Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Our Cheryl is set to release her follow-up single, 3 Words, on 20th December in what can only be assumed to be her stab at making Christmas Number 1.
The song, featuring album collaborator Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, is unique in its uniformity. It’s not distinctly awful in any particular way, nor is it jaw-droppingly progressive. Instead, it ploughs the steady, no-risk electro-pop field which has served Kylie Minogue so well for the last decade (I keep forgetting the Noughties are coming to an end. Scary stuff). I’d love to sit here with bile dripping from my fangs and lay into it with the venom of a pissed off pensioner but it just doesn’t rile those emotions. It is too darn comfortable.
If anything, the talking point of it's release is the video in which Mrs. Cole wears a blonde wig for a bit. Pop Music is eating itself again...
Monday, 16 November 2009
This weekend just departed I took a trip to Abingdon, near Oxford, to visit a friend for his birthday. Another friend of mine picked me up from Bath (ironically at a notorious dogging spot) and off we went down the M-something or other, music throbbing from the speakers of the car.
As we approached Abingdon the speakers began oozing the inimitable treacle of a Motown number. It was Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. I turned to the driver of the vehicle and said “It has to be the greatest intro of all time”. It’s menacing yet seductive, unsure yet confident – everything all at once. It got me thinking about similarly majestic introductions to songs and here be a small list (Come on, I didn’t think about it all weekend):
Reach Out, I’ll Be There – The Four Tops: Four bars of windswept raw emotion from Motown’s hit machine, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Perfection.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones: Despite having heard it almost as many times as Mick Jagger has paid off pregnant supermodels, it is probably the greatest riff of them all.
Help! – The Beatles: With so many to choose from it is impossible to pick just one but this 1965 single positively jumps out of the speakers with electrifying insistence.
20th Century Boy – T. Rex: Guaranteed to blow any set of speakers when played loud, never have two solitary notes sounded so bloody raunchy.
This Charming Man – The Smiths: Johnny Marr’s riff dances merrily from his guitar on arguably the Smiths most recognisable track.
Be My Baby – The Ronnettes: Generally lauded as one of the finest pop songs ever written, it’s all about that beat. Not bad for a murderer (Phil Spector).
Wouldn’t it be Nice? – The Beach Boys: Yes, Good Vibrations is probably the better song but this sun-baked, stoned and skewered intro captures the simple, child-like essence which make the Beach Boys so appealing.
Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads: Kicks in with all the bombast of a flaming hot, funky meteor landing in your lap from nowhere.
Fashion - David Bowie: I know, I know; my unhealthy addiction to David Bowie infiltrates every darn aspect of my life to the point where I only like people on the proviso that they like David Bowie but the synthy upbeat is an exceptionally wry observation on the mindless conformity of the songs subject matter. The listener is fooled from the off.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
To say that Stockdale continues where he left off on Wolfmother’s previous album is like saying Hitler was a bit of a knob. By that I mean a grand understatement. This latest offering could easily have been packaged as a double album with it’s predecessor such are the similarities and continued themes such as sorcery, staring vacantly into oblivion’s still valleys, naked, having lost your clothes, and yet more sorcery.
In the intervening four years between albums it is instantly clear that Stockdale hasn’t been listening to any new music whatsoever. The inspiration and influences which helped shape the band’s debut are still ever-present: The White Stripes guitar stylings on New Moon Rising screech and scream like a banshee whilst White Feather is AC/DC at their most radio-friendly; elsewhere the colossal Zeppelin-like stomp of Sundial and 10,000 Feet strut cockily onward.
When it’s good the album is a force to be reckoned with. California Queen gallops forth into a tie-dyed sunset and Pilgrim piles on more Priapismic riffage. Ah, the riffs. There are some truly filthy riffs present throughout - riffs so mucky you’ll feel compelled to have a wash after listening.
However, when the album is bad it’s pretty nullifying. The record lets itself down on In the Morning, a self-indulgent track with a genteel introduction exploding into beaming power-chords before descending into a rambling guitar solo/wank. Far Away is a tepid stab at the power-ballad and the song “most likely to encourage holding lighters aloft”. It even has a bit of November Rain ivory tinkling at the end.
