Considered Thoughts

Anzac Day

23rd April 2017

It's this week. In response to an actual request from an honest-to-goodness reader who I genuinely haven't invented, I've uploaded the chapter on Gallipoli from "Rock & Hard Places" in the From The Vaults section. Enjoy.

Born Sandy Devotional

6th April 2016

I was reminded by this fine piece in The Guardian last week that it's thirty goddamn years since the release of The Triffids' "Born Sandy Devotional", not merely the best album they ever made, but one of the best albums anyone ever made. And that reminded me that twenty goddamn years since the release of "Born Sandy Devotional", which was ten godddamn years ago, I reviewed a reissue of it for Uncut, so I've bunged that up in the From The Vaults section here.


In other news, The Blazing Zoos' new album, "Chocks Away", is out now, and has been well reviewed in several outlets in at least two languages. You can give it a listen here.

The River

26th November 2015

In anticipation of the release of a compendious box set version of Bruce Springsteen's "The River", I've uploaded a thing I wrote a few years back - in a hotel room in Salt Lake City, as I recall - for an Uncut special issue. It's in the From The Vaults section: enjoy. Although I should caution now that much like the album it addresses, it goes on a bit.


In other record release news, if you'll forgive the grinding of gears between the sublime and ridiculous, the final touches are being put to The Blazing Zoos' long-awaited* follow up album, details soon.


* By us.


The Chills

22nd September 2015

There's a new album out by The Chills, it's called "Silver Bullets", and it's marvellous and you should listen to it. I heard parts of it it ages ago, when I interviewed Martin Phillipps in London for Wondering Sound, the brilliant and depressingly short-lived excursion into grown-up music journalism by eMusic (the archive is still readable at, and should be read.)


Anyway, the scheduled publication date for my piece fell somewhere amid the upheavals around the shuttering of Wondering Sound, and it never ran (although, credit where due to the people behind eMusic, they did not - as has been heard of in such circumstances - attempt to avoid paying their contributors.) So I've uploaded it to the From The Vaults section. Enjoy.


In other news, the second smash hit album by The Blazing Zoos is now officially finished, release details tbc (if you're reading this before the evening of Thursday September 24th, we're playing at the Lock Tavern in Camden that night; do come down.) I've also just signed to write my next book, about which more also anon, and am filing a new weekly column for GQ Australia, which you can find on their website.


And still on Monocle 24 generally more weekday evenings than not: tune in, if you're not already.

Omar Sharif

14th July 2015

I've never been terrifically interested in interviewing actors, or reading interviews with them - however brilliant they may be at channelling other characters, I remain unconvinced (or at least less convinced than most of our media seems to be) that anything/everything they may have to say for themselves is by definition riveting.


But when I was offered the chance to interview Omar Sharif a little over ten years ago, there was no way I was going to decline - his life and career represented a singular trajectory, and with all due acknowledgement of the skepticism expressed barely a paragraph ago, one doesn't get to have coffee with proper old-school Hollywood royalty every day of the week.


Anyway, he was great - funny, smart, expansive, fretful, breezily yet brutally self-deprecating. By way of acknowledgement of his passing, I've posted the interview over in the From The Vaults section. Enjoy.

Standard apologies for dereliction, etc

30th June 2015

Anyway, yes. That resolution to update this thing weekly has been at best a partial success. However, things are afoot, here and elsewhere. Here, I've given the Def Leppard chapter from "Rock & Hard Places" a run in the From The Vaults section. If you enjoyed that - and why wouldn't you? - please give some thought to buying the book in question, as there's loads more of that sort of thing where that came from.


The other thing for which you should begin bracing yourselves is the delivery of the second album by The Blazing Zoos, which we have nearly finished, honestly. You can keep yourself updated on our Facebook page, or on Twitter, @theblazingzoos, and with any luck it will give me cause to update this blog again before October/the sun dying.

*shoos away bats*

10th February 2015

(Take as read usual apologies for infrequent updates of this blog, accompanied by standard recognition that it’s not like anybody bar the unfathomably insane notices.)


Anyway, yes. Welcome to 2015, hope it is treating you well so far. In the interminable epoch since I last posted here, I have been to Australia, in part to research a book proposal of which more hopefully anon, and just about finished work – by which I mean mostly eating doughnuts while everyone else did all the actual work – on what will become the second album by The Blazing Zoos. Please do follow us on whatever social media it is we’re on – I lose track – so that we can harrass you re upcoming gigs and so forth.


