Sunday, June 30, 2013

Engine Blood: British GP

* FLAG REVIEW:


Ah, the Union Jack.  Representing the blending of the nations in good ol' Blighty by not even slightly representing Wales - unless that's what the white is?  It could be what the white is - it's a great flag for a great nation.  (Hums "Land Of Hope And Glory", wipes tear from eye)

* In what may be a key turning point in the championship, what looks to be a gearbox issue has robbed Sebastian Vettel of a victory, handing the top step of the podium to nobody's favourite driver, Nico Rosberg.  Ross Brawn may well be kicking himself for backing the wrong horse earlier in the season.

The Canberra Milk Kid himself recovered well to take second, after apparently being Grosjeanned on lap one, whilst Daniel Ricciardo made a good case for replacing his countryman, despite being hung out to dry after the last safety car with bad tyres.  And speaking of bad tyres...

* The tyres were really bad, with them exploding left right and centre.  Ham-Ham, Massa, Perez, Gutierrez and Vergne all suffered horrendous incidents, and it really shows the deeper problems with these issues that Hamilton and Massa recovered from halfway round the track to score points, whereas Vergne was forced to retire despite a much shorter trip back.

* So, tyres, then.  L'il Lewis' toys are resolutely out of the pram at this point, and why wouldn't he be angry, particularly when he had recently put on a plain black helmet to conduct a secret tyre test in his 2013 car, an act which was deemed to be against this rules and spirit of the sport.  I mean, of all people, it should have been everyone else who had the failures!

Pirelli are in a dubious position here; having been asked to make fragile tyres that would degrade in the name of entertainment - as Engine Blood has previously pointed out, this is a pretty uncomfortable concept - they seem to have gone a bit too far with the concept.  For Formula One though, it's a much more uncomfortable predicament.  If Pirelli decide the negative publicity is too much and pull out, there doesn't appear to be anyone who wants to step up and handle the hot potato...

And THAT'S all the blood that's fit to drain this week!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Engine Blood: Special "Holy Cow, Something's Actually Happened" Edition


Engine Blood presents- "Mark Webber: We Hardly Knew Ye (And We Barely Cared)"

Yes, another long-running Engine Blood joke will bite the dust along with the career of Formula One's only Canberra Milk Kid at the end of the season, leaving us to ask the only remaining question: why now? 

Why not last season?

* Let's be fair though: Mark did more than enough to merit inclusion in the elite class of open-wheeled racing.  Through the well trodden path of karting > get the hell out of Australia and over to Europe > Formula 3 > Le Mans, he was rewarded some F1 testing and, more dubiously but definitely advantageously, a management contract with Flavio Briatore, F1's answer to Silvio Berlusconi.

Being parachuted into Minardi during their partially Ecclestone-funded years of propping up the grid, Mark achieved that rarely seen feat of scoring in his first ever Grand Prix, sweetened further by it being in his home country of New Zealand [CITATION NEEDED].  After a predictably pointless rest of the year - not his fault, the Minardis of that time were exceedingly rubbish - he jumped to a big name manufacturer at the end of the year!

* Sadly that big name was Jaguar, perhaps the floppiest of the floppy manufacturer team, and could only take consolation from his domination of his team-mates Antonio Pizzonia, Justin Wilson and Christian Klien - three names I don't think any of us have heard in a fair while, but establishing yourself as number one in your team is still a crucial step for a young driver.  We will be pointedly re-examining this assertion in a short while.

From 2005 he called Williams home, and this is where his hard racing (read: unwillingness to give an inch) started getting him noticed by the wider public (read: got him a reputation as a shunter).  In his first year he did just pip his team-mate Nick Heidfeld, but it was Heidfeld who got the more eye-catching results, with a pole position and a pair of second places, and also missed the last three races through injury.  Mark was partnered with a debuting Nico Rosberg in 2006, but it was a bit of miserable year for the team and Mark was soon moving on to pastures...

* ...old.  For you see, in his final team move ever by the looks of it, he went to Red Bull, who had bought out Jaguar not long after Webber had moved to Williams.  To the surprise of most, they had not been terrible, but lacked a second driver talented enough to challenge the by-then decidedly mediocre David Coulthard.  Webber was a good fit and could seemingly inherit the number one status once Red Bull got themselves sorted out.

