Log in

13 February 2009 @ 08:35 pm
It's Not Me, It's You  
As many people have pointed out to me over the past few weeks, Lily Allen is releasing an album by the name of It's Not Me, It's You. Back on the 19th May 2003, I released a record of my own called "It's Not Me, It's You". Compare, contrast.


Those were the days when I still felt moderately excited about the possibility of selling lots of records and people thinking I was great as a result. Nowadays, I want people to just think that I'm great without me having to write any songs, which is a hopeful supposition , but hey, that's the kind of hulking brute that I am. It was the second album by The Free French; the first was kind of an accident, a home project that ended up morphing into a record that suddenly required a band to be formed in order to play it. So this one already had a band formed to play it, but I played everything myself – except the drums – because that's the kind of controlling, hulking brute that I am.

I think it's better than Lily Allen's record, although I haven't heard Lily Allen's record, and I made this one myself, so who am I to say. I have this small hope that fat-fingered simpletons on Amazon will buy my record instead of hers by accident, but as Pinnacle Distribution has gone bust, I feel fairly certain that no money will leak back into my fluff-laden pockets. Oh well. As per Momus and Vichy Government, here's my track-by-track recollection. Cos I'm in, on a Friday, on my own.


Courageous opening to an album, I know. No drums, just me being slightly lovelorn, a wailing saw, some Prefab Sprouty chord-shifts and an overcompressed vocal. One webzine reviewed the album and didn't get any further than this track, just gave the record a monumental slagging for being "poofy" or something, although I know I'm misquoting. Thing is, it just didn't seem to fit anywhere else on the record, so I thought putting it first would be a good idea. In retrospect, I can honestly say that this was not the most important decision I've ever had to make in my life.

One thing about this album is that many of the songs are about various women. I'm sorry about that. It was shortly after splitting up with my wife, and a few months before I met Jenny. And hey, if you can't use members of the opposite sex for inspiration, what can you use? What's that? Corporation tax? I don't think so, sir. This was about a just-about-platonic relationship with someone who had a boyfriend – hence the line, uh, "the like that dare not speak its name", or whatever it was. I performed this live on BBC 6 Music. It sounded fucking awful. This, however, is pretty good. I like it.


Bookended by a Gershwin-esque piano figure, it's a rollocking tune about someone who I went on an internet date with. She'd just been sacked as a copywriter for a big ad agency. She had dual US / UK nationality. The evening was an utter, utter disaster on every level. The "A E I O Yeah" chorus is remarkably stupid, and I'm curiously proud of it. Good drumming from Ken. I wish I'd known more about mixing music at this stage in my life, I'd have done a much better job of it.

It's Not Me, It's You

Title track. I remember coming up with the idea when I was getting drunk with Keith. He laughed. He said "I bet someone's already used that." His girlfriend at the time rolled her eyes, and said something about there being nothing intrinsically amusing about just turning well known phrases inside out. She was probably right.

Anyway. This isn't really about anyone or anything. I bloody love the middle section. The backing vocals – "Isle Of Wight", "torrential rain" – always made us piss ourselves laughing in rehearsals. Yum. Rare attempt by myself at playing something akin to a guitar solo.

oh, you and i should have a talk
we used to be like knife and fork
but now we're more like pizza and glue

Making A List

This was a really half-arsed last-minute inclusion, but ended up being one of the best things on here, at least, that's what spoombung said at the time. A friend of mine who worked for, er, Reuters, was talking about her recent history of dozens of utterly appalling boyfriends, and as someone who was in a fairly lean period, I found that interesting verging on unbelievable. So yeah, the usual compare, contrast. "The crossword girl in the Festival Hall with the wit so dry" – she was sitting at the bar doing the crossword in the Evening Standard, and this was on September 13th 2001, when basically everyone thought the world was ending. "I'm surprised you could even get through that newspaper and still feel like doing a crossword," I said. "I wasn't so much reading it," she said, "as collecting words to put into the crossword at the end of it." I was stupefied by this. If you're reading this, don't contact me, I've got a girlfriend now, goddamnyou.


