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Made in Shoreditch

I also contribute a weekly column to Made in Shoreditch magazine called 'Old East End/New East End', where I look at the relationship between the East End of old and new, looking at the changes and the stalwarts in landscape, residents and culture, focussing on one street or district each week. You can find it here.

Songs of the Year: Kanye West - Dark Fantasy

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Simplicity seems to be a staple in hip-hop recently. From the kick-snare drum patterns and heavy, catchy bass hooks applied to most songs in the genre these days, to the straight-up 'lifting' from other songs with all the cut-and-paste skill of a bad blog writer (see this blog for examples).

Kanye West, however, is one of the most interesting guys out there in all of music today. That is a given. Whether you love him or loathe him, you cannot deny that the guy's got talent.

Kanye West

This track, then, the first from what is arguably Kanye's best album to date, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, serves as a reminder to how astonishing his use of sampling really is. The focal sample used in this track is taken from Mike Oldfield and Jon Anderson's In High Places, pitching Anderson's voice in a slightly lower key and working the "can we get much higher" bits in between Kanye's verses and book-ending the whole song (at the start this is after Nicki Minaj's spoken-word part in a not-too-shabby English accent). In amongst the Oldfield/Anderson samples, some lovely backing vocals of "so high" are added which give a spectral feeling not unlike Gospel singing, yet not unlike some kind of devilish sound.

West seems hell-bent on ignoring many structural norms on this one and the song has a real sectional feel. It works to great effect as a mis-shapen, haunting piece of work which keeps in line with the idea of a dark fantasy. The bent synths in Minaj's aforementioned spoken-word part also lend a ghostly beginning to the tale.

The verses work as straight up hip-hop in many ways and Kanye's rapping is, as always, infectious, cool and markedly better than most others'. Name-checking Murcielagos (a car model from Lamborghini in case you don't know) and Leona Lewis it works lyrically as a what's what and who's who of pop culture in many ways. The raps are seemingly set against the song in the same way that cats and dogs are in nature in that weird leftfield-ish music like Oldfield's is being sampled at one end and at the other some of the biggest brand names around are mentioned.

Dark Fantasy

As a song Dark Fantasy works to stunning effect and introduces an album of many peaks. It is certainly one of the best songs to have come out this year.

n.b. The song is included as a 'song of this year', even though it was technically released last year, due to how late in 2010 it was released. Think The Clash's London Calling being named the best album of the '80s by Rolling Stone even though it was released late in 1979.

A Ban on Cigarette Packaging in Australia...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A law has been passed in Australia to encase cigarettes in blank packets. Now, as somebody who is trying desperately to quit smoking - and failing - one may think I'd agree with this. However, I don't! In the Western World (Oz is included in that for sure) we live under a system where many unhealthy things are marketed repeatedly in front of our eyes every day. From McDonald's and its eye-catching 'golden arches' to Coca-Cola's red and white semiotic hypnotics to, yes, major beer companies such as Foster's (an Australian company, might I add) and Carlsberg, whose products have a design on their outer casing.

A possible new look for ciggies.

Is this one rule for one and one for the others (those deemed more socially acceptable?)?  Have the Australian government agreed with many lefties (not a bad bunch really) that, in fact, brands and marketing promoting bad health is wrong, but then changed the rules to say "only if it's to do with smoking"? Many people may counter this argument by saying that cigarette companies are the worst of a bad bunch. Bull. Absolutely not true. McDonald's would happily have your children guzzling down their crap food morning, noon and night if they could (thus leaving your children in a health-state that would kill them arguably before smoking could) because it would turn a bigger profit. Do big beer companies not make money off of alcoholics ruining their own and their families' lives? Is Coca-Cola not marketed to people of all ages to strip their insides? Think "holidays are coming" at Christmas whilst kids sit and watch endless hours of TV (don't get me started on the problems that particular medium has caused).

Be good today kids and I'll let you clog your arteries up with a shite meal from Maccy-D's.

It is very simply unfair to hit one bad health-promoting industry and not others with this. Personally, I believe do the lot of them, we'll see how much a kid wants a Big Mac then compared to home cooked food. However the Australians who passed this are doing one of them which is completely unjust.

Full article in The Guardian on this story is here.

Some Thoughts

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Gallaghers - especially Liam - are starting to grate on me just a touch now. The press seem to be so wrapped up and in awe of the fractious (fractured) relationship at the moment that the time we are currently in could be mistaken for being 1995 again. The band broke up, you both made records separately, Noel's was better as expected, blah-di-blah, I'm bored. In fairness to Noel, he maybe shouldn't be slung into this rant as, as usual, he's come across as rather likable, witty and cool as of recent. Liam, however, has come out of all this looking, well, like Liam Gallagher: an irritating oaf, so perpetually ready to remind us how 'fooking cool' he is while most, other than Oasis sycophants, simply cringe at the sight of him.


The X Factor (UK) this year is a massive damp squib. Louis Walsh is tiresome, Barlow is fucking drab and Tulisa won't stop saying "you smashed it tonight", which is just a tad annoying. The contestants are terrible this year other than the fat lad with the bowl-haircut and in the last couple of weeks I've zoned out during performances before turning over. Especially last week's because there wasn't even the ever-gorgeous Kelly Rowland to supply me with visual pleasure (this is bordering on misogyny I know, but she really is the only respite and if it's any consolation to femmos reading this; I quite like the cut of her jib too). I'm not even going to start with the rather aptly-named Alexandra Burke by the way.

Sorry feminists... couldn't resist!

As a QPR fan I've been dreading the forthcoming weekend for quite some time. With the schooling at White Hart Lane last week fresh in the mind we welcome runaway leaders Man Citeh to Loftus Road. Ricky Hatton thinks Citeh will win 8-0... I hope he's not right, but I am pragmatic about our chances at best.

5 of the Best: Victory

Sunday, 23 October 2011

With today's fantastic result for my beloved QPR against our superstar arch-rivals Chelsea (1-0 to the R's, in case you don't know) in mind, here's 5 of the Best to do with sweet, sweet victory.

Gregory Isaacs - The Winner: Syncopation - check, easy vibe - check, super-smooth vocals - check. It's definitely Isaacs then (the first two are emblematic of any given reggae track to be honest). On what is nearly the first anniversary of 'Cool Ruler's' death (Isaac's sadly left us on 25 October last year) it feels necessary to include this and place it at the top.

Abba - The Winner Takes it All: Most may not have me down as an Abba fan, but I am. There, I said it. Now let's move on. The melodies in this song (and countless others in their repetoire) are astonishingly catchy. Though it's about a break-up (generally not seen as something to cheer about) its title says it all for me today.

 PJ Harvey - Victory: Wonderful, stripped-back garage/alt rock. All the necessary ingredients are there: basic, slow-yet-somehow-frenetic bass line, sloganistic chorus, distorted guitars. Why it's straight out of the Stooges/MC5 songbook. Great song.

Patti Smith Group - Till Victory: Talking of a lady who likes a bit of garage rock... This, however, has a far bigger feeling of grandeur than the aforementioned Harvey track. Smith's vocals are, as usual, utterly enthralling and the Baba O' Reilly-ness of it all highlights the amazing contrasts which can appear from song to song with Patti Smith's back catalogue. Compare this with Rock and Roll Nigga, for instance, and you'll know what I mean. Also, that first burst of guitar does remind me of This is the One by the now-reformed Stone Roses. I wonder if they had this in mind when writing that...

David Bowie - Win: Just a lovely, calming sonic experience from Young Americans. That trebly, chorusy guitar, Bowie's equally chorus-affected vocal, those soulful backing vocals of "It ain't over, no", it all just makes one tingle a bit. There are very few people in his bracket.

Vinyl Sales Up - But, is this a Good Thing?

