Saturday, December 17, 2005

Ben Folds LIVE

So with a sad and heavy heart it was time for the last concert of 2005. It's been one hell of a concert-going year for yours truly, but at least it was fairly certain that the year was going to end on a high note.

Tea at the Old Orleans kicked the night off. I love me them Bourbon Wings. It was whilst eating tea than me and Gee were blatantly chatted up by two women. Believe you me, I know that from time to time I can sort of get carried away when I say things like that, but there really was no dobut. Of course we couldn't sit there all night whilst Gee and "Claire" bonded over a mutual hatred for Mick Hucknall, so it was off to the Apollo...which took absolutely AGES thanks to that broken down bus.

Got to the venue to see that only Caz from the Tunstall lot was there yet and it was good to see her and have a bit of a chat. There was still no sign of the others when Mr Folds and his band hit the stage. A few songs in, Caz disappeared to find them and then came back to get us. She then led us back to where she thought they were, but she couldn't find them. Two minutes later she realised they were straight in front of us. There I had the pleasure of meeting Tom and Trev very briefly.

I enjoyed the show more than I did earlier in the year at the Lowry. Whilst standing up for a gig can be a pain in the arse from time to time, there is no doubt that it was better to be stood up for Ben. My only slight complaint would be that there was few Ben Folds Five songs inserted into the mix, although I concede the point that it was a Ben Folds "solo" concert. Still I don't think it's a coincidence that when he tossed in a few Five classics towards the end that was the best part of the show.

This was another fantastic night and it was good to see the Apollo very full indeed. Hopefully Ben will be back sometime in 2006!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Girls Aloud - Chemistry

Ok, so I'm officially way too excited by this album...and this excitment is going to lead into a very special review. Because for the first time ever, I am going to give you lucky people a track by track review of an album. Not that I will include the Christmas bonus CD in that review, but we'll get to that later...

INTRO - Ok, see this is where the brilliance starts. You see an "Intro" is the kind of thing a proper serious album might have. So after less than 50 seconds, we are already into "anything better than Madonna's ever done" territory. Which is pretty cool is it not?

MODELS - The first proper song proves that the Girls are good, ahem, role models by advising young girls everywhere that there are some men out there who will, quite literally, fuck anything that's fit. And that's just not right. And they're saying, don't let them do it girls. So you see, not only are the Girls brilliant at pop music, they're looking after the kids. And remember folks, the kids are the future.

BIOLOGY - The finest pop single in ages. Yes, even better than Madonna's Hung Up. You see this is just too good for the record buying public to truly love. I mean this actually does away with having verses (which has only been the basis of music for about the last 50 years) and just plumps for having about four different choruses. Which is pretty bloody cool is it not?

WILD HORSES - Right, for a start let me just reiterate that this is the greatest pop song ever. Yes, even better than No Good Advice...even better than Wake Me Up....and YES, even better than The Show. Which really, makes it quite fan-fuckin-tastic doesn't it. I mean come on, what's not to like? It's even got "woo woo" noises in it. Which might just have given me a reason to live again. And it's got a very similar bass-line to Long Hot Summer, but it's better than that. So it's like they've admitted that LHS wasn't very good, so they thought they'd use the same tune again just to prove their pop genius. And also, you can't ignore the asbolutely GENIUS choir opening, which for just that slight moment makes you think you've bought an Aled Jones Christmas record or something.

SEE THE DAY - Well according to the inlay booklet, it seems like Paul Weller didn't write this, even though people still claim that he did. If he did, this is the best song he's ever done. This should be Christmas number one by a mile, although it won't be. It also seems like someone behind the scenes *louis walsh*COUGH* is trying to plant the seeds of a Nadine solo career with this track. But hey, I won't mind that will I? This is the best ballad they've done, which isn't saying much, but still...