Final track Violence of the Sun is the album’s Altamont. A droning, dying beast, thrashing around in it’s own excretia with it’s last ounces of energy, it provides little comfort. In fact, it’s mildly distressing.
This isn’t groundbreaking in any conceivable interpretation of the word yet it is never meant to be. This is Guitar Music for the Guitar Hero generation; guitar solo as proof of ability, riff as king. A celebration of the glorious overblown pomposity of Rock music, Cosmic Egg is a stoned, shaggy album, tailor-made for beach parties whose attendees are Gap models with Rolling Stones tongues on their t-shirts. Tell Jim Morrisson I said Hi, maaaan.
Sunday, 27 September 2009
And that got me thinking. Music groups, just like groups of people in general, are inevitably going to have rifts and arguments and full-blown bust ups. New people will come and new people will go. In the music industry however, does the original line up necessarily mean the best?
It’s a tough one to answer. You may think John, Paul, George and Ringo had been mates for many, many years before encountering stratospheric success as the Beatles, but that’s not the case. John’s friend from art school, Stuart Sutcliffe, and drummer Pete Best made up the original line up during long days and nights, pilled up to the eyeballs in seedy Hamburg clubs. Sutcliffe was to later die from a brain haemorrhage, Best was replaced by the more showbiz Ringo Starr. Cue the changing of the world.
Then there are the Rolling Stones. If ever a band had a revolving door policy it was the Stones. Due partly to the fact that the list of musicians who have played on their records over the years is as long as Mick Jagger’s list of conquests (well, not quite) the Stones may pose for photoshoots as a quartet but really, since the late-sixties at least, they have always employed a wealth of backing singers and musicians. Original bassist Bill Wyman left in the early nineties. He was easily replaced. It is the role of Keith Richards’ guitar partner which has seen the most chopping and changing down the years.
Originally Brian Jones, his tenure was brought to an abrupt end after he drowned in his swimming pool. Replaced by Mick Taylor, the Stones then embarked on the most productive phase of their career, producing a string of albums which they have failed, often spectacularly, to top since. Taylor, like so many others, was drained by the vampiric nature of the Stones and their lifestyle and Ronnie Wood was brought in to fill the void. Keith Richards’ best buddy, Wood has been playing solid lead guitar with the band for the best part of 34 years now, yet in that time the Stones have failed to reach the exhilarating peaks of the Mick Taylor years.
A more contemporary look will lead us to Take That, reincarnated as Topman mannequins, all stubble, earthy tones and turtle necks. Their success in the early-nineties was founded on a blend of personalities: Gary Barlow as the homely songwriter; Mark Owen as the baby-faced cutie; Robbie Williams as the daft lad-about-town; Jason Orange and Howard Donald as, well, muscled dancers. When Robbie Williams left it also showed that he was the only one with the balls, or vision, to do so. Could you have imagined Howard Donald storming off in a maelstrom of cocaine and booze to venture into the unknown, into the land of the solo career? It took a lot of guts, I hand Williams that.
After plodding on for a few more singles the band finally split, only to re-emerge in the mid-noughties. People now said how mature they were to which I thought, “How could they be any less mature than what they were? In one of their earlier videos they were writhing around in jelly and ice-cream for heaven’s sake...” They are now more successful than they ever were. The screaming girls may be mothers now but the band can count themselves amongst British pop’s elite.
And then there are those dedicated, faithful groups, cohesive units closer than family itself.
One that instantly comes to mind is U2. Originally called Feedback, the band has been together for the best part of 33 years, lasting longer than a worrying amount of marriages. They, like every other band, have had their heated moments yet instead of anyone walking out or being sacked (not even bassist Adam Clayton was punished when he missed a gig in Sydney due to being drunk; instead the other members skilfully guided him towards spiritual enlightenment) they re-invented themselves from post-punk kids to stately, globe-harnessing rockers, via pony-tailed, religious charmers of America and nihilistic Rock Gods. This way they always kept things fresh.
ABBA are another group who, for better or worse, remained with each other until they stopped making music. You couldn’t imagine another member replacing one of the originals though, could you? For a start it would be dangerous to upset the cosy palindrome effect of their name: could you imagine ABAG? DBBA? ZBBA? This would make auditioning a new member a curious process (“Name must begin with an A...”)