Friday, 21 October 2011

According to Music Week, vinyl album sales are "up 40% year-on-year". So, people care about buying records again. Good, hey? Arguably not. Vynil is a crap material, to put it bluntly. It is not of any use to us in terms of keeping the planet going and the production methods used to create vinyl are extremely harmful. See here for a great explanation on just how ridiculous our need for stuff is and how harmful all of our PVC possessions are. There is a big consensus in the music industry towards keeping independent record stores alive and while I can see the merits in terms of keeping businesses localised and what not, I really think we can forsake records and have independent stores totally online. Let's face it the rent's cheaper. If we are to move on from piles of plastic Western waste in the Caribbean and Africa, these are the types of steps we have to take. Just an observation.

'Songwriting Camps', Millions Spent and What? Garbage, That's What

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

On the NME website I read an interesting (if very badly written) article on the cost of releasing big budget, bubblegum pop. The full story is available here, though be warned, I feel my seven-year-old nephew could have structured and edited it better.

Anyway, in the report it says that it costs roughly £3 million to launch an album from a big, established pop act such as Rihanna or Britney and roughly £1 million to launch one from a new act such as Jessie J or whoever the industry is pushing that month.

Put 'em down Katy, Russ will tell you self harm leads to nothing but bad endings

It also discusses the 'songwriting camps' that are set up for your Rihannas and and Britneys, in which Tin Pan Alley-style teams of writers and producers compete to come up with the biggest hit, hence why the same ones are often used (think David Guetta et al).

One has to wonder why really. Apparently it cost about £660,000 to put together Rihanna's latest single Man Down. I find all of this staggering, I mean, dynamic range compressors are built into most digital audio workstations these days, a decent synth doesn't cost too much and a half-arsed, sequenced drum pattern is easy to work out. From listening to some of this tripe I'd say that's all you need. To be fair 'tripe' is a strong word, Rihanna has a few good tunes. I'm thinking more Britney, Katy Perry and The Wanted here.

Once you give the 'star' a decent advance for the album and pay off Guetta, however, and then go on an unscrupulous marketing and advertising campaign to re-coup the advance and pay-offs and, stupidly, the marketing campaign debt (what a fucking stupid cycle) the amount spent seems pretty realistic, modest, in fact.

Rihanna, in case you didn't know. Hardly ever ugly, these bubblegum pop stars, are they?

So, after spending that amount of money and time on an album you would think it was as ground-breaking and timeless as Revolver, Highway 61 Revisited or The Queen is Dead. Sadly this is not the case. I listened to the aptly named Loud by Rihanna (I like some of her stuff, remember) this morning and, quite frankly, other than the big singles like Only Girl in the World etc. it is fucking crap.

If you've ever, like me, thought that the Western World is awfully, almost deliberately wasteful, then surely these statistics' coming to the fore show that consumerism has an artistic representation in albums such as Loud and Katy Perry's Teenage Dream.

Noel's Big Mojo Edit

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

A review of a magazine whose main job is to review new music and look at incidents past and present and essentially put them under review in features is quite odd really. This month's Mojo, however, is guest-edited by none other than (the always entertaining) Mr. Noel Gallagher and so therefore needs me to get my monocle out and give it a good thumbing through.

It's a great issue, it must be said, and Noel is engaging in the section where he discusses his favourite records and brutally honest in the interview with him (no change there then). There's a great piece on the '70s roots of punk (pub rock etc. feature, obviously) by that genre's finest commentator, Jon Savage, and a fantastic, eloquent interview with Manc poet (bloody) John (bloody) Cooper (bloody) Clarke.

It's our kid innit

It mustn't go without comment that Noel has done a fantastic job on the edit and in another life may well have made a fine critical writer or journo. Not nearly as much money in that game as his though, hey.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

My home town of London is currently reeling from the rioting, looting and anarchy of the past few days. The shooting of alleged crack-cocaine dealer Mark Duggan, 29, from Tottenham, North London led to a vigil held by his family outside a North London police station which in turn led to riots in Tottenham on Saturday (though how I don't know) and here we are now.

Many areas in London have been hit including Ealing, West London (very near where I grew up); Clapham, South London and Hackney, North East London. The main point of much of the more nihilistic violence and rioting seems to be theft and looting from local shops. News pictures show many youths fleeing the scenes of violence with televisions, trainers, laptops etc. All of this leads me to one question: has consumerism and the pursuit of material wealth infected that much of the youth in Britain that this is what they will do to get products they feel they need?

It's Well Kickin' Off

Young people in Britain are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling them they need certain products (be it explicitly or in a more subliminal fashion). Much of mainstream culture is based around brand label-consciousness and the pursuit of wealth and material goods. Just look at, for instance, the music of P Diddy, 50 Cent and Jay-Z. In fact much of mainstream culture bombards the youth with a 'must have it all now' ethos which arguably undermines intellectual enlightenment and fulfilment. Take for instance popular movies such as Scarface or the porn industry's multiple orgasms or celebrity and/or Hollywood events that glamourise designer clothing and the like.

Not an Original Banksy

It is certainly arguable that most young people today see owning products such as Ralph Lauren clothing or Apple/Macintosh technology as more important than picking up a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species or a George Orwell novel from their local Waterstone's (see, I did it there, I mean book fair, charity shop or second-hand book shop, of course). Whether this is the first step towards radical reform and re-structuring of our monetary-based culture or just "I want it now man, so I'm just gonna' nick it" ideology polluting our youth or, in fact, just an isolated event that will blow over as news changes (remember phone-hacking and stock market collapse?) only time will tell. It is clear, however, that the shooting of Mark Duggan is not the main motive behind much of this, but rather a trigger for one riot which has led to "mindless free-loading" (that's what they're calling it on youtube, facebook etc.) on a wide scale.

Makes Sense Really

The funniest reaction I've seen to all of this (one must always try to find a humorous aspect in dire situations) is the "if you wanna' fight mate, get in the fackin' army innit, yeah" theory. Both the idiocy in believing that the armed forces are the best way forward for wayward young people and the ridiculousness of believing that, in fact, everybody involved in this ugly mess wants violence and nothing but, so therefore should go and kill some Afghans and what not is, darkly, a hilarious riot in itself.

London Calling to be Used in 2012 Olympics Ad

Monday, 1 August 2011

Ronald Regan used Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen in his election campaign, Tony Blair decided to use Things Can Only Get Better by D-Ream in his and then proceeded to send the country into mental wars and generally go on a mission with George Bush to kill people in the Middle East, now it seems London 2012's advertising team are using a song which really doesn't befit the event.

Surely bass-smashing won't become an event...

Yes, we know that advertising is a ridiculous trade, constantly mediating the public and making them believe they actually need the junk companies are plugging. This lot, however, have chosen a song about the possible effect of Cold War nuclear apocalypse to plug the biggest sporting event in the world (apparently an event which will bring joy, carnival spirit and glitzy entertainment to London, not Armageddon as far as I'm aware).

I cannot even begin to stress the stupidity and lack of understanding of a song lyric at play here so I will just sigh, laugh at the irony and sit in dismay when I see the advert. The wheat really is growing thin.

London Calling

Sean Combs's Emotional Masterstroke

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Traditionally the ‘live fast, die young’ attitude has been synonymous with rock music. The glamour associated with bowing out early has always allured youth cultures and often dying early can add to the mythology and, importantly, the subsequent veneration of the dead hero’s talent. It seems that hip-hop, often a genre obsessed with its legends and, oddly, death itself (think Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die album or 2Pac’s Machiavelli period) can now boast similar fast-living, early-dying credentials with the deaths of 2Pac, Biggie, Big Pun, Proof (of Detroit group D12), Jam Master Jay and others all taking place in the last 20 years.