WATCH ME GO - "I know what you're thinking, you've been thinking about my butt." Now how can you fail to love a song that ends with that line? And thats only one of two absurdly brilliant raps in this song. See if "My Humps" by the Black Eyed Peas was any good, it still wouldn't be as good as this. And if Nadine really was "was dressed in red, tied up to your bed" at quarter past two it really was remiss of her not to give me advanced warning. This reminds me of Ace Of Base, and they were bloody brilliant too.

WAITING - Now you see, Mc Fly and the Busted have made careers (or did make careers) out of ripping of 60's pop. So I suppose it's a good job that Busted have split up, because the Girls have gone and outdone them. McFly should be forced to listen to this and made to write "pop music should be fun" 100 times on the blackboard. This sounds as if it was writeen by the Kinks, which kinda proves just how kick ass this really is.

WHOLE LOTTA HISTORY - Someone needs to own up here. Because attempting to do a "Never Ever" was a very bad idea. I really cannot see how some people are raving over this track and saying it should have been the Christmas single this year. This is the one where I can press next track on my fancy musical player. Or take a piss break. Still, ballads have never been the girls strong point.

LONG HOT SUMMER - Ok so it's "shit", even though it's not "shit" at all. It's just merely quite good, which is a disappointment for a GA single I know. Still if the 411 or Pop or others of that ilk had done something half as good as this, they still might have careers. And in closing, if this track proves one thing, its that Nadine shouldn't try and rap.

SWINGING LONDON TOWN - Now we are back to the absolute genuis portion of the album. This is like The Chemical Brothers. Or, if you will, the Chemical Sisters. It's also got a bit of a riff that's blatantly nicked off something, but I can't quite remember what. It also rather brilliantly slows right down in the middle, like a proper song by some guitar band might do, before descending into a swirl of beeps and then smacking right back up to full tempo. Pop genius at work here folks.

IT'S MAGIC - This is the kind of song that would be the best song on a Sugababes album, but has to settle for being quite good in comparison to a lot of the album. They'll not be doing this one on the tour...

NO REGRETS - Sadly not a cover version of Robbie's best song, but this is a wonderfully shimmery ballad which the kids won't like, but will be the one that your mum goes "ooh, that's lovely. Katie Melua or Barbara Striesland could do that" when she overhears it in your car or something. It picks up brownie points for the completly out of tune pan-pipes (or whatever the hell they are) in the background.

RACY LACEY - This has to be one of the funniest songs ever. "She's got undulating, grundulating, grinding hips." "I know this girl who's not too bright, but she's good in bed alright." "A PHD with her legs apart." But what is GENIUS about this song is that it in NO WAY glamorises a promiscous lifestyle and it is in no way suggesting that the 10 year old girls listening should start a lifetime of one-night stands. There's a bit of the "Betty Boo" about this and in an absolutely BRILLIANT ending to the album, this song just stops dead, seemingly right in the middle of the song. I mean of course it doesn't stop in the middle of the song, it stops at the end, but it makes you think it's finished in the middle, which is just a stroke of pop genius yes?

CONCLUSION - So all in all, this is quite frankly one of the best pop albums EVER. No seriously, it is. If Madonna, Kylie, Gwen Stefani or someone like that did something this good, literally everyone in the world would love it and the NME would put it in their best albums list or something. But the way I see it is that those people who miss out on this because of some musical snobbery...well that's their problem. This is a pop album which is not afraid to be different and not afraid to shake of the shackles of predictabilty. You must buy this album, or eternal damnation awaits.

CHRISTMAS BONUS ALBUM - This, on the other hand, is pretty rubbish. But in "Not Tonight Santa" they do provide us with one Christmas song destined for classic status. Trust me.


It's been a long time coming, but finally the lovely Jem got around to a UK tour. You never really know what to expect with things like this, especially when some people had told me that she couldn't really sing live. And in fact it looked a bit ominous from the very first song when there was a slight suspicion in mine and the Gee's minds that she was miming.

Well I'm glad to say that she most certainly wasn't miming, and she proceeded to whip through her Finally Woken album with a certain aplomb. I could have done without the pointless cover of a Coldplay (I do wish female artists would stop subjecting me to Coldplay covers...its not big and its not clever) and it was a bit pointless for her to do a cover of Sweet Home Alabama where she didn't do anything, but other than those minor problems, it was a great night.

