Daily Archives: Monday, 18th Apr 2011

The Icicle Works – If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy Sing His Song

I’m doing things out of order again, as I really should be reviewing an earlier release before this one, but you know what? I don’t care. It’s my site and I’ll do things in any old order that pleases me. So there, etc.

I’ve babbled on at great length before about Ian McNabb and his band the Icicle Works, and I’m going to do it again. This is the freshly released, remastered and quite wonderfully extended version of the Icies’ third album, which was first released in 1987. It’s my personal favourite of their studio albums, although it doesn’t contain my absolute favourite song by the band (you’ll have to wait for the overdue review of The Small Price of a Bicycle for that, but it’s got loads more to enjoy, and it’s the album where Ian’s voice and the music work together to their best advantage, thanks in part to a damn fine production job by Ian Broudie.

This reissue from Cherry Red records includes no less than three CDs – the first is the original album, with a crisp, clear and (to my ears) pretty damn good remastering job. It doesn’t contain the extra tracks that were added to the original CD – just the ten tracks which I’ll come to shortly. The second disc is, quite frankly, a gem. A quite substantial seventeen tracks, including B-sides, demos, alternative versions, and other bits. Some of these have been available before – a couple were on the original CD of the album, some were on the Best Kept Secrets CD that came with early copies of the Icies’ Best Of quite some years ago, and others are somewhat rarer. There’s a particularly nice acoustic version of Sweet Thursday, with more strings than seems reasonable, but which somehow works, and perhaps even improves on the usual version. I’ll let you know when I’ve heard it a couple more times. If I remember. And finally, there’s a live CD recorded at London’s Town and Country Club in July 1986, which includes a good selection of the band’s material up to that point, with the expected focus on the then current album. That’s the one I’m going on about here, you know.

Anyway, on to the actual album. Highlights for me include Sweet Thursday, a song which lodged deep in my brain a long time ago, and has shown no inclination to leave.

When sweet Thursday comes
all you know will have changed
The rains will pour down
On the heartache you’ve found
May you never be lonely again

At twenty-four you thought you’d have it all
Now your will won’t work at all
Ten years pass you by so quickly
When all your friends have left you standing still
And you can’t recall the thrill
Of being wanted by another

Then there’s Evangeline, a glorious, wonderful, soaring masterpiece that’s an actual bloody vanishing hitchhiker story. There’s the slightly bonkers and distinctly rockist Understanding Jane, the deeply passionate and lovely Who Do You Want For Your Love?, and the superb Up Here In The North Of England, an honest look at the state of Ian’s home city of Liverpool in the depths of Thatcher’s Britain.

Somehow, all this quite wonderful stuff didn’t translate into hits. While the album got to the lower reaches of the top 30 on its release, none of the singles got above 50, despite some radio play. But for me, this is one of the Best Albums Ever, and one I’ve returned to over and over again. I was very happy to see this extended release, and I hope that maybe some more people will learn to love the Icicle Works.

Weight Report – 18 April 2011

Back down again quite nicely after the weekend bloatage. Good, good.

Normal reports complete with “Stuff” should resume tomorrow, now that I’ve caught up with the missing ones. I still have to catch up with the pile of things on my desk that I want to post about, of course…


The excellent What The Duck[1] reveals the truth about what is generally referred to as “workflow”:

[1] Probably the best photography-themed webcomic featuring ducks  :wave:

Fame of a sort…

I’ve been a subscriber to New Scientist for, err, lots of years now. With gaps enforced by shortness of actual money here and there, I’ve been reading it for somewhere around 30 years. And throughout that time, the best bit of the magazine has always been the fun bit at the back. It used to be called Daedalus, but has been known as Feedback for quite some time now, despite some mutterings about renaming it so people visiting the website wouldn’t confuse it with the letters page.

Anyway, Feedback includes many things, mostly supplied by readers, such as adverts for unlikely (if expensive) products and bizarre pseudo-scientific claims made by the differently sane. So when I got an email a while back that somehow slipped past my spam filters, which said, in part:

After two years working at a healing and health retreat in Thailand, I will be coming to London now, bringing lots of new, cutting-edge information to you about healing your health based on science, chemistry, energy, magnetism, vibration and other quantum healing methods.

I thought that it might be Feedback material, what with the “healing your health” and the inevitable “quantum”, which is often used in Fruitloopery as a nicely vague word, presumably because they’re targeting people who aren’t too familiar with physics. I submitted it in November, but as it didn’t appear in print, I assumed it wasn’t deemed weird enough and forgot about it.

But in the latest issue (cover date 16 April, on sale in the UK until Wednesday), there it was! Of course, it does suggest that I got the message “recently”, but we’ll allow that as journalistic licence. Or something.

However, there is a problem: they describe me as “Londoner Les Bessant”. Say what? Now there was a time, some years back, when my business trips to London were so frequent that I could almost have counted as a resident, but these days it’s down to once or twice a year. I suspect some extrapolation from context has been applied…

Here’s the link anyway:

New Scientist Feedback, 16 April 2011

You may need to create a log in (or use bugmenot or some such) to get in, or the site may even tell you that the page is for subscribers only.