So I'm penning this little over 48 hours since Dan Lucas passed away. I've read beautifully written obituaries in other publications, exchanged anecdotes with fellow DiS writers and others that crossed paths with Northampton's only Man City fan and sat in the pub back home in Nottingham regaling stories with friends.
It's still incomprehensible that this summer's festival outings we'd provisionally planned at Kendal Calling and Green Man won't now be taking place. That next weekend's planned piss up prior to the Senseless Things show in Shepherd's Bush isn't happening anymore. It was only Sunday lunchtime when we were discussing my beloved Nottingham Forest's latest embarrassment at Burton Albion the previous day. Dan's response... "They're shit." Typical but alarmingly accurate.
See that was Dan all over. Straight to the point. No pussy footing around the houses. No bullshit. Fences aren't to be sat on and Dan Lucas wouldn't have a splinter in his arse if you paid him. So the debates about whether Radiohead should have called it a day after 'The Bends', Nirvana were nothing more than a dodgy punk band, and Bruce Springsteen only has three songs raged on. His enthusiasm for everything he believed in was second to none. Like Wilco. A band that passed me by for the best part of two decades. But Dan always insisted any chance I got to go and see them I should take. So I did last summer at Best Kept Secret. And he was right. They were incredible.
Ah, festivals. Dan made no secret of the fact he hated camping. So our first festival experience together involved sharing a hostel dormitory in Barcelona for 2013's Primavera. He didn't like shoegaze. Or Britpop. Or anything that was deemed indie that weekend, but had it like a toy robot with brand new batteries as the Jesus And Mary Chain, Blur, and The Wedding Present turned his weekend inside out.
Oh yes, Britpop. If there was one thing Dan had an opinion on it was Britpop. While the Gallaghers remained public enemy number one anything with a mop top and parka that referenced the 1960s was fair game. Which brings me on to this glorious put down of one of the genre's most revered acts. He compared the album to playing village cricket in Northamptonshire, Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels, and video game dialogue before posing the question "Why does this even exist?" Again, he was right.
I could talk so much more about Dan's words of wisdom on girlfriends ("Get rid Dom, she's bad news"), on chillies ("This will blow your heart in two!"), football ("Leicester winning the Premier League is a greater achievement than Forest winning back to back European Cups") and politics ("What is the point in the Labour Party?"). You could spend an entire day arguing then laugh about it out over several beers later.
Dan Lucas, you will be sorely missed. But "The Boss" still only has 3 songs...
Back in the summer of 2008, England’s outrageously talented-yet-mercurial batsman Kevin Pietersen played in a one-day international against New Zealand at Durham. It was in this match, against the medium-pace bowler Scott Styris that he coined what soon became known as the switch-hit: a shot which involved him switching from a right- to a left-handed grip and stance midway through the delivery, and cleanly sending the ball soaring into the stands for six. It was something that had never quite been done before; perhaps a bit derivative of the reverse sweep, but nonetheless a piece of batting that required incredible skill, and made headlines throughout the ensuing series.
A few days later I was opening the batting for a local village team in Northamptonshire. After two balls of steady accumulation, I decided that now was the time to emulate Pietersen and unleash the switch-hit. I adjusted my stance, swapped my hands around, dropped the bat, pivoted on my left foot and fell - with all the grace of a swan caught in barbed wire - on to my stumps, shattering the bails and being comprehensively and ignominiously out. So humiliated was I, that with a small total to chase in the second innings, our captain demoted me to tenth in the batting order, just ahead of a small child, to save me the humiliation of having to face the fielding side again.
Now, that story is not true. Nonetheless, it’s one I was reminded of when, shortly after the successful reunions of Nineties pop icons Blur and Pulp, a slurry of Britpop also-rans (so often a tautology) began to emulate them, from the Stone Roses to Echobelly. Now, former Virgin Radio staples Cast return with Troubled Times, and an album that should satisfy... erm, who exactly?
Just as with scripts for videogame dialogue, Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, and the Scottish national rugby union team, the most obvious and most pressing question is "Why does this even exist?" We pride ourselves at DiS on not making crass, sweeping generalisations, but there is absolutely no one in Britain who is eagerly anticipating the new record from Cast. Yes, as the press release reminds us, Noel Gallagher once described watching the band as 'a religious experience', but (a) he also once called Ocean Colour Scene 'the second best band in Britain' and (b) it also refers to 'two of the most lauded and legendary bands of the time, The La’s and Shack'. A quick perusal of Wikipedia also reminded me that they had a radio hit with ‘Guiding Star’, which doubles the number of their songs I can remember after theme-tune-for-thick-people’s-breakups ‘Walkaway’. For someone as anal as me, it’s impressive that vocalist John Power’s cloying use of made-up compound words and misappropriation of apostrophes in THE NAME OF YOUR BAND is just about the least grating thing about him.
So what of Troubled Times and the band’s new, updated sound? What direction are Cast going in now, some ten years since their last release? How will they have avoided being a hilarious anachronism in this decade when the music they (kinda) made their name with is so inextricably tied to the Nineties? After all, with such heated debate recently over whether or not guitar music is dead, and with so many of their indie rock contemporaries now passionately fighting to proclaim its good health, it’s not like they could just string together a dozen anodyne four chord strum-alongs so unambitious they all manage to blur into one? Something so inoffensive and detached from the zeitgeist that it paradoxically drives me into a murderous rage, with lyrics so banal and trite that to listen to them again and write them down is something I absolutely refuse to do in 2012? Something that sounds like listening to someone who has just learnt their first song on the acoustic guitar, and it happens to be a McFly ditty?