All entries for December 2009
December 28, 2009
Music Resolution 2009 – Doves/Super Furry Animals, Manchester Central, 18th December
Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.
Yey! Did it! One musical resolution kept even if it was by the skin of my teeth sometimes. And what a good way to end the whole shebang, with a homecoming (ish) gig by one of the most underrated bands of the decade – Doves. Not just a homecoming, but an over-the-top, bells and whistles extravaganza, featuring big screens and multiple cameras, suggesting that it might just be possible to relive this experience again. Surely this will be coming out as a live DVD?
If not it’ll be a wasted opportunity, that’s for sure. It’s really saying something that the Super Furry Animals were outdone in the props and tricks department. With a relatively short half hour slot, there wasn’t time for the full range of SFA tricks, but they did kick off ‘Slow Life’ with a man in a John Lennon mask waving signs reading “Applause” and “Woah” at the audience who, to their credit, applauded and woahed on request. It was mostly bigger hits on display, and they still possess the almighty cathartic tune which is ‘The Man Don’t Give A Fuck’ – a track which never seems to lack relevance, sadly.
And so to the main attraction – a band who seemed more delighted and overwhelmed than perhaps any other I have eve encountered live. The three Doves – Jimi, Andy and Jez – all grew up in one of Manchester’s many commuter (i.e. bitch) towns, and headlining the 10,000 capacity venue that they stubbornly refer to by its old (i.e. proper) name of GMEX, clearly meant a hell of a lot to them. Thus they cracked out a wide ranging and excellently chosen set.
Tracks like ‘Jetsteams’ and ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ from their latest albums sounded as familiar as the older stuff, and were just well received. The latter, the band’s self described “country song” even inspired a moshpit which surprised Jez into comment. Then there was ‘Black And White Town’ – a song which perfectly captures living in those satellite bitch towns. Few songs sum up my own teenage years so effortlessly. A beered up, enthusiastic Mancunian crowd is one of the most exciting you can find yourself in, and fortunately Doves don’t seem to attract the total dickheads which the more laddish likes of Oasis and The Courtneers attract.
Certainly those laddish bands would never even consider enlisting the London Bulgarian Choir, whose presence gave soaring harmonies to the already utterly wonderful likes of ‘The Cedar Room’ and the usually instrumental ‘Firesuite’ which sounded quite simply epic. Leaving the choir to perform in he gap between the main set and the encore was a masterstroke as they held the audience’s attention through their interweaving harmonies and the sheer passion of their performance.
And exactly the same could be said of Doves themselves. They’ve not quite achieved the break through that fellow (almost) Mancs Elbow managed last year, but it doesn’t matter – on home terrain they rule like kings, and it was an excellent show, one which has reignited my love for them (a love which has lapsed a little recently) and which demonstrates that bands who care, about their music and about their fans, can sometimes get what they deserve.
December 20, 2009
Songs Of 2009 – A Playlist
I can’t be arsed to rank them, so this is a playlist comprising of the songs in a reasonably coherent order. On track per artist. To my eternal shame I actually really enjoyed not one, but two Black Eyed Peas songs this year. Sorry.