Everyone's favourite, it seems. (I say "everyone", by which I mean "2 people".) I can see why. I mean, it's a great tune, and it's a nice lyric, and when I was writing it I kind of knew that I was rounding off edges that would otherwise have been left in, just to make it very Squeeze-like and uncomplicated. "I wouldn't exactly call myself a doctor" was nicked off a Danny Baker broadcast that made me laugh.

Because I've had half a bottle of wine to myself at this stage, I should just say as an aside that I'm amazed I came up with some of this stuff. I honestly don't really know how I did it. Not cos it's amazing, just that I can't imagine doing it now. Hm. Anyway. I'm proud of rhyming "vagueness" with "Vegas". Is all.

Plastic Stars

Ah, yes. Good chorus coming up, I think. Someone said to me once that it reminded him of The Smiths, and that he imagined me performing it at Brixton Academy while people threw flowers at me. Stupid idiot. This was another internet date, I'm afraid. "Strange assessment of the speed that they drive" – we were walking up Balham High Road, and I was floundering for conversation, so I pointed at a passing car that was gently rolling past, and said "how fast do you think that car is going?" She said "I dunno, perhaps 60mph". There was a long silence, followed by childish giggling. Good moment. We're still friends. Oh god, I've just heard the arpeggiator at the end of the last chorus. Yamaha CS2X. Erk.

Talking Nepalese

Same person that Plastic Stars was about. For her 30th birthday, she decided to go trekking in the Himalayas on her own. Self-explanatory. I'd decided to do a song with this ludicrously brash 6/8 swing after hearing a song by Shudder To Think, I forget which one. So I combined their swaggering cock-rock with a far larger dose of disgustingly English whimsy. Sorry about that. Again, quite proud of getting the word "dungarees" in there.

Oh! My favourite line: "Hilariously unprepared but, crucially, prepared to have a go." That almost makes me sigh. My sis, who played keyboards in the band, said that she was on the bus when she was listening to this for the first time, and she burst out laughing in the big guitar solo at the end, which isn't like her at all.

Ghost Writer

This was always one of my favourites. It's odd, when you get into a compositional groove, you just seem to stumble across good ideas without even trying. The cycle of chords in the chorus is just hilarious, the kind of thing you want to keep going for bloody ages, which is eventually what I try doing at the end. A friend of mine wrote (and still writes) books which are credited to a more famous author, so I pondered on a scenario where the ghost writer just buggered off and left the celeb to try shoehorning a book together. I wince at some of the rhymes, but hey, I was young, it was OK. And a big "Nantucket Sleighride" final chord, too. BOOSH!

Swigging Echinacea

This suffered a bit from us playing it so bloody often at gigs, but it's a lovely slow-burner thing. I honestly have no idea how I could possibly have come up with this. Sorry, I think I'm repeating myself.

Am I the only person who absolutely dreads getting a cold, or a stomach bug, or whatever, mainly because I'm appalled that I'll miss out on perhaps one evening of pleasant chat and diverting distraction? That's what I'm on about here, I think.

Didn't Want To Get Involved
If You Say So

I'm bracketing these two together for two reasons – a) because I've written 1700 words so far, which seems a tad excessive, and b) because if I'd put the record together today, I'd probably have left them out. Thing is, when you're making music and excited about it, it's very difficult to exercise quality control and leave stuff out. Especially if you're an anal completist like me who believes in documenting absolutely everything. They're not bad songs, at all – Ken the drummer was persistently irritated that I never wanted to play "Didn't Want" at gigs – but the thing is, both songs aren't really about anything. They're from the Oasis school of lyric writing (albeit with a slightly more imaginative turn of phrase) that forces you to just piece a song together from scraps of words that vaguely sound meaningful, even though they aren't. And that kind of lack of commitment to a song just filters through to the music, too. Still. Oh! "My crystal ball's wrapped in Sellotape" is quite good.

One interesting thing: if there were suddenly people clamouring for us to reform, I wouldn't be able to sing half these songs, they're just too high. Alcohol and general manliness has forced my range down a good 8 semitones. Cough.

How Vicious We Are

The finale. This is about my friend Vic, who I went with to watch Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer the other night. When we met in 2001 via a mutual friend, I was feeling shite, I think she was too, we got on famously. We're both grumpy bastards with sharp tongues, so I wrote her this song as a Christmas present. It's my favourite on the record. 7-bar loops are good. Take note, pop-kids. You don't have to do 8-bar loops. People will still keep jumping up and down, you know. Take some risks, if they're as pathetic as just chopping out one bar.