Particular highlights were a cracking version of "They" and the hula dancing during "Wish I". I'm telling ya, I look forward to more of Jem in the future. She's the real deal.

Ian Brown LIVE

I never did like the Stone Roses you know. But I must admit that Mr Brown did some decent solo stuff. So whilst it's fair to say that this wasn't the most eagerly anticipated of the 2005 concert list, I was hoping for a reasonable nights entertainment.

It got off on a bad foot when seemingly every restaurant in Manchester was full. Finally found some Pizzeria, only to be held up even longer by some arrogant Americans who, to quote one of them "aren't the kind of people you want to piss off." Quite.

Anyways, the foxy Italian waitress made up for the delay somewhat, and belly's full it was off to the MEN. Just in time to realise that whatever the hell the support act was, was well worth missing. Although then, someone's bright idea to have a "street magician" as another pre-Ian act made for five of the most uncomfortable minutes I have ever spent at a gig. Believe me, I'll not mention his name because I can guarantee that you'll never hear of him.

As for the Brownster...well his voice was as crystal clear and tone-perfect as ever. Although at least we could hear him. Whether it was a dodgy soundsystem or the fact we were sat sideways onto the stage, the guitar was barely audible (which made for some great moments as the crowd erupted at the start of a song and I was just sat there thinking "are they actually playing anything.")

There were some "boss" moments, including "If Dolphins Were Monkeys" and the rest of the crowd seemed to love the Stone Roses moments (although I suspect most of the crowd didn't think there were enough Stone Roses moments). All in all, I enjoyed myself, but it was hardly was the greatest concert I've ever been to. Still, I had fun and that's better than nothing isn't it?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Like - Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

The Like...The Like. Just think, would I be sat here reviewing this album right now if the Gee hadn't gone to watch Maroon 5 a bit back? Probably not, although knowing the musical world I'm sure I would have come across three fit women playing rock music before too long...

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I have to say that in some ways I am going to be biased in this review. I've met them and they're lovely. Especially Tennessee. But it doesn't hurt that their debut single "What I Say And What I Mean" was an absolute corking slice of fuzzy pop-rock (technical term that you know) which, in one foul swoop, kicked away all the thoughts of nepotism (all three of the girls father being musical hot-shots) and made you realise that they are the real thing.

I can't quite summon up the levels of hysteria that a certain friend of mine bursts out at their very mention, as not all the album hits the high-spots, but enough of it does to ensure that this album is a "must-have."

Whilst WISAWIM is probably the stand-out track, there are some other absolute crackers too. "Under The Paving Stones" evokes echo's of the Clash's London Calling and is an absolute top tune whilst "Too Late" almost snatches "Best Song" accolades, and it mentions pendulums. Quite why that excites me I don't know, but it most certainly does. There are also some quality "slower" moments, with the delightful "The One" being a particular highlight.

So all in all, this is a great album and bodes well for a long and prosperous career. Buy it when it comes out in the UK in the spring. DO IT.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5

The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity

Ok, so I bought this album ages ago (on the day of it's release) but completely forgot about reviewing it. So belatedly here goes.

The Cardigans seem destined to be forever remembered as the band who did "Lovefool" (one of the most misunderstood songs EVER) rather than as one of the most diverse and impressive bands around in the 21st century. Few other bands have shown the range that the talented Scandinavians have, from the bright and breezy pop of Life to the whistful Long Gone Before Daylight.

This album continues the mournful sound of LGBD, but does also hark back to the sounds of First Band On The Moon. The lead single, "I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer" not only has one of the greatest ever titles for a single, but it is also one of the best songs they have done to date. And it's in good company on this great collection. "Godspell" and "Little Black Clouds" are my personal favourites, but overall I would say that this is their strongest set yet and proves there is life in the Cardigans yet.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5.