- Lady Gaga – ‘Poker Face’ (just shading ‘Bad Romance’)
- Black Eyed Peas – ‘Meet Me Halfway’ (despite having some of the worst rapping I have heard from them, and that’s saying something – ‘Boom Boom Pow’ was also enjoyable)
- Shakira – ‘She Wolf’ (howling in pop songs, brilliant)
- Florence And The Machine – ‘Drumming Song’
- Marina And The Diamonds – ‘Mowgli’s Road’
- Dizze Rascal – ‘Bonkers’
- Deadmau5 ft Rob Swire – ‘Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff’
- Royksopp ft Karin Dreijer Andersson – ‘This Must Be It’
- Little Boots – ‘Remedy’ (would have been number one most of the year if Girls Aloud had released it)
- La Roux – ‘Tigerlily’ (cannot work out why this wasn’t released as a single)
- Peaches – ‘I Feel Cream’
- Kap Bambino – ‘Dead Lazers’
- Fever Ray – ‘Dry And Dusty’
- The Juan MacLean – ‘The Simple Life’
- Au Revoir Simone – ‘All Or Nothing’
- Miike Snow – ‘Silvia’
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Zero’ (dancefloor tune of the year)
- Ladyhawke – ‘Magic’ (cheating perhaps as this was on her 2008 album, but it was released as a single this year, and might just be my favourite song)
- Passion Pit – ‘Eyes As Candles’
- Muse – ‘Undisclosed Desires’
- Doves – ‘Jetstream’
- Patrick Wolf – ‘Oblivion’ (there are few songs which wouldn’t be improved by copying this one and including Tilda Swinton giving the singer a bollocking)
- Franz Ferdinand – ‘Lucid Dreams’
- The Phantom Band – ‘The Howling’
- Empire Of The Sun – ‘We Are The People’
- The Big Pink – ‘Dominos’ (it probably helps I don’t watch too much TV as I believe this has been hideously overplayed on adverts)
- Metric – ‘Gimme Sympathy’
- The xx – ‘Intro’ (never has an intro been so brilliant, and I include ‘CV’ from Robyn’s last album in that)
- Bat For Lashes – ‘Pearl’s Dream’
- The Cribs – ‘We Share The Same Skies’ (aka Match Of The Day 2’s goals song)
- Cymbals Eat Guitars – ’...And The Hazy Sea’
- Manic Street Preachers – ‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’ (surely the song title of the year?)
- Brand New – ‘At The Bottom’
- Future Of The Left – ‘Arming Eritrea’
- Mono – ‘The Battle To Heaven’
December 19, 2009
Srsly addictive flashgame. I’m linking to this on a weekend so no one loses too many valuable work hours and gets sacked as a result.
December 18, 2009
Have you drowned in lists yet? As bad as it is when a year ends, when a decade ends the list instinct is even worse. I guess the only reason we’ve not revolted en masse at the pervasive nature of lists (a nature so pervasive that the last two entries on this blog were a list – I’m infected!) is because, for many of us, 31st December 2009 represents the end of a year and a decade. Just a year and a decade.
Ten years ago we had the end of a year, decade, century and millennium. Unless you’re a pedant and want to point out that actually 31st December 2000 was the end of those things. In which case sod off, I have room for one pedant in my life and that role is occupied by my father.
So before we all die of listageddon here are some lists which won’t make you want to remove your own face with a hedge strimmer:
Vice’s Albums Of The Year
A lot of what Vice puts out is shite. This is funny and true. Although Fever Ray should have been higher. Arf.
Britain’s Worst Train Stations
Useful to know so you can avoid spending any more time than necessary there, whilst lamenting their decline. Manchester Victoria in particular has potential to be really nice. Note also they’re pretty much all in the NW of England or London area.
Nine Most Racist Disney Characters
Good for a laugh, and a long, hard think.
Jay-Z – ‘99 Problems’
He has many problems. A list ain’t one.
Because there’s nothing more entertaining than listing the on screen death tolls for a film! Personally I dispute some of it (how can Star Wars have an onscreen total of 75 when we see Alderaan blown to smithereens in front of us?) but it’s hours of fun.
The NME Cool List
Because it’s funny.
Los Campesinos! – ‘My Year In Lists’
December 17, 2009
Albums Of The Year 2009 – #1–10
Wherein ten excellent CDs get gushed over.
1 Fever Ray – Fever Ray
Wow. Just wow. It’s impossible to talk about Fever Ray, aka Karin Dreijer Andersson, without mentioning her other band, The Knife. On one level Fever Ray is The Knife minus the beats, but there’s slightly more to it than that. It’s a dark, claustrophobic and intimate record, less a collection of songs than a collection of moods into which the listener is plunged. But these songs are also really bloody good. Really really good. Dreijer’s use of pitchshifted vocals is her trademark, and here it is used to astounding effect, monstrous and roaring on tracks like ‘If I had A Heart’, which makes the use of her (almost) untreated vocals on ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’. If anyone ever tells you electronic records aren’t emotional play them this – either they’ll admit they are wrong or they don’t know what they are talking about.
Best bit The moment when Dreijer shifts from treated to clean vocals on ‘Dry And Dusty’ – heartwrenching.
2 Fight Like Apes – Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion
Neither innovative nor original, who sodding cares! This is condensed fun. Mad Irish kids, wielding synthesisers (no six strings here), hilarious lyrics, yelping and playing reallyreallyreallyfast. FLApes are lovable. They write songs to fire band employees, sing about characters from Saved By The Bell, shout a lot, and write songs that are eight seconds long. I don’t care that hardly anyone seems to have given them a scrap of attention in this country, I love them and this is a superb album.