Insert whatever he's calling himself at the time of reading here

In 1997 Puff Daddy, Faith Evans and 112 all came together to record I’ll Be Missing You. The song would become a huge seller which would go Number 1 across the World. Using a haunting sample from The Police’s generally haunting I’ll Be Watching You, Puff Daddy takes a retrospective lyrical look at his time spent with his (at the time) recently deceased friend and musical collaborator; Notorious B.I.G. (formerly Biggie Smalls, real name Christopher Wallace). Faith Evans (Biggie’s girlfriend) sings the chorus, which mimics Sting’s Police chorus melodically with a slight lyric change, while 112 chip in with the melancholic outro. The significance of this song as both a huge selling hip-hop single and, more importantly, the Biggie Smalls legend maker was huge.

Biggie and Tupac together

The shooting of Biggie’s rival emcee 2Pac (real name Tupac Shakur) the year before caused an outpouring of public grief, but with the release of I’ll Be Missing You, the legend of not only Biggie was made, but the legend of the story of Biggie and 2Pac’s rivalry was made. Beyond that the legend of the dead rapper was made. In 1996 and ’97 the two best rappers around (oft cited as the greatest ever rappers) were killed. Upon the release of Puff Daddy and co.’s emotional marketing masterpiece in ’97 the rap game would change forever. Suddenly it was as cool in hip-hop to be a dead hero as it had been in rock ‘n’ roll.

I'll Be Missing You

I'm not saying here that Puff Daddy (as he was then known) set out to make money and create a culture of 'it's cool to be dead' in rap, but I am saying that as a by-product of his ode to his friend, both happened.

5 of the Best - Posthumous Releases

Thursday, 28 July 2011

2Pac, Biggie, Jimi Hendrix and even Joe Strummer, to name just a few, have all released posthumous music to varying degrees of success and quality. Now it seems that Amy Winehouse will be the next in line.

Amy Winehouse, in case you've been under a rock for the last 6 years

According to The Independent, Universal Records believe there are about a dozen songs with a "framework". This probably means that 12 or so have a vocal take laid down, which in today's world is easily tweaked if not perfect.

Anyway, with that in mind, here's 5otB released under an artist's name after their death...

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - Coma Girl: Strummer's ode to his daughter and her festival-loving nature is one hell of a rebel rock track. All rockabilly guitars and snarled, biting vocal, this is one of the best tunes the band ever released.

Coma Girl

Otis Redding - Sittin' on the Dock of a Bay: Released just after a plane crash tragically took one of soul's greatest artists, Sittin' on the Dock of a Bay could calm down a pack of blood-thirsty rotweilers at a hare convention. A beautiful, calm and easy track with the catchiest damn whistled melody ever put to a recorded song.

Jimi Hendrix - Angel: Hendrix manages to evoke such emotion in this song that whenever it's played I simply shut the hell up and listen. It is a song of superb sonic sadness and beauty and is one of those you can file in the spine-tinglers folder.


Billie Holiday - Baby Won't You Please Come Home: Set against lovely brass parts, Holiday's perfect vocal leaves one questioning 'what if she'd stayed alive?' Sadly she didn't and what we are left with is Last Recordings, the album this song sits at the end of. If ever there were a cushion for the blows dealt by pop star deaths, this song and its parent album have to be considered among the softest.

Johnny Cash - Ain't No Grave: The lyric says it all really in this song and I must say, and maybe it's due to the masterful production by Rick Rubin, but Cash's vocals in his later years might actually be better than those on his earlier works. An extremely sad and haunting song.

Ain't No Grave

Great Songs: Patti Smith Group - Because the Night

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Cascada, the disgracefully bad dance artist from Germany, has released many a buggerisation of an original song and many of her own rubbish bin-worthy twaddle over the years, but her massacre of one of the most wonderfully crafted pop songs ever really has to be the biggest travesty since Cockney Rebel decided to have a go at Here Comes the Sun. How, with such wonderful material could she fuck it up? Even with trashy Euro-dance beats and crappy synths.

Anyway, that particular version is not up for discussion here, but Patti Smith's gorgeous, passion filled version is.

Style and Substance

Co-written with Bruce Springsteen (who had the song in mind for his Darkness on the Edge of Town LP), the song is a tour-de-force in goal-oriented song writing. The verses lull and swoon into the bridges of anthemic "can't hurt you now" brilliance which drive straight into the melodic, passionate, sing-along-or-die choruses which belt out at what seems like 120 decibels.

Because the Night has a beauty about it as well. Smith's vocal delivery is perfect. The slurred verses against perfect diction in the choruses are the perfect example of what's known in musicology as 'teleological song form'.

Without going too much into it, musical teleology is not to be too confused with philosophical teleology (though it certainly has roots there), but is, rudimentarily, goal-oriented song structure which has its verses build to a big chorus. Both the way this song is written and sung/played grasp this perfectly, whether or not its writers and performers had any idea that this was what they were doing.

Patti Smith Group - Because the Night

Complex musical terms aside, Because the Night is simply a superb 3 minutes of popular music. Its lyric is a touching note on love, intimacy and good old sex. The lyric treats sex with respect, however, rather than the throw-away disdain that Gene Simmons might. The merging of two song writers of the quality of Springsteen and Smith should, in theory, work perfectly and guess what? It does in practice.

This is one of Smith's most famous numbers, which usually can take a song's class away due to overplaying etc., but, this song is simply great and therefore nothing can aid in a detraction of its quality.

Jack White and Black Milk

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Detroit: the post industrial, rough-edged, musical talent-filled city in the North of the U.S.A. A place where cars are made and apparently stolen quite a lot. In many ways it shares quite a lot with my adopted city of Manchester. It doesn't have the best weather in the country, its inner-city streets are awash with crime and many a fine musician has come out of it since the 1960s.

Jack White

If the American city closest to my home-town of London in terms of reputation is New York, then the American city closest to the one I live in as a student at the moment may be Detroit. A bustling city centre with, as I've said, some rough edges.

The coming together, then, of one of the city's most famous, talented and interesting musical characters of the last 15 years (Jack White) and one of its prodigies-in-waiting (rapper Black Milk) is an unexpected one. Nonetheless, the two songs the pair have recorded together are fantastic.

Brain and Royal Mega, the songs in question, are what I will term 'grown-up hip-hop'. No disrespect to the genre is intended by this at all, it's just that as of recent, much of the hip-hop available in the mainstream has been, well, juvenile. Other than some fine releases from Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, that have pushed the boundaries of political correctness and taste in a sophisticated, smart manner a la the Eminem of '99 - '03, and material released by a couple of the heavyweights of the game such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, a lot of it has been crap.

Black Milk

Jack White, at the controls at his Nashville studio, however, and Black Milk and his Mos-Def-esque flow and wordplay have managed to push the genre into a place it might never have been before, or ever come back from if they're a hit.

I cannot rave enough about the quality of the music and the rapping at play in these two songs and urge anybody who reads this to check this stuff out.


Royal Mega

Amy Winehouse is Dead

Monday, 25 July 2011

In his superb first novel, Junky, William S. Burroughs takes the reader on a journey through the life of a man addicted to opiates. The book's startling revelations, unapologetic tone and stark honesty lay bare all of the thoughts, feelings and sickness that one in the stranglehold of 'junk' has.

What Junky gives the reader is a feeling of compassion with the 'junky'. So then, the news of the death of singer Amy Winehouse on Saturday comes firstly, as a sad, horrific and humbling turn of events, but secondly conjures up a sympathetic and empathetic stirring in me which ultimately makes me think of everything she hadn't done.

Always Controversial - Amy Winehouse

Opiates have a hold on their user comparable to a possessive lover. They control them, make them base their life around them and eventually ruin their life. In Winehouse's case, they ended it.

