Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Journeys from the fax

The Danger of Locker Room talk

I’ve lived in London for 25 years and never described my residential area as ‘happening.’ This maybe due to never having lived in a happening area, but I’m not even sure what an area needs to qualify as happening. However, a chap in the (cough – middle class alert) yoga locker room clearly did, as he happily announced his pleasure at having moved to a more ‘happening area’. He was declaring this to a fellow yogi (or whatever the plural of smug yogic middle class people are called), who was unable to escape due to needing to towel himself dry. Mr. Happening warmed to his theme, while wearing the least happening underpants I’ve seen since I had my own as a teenager.  He was adding that it feels far more like London when you’re away from the gentrification, and there’s less mums.

Now, I was unaware that the prevalence of motherhood was what identified an area as happening or not. But I was reminded of Donald Trump’s recent excuse for lurid obscenities as being ‘locker room talk’. I presume he wasn’t referring to socio-geographical opinions better suited to pissed up estate agents furiously incapable of departing from their habitual script of describing cramped flats as cosy, neglected courtyards as gardens, and postal codes as ‘happening’.  Presumably non-happening locations are frozen in time-continuum stasis in which nothing happens; earth worms, traffic and people imprisoned by the impossibility of moving. Actually, this does rather accurately describe Sutton and Kingston on the London Surrey borders.

I continued to mind my own business (i.e. attempting to not look like I was intending to blog about his comments) as Mr. Happening informed his companion that it was a relief to be away from all the gentrification. You know, how all those coffee shops, window boxes and Farrow & Ball pastels can be traumatic to the more urbanely cool personality. Ironically, even while wearing unhappening pants, he could not have appeared more suburban if he’d had a bricked-over driveway to hand. I was struck by those moaning about gentrification of an area generally being those actually causing it. Besides, what would the process of de-gentrification look like? Neglected houses with rotten guttering, overgrown gardens and broken windows. Mr. Happening appeared to like the neater things in life, he was at yoga after all. He looked as edgy as a melon.

A happening area implies nightly police sirens, and street drinking or loft parties, which you call the noise pollution people about because you’re in bed by 10 o’clock, or watching George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. I might be showing my age, but surely happening places are where you want to visit, not live. I was encouraged mind you, as I later walked home from my local station, when overhearing someone on the phone encouraging a visit to south London because ‘There’s an event tonight. It’ll be really good.’ It was one hell of a hard sell, suggesting that perhaps I live in a happening area after all.

Something that IS happening is the Life Assistance Agency, which is available to buy here –  and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.

Review of Saint Etienne in Heaven. Fox Base Alpha.


It might be 1991’s Foxe Base Alpha silver anniversary, but it sounds fresher than ever, as this once heavenly band reach Heaven, thankfully in one piece, to play its entirety. Saint Etienne’s debut album was as synonymous with the rave generation as the Jam sound-tracked the Mods, and was peppered with samples, few seizing the zeitgeist quite like ‘Can I have an E, Bob?” from Blockbusters. It’s ironic that tonight singers Sarah Cracknell and Debs are sitting down to enjoy that particular reference this evening.

Of course when sequencing an album, you’re not thinking about playing it live 25 years later, and there’s a touch of (misplaced) reluctance to open with their definitive version of Neil Young’s Only love can break your heart. It’s an energetic start, followed by the elegantly claustrophobic Carnt sleep. What was once a prescient consequence of clubbing, these days it’s more likely to be costly loft extensions giving the crowd sleepless nights than class A’s.

The folk pop of Spring paved the way for later hit You’re in a bad way, which also gets an airing tonight, once Foxe Base closes and the gig morphs into a live rendition of their greatest hits Too young to die. However before then, the surprise tonight is the effectiveness of a pleading She’s like a Swallow, as it drifts from ambient noodling, through hypnotic chanting – ‘She’s like the river that never runs dry’ – into the sumptuous acid squelch of an old 808.

