Uncategorized Blog

Touchstone – Lights from the Sky

touchstone-lights-from-the-skyAfter a spectacular farewell gig at Leamington Spa last November, the previous incarnation of Touchstone split three ways. Keyboard player and original founder launched a new project, Cairo, who released their début album “Say” in September. Meanwhile frontwoman Kim Seviour embarked on a solo career, releasing a cover of Astralasia’s “Fantasise to Realise” as a single, with an album projected for release in some time in 2017.

The three remaining members, bassist Paul “Moo Bass” Moorghen, guitarist Adam Hodgson and drummer Henry Rogers regrouped to put together a new Touchstone, as was always the intention. They recruited first Polish-born singer Aggie then keyboardist Liam Holmes to complete the lineup. The four track EP “Lights from the Sky” is the first release for the new-look band.

The resulting sound is a move away from the pared-back approach of “Oceans of Time”, with big guitars and soaring vocal lines. Aggie’s vocal approach doesn’t have the distinctive fragility Kim Seviour displayed at times, but the three new songs here do make full use of her range and power. Adam Hodgson’s guitar dominates the sound with an emphasis on riffs and melodic fills rather than extended solo wig-outs; “Tangled Lines” in particular opens with a monstrous metal riff. Liam’s Holmes keys, in contrast, play more of a supporting role, adding additional colours.

After the three new songs, the final track on the EP is an alternative version of the title track sung in Aggie’s native Polish, something which in itself could be thought of as a political statement in these times.

The final album by the previous incarnation had a lot of great and interestingly new musical ideas, but there were times where it didn’t quite feel like the whole band were on the same page musically. With this EP, even with just three new songs they’re sounding like a coherent band again. Taken as a whole, it’s got the right balance of old and new; the sounds is still recognisable as Touchstone, but it’s a fresh take on that sound, and clearly a new beginning for the band. It will be interesting to see where they go next.

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Can you sum up Prog in 50 albums?

Prog Magazine have a listicle that attempts to show the history of prog in 50 albums. It begins with the proto-prog of the mid-60s, continues with the defining albums of the greats of the 70s and ends with some of the groundbreaking redefinitions of the modern era.

Only Pink Floyd get more than one entry, and that’s because the Barratt-led 60s psychedelic rockers and the Waters-led stadium act were really two quite different beasts. You could quibble over the relative lack of women; though Curved Air, Renaissance, Fairport Convention and Kate Bush all get a mention there’s nobody from more recent eras. What about Nightwish, perhaps? Or are they not considered prog enough?

Who’s missing?  Aside from Nightwish, the most obvious omission is probably The Mars Volta.

What do you think? Who do you think is missing, and is there anyone who doesn’t deserve to be there?

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I Am A Cat

Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure Set

There is one Panic Room song that has now been bought to life with its own action figure set.

No prizes for guessing the song, of course. It’s this one…

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The Marillion Christmas Poll

grendelHippyDave of this parish is running the Marillion Christmas Poll again this year. It’s missed a couple of years because Marillion haven’t had anything new out, but with the release of F E A R, it’s time for a new poll.

There are three categories, Best Song, Best Album, and Best Other Band, which is a new addition this year, and may or may not show how many Marillion fans have a shared love of Girls Aloud.

Each category has a completely different different voting system, with the rules explained here and here.

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Goodbye David Cameron

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?


David who?

Two months is a long time in politics, isn’t it?

It is ironic that I’m writing this while listening to Marillion’s new album “F*** Everyone And Run”. Because David Cameron sure as Hell f***ed everyone and ran. There will be a review of the album in a couple of week’s time.

Had it not been for his idiotically reckless referendum, Cameron might have aspired to be a forgotten footnote in British history. Now he’s Tony Blair minus all the positive things Blair did before he burned all his political capital on the Iraq war. Everything positive that happened during Cameron’s premiership, like equal marriage, was an achievement of their Liberal Democrat coalition partners and would never have happened under a majority Tory government. People are slowly beginning to realise this.