Best bit MayKay mangling multiple nursery rhymes in ‘I Am Beginning To Think You Prefer Beverley Hills 90210 To Me’.
3 The Juan MacLean – The Future Will Come
I’m one of those geeks who will buy a CD just because it has come out on the DFA label, but to be fair as home to LCD Soundsystem, Hercules And Love Affair,Yacht, and (in the USA) Hot Chip, there are good reasons to expect quality. The Juan MacLean are no different, indie electro with heart. This album of duets rolls out warmly, despite the synthesisers and monotone vocals. Echoing laments to love lost and found, it’s also eminently danceable. MacLean is a clever writer, his eight minute epics fly by, wrapping themselves around the listener, whilst the short, sharp, shocks carry humour and pathos in equal measure. The robots have souls, it seems. DFA business as usual.
Best bit ‘One Day’ sums up the whole review above in one short dose.
4 Bat For Lashes – Two Suns
I really liked half of Natasha Khan’s first album, but it kind of fizzled out into whispiness towards the end. Fortunately for Two Suns this has been well and truly stamped out. Beefier, even in its quiet moments. It suits Khan, her voice is fragile when exposed but suits the chunky basslines in ‘Pearl’s Dream’ or ‘Daniel’ as much as the plaintive piano of ‘Moon And Moon’. Yes it sounds like a lot of other acts (Fleetwood Mac, Bjork) but only their best bits, and these are blended together neatly and engagingly. Best of all it holds the attention to the end, even throwing in a bonus Scott Walker for those who are willing to listen.
Best bit The bass on ‘Pearl’s Dream’.
5 Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers
Taking Richey’s unused lyrics and promising a return to The Holy Bible, Manics fans weren’t in the least bit surprised when it didn’t sound much like that at all. In fact it sounded like a pretty good, fairly timeless indie rock record with lyrics that, despite being at least fifteen years old, managed to be strikingly relevant. It was also a bit more humourous than expected. James wrestles some excellent riffs from his guitar, and is in fine voice. It is what it is, Manics fans love it (and they’re a picky bunch), most others probably won’t care. Like it should be.
Best bit The outro to ‘Jackie Collins Existential Question Time’. Actually scrub that, it’s the title of that song.
6 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
Synths instead of guitars? Well yes, but there are also guitars which sound like synths, courtesy of the decade’s most underrated guitarist Nick Zinner. As with all YYYs albums there are your dancefloor bangers like ‘Zero’ – possibly the dancefloor tune of the year – and the quieter, emotional moments like ‘Skeleton’ where Karen O’s versatile voice is given a chance to shine. We fretted when there was talk of getting rid of the guitars. We needn’t have worried.
Best bit “Off off off with their head!”
7 Mono – Hymn To The Immortal Wind
Mmm, twelve minute epics about cosmological wars in the skies? Yes please! Japanese post-rockers Mono like to aim for the big, slow-building post-rock anthem with unerring accuracy, start from tiny twinkling guitars, then build up until all the guitars on earth were crashing through a wall made of mountains whilst meteors rain down. Post-rock really does work best when described entirely in metaphors. But Mono are just better at it than most others and Hymn To The Immortal Wind is both utterly faithful the post-rock formula, and thunderously ear caressing at the same time.
Best bit Any drop into the loud guitars, although ‘The Battle Into Heaven’ does it best.
8 Future Of The Left – Travels With Myself And Another
That’s what we need, loud, angry, funny and fast. Future Of The Left are the band Britain doesn’t realise it needs, so it’s convenient they exist anyway. In many ways this second album isn’t significantly different to the first, it crunches along with Andy Falkous’s guilty pleasure lyrics spat out – “I only hit him cos he made me angry, I only hit him cos he made me mad”. No absurdity too ridiculous to be overlooked, this is intense and satisfying. You need to shout along to this.
Best bit The lyrics, as with anything Andy Falkous touches.
9 The xx – xx
Never has sparsity sounded so dense. Ok, that’s not true, it regularly does in the world of dubstep, but the twanging country guitars and murmered vocals of Oliver and Romy add a more human layer to the darkness. Each individual component sounds so simplistic, yet together these parts echo around each other in a beguiling dance. A close and intimate record, one for long dark nights… convenient we get a lot of those, eh?
