Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Further Adventures Of Vodka Boy ALBUM

“Three Drinks Ahead”: The Further Adventures Of Vodka Boy

Words by Phil Sky

It’s June 2008 and I’m sitting cross legged in the thick grass at the bottom of Beacon Point. It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in the pale sunshine, a peaceful moment sitting with friends and a picnic, a light breeze rustling through the pond reeds. It’s also the first time I heard Thistledown, debuted here on Vodka Boy’s “Back to the Land” tour. It was one of those fragile moments when everything feels right in the world. At the end of the year the tour was immortalised with a live LP and Dill from the Dudebox wrote a glowing article on the band, but for me that performance of Thistledown was the highlight of it all. Perhaps it was the same for everyone there, maybe that’s why Thistledown became an instant fan favourite; between the broken hearts, the loneliness, the lies and the regrets, there’s always something to smile about, something beautiful.

Forty-five miles north of London, the big sprawl of Milton Keynes spreads out across the Buckinghamshire farmland; in the 1960 and 70’s three existing towns and fifteen villages were swallowed up to build our mutual hometown. Matthew Taylor used to play the Winter Gardens and other long-disappeared venues back in the early 90’s with pre-Britpop groundbreakers Rhythmic Noise Pollution and then toured with Sebastian Windsor who briefly got back together in 2009 but I sadly couldn’t make their only tour date. Martin Ibbotson also played in Sebastian Windsor and I played with them both in short lived super-band Stone Circle. From Wolverton to Bletchley, I’ve toured with The Further Adventures Of Vodka Boy countless times, joining them for the ups and the downs. It was in the Sunset Lounge in Newport Pagnell in February 2008 that I first heard Tell Her Lies, a slice of riotous Latin infused punk. It was the week after Diane came back from New Zealand and two weeks after me and Matthew recorded Space Punk Goddess with Nikki on vocals for our soon to be released double album. It was also in early 2008 that Grahame got a gig down at the Living Room in the Hub and we all tried to get in and support him but the bouncers on the door wouldn’t let us in on account of our footwear and we all grimly retired to Wetherspoons and vowed never to step foot in the Living Room. But things change, time heals all wounds and months and years can find you seeing things in perspective. Nearly two years later Vodka Boy were on the other side of the Living Room doors, performing their new regretsong.

In March 2007 I was playing bass in the now legendary Stone Circle with Matthew and Martin. We played the Zaks club in Wolverton before it burnt down and at the end of our set Dan angrily put his drumstick through his snare and the next day he was out of the band. Down to a three piece we rehearsed in the backroom of the house in Pennyland where Matthew and me recorded Sick Of Stickney and next to the room we recorded Don’t Let The Winter In a year later and where Stone Circle played both their first and last gigs. It was hear that we first played I Want You along with the other Stone Circle rarity Mavis and Silas. 2007 was also the year Facebook swept the nation and got a word check in Vodka Boy song Knee Deep In New Leaves. I particularly remember the song being played at the legendary Korfstock 2008, probably most remembered because it was followed up that evening with the Vicarage Party. We played songs under a canopy next to the face painting stall and Brian and Cathy came along.

Summer 2009 turned out to be the one, the long hot summer of love we’d all been waiting for. Matthew and Simon and Helen and Diane and Brian and Caroline and Grahame and Cathy and me all headed off to France. Back home, our stage at the Waterside Festival was the most successful yet. We played two gigs together at The Enigma Tavern; we took it in turns to headline. It was here that Vodka Boy played Me And The Heron for the first time. That summer it felt as if our waterways were being invaded by herons, I couldn’t remember ever having seen so many. It was at Furzton Lake that I bumped into Matthew’s brother Chris and we commented on the abundance of herons standing sentry, motionless at the waters edge.

At some point in 2008 it seemed that ace Seth Gordon documentary "King Of Kong" was being watched by everyone. I had to borrow Simon’s copy just to see what all the fuss was about. The documentary is also almost my only contact ever with the shadowy world of Donkey Kong. I remember the song bouncing along at Vodka Boy’s afternoon set at Waterside 2009. 2009 also saw the debut of a new Martin song in the band. There’s only a few Martin penned songs in Vodka Boy’s back catalogue, one of them famously being former Stone Circle rocker I’m So. But when I first heard Close My Eyes it was in the Living Room toward the end of last year during a particularly tumultuous time in my life. The lyrics could have been about dozens of things but during the song I found myself thinking of the people around me and how much harder life would be without them and I like to think maybe that’s what the song is about.

One of my best Vodka Boy memories is of seeing Dakota Steps performed live at the Vicarage Party in July 2008, seeing Matthew and Martin bathed in red light on the stage that Wayne built in the grounds of the old Vicarage. We’d both performed at Korfstock that day where Vodka Boy had performed two sets for some indifferent korfers but their performance at the Vicarage Party turned out to be one of their greatest triumphs. We all sat down on the grass to watch and found we were ironically sitting next to the same girls who’d run the face painting stall at Korfstock.

It was in July 2007 that Matthew first brought to our attention on his blog the mysterious stickers that began appearing on lamp-posts all over Milton Keynes with the slogan Your Sister Stayed Over. It was nearly a year before any of us had any idea of their origin.

At a recent gig at the Sno! Bar, James who used to drum with Sebastian Windsor joined Vodka Boy on stage with a beat box. I remember James’ wedding in 2007, Matthew got me into a conversation with a mate of his who’s also an avid reader of his blog and we soon got into a conversation about James’ stag do, a trip to Krakow that neither of us were at. But it was Matthew’s description of the fading summer sun setting behind the trees at Birkenau that lived with me the longest, finding beauty in such surroundings proving there is always something to smile about, something beautiful.

So what about the new album I’ve completely forgotten to review? It’s awesome! It’s a lo-fi masterpiece; great songs, great music. Check it out dudes! ;-)

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