Nothing can stop us arrives like only the opening track of side 2 can, a call to arms that may have never happened. 25 years suddenly feels a long time ago. As the album closes it’s with relief from the band, who can finally control the set list. Q-Tee arrives to rap early b-side Filthy, which lives up to its name and captures a west London when Talkin’ Loud trip-hop jostled happily alongside house music.

The Italo disco of Join our club and Kiss and Make up demonstrates how they always had tunes to spare. But the highlight is Hobart paving. Always their warmest of songs, tonight its plea of ‘don’t forget to catch me’, effortlessly resonates with a grinning crowd, who gustily sing it back. For a moment those missed kisses of youthful summers return. A new album is promised, but for tonight Saint Etienne have found the future their nostalgia was always searching for.

Tom Hocknell’s debut novel The Life Assistance Agency was published on 22nd September by Urbane Publishing and is not written in the 3rd person. Available here –



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“A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.”  – Edna St Vincent Millay.

It’s hard to not sound conceited writing a blog  about’the day I got published’, but I thought it important to commemorate a day I thought only happened to other people. Well, at least other people who’ve written a book. Non writers have even less chance of getting published than writers; if such a thing is possible. Of course I now find myself in the group of people I once wished to stab in the forehead.

Publication day is the sort of day that validates all those annoying motivational Twitter status updates involving ‘following your dreams’, and ‘Stars can’t shine without darkness.’ The sort of updates that no one says to your face in fear of being strangled, and without which Twitter would be diminished to people declaring themselves as coffee addicts, uploading photos of cats and flogging vampire novels thinly disguised as porn. Or is it the other way around?

The crucial start to a life as a published author (have I mentioned this yet?) was to not spend it on drudgery like fetching milk from the corner shop in my pyjamas whilst resisting the urge to ask ‘D’you know who I am?’. The newsagent would have every right to nod and say ‘Yes, I know who you are, you’ve still got 3 months arrears for weekend newspapers.’ Once I got back from the milk run, I stuck to my plan of leaving London for the day.

The second indication that I was not yet widely known as a published writer was on a Shell forecourt off the A20. Due to driving, I had been out of the social media loop for almost 50 whole minutes, so was keen to catch up while fuelling the car. I had barely tapped notifications on Twitter when a tannoy announcement suggested I stop using my phone by the pump, and cut-off the fuel supply. Pretending I hadn’t heard, and had actually intended to fill the car with only £4:32 of diesel, I went in to pay for some shopping. “I turned your pump off because you were texting.” the cashier gleefully announced. “I wasn’t texting.” I said more petulantly than I intended. Anyway, I was convinced she would imminently recognise me as a published author justified in checking Twitter news. But she didn’t. “Why can’t you text?” I asked. “Because it can cause a spark.” she answered. “Has that ever happened?” I replied, “I mean, a petrol station blowing up from a sparking mobile phone?” She stared at me. “Look at Youtube.” she snapped, like I was the only person left alive not having watched a series of petrol stations exploding through someone texting their mum.

It perfectly illustrates how nothing has changed. Social media is awash with lovely Likes and comments, which will ebb, doubtlessly leaving me bereft. There’s still the sound of Cheerios crunching underfoot, as opposed to Seychelles white sand. There’s still only 24 hours in the day, and I managed to cut my nose shaving, which made it a day of two firsts.

Publication is a fence I’ve been running to leap over for twenty years without any thought as to which way to land – forward roll, the splits, or careen into the nearest gorse bush to emerge quicker than I went in. Time will tell, but at risk of sounding like one of those positive affirmations, publication day was one savour. It’s certainly a day to quit worrying about MS spell-check missing thong instead of thing throughout the 300 pages of the Life Assistance Agency.  It’s a day like no other, although most writers would claim it’s the best day to start writing the next novel.  Which is lucky, because the most popular question since publication is “Have you started a 2nd one?” Perhaps then I’ll be allowed to text at the pump.

