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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 11, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Charlotte Hatherley, Night & Day Cafe, 16th September

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

It’s a sad fact of life that not everyone is allowed to have gig superpowers. Being in possession of a gig superpower can thus confer tremendous responsibilities on the owner. I have one and a half gig superpowers. The half power is height – at 5’ 10” I am taller than the vast majority of females and significant number of males. This makes viewing the stage quite a lot easier than it does for several my regular gig going mates, most of whom appear to be average height females. Unfortunately it only constitutes half a power because I am still below average height for a male and will always suffer when some 6’ 4” lump decides to stand in front of me.

My other power is far more useful – very sharp elbows. Here the responsibility to others kicks in. I can use these dangerous weapons to repel space invaders, but I should try not to use them too often for a bruised rib is no memento to take from a concert. However should lumps barge into mine, or my average heighted friends’, space too much they will find a short, sharp shock awaiting.

My other friends have their own gig powers. Sarah (see “Of Montreal, January):”http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/hollycruise/entry/music_1/ has free ticket/guestlist acquisition powers. A couple of my Manic Street Preachers loving mates have super-front-row-attraction powers, especially when it’s the front row directly below Nicky Wire. And Cheryl has an unerring ability to meet the band.

And so we went to see Charlotte Hatherley, not realising that we would see her, see her, then see her. Or rather Cheryl would see her, see her then see her. The first sighting consisted of Cheryl’s gig superpower kicking in in its usual location, the ladies’ loo. Not that any words were exchanged.


From here – http://www.flickr.com/photos/25880052@N08/3943072570/in/photostream/ – someone who was probably stood about ten feet in front of me. Night & Day isn’t a big venue.

The second sighting was the gig itself. There’s a few things which are hard to believe about Charlotte Hatherley, starting with the fact that she’s only barely 30. It feels like she’s been around forever, largely because she has in indie terms. She’s only on her third solo album, and it was this which made up the bulk of the night’s set.

It’s always been a bit of a strange one that Charlotte didn’t write many songs at all for Ash, but when she was a member they produced most of their really good, really poppy stuff. Then she left and Ash got seriously into heavy songs that no one really wanted to listen to so much, whilst Charlotte released two albums of pretty good poppy indie with occasional tracks of really-rather-damn-good poppy indie. Which no one wanted to listen to so much. Fools.

So we scooted on down to her low key tour to promote the new album and see her on a break from her day job, playing guitar and laughing at equipment misfortune for Bat For Lashes.

As the guitarist in a three piece she was certainly taking the starring role, and if it was light on older tracks, it was telling that the ones chosen were the likes of ‘Behave’ or ‘I Want You To Know’, the ones where it wasn’t a simple case of power chord thrash. The new songs lived up to this, they were all little nuggets of guitarwork, sometimes loud, sometimes quieter, which seem rather at odds with the current trend for guitars to be either unimaginatively ploddy, unimaginatively ripping off The Strokes, or subservient to synths. We’re not talking fret wanking solos, just clever little riffs and plays. If there was nothing quite as disorientatingly brilliant as ‘Behave’ then it didn’t matter because, as I said, she played that. And some of the other songs were brilliant in other ways. Wahey!

I’ve long based my ‘girls prefer riffs to solos’ theory on Charlotte’s playing, and on new tracks like ‘White’ (twangy verse, swooshy chorus) or the endearingly stalkerish ‘Alexander’.


ibid.

Having said all that, it was the power chord thrash of ‘Kim Wilde’ which closed the show, and led to sighting number three. As I waffled to Cheryl about how I first heard ‘Kim Wilde’ (Charlotte’s first solo single) whilst working in a hotel kitchen where I met, you guessed it, Kim Wilde herself, I joked “I should tell Charlotte that story”. Naturally Cheryl’s gig power was working wonders that night for poor Charlotte chose that precise moment to walk past us and was thus subjected to a not particularly interesting story about me, Kim Wilde and ‘Kim Wilde’. On reflection, if I was going to tell her any story from my time working in that hotel then the one where I blew a microwave up whilst melting a tinfoil voodoo doll of the owner would have been a better idea.

