11 June 2015

Penelope shootout


In which Ireland playing a crucial qualifier so close to Bloomsday does odd things to the head

No because I never did a thing like that before as head down the pub to watch the game since the Germany one a few years ago the six one I mean no the one one wouldve been grand pleasant probably couldnt complain much no the stench of whingeing during the six one was noxious gets up a momentum a mind of its own one fella starts then another and another and didnt I join in at first but two hours or more of that Jesus wept bealin it had me head in the end Im not superstitious no theres enough misery out in this country as it is best keep it confined have a routine I watched the Cameroon game with three others the Germany game with two and better it got you see the Saudi game with one and the Spain game on me own and I couldnt even watch the pennos you have to be committed I dont know though how much does it matter anymore do you feel anything off this team anymore really sure lets go I suppose the tellyll be turned down that should put a bit of distance plausible deniability of the heart as yer one sang look at them there at the bar all shiting away about nothing its into their pints they may as well be talking into their scoops through their hoops isnt it well for them they have something to pass the hours all the same the boys on the panel Lord help us cant hear them thank God no do you need the gloom the drooooooooooooooone of the national treasures going honesty of effort this and Aidan O'Brien that and Chippy being chippy might be a fight between him and Sadlier though thatd be worth watching even with the sound turned low youd get the gist crap the teams I havent seen the teams theres the Scotland one there to be honest I cant tell the Scots apart these days theyre no better than us no jinkin Jimmy thats for sure though we got their amblin Aiden in fairness our amblin Aiden I should say theyre showing clips from the last game at Celtic Park would you look at them all them and us running around like thick dogs over a manky oul bone itll be the same today unless they spent big in the transfer market this morning or something last game of the season by rights every player should drop half dead on the final whistle all the slagging we used to take about the granny rule and what part of Ireland do the O'Cascareens come from he said I declare to God weve been exporting our best the whole time theres your man Maloney there and theres Rooney and Cahill and that American lad with the steel face and ah heres our lineup wait for it wait for it wait for it no no Wes no Wes would you be surprised but its disappointing at the same time wait till you see hell come on and save us and the interviewer will be saying oh what an inspired substitution Martin give me strength sounds gone up now on the telly no control over the remote thats another disadvantage havent we a grand anthem mightnt persuade you to kill anyone necessarily but youd at least give an arms smuggler some supper and a bed to hide under for the night the craic we had the day we died for Iiiirrrreland I hate this feeling when theyre all in position ready to get going like staring into the void and yet if you could bottle it Id spray some around the place once a day here we go here goes nothing literally probably if this becomes an embarrassment I wonder can O'Brien take out an injunction to stop anyone talking about it go on Shaney chase it no hard luck Jaysus head down already Shane cop on now it wasnt a foul youll be a grand player when youre old enough to vote Strachan reminds me of that oul one who used to sit on the steps outside the flat beside Boylesports and challenge everyone coming out to a fight its dragging already this oof thats a hefty one book the fucker ref ref come on och he thinks hes in the Premier League no yellow cards in the first twenty minutes without a broken leg as proof great ref great now youve turned on the tap now itll be bumper cars from now on you know what this game needs Wes I hear a voice on the breeze of a Guinness burp saying yer man only said to him I hope your bollocks get clamped yeh rotten fuck yeh and the ref picks up the ball and walks off going on about his human rights or something called the game off so he did its ridiculous sure you need to be able to talk to the ref I dont know whats going on political correctness probably shit shit Given was nowhere we got away with one there why is he still here can we never escape our past in this country him and Keane and O'Shea God forgive me but theyd all remind you of the glory days of drawing with Switzerland apparently Westwood had a great season with whos this hes with these days in fairness to the ref he hasnt an ounce of fat on him but sure you never see a fat ref these days not even in the League of Ireland maybe we all take this game too seriously thats it Shayser wave them upfield thatll work would you get out of that Scott Brown at one point I think I was the only one in the ground clapping I thought it was a nice bit of skill meself worth encouraging the lad I took it as a mark of sophistication on my part but its a thin line sometimes ah McGeady what are you waiting for are you waiting for them all to get back so you can do a head count or whats the story theres Wes warming up like a tiny fawn bounding merrily across a meadow while the doe looks on and ah here how do people be coming up with images like that theres no fawns around here and whats a meadow only a got up field the best you might get is a calf falling over into a cowpat or something the notions people have sometimes member the time the League prize money went up five million all of a sudden no exactly yer man theres having chips Im hungry now that I think of it but I cant not during the game hsssssssssssssss O the sizzle of vinegar on hot chip it carries the smell of malt and salt salt and malt Gary Mackay was standing outside his hair blowing in the North Channel wind or was he baldy looking it was a few years ago now youd nearly forget fellas like him might