In case you’ve escaped the blanket bombing promotion of the Life Assistance Agency, it can be purchased here:

And at Foyles  here:

Or even better from a bookshop, where you get a cuddle. At least in the right ones.





Publication day – The Life Assistance Agency

When you have a public platform of the magnitude of Idle Blogs it seems churlish not to announce today as the day I hand in my notice at work. If I was a total idiot, which I’m not, although this might be validly contested in certain circles. Today marks the publication of my debut novel the Life Assistance Agency. The day has finally arrived, despite more acute observers being understandably surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. It’s your typical 19 year overnight success.

It was called something else for a long time, until the title that had been staring out at me finally revealed itself. It was never intended as a social commentary or heavy tome. If it had then I’d happily declare it a failure. The Life Assistance Agency is not the sort of book involving vast Irish families with dubious historical secrets and a silhouetted park bench on the cover. It’s an entertaining escape involving an Elizabethan alchemist Dr Dee and Bruce Springsteen . It’s the sort of book I’d like to read, (if I hadn’t already  done so at least 50 times).

The Life Assistance Agency is an organisation that has no modus operandi, so therefore avoids painting itself into a corner, (although will do so if a client pays them enough to do so). It sounds more like a dodgy business plan mis-heard during a pub lock-in, which it was.

My plans for today involve writing a more robust blog recording a blow-by-blow account of publication day, which is likely to differ little from other days besides wearing an insufferably smug smile putting those on the faces of beach hut owners in the shade. I am also getting out of London to avoid the media scrum and paparazzi for the day.

This is a fabulous opportunity to declare how incredibly supportive SO many people have been. Readers of this blog, followers of my Twitter account at TomAngel1 (the reason for this will reveal itself to readers of the novel), so many of my friends, a Psychiatrist I work with, Faber Academy, my Publisher, and even the courier who delivered ten copies from my publisher this morning. I was so delighted I almost gave him one. He retreated to his van with only seconds to spare.

This support is the sort of thing giving social media a dangerously good name. I say this before the reviews come in; some of which are bound to read like the vitriol of someone who’s missed every bus since last Wednesday and recently had their own novel manuscript rejected.

I also apologise in advance for the imminent use of social media as a tool for nothing else but flog my book. I will keep it to a minimum, as it’s unbecoming. The novel needs to take on a life of its own without requiring me to take it for a daily walk, but for the next few weeks I shall be shouting from the roof tops, and it won’t be ‘Can someone please get me down?’

the Life Assistance Agency can be bought from local bookshops, Waterstones and from here :

Many thanks. x




Satellites – Glitch. 0.4.Album review

If there was ever a band you need to be in the mood for it is Satellites. Actually, they’re not really a band, but the project of Johnny Vic. As a one-man Arcade Fire, he writes and plays everything. But before imagining him on stage with cymbals between his knees and a drum on his back, it’s reliably heart-stirring stuff.  Since his debut album 0.1 in 2012, his Google-resistant band name and elegant melodies have maintained the levels of secrecy international governments can only dream of. If you ever need reminding of the sheer emotional power of music then you’d be hard pushed to find better examples than his 2nd album (0.2) and his live set from Saint Saviour church.

0.2’s follow up 0.3 has been temporarily delayed by this Glitch, 0.4, written in response to the news of his mother having a stroke. The Saturdays this is not, more Now that’s what I call Catharsis.

Not only are Satellites a well-kept secret, with the promotional subtlety of Factory Records on a bank holiday, but secrets also pervade the songs. None more so than the brittle Faith & I – as he wonders who really clutches our hand during those darkest nights.

Immediate responses to life crises are understandable, and Vic spent hours on a piano at his mother’s house between hospital visits. Releasing an album so quickly in response to tragedy might invoke the wisdom of ‘Act in haste, and repent at leisure’, but the music’s honesty is as unnerving as you might expect. It’s more intimate than him singing on your lap. It’s predictably subdued, until the military tattoos of Square Wheels segue rather unlikely into what could be easily mistaken for the Chemical Brothers. It’s late coming, but is the up-draught this set needs to fly.