Mark was doing a good job with the technology he was given, but two things changed in short order: number one, Sebastian Vettel won the 2008 Italian GP for Red Bull's sister team, Toro Rosso (who, just to bring things full circle, were once Minardi), and therefore earned a call-up to Red Bull in 2009 when Coulthard shuffled off to the commentary box.

Then we had 2009: the crazy season.  2008 ended with Ferrari's Felipe Massa and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in a pitched battle for the title, but due to a raft of rule changes the order was given its biggest shake-up for years, and Red Bull suddenly found themselves as the only team able to get near to the dominant Brawn GP.  Webber took his first two wins, but Vettel doubled that and finished two places ahead of him in the championship.  Red Bull claim not to play favourites, but that very much smacks of the kind of dominance that establishes a number one driver.

For those of you snoozing at the back: this would be a good time to pointedly re-examine the assertion that establishing yourself as number one in your team is a crucial step for a young driver.

* And so we come to both the greatest high and dowdiest low of Webbo's career - the 2010 season.  Never in living memory had there been such a platform for a driver to be viewed upon, and with the generally held opinion that four teams and as many as nine drivers would be battling for the top honours, along with the extra interest generated by Michael Schumacher's return (oh shut up - you know it's true), this was a big deal.

In all the hubbub, it's probably fair to say that Webber (along perhaps with Rosberg) was the one of that elite group of whom the least was expected, but with three races to go it looked to be his to lose - which he duly did.  Poor results let not just the ever-present Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari back into the picture, but also Hamilton and, most disastrously for Webber, his own team-mate, who only went and won the bloody thing at the last race, whilst Alonso and Webber stared disconsolately at the back of slower cars that they just could not overtake on the potential-free Yas Marina circuit.

* Having finished third for two seasons in a row, last season saw Mark hit only 6th place, again in the same team that produced the World Drivers' Champion.  Despite rumours that Ferrari were again planning to show Massa the door, he stayed at Red Bull, and with fresh evidence that Vettel rules that team with an iron fist, he's off to the FIA World Endurance Championship next year.

He will leave behind him an odd little legacy, reminiscent of Rubens Barrichello, Riccardo Patrese or Gerhard Berger - always capable of a win, and good at abetting a world champion, but never having been able to put their stamp on a season of their own.  We won't yet speculate about a replacement - seriously, Raikkonen?  What could go RIGHT with that one? - as we're too busy trying to find another clip of a driver humiliating himself for profit that we can trot out when we've run out of jokes.  That'll be every week, then.

A Godawful Small Affair: Fifteen "Tonight"

Right.  Time to bite the bullet...

"TONIGHT" (1984)

COVER: Doctor Manhattan in a syrup.


Whilst I seem to be one of the few defenders of "Let's Dance" amongst my peers, it would be so much easier if I didn't like it.  My admiration for that album makes my contempt for this one seem like a jarring fall from a reasonably great height; at least if I'd given up after "Scary Monsters", this would feel more like the result of an incremental drop in quality, or simply an established artist edging away from the genre I preferred them in.

But no - as my colleagues are fond of saying, "we are where we are", and where I am is slap bang at the start, which to my mind is actually the total lowest point, of the worst period in Bowie's musical development.  I think it; you, most probably, think it; even he seems to agree, which at least means I don't have to worry too much about expressing my disappointment.  So roll up your sleeves - we're going in.

Let's start, controversially, on a positive note; "Blue Jean" is an excellent pop song, and the accompanying short film "Jazzin' For Blue Jean" is a hoot, albeit for pretty much all the wrong reasons.  Similarly, opening track "Loving The Alien" is hooky enough to defy its seven minute running time, despite incorporating the theme from "Red Dwarf" as a pre-chorus section (yes, I know that came out afterwards; no, I will not stop cracking that joke, damn it).

And that's it.  Two lone diamonds in the roughest of the rough, two twinkling points of light in the middle of the dense fog.  Almost the entire rest of the album consists of painfully bad renditions of songs either newly or latterly co-written (and in some cases sung) with Iggy Pop, who is, of course, great - as you'll know, since you've read about him in our Extra Credit entries. 

