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Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Journeys from the fax

How to write while Staying at Relatives.

 

Nothing says visiting relatives at Christmas quite like wheel-spinning out of a cul-de-sac at the crack of dawn heading for home. Most writers hate Christmas, as their alluringly private work finds itself exposed and appears to look more like sitting around doing nothing at a time when you should be acting busy.

It’s hard to know what the worst thing about going away at Christmas is, at least it is until someone books an 9am ice skating slot. I mean who wants to go ice skating at 9am. What’s an ice rink even doing open at 9am? It’s a first world problem and the staff are having an even worse time, but still, this is volunteered fun. And everyone knows that fun is hard to spell before lunchtime, particularly when it involves clutching to hoardings to stay upright. This is the sort of entertainment I left behind at university, and even that involved thin ice.

Now, did anyone get Amazon’s Alexa for a present? Even if you didn’t, you’ll know who she is. She’s a personal assistant, who promises the world, without moving, much like a fortune teller. In dulcet tones she claims to not understand perfectly reasonably requests, while arranging Amazon deliveries with liberal use of your bank details. Humorous interactions throughout Christmas are gong to look less funny when Elton John’s entire back catalogue and sixteen spare chairs arrived in January. She’s basically a parent that when is asked to turn your music down, actually does so.

It’s all gadgets these days, making one feel like having been thrown forward in time without paying attention to what year was pressed into the machine. One young relative spent the day with a virtual reality plastic box over his head. At least it means he couldn’t see enough plastic toys and wrapping destined for landfill to speed up plant’s demise by a decade.

Christmas obliterates the week and the hardest thing is not knowing what day it is. You can ask Alexa, but she’s too busy negotiating musical requests that barely give a song longer than its opening 4 bars, before someone yells for Chris Rea again. When asked ‘Who’s round is it?’ she claims to not understand, so in some ways she’s more human than is comfortable. It might be funny to ask her bra size, but she’s likely to delay answering this until someone rejoins you in the room.

Not only is finding the time to write a struggle, but you’re surrounded by so many cliches that its hard not to even think in them. Of course Christmas is all about the children, even the one who got a new recorder without any previous knowledge in how to play it. Strangled notes of Three blind mice played with the musical prowess of a whistle stuck in a vacuum cleaner prevented any adult from recovering the 5:00am start, and even stopped the elderly relative from dying on the sofa.

Staying with people means you need to be sociable (not a leading characteristic of writing, which mainly involves swearing at yourself for another poor plot turn). And you don’t know where anything is. Even the port. All you want to do is take your bloated cusk to the gym, although your gym is a 100 miles away, which is probably for the best, as they would be invariable refuse entry to anyone smelling that strongly of stilton and surplus crackers., while calling everyone Alexa in the hope they’ll do what demanded.

The Life Assistance Agency is available now and can be purchased with book tokens, hard cash and by asking Alexa to order it. At    and in Foyles.

 

 

 

 

Last Blog of 2016, & Review of Look at me by Anita Brookner – Penguin books.

For my last blog of the year I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who visits my site, and comment. It means I’m not idly shouting into the ether. Or if I am, at least it’s yelling back occasionally. Since the Life Assistance Agency was published in September support has come from unlikely places, and from new friends. You all know who you are, so I won’t bore you with a list of names. Besides, as already discussed in the politics of the Acknowledgements    – https://tomhocknell.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/how-to-write-acknowledgments/ – it’s a minefield. Here’s all the very best wishes to every reader, writer, editor and designer out there for the next year.

So, to close the year, I review of one of the favourite novels I read this year: Look at me by Anita Brookner – Penguin books. 2016

The joy of a local bookshop is its algorithms. Much like the Internet reminds you of trainers you once browsed but couldn’t afford, a bookshop knows what you read. Hence, I was recommended the 2016 reissue of Anita Brookner’s Look at Me. It’s a slim novel concerning a young woman in West London, and of the sort I would never normally read! It’s a glimpse behind curtains not of street-tough suburban streets, but of the moneyed tenement blocks of Mayfair. It’s populated with old ladies sitting lonely amongst accrued opulence, and bright thing things grasping for life’s meaning beyond having everything.

It’s a world in which charm combats time, and indeed the librarian, Frances Hinton. She is mesmerised by the charismatic Nick, who ‘seemed to be totally ignorant of the sad compromises and makeshifts, the substitutions and the fantasies, that constitute the emotional baggage of the average person.’