Just Pull Over maintains this momentum, over plaintive piano, it’s an ode to not knowing how to truly react to those phone calls we all dread; even the drums stutter uncertainly, as more electronics drift in. Unforgiven is a claustrophobic gasp, as it struggles to maintain a melody amongst the turmoil.

Like someone crying in a nightclub, this is an album that might get lost. It’s for solitary listening, and would fail to compete with even the dullest of dinner parties. It’s tense and torn, but there’s still hope, most notably on the defiant Photograph, which mines the loping grooves of the Beta Band.

It’s an unlikely opportunity to introduce synths to his sound, hopefully a nod to the still-to-be-released 0.3; but they complement his densely layered arrangements. Its lyrics are opaque, like the blurred image of the cover. 0.4 is a welcome gift, an album capturing the moment in a man’s life, which he has the generosity to share, so that perhaps we might feel empowered by the shocks that we all dread.

Some Annoying Things about children

I actually love children, but they, like the idiosyncrasies of a classic car, need to be lived with, irritants and all. Below is a far from exhaustive list of why children are bloody annoying, and not just when they’re allowed in pubs.

Low Walls along the pavement

This is an example of how you see the world differently with children. A walk in the park is so easy that it’s an idiom, but not when there’re walls low enough for toddlers and young children to walk along. While you’re wrestling single-handed with a pushchair that you’ve loaded with a month’s shopping alongside a road thundering with heavy traffic, they want to climb up onto the wall and trapeze their way along it holding your hand. It basically transforms every 10 minute journey time into the sort of imprecise estimated time of arrival more associated with polar expeditions undertaken too late in the year.

Shops – Yes, they still exist. Not that they ever sell anything I want, unless it’s a record or book shop, but entering a shop with young children involves the kind of iron fist that is illegal in public. As they touch, stroke, or break anything within reach, which in defiance of spatial physics appears to be everything, you endeavour to discipline them through the use of a barking whisper that only parents develop. Meanwhile, the child raps on about how much they’ve always wanted : a Danger Mouse comic, hole punch, flamingo glass ornament, or rubber gloves (delete where appropriate).

Bath toys – because bath time isn’t already an activity seemingly designed by bathroom manufacturers to destroy your washroom in under a year, the children insist on displacing most of the water with bath toys, which they then don’t play with. It leaves parents not only having extract reluctant children from the bath squirming like cut eels, but also well over 50 plastic toys which eats into the 5 minutes they have to bath themselves. Pointless plastic bath toys are basically the perfect encapsulation of why planet earth is fucked.

Shoes – trying to put a child’s foot into a shoe that is apparently the right size is reliably accompanied by mumble swearing and questioning ‘how hard can it be? Meanwhile they succeed in putting them on the wrong feet with a regularity that can only be deliberate.

Lego – Successfully penetrating the soles of parents feet with the fierce precision of carpet scorpions since it’s invention in 1960.

Power Rangers – Of course most children’s toys are inane film/TV tie-ins with as much creative thought as a trade union meeting, but I’m unsure anything has quite encapsulated the derisory ‘this’ll do’ when creating a franchise quite like Power Rangers. Instead of developing any distinguishing character of each Power Ranger, they are simply a different colour. Future cultural genealogists piecing together our civilisation will be utterly stumped by their existence, unable to determine where they came from, how and most bewildering of all, why.

Arts and crafts – this is what children have been led to believe is compulsory if it is a wet day. Gone are the days of gazing out of the rain-bejewled window pane, head on hands ruminating on life and where it goes. No, now they insist that the paints and paper and pipe cleaners are found (always form the highest, most awkward cupboard), in order to make the kind of mess more associated with direct collisions involving a painter and decorator’s van. Once every single box, pencil case and paints is opened, they scrawl for 2 minutes before asking if the TV can be put back on.