have to take the Cairnryan ferry too like normal people like I once saw that fella Chico from was it Popstars or Pop Idol in Golden Discs I think he was about to do an instore but I was heading off anyway there was Mackay I didnt want to go up to him you dont want to disturb people he probably cant walk down the street without some Irish bowsie coming up to him but there he was and there I was and I called out Gaaaarrrryyyy I did it before I thought of it and again Gaaaarrrryyyy but he didnt hear me Gaaaarrrryyyy I was the only one to recognise him I had chips that day too no cant be eating them now and a game on dont know how you could you might miss something and the stomach wouldnt take it anyway suppose when the yanks take over FIFA and send Haliborange in to run it and make it all compulsory hotdogs and all those feckin timeouts how many pitching changes do you really need get rid of the coaches and managers from the game from all the games let the players play itd make sport better at a stroke ah Brady where are you where are you you cant leave O'Shea to deal with ah shite shite no theres the ball in our fucking goal it makes you sick just before half time worst time to concede a goal or is it the best I cant remember theres this oul goat of a fella at the bar and he starts on would you look at them there he says all kissing and cuddling notorious sodomite race the Scotch and the men all in skirts theyve been letting the gays get married this donkeys and look at them now thatll be Ireland soon enough may the Lord have mercy on me and take me to His side ere I see the day and everyones just sort of ignoring him because do you tell him hes lost the war or do you let him figure it out himself like those Japanese soldiers in the Malay jungle no wouldnt it be great to score a goal away from home nothing but the sound of your own supporters at one end or one wee corner of the ground even and the silence all around of everyone hating your guts theres the whistle forty five minutes closer to the grave me bladders full enough but Ill hold off and let the early pissers go ahead of me avoid the rush Delaneys neck is thicker than Barry Bonds they should bring out a book the Wit and Wisdom of Scaldy Delaney Going Forward surprised he hasnt done it himself following on from the words of my esteemed colleagues I would like to propose that the outgoing board be reelected en bloc if we dont get something from this game were focáilte thats all I know still if Gary Mackay taught us anything its that theres always hope okay so off I go for a slash Jesus arse fucking shitehawks the bang off these jacks like being punched to the back of your throat no fucking fuck shit no youd think theyd invent a gents that didnt smell like Satans arsewipers cursèd discharge no compo cultures a myth if these cunts havent been sued no God no it makes the air in the bar seem like pure oxygen such relief no remind me to hold it in if Ive to go again after the match weve the hope of the hopeless anyway a punchers chance if we can figure out how to punch who turned it on to RTE One has someone sat on the remote or have they actually switched it for the Angelus fecks sake they justify keeping it by saying that if youre of the atheist persuasion you can stop for a minute and solemnly contemplate what trawlers or someone drawing a picture on the footpath with chalk or I dont know what but sure howre you meant to solemnly contemplate anything with a bloody great bell ringing in your feckin ear eighteen times in a minute theyve switched it thanks be to God off we go again is that Wes ha ha no of course not I love the sound of bells though when you hear them rung properly melodic like it reminds me of my childhood when youd hear those beautiful bells in Gibraltar because youd be across the street from the old church and twice a day theyd ring them for no reason at all it seemed to me except the beauty of the music as it hung in the still summer air and spread its warmth across the whole town it was enough to make a believer out of many a heathen Im sure of it that was before the Gibraltar was turned from a chipper into a Chinese and the name was changed of course crash bang wallop whoops you had your thumb over the lens ah well this game has all the flair and finesse of an Ulster championship match and all the joy and relevance of a Leinster championship match what times The Sunday Game on oh wait its Saturday bring on Hoolahan someone shouts at the telly cos its not only me you see and that goat pipes up again Hoolahan sure whats he gonna do I said it back when he played for Pats that he was overrated and I say it again now buck useless thats what he is and yer man three fellas down from him says Pats sure Hoolahan never played for Pats and the goat says I mean eh well you see that was the name of the youth team he played for as a youth you know and yer man three fellas down says I thought he was with Belvedere and the goat says I eh yeah he was but the name of the fella who was over the team his name was Pat so everyone used to just call them Pats if you were talking to anyone who was in the schoolboys scene and you said Pats they knew who you were talking about yeah you wouldnt know and you thinking it means that chicken league shite Im telling you Hoolahan was useless from the very start the very start he couldnt pass the salt and he couldnt trap a snail useless altogether and yer man three fellas down says sure my das from round the corner from Belvederes pitch he might know this Pat whats his surname and the goat goes ah he wouldnt know him hes eh dead so he is died young and all terrible so it was and yer man three fellas down goes ah go on just tell us what was his surname and the goat says his name was Pat Pat Mac Mackattack McIntaggart yes Pat McIntaggart that was his name Pat McIntaggart God rest his soul and yer man three fellas down says Pat McIntaggart must ask da in that case and yer man four fellas down goes was the manager of the next age group up called Kevin by any chance and the goat says I cant remember and this other