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We Are Not Amused

Social Theory & The Urban Question
This song features a one-chord chorus, a one-note ‘rap’, and a contrived revenge fantasy involving a member of a local council. The name of the song is taken from a core-text our mother studied when she was at university. Although only young at the time we were captivated by the strange constructivist artwork and incredibly dull subject matter. ‘Social Theory and the Urban Question’ subsequently entered into general household usage as a kind of catch-phrase, which, like everything else we ever said, meant nothing. Many years later I chanced upon a copy at a car-boot sale. Bestricken with nostalgia I snapped it up and eagerly set about reading. This time around I hoped I might gain access to the secrets within and finally find an answer to the elusive ‘Urban Question’. By chapter two I realised it was no more than a methodological critique of an obscure academic discipline – and thus more tedious than I had ever imagined. It just so happened that I had recently written a song about the tediousness of town-planning, so it was quite apt.

Merchants of Mediocrity
An Abba-esque arabesque sung by the girls. The original idea was for them to put on a stupid Swedish accent, but for some reason they insisted on doing a stupid Japanese one instead. In hindsight this was much better. The song itself is a tirade against cultural mediocrity, thickly-veiled as a list of items on sale in Woolworths. The lyrics were the result of several clandestine expeditions I made to my local Woolies. Armed with a notepad and pencil I surreptitiously jotted down every ridiculous product I could find, as if I was compiling some sort of inverse shopping list. Secretly I hoped I’d be apprehended by the security guards, but that never happened.

Toilet Humour Isn't Funny
This rips off the tune from All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth for no reason other than the fact it’s annoying. The song targets people with a poor sense of humour, deriding them for gaining amusement from rude jokes. That the song itself contains a number of rude jokes is beside the point. Some people think it’s ironic, but I don’t. Since it was me that wrote it I’m probably right.

Games Workshop Stole My Childhood
If, dear reader, you were ever initiated into the ways of lead miniatures then you’ll know exactly what this song is on about. If you weren’t: be grateful and enquire no further. Suffice to say, both Scolar and I spent far too much time painting squads of Space Marines and arguing about the range of las-cannons (which, incidentally, was 60” and not 72”). Back in the day, Games Workshop was run by heavy-metal fans and other arrested-developers (they even had in-house bands that did songs about Orcs and stuff); now it’s a multinational monopoly driven by the unscrupulous exploitation of young boys. In many ways playing games like Warhammer is similar to smoking. It’s addictive, needlessly expensive and generally unhealthy. Plus, once you’ve been under its sway it never leaves you. The intensity with which I immersed myself in various rule-systems has meant that my sense of logic is forever tainted by dice-based game-mechanics. Even now I can’t look at a shrubbery without unconsciously assessing whether it would class as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ cover. That extra -1 on the to-hit-roll can be crucial. I’m sure that somewhere in my head there is charred patch of brain bearing the GW brand name. Anyway, besides the fact that my capacity for memorising tables of weaponry-related statistics far outstrips any of my academic achievements, the worst repercussion of having dabbled in the dark arts of table-top gaming is the sense of utter shame that accompanies any mention of it in public. Rather than repressing the inner-geek, I chose to write this epic ode to wasted youth.

The Life Of An English Tourist
Musically this is a cross between Madness, Pomp & Circumstance and those big street-organs with automated soldiers that hit little cymbals like what you get in Holland. Lyrically, it’s a caustic account of globalisation and post-colonial decadence. In the second verse there’s a bit about going on a guided tour of Plato’s cave which may need explaining – since it’s confused everyone and I refuse to change it. Basically, Plato’s cave was a metaphorical illustration used in The Republic to demonstrate the theory of ideal forms. It doesn’t really exist. Thus, if you went on a tour of 'Plato’s Cave' it would mean you’d been swindled by an unscrupulous Greek person. Hopefully now you’ll be able to appreciate how witty this song truly is.

Another Day In Worthing
Have you ever been to Worthing? It’s pretty dire. That's why I wrote a song about it. Each verse deals with a day in the life of a different character, until all four stories intertwine in an ‘Inspector Calls’ style finale. Needless to say, nothing very interesting happens. Apart from when we rock out like Brian Adams.

South Tottenham Job Centre
Those in steady employment cannot hope to appreciate the Herculean effort and Frodoian determination required to scab off the Government these days. Not only are you obliged to make fortnightly treks to the Job Centre, you are expected to get out of bed purely to do so. Sometimes, if you encounter a particularly spiteful member of staff, your signing-on time may even be set as early as 10 or 11 in the morning. Many a would-be parasite has buckled under such an arduous regime, and for what? I contend that call-centres are merely the contemporary equivalent of the infamous work-houses of the 19th century. The only difference is that call-centres tend to have canteens so you no longer have to suck maggots out of the infested corpses of dead rats. Anyway, in attempting to address this sociological absurdity we accidentally wrote a country & western song.

That Lethargic Feeling
Ian Dury meets The Righteous Brothers in a ramshackle romp through the various stages of weariness and lassitude. The problem with this song, however, was that we were determined to make the music reflect the emotional content of the lyrics. Thus everything we came up with (apart from the chorus which was ready-made) was sluggish and uninspiring. Plus every time we tried to rewrite the song we became dreadfully bored and had to go and lie down. Victims of our own perverse desire to capture the feeling of lethargy in musical form, we eventually gave up.