As she walks home past Christmas office parties, Frances struggles to equate her quiet life with that of Nick and his equally beguiling wife Alix, yet perhaps things are not as perfect as they seem. Brookner expertly lures Frances behind those historically closed doors. This genuinely timeless book is beguiling, and the perfect back pocket novel.

 

The Life Assistance Agency is available now and features in 2017’s WHSmith Fresh New Talent promotion.   and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.

 

 

 

Star Wars – Rogue One. A review.

There’s been much talk about Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One requiring reshoots to address a grittiness more associated with war films. Whether we’ll see Stormtroopers writing home to a loved one they’ll never see again and puking into their helmets as their landing craft hits a faraway beach is about to be answered

If you’re the sort who drops their coffee mug at first sight of a Star Destroyer casting a shadow within a planet’s atmosphere without considering how this might be gravitationally possible then there’s little you won’t already know about this film. But for those not sleeping under a Salacious B. Crumb duvet cover, it’s basically a film based upon a line from the original Star Wars’ introduction crawl  – ‘Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR.’

This is a weapon of such magnitude that it can only be spelled in capital letters. Rogue One is set in those halcyon days of the Empire, before they had two DEATH STARS blown up and started constructing a third without anyone pointing out the poor statistical chances of its survival. This film is essential Episode 3 ½.  There are no spoilers here, at least none that can compete with the 2 hrs 5 mins of Episode 4, which picks up where this film finishes quicker than you can drop coffee mugs at the sight of Star Destroyers within a planet’s atmosphere.

Rogue One is a good name, and explains the radio call codes in episode 4. It is a rogue one, as it’s the first time for no introductory crawl. Nor, thankfully are there any battle droids from the prequels, with their propensity for throwing themselves at enemy laser fire with all the intelligence of Red Setters chasing donuts off cliffs. Mind you, Stormtroopers still shoot with all the accuracy of a bent shotgun.

The Force Awakens introduced new characters by mixing them with the old. This brings us Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, who unlike Rey, (who appeared to be taking a break from exam revision rather than scrap metal scavenging) is someone you would follow into battle. Which is lucky, because the film grabs your bootstraps and never lets go, other than the occasional motivational speech about hope that the addressees are probably only half listening to anyway. It certainly gives episode 4’s title A New Hope new meaning.

It’s still Star Wars: there’s a pessimistic droid (K-2SO) obsessed with statistical chances of survival – I bet the Imperials wish he’d been there in the DEATH STAR planning meeting. There are also the familiar man-made chasms and ravines of space stations, and even the iconic silhouettes of dutiful guards in watchtowers of Yavin 4. There’s even a cameo from Walrus Face from the Tatooine canteen. But it’s the explosions that are most, well, striking. They’re stunning, as is much of the cinematography. There was even a moment in the fantastically depicted holy city of Jedha, in which it was impossible not to think of those poor people trapped in war torn Aleppo.

There was an admirably restrained use of a certain Darth Vader. Edwards could have milked the opportunity for extra screen time with the dark lord, but in fact it’s expertly rationed, and all the more powerful for it. Most importantly it erases the memory of Jim Henson muppets destroying the imperial Empire on Endor, via far more authentic action that doesn’t involve destroying top-grade military equipment with logs. Even more importantly, it addresses why the original DEATH STAR had such a vulnerable air duct resulting in its destruction.

Rogue One is basically the Star Wars universe, but not quite as we know it. It’s like filming a royal ball but focusing upon what’s happening in the kitchen. It’s not as unashamedly entertaining as the swashbuckling originals, or The Force Awakens. But, dare I say it, it’s more realistic, including the tiniest details for die-hard fans. And speaking of royalty, the end segues into episode 4 with such speed and ease that you barely realise it’s happened.

My debut novel, the Life Assistance Agency is out now and available to buy from Foyles, other book shops and at Amazon – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

Albums of the year – 2016

Anyone looking for a comprehensive count down of 2016’s best albums might be best looking elsewhere, as this list is FAR from exhaustive.

It’s that time of year when I realise how few albums I’ve bought that everyone else has. A flick through the end of year Best Album lists suggests I’ve never been less cool. I flirted with buying the Bon Iver album, despite it insisting upon using song titles like 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄ and ____45_____  I’m so uncool that I want song titles I can use in conversation. I’m sure it’s my loss, as he featured on the falsetto dreamy alt.R&B of Friends with Francis  and the Lights and it was wistful perfection.