Taken from the World at just 27, Winehouse leaves us at the age that many a pop star before has including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Unfortunately, the 27 Club (as it's known in rock circles) has welcomed its newest member.

The outpouring of sadness and despair at her untimely demise has had one recurring theme; this is not only a loss to the World, but a real loss to music. That is not debatable. Winehouse had a talent and knowledge of music unparalleled by many. The great shame, musically, is that Winehouse had more in her than Back to Black and Frank. Though both albums were fine, the harking backwards to soul and jazz on those albums could sound passée.

Winehouse on 'junk' (left) and before 'junk' (right)

The future held so much for Winehouse career-wise. Back to Black should not have been her magnum opus. With a talent such as her's, if she'd had a long, mappable career, we could have looked back and seen her second studio album as the point at which she started to flower. In many ways it could have been an album analogous to Rubber Soul by The Beatles. Winehouse had a chance to cross genres and transcend stereotypes. She now has nothing and her family have lost her.

Ultimately Winehouse's death is so sad because she was so young, so talented and so troubled. It's another early death in popular music mired by the use of hard drugs. A post-mortem will be carried out today, most of us expect it to show that her system was ravaged by drug-use. Winehouse was a junky and because of that was governed by opiates. She is now dead, like many before her. My thoughts are with her family.

What's Going On?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Marvin Gaye once asked that rather ambiguous question and put it in a setting in which ambiguity had no place. He masterfully questioned the world around him in a song which means so much to so many. With that in mind, I ask what's going on right now?

Well, the News International phone-hacking scandal continues to both fascinate and disgust. The web of revelations keeps spinning and day by day I, as well as many others, lose any faith in the notion that Britain is not corrupt.

We've lost Lucian Freud, the man revered as "the best British painter alive", sadly the latter part of that statement can be wiped off, but arguably not the former. Though Lowry may give him a run for his money.

One of Freud's great self portraits

The music industry has had a warning from Elton John to clean up its act and start nurturing artists properly, like he is with his new Rocket company, and stop being so throw-away. Elton's comments were made in an interview with Music Week and can be found here:

Finally, a hospital in Stockport (where my girlfriend did a placement once) has been at the centre of a saline contamination scandal. To answer the question 'what's going on?'; quite a bloody lot is.

Mercury Prize Nominees Announced

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Last night the announcement was made that this year's Mercury Music Prize will be contested between twelve albums, they are as follows:

1. Adele - 21
2. Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
3. Katy B - On a Mission
4. Metronomy - The English Riviera
5. Everything Everything - Man Alive
6. King Creosote and Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine
7. Tinie Tempah - Disc-Overy
8. James Blake - James Blake
9. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
10. Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam
11. Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
12. Gwilym Simcock - Good Days At Schloss Elmau

Everything Everything - "We're just, like, soooo vintage yah".

Notable omissions from the list are Arctic Monkeys' Suck it and See and Radiohead's King of Limbs.

The entries are the usual mix of contemporary pop, hip-hop, jazz and folk to be honest. Personally I wouldn't have the Adele record in there, it's got maybe two or three good tunes on it and Tinie Tempah is dross. Elbow bore me too much to even speak of them.

"The royalties cheques after a Mercury nomination are meant to be like this big, innit."

That said the James Blake record is good, I like a bit of Katy B and the PJ Harvey record (though I've only listened to it properly twice) is very good indeed. Metronomy and Everything Everything fill the box which reads 'much hyped, not much cop though' and I have no clue who Ghostpoet is (though I'm told he's a rapper) or, for that matter, who King Creosote and Jon Hopkins are. I've not checked out the Anna Calvi record either so I'll have to listen to the latter three records unless I want to be uncool, hey? Also, what sort of blinking name is Gwilym Simcock?

Apparently PJ Harvey and Adele are the favourites so, knowing the Mercurys, the prize is Ghostpoet's.

The Pop Quest for Love

Monday, 18 July 2011

Love is probably the most covered subject in popular music. Lyricists have agonised over love, celebrated it, condemned it, embraced it and nearly all have discussed it at some point.

The quest for love is something which is hard to define. Everybody wants to be loved; lyricists both recognise this and display it constantly. Within love many may discuss lust and hate in equal measure.

Certainly the two finest examples I can think of where a lyricist explains what love is as an emotion - and, importantly, how humans react to it - are Morrissey's line in How Soon Is Now "I am human and I need to be loved/just like everybody else does" and John Lennon's summarising in this topic's eponymous masterpiece "Love is needing to be loved".

John Lennon amongst his 'loved ones'

Lennon also told us that "love is all you need", but is it? Certainly a case could be put forward for hate's necessity in art, especially pop. Without hate would Lennon's contemporary Bob Dylan have written tracks such as A Hard Rain's Gonna' Fall? Then again, "love is one of the necessary components you need, but is not the only" isn't nearly as catchy now is it?

The reason I'm pondering and discussing all this is due to listening to the aforementioned Love by John Lennon and being overpowered by its resonance. It just goes to show that a song you've heard hundreds of times can still move you to distraction. Which is exactly why I love music.

John Lennon - Love

5 of the Best - Newspapers

Sunday, 17 July 2011

With the abhorrent actions of those under a certain Australian tycoon's wings still fresh in the mind and causing passionate outpourings of scorn the World over, here's 5 of the Best songs ever made to do with newspapers.

The Clash - The Leader: This track off of their wonderfully varied fourth LP Sandinista is a humorous riot, with its refrain line of "the people must have something good to read on a Sunday" being its focal point. Very apt today, the first Sunday without the News of the World available in newsagents since 1843.

The Jam - News of the World: An equally apt song, if not more so. Paul Weller's sarcastic, snarling commentary on Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper is also one of his best songs.

The Jam - News of the World

The Beatles - A Day in the Life: The last song on Sgt. Pepper's... is quite simply astonishing. No song on this list, or any other maybe, will match its brilliance and its impact.

Billy Joel - New York State of Mind: Though not directly about a newspaper, this song's mentioning of The New York Times and the Daily News justifies its entry here. Joel's best ballad? Maybe, I think Piano Man just wins that one though.

Billy Joel - New York State of Mind

Bob Dylan - Ballad of a Thin Man: Dylan tells it like it is on this track and once again tells it better than anybody else. Might have to rethink that Beatles statement, this is up in that pantheon. Its brilliance and impact are also immeasurable.

A Few Things to Be Excited About...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

I've not updated recently due to moving flat and waiting for the internet man from Virgin sodding Media to turn up. He still hasn't and I'm currently in the library at Uni writing this! But I'm not bitter.

Anyway, here are a few things to be excited about:

First things first. All reports seem to say Damon Albarn's Doctor Dee is fantastic, so let's hope he goes nationwide (worldwide, in fact) with it. I'm sure he will. The main thing to get excited about, however, is that he, Tony Allen and Flea will all be playing Ireland's Cork Festival together as a group as well as releasing an album later this year/early next. Great bassist, great drummer and great frontman hook up. Only great things can be expected, right?

Damon Albarn

Secondly. Mark Lynas has a new book titled The God Species out. More apocalyptic visions from the author of the brilliant, insightful and downright scary Six Degrees.

Finally. Jack White and Black Milk have teamed up for a new song called Brain. It's good. That's all.

Glasto Round Up

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

After digesting some of the great performances from the weekend's festivities at Glastonbury I have to say it looked like a great festival.

Colplay's Saturday night headlining set was dazzling. An array of multicolour lighting and lazers illuminated an electrifying performance and Chris Martin's high octane energy was the stuff of a proper rock star.

Coldplay - Viva la Vida @ Glasto 2011

U2 were very good also. As they should be. A crowd that size is their forte and it showed. Just very comfortable and good.