Somehow, at no stage does this ever, ever work.  The paranoid brilliance of "Don't Look Down" is performed as a lazy reggae snoozefest.  "Tonight" is presented here also in chilled-out form, shorn of its dramatic introduction and any emphasis and inflicted with a Tina Turner vocal.  "Neighbourhood Threat" is...  Just awful.  Just so, so awful.

Then we have yet more covers, with terrible and pointless versions of "God Only Knows" and "I Keep Forgettin'" helping to ram home the unpleasant comparisons to "Pin-Ups", which before this was probably the only album he'd produced that could be described as uninteresting.  The final slap in the face is "Dancing With The Big Boys", which at the very least is just a big old mess rather than the almost malicious tracks that have preceded it.  And there we have it: you've just survived what I have no hesitation in naming The Worst David Bowie Album.  Give yourself a pat on the back and have a lie down.

This was the commercial experiment rumbling on - an attempt to maintain the much larger, and likely more casual, audience built up with "Let's Dance" and the Serious Moonlight tour.  Annoyingly, it's not like he wasn't capable of a good tune around the time either, as highlighted by an expanded reissue from the Nineties which contained "Absolute Beginners" and "This Is Not America".  Blame the circumstances of recording, blame the decade, blame the slapdash song choices - whatever it comes down to, this was a big, big miss.

Perhaps tellingly, it would be three years before another Bowie album came out, and that in itself would be an attempt to get back to basics and repair some of the damage done here.  But the Eighties were a harsh mistress, and 'basic' was never on the cards for established recording artists...

Join us next time as we develop a social conscience, invent a new species and meet a dancer named Spazz Attack.  Surely you can't miss that!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

One From The Vaults: Compilation Albums/"New Wave"

When I was a lot younger, and we're talking single figures here, I had a scattergun approach to music.  I liked the pop I heard on Radio 1, your Kylie Minogues, Michael Jacksons and what have you, plus sundry things from my parents' record and tape collections, so there's your Bowie putting in an early appearance, alongside such diverse delights as Erasure, Led Zeppelin, Alexander O'Neal and Guns And Roses.

Sometime towards the end of the Eighties, I seem to remember making a conscious decision to get more music; I could be wrong, as I often am when recollecting things from that far back, but that's how my brain has chosen to represent this process to me today so I'm sticking with it.  Ergo, I went to the go-to purveyors of compilation albums at the time, that being the good folks at Now That's What I Call Music.

There are much better websites around that chronicle that particular series, so I won't go too far into it; only to note that I had entries 13 through 17, though not 15, for reasons that entirely escape me.  Looking back at the tracklistings, it seems that Side B of Now 17 probably comprises my first exposure to weapons-grade indie, being a largely Madchester-derived selection - interesting what you can find out when you put your mind to it.

My memory does not record why I didn't go any further with any of the artists on these tapes, but I think a combination of a child's low budget and miniscule attention span probably accounts for me not having Redhead Kingpin And The FBI's album, if indeed there is such a thing, despite "Do The Right Thing" clearly being fantastic - ditto Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" and The Rebel MC's magnum opus, "Street Tuff" - but let's move on before this turns into a list of pop rap gems I quite liked in 1990.

Despite being the catalyst for my full blown love of music, Nirvana - we'll get to them, oh yes we will - actually contracted my musical range for a year or so, with me quickly turning from someone who would eagerly consume anything musical regardless of genre, to someone who listened to Nirvana, and maybe some bands that sounded like Nirvana, and ideally were on the same label as Nirvana.  Funnily enough, most of these acceptable alternatives were culled from the legendary and much coveted compilation "Sub Pop 200", or the cut-down vinyl version "Sub Pop Rock City" - two of the best finds me and my friends unearthed.

I mentioned "Loaded", a perfectly innocent Virgin Records rock and indie compilation, named for the Primal Scream song that was included therein, in my last post, and I think that one tape deserves a lot of credit for unlocking some interesting directions for me to pursue.  By the time I got it, I had managed to crawl away from Nirvana at least as far as Suede, who had "Animal Nitrate" on the collection, and having no further musical direction at that point it made sense to get a set of songs by bands whom, I was forced to assume, were probably a bit like Suede.

