Tag: music

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Elbow: From “Build a Rocket Boys” to “Brew a Beer, Boys”!

I love the band, Elbow, for a great many reasons.  And even though it’s the greatest cliche in popular music history, I’ve loved them since their early stuff.

As a wordsmith, even one of the everyday hack variety, I love Elbow for lyrics such as:

“I’m proud to be the one to hold you when the shakes begin”

“You little sod I love your eyes/be everything to me tonight”

“Grow a fucking heart, love”

“Throw these curtains wide/one day like this a year would see me right”

“We still believe in love, so fuck you”

“Dear friends/you are angels and drunks/you are Magi”

“You were freshly painted angels/walking on walls/stealing booze/and hour long, hungry kisses”

“The violins explode inside me when I meet your eyes/and I’m spinning and I’m falling like a cloud of Starlings………….darling is this love?”

I love them because of their cleverness, their instrumentation, their openness.

I love them because they are five crumpled northern blokes who look like they could be my mates.  (And I secretly love the fact that people keep telling me I look a little bit like lead singer Guy Garvey, especially around the saggy, weary eyes).

I love them because Guy Garvey genuinely seems like one of the nicest men in the world (I’d love to see him and Andy Moffat from the Redemption brewery each trying to buy the other a pint – I really wouldn’t bet on who would crack first and accept the other’s hospitality rather than give it).

I love them because they absolutely reek of the pub.  I know they spend their time in pubs, and their music feels like it was born in pubs, it feels like that’s where it should be performed, even though it works in vast arenas and on Glastonbury’s main stage.

And now I love them because they’ve brewed their own beer:

The beer itself is not news: it was announced a good few weeks ago now, and is just about to be launched.  It’ll be officially launching at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival, where I’m attempting to arrange an interview with them about the beer.

What’s new is that the beer is now going to be available in bottle, so fans outside the north west can enjoy it.  And that a percentage of profits will be donated to Oxfam. Because they’re really nice lads.

If I can anticipate the inevitable “Why did they choose such a dull brewer to work with?” comments – Elbow specifically selected Robinsons because they wanted to work with a brewer local to them in the north west.  And if I was to imagine what an Elbow beer is like, it’s not some flashy, hop-heavy imbalanced beer: an Elbow beer is an accessible, traditional beer, one of those pints you’d have with your dad when you go back home, one of those beers that you can drink a few pints of, is balanced, fruity with a dry finish.  And that’s exactly the kind of beer Elbow went for.  So long as it’s done well, there’s always a place for it, and Robinsons brew it perfectly well.

There will soon be a website for the beer, telling you where you can get it and stuff.

In the meantime, if you can’t get the Build a Rocket Boys! beer, you can still get the Build a Rocket Boys album, and if you haven’t done that yet, I suggest you do.

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What’s on YOUR pub juke box?

No it’s not.  Mine is.

I’ve been really busy, and then I’ve been away on holiday, drinking vast quantities of Estrella and Cruzcampo (and an accidental awful pint of Fosters) which means I missed the publication in the Morning Advertiser of My Pub Jukebox.

I get drawn to this column each week, like an itchy scab.  Every week, without fail, sales reps from brewers and pub equipment suppliers, and middle managers from pubcos, choose tracks by Queen, Bryan Adams, Michael Jackson, Chris Rea and Chris de Burgh.  I swear someone once even chose a track by the vile, unspeakable M*ka.

And every time I read it a bit of me dies a little inside.

Yes, I’m a music snob.  Far more than I’m a beer snob.  If I was as snobby about beer as I am about music, you would not be reading this blog.  You’d be trying to find my address so you could come round and punch me in the face.

So I abused my position and demanded the chance to do my own pub jukebox.  They said yes.  Sadly, it’s not a feature that merits inclusion on the MA’s website, so I can’t give a link to it.  But if you don’t have a copy of the MA dated 23 September, here’s my selection below.

If you like, you can debate it, and suggest your own track listing.  It won’t be as good as mine though.  Just live with that.

Pete Brown’s Pub Juke Box

“Long before I was a beer snob I was a music snob: a terrible, obnoxious snob who delighted in stuff other people had never heard of, or found unlistenable. Having said that, at least eight of these ten would liven up a night down the boozer.  Just accept that my music collection is better than yours, and we’ll get along fine…

1. New Order – Temptation

The soundtrack to my life – simple as that.  It’s been played at every meaningful event I’ve ever experienced; the sound of a band intoxicated by the realization of how good they might – and almost did – become.

2. Roland Alphonso – Phoenix City

I found this by accident on a Trojan Records compilation and it’s been my party starter ever since.  Why it’s not a staple cover of every ska band on the planet I’ll never know.

3. The Clash – Straight to Hell

If a pub has a jukebox that doesn’t have at least one Clash CD, I won’t drink in there.  It’s a litmus test.  Music but no Clash means the landlord doesn’t know what he’s doing, so the beer’s probably going to be rubbish too.

