly capturing every last detail and "setting it all out step by step".

After 2 stunningly good songs, the next 3 songs are a little ordinary, with the title track itself being a little dull. The album concludes with Michael, a wonderful lament for a departed friend over some staggeringly beautiful strummed guitars. Largely acoustic, there are some lovely lyrical nods to misplaced youth here: “me with my ridiculous looking pierced nose, I remember your warm smile in the sun.”

One could be critical and accuse this album of being fairly samey. Is it self indulgent wallowing? Absolutely. Since when is that a bad thing?!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Album Review: Morrissey – Viva Hate

This was Morrissey’s first solo album, released in the aftermath of the Smiths’ split. In these pre-internet days of 1988 I was somewhat taken aback that he had regrouped so quickly and was a little worried about the quality of the writing.

I needn’t have bothered worrying, the album is stronger than it has any right to be. He had been working with erstwhile Smiths producer Stephen Street, and guitar genius Vini Reilly (of Durutti Column). The album kicks off with the heavy Alsatian Cousin, which followed on nicely from heavier Smiths tracks like I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish. There is some wonderful imagery here – “leather elbows on a tweed coat, oh is THAT the best you can do?” After the vaguely Spanish sounding ode to a forgotten TV star Little Man, What Now? (Morrissey loves to throw in commas in his song titles!) came one of his most popular and enduring singles, Everyday Is Like Sunday, with soaring strings and an uplifting melody, sort of in the vein of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

Bengali in Platforms was criticised at the time for some semi-racist overtones but the tune itself is pleasant enough, and following track Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together is a pleasing bit of melodrama that some interpreted as an ode to Johnny Marr. Not that Morrissey would ever admit it.

Album centrepiece Late Night, Maudlin Street is a seven minute epic tale of growing up, late night brushes with the law, and moving house. It features classic self-loathing Morrissey lyrics (“when the world’s ugliest boy became what you see, here I am, the ugliest man”, amongst many others) and some lovely piano (Street) and guitar touches from Reilly. When this was released, I actually was “moving house” and did feel like “a half-life was disappearing.”

After the poppy single Suedehead the album takes a bit of a dip in quality. Break Up the Family is quite pleasing though with some nice guitar over some bongos and a great vocal performance by Morrissey. Here shades of optimism take over in the lyrics – “I’m so glad to grow older, to move away from those darker years.” The next 2 tracks are comparably weak, The Ordinary Boys being a piano-led song without a very good tune basically, while I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me is basically a watered down version of the Smiths’ You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby.

Dial-A-Cliché is great, with some lovely guitar lines and a nice bit of French horn, while closing track Margaret On the Guillotine brings Morrissey’s loathing of Thatcher to its logical conclusion. It’s a simple enough tune and lyrics that leave nothing to the imagination (“when will you die”). The song continues for a bit with some nice guitar touches before ending abruptly with the aforementioned guillotine.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Album Review: Dinosaur jr. – You’re Living All Over Me

This album was released in 1987, which was not exactly the era of heavy guitars. The album packs considerable wallop and a great guitar sound. It roars out of the blocks with Little Fury Things, which sets the tone for the album. J Mascis plays some great crunching guitar riffs, though his singing (whining) is almost laughably out of tune! Towards the end of the song it becomes drenched in feedback, a trick they repeat on quite a few of these.

The formula just kind of works, Mascis plays heavy, distorted riffs, with a cleaner line accompanying them, and Lou Barlow’s bass bounces along trying to keep up. Sludgefeast is particularly notable, with ten tons of guitar riff providing a superb anthem, though on this one Mascis’ vocals can barely be called singing! Towards the end of the song another almost metallish riff comes in for the end of the song.

The Lung sounds like the Lemonheads might have been listening at the beginning of their career before Evan Dando discovered country. The song plods along nicely before drummer Murph decides it’s not fast enough and speeds things up, and the other instruments kind of shamble up to the same tempo. There’s some lovely guitar work on this one, particularly towards the end.