Best bit ‘Intro’ is so much more than that title suggests.
10 Metric – Fantasies
Simple, effective indie pop, Fantasies will make no shakes, it won’t be seen as trendy or innovative, but damn it’s catchy like a cold. Just more enjoyable. It helps that Emily Haines has always had one of the most appealing voices in indie, warm but capable of anger (‘Gold Guns Girls’) or menace (‘Front Row’) as called for. It chases a more pop vein than previous albums, but by adopting a simple approach it yields direct and enjoyable pop songs. They even recognise as much in the chorus of ‘Gimme Sympathy’ – “Who’d you rather be? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” – we’re not talking ‘Revolution 9’ here.
Best bit “Who’d you rather be? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?”.
December 16, 2009
Albums Of The Year 2009 – #11–25
I do love end of year music lists, especially the ones arrogant enough to declare their contents the “Best” albums of the year. It’s wonderfully arrogant enough coming from magazines, to see it on blogs is just hilariously self-inflated, and I recognise I am guilty of this myself. I didn’t even do one of these lists last year so convinced was I that it was a purely futile use of my time.
But this year I have decided I will play the game, because people I know, mates who want to share music, share tips, and flat out mock me for my seemingly endless ability to listen to music which sounds like “a thousand Sega Megadrives dying simultaneously” (that’ll be Kap Bambino you’re thinking of, Ben), I will do it, I will make a list of my favourite albums of the year. That’s right, favourite.
My second favourite album of the year is a good example of what I mean – it is derivative, relatively lightweight, doesn’t push the boundaries of music, and makes no grand statement. However it is also the most fun and outright good-mood inspiring CD I have acquired in a long time and it’s mere existence makes me happy, so it outranks in my affections the more serious, weighty and innovative stuff on the list, with one exception.
Anyway, too much waffle. Here’s 11-25, cos no one wants all 25 in one go.
11. Passion Pit – Passion Pit
In midst of this 80s revival we are enduring it’s odd that the most 80s band of all hasn’t really been tarred with that brush. Perhaps looking like hairy indie kids of the sort which was endemic this decade, rather than painted New Romantic peacocks (emphasis on cocks) has rescued Passion Pit. But the truth is there – they use synthesisers to create pop songs. They want to write pop hits. They are the Pet Shop Boys but hairy and American and not as camp. And verily, Passion Pit did create an album of excellent pop. Synths squiggle with a life of their own, and they have more variety of sound than most of the 80s revivalists because they are tied only to their desire for melody, not authenticity. One of those albums where every song could be a single, and that’s high praise.
Best bit The lurching chorus to ‘Eyes As Candles’.
12 Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
Three albums in and Franz are still making virtually no effort to possess any depth or soul. However they do possess tunes, and now some old synthesisers too. They’ve done well to apparently find synths that adhere to their austere, post punk previous, and like the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album, the synths slot in rather than feel like a zeitgeist chasing failure. That and Alex Kapranos is still a king when it comes to writing choruses you can sing along to without having heard before. Not the radical departure they talked of, but better than the second album, and possibly not far off the first.
Best bit ‘Lucid Dreams’ which has a nicely sinister chorus, and that squelchy extended outro.
13 Au Revoir Simone – Still Night, Still Light
More synthesisers? Did I even hear a guitar this year? Well yes, but not from Au Revoir Simone, who made the prettiest synth music of the year. Really pretty. They also threw in some lovely girly harmonies, and a wonderfully wistful atmosphere which envelopes the listener like something fluffy with a mechanical, metronomic heart. Unassuming but all the better for it.
Best bit The staccato vocals of the chorus to ‘All Or Nothing’.
14 Cymbals Eat Guitars – Where There Are Mountains
If you’re going to cross breed two bands, Arcade Fire and Los Campesinos! sound like a good place to start. Wailing vocals and wall of sound guitars, minus the kitchen sink instrumentation, coalesces into a gleeful riot. In a year when it felt like everything listenable was loaded with synths, here was proof that guitar bands that can still be exciting, tuneful and charming at the same time.
Best bet The ambition, whilst still remaining accessible.