4. Arcade Fire – Wake Up!


5. Orange Juice – Consolation Prize

“I’ll never be man enough for you”.  A geek’s rant raised to something noble and majestic by one of the most inspirational men singing today – mainly because it’s a bona fide miracle that he still is – Mr Edwyn Collins.

6. The Blue Nile – Tinseltown in the Rain

Their albums come along less frequently than Halley’s comet, but that’s because perfection takes a long time. Songs of neon, traffic, bitter coffee and rain – the soul of the city, written as epic by the singer’s singer.

7. Godspeed You Black Emperor! – The Dead Flag Blues (intro)

From a genre known as ‘post rock’, the bleakest song ever written.  So dark it’s actually funny: “The sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides.  And a dark wind blows.  The government is corrupt.  And we’re so many drunks with the radio on and the curtains drawn.” I’m just showing off now.

8. Guillemots – Sao Paulo

While stuck on a container ship en route to India with a barrel of traditional IPA for my book Hops and Glory, I went a bit mad.  This wildly inventive group’s 11-minute caterwauling, multi-dimensional masterpiece was the only thing barmy enough to make me feel a sense of equilibrium with the world.

9. Elbow – One Day Like This

“Throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year would see me right.” Pubs used to play the national anthem at closing time. Now they should play this – by law – for a mass sing-a-long just before last orders. Talking of which…

10. Richard Hawley – Last Orders

From a man who lives in the pub, whose music is the pub, a melancholy piano solo to soundtrack a sleepy walk home after a night well-lived.”

My favourite REAL pub juke box is at the Shakespeare in Stoke Newington, London N16. It’s almost as achingly hip as my selection, and has the added bonus that it exists.

If you want a more crowd-pleasing version, the Beer Widow has already posted her response.

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The Beatles and the Stones

Maybe it’s because they share the same combination of artistry and sociability, maybe it’s because both have the power to intoxicate, or maybe it’s just that one was my passion and obsession before the other came along. But I can’t help seeing constant parallels between the world of brewing and the world of pop and rock music. When I first realized that I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to write about music, and maybe I’m just venting some of that frustrated desire.
I’m not going to describe brewing as the new rock and roll because that would be unforgivable, but the excitement of discovering a new beer, the sense of an underground, an alternative to the mainstream, the hype and buzz that occasionally surround an ‘important’ new release… they’re very similar. If you took away the music analogy and my other favourite – seeing the brewing industry in terms of Monty Python films – I’d struggle to describe how I feel about beer and brewing.With that in mind, I was struck recently by the strongest parallel to date. And it’s this: Thornbridge and Brew Dog are the Beatles and the Stones.In the early sixties, the Beatles and the Stones tore up the blueprint of popular music and redefined it forever. They took established forms – rock and roll, rhythm and blues – and while they showed immense respect for these traditions, they twisted them into brand new shapes.The influence of both is inarguable and still felt today.But the two bands were quite different in the way they came across, and people talked about which they preferred.
Thornbridge Hall just to of shot to the left.

While both were experimental and incredibly popular, the Beatles were seen as clean-cut, nice, cheeky boys who you could take home to meet your mum if you snagged one of them. They rocked the establishment, but there was something wholesome about them. They proved accessible and likeable as well as pioneering and brave.

You can’t go out in Fraserburgh dressed like that, you dangerous young punks!

The Stones on the other hand were more dangerous, more edgy, with more attitude. “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?” ran the infamous headline. While both bands indulged in mind-altering substances, it was the Stones who were seen as the druggy, edgy band, the real rock and rollers, the Rolls Royce in the swimming pool and the TV out the hotel window.

You could obviously appreciate both, but you probably had a definite preference for one over the other. Thornbridge and Brew Dog are symbiotically linked in my mind because when I first met Thornbridge, Martin Dickie was joint brewer there with Stefano Cossi. Since they went their separate ways they’ve remained on good terms (when I brewed at Thornbridge, the screensaver on the brewery laptop was a big photo of Martin). They’ve developed very similar beers – Martin first explored the wood aging that would lead him to Paradox and beyond with Thornbridge’s wonderful St Petersburg. And Jaipur and Punk IPA are clearly related. A couple of weeks ago, each brewery sent me some beer to try. Brew Dog sent a bottle of Sink the Bismarck! And Thornbridge delivered a few bottles of Jaipur that’s been centrifuged rather than pasteurized and/or cold filtered. This weekend, I tried them both. Both IPAs, both from new wave rock and roll brewers. Jaipur the latest Beatles remix, Sink! the challenging new release from Their Satantic Majesties. I’m actually going to have to discuss the beers in a separate blog post now because there is so much to say about Sink! in particular, so I’ll let this observation – originally intended as an intro to a blog about beer tastings – stand on its own. Please let’s not get into which one of the Bakewell lot is Ringo, and whether James Watt is more Mick Jagger or Andrew Loog Oldham – I don’t want to get down to the personal level (though I’ll give you Martin Dickie as Keith Richards – there’s even a passing physical resemblance to the young Keef). But if the analogy is true, can we extend it? Who is the brewing world’s Simply Red, its Joy Division or Black Lace?