So, there you go. It sold virtually nothing. We pressed thousands. Many of them ended up being recycled. Fortunately, thanks to the mp3, this odd document of me being 30 years old will live on, at least for the next twenty minutes.

For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elasticelectricwitch on February 13th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
- I need to get some Shudder To Think

- I want to marry the crossword girl

- You would have sold more if you'd been on the cover in a dress on your back with your legs in the air.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 13th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
Correct on all three counts. SDT: Pony Express Record is the one. 50,000BC is better than people say it is. Get Your Goat embryonic but good. Ignore the rest.
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic: TRIANGOLOelectricwitch on February 13th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
I saw 50.000 BC in a shop once and didn't get it because I AM INSANE.

Have heard much about Pony Express so that will be top on my list I think.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 13th, 2009 10:32 pm (UTC)
This is off PER. Best one-chord chorus ever.

For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elasticelectricwitch on February 13th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
Hahaha oh god yes.

Terrible facial hair though, I think that must have been what put me off at first.
alexdecampialexdecampi on February 14th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC)
STC lead singer has just done a collaboration with some classical composer which is apparently Quite Good, If A Bit Random.
facehead2k: thumbs upfacehead2k on February 17th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC)
unsolicited flattery
I can definitely hear some 50,000 BC (like "All Eyes Are Different") in Free French.

Also, "Ghostwriter" has always been a personal favorite(second only to "Fireman").
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 17th, 2009 05:59 pm (UTC)
Re: unsolicited flattery
Yeah, I devoured that STT album at around that time.

Thank you! Fireman feels a bit straight and obvious, these days, but I do like it.
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic: bouncy bouncy bouncy...electricwitch on February 13th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, and thanks! I'll gush to you about them in a few days, prob.
arenques rojosmyfirstkitchen on February 13th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
I had half these songs, but now I've downloaded the rest. Ta Rhodri.

Damn but I love sleevenotes. And your songs.
full of vacuumtriestine on February 13th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
Permission to add a track or two to an 8tracks playlist?
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 13th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
You may do exactly as you wish!
oldblokeoldbloke on February 13th, 2009 10:35 pm (UTC)
Look, I already bought the CDs, I'm not buying them again.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 13th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry if this posting has devalued your previous purchase. If it's any consolation, I pissed the money up the wall.
oldblokeoldbloke on February 13th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
Actually, one of the jewel cases has cracked, so I might be persuaded to buy that one again. If you caught me off guard.
McGazzmcgazz on February 13th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
Downloading now. I remember when I put all my stuff online - the stampede nearly broke the internet.

Okay, I was lying. Stop staring at me.
besskeloid on February 13th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
that's the kind of hulking brute that I am.

You only wish you were Jannick Top.

I'm glad I acquired this album & the follow-up. They always warm my heart when I listen to them. "Holiday at Home" is waving a lighter & swaying in my head now.
dzili nebisa: popstardzilinebisa on February 14th, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)
Go on then, I'm buying it off Amazon now. I was gonna buy Lily's one anyway and I'm amused at the idea of ordering two records with the same name. Maybe they'll get confused and send me two copies of yours.

MP3s are sounding good! I like your saw, it sounds like a theremin.
imomus: smileimomus on February 14th, 2009 01:49 am (UTC)
Nice to see this format catching on!

The songs are so much "hits in a better parallel universe" that it's insane. There's Prefab Sprout and Squeeze and, er, Haircut 100 in there.

You could have ended up winning the Turner Prize if you really had covered a crystal ball with Sellotape.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 14th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you, sir. I aspire to be Nick Heyward, as you know :)
mzdt on February 14th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
It's a good album, I should play the CD more often (not sure if it's mp3d, this may be the one that didn't come up on the CDDB at the time).

I miss the Free French, actually. Do some more.
lunchboylunchboy on February 14th, 2009 10:00 am (UTC)
Seconded. (Or maybe some more by the Schema?) And while you're posting mp3s, you should dig out some non-album tracks for your fellow completist nerds. (^_^)

I bought this (and the first Free French album) on spec at a Scritti Politti concert and was blown away at its unheard-gem-ness. I agree that it's irritating when a project you're proud of doesn't sell as much as you hoped (see my book, "Holy Tango of Literature"), but at least then there's no popular success mucking up your indie cred.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 14th, 2009 10:11 am (UTC)
Indie cred? Ha!