15 Peaches – I Feel Cream
When it felt like every female in the charts was surfing there on an electro pop wave, it was a bit of a surprise that the best example of the genre was Peaches. Yes, her of the smutty, clattering electro rap, Merril Nisker decided to out do the crowd with an album of well produced, big bangers. With smutty lyrics. Some truly filthy basslines were on offer too, in an album that managed a consistency which was lacking in more high profile girls-with-synths releases. Plus the video to ‘I Don’t Want To Lose You’ is hilarious.
Best bit The title track’s middle eight dropping back into the chorus. The lady can actually sing!
16 Miike Snow – Miike Snow
Studio bods with pop hits to their name (‘Toxic’ primarily) decided to indulge themselves on an album which acts as the downbeat side of what Passion Pit were doing. The best adjective to use is chiming, every instrument on this album appears to chime, from the pianos on ‘Silvia’ to the percussion on ‘Black And Blue’. A more restrained sort of indie-electro, there was almost something folky in its introspection.
Best bit The vocodered (Autotuned?) vocals on ‘Silvia’ which managed to use the most irritating musical trend of the year to genuinely emotional effect.
17 The Cribs – Ignore The Ignorant
Wherein The Cribs recruit Johnny Marr and make an album which sounds like The Cribs featuring Johnny Marr. The surprise is that it suits them, it suits the Jarman brothers to have someone else to jangle with, and it sets up their most mature album, with all the connotations that means. The riffs are expansive, if a little less urgent than before, but overall the slight polish it infers suits them.
Best bit Can’t argue with Match Of The Day on this one, got to be the riff from ‘We Share The Same Skies’. Marr, of course, although it’s Ryan Jarman’s suit in the verse.
18 Little Boots – Hands
There’s something not quite right at the heart of this album. On the one hand there are a good half a dozen truly excellent synth pop tracks, including two (‘Stuck On Repeat’ and ‘Remedy’) which are amongst the very very best of the year. But it just doesn’t seem to sustain itself over the course of the whole album, running out of steam slowly but surely. Whilst it does have momentum it’s a vindication of the hype, with some nice lyrical turns contained within the shiny exterior.
Best bit The lyrics to ‘Mathematics’ which manage to reference Pythagorous and algebra in a singalong manner without sounding stupid.
19 Memory Tapes – Seek Magic
Whispy, whooshy, sinister and chilled. The music (synths again) is richly textured, half buried vocals sound like flowing water, and there’s a general air of being trapped in some sort of futuristic rainforest, although without the diabolical New Age-y connotations that might bring to mind. One for blocking out the world and getting lost in.
Best bit The spooky, half buried vocals.
20 The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage
Seemingly a bunch of Scottish folk musicians who have stumbled across electronic drones and a widescreen worldview to enticing effect. Singer Rick Anthony has one of the most enchanting voices of the year, all broad Scottish brogue and rumbling authority, telling stories from rainswept streets and shores. Not that it’s as wanky and pretentious as I am making this sound, trust me, it packs a punch to head and heart.
Best bit Rick Anthony’s voice, as mentioned.
21 Muse – The Resistance
Oh dear. It starts promisingly, it ends ambitiously, but jeez, what’s with the saggy middle? The Queen ripoffs, shapeless dirges and, perhaps worst of all, ‘Guiding Light’ in which they rip off themselves (‘Invincible’) in such a way as to sound worse than their younger selves. Still, there’s enough good songs, whether they ripoff Goldfrapp and the Dr Who theme (‘Uprising’) or r’n’b (‘Undisclosed Desires’) or classical music (the ‘Exogenesis’ symphony) to make it enjoyable. Definitely not a band who should be allowed to self produce their albums.
Best bit Making slap bass almost bearable with ‘Undisclosed Desires’ – truly a feat in itself.
22 La Roux – La Roux
A classic case of overkill, the massive overexposure the singles garnered meant for most of this year the thought of even listening to this album was just too much to bear. As it turns out this was unfair, the album tracks show a little bit more depth than the singles, especially the overlooked ‘Tigerlily’. There’s a lot people won’t like, it’s the most 80s of the 80s revival, and Ellie Jackson’s voice is an acquired taste, but dammit, I did find myself really enjoying it.
Best bit ‘Tigerlily’, even with the cheesy ‘Thriller’-style voiceover.