The last task when writing a Novel.

In the on-going series of making it up while going along, and I’m not referring to parenting, we find ourselves at the acknowledgments. It’s a moment to reflect upon how the seemingly impossible task of writing a novel was accomplished, and who helped, while avoiding being overwhelmed by emotion like a Gwyneth Paltrow at the Oscars.

As any writer with more than one published novel will know, the acknowledgments is a minefield that makes the previous 80,000 words look like a stroll on an escalator. It’s not exactly learning to play the three suites of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage on a harmonica, but it feels close. As someone (possibly) once said about maintaining relationships: it’s not what you put in, but what you leave out.

Established etiquette, not to mention the threat of law suits, demands a roll of thanks to the people who have bank-rolled, tolerated, and in one instance even carried the writer out of bars. And it ensures a renewed interest on their part to read at least 2 more pages of a book they hoped to never see again.

Because not quite believing your novel with ever get published means the acknowledgments are a hurried, yet important afterthought. You don’t want your joy at publication ruined by forgetting to thank your wife/husband.

One of the drawbacks of taking years to write a novel is that there are plenty of people who get forgotten. Ex-girlfriends, cab drivers, Scout leaders and that bloke who once foolishly sat next to you on the 44 bus and with whom you shared your first draft, leading to a subsequent retreat from human contact and culminating in a drugs and alcohol addiction that continues untreated to this day. I hear the other passenger also remains traumatised.

Of course the last thing a writer wants is names other than their own on the cover. Even the title is a compromise, unless you’re Jonathan Franzen, who’s recent novel you might be forgiven for thinking is called Jonathan Franzen as opposed to Purity. This is why acknowledgements appear stuffed reluctantly at the end. However, there are few clearer signs of an amateur writer than one who declines to recognise it takes more than one person to write a book.

However, once you start it becomes hard to stop, and avoiding the ‘Gwyneth’ becomes harder. If you find yourself listing family pets then this moment has probably been reached. Unlike a successfully established novelist, it’s inadvisable to thank your fans in your debut novel. The fans are essentially your parents, and Auntie Linda. So, at this stage it’s advisable to thank them by name. I know at least 13 office printers that have been decommissioned as a result of the volume of printing manuscript drafts, but they’ll be forgiving of their absence in the thanks.

The appearance of my 6th form English teacher Mr Blake took me by surprise. Regrettably he has died, so is ignorant to the subtle influence he had on my literary life, probably correctly thinking I spent too much time looking at the girls in class. We read so many plays that it grew apparent that the only thing he’d never read was the A-level syllabus, but his passion was clear.

Names I’ve forgotten to thank are waking me at night, and I’m at risk of so many names appearing that I’ll need to do the acknowledgements for the acknowledgements at this rate. Now, where’s that harmonica.

To see who makes the Acknowledgements of the Life Assistance Agency it is available to buy here:,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035






What people always say to Writers.

It was recently said I look like a writer, which I tried to pretend wasn’t shorthand for appearing socially inept, malnourished and skint. They then asked me what genre my novel is.

It’s a regular question, and in light of people invariably asking the same things upon hearing that you are a writer, it would be a good idea to have well-prepared answers, which makes my lack of them even more inexplicable.

The most common is, ‘Are you published?” like it’s something that inevitable happens to every writer. Of course you want to grab them by the lapels and scream ‘D’you have any fucking idea how hard it is to get published?’ It’s not something you choose as an option at A-level . If I was published I would be (even more) unbearable, and you’d not be able to enter my house due to piles of unsold copies of the novel. Plus, you WOULD have known about it. If the blanket promotional bombing across every social media platfor hadn’t reached you, the airborne banner advertising and T-shirt emblazoned with I’M PUBLISHED! would have.