2016 had surprisingly few  tessential purchases. Metronomy, AKA Joseph Mount, continues to flirt with being a good band, but his songs somehow never quite justify their existence. It’s like he can write songs, but not great ones. Even the Robyn featuring Hang Me Out To Dry fails to truly grip. It’s a song of two halves that sound like they’ve never met. Nice cover though.

I might yet buy Kanye West‘s Life of Pablo, if he ever finishes it, although I suspect it’ll be nothing on his 808s and Heartbreak.

Bear’s Den : Red Earth and Pouring Rain

This was one essential purchase in 2016. It’s their 2nd album, and the new New Gold Dream. It’s the album every Simple Minds fan has wished for since 1983. An album of such sincerity and lush soundscapes that the mid -80s would have swallowed it whole; mullet and all. But as the electronics pick up in the coda of Broken Parable, your neck hairs have joined them. It’s sublime, and the only album I’ve ever admitted to loving which thanks banjo manufacturers, as opposed to Roland keyboards, in the acknowledgements. It’s widescreen rock for clutching your shirt front to as you bellow out half-heard lyrics like no one’s watching.

Previous albums finds them mooching around in the rain trying to be Mumford and Sons, thankfully this album stops all that nonsense and slaps a heavy dose of Don Henley’s Boys of Summer over proceedings, adding a pop sheen and the sort of ambition U2 buried at the Joshua tree

M83 : Junk 

M83’s Junk album looks and sounds like it might have been recorded by a pack of smacked-out Furby dolls. And this is not a bad thing. It’s the sound of a man dreaming of Rubiks Cubes and Starship singles that were never actually made. It’s utterly bonkers, baffling and rewarding. He might have thrown cool out with the baby, but it’s basically the soundtrack to Netflix Stranger Things, as though the saxophone never went out of fashion. No punches are being pulled, as it’s the sound of the kitchen sink arriving at a studio and never leaving. The opening track plays with discordance, but from then on it’s the celebratory sound of a man in a room full of balloons. There’s little doubt that Moon crystal is pastiche of Hill Street Blues theme tune too far, and perhaps For the kids a one decline into lounge too far, but its imagination and fondness for 80s synth pop is palatable.

Pet Shop Boys : Super 

I’m a little biased, but from the imperial poetry of the Dictator Decides, reminiscent of 1988’s majestic I’m not Scared, to the heavenly italo-disco synths of Undertow and whispered abandon of Burn,  to the wistful breakbeat of Into thin air, Pet Shop Boys have done it again. If you prefer their more reflective string epics this may not be so essential, but this 2nd album with Stuart Price has a joie de vivre of its own. Other than the misstep of techno barn-dance opener Happiness, it’s a rare thing: a pop album that grows with each listen.

Steve Mason : Meet the Humans

The drawback of releasing albums early in the year is the risk of being forgotten in end of year lists. It feels like this utterly marvellous album has been out for so long that Mason has probably forgotten about it himself. This is the ex- Beta Band singer’s 3rd solo album and has an almost baroque intimacy. It’s a blend of folk, indie and smatterings of hip hop/dance beats, and is so stuffed with melodies at unlikely places that you find yourself grinning  without noticing. He’s a criminally well-kept secret in music, which in this case is not a euphemism for acquired taste. It is actually criminal. There’s an aching beauty to all his songs that deserves to be heard. It’s a modern album that is already classic.

1975 : I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

Some albums are not as clever as they think they are. This is one of them. However, it is still very good. It’s shamelessly smooth FM pop. It’s a double album, that would make a perfect ten song album. It sounds like Mister Mister and the Cutting Crew had as much influence as the Beatles. It’s all kind of unlikely, yet works. I’m showing my age, but Somebody Else mines the slick wistful perfection of Double’s Captain of her heart. There are two too many interludes of noodling, but it is the sole album here that appears on other end of 2016 lists.

Song of the year goes to the tender Alchemist by the underrated Just Jack. A kind of more romantic The Streets. Pop is generally more interested in the start of relationships than the end, or the awkward bit in the middle where the house looks like it’s transporting  landfill. But this takes on the bitter sweetness of parenting; of letting them explore the world, while you cross your fingers. He lives in Brighton and despite hearing the moral superiority of tofu in the background, it’s a sumptuous tune (with a twang of Level 42 slap bass) in paean to his daughter . ‘Let’s not make the same mistakes our fathers made,’ he declares, as niggling beats spin a dance spell fit for the sundown terraces of Ibiza without ever leaving his living room.