Plan B put in a great shift, playing the whole Strickland Banks record. His voice and his band sounded great and the big man took it all in his stride.

Morrissey as I've already discussed was good. Kool and the Gang surprised me, really fun performance and their new, young singer handled the crowd extremely well.

Beyonce in all her glory

Finally, Beyonce, well... she was pretty good. I'm not her biggest fan anyway (Rihanna does it more for me in the solo female R&B category) and generally her songs get a little on my tits, but she did what she had to: entertained. At points I found the crowd-inclusive parts slightly nauseating, but nevertheless, she was good.

Coldplay were the big winners in my eyes, though. Well done boys.

Coldplay perform new song Every Teardrop is a Waterfall @ Glasto 2011

Radiohead and Pulp Play Glasto

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Quelle suprise, Radiohead and Pulp have played their 'secret' (nothing is so in today's World chaps) gigs at Glastonbury Festival.

I've not had a chance to look at them yet, but will in due time and will also report on them.

BBC iPlayer had their (Pulp's) 1995 and (Radiohead's) 1997 sets respectively up all last week, this was the first hint. Then came the barrage of whistleblowing online and before long, even a marxist hippie with a severe hatred of computers and news coverage would have had half an idea (not that such a person would be seen dead at Glasto these days for £195 a pop).

The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury

Still, it's great that there are little extras for those paying the extortionate amount to get into the mega-fest.

A Quick Note on Friday's Post

Well, there was nothing of the sort from Moz then was there. Just a really great set. His only comments on U2, in fact, were "I'll sing quickly, I know you're all waiting for U2" and "Enjoy U2 [to the crowd]".

I, personally (thank heavens for BBC iPlayer), was busy enjoying Morrissey however. Other than a poor rendition of This Charming Man (his band's, rather than his fault due to guitarists just playing the chords and none of the intricate, jangly bits) it was a fantastic gig.

The bequiffed one in all his glory

Running through hits like You Have Killed Me and a fantastic rendition of Meat is Murder (the forethought of which was provided by Moz welcoming the banning of circus animals in the U.K.) he was on top form.

Call me a dreamer, but a Smiths reunion would be nice. Just Morrissey and Marr would be fine (no Mike Joyce confrontations that way).

The Big One: Glastonbury - Morrissey and U2 Take Centre Stage

Friday, 24 June 2011


Tonight will see both Morrissey and U2 take to the world-famous Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival. It is highly fitting that two of the World's most famous acts will take said stage. There may be a problem, though, as two of the most egotistical people in rock music will be taking the stage one after another, namely: Morrissey and Bono.

In the case of Morrissey, everybody knows what a cantankerous old git he can be. I do wonder what he thinks of being essentially the warm up act for the genuine headliners. I do wonder if he will, in fact, make any kind of rant on his hatred for U2 and in turn what that may provoke Bono into.


Morrissey is also well known for his animal rights campaigning and his overt (some might say in your face) praise of vegetarianism. Expect some kind of spout on that and be ready for some kind of Bono rant on third world problems and the like.

The main thing we can hope to expect, though, are two great performances from two truly great rock acts. And maybe a little fire-stoking from Moz, after all: that's entertainment.

5 of the Best - Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

In light of the death of Clarence Clemons this week, here's 5otB from The Boss and his band of merry men.

Born to Run - Just an astonishing feat of building a song to an end goal; in this case the refrain line "tramps like us, baby we were born to run". Springsteen's lyrical imagery is both a celebration and degradation of the gutter and The Big Man's sax solo is, well, stupefyingly good.

Thunder Road - "Show a little faith there's magic in the night/you ain't a beauty but hey you're alright/and that's alright with me". The first song on the Born to Run LP is the perfect introduction to an album that tells a story of romance and working-class life with such skill and not just lyrically.

Thunder Road

I'm on Fire - Dark, open and easily empathised with, the open letter style I'm on Fire is one of the greatest songs of longing ever written.

Dancing in the Dark - Yeah the drums sound a bit dated, yeah the synths are a tad cheesy and '80s, but it's still a wonderfully catchy tune.

Dancing in the Dark

Blinded By the Light - A really infectious, well-written song with a great chorus that can get stuck in the head easily. Not in a bad way though.

Some Thoughts...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

First things first: It was a big shame to wake up on Sunday morning to the news of Clarence Clemons's death. Clemons was a mesmerising saxophonist and, whereas in many songs it can be an annoyance, he made the sax integral to the sound of Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band. Rest in Peace Big Man.

Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen (from the Born to Run album sleeve)

Also: For some reason (probably monetary) Coldplay have collaborated with dance music giants Swedish House Mafia. The song Every Teardrop is a Waterfall is OK, but it does seem an odd pairing. Still, fair play I suppose, it's good to be multi-faceted.

Finally: I thought Damon Albarn's performance of his new track Apple Carts (from his new opera Doctor Dee)on The Andrew Marr Show (BBC) was beautiful. It was a really sombre little moment and his voice sounds as good as it ever has.

Damon Albarn - Apple Carts (Live on The Andrew Marr Show)

Radiohead @ Glastonbury '97 on BBC iPlayer

Monday, 20 June 2011

In two days time Glastonbury Festival 2011 begins. This year's main headline act will be U2, the Tesco of modern rock, if you will; extremely big, everywhere and you've probably contributed to their fortune in some way. 1997 saw the Waitrose of modern rock, Radiohead; quality controlling, connoisseur's choice and just that bit better than the rest, take the Pyramid Stage by storm.

By this point Radiohead were arguably already at their zenith having given us The Bends and OK Computer. The subsequent boundary pushing that would ensue in the band's later career would only enhance this lofty reputation, with 2007's In Rainbows at its peak. In footballing terms Radiohead go about their business in Barcelona-esque fashion; better than everyone else and probably Unicef approved due to their ethical stance.

Thom Yorke

Analogies aside, Radiohead are fantastic and, in 1997, on the back of contendably their best album (the aforementioned OK Computer), were an obvious choice for Michael Eavis (Glasto organiser).

Watching this gig on the sofa yesterday made me wish I was older than 10 in '97 so that I could have been a part of it all. From opening track Lucky right the way through this was an astonishing set. The ease with which Thom Yorke seems to be able to sing note-perfect whilst helping his band create a beautiful sonic experience instrumentally is dumbfounding.

Lucky from the gig

As I sat there slack-jawed yesterday in awe of Oxford's finest institution (hehe, my brother as a Cambridge alumnus will like that) it dawned on me that the quality on display was and is so rare that it can truly be labelled 'once in a lifetime', the like of which we may never see matched in the future.

Reasons to be Cheerful, Reasons to be Fearful

Friday, 17 June 2011

3 Reasons to be cheerful...

Arctic Monkeys new album is very good. Suck it and See may in fact be the worst title for an album since Limp Bizkit's Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water, but it sounds great. Way better than Limp Bizkit.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry has released more of the Black Ark Dub Plates with a record titled The Return of the Scratch Sound System. It's got 5 stars in Mojo and deservedly so, I gave it a quick listen the other day and from what I heard it's more subsonic dub mayhem and brilliance.

Very soon, everybody's favourite West London superheroes, QPR FC, will be back on Match of the Day. Come on you R's.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry - A bit different

3 Reasons to be fearful...

The Feeling have a new record out.

Toploader have made a comeback.

Chancellor George Osborne... in general. He even looks bloody evil doesn't he?

McCartney and Gorillaz?

If reports are to be believed, then Paul McCartney could be in line to collaborate with Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's Gorillaz. The 68 year old Liverpudlian said "We have kind of talked - nothing serious but I like what they do. It's got near a couple of times but we never had the time". (Quote taken from The Celebrity Cafe website).