Late Tuesday - Storybook Beautiful

Ah, Christmas is nearly upon us. Which means some cool bands decide to regale us with some Christmas tunes. Of course you won't know who Late Tuesday are in all probability, but mark my words, they're excellent. Imagine Ben Folds was three women, and you get the idea of what they sound like.

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Anyways, this EP is a bit of a departure but really does have a wonderfully Christmas feel to it. As well as re-working of traditional Christmas songs such as O Holy Night and O Come O Come Emmanuel, two self composed tracks are included. Storybook Beautiful is, well beautiful. And beats the pants off, say, The JCB song for a bit of emotive snow-blessed fare. This Holiday is even better, having as it does a bittersweet tinge and a Children's choir. Which probably isn't a proper choir, which gives it that nice little touch. Which makes it much better than the usual "Christmas is great" songs that abound at this festive time.

All in all this is a wonderful Christmas EP, and I can even imagine listening to some of the tracks at other times of the year. If you're looking for something a little different this Christmas, you could do worse than check this out.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Shakin' Stevens LIVE

Well it had been far too long hadn't it?

I got out my 20 year old Shaky scarves and got in the Dean-mobile to drive myself, my mate Gee...and mother to Shaky 2005!!!!

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Nice and easy parking close to the venue and straight what looked like the Manchester Care In The Community annual outing 2006. Hell I'm used to be one of the oldest at certain concerts (as young as I am) but even though there was a smattering of under 20's in attendance, they were definately in the minority.

Shaky is far too savvy to need a support act, so come 7:45pm it was straight into the fun. Sadly, Shaky was struggling a bit. Whilst definately giving it his all, he was clearly suffering from a bad throat. Still few in the audience seemed to mind, and he thanked us all for his patience. Of course I was most made up when he unexpectedly did my favourite Shaky song ever "With My Heart" so I was happy regardless.

I don't know what he took at half time (the man is a legend. I mean come on, a pop concert with a proper interval :D) but it did the trick. He came out, walloped straight into Lipstick, Powder and Paint and from then on he was on top form until the end. The hits kept on a coming...A Letter To You, I'll Be Satisfied, It's Late etc...coupled with some old classics like "Ain't That A Shame" and this was just off the scale fun.

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He kicked started the encore with This Old House and then hit the classic single "Trouble" and then did a couple more songs before departing to a standing that was, no kidding, as loud as 10 times as many Franz Ferdinand fans had made the night before. Whatever you think of the man himself, he sure as hell can put on one hell of a show

Franz Ferdinand LIVE

Back to the MEN...but fear not as we had good seats.

The day started off well with the Mighty Spurs kicking Wigan Athletic all over the park with a well deserved victory. Jimmy who?

Anyways, the train trip to Manchester was, well, different, as we ended up on a train with a load of Spurs fans making the long trip back home. Highlight was the unrepeatable Van Persie chant. Lowlight was the chav golfers who joined the train at one point.

Anyways, a few nice pre-concert drinks warmed us up nicely and onto the MEN. A £3 slice of Pizza went down nicely, though I really shouldn't have eaten that full bag of Giant Buttons. We missed the *DELETE AS APPLICABLE* Cribs/Kooks/Rakes/ support, support act and made it just in time for the Editors. I like the Editors. Can't say I think they're the best thing since sliced bread or anything, but they have one or two killer tunes and quite a few more that are catchy. They're not breaking down any musical barriers, but not all music has to does it?

So then it was onto the Franz. I feared for them in the cavernous arena atmosphere, but I suppose when you have fans as fevoured as the Franz do, it doesn't really matter where you play. Even the lesser album tracks were met with a rousing reception, although the REALLY big ovations were reserved for Do You Want To (which sounded a bit crap live actually), Dark Of The Matinee, Michael and, of course, the mighty Take Me Out.