fella giggles and I swear the goats face turns as red as youve ever seen a face turn well in fairness it was red already probably permanently like that with the drink and the choler but now I swear to God its gone totally Johansson I wonder do footballers actually go to the opticians or does a fella come over to their gaff the fuck referee come on youve been letting Brown away with murder literally I dont think Ive seen Long since Brown dealt with him that time come on Walters get in there and tell him whats what or what are you there for you feckin Tory bollix might waken up the crowd all the same it sounds as dead as Mass there I dont know how you can really get into a game if youre at the ground or the stadium I do beg its pardon and you sitting down UEFA fine me hole Ill stand if I want to and Ill tell you something else they can send me a bill for my share and Ill send back a bit of card with 30c in the form of a twenty and a ten taped to it and away and shite written on it in all the living languages of Europe and ancient Sanskrit just to be sure its not sitting down the supporters will be wanting to do its lying down a sleeping bag and a reclining seat its the least they deserve this team seems so distant from you sometimes though theyre all so tentative prepare to stop stop to prepare theyre so nice you wish at least that if they arent going to play football they might have some horrible bastard thuggery in them no here we are with the hoofing again I wish McCarthy would run back there push the oulfla over and take the ball off him and start passing wouldnt it be gas a watershed the dawn of a new era the subject of future song and documentary dont get me started on Keane and Overmars sure didnt Overmars make Kelly cry that day they shouldve had ten good times though good times a million years ago now and you wouldnt go back to the Trap days at least these days we know were crap and theres no codding best to be sure youre going to fail in advance if youve read this far fair fucks to you oh here we go now here comes Wes go on Robbie off you get why am I nervous all of a sudden maybe it wouldve been better if he hadna come on so I could say afterwards we need to play Wes more I mean it worked for me during the Trap years at least I can say if only wed started him aye that covers all bases will we ever move on at all all this Italia 90 nostalgia just comes back in endless waves and the tide is high again the games about being effective being aggressive winning the ball getting on with the play youd think people wouldve gotten over it with the tenth anniversary or the seventeenth or the big two three and the thing is you groan when you see it because its all been said before weve seen all the footage we can recite Hamilton better than Heaney we know the story of every single bleeder who was over there but still the nation holds its breath it was true so true was there ever a time when the whole lot of us were doing the same thing at the same time and us not killing each other no we were all exhaling together and it was like a giant explosion of just just glee as pure as youll ever get it and it was everyones first time at the same time and no one had a fucking clue what to do so they just turned into three and a half million eegits vinceròòòòòòòòòò and youll never get that again unless we dont qualify for another couple of generations or if we do dont even think it if we do a dont dont if we do a Greece slash Denmark no fat chance but the football the grand slam Sonia Dennis Taylor Katie Taylor McGuigan Carruth Delany no relation different spelling sure Waterford Crystal who was framed Chippy God bless him though Royston too ah go on God love him Thin Lizzy on Top of the Pops Dave Allen just to shine something of ourselves out to the world and to see a glint of a reflection back heaven is Houghtons lob dropping over Pagliuca forever that fella who tried to tell me Dublins some great global hub of this thing or that thing he made me laugh no Ireland is to the world as I dont know Ballina is to Ireland its the young people I feel sorry for listening to the rest of us bang on about the olden days as if they can never feel what we felt of course they can if we can actually get our acts together but sure were still a goal down no wonder theyre all emigrating no Ill say this much were world beaters when were in a panic theres hardly a team that can live with us when were completely fucking desperate how can we get them feeling this way all the time remember that dream where I was doing my Leaving and I realise I havent studied one jot of whatever the subject is and I think well this is a bit of a pickle and then it occurs to me sure I did my Leaving years ago so I just say fuck the Leaving Cert to meself and walk out the room fuck the Leaving Cert why are those lads looking at me shit did I say fuck the Leaving Cert out loud and then Wes makes the most of a bad pass and look at him go past one past another hes beaten fourteen if hes beaten one the Bill McKaig of the greensward Wes how much youd want to be him right now if your nerves could take it and then he plays the most perfect through ball a winger has ever been given Wes and McGeady crosses first time first time I swear and theres Shane rising like a Tipperary salmon do they have salmon in Tipp theyre bound to Wes and its a cracker of a header but the keeper stretches and tips it away probably not even with his fingertip but the the tip of the finger of the glove and the chance is gone its all over but whos that running in its only Wesley Hoolahan of Norwich City and the Republic of Ireland and he strikes it softly enough that keeper thinks he has a chance but he never has and its there in the net in the Scotland net Wes and I thought well as well them as another and the whole place is gone mad Wes everyones leppin around like I dont know what Wes and that oul goat of a fella he put his arms around me Wes and drew me down to him so I could feel his breasts all the whiff of stout Wes and his heart was going like mad and Wes he said Wes I will Wes.