But she didn’t write a song about that so really, it was her own fault.


December 08, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Reading Festival

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.
Reading Festival

In haiku format

(Wondering if I
Can keep this haiku mode up –
I very much can)

The Temper Trap

Average indie pop
Singer’s voice a class above
Enjoyable outcome

KASMS

Angry thrashing noise
Coming from petite females
With drumming boys too

Fight Like Apes

Wave poles and keyboards
MayKay – rock goddess onstage
Pure punk energy

Everything Everything

Epic majestic
Bad luck – we miss half the set
What we heard was great

Faith No More

Play much classic metal
Interrupt hits to surprise with
Eastenders theme tune


From http://www.bbc.co.uk/readingandleeds/2009/photos/

Metric

New album perfect
For big stage at festival
Emily so bright

Patrick Wolf

Dressed in gimp outfit
Scaling stage and crowd surfing
Scene made, drunken Wolf

Them Crooked Vultures

Unannounced rock show
Heavy groove conquers whole crowd
John Paul Jones triumphs


From http://www.bbc.co.uk/readingandleeds/2009/photos/

Soft Toy Emergency

Eighteen months we find
This band supports all we see
Finally they shine

65daysofstatic

Epic post-rock sound
Balance guitar on chin so
Whole crowd impressed

Prodigy

Weekend’s biggest crowd
Lairy as you would assume
Reflecting the band

Glasvegas

When they play songs which
I have heard on radio
Twas surprise good time

The xx

Your dark and moody
Sounds of the urban decay
Still work in large tent

Frank Turner

Billy Bragg 09?
Perhaps but your voice still seems
Your own in humour

Metronomy

Live drummer add on
More power to your toy synths
Geeks inherit earth


From http://www.bbc.co.uk/readingandleeds/2009/photos/

Brand New

Inclement weather
Wind steals your sound although
Could have played big hits

Crystal Castles

Oh Alice, you scream
Unintelligible lyrics
As synth dies loudly

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Colour explosion
Sonic explosion follows
Under all-seeing eye


From http://www.songkick.com

Bloc Party

Live so erratic
This time lively and tuneful
Old stuff still the best

Radiohead

To start with shock ‘Creep’
Follow with anthems and more
Perfect headliner


December 07, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Fever Ray, Manchester Academy 2, 14th July

Writing about web page http://godisinthetvzine.co.uk/content/content_detail.php?id=3540&type=Live

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

This particular review has already appeared at the ace God Is In The TV Zine, go there for some excellent music writing.

Do you have that special pile of CDs, the one mentally labelled ‘summer’ music, destined for car stereos as if the sheer power of association with blazing sunshine can force the clouds from the sky and drag the beams of vitamin D down to this sullen, sopping island? If so then the rain which hammered the streets of Manchester for most of the week around the time of Fever Ray’s invasion of the city could only have been attracted by these purveyors of the most claustrophobic and introverted piece of musical brilliance released this year. For this wasn’t the usual cold rain, whipped along by winds from the chilly Russian plains. This was tight, close rain, drenching the air with humidity even when it wasn’t pouring from the sky. It was uncomfortable and oppressive. It was one extended metaphor for one of the best gigs of the year.

Never lit with more than the most meagre half light, Fever Ray’s live form consists of Karin Dreijer Andersson, the woman who went from frothy Texas light indie pop with the successful-only-in-Sweden group Honey Is Cool, to the evil pop/techno/electronica hybrid which is The Knife, her project with her brother. The Knife managed to be popular in a lot of places by virtue of great songs, and yet they rarely did interviews and almost totally shunned live shows. This is what makes tonight something of an event. No one is expecting any Knife songs, just a glimpse of the woman who voices them.

