One of these days I’ll feel much better

One of the little bonuses that came my way during this summer’s Green Man was the chance to catch up with a friend of mine I’ve not seen for a while.

Men Diamler

Going under the obscure moniker of Men Diamler, Richard seems to have had a pretty busy year already, including his first CD “Sea Shanties for the Far Inland” and a Radio 6 session for Mark Riley. I fear his days of leaping across bar stools at Calmer may well be drawing to an end.

He’d not actually been booked to play Green Man, but with commendable spirit had come anyway to do a few impromptu performances on various tree stumps across the site. (This is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Richard – this week I got an email from him saying he was near Manchester and would anyone like to book him to play at their house, for a meal and a bed…)

Having spent a pleasant hour or so catching up, a CD plopped on the mat a week or so later. It was, of course, the aforementioned “Sea Shanties..” and not having heard him play for a while I’d forgotten just how curious a song writer he is.

We have songs about despair, suicide, horses starving in terraced houses and rivers as black as puddings, phrased in (more or less) traditionally folksy ways, alongside others with a much pricklier, rawer feel to them.

He also has this remarkable, aggressive voice which completely belies his affable nature. At times he appears to be on the brink of hysteria on stage, and it’s a little discomforting, to be honest. I kinda hope this apparently uncontrolled colouring outside the lines is done to provoke a reaction from an audience, because otherwise I am a little concernedfor the man’s well being…

Here are three songs from the record, which will pretty much give you the long and the short of it:

No Matter

Oh, Joy, When will you come?

Houseache Horse

I’ve written about Men before and posted a YouTube video of him at Slak, most of which featured an empty bar stool, as he pranced around the bar singing acapella on tables and chairs. Indeed, the first time I saw him play, he’d actually removed three strings from his guitar and filled it with stones to get some sort of wacky effect from it.

Well, these days, he appears to have calmed down a little and at least managed to stay on stage for the whole of this particular song, Black as a Cat in the Morning (also on Sea Shanties).

I dream of landscapes, I dream of pancakes, I dream of dreamy sequences where I fall in love

I refuse to reveal whether this lengthy absence is down to extensive flooding in Gloucester or bone idolness. You guess…

Cheese on Bread

Anyway, another great evening last week at the Slak Bar, which is fast becoming one of my favourite places these days. It’s just got such a great atmosphere, and I really love being so close to the performers, most of whom I simply could not imagine seeing anywhere else. This time, I went over to see American band, Cheese on Bread bring some camp good humour to the week.

First on, however, was Men Diamler, whom I saw last time I was at Slak, and wrote about here. Last time was apparently an experimental affair, he told us, and this time would be his more regular set. Well, I don’t know if he was pulling my leg or what, but “regular” is not the first word I’d’ve used to describe his collection of quirky, determinedly bizarre songs. Although at least his guitar did have all six strings (which is three more than last time). He started off sounding almost folky but, with his really very powerful voice cranking it up somewhat, he veered off the more well-worn singer-songwriter paths, pretty quickly. He really shreds his voice to the point of exhaustion and clearly makes a point of going further than you would expect him to, to the point of being a pretty hard listen at times.

At one point, worn out and obviously drained, he asked plaintively,
“How long have I got left?”
“About six months…” someone called from the back tables.

Again, by the end of the set, after he’d thrown his guitar down and climbed onto the backs of people chairs to deliver his finale, I found myself thinking, where did all that come from? He seemed such a gentle chap.

Some of the performance has been captured on video and posted on YouTube, and it’s a pretty good video, capturing as it does, Men in all his cracked, slightly demented glory. (The part where he wanders off stage is the point at which he started clamber on tables etc.) Here it is… (Credit to Likal)

There were a couple of other sets after his, one by a slightly nervous trio calling themselves the Limechalks who gave away free CDs, one of which was hand-made and was probably one of the nicest put-together freebies I think I’ve ever had. (Predictably, I managed to lose the actual CD between the Slak Bar and home, but trust me the packaging was lovely…)

We were also treated to a set of fairly dubious hip hop from Puppy Bucket and Donny Choonara, who introduced themselves with “This is a song about wanking!” – I’m struggling to think of a less promising start to a set. And sure enough they were pretty poor, seeming inordinately pleased with themselves to be so. I’m not a great fan of hip hop, but they do have a track up on their Myspace page which raised a smile, and is worth sharing here. Unfortunately, they didn’t play it, but then again I wouldn’t have been able to hear it anyway…

Deli Life – Puppybucket & Donny Choonara

Cheese on Bread are a five-piece from New York, and are nearing the end of a series of European dates, but still looked pretty fresh and full of themselves when they came on. They were a pretty distinctive-looking bunch, doggedly going for a geeky kitsch look that made me think of Emo Phillips. I have to say though, that I have enormous admiration for anyone who is not only completely unfussed about what people think of them but who can carry it off with sheer wit.

Lead by Sara FitzSimmons and Dan Fishback, and named after “the West’s most dependable dish”, their songs were catchy indie numbers with great dollops of trashy cultural references and were played with great gusto. The band has a Myspace page, as do Sara and Dan each, which are all worth a visit.

I know that for some the unrelenting tweeness began to grate by the end of the evening, but I have to say I was not one of them. I found them a lot of fun and I enjoyed their enthusiastic mix of indie-pop and quirky humour immensely.

Again, some of the performance was captured by Likal for YouTube, and I think this is the best one, “A Piece of Ass”:

There are quite a few MP3s and Youtube clips around on their website, on the Likal YouTube page and their Myspace pages, so I suggest you snag the couple I’m offering here and then hoover up any of the other songs around. And then really, you gotta go and see them…

Structure

Where the Fuck Are They?