In that sense I was totally wrong, but here's a fact for you: of the eighteen bands on that album, there are only five that I don't now have albums by (http://www.discogs.com/Various-Loaded/master/125161 - answers on a postcard, no prizes will be given), so we can definitely say this had a big effect on young Master Hirons' development.

There's still a goodly amount of compilation albums being released, more often it seems along various themes, but I'm not sure if they really serve that much of a purpose in the Internet age, when a program like Spotify seems to occupy a similar niche.  But consider this a tip of the hat to anyone still taking the plunge - it broadened my horizons, and it could do the same for you.


THE AUTEURS "New Wave" (Hut, 1993)

FOUND: Represented by "Showgirl" on the Virgin compilation "Loaded".  We return to this again so soon!  However, to my eternal shame, I was not responsible for bringing the album into our household; rather, it was my father who spotted the potential, whilst I was still saving up for a Lemonheads album on the strength of bloody "Mrs Robinson".

THE SELL: Songwriter, singer and guitarist Luke Haines did a much better job of describing his career in his excellent book "Bad Vibes" and its disappointing follow-up "Post-Everything", so anything I say here seems somewhat empty.  But for the record, a potted history: Mr Haines plied his trade with an ill-fated band called The Servants before unleashing his full talents upon the world.

"New Wave" seems to have been one last stab at putting at an album he could be proud of, and The Auteurs themselves were him, his girlfriend and Some Bloke on drums - a pattern that would repeat, with added cello, throughout the group's existence.

THREE KINGS: "Showgirl" has everything a song needs: catchy hooks, great lyrics, gaps and an excellent middle eight.  On Side B, as we used to call it, "Valet Parking" is just a superb offering; few songs are as well put together as that.  But if it's tender melancholy you seek, look no further than the sheer heartbreak of "Junk Shop Clothes".

WORST TRACK: I'm sure most people who are familiar with this album will be shouting "Don't Trust The Stars" at their screens right now, but I've a soft spot for that one.  If I had to pick, I'd probably go with "Idiot Brother", which goes on a bit.

ALSO TRY: "After Murder Park".  Again, Haines himself describes the torrid gestation of The Auteurs' third album better than I ever could, so I'll just say two things: Steve Albini produces it, and "Married To A Lazy Lover" is the second best song of the 1990s.  Case closed.

BUT AVOID: Hmm.  Cheating a bit I suppose, but some of the artistic excesses of his later solo work are worth missing out on.  If I've got to stay on The Auteurs though - and I like a challenge, so I think I will - there was a later album, "How I Learned To Love The Bootboys", that slinked out around 1999 with little fanfare.  Now, me, I love it - "School" and "Lights Out" are right up there with the best of anyone's songs - but if you had to leave one out, I wouldn't blame you for picking that one.

 MAGIC MOMENT: Live at the ICA in 2001 (couldn't pinpoint the exact date), Luke Haines is promoting his recently-released soundtrack for the execrable film of "Christy Malry's Own Double Entry".  "And now for some film music of a different kind", he says, and the band launch into "Showgirl".

A Godawful Small Affair: Fourteen "Let's Dance"

"LET'S DANCE" (1983)

COVER: Does this one need a joke?  Seriously.  It's him, doing a thing you wouldn't expect!  Ain't it ker-azy?  Isn't that enough?  WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT?


(Is anyone disappointed I'm not doing the "Baal" EP?  If so, feel free to send me a copy and I'll happily give it a whirl.  Hey - you don't ask, you don't get.)

And lo!  For it is told that David did look fondly upon the success brought by "Scary Monsters", and He saw that it was good.  And pleased with his higher profile, it is told that He decided He would make A Hit Album.  And He brought to within His orbit That Fellow Who Wrote "Le Freak".  And, well, long story short, it worked - possibly too well...

With a zippy, none-more-Eighties sound and loooooong ol' tracks, ready for the 12" single format that I understand was big news at the time, this was the album that blasted Bowie into the decade proper; I think of "Scary Monsters" as a full stop on his late Seventies output, everything from "Station To Station" onwards, and this as the start of the next phase. 