Prediction: Ireland 1-1 Scotland

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Image by Viewminder on Flickr (Creative Commons licence)
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21 May 2015

Goal by Galeano



Football has many histories. For the recently deceased Eduardo Galeano, the history of football was "a sad voyage from beauty to duty". His book Football in Sun and Shadow is a lament for a game adrift.

In Sun and Shadow, the physical pleasure in playing the game is its very core. It's where true joy and freedom are to be found — "that crazy feeling that for a moment turns a man into a child playing with a balloon, like a cat with a ball of yarn". (The translation from the original Spanish is by Mark Fried.) And if you're not so good at playing, you can still feel the sympathetic resonance of a fellow unit of your species performing physical feats the urge to perform which lies deep within you yourself, grateful for a surrogate through which it can actually be expressed in flesh, bone and air.

In its parade of vignettes celebrating the enactment of this feeling throughout football's history, Sun and Shadow is shot through with nostalgia. The only stories more vivid than those that date from Galeano's youth (he was born in 1940) are those that date from before his time and passed through the hands of many master embroiderers before reaching his. Or perhaps they were distillers, boiling away the unwanted until a pure essence remained. The stories capture an innocence that diminishes from childhood until in adulthood it only occasionally flickers in the gloaming. It's a loss of innocence mirrored in football itself. The further it's pulled from that pure motive, the worse it gets. "Professional football," writes Galeano, "does everything to castrate that energy of happiness".

My own view on football, bless you for asking, is not so purist. There exists a duality aside from that of sun and shadow. One part of it is that instinct for play and the deeper-than-vicarious connection between the player and the spectator. The other is a collision of impulses and desires that one might call (with apologies to Bertie Wooster) serious purpose: a desire to fight and be fought, to confront failure and try to escape intact, to feel fear and anxiety so that relief may be pursued; individuals trying to find their way in a society; societies trying to find their way within a larger society; violence as the game's tell-tale heart. It stirs and awakens pride and other sinful virtues. Like any human endeavour that holds people's interest for more than a moment, this serious purpose exerts a tenacious pull. More than that: it's something people seek. Some people, anyway. It is as fundamental to the game as the weightless arc of a chip.