A prog muso I won’t name once asked me how I thought David Cameron might feel if he read some of the rude things I said about him. But why does anyone expect me or anyone else to care? Because Cameron and his Bullingdon Club chums sure as Hell never cared about anyone that matters to me.

Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, and please take that sociopath George Osborne with you.

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Panic Room launch live DVD crowd-funding campaign

Panic Room have announced a crowdfunding campaign for a Live DVD on PledgeMusic, which will be recorded at Islington Assembly Hall on June 18th.

Options range from £22 for the standard DVD though £45 for a signed deluxe editon of the DVD with your name in the credits to all sorts of exclusive extras.

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RIP Ronnie Corbett

Four Candles

2016 continues to take more and more of our best-loved entertainers.

In one of those strange coincidences, Tweets about /r/ sounds in South East Asian languages came acorss my Twitter feed today, and reminded me of Ronnie Corbett’s Japanese villain in “Death Can Be Fatal“, with his “wringering wrothsome death they will remember for the rest of their rives“. Then I heard that Ronnie Corbett had died at the age of 85.

In Tissingdown, it will be raining all day, and the lady from Nicaragua decided to leave early.

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Seamas Milne and the hard-left bubble

Seamas MilneI’m no Labour supporter but I was willing to give Jeremy Corbyn a chance to revitalise the British left and shake up the establishment consensus. I’d hoped he’s galvanise a broad-based movement rather than retreat into sectarian zealotry. Unfortunately his appointment of Seamas Milne to the powerful post of communications director does not bode well.

Milne gives every impression he’s an unreconstructed and unrepentant Stalinist who sometimes seemed as though he was only employed as a columnist for The Guardian to make some of their other leftist writers look like voices of reason by comparison. He’s close to a caricature of the worst kind of public-school leftist, the product of an expensive private school and Oxbridge education that’s filled his head with Marxist theory, undiluted with much contact with ordinary working people.

It’s as if David Cameron had appointed the notorious Daily Telegraph columnist James Delingpole to the equivalent post for the Conservatives. Except worse; Delingpole is a noxious button-pushing rightwing troll, while Milne is a staring-eyed True Believer. Milne’s acolytes are meeping about “smears”, except that most of those so-called smears are links to his Guardian op-eds, which let people read, in context, what he said about everything from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the murder of Lee Rigby. And none of it is pretty.

Searching for “Seamas Milne” on Twitter and the overwhelming message is dismay from across the centre-left. This hard-hitting piece from Labour PPC Kate Godrey sums up that dismay rather well. As for Milne’s cheerleaders, a blog called The Canary thinks Jeremy Corbyn’s choice of Comms Chief should delight his supporters and terrify his enemies which actually speaks volumes about the delusional bubble inhabited by much of the hard left. It’s difficult to imagine that bubble surviving contact with electoral reality on the doorsteps next May.

Liberal Democrat blogger Stephen Tall nails it rather well.

Of more interest to the Labour party is whether he will be any good at the job. Key question: will he be able to see issues clear-sightedly from his opponents’ point of view? “Never neglect to think like a Tory,” advises John McTernan, Tony Blair’s former Director of Political Operations – a job title which guarantees his words will be dismissed by Corbynistas, whose only true experience of fighting and winning elections is against their own side.

The truth they’re unable to accept is that a hard-left Labour Party has little chance of being elected unless Britain suffers a Greece-style economic meltdown. And if you’re really hoping for a Greek-style meltdown so you can benefit from it politically, then you’ve not the sort of person anyone should trust with political power.

And this is before we start on how the whole controversy is distracting attention away from the really nasty stuff the Tories are doing.

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The Tim Hunt saga contines

Just when you thought that perfect storm of social media outrage and backstabbing academic politics, the Tim Hunt saga, was fading away, it’s all flared up again with Colin Blakemore’s resignation as honorary president of the Association of British Science Writers.

Their reporting of his departure is awful example of weasel-worded dishonesty.

