Less the centre of the universe

A couple of things that have floated my boat this week. (I don’t literally have a boat, it’s just a turn of phrase.)

Less

Cover for Less album, shows lots of black and a woman's face.Listening to music the other night, I had WinAmp Pro on random play, and from the 9,431 tracks from which it could choose it happened to land on a track called “Don’t Fear Me” by a band called Less.

“Wow!” I said, suddenly paying attention to what had been until then largely background music. “What’s that? … it’s great!”

I pulled WinAmp out of the notification area/system tray and had a look. Less? I don’t remember buying that. Where did I get that from?

A quick Google search later I discovered that, sure enough, I hadn’t bought it: I’d downloaded it. Less have made available to download from their worldwidewebsite (www.less.com) both their full-length albums: “Cover, Protective, Individual” (2004) and “Piano Wire Smile” (2001) in that most popular of modern audio formats, MP3.

As an aside: if you prefer your music to be governed by DRM then you can also download these albums in .m4p format via the mighty Apple iTunes application.

Less have been described as a strange cross between Tool, Rage Against The Machine and Nine Inch Nails, or like Alice In Chains, or Godsmack, with elements of Led Zeppelin thrown in for good measure. I happen to think that most of those descriptions are right, but there is also an element of Primus in there somewhere too — not in terms of fat bass licks, but in their bold creativity and their ability to surprise at each turn.

The two albums, each named after three unconnected words, are very different offerings. The first record “Piano Wire Smile” is awash with bouncy tunes and twisted distorted guitars; the second, “Cover, Protective, Individual” is heavily acoustic. I’ve now downloaded both albums in their entireties, plus the separate track song “Painstripper”, featured in the movie “Need”, and made a donation to say thank you. This album will certainly get a lot of play in my car to and from work in the next few weeks.

Danny Wallace and the Centre of the Universe

Cover of Danny Wallace and the Centre of the Universe
A quick read this week was Danny Wallace’s new — and hilarious — book, Danny Wallace and the Centre of the Universe, conveniently published in a new “Quick Reads” series by Random House.

Danny lives in East London, not far from Greenwich which of course houses the line that marks GMT … the line that splits the earth into two and from which countries take their time. Greenwich, the centre of the earth (not its core!). Which got Danny thinking about where the centre of the universe might be, and after a quick search on Google he was surprised to learn that the Centre of the Universe is actually in Idaho, USA. In a small former silver-mining town called … Wallace! Co-incidence?

The book is hilarious. It is charming, beautifully written and very funny. And Danny, as ever, is just himself throughout: interested, open and friendly. Here’s one of my favourite passages in the book — having been in one of his books myself, I’m glad to see a connection in this passage:

8.03pm
‘Never call a midget a midget,’ says Ed, standing outside a bar, having a smoke. I’ve asked him what lessons he’s learned since living in the Centre of the Universe, and that’s what he’s said. Never call a midget a midget.

‘Those little guys, they don’t like being called little guys. Or dwarves. Or midgets. You gotta call them little people”. I know. that now, because I got myself in trouble one time.’

‘Why?’ I say. ‘What did you say to a little person?’

‘I didn’t know I had to call him a little person. I didn’t know what to call him. I panicked.’

‘What did you call him?’

‘I called him a gnome.’

‘A gnome?’

‘I called him a gnome,’ says Ed, taking a drag. ‘Yuh. I called him a gnome.’

‘How did he react, when you called him a gnome?’

‘He looked a little pissed.’

I nod my head.

‘That’s gnomes for you,’ he adds and stubs out his cigarette.

There’s no excuse not to buy the book: it’s only £2.99, and on Amazon UK you can pick up a copy (not literally as Amazon is a virtual bookstore, you’d have to order a copy to do that) for as little as £0.73. Seventy-three pence?! That’s 1973 prices for a book!

What better recommendations could you get from a blog post than two free albums and a funny book that you could buy for 73p (plus postage and packing)?

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