Gorillaz are well known for their all-star collaborations, with the likes of Lou Reed, Snoop Dogg and Shaun Ryder all having worked with the animated band in the past, as well as The Clash's Mick Jones and Paul Simonon donating their services recently on the band's tour.


Should McCartney enter the fold, one wonders what his role may be. With his voice holding up pretty well these days and his multi-instrumental facets coupled with those of Albarn and Hewlett and a taste for more leftfield influence for Gorillaz this could be an exciting prospect.

With last year's Plastic Beach album being lauded by critics and achieving good commercial success, Gorillaz would be expected to come together again soon, however, with Albarn's many other projects, the question must be asked 'where will he fit it all in?'

Personally, the thought of Albarn and McCartney coming together to record each other's burps would dot it for me, but we shall have to wait to see what happens.

1994 Shooting of 2Pac: Man Allegedly Confesses

Thursday, 16 June 2011

According to Pitchfork Media this morning, a man has allegedly confessed to shooting 2Pac in 1994. The shooting, which led to the infamous bitter and public rivalry between Biggie and 2Pac (due to 2Pac accusing Notorious B.I.G. of being behind the act), was allegedly carried out by a man named Dexter Isaac on behalf of music Exec. (now manager of rapper The Game) James Rosemond.

In light of this it is possible that police could follow up leads and shed new light on both of the unsolved murders of Biggie and Tupac. Though in many quarters it is believed to have been Suge Knight (Death Row Records's boss) who was behind the murders of both men.


Dexter Isaac has decided to confess due to the staute of limitations for an assault passing.

If all of this is believed to be true this could be a big revelation and a step forward in finding out what went on back in those heady East vs West Coast days in the '90s.

The X Factor - Auditions

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

So, yesterday I spent my day in the audience of the third and final day at the Manchester X-Factor auditions and, wow, I think I saw a potential winner, a definite-to-make-the-telly double-act and, of course, many of Manchester's finest, fishwife-esque loud-mouths screaming away at the judges - the new line-up of Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland, Tulisa from N-Dubz and the familiar presence of Louis Walsh - and the 'talent' or lack thereof.

Firstly, to the potential winner: an Anglo-American woman of 35 who has a fantastic voice. The lady in question, Beverly (born in Tottenham, London, raised in America, now back in England), sang the Minnie Ripperton hit Loving You in note-perfect fashion (yes, even that ridiculously high bit was perfect) and, as they always say 'this is a singing contest', it is worth mentioning that this lady is the finest singer I have ever seen stroll on to the X Factor stage. Fantastic.

Secondly, on to the two young chaps from Bradford. The guys did a superbly funny rendition of a Justin Timberlake song and that new Drake one (the names of both escape me at the moment), with the shorter, geekier one lurching into raps every so often. Very, very funny.

In with the New... The Class of 2011

The crowd were, well, like you'd imagine a British X Factor crowd to be. Loud, lairy and constantly booing, cheering and gasping where appropriate (or not). Mainly made up of females between 16 and 40, the audience had a wonderful array of exclamations to make for home town judge Barlow from "We love you Gary" to, rather crudely, "I wanna sit on his (Barlow's) lap and spin on his cock" from one rather over-zealous 30-something.

In all it was a great audition day and an insight into how the show is put together, even if it all is a little kitsch. Also Kelly Rowland is bloody gorgeous and Tulisa's not too shabby either. Don't worry I didn't shout out any crude fantasies though.

The Blame Files: Musicians to Blame for Many of the Dick Heads We Have to Encounter in the Modern World

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pete Doherty - To blame for every 2 bit idiot who thinks that because you've read a bit of T.S. Eliot's verse and pretend to chase the dragon every weekend that you're suddenly cool.

Morrissey/Ian Curtis/Noel Gallagher - To blame for every sycophant in Manchester who thinks it is the only place on God's Earth that a few decent rock bands have come from.

Ian Curtis

Mike Skinner - To blame for every knob who thinks if you write a couple of lines about lager, football and cigarettes, then you're the modern day equivalent of Wordsworth.

Tinie Tempah - To blame for every twat who believes geek glasses are a cool accessory.

Tinie Tempah - Apparently Cool

Gerard Way - To blame for every whining middle class teenager that moans, gripes and believes that nobody could understand their pain. How bloody hard it must be to be 14, have no real pressure, be financially stable and have to endure having your own bedroom in your parents' house.

Great Songs: MGMT - Kids

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

One day in 2007 I listened to a track a friend advised me to listen to. There I was, in front of a video made by some user or other on Youtube, that blue screen that they seem to love on there comes up and the sound of children playing is the first thing that hits me. Next comes the damn catchiest synth riff I'd heard in years set against some nice, simple sequenced drums before a bit more textural synth and bass kicked in. I sat and listened to that whole bloody song and by the end of it I sat there, silently, for a second or two and thought: shit! That's brilliant!

That song was Kids by MGMT, the best recent pop song I can think of. Shortly after I was devouring the delights of Weekend Wars, Electric Feel and Time to Pretend by that same band and loved it all.

Kids - Sadly not the video mentioned in this post though

When MGMT came along in 2007 they were necessary. Far too many shitty indie bands with annoying "oh oh oh" sing-along crap as their main repertoire were in operation. MGMT literally showed them all up and showed them that yes, a song can be simple, it can be quite sing-along, yet it can still be sang instead nigh-on spoken on in affected English accents and it can still sound fresh and exciting and good.

Kids is one of those epiphany-inducing songs that gets a band real exposure. The simplicity of it is bloody audacious to be honest, but, the simplicity just makes it even more admirable.

From listening to MGMT I was also inspired when I heard the simlar-sounding Brooklyn gang Yeasayer and Kids was the root of me caring at all.

Tyler, the Creator

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Hip-hop has been in a rut over the past few years. The likes of Timbaland have given us soulless, lifeless, disposable music to listen to, maybe even dance to, then forget about. The genre as a whole has needed a kick up the arse, so to speak. Enter Tyler, the Creator.

At just 17 years old Tyler is making the kinds of waves in Hip-Hop it took the likes of Jay-Z a few years to make. At just 17 years old Tyler sounds as if he's a decade older than he really is with his gruff, deep vocal delivery. At just 17 years old Tyler knows more about how to create hype through controversial lyrics than any artist I can remember of his age. Tyler handles rape, devil worship and homicide with the kind of relish that Eminem once had for the darker sides of human behaviour.


New song Yonkers, currently quite the radio hit, is a wonderfully realised song which, much like a lot of his other stuff (see French and Bastard), gives credence to keeping hip-hop music simple and letting the verbal dexterity shine through. In a similar fashion to Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Woody Guthrie, Tyler, the Creator manages to let the lyricism do the work and merely use simple music as a platform for his words.

The kind of excitement Tyler is generating is in part his own doing (he makes good songs), but also in part hip-hop's doing. By getting fat and lazy and pouring out big-budget, dancefloor and DJ obsessed crap over the last few years, hip-hop has been quite the turn off. Tyler, the Creator could be just what the genre needs at a time when the likes of Eminem's, Dr. Dre's and and 50 Cent's stars seem to be fading. Time for some new blood. Check him out.

Wow, What a Bank Holiday Weekend!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Where to begin? Firstly, I must scream from the rooftops as the mighty Queens Park Rangers have been promoted to the Premier League as champions of The Championship. Come on you R's.

The Royal Wedding was tosh. I couldn't care less if two free-loaders, lovely as they may be, get married at the British taxpayer's expense and whip up a frenzy. Why give us a day off if we cannot get into Central London without being faced with mental royalists?

Osama Bin Laden has been killed. This is not only the biggest news of the weekend, but, in fact, the biggest news of the year. The World's most wanted man is gone, 'buried at sea'. I do hope that the repercussions aren't more atrocities, but unfortunately I fear they may be.

