Apologies for the lack of posts over the past month but I've been all over the place recently - not least a week off in Marrakech sampling the delights of Moroccan ambient pool music (a good way of cleaning the old ears out).
But I've also been involved in the judging for this year's Student Radio Awards which take place on Thursday night; been out on the road doing some DJing; and promoted a BBC Introducing gig as part of the Electric Proms (of which more later).
And on top of this, we've had the busiest autumn release schedule I can remember since starting in radio in '93. CDs have been flying through the letterbox like that scene in the first Harry Potter movie where the Owls descend on his house with letters from Hogwarts. What's been going on? Has all leave been cancelled at the CD pressing plants since late August?
I make little lists of new releases as I'm working my way through the sacks of mail I listen to, just to remind myself when records are coming out. Usually I'd have about 15-20 singles which are in the running each week. But I've just checked and last week - even having wheedled out the ones which fell short - there were 31 which merited a spin on my various shows. This week - after some ruthless whittling down there's 25. And that's without the demos or album tracks.
To compensate for this - and before I go mad - we're trying out an experiment on my Radio 1 shows for the next couple of weeks. And I don't usually use this blog to plug my own wares, but if you're a fan of new music then do have a listen. We'll be playing 30 tracks in a hour. Two minutes of each song, plus a very (very) quick appraisal of it, and then onto the next one.
The first installment features everyone from Skint & Demoralised and Fight Like Apes through to the ABC Club and Little Boots and airs on Wednesday night at 9pm. The following show is on Monday November 10, which I'm working on at the moment.
Well, not right at the moment, because I'm writing this and listening to the new Pete & The Pirates single. Regular listeners will know all about my Pirates obsession. Some, I suspect, would suggest I seek medical help.
But in a world of narcissistic indie-rockstars who won't get out of bed until their PR tells them it's a good idea, the Pirates really are a great understated, unaffected guitar band. They lack 'an angle' for overnight success (no big hair, loudmouth manifesto, celebrity girlfriend or geographical hook). But since first seeing them a couple of years ago, they've been slowing building an ardent following for their sublime and erudite new-wave pop. They also headlined the Introducing night at Proud Galleries which I was involved with but rather than blather on about it, you can see a couple of songs from their set online. And if you like that, then I thoroughly recommend investing in their debut album Little Death.
I think I also managed to plug them to Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze when we were in the pub after last week's Roundtable on 6Music. Tilbrook, still reassuringly sporting the tousled hair of a schoolboy who hasn't showered after a games lesson, is excellent company. Especially as he'd been up till 5am because his tourbus had broken down on the way home from a gig.
In some ways Tilbrook's Squeeze and Pete's Pirates aren't that dissimilar. They paint enigmatically descriptive lyrical pictures, peppered with some lines which are hugely quotable. Tilbrook looked quite taken aback when I reeled off the words of an old Squeeze song called Wrong Way which was released on a flexidisc with Smash Hits some time at the end of the 70s or start of the 80s. Neither of us could remember which, but then I lost my copy a while ago (hence the conversation in the pub... it turns out Glenn hasn't got one either).
He does however have a single out called Binga Bong. And bless me if his voice hasn't changed at all over the years. He still sounds like a cherubic scamp, while the song itself is another cleanly delivered piece of double-edged craftsmanship. I'm just adding it to my list now.