Personality also plays a significant role. The Beatles, as John, Paul, George and Ringo were so distinct. The same applies to the core of the Stones; Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ relationship is one of Rock’s most treasured possessions.
Personality, in that respect, isn’t often mentioned in the same sentence as the word Sugababes. They are essentially backing singers mashed together like a hideous creature from the Island of Dr. Moreau. They are simply not loved enough for anyone to give a shit.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
So, here is a hastily compiled list of ten Les Paul players in the Rock idiom:
1. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin, pictured) – With his Les Paul slung down by his knees, Page is the template by which all Les Paul users go by.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
I am real nervous.
We finally reach the house and, tentatively shifting down a darkened side-alley, we make our way into the garden. It is a long yet narrow space with moderately tall fencing either side and a scattering of people are sitting on the grass, looking dreamily up at Tom Peel who is sat with just an acoustic guitar, the first act of the day.
There is a heady cocktail of utopian contentment, beaming sunshine and great music which grabs you by both hands, leading you towards the music, as soon as you enter (I was half-expecting someone to put flowers in my hair); everyone seems to be getting on well, plenty of smiling and woozy grinning, and the quality of the music is astonishing.
Despite many of the acts being restricted to the minimalism of acoustic instruments, the differing styles provide enough contrasts to keep the audience interested; from the loose rhythms of Tom Peel to the youthful exuberance of Tantrums, no act could be charged with sounding like the one before.
Goodnight Lenin! perform for the first time in front of an audience and deliver a highly confident set, binded by luscious vocal harmonies; Greg Smith’s self-deprecating humour wins the crowd over, his music a scuzzy, scratchy indie fare. We are then treated to some performance poetry from Jodi Ann Bickley whose sharp, funny and painfully honest observations (on the rockiness of love in particular) have the audience both captivated and howling with laughter.
Other highlights include Ali Forbes whose delicately measured vocals and guitar, receive rapturous applause from the ever-increasing crowd. By now the garden is a blossoming, bustling place as more and more people slip in. Anna Palmer (aka Little Palm) wows the crowd as she is accompanied by her electric keyboard and drummer (don’t worry, he is only using a snare drum with his bare hands – it hasn’t descended into MTV –style pseudo-acoustic wooliness). Her jaunty pop-jazz, coupled with her acrobatic vocals, provide yet more variety to the proceedings.
It’d be far too easy to compare it with something like Woodstock and its naive hippy idealism (and besides, the haircuts were far too edgy) but one certainly had a sense of being part of something whilst sitting there with what essentially was a small amount of people but enough to make the day feel like an event. Is this the future? Is this how all gigs will be in five, ten, years’ time? I can’t provide such answers, I’m only a humble farm-boy, but by the time it was dark and everyone was all fuzzy from drink, I found myself blabbering away to whoever was sat around, telling them how great I thought it was. No doubt I’ll see them there next time. A wonderful day.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
The song itself is a stagnant ballad if ever I heard one, a spluttering regurgitation of the previously-released Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It plods along in such a turgid fashion it makes a ticking clock sound like majestic fireworks.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
“Yep,” I said, with an acceptance only a child of the 90s could possess.
And so Michael Jackson was wheeled into a packed out arena for the lucky few thousand to mourn his passing and celebrate his life.
As expected, a whole cavalcade of ‘slebs shared their memories of Jackson. These fame-drenched admirers ranged from the over-achieving (Queen Latifa) to the genuinely genial (Berry Gordy – not realising the irony when he said Jackson “...was driven by his hunger to learn…to constantly top himself”), all the while giving their verdict on the man’s talents and legacy. The most interesting stories came from those who had known Jackson personally for a number of years, those from the Motown family (all of whom had an unsettling waxy quality about their appearance). Their stories offered an insight into Jackson the practical joker, the loyal friend, the dutiful young man. All of this was delivered in front of the Jackson family who occupied the front row; the exhausting amount brothers, each wearing a single spangled glove, sisters Janet and LaToya, mother Katharine and the villain of the piece, father Joe.
Others recycled the same crap which has been repeated, parrot-like, since his demise. Crap such as “He was a one off” and “He made the world a better place”. When Usher claimed “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Michael Jackson,” I thought to myself Then he has a lot to answer for...