The new incumbent of the In The Vaults section is the sleevenotes I wrote ages ago for a reissue of my favourite album ever, The Go-Betweens’ “Liberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express”. These in turn were adapted from an essay from a book about overlooked albums which was given away with Melody Maker sometime in 1995 or something. It was called “Unknown Pleasures”, and can probably be purchased for pennies from cobwebbed corners of eBay. And was actually really good.


On the subject of mid-90s music press nostalgia, my current book, “It’s Too Late To Die Young Now”, which is a monument to exactly that, is available in the northern hemisphere now, and you should buy it. I have a go at explaining why here.


11th December 2014

It has become a motif of this blog, I realise. To the tiny - indeed, barely imaginable - constituency who notice or care, I apologise unreservedly once more.

    The purpose of today's post is self-promotion as usual, but with a specific focus, ie that my latest book, a memoir of the declining decadence of rock journalism entitled "It's Too Late To Die Young Now", is available throughout the northern hemisphere at last. If you wander over to the website of estimable publisher Foruli, you'll glean everything required to facilitate purchase. It has so far had some quite nice reviews, bits of which you can find cut and pasted out of context on the pertinent page in the Shop section of this site, and has been photographed being read in hospital by Jimmy Barnes. 

    In other news, The Blazing Zoos returned to the studio at last a few weeks back and recorded most of what will be our second album, which will hopefully become generally available earlyish next year. Once again, we enlisted Mark Wallis as producer, which once again enabled the alternate feelings of exultation and awkwardness attendant on making an album with someone who had made albums with The Go-Betweens (among others, but The Go-Betweens remain probably my favourite band ever, so there.) You should totally follow The Blazing Zoos on both Twitter and Facebook, that we may hound you unto Kingdom Come.

    Elsewhere, there's a new publication from Monocle you should buy, called Forecast - its inaugural edition, available now, contains among much else my report from Masdar City, a weird half-built eco-Utopia on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. And do keep tuning in to Monocle 24, where I can be heard most weeknights from 22:00-23:00. 

    Also, the new inhabitant of the From The Vaults section is the sleevenotes I wrote a few years back for the reissue of The Fatima Mansions' enduringly splendid "Viva Dead Ponies". I've half an idea I might have posted this once before, but someone did ask. 


Better late than etc

13th October 2014

Weekly, at least, I once promised myself I was going to update this. Ha ha. On reflection, I think the thing that has put me off doing this more often is that sourcing and inserting all the links is frankly fiddlier than I can be bothered with, and at any rate tends to inculcate a measure of existential futility as one ponders that one is going to said bother in order, basically, to encourage people to leave the goddamn page.

     So what I'm going to do hereon is just mention what I've been up to, or whatever, and if you're really all that interested, you can go looking for it yourselves. Unless something really weird or unlikely happens, like one of Australia's greatest rock and roll singers being photographed in hospital reading my new book, in which case I am obviously going to link the very hell out of that (scroll down).

     On which subject, hope to have news about a northern hemisphere publication of that shortly. Elsewhere, am still hearable most weeknights on Monocle 24 circa 22:00-23:00, and occasionally circa 18:00-19:00, and have done some biggish features for the magazine recently - one on UNESCO in Paris, and one road trip along Russia's border with the Baltic states. You really should subscribe to Monocle, if you already haven't.

     Also, am writing for excellent new site Bluffers, and was doing some bits and pieces about the AFL for The Guardian towards the end of last season, one of which compelled me to acknowledge the greatness of the present Hawthorn team, an experience I am attempting to regard as usefully humbling.

     Next stop is the new studios of Mark Wallis, where The Blazing Zoos will be recording their second smash hit album. You should become one of our people on Facebook and/or Twitter, so we can pester you forever.

     Finally, in response to an actual request from an honest-to-goodness sentient human, have posted the "Rock & Hard Places" chapter on The Cure in From The Vaults. The book in question is still readily available, and it's practically Christmas.



Vale Felix Dennis

2nd July 2014

Standard apologies, to the infinitesimal constituency who are in any way bothered, for the yawning interval since previous update. Usual excuses of distraction and disorganisation apply.


Have been spurred into (admittedly belated) action by the departure from this mortal coil of Felix Dennis, a proper publishing person, free speech warrior, general contributor to the gaiety of nations, and altogether delightful interview subject, as this elderly interview from The Independent on Sunday hopefully demonstrates.


Elsewhere, recent Monocle 24 highlights include a splendid interview and session with Holly Williams, and a rugged session of setting the world to rights with the very great PJ O'Rourke.