Fever Ray is The Knife without the beats. The self-titled album is a dense but strangely immediate record, mostly written whilst Karin was gripped with a drowsy postnatal insomnia. In live form, Fever Ray aim to capture this state, where dreams half form to corrupt the reality of what’s around you.

With a stage decorated by lamps (a motif adopted from the disorientating video for ‘Triangle Walks’, the second single) the band slip into view almost totally under the cover of darkness. What little light there is doesn’t offer much comfort. Two characters out of a Venetian charivari appear, masked and sinister. A smaller figure arrives dressed as one of the red suited royal guards from the Star Wars films. There’s what appears to be a gorilla with its chest ripped open and its ribs showing. And there’s a huge mound of deer skin and antlers with a freakish shrunken head attached to the front. It’s a million miles from Jonny Borrell titting around in white trousers. Thank god.

It emerges that the mound of mangled deer is Karin. She looms towards the dual microphone in the centre of the stage, and begins to sing the opening track of both her album, and her campaign as Fever Ray, the single ‘If I Had A Heart’. It would have to be a courageous heart. Previously employing her trademark low pitched vocals on The Knife’s albums gave Karin the ability to sing like a man and present subversive ideas on gender and society. With Fever Ray it is used to conjure a twisted alternate reality, substituting ‘If I Had A Hearts’ lovelorn lyrics with a brooding deep voice. Live, it’s just shit scary. Booming to the extent that it’s not even totally apparent that it’s a vocal rather than a particularly deep bass note, she roars whilst not roaring, her physical stillness under that roadkill costume focusing the audience ever more on the rumble. “This will never end/‘Cos I want more/More/Give me more, give me more”. Chills abound.

And at that moment we are boxed in. Fever Ray’s stage show amounted to little more than strange costume, those lamps, and two powerful lasers, beaming from the back of the stage. But from simple components are great things made. As ‘If I Had A Heart’ began the lasers blasted out to the back wall of the room, then fanned out over us. As the dry ice from the stage rose it danced about in the lasers’ paths. The effect was to impose a seemingly liquid roof on the audience, as if we were trapped underwater whilst onstage monsters roared.

We weren’t to be held prisoner there for the whole gig, indeed the mood soon lightened, as did the lighting. Tracks like ‘Seven’ and ‘Triangle Walks’ do have a lightness to them, there was even a degree of dancing, although it was limited and felt more like people were being controlled by the pulsing rhythms of the music rather than any arms-in-the-air rave mood. Karin even took off her roadkill, although she had painted her face with a strange pallor and a black triangle. She sang into a regular mic too, allowing us to hear her rather sweet real singing voice rather than the effects laden rumble. But this did not mean we could relax. The mood of the show shifted almost at random. The calm ‘Leave The Streets Empty For Me’, a duet with the keyboardist formerly dressed as a Star Wars soldier, contracted with the dense rant of ‘I’m Not Done’ (way more terrifying than on record). The set was similar. Lasers would gush over our heads one moment, to be replaced by the warm glow of the lamps the next. It was stunning.

At times it felt more like theatre than a rock gig, the audience politely clapping in between songs, not a sound heard from anywhere until the futile shouts for an encore after the band had vanished from the stage under cover of darkness. And what theatre! If nothing else, music should aim to move, and Fever Ray delivered that and then some. The middle eight of ‘Dry And Dusty’ in particular shone, Karin’s downshifted robo-voice for once calming rather than sinister before suddenly lifting into a crescendo in which, through the digital effects, her own humanity was so very visible.

Use of the word visceral seems confined to music like fast punk rock, but this show managed to be stylistically the total opposite whilst being more deserving of the adjective than any other show this year (and probably most other years). Short but sweet, and perfect.


December 04, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Basement Jaxx, University of Warwick Final Fling, 18th June

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

And now a collection of recollections from Basement Jaxx’s gig. As we’re all very familiar with their music, this will take the form of the increasingly mad costumes they were wearing. Fashion, darlink, fashion!