Once you’ve caught your breath, and the questioner looks less like they’ve stuck their head in a turbo jet engine during takeoff, they sometimes add that they’ve had an idea for a novel too. This suggests that given the time they might bash out a draft too, but they’re too busy with more important things, but it’s there, on the back burner. You take a deep breath…

Are you published? is the most dreaded question, and probably the one driving most writers to pursue publication. So they can answer, ‘yes, I am actually,’ as though it’s an option chosen at A-level.  It validates writing, justifying your claim of being a writer; an admission that is otherwise whispered through cracked fingers like you’re admitting to having chopped someone up before leaving them on a Dartmoor roadside.

Another favourite is ‘How do you find time, with kids, job, etc, etc?’ This is a slightly judgemental intimation of ‘Are you still doing that?’ dressed up as a good-natured question. It’s also impossible to answer without sounding conceited, (Yes-aren’t-I-amazing that I manage to juggle everything), and although it’s said with good intentions, you wish the earth to swallow you up. You start mumbling something about the fact they could do it too if they tried, before releasing that you sound like a total wanker. The worst thing about being a writer is that some people think you are clever, whereas in actuality it takes you 2 months to draft a sentence you are happy with.

As any writer knows, the real question is what would you do with your time if you weren’t writing. Mind you, never declare this in earshot of your live-in partner, who will produce a list of things you could be otherwise doing with the sort of speed more associated with stopping a child from running into traffic.

The ‘what genre is it?’ is a popular response to you admitting that you write. It’s another tricky one, as it’s only something you realise to be important too late, and posthumously try to squeeze your script into Horror, Adventure or Chick Lit (is this still allowed?). Although I spent my teenage years reading novels, these would now be labeled YA.  Apparently there are such specific genres as cat fiction, which isn’t novels written by actual cats, but probably even worse.

What’s it about? is also common, like they are deliberately attempting to publicly shame you into realising that despite having written 80,000 words, this isn’t a question you have adequately asked yourself. This realisation occurs half way through garbled explaining what it’s about and you need to fake a coughing fit to avoid looking any more stupid. That’s if they haven’t wandered off already. Agents like an elevator pitch, but for the first 4 years of writing my novel there was no building with a lift high enough to describe it, not even in Dubai.

I’d like to add that my novel The Life Assistance Agency is now published, and I know exactly what it is about, which is the cover quote I’d put on the cover, if the author was allowed to comment. I’d also say it’s more fun than a threesome on a trampoline. If you buy it and it’s less fun that that I’ll refund your money, IF you have evidence of having tried the trampoline thing.

It can be purchased:,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –





It could happen here – Pet Shop Boys@ Royal Opera House

In the Pet Shop Boys career of curve balls, the first was probably Ennio Morricone co-writing, with Angelo Badalamenti orchestrating, It Couldn’t Happen Here from 1987’s Actually. What were the masters of loitering, moodiness and the one finger keyboard riff doing amongst such majestic classical surroundings? Of course the same could be asked about tonight, but over the past 30 years Pet Shop Boys have ingratiated their perfectly crafted pop music with the classical world with ease. Their gigs have visited Sadlers Wells, Savoy Theatre, The Astoria. Tower of London, and Trafalgar Square, so the Royal Opera house is logical. And it knows it’s not an opera night because it’s sold out.

Their recent album Super may have joyously embraced Italo-Disco, but sadness still resides at the heart of their tunes. However, not tonight. Well, not much. To be honest the tug between dancefloor and pop radio has always created tension in their music. Two men, their lives committed to music. They stand as equals; it’s implicit, one is simpler happier behind a tron mask.

Nothing builds pressure like £60 tickets selling for £800 the night before a gig. Not that it bothers Tennant and Lowe, a song writing partnership that would match that of Lennon McCartney in respect if they didn’t operate with machines as opposed to the authenticity of rock music – as the recent Pop Kids grinned – “Telling everyone we knew/That rock was overrated”.