Now, a lot of people will say that "Scary Monsters" was the last great Bowie album, but that's doing this one down; it might not be 'our' Bowie, the boundary-pushing chameleon, but it's a fantastic pop album for the time.  Overblown and pompous perhaps, but it wears the grandeur well, with each of its eight tracks bringing something slightly different to the table.

Highlights include the title track, the catchy pop of "Modern Love" and the sheer insanity of "Cat People (Putting Out Fires)".  The lowlight, if I may be controversial for a second (and I may; who's going to stop me?  You?  Pah!) is "China Girl", presented here in a less harrowing format than Iggy's version but now with added mild racism.  This is one that could have done with being shorter, and the radio edit deals with this problem to some extent.  It sold approximately twenty bajillion copies as a single and is still one of Bowie's most well known tracks, so apparently the joke is on me.

If I may digress for a minute (again, it's entirely up to me if I do or not so I'm not sure why I'm asking), I cannot discuss this album without mentioning that "Let's Dance" itself was the first dance at my wedding.  I love my wife very much and this is our song.  That's all I wanted to say about that.

Such sentiments duly delivered, let's get back to our storyline: in terms of commercial success, this is The Daddy - the one that woke up an America that had been turned off by Bowie's wilderness years of electronic experimentation.  Stadia beckoned, and the creative genius delivered the "Serious Moonlight" tour - an entire tour based on one of the oddest bits of lyric ever written.  At this stage one would be tempted to wonder how he keeps getting away with things like that, but I know what happens next...

Join us next time - if there is a next time - for the horror.  THE HORROR.

One From The Vaults: Introduction/"Copper Blue"

 Hello, my international chums!  You may notice there's been more activity than usual here in the last few weeks, as an odd set of conditions have allowed for some more publishing.  Here's a slight departure from our usual strands, established to look largely at the albums of this writer's youth.  Given that "Engine Blood" and "A Godawful Small Affair" aren't even getting done on time, and "We Game To Please" has all but disappeared, we may not see too many of these; still, I'm game for a try.  So: 1, 2, a-1, 2, 3...

These days I don't buy that many albums, and if I do, they're by an established act that I am unlikely to be disappointed by, either because they are likely to continue evolving (Bowie, Bobby Conn) or reliably deliver in their chosen furrow (Guitar Wolf, Billy Childish).  Either way, it's a familiar name on the label that draws my ever-greying pound these days.

In some cases, the name is so familiar that I already own it; yes, I speak of the new church of the "remaster", ever more omnipresent in these days where bands refuse to die.  Despite my usual world-weariness, I am inevitably tempted to part with a second wedge of cash for a very slightly expanded selection of tracks that even I can't really justify.

I think it's a symptom of reaching a certain age that one is doomed to attempt to recapture the feeling of their youth by re-embracing its popular culture, since the places you used to go are less accessible or affordable now, and the people you used to go there with are often more distant.  Either that or I'm a sap who clearly doesn't like money very much, as I keep seeming to fling it over counters for things I technically already own.

I always think I'm not going to fall for it as well; I generally couldn't care less about the accompanying book, which often sheds no new light on anything, and invariably features some washed-up old NME hacks rewriting history.  The album I already have, and my cloth ears (they're gingham, folks!) mean any changes in audio quality are entirely lost on me. 

But there's always some curate's egg, some obscure doodad that appeals to the collector in me; the need to complete something kicks in, and suddenly I've spent the housekeeping on a shiny new old thing.  At least I can sell the old copy, right?  No.  Just...  No.  And it goes on like this, with no signs of stopping.

It's also utterly pointless as, other than a temporary shunning of my grunge albums during Britpop, I like to think I've kept a reasonably open channel to my past at most times, whereas some of my peers seem more embarrassed by their youthful pop splurges - and whilst I will have to recognise that for every "Nevermind" there's a "Nuisance", and even more sadly as some bands began to desperately consume themselves, for every "Dog Man Star" there's an "A New Morning", I'll always feel an affection for a certain period in my musical development. 