I’m sure it made sense at the time… I am an excellent photographer as you can see.


December 03, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Blur, MEN Arena, 26th June

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

:D

:D

:D

Sorry if you were expecting coherence, but I had waited fifteen years and it was all too awesome for words.

That and I collapsed afterwards with really bad flu (swine-ness unconfirmed at present time).


December 01, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Little Boots & Soft Toy Emergency, Liverpool Academy 2, 22nd May

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

I have a confession. I appear to be accidentally stalking Soft Toy Emergency. No really. Get tickets to see Metronomy, who’s supporting? STE. Get tickets to see Crystal Castles, who’s supporting? STE. Get tickets to the opera, who’s supporting? Actually I dunno, does opera do support acts? I am not cultured, so don’t do opera, for all I know they have ice cream fights and squid orgies at the opera. Inky.

But STE do seem to follow me around, or possibly vice versa, for there they were, supporting Little Boots! So were another band about whom I remember very little except a) it was their first ever gig, and b) one of their songs sounded like that old kids song about “A Pizza Hut, a Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut”. You know, the one which transforms childhood obesity into a catchy ditty. STE were a bit better than this. Infact their combination of shouty girl singer, hammering bass, 8-bitty synths and general hi-NRG has lead at least one of my mates to conclude they are the result of a scientist trying to create my ideal band. Who knows. It might just work, at the Little Boots gig, over a year after I first accidentally saw them, STE had definitely pumped up the sound and stage show. In another year they could, theoretically, be wonderful (even if they are signed All Around The World, home to some of the current era’s most ear-rapingly bad music – Scooter, Styles and Ultrabeat, anyone?).


From their Facebook group.

But la.

Tonight is about pop which isn’t, or is it? Just who is Little Boots? Ok, I know she’s Victoria Hesketh, but who is she? Is she a genuine pop princess, crafting little pop earworms to infect the mobile phones of those antisocial twats who need to serenade the whole bus? Or is she making credible, indie-electro, self-penned and cool? Or both? Or neither?

It’s all so very hard to tell, and in concert it’s not much more obvious. Yes, the Academy 2 in Liverpool is a tiny cavern (ho ho), so there’s no room for mass costume changes, reams of dancers and backing singers (although she has subsequently acquired two, one of whom, hilariously, looks just like La Roux), or massive stage shows with anamatronic unicorns. But you suspect this is really is because of a lack of massive record label investment. It’s not a criticism. ‘New In Town’ and ‘Earthquake’ are so instant that you’re singing along with the chorus before you’ve even heard it, and had they been given to Girls Aloud would have been number one forever. With the benefit of hindsight it might seem easy to say, but at the time it was obvious that the unreleased ‘Remedy’ was set to rock some serious socks over the summer. I’ve rarely seen a crowd go so mental for an unreleased track.

But then there’s those nods to the indier side of things. That “Tenori-on,”:http://tenori-on.yamaha-europe.com/uk/ a Japanese sequencer which looks and sounds stunning sits onstage just next to Miss Boots, as does her own personal little synth. She barely touches either, but you sense they are there to act as barriers – ‘look’, they say, ‘she wrote all these songs on us, we are proof that she is 4real’. Then there’s the clambering over the stage like a rock star, which resulted, cutely, in Hesketh getting stuck on a speaker stack, wedged underneath a monitor. For a moment it looked like someone was going to have to get a stick and poke her down.

There’s also something achingly hip about covering ‘Love Kills’ by Freddie Mercury and Giorgio Moroder, as if to say that merely covering late 80s Stock-Waterman-Aitkin just isn’t cool enough. It could also be a tacit acknowledgement that her best song, the thunderous ‘Stuck On Repeat’, is rather similar to Moroder’s Donna Summer classic ‘I Feel Love’. Mind you, if you’re going to finish a gig on an extended version of any song, ‘Stuck On Repeat’ is a fantastic choice, sending the audience crazy.