JB Priestley put this duality as "Conflict and Art". Arthur Hopcraft saw in football "conflict and beauty", the "art" being a product of the combination of the two. Whatever the terminology, football is such an apt medium for expressing the two sides that any attempt to account for the feeling of football must reckon with both. They may often be in opposition, but they also complement each other. One person's moment of sheer delight leaves another on his arse. Either way, they tumble on together, inseparable. Galeano's vision of a paradise lost renders one an agent of the dilution of the other and sometimes makes Sun and Shadow seem like an engine steaming down the railway of declinism, as quick and banal as Parkinson on Football.

Although it's simplistic to say the football industry kills joy, it is a harbour for those inclined to take serious purpose to a very serious level indeed. Those who operate on that level do a good job arguing that football is about either winning, finding ways to win, or naively wasting your time. It makes those successful at navigating the game's waters look better if they can amp up the choppiness in recounting the tales of their voyage. (The really dedicated invest in a good, realistic wave machine.)

The opposite of this kind of anxiety is probably contentment, but for some reason, contentment doesn't sit well with football. Lacks toughness, no doubt. So in a game on which a worldview of convulsion and flak-dodging settles heavily and isn't easily shifted, the view presented by Galeano is crucial. It's about moments of elation that arrive unexpectedly and can blow away like a feather. It's a view that needs tending and guarding. It needs to be continually proved, lest it be seen as just a lapse from a default sense of solemn gravity. In stacking these moments high — in creating a fiction — Galeano shows that the paramountcy of serious serious purpose is just a consensus. Football is made up of too many strands for one to be pulled out and held up as the golden thread.

Curse, you bastards, my cold concrete heart poured somewhere off the north coast of the north (and bless the Uruguayan Galeano's ability to turn on their sides the histories that proud European fools write for each other) but football has never existed the way Galeano dreamt it, and if it did, it would disintegrate and disappear into the blue sky. But Galeano's dreams are beautiful, and the history of football they tell is as essential to the overall story as South America itself. Whether Football in Sun and Shadow the best football book is an open question. (My vote would go to my forthcoming volume Are You Sure It's No Thicker Than Five Inches?: A Compendium Of Humorous Pitch-Marking Anecdotes.) But it might be the one that most needed to be written.
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24 April 2015

McIlvanney on Best


A film on George Best from 1970, written and narrated by Hugh McIlvanney. It contains this quote from Best:
I know players that try to hurt me. I've even heard trainers from the bench shouting 'Break the bastard's legs' ... They say afterwards that it's during the game, they didn't really mean it. But when they said it, they meant it. It makes me feel the only way to get back at them is to make them feel so inferior that they'll never want to play another game of football again in their lives.
Uploaded to YouTube by Seb Patrick

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17 March 2015

Trust


Footballers: you can't trust a bastard of 'em. Give them a ball and a yard of grass and they might well do something so extraordinary that you won't quite know what it is — but they probably won't. They'll probably fail to do even the ordinary. (Amongst other things, natch,) a game is a litany of failures: earnest attempts to perform those simple and difficult acts that everything complex and easy-looking depends on, not coming off. The spectator's hopes are repeatedly raised, giving rise to a basic constant apprehension. Even a really good player, someone who will be tremendously dear to you in a few minutes' time if he does something exceptional, as he may have been many times thitherto — even he's likely to screw this up and ruin it for you. If you know you might react to his endeavours with anything from a brush of regret to a sincere cursing of his bloody inept excuse for an immortal soul, it's hard to let him do his thing without at least a ventricle being in your mouth.

Sometimes, though, a player is far better than he actually needs to be, and your (your?) privileged position as the spectator who knows what should happen next; the idea that this is a hell-sent obstacle to your contentment rather than a craftsperson possessed of an expertise that really is beyond the last confused and embarrassed mutterings of your ken — that shite no longer applies. You're not going to succeed in second-guessing the really good stuff. There comes a stage when the only thing to do is to let a player be with no interfering from that poor forsaken heartlet of yours. When Sergio Agüero set off for the Bayern Munich goal, you had to trust him to take you wherever he was going. And if you didn't get it the first time, he repeated it for you a few minutes later. He's nice like that, so he is.

Watching Mesut Özil demands this trust. The typical Özil pass looks like it's been played too gently to reach its destination on time, but turns out to have the perfect weight; it makes every other player's passes look off, over-eager to be correct. He floats between positions no else can see. He creates passing angles that briefly seem like they can't be feasible, and yet.