23 Brand New – Daisy
Not as expansive as The Devil And God… but still not back to the poppy punk of earlier times, Daisy is a nicely dark rock record with the typically perverse tracklisting which throws samples of old time warblers, depressing slowies to kick things off, and screaming explosions of rage when least expected. Cranky but great.
Best bit The always explosively shocking way the first track bursts in over the sample.
24 Empire Of The Sun – Walking On A Dream
Another one which runs out of steam, but Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore’s marriage of twinkly indie and dressing up as twats is enchanting in parts. Personally I really like Steele’s voice and it works well with the music as it loops through a wide variety of odd noises and fairly nonsensical lyrics.
Best bit The artwork – not to do the music down, but it really does have to be seen in all its widescreen madness.
25 Howling Bells – Radio Wars
No massive shakes, merely a continuing evolution of their dark and moody first album’s themes into tracks which are dark and moody and little bit more intricate and accomplished. At times dense, others sparse, and always feeling like it should be soundtrack a murder in a western, this is an underrated gem.
Best bit Juanita Stein’s voice.
December 15, 2009
The Decade In Review
A review of the 2000s, as seen by those who were there.
1st January 2000
Millennium bug causes world to end.
16th July 2001
World still ended.
11th February 2002
World still ended.
28th November 2003
World still ended.
3rd August 2004
World still ended.
29th March 2005
World still ended.
4th May 2006
World still ended.
18th September 2007
World still ended.
25th April 2008
World still ended.
31st May 2009
World still ended.
What a decade that was! See you in 2019 for our review of the 2010s!
December 14, 2009
Music Resolution 2009 – Muse, Liverpool Echo Arena, 5th November
Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.
I have a confession. Well, less a confession, more a statement which many many agree with, yet strangely it feels somewhat wrong to admit to it. Y’see, I really don’t like ‘United States Of Eurasia’. The one off the new Muse album which sounds like Queen. And when I say it sounds like Queen I mean they excavated Freddie Mercury’s corpse, extracted stem cells, injected them into mice and got those mice to write ‘United States Of Eurasia’.
It isn’t the worst Muse song, and it’s not the worst Muse song to get played at the Echo (echo echo) arena, an honour which falls to ‘Guiding Light’. But ‘…Eurasia’ really isn’t very good. Naturally then it has the best light show and visuals.
This only captures a fraction of the lasers involved – full gallery http://www.gigwise.com/photos/53350/13/Muse-Blitz-Liverpools-Echo-Arena-On-Bonfire-Night—-PHOTOS
You see, Muse live isn’t just about the music (man), it has always been about the visuals. Crack out that copy of their debut Showbiz and look in the booklet inside. There in the centre is the band as youthful newbies, just starting out. Look at how huge their banner is. No band just starting out ever had such a big banner. The sense of the ridiculous and enormous, the sort of attitude which makes Muse the Dubai of the music world, has always been there. So a space like the Echo (echo echo) arena, shiny, new and big, was always going to be filled by the most insane lights and visuals Muse could find. ‘…Eurasia’ had a brilliant mock up of the world map as divided into Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania as dictated by Orwell (albeit managing to attribute Britain and Ireland to Eurasia, not Oceania as they should be), along with swooping lights, flashing words, lasers, sharks, badgers and the strange sense that actually the whole song is rather enjoyable.
And then snap back to reality and it isn’t.
It kind of sums up Muse live. An entire superstructure which is extremely enjoyable in the moment, even when individual elements aren’t actually all that good. Except ‘Guiding Light’ which was crap at the time too.
Muse’s show currently consists of three massive, rotating, video screen covered pillars. Like “St Simeon”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Stylites but with musical instruments. The comparisons with Spinal Tap are so obvious (apart from the flawless functioning of the pillars) that you can only suspect that Muse know the whole thing is mad. Whilst Fever Ray used lasers to create a claustrophobic and intense atmosphere, Muse use lasers because they are big, bright and there. Boys with toys, it works because the toys are really cool.
Oh, and the songs are mostly really very good too. Not all the new album is a write off like ‘…Eurasia’ and ‘Guiding Light’ – ‘Uprising’’s mix of ‘Dr Who’ and Goldfrapp is a slinky treat and ‘Unnatural Selection’ is a heavy-arsed mother of a tune. And as a special treat for being so good we even got a piano version of ‘Cave’, although as ever it was a case of one song off the first album and no more. Perhaps the lasers and visuals don’t like the first album.