Steady rather than spectacular it may have been, but it was still a decent night's entertainment which had much to enjoy. Sometimes you just want to have fun. And this was a night where you could have that in spades.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Martha Wainwright LIVE

Well, having took a day off to facilitate my journey to Liverpool, it still took my over an hour to get to the city centre, but I suppose that means it's a good job that I didn't set off after work as I usually would. A couple of pints of Guinness and a look at the photo's from The Like concert later and we were on our way to a "nice little Cuban restaurant." A few minutes later we were making our way out of the said Cuban restaurant, which was ram-packed, and off to Liverpool's China town, which lets face it, is more of half a China street. But hey, any time crispy auromatic duck is on the menu you won't find me complaining.

Anyways, off to the venue it was, and my first visit to the Liverpool Academy 2 (and thus completeing the holy trinity) stopping only for a quick drink in a pub near the venue that I'd never noticed before with the hilarity of seeing a Wigan Athletic match advertised by the use of the phrase "dirty Wigan" and a picture of a turd! :D

Having to queue up for the venue was a novelty, although I did eventually resist the temptation to resort to fisticuffs when some people barged their way in front of us. It was pleasant enough, with a nice little seperate bar area, where I caught my first sight of a delightful Alison Goldfrapp look-a-like (more on her later) and ended up chatting to someone I used to work with.

Anyway, we went into the actual auditorium just in time to miss the support act and saw someone who Gee works with. We didn't actually go over to her of course, but she was eyeing him up all the same. Then my "The Like" badges created a conversation with the afformetioned Goldfrapp doppleganger, although for the most part we did seem to be at cross-purposes. Needless to say, the Dean didn't "seal the deal" but it was still more action than I would usually get on a Friday night :D.

I was a bit sceptical when Martha came on the stage, mumbled something I couldn't hear and then went straight into a song I was unfamiliar with (not having the BMFA ep). But then after that she kicked into "When The Day Is Short", one of my favourite songs off her album, and from that moment on I was putty in her hands.

She rattled through great versions of all her best tracks and treated us to cover versions of songs by the likes of Warren Zevon, The Rolling Stones and Cole Porter. She also did a haunting version of The Beatles' "Help" which stripped away the jovialty of the original and replaced it with the kind of maudlin helplessness well suited to my life. The fact that she'd only decided to do that song hours before the concert and had to have the lyrics in front of her only added to it's charm. There was also the French song she did, introduced as "a song written by Barbara" (said in a sexy French accent), "which is French for Barbara" (said in her sexy southern drawl). Well I laughed at the time anyway.

She also got a lady from the audience on stage to sing backing vocals, had half the audience squawking like Native Indians as a backing to another track and segued a request for Tequilla into a little song. It has to be said she was just ever so slightly barmy, what with forgetting lyrics and occasionally suddenly going off on a tangent mid-song. But by this time I think I was falling in love with her, so I found it all very charming ;-).

Of course all this meant that the show over-ran the curfew, but Martha played on anyway and still did the encore. Then she came out afterwards and, despite the hordes of people that waited to see her, was perfectly sweet to everyone who wanted something signing. Despite the bouncers best efforts to thwart my efforts, I queued up and got her to sign my CD booklet (although, in something which I found hilarious at the time, she took great effort to write the "To Matthew" bit and then scrawled a barely legible version of her own name).

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Of course, whilst in the queue I entered a rather bizarre conversation with the girl and lad in front of us, which took in such topics as the relative brilliance of Fern Britton and Ainsley Harriot, and led to me declaring that it would be a great idea for me and Martha to be the contestants on Ready Steady Cook :D

I also got my picture taken with her and thanks to Gee for doing the duties. Of course Gee wasn't quite sure if it'd worked, so he stood there with the camera for a while, which gave me the chance to once again try and crack a joke to a celebrity that once again fell flat. Either that, or she really did want to stand holding me for a while longer... ;-)

So all in all this was an absolutely brilliant concert, and a brilliant night in total as well. I really can't praise the woman enough.

Martha Wainwright...better than Lucie Silvas (by a COUNTRY mile as well :D)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Madonna - Confessions On A Dance Floor

Confession number 1 - I actually quite liked the American Life album. Sure it wasn't the old Madonna sound, but I thought it was very good indeed AND I maintain the opinion that if someone other than Madonna had done it, then people would have looked at it very differenly indeed. At least on that album she sounded as if she had something relevant to say, even if I personally wouldn't have agreed with her.