From the moment two large eggs arrived on stage to join a sparse keyboard and mic stand, we are prepared for a minimal set amongst such regal surroundings. They emerge to the already playing Inner Sanctum but it’s the last indicator of any prerecorded music. It shamelessly moulds Faithless and Kraftwerk to their own ends, before West end girls (once contemporary record, now historical document) and the Pop Kids strut by. As the delightfully unexpected early B-side In the night introduces us to Paris during the German occupation of World War II, two percussion kits and another keyboard arrive, bolstering the band to five, reminiscent of their finest tour (2002’s Release), marking a vast improvement from the sterile Electric shows.

The live percussion and extra keyboards provide immediate impact. The violinist sets up the strings to the pretentious pop of Love is a Bourgeois construct. It’s frenetic, erudite and only latex masks away from Spitting Image parody, as the protagonist gives up the bourgeois life to slob around. It’s one of their harder songs to love, but they’re clearly enamoured with its bedsit flattery. If there’s any flaw it’s that this could have been replaced by Young offender, So hard or twenty other better songs.

The dance/pop pull is unending; no matter how hard they charge the floor, pop wistfulness pulls them to shadows, none more than the lushness of too-rarely played Love comes Quickly. Its freshly minted bell line is so gorgeous that anyone would struggle not to weep. The live percussion and backing vocals perfectly addresses criticisms of the over-programmed Electric tour, while the lasers, smoke and lights create an otherworldly beauty.

Tennant looks trim throughout, admirably appearing his age as an omnipotent projection as he gazes down upon the maelstrom of hypnotic Inside a dream, that creates such a spell over the audience that its ending comes too soon. That is forgiven as Tennant takes to his keyboard for the gentle stabs of what turns out to a surprise airing of the romantic Home & Dry. If this neglected song was surprised at its return then the oft-maligned Winner probably had to cancel dinner plans. However, it attends in the superior happy/sad remix. The gentle ooo-ahs both bring a respite of warmly quiet romance to the room. It’s followed by a a return to the early 90s raves of Vocal, with it’s lonely and strange singer far from abandoned as 303 synth squiggles shamelessly mine those DIY years of dancing in now forgotten fields.

Sodom and the Gomorrah Show makes a surprise appearance in an welcome electronic rework, while It’s a sin takes the roof off, even if Neil struggles to keep up with backing track. Somehow there’s more to conquer, as a cowbell laden remixed Left to my own devices arrives. It might be a nod to New Order’s True Faith video, but even when expecting the unexpected, the stage invasion of asexual jelly baby telly tubbies takes everyone by surprise, as Tennant, and particularly Chris Lowe doing what he likes best, become one of the crowd. That Lowe even succeeds in a crowd of oversized jelly babies says it all. Devices frankly reclaims Go West as the perfect closer. Perhaps, aware of this, Go West than arrives to stake its claim, and its hymnal bonhomie accentuated by the jumping jellybeans is so hard to resist that the Royal Opera house doesn’t.

The stage light racks lowering alla Kanye West at Glastonbury shows they don’t miss a pop trick, leaving only one logical ending. Domino dancing continues the audience’s vocal participation after Love Etc’s ‘You don’t have to be’s’, leaving only one logical encore. Hoodwinked by its barnstorming grinding riff, the majestic Always on my Mind has happy couples crooning sexual doubt at each other, until everyone is grinning.

Pet Shop Boys have never sounded more relevant. That they continue to write songs and so carefully consider their presentation is staggering. This isn’t the ‘me’ of contemporary pop, it resides with their characters: of pop kids in love with the possibilities of London, of the pseudo-intellectual not wanting to compete, the sad old dictator who’s ‘too weak to be strong’, the young boy faced with difficult choices at a difficult age. the East End boys and West End girls and the glorious hope of Se A Vida A finding companion in the abandonment of the New York City Boy out in the ticker tape. This is the most modern show out there. Pet Shop Boys have somehow done it again.

My novel, the Life Assistance Agency was published on 22nd September and is available to buy here –   It’ll be the best £8.99 you’ve spent since you bought a square foot of carpet.


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