There’s surprisingly little one can say about Muse live that hasn’t already been said (although I defy anyone to find another Muse review which references St Simeon). The daftness, the deftness and the spectacle of it is to be expected. They’d have to come back with a stripped down acoustic show to truly shock, but in all honest where would the fun be in that?
December 13, 2009
Music Resolution 2009 – Pixies, Brixton Academy, 7th October
Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.
It’s been a very very long time since I was the youngest person at a gig. Heck, a lingering tendency to go watch bands which NME likes means it won’t be too long before I am literally old enough to be mother to some of the crowd. And then there’s Pixies at Brixton Academy…
In all honesty it’s quite unlikely that I was the youngest person there, but in the spread of crowd around where I was there were certainly no obvious examples of people who were younger than me. About ten years older seemed to be the average, not unsurprising really. After all, the Pixies influenced Nirvana, and it has been nearly twenty years since Kurt Cobain’s self confessed attempt to rip them off, aka Nevermind, was released.
The four night residency was a bit of an occasion clearly because it definitely attracted gawpers. Gawpers can be the most annoying thing at a gig, standing there impatient for the hits, unresponsive to anything else. Their ilk had already caused Ladyhawke to fall a bit flat earlier in the year, and in typical luck I landed near some.
Considering we had been warned in advance that this was them playing their most famous album, Doolittle, in order, in entirety, it was nice that they started not with the familiar bass rumble of ‘Debaser’, but with some of the album’s b-sides. The gawpers were displeased (“Why are’t they playing the album?”) but at least it allowed us to work out where these eejits were stood and try and sidle away. Oh, and the b-sides are pretty cool, continuations of Doolittle’s style without being ripoffs of any of its tracks. And then that bass rumble…
Rumble rumble – from independent.co.uk
Playing classic albums live and in order is rather in vogue at the moment, which is interesting considering that there’s very very few albums which really work in that context. There’s an interesting story about the tracklisting of U2’s Joshua Tree album, that it was sequenced because Kirsty MacColl, at that time married to U2’s producer, presented them with her ideal tracklisting – her favourite song first, then second favourite, then third and so on. Most albums run out of steam by the end, sag in the middle, frontload the singles in the first half, or generally do things which don’t work in a live context. No one wants to end a gig on a slow, not-particularly notable album track (cf. Arcade Fire, Manchester Apollo 2007, thinking ‘Ocean Of Noise’ is how one ends a set, tisn’t) and yet this is what many many albums end on.
Fortunately in this context Doolittle is special. For a start it ends on ‘Gouge Away’ which is heavy, intense, loud, fast and bloody wonderful. Doolittle is not an album which goes gently into the night. Secondly all the well known tracks are spaced out throughout the album. ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ is track seven. Thirdly it’s a really well paced album, tracks work well together, and it’s one of the most coherent albums of all time, if nothing else. In short it really worked live.
There was also the stage design which features huge screens projecting some of the best live visuals I’ve seen in a while. Whether it’s (biologically accurate) hearts running around during ‘La La Love You’, or the adorably cute footage of the band gurning and laughing at the audience (Frank smiles!), it was all very entertaining.
From Drowned In Sound’s rather excellent gallery – http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4138140-in-photos—pixies-brixton-academy-london/photo/2#photo – check the lot out.
The encore was a little less satisfying, partially because we got ‘Into The White’ rather than ‘Gigantic’, and partially because they kicked it off with ‘Wave Of Mutilation (UK Surf)’, a version of the song they have played rather a lot at gigs recently, which prompted the gawpers to loudly shout “You’ve already played this one”. If ever there was an indicator that these people knew ‘Debaser’ and nothing else, that was it.
Still, they didn’t ruin it. The jury’s still out on whether whole album shows work, but this is a definite case in favour.
December 12, 2009
Depressed Handle IV
The door handle has no opinion of big selling cinema, pointing out that the beauty of bad films is that they fund good films indirectly as their profits get used by studios to take more risks. I pointed out this was a tad idealistic as it only benefited films made within the big studio system, but the door handle did raise the valid “Pixar” point.
At this point I realised I was discussing cinema with a small metal mechanism.