Also, The Guardian's Australian arm have been letting me bang on about the Sport of Kings of late, which is kind of them (for more, click on the byline photo in which I look like I've just been arrested, and scroll down).


Also also, undaunted/encouraged by recent festival appearances bizarre and/or peculiarly triumphant, plans for the recording of the second album by these people are proceeding apace. Watch this space, for all the good it's likely to do you.

Stupidity and suffering

1st May 2014

Are not, as it happens, the reason why this blog hasn't been updated since the advent of the jet age, but they do appear in Aztec Camera's "Down The Dip", which is one of the songs Roddy Frame plays in this recent session for Monocle 24's estimable Culture Show; semi-coherent interview by your correspondent also included.


Other recent stuff includes this recent interview with Albanian literary titan Ismail Kadare (available to Monocle subscribers only, but if you're not one, you really should be, because it's great), this review of Reza Aslan's books about Jesus, and a print-only interview with Toumani and Sidiki Diabate at home in Mali for Uncut magazine (to which you should also subscribe because etc etc).


I've added a new piece to the From The Vaults page. In tangential response to the recent outpouring of Britpop nostalgia, I've uploaded this assessment of one of the genre's key texts. If, as ever, anyone has any further/other requests, always feel free to email, or try your luck on Twitter.

I could have been important, if I'd been somebody else

1st February 2014

The above reflection is cribbed from this enduringly excellent track from The Fatima Mansions’ “Viva Dead Ponies”. In response to a genuine – no, really – reader request, I’ve just put the sleevenotes I wrote for the 2007 reissue of the album in the From The Vaults section. Enjoy. Also, buy the album. It will improve things, especially at those scandalous prices.


Elsewhere, efforts continue to persuade the people of the South Seas to purchase my latest work: here an interview with Radio New Zealand, there a Q&A with Booktopia, there an interview with Cream. An announcement is hopefully imminent vis-a-vis publication in the northern  hemisphere; if you follow me on Twitter, you can be assured of being nagged incessantly when the time comes.


And as if that wasn’t enough, criminally under-rated country band The Blazing Zoos now have their own Twitter feed, which you should follow (if it’s any enticement at all, it isn’t me who writes it, our bassplayer having seized control of our social media presence, possibly in the belief that a slightly less passive-aggressive tone might encourage more people to come and see us). We have some shows looming, which you can come to or not, and see if we care (she may have a point, on reflection).

As much good to me right now as a brand new set of golf clubs

10th January 2014

Once again, for all that anybody cares, my resolution to update this site every week or so has ballooned to the thick end of two months. Anyway, happy new year to all my readers, and may 2014 bring both of you everything you could possibly desire/want/imagine/ dream of after eating cheese with whiskey. 


I have, at least, managed to update the From The Vaults section. I’ve put in the piece I wrote about The Smiths’ “The World Won’t Listen” in the pertinent Uncut Ultimate Music Guide last year. While we’re up this way, I also recommend purchase of Uncut’s new Ultimate Music Guide, which considers the works of Lou Reed, and the new issue (dated February 2014) of Uncut itself, which contains my interview with Jason Isbell, conducted over a couple of days in Sweden and Norway last month, about his tremendous new album “Southeastern”, which was by some stretch my favourite of last year.


Elsewhere, I have been continuing to try to interest the people of the South Seas in the purchase of my latest book, by explaining myself to Radio New Zealand and Booktopia; on which subject, a formal announcement is all but imminent of publication in this hemisphere. Also, I was recently honoured to be a guest once again on the splendid Little Atoms podcast, this time pontificating about my favourite album of the 21st century to date, to which today’s blog post headline is an oblique homage.


Also, I’m still broadcasting reasonably regularly on Monocle 24, usually on the Daily between 22:00 and 23:00; do tune in. And I’ll be back here next week, by which I obviously mean probably some time in mid-March.

The guy from The Corrs is asking to excavate South Armagh

11th November 2013

The above is just one of about a hundred plausible contenders for the title of my favourite line from the North Sea Scrolls. You may hear it performed live in London roughly this time last year here. And/or, you can read more about the most recent unfurling of the Scrolls, last weekend at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, here and here. And when you're done doing that, go to the shop section of this here website, and buy the damn album.


Elsewhere, stuff. I've recently written this thing for the Daily Telegraph about the obstinate survival of vinyl, and may still be heard broadcasting re stuff and events on this fine radio station. Also, subscribers to Monocle magazine - and if you don't, you should - can read, if they haven't already, this interview with the new government of Albania.