Confession number 2 - Despite me liking the last one, I too was all excited by the apparent news that Confessions On A Dance Floor was to herald a "return to form" for good old Madge. Even if by "return to form" most people meant "a return to what she used to sound like" that was not neccessarily a bad thing.

Confession number 3 - Whilst the lead single "Hung Up" is undoubtedly a fantastic piece of work, there is always the fear that it was going to be the main highlight of the album by a mile. And I have to say that it probably is. But that's not to say that there isn't a lot to enjoy. Future single "Jump" is more mellow than Hung Up, but its still a fantastic slice of pop music. Other tracks such as "Sorry" and "How High" comfortably sit up with her best work as well.

Confession number 4 - The fact that despite this being Madonna's "new" sound, it all sounds so damn familar should actually turn me against the album. There are certain nods to Madonna's past (at one point a strings sections apes the Papa Don't Preach opening) but the main thing that springs to mind when I listen to this is that some of it doesn't half sound like the Pet Shop Boys. The start of Jump echoes West End Girls (and deliberatly so according to producer Stuart Price) and Sorry brings It's A Sin to my mind. So really, what is in all probability a 3 1/2 star album gets knocked up half a notch to a 4 star album, purely because of the feeling I get that this is almost a PSB album in disguse.

Confession number 5 - However, the "continuous mix" of the album is a rubbish idea and really is a pretty poor gimmick which doesn't work at all. So I'm knocking that half a star off.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Like LIVE

What an exciting night was in prospect. Oldham...valley of the kings. The first ever visit for a concert (and my first visit there since I was about six years old). Would we get there? Would we find the venue when we did? Would we make it out of there alive? Thankfully the answers were all yes...even if the latter two looked dicey at one point.

We got to Oldham easily enough, but couldn't find an open car park (or one that didn't look dodgy). However imagine our joy when a bit of a detour managed to find us smack opposite the venue and on-street parking was available. Not much else was available though. There was a Sainsbury's, two kebab shops, a Portugese cuisine take-a-way and one pub.

So off to the Buck and Union it was, where they were getting ready for Karaoke. We didn't sing but we were treated to some rather good renditions of "classic" songs, and some that weren't so good. We did fear for our safety at one point as two guys at the bar started arguing about prison, court cases and killing old ladies, but that soon calmed down and I proceeded towards my task of getting very drunk. There were two ladies in there who so obviously wanted my mate Gee, but as usual he was having none of it. Although in fairness, they could have been trying to set him up with some sting. You know, he goes out the back for a bit of the old slap and tickle and then BOOM, a bunch of burly blokes beat him up and take his money. Better to play it safe.

So then it was onto the venue (pausing only for Burger and chips). Small and compact...and no other bugger in there! Ok that's exaggerating slightly, but it was desperately quiet when we went in at 10. Which in some ways was good. Because it meant a good view of The Like. Which cannot be a bad thing. :D

And yes, I know it's all about the music (more on that in a short moment) but the fact that The Like are rather, a-hem, tasty does them no harm at all. And couple that with the fact that they can really kick ass live, and can write all their own stuff and all that,'s a winning combination.

I wish I could tell you all about the songs, but I haven't got the album yet (nor heard it properly - THANKS GEE) although I had heard some of their EP's and therefore did recognise a couple of the tracks they played. I was also drunk. But what I can say is that it was excellent. I really enjoyed it. And that's good enough for me.

Then afterwards, we were lucky enough to meet them all, albeit seperately. They were all very nice, and they all seemed in awe of Gee's marker pen. Perhaps they don't have marker pens in America or something. I was also thrown when we (almost) went on the tour bus and the drummer turned out to have a British accent, and said she "might know" where Wigan was. Gee tried to ruin everything by slagging off Maroon 5 (not a good idea when the lead singer dates one of them apparently) but I think we got away with it.