 

 

HonoThe Life Assistance Agency was also published in 2016 and involves gratuitous references to Bruce Springsteen and other musical artists.  It can be purchased here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

 

The Cure – Wembley Arena. December 1st. 2016.

You might say Christmas has come early for Cure fans, starved of new material since Robert Smith teased them with the promise of a rapid follow up to the 4:13 Dream album – in 2008. The Cure’s legendary 3-hour sets are not for casual fans, not that any are here; any fair weathers would have been elbowed in the face for tickets before they could say ‘will they play Friday I’m In Love?’

Immensely popular, the Cure can be heard throughout modern music; they are no longer a cult, but have found a global niche. They are rock’s least likely success story. At their heart of course is Robert Smith, a man who’s had less of a bad hair day and more of a bad hair career. And from the scratchy, well-knitted guitar lines of Pictures Of You – New Order minus the MDMA – to the forlorn ‘I know we have to go’ of a slow-burning Out Of This World from 2000’s Bloodflowers , nothing has changed.

The sound is immense, as original bass player Simon Gallup stalks the stage like he’s auditioning for Guns ‘N Roses. A neglected lust lies at the heart of these songs: the country walk rush of High, to the swamp funk and machine gun drums of The Walk, to the krautrock early Simple Minds of The Push. You have to admire Adele for covering it, but thankfully they reclaim Love Song’s bedsit romance as their own.

The defiant Play For Today provokes terrace chants, and although BloodFlowers’ title track gropes around unsuccessfully for a tune, the poetry of Primary keeps its rock on the perfect leash. And it’s the inclusion of these darker album tracks that prevents it from being a festival set, and pleases the fans.

Smith stands in a rare spotlight for Three Imaginary Boys and you’re reminded of how they’ve always stayed our side of the velvet rope. Although Bowie’s guitarist Reeves Gabrels has been a Cure band member since 2012, there’s never been any superstar feats. Gabrels sears out skyscraping riffs on Burn, as they twist their sound through so many ports-of-call that it’s impossible to discern if they’re magpie or originator.

As ever, it’s an epic set. The Forest is welcomed like an oldest friend, with the sort of echoed guitar that keeps the Edge awake at night. Any doubts about arena sound will have been put to bed, as will fears of a tendency for meandering sets. Tonight it’s a Cure jukebox, as the visuals magnify each of Smith’s self hugs; not that he needs them, the crowd hold him to their hearts all night.

They disappear countless times, presumably to apply hair spray, and return for a customary 20 encores. For the casual fan it might feel like being at the best party no one invited you to, but it’s not too late to stay. Leave your gothic gloom preconceptions at the door. They even play a needless Love Cats and a massive Hot Hot Hot. But it’s the crisp lines and jerky riffs of Killing an Arab that carry us home.

The debut novel The Life Assistance Agency is available now here  –   , and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.

Can a Health Farm Kill you?

Last weekend I visited a health farm/hotel spa. My only previous acquaintance was the one featured in James Bond’s Thunderball, during which he basically trashed the place; which is a poor advert for the relaxing weekend such establishments promote.

These ex-country homes are often found at the end of long driveways, ideal for driving expensive cars along, so other guests can see, as your Michelin Pilot Sport PAX 245/690 R520 tyres crunch perfectly across the gravel. Our VW Passat was quickly shown the rear car park, leaving the main house car spaces to the neon orange McLaren F1, and inexplicably a 1970’s Vauxhall Cavalier.

The first thing that strikes you at any health farm, spa, hotel resort, or whatever they’re bloody called, is the accommodating staff, who in one case literally tripped over themselves to help. Of course, it’s incredibly pleasant to be treated like duchy, but there remains the inescapable sense of snipers concealed behind chimney stacks and trees, monitoring staff-to-guest interactions, with any dip in helpfulness resulting in triggers being pulled. The staff appear to be traumatised by the importance in being polite, and are probably reminded at hourly motivational meetings involving leather straps and waterboarding.