The musical tributes were as patchy as the details of his death. Mariah’s hatchet job of I'll Be There, Stevie Wonder’s tender Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer (a voice of truest gold), Jermaine Jackson’s brittle Smile, Usher’s bog-fucking-standard Gone Too Soon; this was clearly not the time to celebrate his best music, the funkier upbeat numbers, but instead to wallow in melancholy and Jackson’s ballads.
A final Hey Judian hurrah ended proceedings with group singalongs of We Are the World and Heal the World before one of Michael’s children, Paris, spoke. For a child who had spent a sizeable chunk of her life behind a shroud or a veil for reasons of privacy, here she was, in front of thousands at the Centre and millions watching around the world, to deliver a simple message of her father. Only the most granite-hearted were not moved. One of the lesser Jacksons thanked the masses as the Jackson clan quickly exited stage right.
You may not believe me but such is the twisted, gnarled and horrifying world of Fame that Jackson once occupied as it's mad Overlord I was genuinely expecting him to somehow rise from his coffin and declare the whole thing a publicity stunt. I was also expecting dancing elephants, African tribesmen moonwalking in unison and lots of wind-machines. I certainly wasn’t expecting the brutally sombre affair delivered. Then I watched something else.
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
What you need to tell yourself is that it has a clammy charm, a tight-chested intimacy which is perfect for those sweaty bars and lurid clubs you frequent (yeah, I’ve seen you) and, above all, they haven’t lost it just yet.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Sunday, 14 June 2009
Born Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones on 28th February 1942 into a neat middle-class family in leafy Cheltenham, Jones found himself in and out of trouble almost from birth. Having fathered three children by his early twenties his rebellious, uncontrollable nature was matched only by a dazzling intellect, often excelling academically, as well as a prodigious musical talent which saw him gain an understanding of any instrument put in front of him.
He seemed to find a degree of happiness with Swedish beauty Anita Pallenberg, yet his capricious mood led him to frequently hit her. She wasn’t the first of his girlfriends he had beaten. When Pallenberg left Jones for Richards during a holiday the three of them took to Morocco in 1967, it appeared that this was the final nail in Jones’ fastly-approaching coffin.
Since he was found face down in his swimming pool, his death has been the subject of many lurid tabloid tales and is firmly located within the stained corridors of rock folklore, yet one thing is certain: Jones was an exceptionally insecure, narcissistic man who could treat people with both vulgarity and sincerity in equal measure. He was one of the first casualties of rock yet one feels he would have burned himself out eventually, rock star or not.
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Then I thought about what I was currently reading: A book in which a class of 42 Asian students are selected by their authoritarian government to wage war on one another in a brutal and blood-soaked fight to the death until there is one remaining survivor who is cruelly labelled the victor. The book? Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. And it really is a lovely book.
Monday, 1 June 2009
So, here is a hastily assembled list of criminally overlooked musicians who have struggled to muscle past chiselled frontmen or cool-as-fuck guitar heroes. Enjoy. (WARNING: You will have heard of all of these bands)
*Andy Rourke + Mike Joyce ~ The Smiths: Considering it was these two gentlemen who inspired me to write this it is only right that I begin with them. Unable to bustle past Morrissey’s ego and Johnny Marr’s arrangement prowess, these two likely lads provided an unshakeable rhythm section to the 80s most treasured peddlers of glum. From the happy-go-lucky bounce of the band’s more jangly moments to the soft, tender grooves of the more heartfelt numbers, Joyce and Rourke never let you down. They could rock it with the best of them aswell. Take the title track from The Queen is Dead: that rhythm section takes some stopping.
*George Harrison ~ The Beatles: For all the genius of Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting, George Harrison was always on hand to deliver a preposterously cool riff or tasteful solo. Practically inventing the notion of the lead guitarist, his own songs weren’t bad either: just as the band were falling apart amidst petty arguments and messy legal wrangling, Harrison dug deep and wrote some of the bands most iconic songs (While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Here Comes the Sun). Never one to bask in the limelight, he was, as Dave Grohl once put it, “the secret weapon”.
*John Paul Jones ~ Led Zeppelin: You’re probably thinking Who? but Led Zeppelin wouldn’t have been the same without him. The heaviest band of them all needed a special type of bass player to work alongside John Bonham and that man was mild-mannered John Paul Jones. A former session man, his knowledge was as vast as it came. Simply, he could play anything. As quiet as a doormouse, Jones’ basslines made Zep that much heavier.