Tarpit is another very strong song. Murph’s drums sound cavernous at the beginning before the riff properly kicks in and bludgeons the listener into submission (in a good way). Like a lot of tracks here, it’s a basic two chord riff but it sounds enormous. Lose has screaming guitars and screaming vocals, both at breakneck speed.

Poledo is a total misstep, it’s a Lou Barlow track which sounds like a home recording. Mainly acoustic, it’s a mess, the sort of ‘experiment’ that should never see the light of day.

They also do a version of The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, with much heavier guitars and even dodgier vocals. It kind of works, though their treatment of the bridge is almost pure heavy metal, and Cure-heads should probably avoid it!

It’s a great feast of guitars, one to file away with Crazy Horse (especially with Mascis’ whining married to the heavy guitars), the Stooges’ Raw Power and even Sonic Youth.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Album Review: Rain Tree Crow

This was a short-lived ‘group’ who released one album in 1991. It was to have been released under the Japan name but David Sylvian insisted on using the name Rain Tree Crow. Although the name itself isn’t great, it’s kind of appropriate that the Japan name wasn’t used as the music is more of a departure from the old group. The rest of the band were put out about this and didn’t speak to Sylvian for several years.

Sylvian dominated this particular “project” which was very much in keeping with his solo work. The cover photograph of a blasted landscape suits the mood of this nocturnal album. The first track, Big Wheels in Shanty Town however is a complete misstep, sounding very much like the band were jumping on the ‘world music’ bandwagon. A vast improvement is the 2nd track, Every Colour You Are, which is, like a lot of the best tracks on this album, brooding, mope-along mood music. Sylvian is in fine voice here and on other tracks such as Pocketful of Change and Blackwater.

The rest of the album is dominated largely by instrumentals, where the band “faffs” about in a sort of AOR, atmospheric way, and it works well. The titles are fantasically pretentious (New Moon at Deer Fallow, A Reassuringly Dull Sunday), not to mention some of the ‘credits’ – treated piano, Steve Jansen and Mick Karn on wine glasses (I kid you not!) on the track I Drink to Forget. There are also moody vocal interludes (Rain Tree Crow, Boat’s for Burning), the second of these featuring the brooding quiet threat “strike the match, stand well back, this boat’s for burning.” Overall the album is a triumph, and in my opinion, better than any of Japan’s previous work.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Album Review: The Smiths – The World Won’t Listen

How to review an album I’ve been listening to on and off for 23 years?? This odds and sods collection of songs was most welcome in 1987. A bit like “Hatful of Hollow 2”, it was a collection of non-album singles, B-sides, some album tracks and one new song.

It started off with 2 of the Smiths more commercial singles, Panic and Ask. Panic had become an unlikely hit the summer before, indeed, its Dublin reference in the lyrics had made it one of the first Smiths songs that people didn’t call “depressing”. It’s a kind of stomping, glammy anthem which zips along in less than 2 and a half minutes. Ask, which follows is one of the Smiths’ weaker singles with a fairly bog standard Morrissey tune, though it features nice jangly guitar from Johnny Marr.

London is one of Morrissey’s “leaving home and heading to the big smoke” songs. Lyrically it’s right on the money, with lines like “and you think they’re sad because you’re leaving, but did you see the jealousy in the eyes of the ones who had to stay behind.” Musically it’s a very fast song, which speeds up even more towards the end. Many of the songs are less than 3 minutes long, and quite fast in tempo, so the album flies along.

The rest of the first “side” of the album features mainly album and non-album singles, but the heart of the album is after this when we get to the B-sides. The Smiths’ singles were always worth buying, more so than any other band of the era as some of their strongest songs were on the B-side. Asleep is a wintry ballad, which sounds as morbid as Morrissey gets, over a simple piano tune, with some studio trickery creating a howling wind. Unloveable follows, a classic Morrissey self-loathing ballad. Check out these lyrics: “I know I’m unloveable, you don’t have to tell me” or “I wear black on the outside cos black is how I feel on the inside”. Some would base their ideals for living around these throwaway lyrics. The music itself is relatively simple, a descending guitar line with plenty of room for Morrissey to sing the aforementioned lyrics.