Also. The literally several people who've asked when/if "It's Too Late To Die Young Now" is going to be published in this hemisphere should watch this space. At the risk of tempting fate, there may be an announcement on this front presently. 


Finally, I solicited requests for the From The Vaults section on Twitter this morning, and was met by crushing indifference apart from one responder who informed me that he liked the word "quantum", and another whose favourite subject was breakfast. I couldn't help with the former, as I've never written much about science because I don't understand any of it. But I did find one article that mentioned breakfast, although I don't really understand the record that the article in question is about, either.


Anyway, the From The Vaults section has now been duly updated. Enjoy. And subscribe to Uncut, as well.


Coffee in my coffee cup

11th October 2013

So she didn't play this particular personal favourite, from which the above gnomic quotation is lifted, but it was nevertheless a rare thrill to have the very great Laura Cantrell come and play at Monocle's Midori House headquarters last week. The resulting session, and an interview, can be heard on this edition of Robert Bound's always excellent Culture show. As if that wasn't sufficient, we also had the also very great Slaid Cleaves recording a session: transmission date yet to be confirmed, and hence yet to be plugged in this space. But it will be.


On a semi-related note, the new print edition of Monocle contains a report from Albania by your correspondent, in which I discover that the various dissidents, activists and outsiders I met on my first visit ten years ago are now running the country. Having not been forewarned of their presence in his office, I only narrowly avoided treading on one of the prime minister's turtles. I would be interested to hear from any professional arbiters of diplomatic etiquette about the correct way forward in such circumstances.


Also, I'm trying to be good about updating the new From The Vaults page. Today, I've pasted up a review of Ben Thompson's terrific book about Mary Whitehouse, for no better reason than I was recounting the closing quote to someone the other day, and it still strikes me as one of the wisest observations anyone has ever made about the counter-productive nature of fanaticism.


Also also, if you're in Dublin, buy a ticket for this.

I'll be waiting here, with my arms unfurled

30th September 2013

Yes, with apologies to this guy, welcome to what I think is the third iteration of your correspondent's online existence. It's (hopefully) a slightly less unwieldy prospect than its immediate predecessor, which is to say there’ll be less of my back pages on it at any one time. 


What old stuff there is will appear as and when it amuses me to upload it to the From The Vaults section, which is currently running an old Uncut review of Gillian Welch’s “The Harrow & The Harvest”, for no other reason(s) than i) I was listening to it the other day, and ii) it’s great. Requests for things to appear in the slot will be welcomed, and may even be considered.


The blog will be what it always was, ie an almost certainly lackadaisically updated wrap-up of recent doings, most of which will be more frequently echoed in the Twitter feed which you can find over there on the right.


The shop has been updated, principally to accommodate my new book, “It’s Too Late To Die Young Now”, which is presently available in Australia, other territories tb hopefully c. A passive-aggressive dialogue with an indifferent world can be consumed in the FAQ section, and the Gallery is, at time of writing, a work in progress, although I hope to progress with work on it sooner rather than later.


In the meantime, if you’re in Dublin, or in easy reach thereof, buy a ticket for this.

See The Chains Which Bind The Men

15th March 2013

Please assume routine apologies for time since last posting (assuming in itself, of course, that the passing reader has even noticed, or indeed cares). Anyway. Today's headline is cribbed from this enduringly marvellous record by way of drawing attention to this deservedly effusive review of this terrific book by John Sweeney (Church/Church, you see what I did there, etc).

Persisting with the theme of deservedly effusive reviews of things you should own, there's also this, about this. Also, while you're buying music, buy this, because it's amazing, all bias acknowledged.

Elsewhere, I continue to commend tuning into Monocle 24 in general, but especially to this recent edition of the Culture show, which contained my interview with, and a live session from, this guy.

Other upcoming things currently vary between definitely and possibly. The next book, probably entitled "It's Too Late To Die Young Now", will probably appear in Australia and New Zealand circa August, other territories tb hopefully c. Vague ideas are also currently being corralled towards a second album by these people. If you missed the first one, incidentally, there are still a few - quite a few, in fact - available, at shockingly reasonable prices.

I Don't Know What We're Doing Here

2nd January 2013

The above existential reflection is excerpted from this timely song, on the grounds that i) it is, as previously discussed, timely, ii) it's a great tune, obviously, and iii) that one of the highlights of 2012 was enticing the very great Todd Snider into the studios of Monocle 24 to record a live session and interview.

