[sic] Magazine

Rodents, rock bands and lyrical ambiguity.

I was about to watch a Louis Theroux documentary the other night when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye on the kitchen floor. I thought perhaps I had dropped a teabag. I must have had an intuitive feeling that all was not well because I decided now ( then ) would be a good time to return the Diet Coke to the new fridge-freezer, model number KGH36x50 in black from Bosch, in case you’re interested. As I did so, the teabag darted behind the washing machine. Oh dear, I thought, we have a mouse. Or worse – a thin rat. I have had a brief experience of such things before when, during the eighties, my parents bought a second-hand sofa which came with it’s own nest of mice (not advertised). My father bought a conventional trap, which did the job. I will never forget the sight of the mouse’s broken body lying next to a piece of uneaten Stilton. In those days you didn’t go for counseling sessions, you just got on with it, and I’m all the better for it, frankly. Now, it’s 2009 and as a middle class liberal, I naturally do not wish the mouse any harm and besides calling Rentokil isn’t really an option on grounds of cost and I don’t want to alarm people in the neighbouring flats by having seven men turn up in NBC suits, when it’s not a regular fetish night. Faced with a problem of this scale, my natural instinct is to look to the world of music for a solution.

The natural place to turn for such advice would be to the Pet Shop Boys. With a name like that you could be forgiven for thinking that the makers of hummable pop songs would have ready answers to all life’s rodent-based woes. Not so. After a brief consultation with Wikipedia, it turns out that neither singer, Neil Tenant, nor the enigmatic one who says fuck all, have ever worked in a pet shop. Bummer. As it happens, I’ve always had Neil Tenant down as a fan of tropical fish, which he probably keeps in a large well-lit fish tank, like in the Bond films, although I have no evidence to back this claim up. I suspect watching fish glide around a tank assists Neil in all aspects of songwriting, from the laying down of chords to the genesis of thought-provoking lyrics which act as a king of social commentary.


Neil could, in theory, have directed money generated from hits such as West End Girls, Suburbia and What Have I Done To Deserve This into a fairly large scale aquarium project and would still have cash to spend on exotic varieties of fish such as Barracuda, Piranha and Angel Fish, assuming he hasn’t squandered the proceeds on online betting sites such as Betfair and PlayEasy, which, let’s face it, is easily done these days. Alas, it seems the best I could hope for from Neil and his taciturn friend is some rather general advice for a problem which lately has been Always on My Mind. Neil once sang, “I love you , you pay my rent”. I have prepared some questions for Neil in the unlikely event that we at [sic] Magazine manage to secure an interview. The first one is “Neil, are you still renting?” With the property boom of the last ten years, he’d have been crazy not to invest the money left over from the aquarium in a pied-a-terre in Central London with easy access to recording studios. To house an aquarium, though, you’d want something with a little more room, say, a two-bedroom flat with a large hallway.

Having drawn a blank with the Pet Shop Boys, I was forced to conduct further research. I was in luck. It turns out that many years ago, reggae band UB40 were faced with a similar problem and were, like me, at a loss as to how to rectify the situation. Their situation was arguably more severe than mine. They had a rat in their kitchen! Their solution was to “fix the rat” which is, unfortunately, rather vague advice. Did they mean, “fix” as in gangster parlance, meaning to kill, or were they merely intent on causing it such a degree of distress that it would cease henceforth to frequent their premises. There is the additional possibility that they meant, “fix” in the Chris Martin of Coldplay sense of the word, and as used on the track Fix You. I’m fairly sure that in Chris’s usage fix means to heal or mend, as Chris himself might say:

Hi I’m Chris Martin, singer in leading rock group Coldplay, not to be confused with Tony Martin, that bloke who shot and killed a burglar. I know you’re hurting right now baby, but I’m going to make everything alright. Drawing upon my New Man sensibilities, I will construct a simple rock ballad with piano accompaniment to leave you feeling whole again, because right now honey, you’re broken. Pretty soon you’ll be back to normal and will probably be able to prepare yourself a simple microwave meal, perhaps even venture down to the shops with the aid of a stick. And when you’re truly recovered, you might want to return the favour by offering me a simple hand-job, no frills, no wax. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask considering I’ve been up all night toiling on your behalf, writing heartfelt lyrics in poor light with a pen that doesn’t even fucking work. At least you had the decency to buy recycled paper. I mean, you know how important that shit is to me right? I’ve got a 2.1 in Politics from University College London so I feel like I’m pretty qualified to speak out about the effect deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels is having on our environment…

I think Chris would leave the hand-job stuff out though as it’s crass and lacks sensitivity and I can’t seem to square it with his onstage persona. From scanning Coldplay lyrics, I can find little to help me with my rodent problem. UB40 really do seem to hold all the cards in this respect and so I decided to write to them seeking clarification.

bq. Dear UB40,

bq. I am writing to you for advice after hearing one of your songs recently. It’s not “Red Red Wine” – don’t worry – I am not a recovering alcoholic. Incidentally, as far as red wine goes, you can get a nice bottle of Shiraz from Sainsburys for under a fiver – I’d recommend it. Indeed, it does make me feel so fine although I wouldn’t go as far as to say it keeps me rocking all of the time. No doubt you are as dismayed as I am that the government plan to increase duty on wine by two percent in the latest budget. Anyway, let’s get to the point. My problem is a little more delicate. I have a mouse in my kitchen. Sometime in the eighties, at the height of your musical careers, you found yourselves in a similar predicament. At the time, you stated that your planned course of action was to “fix the rat “- that this is “what you were gonna do.”

bq. My question is: what did you mean by “fix” and what was the outcome, i.e. were you successful in removing the rat from your premises? I have two competing theories. The first is that you intended to bring about a sea-change in the rat’s attitude by showing it kindness to an extent where it no longer felt the need to waste time trashing your kitchen due to feelings of low self-worth. The second is that you intended to do harm to the rat, maybe by hitting the cunt repeatedly over the head with a shovel and pouring boiling water down it’s nest, assuming you were successful in locating it. Such a course of action would seem at odds with the general peaceful nature of reggae music as a whole and I would be disappointed if this were the case. As a liberal, I am anti death penalty and pro animal welfare and believe it’s the woman’s right to choose.

bq. It is, of course, entirely possible that you meant “rat” as a metaphor for a treacherous or unpleasant human being, in which case I am sorry if I have wasted your time, but I have always found metaphorical writing very confusing since I missed that class due to tonsillitis. Either way, it must have been quite a troubling episode and certainly warranted having a song written about it. Finally, do you have any plans to tour in the summer?

bq. Keep it real ,

bq. Yours sincerely,

bq. Gary Stanton
[sic] Magazine

Disclaimer: [sic] Magazine have no reason to suspect that Neil Tennant is a fan of online gambling; this is more a case of the author of this piece projecting his own bad habits on to those of a second party. That said, Gary Stanton reckons Everton are a good bet for the cup final with Betfair offering odds of 3-1