There are numerous treatments on offer, which is euphemism for massages. There are saunas and steam rooms, and a hot tub that no one had told a nauseatingly amorous  couple was to be shared. What was going on beneath the bubbles is probably best left there. It was all very relaxing, other than the fact it felt like a ninja training camp, everyone padding around in dressing gowns and slippers – there was the sense that your throat could be slit at any moment. Not particularly calming, and that was before I looked at the price of lip balm.

Staff encouraged eating in the restarurant like it was a religious mantra, but instead we asked where the nearest pub was, to a look of horror on said member of staff’s face. It was like I’d cursed in the Vatican. They said it was a 40 minute walk, which I (correctly) interpreted as being a 15 minute stroll.  We left the grounds, somehow without tripping the alarms and search lights, and found one of the best pubs in Sussex (i.e. the world) called the Red Lion in Turner’s Hill. Not only did they serve 5 different local ales, but a snack selection including every possibility currently on sale in the UK, and the finest beef and horseradish £1 roll I’ve ever had. It has to be said that its open fire, wooden booths, friendly gamekeepers and five pints of Harveys was more relaxing  than anything the health farm could offer.

For couples who’s idea of romance is holding hands while getting their backs massaged , a weekend at a health resort is ideal, although that makes requests for a happy finish awkward. Mind you, the resort’s idea of a happy finish is giving you the bill, which undoes any measure of relaxation achieved. If anything the panic at the cost requires another visit to a health farm. It’s the perfect business plan, unless James Bond is staying.

 

The Life Assistance Agency is available now and features no health farms –   and in all good bookshops, including Foyles.

How I (finally) Got Published

I’ve been not published for long enough to allow a kettle to boil, much less forget how articles on How I Got Published are inspiring and galling in equal measure. I have however finally made it to print, so sharing the experience of how it happened feels at least appropriate, even if it feels like fluke. Getting published feels like the glowing perfection of a film’s first act, before a Boeing 747 crashes into the house. This is how it happened, getting published I mean, not the plane crash.

An actor friend told me two years ago how he was giving up his pursuit of acting, and I was struck by what a momentously adult moment this was; to surrender those dreams of his younger self. Well, I reached a similar moment. Over the past two years I had sent my novel the Life Assistance Agency to so many agents that I had reached Z in the literary agent lists, and stopped even noting where I had sent it. Any advice of submitting to only 4 or 5 agents at a time long-since ignored.

Random House then showed an interest, which they probably regretted as I followed them home every night. Mind you, the meeting involving a free cup of tea and Kit Kat in the Random House cafeteria was the most exciting thing to have happened, which speaks volumes about my literary endeavours up to then.

Sadly, this was the peak of my involvement with Random. They had recently signed a novel involving the Elizabethan alchemist and magician Dr. John Dee and feared it risked overkill. They also wisely declined to provide me with this writer’s home address, which might have risked another kind of overkill.

Over the years I also managed to gain and lose two literary agents. To misquote Oscar Wilde, “To lose one agent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

At this point I put the manuscript to pasture, and started another novel, set in a small tenement block in London Bridge. Once I finished this, I glanced again at the Life Assistance Agency. It was at this point, were it a movie, the audience would groan at magnitude of cliché. Yes, I decided to give it one more chance. I would give it another edit and tidy up, before sending it to every agent/publisher foolish enough to publicise their address in the country in a sort of mail-shot more associated with general elections.

There were no takers, but during this time I was building up a Twitter following, mainly by making friends with people in the hope they might return the interest. Once I had gained 2000, a newly found friend suggested Urbane Publishing, as a publishers happy to consider manuscripts without agent representation. And it was while buying tickets to see Hotel Transylvania 2 with my son that I received the email I thought I would never get. I celebrated by buying the 4-year old the sort of ice cream he never thought he would get, and won’t have again, unless film rights are requested.

And it so happened. The first thing I did on returning home was to recycle the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2010 edition with a satisfying ‘fuck you.’  And spent the next 9 months endeavouring to not fantasise about selling enough paperbacks to cover my expenses. Mind you, I’d prefer not to calculate the hourly rate. It feels surreal; all those dreams and aspirations now to be made public. Annoyingly, the moral of the story is never give up.