All in all this was a great night, and proof that The Like are more than a gimmick. They are here for the long haul. And a-men to that.

The Like...better than The Faders ;)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Lucie Silvas LIVE

Ok, prior to going to this concert I had neither heard a single Lucie Silvas song all the way through, nor had the inclination to particularly do so. To be honest I thought she was a bit crap. Not that there was anything really wrong with her (teasely young piano playing singer that she is) but there was nothing to me that stood her out from the chasing pack.

Obviously 350,000 people who bought her album disagree with me, and so if I wasn't exactly open to a Damascian-style conversion to the Silvas army, neither was I so closed minded that I wouldn't give her a chance.

And I was pleasantly surprised. Sure there were a few too many "Mariah Carey" moments of over-wrought warbling...sure some of her lyrics are treading the fine line that seperates the meaningful from the trite...but there is no denying the power of her voice nor the fact that when it matters the tunes are good enough to speak for themselves.

I certainly recognised the singles, and some of the other songs sounded familar too (although whether that is a good thing, or a signs of a somewhat limited range is a question I won't answer just yet) and it surprised me to see her belt out some rather rocky numbers as well, which certainly shook me out of any tiredness.

The cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" was a clever trick (yes, I know it was on the album, but still, it is a clever trick although I'm sure the fact that it is a Metallica song is lost on most of the people who would buy a Lucie Silvas record); the Coldplay cover was less so. But all in all this was a pleasent evening, with much to reccommend. Although the fact remains that there are better singer-songwriters plying their trade who have to get by without so much of the record-company hype that propelled Silvas to the big time. Still, one shouldn't begrudge anybody that little helping hand, and this show proved that Silvas is certainly talented enough to move onwards and upwards.

Lucie Silvas....Better than Natasha Bedingfield.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Subways LIVE

Now the last time I saw the Subways it was, well shall we say, an "experience". Back in Gee's home study turf of Preston, in what perhaps was the worst venue ever, but despite all that, and despite only knowing one of their songs, it was a great night and a great concert.

This time around the album is in heavy rotation on the turntable, and I have slowly grown to love it. Add in HUGE ticket sales which bumped this gig from Number 2 to the Main Hall and there is quite a bit of expectation to deal with. There was even MORE anticipation when Gee briefly thought the Kooks were supporting, but thankfully we looked at the timetable on the door before going in to see that they most definately weren't. Which gave Gee the chance to drink more Vodka (ending the night on an estimated 19 shots).

Quite simply the show itself was a rollocking good hour or so of great music. With, thankfully, only a few slower moments. Highlights are too numerous to mention, and even the couple of new tracks they did didn't dampen the crazy mood of the gig-goers. Throughout the show there was a raucous energy prevalent in everything they did and, to quote a certain someone, the young lady sure was a "firecracker."

This was everything a rock 'n' roll show should be and showed that the future is bright for the Subways. Let's hope they can keep it up.

The Subways...better than The White Stripes.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Yet Another Concert Updates List

As you might expect, this is ANOTHER updated concert list. With the first confirmed date of 2006 in the bag!!!! :D

(The ones in red are the ones that have been and gone as of date of this post)

18th February - KT Tunstall - Liverpool Academy 3

27th February - Electric Six - Carling Academy Liverpool

1st March - Natasha Bedingfield - Liverpool Royal Court

7th March - The Donnas - Manchester Academy

16th March - The THrills - Liverpool Academy

12th April - The Subways - 53 Degrees, Preston

19th April - Nerina Pallot - Barfly, Liverpool (technically this is a Paddy Casey concert, but I'm really only going for Nerina :D).

24th April - The Hives - Liverpool Academy

14th May - Casino - Coventry Collesium

19th May - Girls Aloud - Manchester Apollo

22nd May - KT Tunstall - Manchester MDH

26th May - KT Tunstall - Carling Academy 2, Liverpool

27th May - Girls Aloud - Liverpool Empire

8th June - The Subways - Night & Day Cafe, Manchester - CANCELLED

11th June - Ben Fold - The Lowry

17th June - REM (with The Zutons,Feeder & Idlewild) - Lancashire Cricket Club

22nd June - Suzanne Vega/Nerina Pallot - Warwick Arts Centre (which, you know, isn't actually in Warwick!!!!)