So let's see if I can impart that to you, dear reader, as we tackle first what even was at the time was considered an old, familiar face suddenly breathing new life.


SUGAR "Copper Blue" (Creation, 1992)

FOUND: Represented by "If I Can't Change Your Mind" on the Virgin compilation "Loaded".  We may return to this again, containing as it did my first tracks by (deep breath) The Auteurs, The Cult, Dinosaur Jr, Belly, Morrissey, Faith No More and The Frank And Walters.  First AND last, in the case of the latter.  After acquiring a second track, "Changes", on the "Greetings From Uncle Sam" compilation, the album was bought on cassette from an indoor market in Aberystwyth.

THE SELL: Husker Du were pretty big news in the eighties hardcore scene (the punk one, not the dance one, obviously), powered by the volatile creative partnership between Bob Mould and Grant Hart.  After their inevitably poisonous split, Bob fell on hard times commercially, only to rally with this and become an unlikely cult icon for a second successive decade.

However, this is more than a Bob Mould solo album, and had he not been so ably abetted by...  Er...  Thingy and Whosits on the other instruments, it wouldn't have been a viable project.  The sound is so full and dominant that it utterly absorbs the listener in a way few albums can, and whilst it is best played at a volume that makes a mockery of the human senses, there's some real pop gems amongst the noisier offerings.

THREE KINGS: Skull-crushing opener "The Act We Act", howling lament "The Slim" and stone cold pop-rock classic "If I Can't Change Your Mind".  In the case of the latter, seek ye also the BBC session version, which is a snarling wolverine compared to the fuzzy kitty of the album version.  You won't have to look far; it's on the remaster.  Hey, I'll lend it to you if you want?

WORST TRACK: "Fortune Teller".  I don't even know why if I'm honest; it's not bad or anything.  If there is a criticism of it, then maybe we can say it lacks hooks compared to the others.

ALSO TRY: The "Beaster" EP was made up with tracks recorded at the same time as "Copper Blue", but by no means are they rejects - largely a more harrowing affair than the poppier selection on the album, but no less worth your time.  And as luck would have it, it's just been remastered!

BUT AVOID: "File Under Easy Listening", Sugar's second album proper.  Hamstrung by an on-again, off-again recording pattern, this never got close to their previous heights.  Would it surprise you by now to know that it's been - wait for it - remastered?  Even I'm not falling for that one...

Hang on - second disk with exclusive live recordings, you say?  To Amazon, post haste!

MAGIC MOMENT: The Flaming Lips, Cambridge Junction, July 9th 2002 - Bob Mould plays a very odd solo multimedia show which is lost on most of the crowd, then redeems himself and wins back the audience with "Man On The Moon".  Sadly, but appropriately, it is the last song.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Godawful Small Affair: Extra Credit 3 "Christiane F"

"CHRISTIANE F. - WIR KINDER VOM BAHNHOF ZOO (OST)" (1981)

COVER SHOT: Now THAT is a jacket.


I'm not going to be covering all of the soundtracks, compilations and associated projects, but I've always found this particular one an interesting artefact, tying together as it does the Berlin period whilst soundtracking a German film.  Of course, as we've recently heard (or you should have done - even if I take time off from writing, as an audience you are still expected to check back twice daily), "Scary Monsters" did that quite well itself, but there's a few white elephants here worth listening to.

First things first - the film, which somewhat embarrassingly I must admit I haven't got around to watching, is an adaptation of the titular book taken from the recollections of the eponymous person, whose youthful drug abuse and revelations of the squalor of the Berlin heroin scene scandalized a continent in the very late seventies.  The film appears to be a teensy bit on the depressing side, but also features a trip to a Bowie concert - hence the connection, and hence the collection.

And what a collection it is!!!  It's not exactly a greatest hits, but the quality is undeniable, culled not just from the big rock/pop hits but also the instrumentals, evidently more suited to background status in a moving picture.  Whilst there isn't technically a single track on this offering that isn't available elsewhere, there are some less usual versions on show here, including an edit of "Stay" that might as well be subtitled "(Disappointment Mix)", such a let-down is the early fade.