*Mick Taylor ~ The Rolling Stones: Stepping into a dead man’s pair of snakeskin cowboy boots can’t be easy but when Mick Taylor replaced Brian Jones after the latter had decided to go for an impromptu swim it heralded a rapaciously creative period for the Stones, arguably their finest era. Joining the band as an introverted vegan and leaving as a full blown junkie, Taylor always let his guitar playing do the talking yet it didn’t so much talk as sing the sweetest tune imaginable. His flowing melodies danced a merry dance over Keith Richards’ raunchy riffs to create a string of records not matched by the band since. And Richards will never find a better guitar partner.
*Carlos Alomar ~ David Bowie: When David Bowie put his glitter jump-suit back in his dressing up box and embarked on a romance with Philadelphia soul in the mid-seventies, he replaced guitar legend Mick Ronson with slick sessioneer Carlos Alomar. Alomar’s influence was immediate; steering clear of distorted riffs he instead helped Bowie move towards and altogether smoother sound, taking the occasional co-writing credit in the process. Arrangements were now grander and Bowie found a brand new audience with his album Young Americans. Alomar stayed on the Bowie payroll longer than any other musician and helped the latter push boundaries well into the 80s. Bowie never sounded funkier.
*Stuart Copeland + Andy Summers ~ The Police: Don’t worry, it’s still cool to think Sting a twat, but his cod-Jamaican vocals would have sounded infinitely dafter were it not for messrs Copeland and Summers unique playing style. The former’s drum prowess borders on the genial, providing the clipped, syncopated rhythms to which the foot cannot help but tap to; the latter’s guitar technique was probably considered too technically accomplished in post-punk Britain. The band broke up hating each other, so nothing new there then. Then they got back together in 2008, but who didn’t?
Rest easy dear friend, I’m sure you are raging at that the fact that there are others who should be on this list but who aren’t. If so, then feel free to send me your suggestions. I would naturally be interested to be enlightened to more fantastic musicians.
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Then something peculiar happened: Karen O suddenly found an otherwise unrealised maturity and started singing about ethereal subject matter as the band ‘grew up’ on their second long-player Show Your Bones. Maturity – the moustachioed bastard antagonist of Rock. But wait, it didn’t matter because the songs were still as stylish as before but they were just a smidgen more evenly produced. Gone were the chainsaw guitars and walls-came-tumblin’-down drums, replaced instead by vast expanses of synthesizers and ‘Big’ drums creating monstrous, unoccupied canyons into which you could jump gleefully.
I’m now told it is 2009 and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ride into town once more on their spangly horses, brandishing ten new songs on their new album It’s Blitz!
If you haven’t heard album opener Zero by now then I’m afraid you are a Philistine at best. What an opener though! Exploding with a euphoria designed purely for sweaty dancefloor encounters, the song can easily count itself amongst the tracks of the year already. Following this dizzying tirade, Heads Will Roll entices the listener in with its vacuous synths before the guitars pound along with muscular abandon keeping the party mood afloat.
The band have always insisted that they can pull at the heart strings with the best of them but all of a sudden, three songs in, they throw a couple of maudlin bad boys on the listener. Not that they’re bad songs: Softshock is a beautifully intoxicating number, continually gaining frenzied passion and makes a convincing case of being the album’s highlight, whilst Skeletons mines the dewy-eyed tenderness of Maps to great effect.
Then it all gets a little muddy as the band seems to run out of ideas, relying upon predictable riffs on Dull Life and the safety net of the quaint ballad. That’s not to say that it’s a clear-cut, black and white album of two halves. There are still magical moments to be had: Shame and Fortune has the menace of one hundred schoolgirls brandishing kitchen knives, whilst Runaway harnesses icy feelings of loneliness with expertise. Dragon Queen gets all funky and sounds like CSS (remember them?) but, for fuck’s sake, there it is again. That voice. Whilst Karen O has one of the most distinctive female voices in modern rock, don’t you just wish she belted out a few numbers from time to time like her protégé Beth Ditto? (Although I’m informed Karen doesn’t have the range, darling).