From telegraph.co.uk, and boy do I want some mobiles like those!

If nothing else, this night proved once more that talking to randoms can be an endless source of fun. This time around we collected a lovely auntie/niece combo, the auntie of whom turned out to have been in early 1990s dance act Oceanic. If you can’t remember them then you probably don’t remember the early 1990s and will almost certainly not realise that neon leggings didn’t look good then and don’t now, so stop buying them! The good news is this ‘Top Of The Pops’ footage of Oceanic features no neon leggings on band members:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxFJga1QWCI

Another brilliant fact about Oceanic – they called their album That CD/LP/Cassette by Oceanic (delete as applicable). You can tell they’re Scousers from the sense of humour.

Any chance of a Little Boots cover?


September 09, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Ladyhawke, Manchester Academy 2, 17th May

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.


The problem with gigs is that the artist isn't necessarily the master of their own fortunes, even as they stand up there in front of the audience and put on the show everyone's theoretically there to enjoy. A bad audience can cause even a good performance to fall curiously flat. This can often be the case when an artist rides a wave of hype or a big hit – audiences are dragged in on flimsier pretences than for many other gigs. Whether to be seen as the coolest kids, or to hear the one or two songs they actually know from the radio, crowds can be awkward and unmoved in the face of almost anything.

Reports of early Ladyhawke gigs suggested that this talented Kiwi wasn't the most outgoing onstage presence, partially down to shyness emanating from her Aspergers. But a long period of touring appears to have hardened and encouraged the woman known to her parents as Phillipa Brown.

In Manchester, in the upgraded Academy 2 (she was originally due to be crammed into everyone's favourite chapel of crap acoustics, the Bar Academy), she was engaging albeit in a determined and single minded way, bringing her songs to the audience from behind her fringe but with more stage banter than expected. A guitar malfunction prompted the sort of deadpan, Kiwi-accented commentary which might be more familiar to fans of those other popular New Zealanders, Flight of the Concords. “G's in tune... D's in tune... Sorry this is boring while I tune... A was very out of tune, sorry if anyone heard that... oh my god, E's so flat!”. It almost felt wrong to grin broadly as she declared the encore would begin with a cover of a song by “Petty Smath”.


ladyhawke

Pouting on tall buildings - 8/10 rockstar points.


It was a good cover too. Heck, all the songs, barring one, were well played, slightly heavier than the album, and delivered by a woman rightfully riding high on acclaim for them. Even if the superlative album opener 'Magic' fell slightly flat as the first song (its delicate, Depeche Mode-esque, electronic acoustics are presumably not the easiest to recreate, even without the Bar Academy's 'assistance'), the rest of the tracks were bashed out with suitable aplomb.

Yet the whole thing felt a bit flat. The audience just didn't seem to be engaging with the music, there was no rush of excitement for the surging album tracks like 'Professional Suicide’ (possibly one of the best tracks of the night) or the strutting ‘Manipulating Woman’. Even bone fide single ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ didn’t seem to be enough to rouse the crowd.

Having to wait for the hits of ‘Paris Is Burning’ and ‘My Delerium’ to spark the crowd was actually quite frustrating for those of us who have bothered to listen to the whole album. It had all the potential to be a brilliant gig and, ‘Magic’ apart, all the songs were rendered in a beautifully faithful way by Brown and co.

Brown has charm and tunes, she just needs fans who actually want to listen to more than just the singles. I hate to fall victim to indie snobbery tendencies, but perhaps it would have been better to leave this gig in the Bar Academy and not admit the singles-only fans…


September 08, 2009

Mercury Ranting Time Is Here Again

It’s the Mercury Prize tonight. Can you feel the excitement? Really? In fact this year there don’t even seem to be quite as many rants from newspapers and zines about how there are bands who sell well, who have gotten some coverage in the media, although reliably there are some.