The Life Assistance Agency is available to buy from local bookshops and at Foyles:

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

Kindle is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Assistance-Agency-want-forever-ebook/dp/B01JDPGZHO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

the disappearance of Adele Bedeau. by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Purchased by chance, or rather by me, in Hatchards, the gorgeous bookshop on Piccadilly, it’s seldom you read a book as well executed as its cover. The classical image of a man and his carafe of red wine sums up the wide range of nocturnal entertainment options in Saint-Louis. This is not a Butlins. But one of thousands of towns in the sleepier parts of Europe, in which time trots by, untouched by hypermarkets, the Internet or personal drones. There’s the sense that a box set of Narcs or Sons of Anarchy could change the town forever, as the residents flock around to see how shiny DVDs are.

It’s against this backdrop that the underwhelming, yet well-dressed detective Georges Gorki finds himself investigating the disappearance of waitress Adele Bedeau from Restaurant de la Cloche. He remains haunted by an unsolved case 20 years earlier.

It’s a literary whodunit of which there are not enough, and is better written than most Booker Prize winners and certainly has a better story, although that isn’t difficult. It instinctively understands that lovers of well-written prose can also enjoy a good thriller, rather than enduring existential hubris of college professors flirting with the possibility of a student affair for 600 pages. Too many literary books are about what if? This novel explores what is, and creates a turn-pager of the elegance you dared not dream of.

The characters are shady and real. And Burnet captures the ennui of an unimportant market town perfectly; one simultaneously longs to live there, while feeling grateful one does not. It’s a town to escape from, yet none of the characters have. The inhabitants are the ones left behind.

There are glorious culture clashes between the traditional strait-laced upper French classes and the more dashing – by Saint-Louis standards – Inspector Gorski, but the real standout is Manfred Baumann, the loner assisting in his enquiries. Baumann is a character as unforgettable as the novel, who lives in an apartment he’s incapable of making a home. It’s tremendously thrilling stuff.

Graeme Macrae Burnet’s recent novel His Bloody Project was actually long listed for the Man Booker this year, again published by Contraband, and promises to be an equally affecting read.

 

ABC – Lexicon of Love at Royal festival hall – a review.

This was how it was always supposed to be. Where pop opulence meets romantic strolls; those lost days caught momentarily in time. Tonight the current ABC line up are joined by the Sinfinica orchestra, and from an opening double whammy of the chic When Smokey Sings and soaring elegance of Viva Love from Lexicon of Love 2, Martin Fry’s performance and Anne Dudley’s conducting are masterful.

As the last member to join ABC, Fry is last to leave. He has wisely retired the gold lame suit, although his shoes boast gold courtesy of Jimmy Choo.  He’s loosening his tie by The Flames of Desire only 10 minutes in. It’s pop so tight you can hear the punctuation.

He graciously introduces songs, recalling the writing of new Love inside the love with Dudley, and when they first met in a Brick Lane studio in the early 80s. Those years shadow the first act, as the sequel to the seminal Lexicon of Love is played. His knack for an erudite middle 8 remains as intact as Neil Tennant’s. And as the strings simmer the schmaltz, it’s elegance on tap.

Inexplicably, in light of Rob Fusari arriving to play a neck-slung synth dipped in glitter, the overly wrought Singer not the Song doesn’t quite click. “We started as a punk band, and look what happened”, Fry jokes, as Confessions of a Fool recovers affairs, at least for those who’ve done their homework and bought the new LP; for the others it’s their loss.

Alongside Viva LoveKiss me Goodbye was salvaged from sessions following 1991’s underrated soulful yacht pop of Abracadabra but it’s hard to begrudge Fry the shortcut. 1987’s The Night you Murdered Love closes the first half in flurry of tight disco.  With such Stalinist rewriting of their history, the fair-weather fan might be mistaken for thinking they have only made two LPs. There’s no King without a Crown, or even the orchestral Ocean Blue.

Act 2 opener Show Me finally gets the crowd up. It’s quickly followed by the string stabs of Poison Arrow and Date Stamp, as Fry invites us into his time machine. He knows how dearly these songs are held. The cash till riff of lost single Date Stamp and the Prince-esque 2 gether 4 ever lose none of the funk as they punch their tight horn riffs. But after the swelling perfection of All of my Heart, it’s predictably The Look of Love that wins tonight, even returning for a slightly needless encore; it had already made its mark.

Fry is caught between the Rewind crowd wanting the hits and others who want development. As an artist Fry obviously sits in the latter camp, yet tonight his classical pop succeeds in pleasing both.

Tom Hocknell’s debut novel, the Life Assistance Agency, was published in September. It has been described as PG Wodehouse writes Da Vinci Code via Douglas Adams and is available here – 

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