Bin Laden - Gone

Donald Trump has been fucking mental! Excuse my French, but seriously, calling the Chinese motherfuckers and requesting Obama's Birth Certificate! Really? I feel this unfortunately shows up the racism that is still bubbling under the hardcore Republican ethos. Would he have asked for Bill Clinton's for instance? I think not.

Finally, Gadaffi claims his son has been killed. Many on the opposition do not believe him due to a similar incident where he claimed his daughter had been killed.

This has been a weekend to remember for many reasons. Who knows what will follow all of these events?

Messi - The Genius

Friday, 29 April 2011

The word 'genius' is bandied round far too often these days for my liking. In every field (especially pop music) there's always a new one. The truth, however, is that there's very few ever, let alone today. In sport it is my view that there are two. As a snooker player, when he is in the mood, Ronnie O' Sullivan is one. He is,in my view - others are available, the greatest player to ever grace the table.

Sport's other great genius - one who incidentally seems to always be in the mood - is Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Say what you will about the ref the other night (I personally thought the sending off was warranted as the tackle was dangerous, coming in with studs showing, over the top of the ball), nobody can deny that Messi's second goal was pure genius.

Messi - A true genius

Jinking his way through 5 or 6 Real defenders, Messi slotted home with the kind of beauty and yet humility I've never seen. When I was a small child I was in awe of Zinedine Zidane, Messi, however, is even better.

Without Lionel, the other night probably would've ended in a drab draw. With him, it had two goals, one of which must go down as one of the best ever.

5 of the Best - Roads

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Kerouac's most famous (and probably best) book was about them, many of us spend our lives on them and they also rhyme with toads (to be honest I couldn't think of anything else to say). Here's 5otB to do with roads...

Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street: The only time I think a sax has been necessary in a song. This one about the very famous stretch in London where Sherlock used to run around with his magnifying glass is an absolutely classic song.

Baker Street

The Hollies - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother: In the main part this song isn't necessarily about any particular highway, however, the song would be nothing without the opening gambit "The road is long, with many a winding turn". Very emotive song and also a classic.

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited: Yet another classic and the title track from what is maybe Dylan's best album (it's probably too hard to pick though). P.J. Harvey's cover is very interesting also.

2-4-6-8 Motorway

Tom Robinson Band - 2-4-6-8 Motorway: I bloody love this song so much. Keep on truckin'. The riff is so simple it's almost moronic, that however is a major factor in the song's brilliance. A quick mention must go to its appearance on the hilarious 'Margit' episode of Only Fools and Horses.

Willie Nelson - On the Road Again: Fantastic song with a touching lyric about Nelson's love of life on tour. You can't help but tap your toes to this one.

Spurs All But Out, Chelsea v United

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

I watched that Spurs game last night and I was quietly smug. Not because I dislike Spurs, I have next to no feelings for them, but because it highlighted exactly what I thought about their place in Europe's elite.

While beating the Milan teams may have been seen by many as confirmation of their arrival as a club of European status, for me it just underlined how far backward the Italian league has gone. Spurs, however, when faced with a real European giant crumbled. They are not able to handle the Ronaldos, Marcelos or even Adebayors (OK maybe not him, good service can do a wonderful thing for average strikers)of this world.

Two clubs who can compete at this top level, however, are Man United and Chelsea (as painful as it is to admit the latter). Tonight we will see two genuine contenders slugging it out for a semi-final place and I, for one, cannot wait. To be honest, I think the Blues will do it (and that is a horrible thing for a QPR fan to have to admit). But it won't be by much.

In other news Bibio has a new record out and my review of it should be up by tomorrow at some point, oh, and the R's are going up! 3-0, what a result.

The Cloud Player

Thursday, 31 March 2011

So, Amazon have 'quietly' released their cloud player in the U.S. The implications seem huge. Could this end the iPod era altogether?

The idea is simple, instead of using your computer's hard drive as your main store for music, you can use an online storage space. This could change music forever...

How to use cloud player with android phones. iPhone users can't use it, however. Amazon vs. Apple is on!

With the CD becoming less and less popular, the next generation of adults may well have grown up using the cloud player. As our lives become more and more virtual, with friends online, communication online, is the next thing to go the music collection?

There's a really cool article in The Independent newspaper which discusses the cloud player and its implications. Check it out at

Dude, Where's My Guitar?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

I study music which means I'm shoved in the same block as many a stoned, heavy rock-obsessed, smelly loser. Meandering one's way through this lot can be quite the task sometimes, but having to listen to their conversation in the smoking area at Uni whilst trying to chuff on some of Virginia's finest plants can be even more annoying.

So yesterday, there I am minding my own, puffing away, when a couple of spotty wretches clad in hoodies with 'Tool' and 'Him' printed on them approach the NHS burdens' standing point.

Wretch 1 looks at Wretch 2 and, I shit you not, utters the words "dude, where's my guitar?" It's at this point I can barely hide my smirk. Have they never seen that dodgy stoner film with Ashton Kutcher in it, which (rather unsubtly) parodies morons just like them? It's called Dude Where's My Car?

The wretches

Fucking ridiculous I'm sure you'll agree. I stubbed out, walked off and thought to myself "I wonder if they have 'Sweet' and 'Dude' tattoos?"

What's more annoying in all this is that they went off to look for the guitar and neither of them saw how ridiculous this all was. Sorry if you happen to be a bit of a long-haired Camden Town dweller reading this and I've offended you, but that was just mental!

5 of the Best - Summer

Friday, 25 March 2011

We're experiencing something of a premature summer here in England, which, after a shitty winter, is most welcome. With that in mind, here is 5 of the Best to do with summer...

Bob Marley and the Wailers - Sun is Shining: One heavy, heavy bassline juxtaposed with seriously syncopated harmonies, the mystic air of what may well be a clarinet of some description and Marley's superb, defiant vocal. One of his best, and that is saying something.

The Fifth Dimension - Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine: One gorgeous, colourful, psychedelic track which can't fail to lift the spirits.

Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine

The Beach Boys - Surfin' U.S.A.: OK, doesn't really talk of the summer, but you wouldn't surf in the winter would you? Ok, you might, but this track is purely one for the summer.

The Beatles - Good Day Sunshine: Another one of those summery tracks that instantly makes you happy from the moment you press play.

Good Day Sunshine

Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince - Summertime: It's cheesy, it's a bit naff, but my god it gets you in the mood for summer.

Great Songs: Iggy Pop - The Passenger

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Iggy - Looks a tad like WWE's Shawn Micheals, don't he?

One day, back sometime in the mid-70s, Ricky Gardiner (co-writer of The Passenger) had a chord progression stuck in his head and thought it was damn catchy. He ran straight to his guitar and whacked out the chords that would become one of the catchiest, most irresistible riffs in rock history. That riff was The Passenger. Iggy Pop would put a fine lyric and vocal on it and before long it was born. The pair had written a truly great song.

The Passenger

Iggy's lyric which is the embodiment of do it yourself, nomadic punk attitude may well be one of the most inspiring pieces of prose ever written. He summons up Kerouacian imagery of being out on the road driving through the city and paints the glory, the buzz and the cesspit feel of it all. Speaking of "the city's ripped backsides" and painting himself as some kind of Dean Moriarty character with "I am the passenger".

Musically, The Passenger is a pretty simple song. What Gardiner and Iggy did with the song is probably one of the hardest tricks to pull off - they took a simple harmony and vocal melody and penned an instant classic.

That it was released in 1977 just adds to the punk romanticism of a truly great song.

Unsigned Call From Over Hadrian’s Wall: Act 2 - Crow Road

Monday, 21 March 2011

If mainstream, popular indie is what you want, then that is what you get with Crow Road. In fact if it isn’t what you want that’s what you get anyway, and you get the feeling these guys make no bones about what they are.