The album parts with the ears in unremarkable fashion: Hysteric is a sunny pop song whilst closing number Little Shadow delves into the irritating ‘Look-How-Fucking-Quaint-And- Smug-We-Can-Be’ hamper one last time.
So, is the album a glorious success or a failure ne’er to be mentioned upon these shores again? Well, it’s neither really. It seldom sounds as visceral as they once were, nor does it appear to break any new ground: ultimately it sounds like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs making a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album. It seems to wrap itself up nice and tightly in a purgatorial fur coat and just feels damn good about itself, which is a shame because for an album that starts with truly unbelievable promise it ends up not putting up much of a fight. Why do people have to grow up?
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Always, always, surrounding himself with the most brilliant musicians Bowie’s dalliance with Soul yielded a remarkable album that proved he was capable of mastering any field of music he turned his hand to. Opening with the lusciously lucid title track the listener is treated with a design of things to come: a big, confident sound full of yearning emotion. The elegant ‘Win’ is as heartfelt as you are likely to hear whilst ‘Fascination’ (co-written with Luther Vandross who is part of the sumptuous backing vocal group throughout) delivers a funky bounce as infectious as the bubonic plague.
Elsewhere, ‘Right’ delivers a cool latino shake and the opulent ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ is delivered with religious fervour, played in the funkiest church you’re likely to visit this side of Suffragette City.
Was his version of the Beatles' ‘Across the Universe’ a wise move? That’s for you to decide but it certainly is a valiant attempt. The delicately poised ‘Can You Hear Me’ makes amends and could easily be sung by Dusty Springfield or any other soul great.
The album closes with the highly-stylised funk of ‘Fame’. Co-written with guitarist Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, the song takes a wry look at globe-eating stardom and, ironically, delivered Bowie his first US no. 1.
The music here is distinctly upbeat, positive and relaxed, something which was incongruous with Bowie’s whirlwind, drug-addled life at the time. Ditching the theatrical wail of his glam period and instead mining his sumptuous baritone, Bowie’s voice lends the songs here an almost soothing quality yet fortunately it all verges just the right side of easy-listening. A gloriously intoxicating album and one which furthered his ever-rising star.
Saturday, 28 March 2009
So, as Bowie absorbed the Pop into his now-downsized inner-sanctum, the two set about writing and recording an album to be known as The Idiot. It certainly holds its own place in Rock history: it was the album Ian Curtis listened to when he decided to hang himself. Contrary to Curtis’ dramatic reaction to the record it is, in reality, a mighty fine offering from the pint-sized rocker.
Partly recorded in France and Germany (Bowie’s fascination with Krautrock present throughout) the album is notable for Bowie’s role as producer and co-writer. It says something so deliciously apt about Iggy Pop, the perennial almost-was, that one of his finest, most focused and personal albums has someone else looming ominously over proceedings; here it is Bowie as puppetmaster. Despite some mystery over who features on the album it is generally perceived that the music is practically all Bowie’s whilst Pop deals primarily with lyrical duties.
The album opens with 'Sister Midnight', an exercise in measured funk courtesy of Bowie’s superb rhythm section of Dennis Davis and George Murray complimented by the grandly talented Carlos Alomar on guitar (here taking a writing credit).
From here the album wears it’s electronic, postmodern influences on its sleeve, most notably on the clunky 'Mass Production' and the post-punk classic 'Nightclubbing'; the latter is as sleazy and lecherous as you’re likely to hear, its lobotomized beat and stabbed synths creeping along with menacing detachment . The creepy 'Baby' sees Pop’s croon at its most melancholy and features the delightful line ‘Maybe there’s nothing to see/ I’ve already been down the street of chance’.
Delving deeper, Pop casts a nostalgic eye back on his days in the Stooges with 'Dum Dum Boys', a song which exposes the singer as a lonely soul, abandoned by his brothers when he most needed them. Shouting, ‘Where are ya now I need ya?’ he sounds battered and bruised, yearning for a simplicity the past, and drugs, have laid waste to.
The albums centrepiece, however, is the impossibly brilliant 'China Girl'. Far superior to Bowie’s glossy attempt six years later, this version grooves around euphoric melodies before Pop adopts a pained, strained vocal as the song gallops away into the distance, leaving this listener slack-jawed in awe. A breathtaking song.
