J.K.Rowling's The Casual Vacancy - Looks a bit like a Caramac bar doesn't it.

I'm very much looking forward to reading J.K.Rowling's first non-Potter book The Casual Vacancy.

In the meantime, has anyone else noticed that it strongly resembles a Caramac bar?

I'd like to point out that I did not take this photograph and that my kitchen has much lovelier surfaces than those above. This photograph is in fact the official Caramac portrait from Caramac's Wikipedia page.

That'll be all.

ALPHABEAT: New album "Express Non-Stop": Track-by-track preview, review, and yeah, everything. Great.

Loopy Danish quintet Alphabeat return with a third album “Express Non Stop”, and yes – the title's a health warning.

They've made something so relentlessly happy that by track three you want to stuff your mouth with nails and chuck petrol around your bedroom in an attempt to restore your cheeriness threshold. Their other albums are macho in comparison, in fact 'Boyfriend' seems like Alphabeat’s heavy metal phase now upon reflection.

I was hoping the success of Danish TV series The Killing would have inspired the band to create a refreshingly harrowing record. But no, they just keep on out-camping themselves like Louis Tomlinson in violet jock-strap selling candyfloss on roller skates with Cliff Richard booming out of ghettoblaster on his shoulder, or possibly just Cliff Richards on his shoulders.

So. The cover shows Anders SG looking his cute dashing self in a lavender suit while Stine (that's the woman) strikes a pose in what looks like a Dorothy Perkins tea dress, like Debbie Harry at the end of a cruise. Her aquamarine head tie matches his buttoned-up shirt as the pair stand amidst a shower of confetti (Alphabeat Rule Number 1: Confetti Shower) and also their, er, their, what I suppose you could call "the other people in Alphabeat"? What do the other people in Alphabeat do?

Anyway, here’s a YouTube preview of the album. If you're a quick reader you can read my comments on each track while listening, if not then you'll have to get all clicky on the pause symbol:

And here’s a Jack of Hearts track-by-track guide:

The Beat Don’t Stop

Express Non-Stop kicks off like a pair of polka dot plimsolls in a primary school dance class with The Beat Don’t Stop, sounding like Janet Jackson in a paralell universe in which she works as a kids party entertainer, balancing balancing the karma from her late brother's less formidable contributions to, er, children. Wait - what are we talking about. Oh yeah Alphabeat. So it’s a very Alphabeat song: 1980s-inspired fizzy pop, la la la, you know the drill (I’m so ready for a noughties comeback - Grimmy needs to get Shanks & Bigfoot in the live lounge). Anyway, back to the song - Yeah, far too sickly to play in any kindo of bar or club. So, coming to a stereo-on-a-window-sill-next-to-a-plastic-beaker-of-weak-lemon-squash-in-a-windowless-parish-hall NEAR YOU (Aw, an additive hyphen joke, the ironically long hashtag of the noughties). Or failing that, the Royal Vauxhal Tavern.

Love Sea

“1, 2, 3 – you’re in love with me” go the lyrics to this near-death-experience cover of Whitney Houston’s 'How Will I Know?' And the magic Alphabeat buzzword word “imagination” pops up on this track too. 'Love Sea' is a single apparently so has its own music video. Wait a sec. Here it is:
I wouldn’t want to bitch about an Alphabeat music video, I’m not a complete bully, but let’s just say it’s not directed by Sophie Muller and leave it at that. (Yes I know there's a an umlat on Muller).

Since I Met You

A glimmer of Tamla Motown, rinsed under a cold tap and glazed in icing sugar. Again, impossibly upbeat and cheerful, somehow even more so than the last two tracks. The album desperately needs some crusty baguette to mop up the syrup. A bass guitar perhaps, or a deep synth? A castanet? A few microwave pings? Anything.

This song should come with its own gif of the jumping bunnies and flying birds at the end of Sonic levels, you know the ones that are free from Dr. Eggman’s metal capsule by jumping on it? Just a thought.

Younger Than Yesterday

Anders sings on this track and it’s possibly an autobiography in song form - He looked fourteen when Alphabeat first banded, twelve on the second album and approximately seven or eight this time round. Stop anti-ageing Anders! And how come Googling "Is Anders SG gay?" brings me absolutely nothing. Nor does he have a Wikipedia page which is insane. Even contributors to the Independent have Wikipedia pages. Is there a Danish Wikipedia?

Mad About You

Anders again. He sings some quite hot images actually like “When I wake up... I want you to shake me and move me”. Imagine waking up after Heaven on Sunday morning and having Anders there on the next pillow saying that, possibly flicking his nipple with a purple glittery plectrum.
This one is totally nursery rhymey and  channels Deacon Blue, the obscure 80s Scottish band that seem to have possessed Alphabeat since day one. We're five tracks into the new Alphabeat album guys,! Time for another double espresso.

Express Non-Stop

Well this song didn’t take long to write did it?
I’m holding out for a music video in which Anders plays a checkout boy in Tesco Express and Stine comes in to buy herself some new razor heads for her Venus. The rest of the band could perhaps just be photographs on cereal boxes or something.