We have accepted with regret Sir Colin Blakemore’s resignation as honorary president of the ABSW, with thanks for his support and assistance over the years.  He has made it clear that he disagrees irreconcilably with the statement we issued in June about media attacks on our former president, Connie St Louis.

As anyone looking at this web site knows already, this relates to her reporting of remarks to the Korea Federation of Women’s Science and Technology Associations by Sir Tim Hunt at the World Conference of Science Journalists in Seoul on June 8. Sir Tim has not disputed the accuracy of St Louis’s reporting and has apologised to the Federation for his comments. Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, is on record as saying that Sir Tim’s comments were unacceptable.

Sir Paul Nurse withdrew his initial comments and has since completely exonerated Sir Tim. But their statement completely fails to mention this.

What’s also telling is the way it uses Sir Tim Hunt’s apology as an admission of guilt, in the manner of a Soviet show trial or medieval witch hunt. It’s a natural human response to apologise when you’ve inadvertently caused offence, something we’re taught to do as a means of de-escalating conflict. But it relies on the other party playing by same rules of of etiquette, and that does not seem to be the case here. It looks far more like dealing with an aggressive bully, to whom a forced apology just gives them power.

The story is no longer about Tim Hunt himself, but about the misreporting both by Connie St. Louis and other parts of the media. This does make the stories of her inflating and exaggerating her qualifications and experience on her CV published online at City University entirely relevant.

St. Louis is a director of The Association of British Science Writers. While it’s human nature to close ranks and circle the wagons, they’re starting to look as credible FIFA under Sepp Blatter.

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This Royal Throne of Feels: Popehat on Bahar Mustafa

Bahar MustafaI am seeing some schadenfreude from some of the more libertarian-minded people in my social media feeds over the news that Goldsmith’s College Student Welfare and Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa has been charged with malicious online communication and is to appear in court.

But while it may amuse some to see a “Social Justice Warrior” (I still hate that term) hoist on their own petard, there are much more important principles at stake, and anyone who considers themselves any form of liberal ought to understand.

The best words on the subject come from a lawyer from the land of the First Amendment, Ken White of Popehat:

The hashtag “#killallwhitemen” is an in-joke, an example of somewhat belabored signalling and irony with a dash of trolling. It’s meant in part to ridicule overblown rhetoric directed at people like Mustafa. It’s not a true threat (no men are specified, no time or place is specified, no means are specified, and it’s obviously not meant to be taken literally) nor a genuine exhortation to violence (ditto). In a sensible legal system it shouldn’t generate anything more than an eye-roll. But in a feels-based legal system, it’s actionable.

And it teaches a few lessons.

First, you censorious Guardians of Feels on the Left: if you thought that the norms you created wouldn’t be used against your “own side,” you’re fools. It is apparently your theory that the law is sexist, racist, and every other -ist, driven by privilege and wealth, and that free speech norms serve to protect rich white guys — yet somehow exceptions to free speech norm will be imposed in an egalitarian, progressive way. That is almost indescribably moronic. Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.

I have very little time for the speech-policing identity politics driven by postmodernist critical theory that’s taken root in parts of academia and the media; it’s profoundly illiberal. But if freedom of speech is to mean anything at all, it means the right to speak ill-informed complete cobblers that others may find offensive. And the right to ridicule that ill-informed complete cobblers without mercy.

Sustained targetted harassement and direct threats of violence are another issue entirely, but I have yet to see any suggestions that Bahar Mustafa has engaged in anything beyond playground-level name-calling. The law is a very blunt instrument for dealing with such things. Prosecution sets a dangerous precedent.

Even if Bahar Mustafa takes advantage of freedoms she would seek to take away from others, that’s still not the point. If they come after her, who will be next? Will you risk jail time for calling George Osborne a bellend?

Update: There are suggestions on Twitter that the court summons isn’t in connection with any of those controversial tweets from months ago, but much more recent tweets that could be interpreted as a direct incitement to violence in connection to the Tory conference in Manchester.

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