For those thinking that this is some sort of ‘rehab’ album for the Motor-City native, they are grossly mistaken; he was still battling many demons during this period of his life and the album chronicles a man merely picking up the pieces. Generally overlooked in the Iggy Pop canon, The Idiot is a pale, anaemic album (check out the vampiric 'Funtime') which rarely looks optimistically on proceedings. It does, however, chronicle a particular flux one of Rock’s most inimitable characters was going through and the listener can’t help but root for him throughout. Just don’t mention car insurance.
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Komedia’s neo-classical opulence appears better suited to opera than sweaty Rock ‘n Roll but no one minds as groups of students and teenagers huddle in groups in front of the stage, no doubt exchanging tips on what shampoos to use (or not, in some cases).
‘Thank you for clapping; people sometimes throw things at me after the first song’, says Connan Mockasin, standing alone with his guitar. Flitting from the psychedelic to the haunting to the unashamedly catchy, he manipulates his guitar like a Hawaiian Jimi Hendrix, bending and twisting notes out of all recognition. His songs take off properly when he is joined by his drummer, gaining a ramshackle bounce which would make Jack White proud.
Four young men walk on the stage looking like they’ve just spent the day in Topman. They are Post War Years and they are criminally ripping off Foals. It is so painfully predictable, so painfully now that half of the audience are resigned to obligingly pay attention whilst the other half lap it up like Pavlov’s dog as the band lay on synths and clipped guitars over jarred, fidgety drums. Keep looking interested and move slowly towards the bar...
As the house lights go down, a wave of clammy anticipation washes over the venue. Late of the Pier launch headlong into singles 'Space and the Woods' and 'Heartbeat' and the sound is thunderous. The brittle synths and keyboards are replaced by thick zaps of sound, the bass threatens to bring the walls down and my nostrils actually start quivering.
Looking like the confused offspring of Gary Numan and Freddie Mercury, they are dressed in capes and binliners as they storm through Fantasy Black Channel. The band whip the pit of teenagers at the front of the stage into a hot, sticky frenzy; 'Focker' is a particular highlight grabbing the audience by the neck and refusing to let go until it has its way. Which it does.
As they play their final song, 'Bathroom Gurgle', the band is looking drained. Vocalist Samuel Dust is sitting on one of the speakers dangling a beige dap on the end of a hospital-thin leg out towards the audience who are trying to get a touch of their hero. They don’t quite reach. They never will.
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
However, this was no holiday. After spending the first half of the seventies in a vacuum of cocaine, Bowie’s move was a type of rehab: shutting himself off in a bleak and fractured Berlin wrought with social and political tension, he was rid of the slimy hangers-on, the yes men and (the majority of) his drug dealers which had been following him for the previous five or so years as his star rose and rose.
Low was the first album of this new musical path. The album could easily be viewed as an apt metaphor for Berlin itself; an album split into two distinct halves – the decadent and the bruised.
If Bowie was experiencing a new clarity of mind then it is obvious from the off. Opener Speed of Life (one of four instrumentals on the album) strides forward triumphantly with the determined optimism of someone who thinks the only way from here is up. The perky Breaking Glass follows with its strolling funk, showing that Bowie had lost none of his precision showmanship.
The album’s first single Sound and Vision continues the upbeat mood with its rubber drums before Be My Wife (verging on self-pity) and Always Crashing in the Same Car (a sombre admission of clumsiness, both physical and emotional) ease the listener into the album’s more textured landscapes.
The tracks co-written with Brian Eno have the ubiquitous producer’s mark stamped all over them. Warszawa is a grand gesture complete with primal howls whilst Art Decade is unsettling and haunting; both songs perfect for a German Art-House flick never released in a cinema (not one near you anyway).
The album has something of a futile, limp ending. Weeping Wall comes and goes without kicking up any fuss whatsoever whilst Subterraneans meekly rounds things off (although it does feature some cool smoky sax).
Bowie’s glam disciples were thrown off track with his previous effort Station to Station, yet these were the same fans who felt bemused at his foray into ersatz-Soul. Low heralded a new era of experimentation and furthered artistic restlessness and the album shows an artist unafraid to confront demons and forge new musical expression. It alienated fans even further but by this point Bowie had more than earned his right to do what he damn-well pleased. (8/10)