I suspect the reason why there are fewer rants is because the rants themselves are just as repetitive and unoriginal as they claim the award itself is. The grumble that it gives too many spots to the mainstream at the expense of supposedly more deserving ‘low profile’ acts, who normally turn out to be just as well known as about half the list but just happen to be the preferred record of whoever is grumbling. Thus is feeds back into the repeated claims that the Mercury has moved away from its supposed beginnings as a champion of indie success.

But as the media eye and public taste expands, mostly due to the internet, innovative and unusual stuff is becoming mainstream faster than before so the Mercury looks like it follows when it actually hasn’t changed that much in terms of what is nominated.

Check out the 1999 list:
Talvin Singh – OK
Thomas Adès – Asyla
Denys Baptiste – Be Where You Are
Black Star Liner – Bengali Bantam Youth Experience!
Blur – 13
The Chemical Brothers – Surrender
Faithless – Sunday 8PM
Manic Street Preachers – This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours
Beth Orton – Central Reservation
Kate Rusby – Sleepless
Stereophonics – Performance and Cocktails
Underworld – Beaucoup Fish

For Adès, Baptiste and Black Star Liner read Led Bib, The Sweet Billy Pilgrim and The Invisible, the real unknowns to the mainstream, although Adès was a pretty big name in classical, arguably bigger than any of the class of 09 are in their areas.

Then there’s Faithless, Underworld and Chemical Brothers. Three stonking albums of the current trendy music of 1999, dance. If anything they were bigger sellers than most of the 09 list, certainly bigger than 09’s trendy trio whether you wish to argue this is BFL, Florence and La Roux representing ladies in music, or The Horrors, Friendly Fires and Glasvegas representing NME indie.

TIMTTMY and Performance and Cocktails are more mainstream records than West Pauper…, and I suspect even 13 was also.


From guardian.co.uk – Arctic Monkeys are perplexed by previous nominees as we are.

What’s interesting is that many of the journalists and bloggers now commenting on the Mercury were quite young in 1990s, thus names like The Auteurs, PJ Harvey (‘93), Therapy? (‘94), Elastica (‘95), Asian Dub Foundation (‘98) might have seemed exciting and exotic to a teenager at the time, but they were actually pretty well known. Certain early years, like 1995 are startling for how mainstream they are, 1995 and 1996 in particular were packed with Britpop and associated acts.

The last overt mainstream pop act nominated was arguably Jamelia (although it could equally be argued she doesn’t fit this description) in 2004, but the 90s saw Robbie Williams, Take That, Spice Girls, U2 and Simply Red nominated. If anything the Mercuries are now more insular, there has not been a mention of Girls Aloud, for instance, never mind the reincarnated Take That.

“The Mercury isn’t indie or obscure enough”/”Mercury is veering from its original intentions” line gets trotted out every year, but increasingly there’s a lack of appreciation of what went before in these awards, and a lack of appreciation of the changing nature of music consumption and reportage which alters how the Mercury are perceived.


From bbc.co.uk – Elbow win, Hollyzone approves.

Let’s face it, when people say they believe the Mercury should be for low key but innovative music, or music which is regarded as brilliant in its genre but overlooked by the mainstream, what they actually mean is whichever indie band they were listening to last week. They would recoil in horror at the suggestion that it go to Darren Styles (http://open.spotify.com/track/7s923ZIFRdJEV0YzYPXMff) who perfectly represents the genre (Scouse House/Hard House) pinnacle who gets overlooked by the mainstream, or N Dubz who struggled against major label attempts to change them before going with an independent and realising their vision their way. Heck, where are Girls Aloud and the Sugababes who both shifted the pop spectrum?

Taking the Mercury too seriously is the same as taking the Brits too seriously, people need to accept their complaints with it come when people they don’t like are nominated, not necessarily because it has betrayed some original purpose.

Fercrissakes, M People have won it, y’know!


July 03, 2009

Music Resolution 2009 – Metric, Manchester Academy 3, 11th May

Join me and my New Year’s Resolution to go to at least one gig every month of 2009.