The next track, Half a Person is even better. Marr’s guitar playing on this one is quite wonderful, and Morrissey’s vocals sound great, without an ounce of strain on them. The song borrows a little from the Velvet Underground’s “That’s the Story of My Life”, but the Smiths put their own twist on it to create an absolute classic… “if you have 5 seconds to spare.”

Stretch Out and Wait follows, another superb slowish song . Marr chooses a great set of chord changes, which I haven’t heard anywhere else, and the melody is quite unusual also. Lyrically, Morrissey’s very much on ‘home ground’ (“will the world end in the night time I really don’t know”).

The one completely new song here is You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby, which is kind of like the great lost Smiths single. The tune is bright and upbeat, and it sounds like it would have been a hit. Once more Marr excels himself on guitar.

Listening to this album it’s hard to review these songs, as most of them are completely imprinted on my brain. However it would be wrong to ignore this album for that reason. Final track Rubber Ring, says it all: “don’t forget the songs that made you smile, and the songs that saved your life.”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The grunge/Seattle revival

It may have escaped some of you, but around about 17-18 years ago music was in the grip of (for want of a better word) grunge. Led by Nirvana, from around 1991 to 1994 there was a lot of great music, largely inspired by a mixture of Black Sabbath, punk and classic rock.

Of late, many of these bands are returning. The sole survivor, Pearl Jam were one band who never went away. Much derided as corporate rockers at the time, the band ploughed their own furrow. They drew far more on classic rock style bands than Nirvana did, and released a consistent string of albums (most recently last year’s Backspacer) while shunning the spotlight for the most part.

Alice in Chains split in the late 90s due to singer Layne Staley’s inability to record an tour. Unfortunately he passed away in 2002 but the band reformed in 2009 with a new singer William DuVall and released a fairly decent album, Black Gives Way to Blue, which compares reasonably well with their previous studio albums.

Soundgarden split in the late 90s, and Chris Cornell joined the band Audioslave, while also embarking on a solo career with decidedly mixed results. His solo career culminated in last year’s god-awful Scream, produced by Timbaland of all people. Having shredded his credibility, it seems like the only thing to do is to reform his old band. Cynical?

Courtney Love has also put Hole back together, without any of the original members. It’s hard to imagine them improving on 1994’s Live Through This, which was without doubt their finest hour.

Even the Stone Temple Pilots have got in on the act. Unfairly criticised as bandwagon jumpers (mainly due to them not being from Seattle), they produced a poppy variant of grunge, which I have a real soft spot for. They continued till 2003 when singer Scott Weiland jumped ship to rockers Velvet Revolver. Having reformed mainly to tour, the band found the chemistry was still there and have a self-titled new album due out in May. Though the fact that Weiland recorded separately from the rest of the band doesn’t augur well.

Mark Lanegan trudged through the late 80s and 90s in superb classic rock band Screaming Trees, who were lumped into the grunge category due to the fact that they were from the northwest of America. Yet their music was not particularly grungey. However by the time the band fell apart, Lanegan had substance abuse issues, and had proved wholly unreliable. It is remarkable that, having cleaned up, he has turned his undoubted talent away from drugs to focus entirely on making music with whoever he chooses, and has become one of the hardest working men in rock.

Smashing Pumpkins split in 2000. Billy Corgan then formed Zwan with Pumpkins’ drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and subsequently released a solo album before reforming Smashing Pumpkins in 2005, again with Chamberlin. After releasing one album, Chamberlin has now left, leaving the band as pretty much just Billy Corgan.

As for Nirvana, former member Dave Grohl has been plodding along for years in the Foo Fighters, though has made some fantastic drumming appearances on Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf and also last years’ Them Crooked Vultures album. Krist Novoselic has dabbled some musical projects (Eyes Adrift, Sweet 75, Flipper) while also turning to journalism, writing a column for the Seattle Weekly. Although according to his blog he is reforming Nirvana, though he will be the only original member (!).*

Is it a case that, having exhausted the 80s revival, that it’s 90s revival time? And do we really want this?

* Obviously he was taking the p*ss.