Muffin in the Oven
When Nit Nod and Mr Pump got married an odd thing happened. During the reception Nit Nod got up and shouted: “Where are my children? Arise my lovely children!” It soon became apparent she was referring to The Lovely Brothers - so the rest of the band stood up sheepishly. Nit Nod went on to say: “Now I want real children. Lots of them!” An unusual way to announce your plans to start a family, but moving nonetheless. This song was written for Nit Nod to sing and consists of a string of awful metaphors detailing her yearning for childbirth. She only ever agreed to sing it once, but that was only because she was so drunk she couldn't speak, so it didn't really matter what the words were about.

Sociologist in the Park
I’ve never really understood why so many songs are about the same things. Why aren’t there any songs about carpentry or tobacco merchants? Or, for that matter, abseiling? Art reflects society, say the learned, yet so many areas of life are left unsung. Needless to say, I have long since sought to remedy this situation by writing as many songs as I can about really boring stuff. This was one of my most accomplished efforts. It uses a clever narrative device to trick the listener into thinking it’s about something interesting, when really the song is simply contesting the spurious claims made by sociologists concerning the objective status of their studies. In addition, it’s almost seven minutes long, highly repetitive and sounds exactly like Sting’s Englishman in New York.

The Man with the Interesting Tank Tops
This song is about a bloke who works in a shop in Shoreham. Another attempt to write about boring things.

The Silent Majority
As with many of my ideas, this was probably better as an idea than as a song. It takes the form of a letter written by the ‘silent majority’ of Britain to the Prime Minister, thanking him for all the great acts of state he’s overseen and wishing him luck for the future. The point of all this was to highlight the way in which Tony Blair seems to believe the country is behind him when really everyone is shouting: “No, Tony, we’re not. You’re a cunt. We only vote for you to keep the Tories out”. The following lyric came about after going to the massive anti-war demo in London: “Those who speak their mind and whose views aren’t in accord/Are therefore subversives and deserve to be ignored”. I thought that was quite a good line, but the song was shelved because it featured a silent chorus which didn’t really work.

What's on TV Tonight?
The television is a truly nefarious invention, second only to the Atomic Bomb in the official ‘Damage Wreaked Upon Mankind’ league table (curiously enough, hot-air balloons hold the number three spot). Whereas it once masqueraded as an information service, TV now goes about its task of dispensing audio-visual doses of lifestyle propaganda overtly, and without shame. How else do you explain Jamie Oliver? This song offers a critique of our nation’s viewing habits vis-a-vis a cursory peek at an all-too-likely schedule from the not-so-distant future. It also cleverly segues into the theme tune of a popular soap opera. However, having concocted what I considered to be an entirely ridiculous set of shows, I inadvertently stumbled upon a rather unsettling irony. Any prognosis one may make about the depths soon to be plumbed by this malignant cultural cancer is ultimately doomed, due to the fact there are always people more sick and stupid than oneself. Most of them work in television it seems.

Charity Shopping
I made a big mistake with this one. Unable to think of a melody I decided to set it to some standard blues chords and hope for the best. When I showed it to the others they made no attempt to conceal their boredom. That’s when I remembered that BLUES IS INHERENTLY UNINTERESTING. I offered to change it, but it was too late. They refused to give it another airing.

Old Age Ain’t What It Used To Be
All the things that we associate with elderly people nowadays are a product of their time. You can’t underestimate the impact that stuff like the war had on people’s lives. That’s why they talk about it so much. What are our reference points? What will our grandchildren have to listen to us reminiscing incoherently about? This song uses a chirpy George Formby style skit to address these very questions.

Claim To Fame
In which Scolar and I take turns to out-do each other with claims-to-fame and end up undermining the whole purpose of the song by making the claims so ridiculous that they’re actually really impressive. For instance: Did you know that I’m related to Barbarossa? Did you know that Scolar invented time? My first encounter with the concept of fame occurred in the late 1980s on a school trip to Gatwick airport. Whilst we were being shown around the luggage queue one of the girls in my class suddenly started whooping and jumping about. “I’ve just seen John Nettles,” she exclaimed, “I’ve just seen John Nettles.” At that point Mr. Nettles was known only for his title role in Bergerac; it would be another ten years before Midsomer Murders earned him international recognition. Despite this, my classmates rushed to where the girl claimed she’d seen him, hoping that they too might catch a glimpse of somebody who’d been on telly. This was the first of many times that I’ve been surrounded and astounded by people getting excited about celebrities for no reason. Who gives a fuck? This song was written for all the twats out there who have ever tried to impress me with their convoluted connections to famous people. The lyrics were devised during an email exchange between myself and Mr Pump over the course of a few weeks. We sent hundreds of stupid claims to each other, after which I spent ages trying to bash them into rhyming couplets. Maybe I should’ve spent longer. I didn’t even bother trying to make them scan – as can be deduced from the massively-unbalanced syllable count. Not for the first time, the musical germ was stolen from the ‘Body Form’ tampon advert (a rich mine of inspiration it seems), but we got stuck when it came to getting the band to play it. We tried out various things but nothing worked – we simply couldn’t think of anyone else to plagiarise. Then, just as we approached the point at which we would have been forced to make up something ourselves, Dr. Von Stein uttered the magic word: Meatloaf. The rest was easy.

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