One alternative version that squarely hits the mark is "Heroes/Helden", and if YOU guessed it lapses into German halfway through, well congratulations, Sir!  (Or - infinitely less likely, but just in case - Madam.)  The effect is pretty spectacular, with the natural brutality of the Teutonic tongue adding to the drama.

Couple this with a pretty good live version of "Station To Station", as featured in the aforementioned concert in the aforementioned film of the aforementioned book, and we've go the bare bones of a good little nine-tracker.  Worth getting if you can find it cheap, or as a sampler of the era if you're already familiar with the singles.

Join us next time for the Baal EP!  Or not, as the case may be.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

ENGINE BLOOD: Canadian GP

* FLAG REVIEW:


# Oh, Ca-na-da / dum dum dum dum dum Hockey...  Yes, it's the flag with added foliage, the ol' Maple Leaf.  Another red and white one, but with more about it than Monaco; we suppose it depends what you prefer, form or function, but we say this pips its predecessor.

* Not the most compelling race ever, which is a bit of a shame as the circuit's a cracker and Bernie's constantly trying to axe it, so we need more like the washout of a couple of years ago and less like...  Well, this.  Anyway: Vettel wins.  Yay!

* In other news, Massa was your one-man entertainment machine this time out, gamely overtaking everybody, then overtaking everybody again and finishing about eighth for his troubles.  Sometimes we wonder what the motivation must be for these brave souls, toiling thanklessly round the world on their multi-million pound contracts - ah.  There we go.

* Hulkenberg's move to Sauber looked like a great shout at the end of last year, but he must be kicking himself now, with Force India putting out a tyre-light car then helping to block changes to the tyre compounds - well, you would, wouldn't you?  Not even we can get angry about that - whilst Sauber struggle.  Worth bearing in mind the team had two high potential drivers last year (Perez, Kobayashi) whereas they now have but one, with Gutierrez having shown us nothing thus far.

* Elsewhere, in yet another F1 controversy that nobody understands or cares about, Mercgate rumbles on.  When even we're saying we don't know what in the blue hell it's all about or is going to happen, it's safe to say that the rest of the world is likely to be equally stumped.  Let's just hope the verdict is fully explained is we can get on with some racing.

And THAT'S all the blood that's fit to drain, a week late!

ENGINE BLOOD: Monaco GP

* FLAG REVIEW:

 
We kind of like this one.  Simple but effective - and when you're as rich as Monaco, you don't need to faff about.

* Lots to talk about, and yet technically not a race, as Britney Rosberg wins by default with none of the front four wanting to push their tyres.  Great little story with this being the 30th anniversary of Keke Rosberg's barnstorming win in the tank-like Saudia-sponsored Williams.  It's a real shame that Nico could not be less like his father, who was one of the great characters of the sport.

Keke Rosberg won the 1982 world drivers' championship with only a single race win.  That was at the Swiss Grand Prix - which was in France, as racing was banned in Switzerland at the time.  Here's a quick rundown of that bizarre season for you: a political split led to some teams boycotting races, Renault were in the ascendancy with Arnoux and Prost, Piquet chinned a guy for crashing in to him, almost every race was in America for some reason and 43 drivers competed for 17 teams.

More tragically, Gilles Villeneuve was killed and his Ferrari teammate Didier Pironi horrendously injured, leading to the oft-overlooked return of Mario freakin' Andretti, who oddly was on his SECOND comeback of the year after filling in at Williams when Carlos Reutemann abruptly retired, which was something Jochen Mass also did.  Niki Lauda was also on a comeback, as if I hadn't already casually mentioned all the legendary drivers that were active that year.

Truly this was a season where everything that could have gone strangely did, and the stoic Finn with his stunning moustache rode out the chaos and barely hung on to write his name in Grand Prix history.  Which is a bit different from qualifying first at Monaco and winning because no-one can bothered racing against you, but hey - you work with what you have, we guess.

* Someone who IS more like Keke Rosberg, however, is Kimi Raikonnen, fast becoming the most popular man in Formula One to outsiders and casual fans.  But wait - we're getting ahead of ourselves.  First, we go here...