This one was a single back in March. What, you didn't know that? Well you evidently you don’t follow enough youth-complex gays on Twitter. All you need to know is - 'Vacation' sounds just like their biggest ever hit 'Imagination 'but isn’t quite as good. BUT – it’s  songs like this that are successfully turning boys gay everywhere. Five a day.

Brand New Day

More Anders SG camping away. Him and Mika need to do lunch sometime. They could discuss their passion for low-carb pop music and things like how Vera Wang Princess stands up against Lacoste Touch Of Pink.
I'm starting to wonder who thought an Alphabeat album demo would be a good idea, it just reinforces how honeyfied, annoying and samey their sound is. Does anyone need a whole album of Alphabeat? Cadbury's Creme eggs aren't rugby ball size for the same reason.

Show Me What Love Is

Just when I was about to give up, I quite like this one. 'Show Me What Love Is'. The melody sound like a southern hemisphere Mario Kart level, one of the beachy ones. Yeah, I'm totally into this one - Madonna Holiday meets Nintendo.

Love On The Line

Alphabeat are just inattentively filling up the album now, like a late-night Beth Ditto going round ASDA with a trolley. Not unlike my approach to this blog post.

Oh, and we've reached the end. Hurrah - a third album from Alphabeat.
Ten out of ten.
A million out of a million.
A unicorn out of a rainbow.
Can’t wait for the fourth album!
Can you?

Do we want LGBT Big Brother winners?

I didn’t get a chance to watch much Big Brother this summer and was abroad when Luke Anderson won the latest series on Channel 5 (that’s the yellow right-hand column in your mum’s TV guide). So on Saturday (well, Sunday morning) when Paris Lees took me to Adam Kelly’s party (that would be the former LA gang member who came second in the series!) I had no idea that Luke was born female-bodied.

Paris introduced me to Luke (pictured above with Paris) and his wife Becki (who was glistening away in an LBD topped with some serious diamonté) at the swank party venue 5 Cavendish Square (I’ve never heard so much Russian in a smoking area). While Paris was dancing on furniture and asking hot bar boys how many calories there were in soda water, I was left alone for a while with Luke and his crew. I remember thinking “Ok, I’m in the company of a straight bloke wearing a suit, I’ve had a lot to drink, just keep the camp dance moves under control, he likes Paris but she’s a hot girl, he doesn’t necessarily like gay people”. Of course these fears were dispelled immediately because Luke is a lovely down-to-earth chef from Wales!  But it wasn’t until several hours later speeding across London in a taxi that someone mentioned Luke is trans.

I took the photo above of Luke and Paris at that party, and yes Paris may be wielding a two-litre bottle of Belvedere vodka like it’s just come out of a man’s flies, but this photo pleases me so much because it shows how far London (and Great Britain’s) trans community have come. This is a photograph of two people who have found themselves. They’ve made that journey, it wasn’t easy, but now they’ve arrived and it’s time to have fun.

Some critics have said that it’s bad to have trans celebrities who make a big song and dance out of being trans. Luke and Paris don’t do that though. It’s not like Candy Darling (as much as I love my Andy Warhol stars!) No – you can catch Paris talking about being trans in magazines and across the British media week-in week-out, but when she’s at a party she’s just Paris – a pretty girl having a lot of fun (OK admitedly, she’ll still put people in their place if it needs doing – Paris the trans media warrior never completely switches off!) But even if trans stars did want to wave their status around – why the fuck not? They’ve been on an incredible journey and it’s their choice if they want to flaunt it. Notable gay figures had to do that for decades and some still do.

Do we want LGBT Big Brother winners? Of course! We can have it all - Man Booker Prizes, Olympic gold medals, X Factor contests and reality TV shows. LGBT people have a role to play in all parts of the rich tapestry. Be it in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen at the Royal Opera House or a family of five watching telly in a council flat, there are LGBT people in every type of audience.

But Luke didn’t win Big Brother because of his LGBT status, nor did Julian Clary win Celebrity Big Brother because of his. They won because they’re popular and likeable individuals. Although the broadcasting industry and tabloids dealt Julian Clary a life-bludgeoning blow after his controversial comments at the 1993 Comedy Awards, effectively axing his fast-growing career, the public never left his side and have always enjoyed his delicious puns and knowing glances. Meanwhile Luke didn’t win Big Brother because of his past but because of his present. The fact that he was born female-bodied kept the papers interested initially, sure, but if he wasn’t such a lovely guy then he never would have won viewers’ votes.

As for Paris, people say her popularity comes from having her head screwed on, but I personally think it has more to do with how good her legs are.
Also, if Adam Kelly's friend Debbie is reading this - you're an AMAZING DANCER!
Paris is on Twitter @ParisLees. Follow Luke Anderson @LukeA_bb Find Adam Kelly on Twitter @adam_kellybb. And then I'm on Twitter too @jackcullenuk.

Above: Candy Darling