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The Sniffer - Issue No. Five

The Sniffer - Issue No. Five

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Published by The Sniffer
Issue Number Five of The Sniffer, the biweekly newsletter that accompanies The Ballad of Cocky the Fox.
Issue Number Five of The Sniffer, the biweekly newsletter that accompanies The Ballad of Cocky the Fox.

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Published by: The Sniffer on Jun 18, 2010
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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We are now a quarter of the way throughCocky’s urban odyssey and the faint tremor of dread we felt at the end of Fit the Firsthas now reverberated off some rocky crustdeep in the bowels of the earth and returnedto us as a full-blown quake. They are back.First Corvin, a ghastly black shark-finflicking back and forth through a sea of gore. And then his brother Randall, thediabolical architect of things we don’t yetknow or understand. This reappearance feelsuncomfortably significant.So we are standing at a shiny black signpostthat has one arm and two hands, both of which point in the same direction. But whenwe look ahead at where the hands point wesee nothing but thick fog. We know there isa road ahead and we know it will betreacherous. But we don’t know how. And, if you’re like me, you don’t want to know how.A looming vagueness is a pleasurable pain.I’m not in the business of predicting whatthe bones of this beastly fable will look likeas Parker peels back the skin and, with theprecision and maniacal glee of a pilled-uppathologist, slices out the flesh. I’ll let hiscadaverous demonstration take its course. Iwill, however, draw your attention to anundercurrent of the ballad. Thisundercurrent spent the first few fits as aninfant trickle and has now grown into ayouthful gush. A gush that needs acknowl-edging.Parker is, like me, a heavy metal veteran.He laps up metal in many of its differentforms: thrash, drone, power, speed, death, black, stoner, doom. He listens to it as heghost-writes Cocky’s memoir. Its pull has been there implicitly in the work from its beginning. Take just one album that has been spinning constantly on the Parker deck, the majestically loud and dark debut by doom-sludge duo Eagle Twin.
The Unkindness of Crows 
recasts the animal po-etry of Ted Hughes against a backdrop of dour, savage riffing and attenuated, gutturalmoans. As soon as we hear it, we mark outEagle Twin as a vital Parker muse.Ex-Iceburn maestro, Gentry Densley, is the
primitive ringmaster here. Withgroaning gargles from his bearded maw hetells us of the beasts and paints their likenesses with granite slabs from his guitar.These dense strata of verse and tone inspireParker and give his lungs the wind to breathe such vivid life into his Cocky cast.
A looming vagueness is a  pleasurable pain 
Now, as the autumn of this episodic process becomes winter, the debt to metal becomesexplicit. Fit the Fifth is called
Rat Salad 
.Not only does this describe the rodent mashon which the fit converges; it is also thename of an instrumental on Black Sabbath’s
. The track is dark and jaunty likethe rat and when the drums go solo it feelslike a fury of furry bludgeoning. With this brief wink at Ozzy’s boys, Parker seems to besaying that riffs and rolls, while not hisstock in trade, are a nice little earner on theside.Now the shiny steel has been exposed.Hereafter it will stay on show. Expect moremetal in
The Sniffer 
. And if that’s not your cup of tea or aftershave, it will be.
The author of 
The Ballad of Cocky the Fox 
 and the editor of 
The Sniffer 
are known toenjoy a chinwag over a pint. In each edition,
The Sniffer 
eavesdrops on their beery  blathering and presents a randomly chosenchunk of it to the readership.
 The Editor:
I know you own a cat…
The Author:
Yes. Kenmore the cat.
The Editor:
Right. Kenmore the cat. Andyet you portrayed French Edward as a bit of an annoying ponce. At least, that’s how I saw it. And you killed him off so soon after introducing him.
The Author:
The Editor:
On the other hand, you don’town a dog. And yet I see Otto as thisimmaculately dressed, fearsome hard nut.Like an East End bad boy in the DaveCourtney mould.
The Author:
Hmm. Maybe. Otto is posh,though.
 The Editor:
That’s true. Anyway, thereseems to be this cano-feline discrepancy  between life and art. Any thoughts on whereit might have come from? Why do you think you killed off Edward?
The Author:
Well, I definitely don’t wantto see my cat eaten by rodents. I love my cat.It was actually Josh’s idea to do away withEdward.
The Editor:
Wow. OK. So Josh doesn’tlike your cat, then?
The Author:
Right. He’s not into cats atall. He’s never had one in his life, I don’tthink. He’s very much a dog man. Anyway, Iwas talking through some ideas and I keptgoing on about how I envisaged FrenchEdward’s owner calling for him. And Joshsaid: “Something about that makes me think that Edward is dead. The plaintive, loving
call. Meanwhile, his lifeless body is justlying somewhere.” There was this odd spar-kle in his eyes as he said it. And then hechuckled.
The Editor:
What a sick bastard.
The Author:
The Author
The Editor
 both takelong, winsome sips of their pints.]
The Infoxicator 
is a tribute to our foxy protagonist’s occasional tendency to get off his tits on aftershave and glue. In each in-stallment, a Cocky-related drink or pub isput under the alcoscope with the result thatyou are gradually furnished with a completecompendium of boozy dos and don’ts, asfiltered through a vulpine sieve. In thisinstance, you are beckoned into the corner of a dark speakeasy by a bearded hunchback with a severe squint, and invited to consider a foreboding imperial stout called Raven’sEye.I wish there were a reliable correlation between the attractiveness of a label on a bottle of beer and the quality of the beer therein. When I first made the switch from cold, fizzy urine (Foster’s, Kronenbourg,Carling) to proper beer (ale, porter, stout), itwas because I had moved into a rural areawhere to order a pint of lager in a pub wastantamount to loudly insulting the barman’sdead grandmother. So I immediately learnedto turn my attention away from the black,plastic dribble-taps of piss and towards thecurvaceous, frothy flavour-pumps. Similarly,in supermarkets I began to walk past thestacks of special-offer Dutch hooligan fizzand made straight for the shelves of individual dark brown bottles of ale withouthaving any idea what I was looking for. AndI hit the jackpot straightaway. Based ontheir London-ness and their noble labelling,I plumped for a Young’s Special and a Lon-don Pride. They remain, all these yearslater, at the very top of my shopping list.But as I spread my bibational wings over theyears, I soon realized that a label tells you bugger all about what you might end up withonce you crack open a bottle. Take Hobgob-lin, Fiddler’s Elbow or any of the other Wychwood Brewery beers. Appearance:stupid! They don’t look like bottles of serious beer; they look like Terry Pratchett books.And, yet, what a delightful array of nectarsthe Wychwood brewmaster serves up.Conversely, have a gander at Bombardier.Bold, solid colours, an elegant typeface andsome stirringly English imagery. Quite thecock-tease for a patriotic alehead. But thegear inside? Crikey. What an affront to my tastebuds; the poor little sods nearly drownedin a tarry mess of unidentifiable chemicalsand dirty dishwater.So what does the preceding biographical booze cruise have to do with Raven’s Eye? Itexplains why I so desperately wanted to likethis California-brewed imperial stout: thelabel is fucking fantastic. There he is, the

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