I think the reason this rekkid sounds complete, and fun, and great, is just cos the writing of it was effortless. I mean, it's probably pretentious to imagine that any of that ease makes it through to the listener, but it stops being enjoyable when the writing starts being difficult, and that's why things slowly ground to a halt. (That Schema song was around in an embryonic version at the final Free French gig.)

I still write tunes here and there, but coming up with lyrics is tortuous - maybe cos I'm just writing so much PROSE. So yeah. Shame.

This was a b-side recorded at the same time as all the above, which people seemed to like. I did it when I was obsessed with "Me And My Arrow" by Harry Nilsson, and it shows :)

Edited at 2009-02-14 10:11 am (UTC)
The Plain People of Irelandbarnacle on February 25th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
Could you do like David Bowicles did, and cut up your prose, pull it out of a hat and set it to music?

This is ace, Rhodri. Thanks very much for making it available. I know you deprecate it and mention the CDs you had to scrap, but a lot of people would still find it a wrench to let it go.

High culture. Lily Allen, in comparison, MEANS NOTHING.
lawrencesuburban_ennui on February 14th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
I bought a copy from the HitBack mailorder shop when it came out. And, weirdly, was listening to it today, having thought about the fact that the new Lily Allen album had the same title. I seem to recall whoever was running the HitBack store at the time took ages to post it to me.

The first Free French album has the loudest bass I've ever heard.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 14th, 2009 04:18 am (UTC)
Hahaha. Really? That's what comes of being in The Keatons, who adopted the Wire approach - i.e. if it's sounding rubbish, flange the bass and turn it up even further. Although I wasn't even the bass player in the band at that point, so who knows what was going on in my head.
Hawksley Newhammiss_newham on February 14th, 2009 12:23 pm (UTC)
I really love this album, and thanks to Lily Allen's efforts to revive your fortunes, I've been singing the original 'It's Not Me, It's You' all week.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 14th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jo.
mzdt on February 14th, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC)
curiously, looking at the covers side by side, there's a sodding great 'L' on yours, too. How odd...
ampsterampster on February 14th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
awesome! you have to do this with the first album now.
Chantalmelys_cerys on February 16th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
Everyone's favourite, it seems. (I say "everyone", by which I mean "2 people".)

Who's the other one?

I put that song on a mix CD for a friend recently and he's now added the album to his Amazon wishlist. Unless of course he's accidentally added Lily Allen's.
The Nudenudejournal on February 16th, 2009 01:44 pm (UTC)
Possibly me. I inserted it onto our student radio station's automatic overnight playlist and everything. I don't think the station was paying the internet broadcast copyright fees at that point, slighting Rhodri out of at least 0.3p of extra revenue.
strange powersstrange_powers on February 16th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
I liked The Free French a lot, and I think on reflection that more than half of this album is very good indeed and the rest is fair at worst. It's been a permanent fixture on my iPod and in my head since I first got it.

I would be willing to wager that even the best song on Lily's record doesn't hold a candle to the worst song here (er... If You Say So). The heights (my favourite is Vowels) are wonderful, wonderful bits of pop that ought to be heard by at least the thousands that the discs were pressed up for. You done good regardless, Mr M.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on February 16th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks, mister!
steve devereuxelectrodeserter on June 18th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC)
Do you have notifications turned on, I wonder?

Well, anyway, such is my mighty grasp of the current pop music scene that this Lily Allen record passed me by entirely, until I was reading this story and did a double take, thinking the Free French had got a rare national media namecheck. But no. Anyway, Google then led me here.

"Hilariously unprepared but, crucially, prepared to have a go" is my favourite line of the whole album, and one of my favourite lines ever. At first I was going to get it tattooed upon my person, but thought better of it; then, I wanted it etched on my iPod, but they said it was too long, so I went with "STOLEN: DO NOT BUY" instead.
Rhodri Marsdenrhodri on June 19th, 2009 05:11 am (UTC)
I do have notifications turned on :) And thank you. x