Comparisons have been made to Vampire Weekend and The View, but this band has more in common with indie bands with loftier aspirations. Crow Road, in fact, sound a lot like a Caledonian Kings of Leon. Though it is fair to say that the band maybe don’t have the blues and country as rooted into their sound as Kings of Leon, the fact that the down-home music of America has so much in common with Celtic folk music must be pointed out. Crow Road’s folk inspired sound has all the hallmarks of KoL’s blues inspired sound. So, as it is, front man Paul Gibson’s blue note-heavy, primal scream therapy vocal timbre is extremely comparable to that of Caleb Followill. Gibson’s rather pronounced Scottishness has a similarity to Folowill’s rather pronounced Confederate State voice.

Crow Road

Musically, the band has a sound which is like nothing you’ve heard before… that is, if you’ve been set under a cave in Africa with only the sound of banging two rocks together as your sole sonic entertainment. Yes, these Glaswegians do generally stick to the tried and tested formula of a bit of jangly guitar, standard form and structure and catchy choruses. This is no bad thing, however. Crow Road have a way with a tune and if Shrivels and Peaks fails to get your toes-a-tapping then Panda Season will certainly do the job. They don’t mind showing off their softer side either, with Rebecca’s Song being a lovely little melancholic number which showcases the harsh beauty of Gibson’s voice and guitar playing against the talents of lead guitarist Jamie Turner.

Crow Road have all of the ingredients that are necessary to go on to Killer’s style indie domination. Their polished indie rock certainly has a market. Working out where they go from here is their choice and if they decide to keep up the good work and keep banging out sing-along indie, then one feels destiny has a lucrative and fame-drenched future waiting for them. Crow Road have the necessary cogs; they just have to make sure that their machine keeps chugging away.

What Did You Expect From The Vaccines - Review


So here they come hurtling towards us with their debut album: Britain’s new ‘it’ band, The Vaccines. One thing to note here is that nothing is really new, no new ground is covered, but it is a fine album. The Vaccines have had all the right plaudits, from BBC 6 Music to The Guardian and with What Did You… they have shown why.

The album as a whole is a reverb-heavy nod to the post-punk of Joy Division, Blondie and The Cure, but kicks off in the vein of Punk with the Ramones-style, short, sharp and shocking attitude of Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra). We then go flying into the sing-along second track (and second single release) If You Wanna where the (God is it back again?) post-punk revival kicks in.

Fifth track Wetsuit has the summer festival, anthemic appeal that The Strokes were once capable of creating and straight after that is Norgaard, which exactly halfway through reignites The Ramones’ punchy, straight-up call.

The Vaccines - So Big Right Now

Post Break-Up Sex has been playing on the radio for a while now and is probably the album’s best track and after it the album doesn’t again get as thrilling until the hidden 12th track Somebody Else’s Child, which is a truly sombre affair, but stunningly sonically and lyrically emotional.

The Vaccines may well be the band on everyone’s lips at the moment and some may moan that they’re not that exciting, but it would be difficult to argue that they don’t have a way with a tune.

Four Tet

Saturday, 19 March 2011

My girlfriend has been playing a lot of Four Tet (Kieran Hebden) recently and I must say; I love it. I'm a bit behind she tells me. No shit! He's been going since 1998.

Anyway, better late than never. Hebden's work seems to often ignore the norms of form and structure and treat each piece as some kind of abstract wonder. It lends the music an art aesthetic and maybe has more to do with Shoenberg than, say, Springsteen.

Four Tet

He uses each melody almost as a sample which can be dropped out or reintroduced whenever. It really is quite thrilling stuff.

I advise anybody reading this that isn't familiar with Four Tet to check out Angel Echoes, Love Cry and Circling right away.

Yuck - Live Review

Friday, 18 March 2011

Night & Day Café, Manchester

Popular music these days can often have a Groundhog Day feel about it. Once the ‘90s infatuation with the ‘60s was over along came the ‘00s obsession with late ‘70s post punk, ‘80s synth-pop and then late ‘80s/early ‘90s rave. It can feel these days that each movement such as nu-rave or indie is actually just a regurgitation and repetition of a previous movement and when it’s over it comes back. With that in mind we come to tonight’s headliners, Yuck, at Manchester’s uber-trendy Northern Quarter hangout Night & Day Café. The route that Yuck have gone for in this era of wearing your influence on your sleeve is to resurrect the sound of 1980s American alt-rock such as Sonic Youth and The Pixies, and they do it rather well.

Back during the aforementioned ‘00s ‘indie-darlings/next big things’ scene a group called Cajun Dance Party were making all the right moves and Camden Town was swinging to their tight grooves, but as with many of these new kids on the block types, Cajun Dance Party folded before Libertines-esque stardom arrived. Out of this rabble singer Danny and bassist Max (now plying his trade as a guitarist) have teamed up with a female bassist from Hiroshima called Mariko and Johnny, a drummer from New Jersey who stands at roughly Peter Crouch height, Martin Johnson breadth and sports the kind of ‘fro that Don King would be proud of.

Yuck - Which one's Johnny?

All the talk amongst the fag-smoking crowd outside the rather tiny Night & Day, before Yuck take to the stage, is of this burgeoning (or rather revivalist) sound with the support act, Fanzine, having just finished their set of Teenage Fanclub/R.E.M. hybrid noise. The all knowing cool-kids are all ready and waiting for Yuck to come on and do something similar, but hopefully better. After extinguishing a cancer stick I decide to join the massive queue for the bar, hoping to be served an ice-cold Red Stripe before the band jump on the stage. Beer in hand (20 minutes later, God crowds are awful) I perch up near the sound desk (placed right next to the dance floor) and, with that, on come Yuck to rapturous applause.

Sandwiched in between all manner of fashionable indie-types sweating over each other and spilling lager, I am forced to join in to the dancing as set-opener and single Holing Out comes flying out of the P.A. like some kind of distorted, yet oh-so-clear menace. As clear as day Danny’s voice sounds more Seattle than North London (his hometown) with backing vocals from Max, who, after an electrified version of usually acoustic number Suicide Policeman, hails Fanzine as “amaaazzziiing”, as if trying to capture the rhetoric of the Facebook generation crowd in here in some kind of verbal abridge, only without being ironic.

As the set moves through good tracks from the new eponymous album release, such as Stutter and Rose Gives a Lily, the soundscape of this group in a live setting dawns upon me as being fuzzbox freak-outs with a touch of that shoegaze appeal which may never have left Danny and Max from their days in Cajun Dance Party. Mariko ably chugs her bass through the tracks and Johnny, hair and all, crashes away at the skins like a thing possessed. By now much of the crowd are drunk, which is helping the atmosphere no-end and I, with a fresh beer in hand, am starting to have a whale of a time.

Holing Out

Set closer Rubber comes around quicker than one of tonight’s crowd-members to an Oxfam shop on a Saturday, but then refuses to end for a while, which should come as no surprise given that it clocks in at a rather voracious 7 minutes and 14 seconds as the album’s closer. The last three minutes of this see Night & Day filled with feedback, fuzz and wah as the band decide to rock-out and provide a rather exhilarating climax to a show which may well lack in terms of originality, but in sheer force-of-presence and style has it all. Yuck thank their adoring public as they step off stage, and, having earlier announced that they “only play London, America and Manchester, ‘coz Manchester’s so fucking cooool”, I think they may well have won a few friends amongst the Manchester gig-going crowd which is not exactly known for its self-deprecating stance on its ‘coolness’, or its music scene. Sweat wiped off a completely un-furrowed brow I dive in a taxi happy with what was a very good evening’s entertainment from a group that may yet prove an unerring force in 2011 (or whatever year this is).