Spiral Cities

spiral building

Facebook sucks. Early in the morning of Thursday, 8th November I checked my news feed. Among a few useful, but unexciting, notifications there was one by Fyfe Dangerfield announcing that he would be interviewed live on the RadMac show on BBC 6 Music ‘tomorrow’ afternoon. That was worth a diary entry and the Crotchety Ears duly tuned in at 1 pm on Friday to listen to the show.

Chris Hawkins was standing in for Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie. In his introductions he mentioned talking to Erland Cooper later but there was nothing about Fyfe Dangerfield. Several explanations for this omission ran through my head, including that I might have got the date wrong, but I was sure yesterday’s Facebook post carried a timestamp with no date, so it must have been for what was then ‘today’. Thinking that the Fyfe interview might be an extra item slotted in between the regular Friday features I settled down to listen for the next three hours.

There was no Fyfe Dangerfield interview, of course. If I had read his announcement properly I would have realised that he had written it the day before I read it; his sign-off went “Have lovely Wednesdays wherever ye be”. So, if Fyfe’s message was written and sent on Wednesday, why did it only appear in the Crotchety news feed a day later? And the answer to that is that I only ever check my Facebook account first thing in the morning.

This particular annoyance isn’t entirely the fault of Facebook but it is just one of a long list of niggles that I have. Perhaps I’m not using the service as it’s intended; perhaps I’m just too old-fashioned to understand how it works; or maybe, just maybe, Facebook sucks.

Still, even cyberspace clouds have silver linings and I have Fyfe Dangerfield’s Facebook page to thank for sitting me down by the radio on Friday afternoon and being pleasantly surprised by the latest single from Johnny Marr, Spiral Cities.

Johnny Marr is a familiar name but Crotchety Man has never explored his work. He is best known as the guitarist and one half of the songwriting team with The Smiths – the lighter foil to Morrissey’s melancholia. When The Smiths were big in the eighties Crotchety Man was semi-detached from the world of music; several of their singles fell gently on the ears but none prompted the Man to splash his hard-earned cash. And Johnny Marr’s post-Smiths career is an even deeper mystery to me.

johnny marr

Digging into the online oracles reveals that Johnny Marr has been in several well-known bands, including The Pretenders (briefly), The The, Modest Mouse and The Cribs. He has also been a guest musician for a long list of artists from The Pet Shop Boys and Bryan Ferry to Talking Heads and Oasis. More recently he has been working as a solo artist, releasing three albums since 2013, the latest being this year’s Call the Comet. Spiral Cities is one of four tracks from that album to be released as a single.

It’s hard to know if Spiral Cities is a celebration of ultra-modern architecture, a warning about taking technology too far or something more subtle. It has the feel of excited young things revelling in the bright, shiny high-rise buildings of the near future, their spirits rising ever higher as they climb the twisting vertical streets. And yet, the avenues are “paved with danger” and the streets are inhabited by “scattered tribes” who may or may not be friendly. Whatever its message, it rocks along like an acrobatic street artist high on nothing more than a love of life.

Perhaps Spiral Cities will become the freerunner’s anthem of the next century. Perhaps you already have plans for a live video of your running, jumping and tumbling over the rooftops to Johnny Marr’s music. If you do, I’d love to hear about it. But, please, don’t just post it on Facebook because I’ll probably miss it. And that sucks.

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