Özil's game is full of personality, but has no charisma. It has no interest in selling itself — it just is. It says the most amazing things, but at such a low volume that you have to lean in to hear.

But a big fat transfer fee precedes him wherever he goes and barks a hype-crammed announcement of his greatness. It gives off notions. For that sort of outgoing, shouldn't he be more ... well, outgoing? Shouldn't he personally greet each supporter with a smile and a quip as they walk in? Why is he so reticent? Why is he playing that way? What's he hiding?

Alexis Sánchez can play badly (as he has done quite a bit lately) and still get a brilliant report from Generic Co-Commentator because of his workrate. Özil can play well and still get convicted on the evidence of his body language. Even television's Mr. Analysis, Gary Neville, can't help spiralling downward in his assessment of Özil before touching down on the feeling that he just doesn't look right.

Early on against West Ham at the weekend, Theo Walcott was put through on goal, and instead of shooting first time, he waited for something or other and was tackled. In the second half, Özil was put through on goal, inside the penalty area and outside the left-hand post. It looked like he was lining up to shoot, availing fully of the couple of minutes' worth of space he had. Instead, he played a high pass across the goal, and the chance was lost. It would have been the most Özil move ever had the pass been any good. After Walcott, I struck the furniture. After Özil, I laughed. That's our Meslington.

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Image by MiikaS on Flickr (Creative Commons)
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30 August 2014

Gaelscoil joke

Gafa le Mata

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25 October 2013

Keeping It Peel



For Keeping It Peel Day, in honour of the Word spread by the Rev. John, thanks to the unique way the BBC is funded (ta, the British!), we present a special mix. Every second of every last track has been lovingly, tenderly, gorgeously hand-picked from the archive of sessions performed for Peel's programmes, spanning [counts] thirty-four years of broadcasting excellence? Bloody hell, even if we do say so ourselves. Our dedicated team of expert music-listening technicians has curated this unique blend especially for your aural delight and, possibly, oral ensquealment. (Side effects may vary. By reading this, you waive all statutory rights.) And because we have total faith in the quality of our product, we believe in being completely transparent with you, our trusted client, about the ingredients that have gone into this unique, one-off, unique, special and unique one-time unique podcast, including the date each was recorded:

(0:00) Ivor Cutler, "Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, Volume II, Episode 10" (15/7/1985)

(0:35) The Delgados, "Last Rose of Summer" (16/10/2002)

(3:25) Dawn of the Replicants, "Windy Miller" (28/4/1998)

(6:01) David Bowie, "Moonage Daydream" (23/5/1972)

(10:52) Supergrass, "Pumping on Your Stereo" (23/7/1999)

(14:02) Dick Dale, "Surf Trip" (28/8/2002)

(16:47) Bhundu Boys, "Ndoita Sei" (17/1/1987)

(21:27) Dexys Midnight Runners, "Tell Me When My Light Turns Green" (26/2/1980)

(24:38) The Fall, "He Pep!" (7/12/1995)

(28:44) Public Image Ltd., "Poptones" (10/12/1979)

(33:12) The Auteurs, "Buddha" (20/2/1996)

(37:29) Eric Bogosian, "The Coming Depression" (10/8/1983)

(39:17) Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, "Give Booze A Chance" (5/5/1968)

(41:51) Super Furry Animals, "Fragile Happiness" (12/7/2001)

(44:10) Boards of Canada, "Olson (Version 3)" (16/6/1998)

(46:32) Half Man Half Biscuit, "Song for the Siren" / "Vatican Broadside" (3/9/2002)

(49:36) Young Marble Giants, "N.I.T.A." (18/8/1980)

The mix is 53 minutes long, and will take up no more than 49 of your hard-earned megabytes should, as we hope, you choose to load it down (or "download" it) to your digital datum storage unit. Sound quality varies because of the nature of these things and because what do we look like, some kind of professional Audacity users or something, geddouttahere.

Listen. Enjoy. Treasure. And sing along! The singer out of Slipknot went to Rome to see the Pope, everybody!, the singer out of Slipknot...

Visit the Keeping It Peel site for more Peel-related wondrousness from around the web.

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