Anyway. A very happy 2013 to the legions who report to this site daily, daring themselves to hope that I might have got it together to update the damn thing at some point in the previous century. While you're here, some stuff from the twilight of 2012: a review of this diverting book, and some considerations, photographic record and motion picture footage of the recent tour in support of this magnificent album.

I Wish I Was In Tijuana, Eating Barbecued Iguana

3rd October 2012

I wish I was in Tijuana, eating barbecued iguana
Actually, I don't. But I have quoted that lyric i) because I've always had a soft spot for the strange and lovely song in question, ii) because it mentions radio, which explains in part why it's been months and bloody months since I last posted anything here, ie because I've been doing this, and iii) because - to link everything seamlessly together - I did, the other month, actually have an excuse to play "Mexican Radio" on Monocle 24, following a story about, if I recall correctly, the logistics of farming and retailing iguana meat.

Anyway. Certain things have been afoot. If you'll forgive a bullet-point summary, they are these.

* The North Sea Scrolls, a farrago composed by myself, Luke Haines and Cathal Coughlan, and featuring the cello stylings of Audrey Riley, previously only witnessed live by a fortunate few, will shortly be available for general consumption. You may order the album here, and glean details of upcoming shows here. If you do Facebook, there's a pertinent page here.

* My own next contribution to the canon of western thought, a book which will probably be entitled "It's Too Late To Die Young Now", will probably be published in Australia circa August, other territories hopefully to ensue. You may feel safe to assume that you'll be reminded in due course.

* You should subscribe to NSFWCorp, aka the future of journalism (with jokes), which is excellent. If I've understood the technology right, you can read me pointing and giggling at Mitt Romney for the next 48 hours for free right here.

* There's now a Kindle version of "Rock & Hard Places". You can order it here.

* Do tune into Monocle 24, obviously. And buy the new print edition, a Lusophone special, in which I wander the Azores - or, at least, an Azore - wondering why Portugal doesn't do more with it. And, indeed, them.

I hereby promise to do my level best to update this site at least once more before Christmas 2017.

Find A Craze That Fits And Stay There For A While

22nd April 2012

Find a craze that fits and stay there for a while
Yes, only three months since the last posting in this space, and continuing the seamless link of lyrics from radio-related songs so as to reflect the fact that rather a lot of my recent existence has been consumed by this new enterprise. I've mostly been co-anchoring the Daily, an archive of which may be found on the website or on iTunes, but have also done some music-related interviews accompanying the live sessions in for the Culture show; particular highlights on this front have been interviews with Paul Kelly, and Todd Snider, the latter of whom not only played this fine song, but extended his permission for a line from another of his songs to be repurposed as the title for my next book.

Which, moving seamlessly along, should be available early next year. However, there should be a couple of opportunities to contribute to my further enrichment before then: a UK paperback edition of the reissue of this thing, and the recorded incarnation of this farrago. Details, you may rest assured, will be announced in this space within seconds of them coming to hand.

In the meantime, stuff. I have been doing some of this for Businessweek and The New York Times, and there will hopefully be further opportunity for more such. Also, Uncut's website seems to be picking up pace a little, with a lot more archive reviews appearing (that REM special is worth having, as well, even if I got lumbered with "Around The Sun").

And, I have recently been discussing all this and more on Radio New Zealand.

I will endeavour to leave a lesser interval before my next tract of self-promoting blather. If you absolutely can't wait, then i) you're weird, and ii) I can be followed on that Twitter that they have now. Much more importantly than any of the above, however, you should pay attention to this completely excellent project, with which it has been an honour to be involved.

Inches On The Reel-To-Reel

14th January 2012

Or not. Radio has changed a bit since this guy sang about it - and, indeed, since I started doing it for these people, more years ago than I care to (or, until I go out to buy some more coffee, can) count. Anyway, one of the reasons for the scandalous delay since this blog was last updated is that I've been doing a fair bit of it again for Monocle's terrific new online radio venture, Monocle 24. I don't have a specific slot, as such, but you should listen in general anyway, as it's all very good (friends, relatives, disciples, etc, can follow me on Twitter for scheduling updates.)

Other reasons for scandalous delay since this blog was last etc include some filming in such sunsplashed locales as Hull and Liverpool for Current TV (a couple more episodes coming up in late January), the beginnings of the recording of the album of this project, following a run of performances in Edinburgh, Cork and Dublin, and alternately slogging and skipping - again, caffeine is a factor - to the completion of a new book, which will hopefully appear this summer. In the meantime, I continue to write things about stuff, including, most recently, The Simpsons. Happy new year.

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