Does going to a gig on your own make you a loser? No, of course not. It is a pure declaration of love for music that one is willing to be that Billy No Mates. Of course, it is instantly more respectable if one makes random gig friends in the course of one’s solo adventure, and where is better to make friends that the queue for the merch stall? After all, in an era where downloads and the nature of record deals mean only a tiny, and usually Bono-shaped, minority of bands make any money from something so vulgar as CDs, buying merch is one of the best declarations of intent towards a band. Yes, it says, I will wear your shameless advertising to show my love. Your face, my chest. They were meant to be together.

I’m talking about teeshirts, right?!


A Metric teeshirt.

And it was as witness to the unusual sight of the male half of a couple dilly-dallying over a garment, whilst the female half held onto a beer for dear life, I met my random gig buddies. It turned out Mr GB was the Metric fan, Miss GB had come along because, well, it was something to do and Mr GB really wanted to go. Neither of them expected to make a random gig buddy (why would they when they had each other?) but when I turn on my waif and stray look, I can get adopted by even the flintiest hearted gig goer (this theory has not been tested at an Oasis gig, and hopefully never ever will).

Now the second stage of the plan was less succesful. Granted, the second stage of the plan was not fully formed until halfway through the gig, but it was a simple idea with a not-so-simple execution, to wit, run away and join Metric.

It’s entirely possible to love a band and not want to run away and join them. The list of bands I’ve wanted to run away and join is very small. There are always practicalities. I wouldn’t run away and join Muse because I am not good enough at any instrument. I wouldn’t run away and join Crystal Castles because I value my personal safety. I wouldn’t run away and join Elastica because they split up eight years ago, and besides, heroin just isn’t as appealing as Toberlone. So there remains a tiny rump of bands I would join. Prior to this gig I had a year long desire to learn Portugese and sod off to join those masters of the not-quite-proficient instrument playing, CSS. But no longer.

Nope, nowadays I plot my journey to Metric, like a loser with six inch ruler, dreaming of 15cm.

But why? Well, why not? And besides, Emily Haines, Metric’s vocalist and sometime keyboardist, probably managed to persuade most if not all of the audience to share this dream with me. When she introduced ‘Gimme Sympathy’, the highlight of new album Fantasies, she opted to highlight the choruses query “Who’d you rather be/The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” before answering that she’d say neither, she wanted to be in Metric. It was only about 55% vomit inducing, a much lower percentage than you would expect.

randoms 5
A crap photo of Metric, showing the sun shining out of their… places where sun shines normally. Ahem.

Haines is a top class front woman. She has charisma, a tendency to waffle the most endearing crap (including, but not limited to, a hilarious meandering rumination on taking magic mushrooms, punctuated regularly be completely unconvincing denials of ever having touched said fungi or having encouraged anyone to use them) and doesn’t seem to realise that sometimes a singer can stay still. Neck threatening headbanging on ‘Hand$hakes’, jumping around on multiple tracks (risky, the Academy 3 has a very low ceiling), stalking the stage endlessly. The set was very very heavy on the new album, all bar four tacks coming from this sleek but engaging lesson in classy indie. The occasional addition guitar solo or extended outro give the crowd something new, but a Metric gig these days is a masterclass in making the efficient exciting.

Starting on a slowie is something only a band full of confidence would do, so its a good thing it is justified. The slow start builds expectation, rather than testing the audience’s patience. As does the decision to make the set Fantasies-heavy. For Miss GB it didn’t matter that she barely knew the band at all, by the end she was insisting to Mr GB and myself that we were heading back to where it all began between us, the merch stall, to buy her a copy of Fantasies for her car. She also agreed that if we hadn’t had jobs to go to the next day we would be spending the rest of the night trying to smuggle ourselves aboard Metric’s tourbus.

And why not. You’ll only end up a Billy No Mates if you don’t go out there and meet people. Book me a spot on the bus, Emily!


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