* Engine Blood is on record as having done a 180 degree turn on our opinion of - and respect for - Jenson Button, who moved very quickly from unmotivated gadabout to responsible world champion, and we salute him for this on a regular basis.  It is, however, impossible to contain a smirk when Sergio Perez goes screaming past him at a rate of knots.  Sergio has learned the great lesson of F1 very quickly - the first person you must beat is your teammate.

He also seemed to shoulder the burden of entertaining everyone on a shoddy day at the races, butchering an off-colour Alonso with a similar move, but trying his luck with Raikonnen led to him being unceremoniously introduced to Madame Armco.  Kimi later implied that a punch in the face might be educational for Perez; nice to see someone's keeping the spirit of '82 alive...

* Vettel couldn't help blasting in a lap about twenty seconds faster than anyone else towards the end, for which he was immediately admonished by his team.  That's a sad, sad state of affairs right there.  His comeback might be this year's equivalent of Kimi's giggle-tastic "I know what I'm doing" - and there we are saying drivers have no personality these days.

* WHERE IS PAUL DI RESTA FROM THIS WEEK?

Hard to say; his lower-echelon points finish didn't propel him far enough up the order in the BBC's race report to give him a description beyond "Force India's Paul Di Resta".  Therefore we default to there being no change, aaaaaand...
Paul Di Resta is still SCOTTISH.
 
(I wonder if anyone will notice I just lifted this verbatim from an earlier entry?)

* And finally: DID Rosberg win that race, or will the result be revised after the protest about Tyresgate?  We at Engine Blood don't think any action of that kind will be taken, but it does seem a little off that they'll have had their hands on the new tyres before anyone else.  We know they have easy access to old cars - Michael Schumacher drove one at a demonstration just the other day - but if anything a financial penalty would be more likely to be levied.  Still, we shall be interested to see, especially since disqualifications were in vogue in, you guessed it, the year nineteen eighty-two...

And THAT's all the blood that's fit to drain!

A Godawful Small Affair: Thirteen "Scary Monsters"

"SCARY MONSTERS (AND SUPER CREEPS)" (1980)

COVER SHOT: 50p at Athena in 1984.


And now, we come to another of those albums that casts a long shadow over Bowie's career.  Arguably dwarfed only by "Ziggy Stardust", its inescapability is illustrated by the way that every half decent album he's produced since has had the 'best album since "Scary Monsters"' tag sprayed upon it at some stage, as every collection since has been cursed by association with what some would tell you is The Last Of Bowie.

Let's not get into that argument just yet, and focus on the music in front of us now, rather than down the road.  So: in this writer's excruciatingly humble opinion, the album draws a line under the Berlin experiments, serving as a final crystallisation of the qualities exhibited in each album - the brutality of "Low", the drama of "Heroes" and the playfulness of "Lodger" - and winding up as more than the sum of its parts.

It grabs your attention at the very outset, with Bowie screaming through "It's No Game (Part 1)" and Robert Fripp unleashing barrages of twisted noise - and not for the last time on the album, with the delightfully skewed "Fashion" being as much Fripp's as it is Bowie's.  "Ashes To Ashes" is a bona fide UK Number 1, back when that mattered, and helped to remind people about a certain spaceman, whilst being an absolutely spectacular entry in its own right.  The title track is gloriously intense.  Even the cover ("Kingdom Come") is pretty good, and as "Pin Ups" showed that's not always the case when our man's dealing with someone else's material.

There's talk that there is a thumbing of noses at early eighties artists who were influenced by Bowie but looking to surpass him - as any student of the squared circle will tell you, a good way to get yourself over is to defeat the last generation's champion - and whether that's the case or not, it's easy to look upon this as a game changer for British music, as the old trend-setter moved the goalposts again and left everyone scratching their heads.  In short, this one comes heavily recommended.

After the creative peaks of the past few albums, "Scary Monsters" was a comparative commercial success, bringing the artist closer to his seventies peak of recognisability and reactivating his profile in America without necessarily compromising in terms of the accessibility of the material presented.  In terms of success, though, what happened next would blow all of that out of the water...

Join us next time when we'll not actually be delivering on that set-up.  Er...  Yeah.  Sorry.