15th July - Aimee Mann - Manchester University

8th August - Supergrass - Royal Northern College Of Music, Manchester. (NOT ATTENDED BY ME OF COURSE)

25th August - Weezer - Manchester University

17th September - Fun Lovin' Criminals - Manchester University

23rd September - Super Furry Animals - Liverpool Academy

28th September - Editors - Manchester University

3rd October - (Joseph Arthur) Nerina Pallot - Manchester Hop & Grape

9th October - Supergrass - Manchester Ritz

11th October - Laura Veirs - Life Cafe, Manchester

15th October - Kaiser Chiefs (Plus Maximo Park) - Manchester Apollo

16th October - KT Tunstall - Manchester University

22nd October - Nine Black Alps - Carling Acadmey, Liverpool

2nd November - The Subways - Manchester Academy

6th November - Lucie Silvas - The Lowry, Salford

18th November - Martha Wainwright - Liverpool Academy 2

26th November - Franz Ferdinand - MEN Arena, Manchester

27th November - Shakin Stevens - Manchester Opera House

3rd December - Ian Brown - MEN Arena, Manchester

4th December - Jem - Manchester University

15th December - Ben Folds - Manchester Apollo


18th March - Sugababes - Liverpool Philarmonic Hall

30th March - Depeche Mode - MEN Areaa, Manchester

27th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Nine Black Alps LIVE

In one of those nice "couldn't they have announced it earlier" moments I've already seen Nine Black Alps live supporting Weezer. Which in fact turned out to be a good thing, because I certainly didn't "see" Nine Black Alps on this occasion.

But to backtrack a little, the evening started out with a cracking little meal at some Italian restaurant. The spicy prawn fritters were alright, but the duck thing was bloody gorgeous. The sweet was less so, given that it simply appeared to be a cup of coffee with a dollop of ice cream in it (no, seriously that's what it was) but in a kind of bizarre way it was good.

So after a mini pub crawl around Liverpool we finally get to the venue, the first time I've graced the halls of the Liverpool Carling Acadmey 2. First shock was the fact that NBA were scheduled to be on at 9, with a 10pm curfew! 10pm curfew on a Saturday night? WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?

Then when actually getting into the venue, we then realised that we were not going to get a great view of the band as they performed their set. In fact, I wasn't going to get any kind of view of any of them. Well that's a slight exaggeration. I saw one of the guitarists fleetingly. To cut a long story short, I'm sure the venue is great if you turn up really early and manage to get onto the actual floor space, but if you don't you may well find yourself without a view of the musicians.

Still, at least it wasn't a teasely group, so there are worse concerts where this could have happened. As such though my atmosphere was slightly off, although as the drink kicked in I found myself enjoying the music. They threw in some new songs, or at the least songs that I hadn't heard before, and it was a polished performance, albeit one perhaps lacking the spark that really would have set the evening on fire.

Then came more comedy gold as we left the venue. I saw some rather buxom lass that had a nice...well you get the idea. Anyway, I give Gee man the nod to check out the bintage and he falls about laughing. No, she wasn't ugly or anything like that, but was actually a girl who used to work where he does who he just happened to fancy the pants off. So it's proof that occasionally Gee does have some good taste :D

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sugababes - Taller In More Ways

Well bugger me, I've fallen into the trap again. Remember "Hole In The Head", the fantastic first single from the Three? It was brilliant wasn't it? Just a pity really then that the album was the usual "three great songs and a load of dodgy filler" routine that I've come to expect from the Sugababes since they went the "manufactured pop" route (as evidenced by choosing an ex-member of Atomic Kitten as the replacement for that one who left).

So yeah, "Push The Button" is a fantastic single, indeed it's one of the best of 2005, but there really is nothing else that comes all that close to matching it. "Joy Division" (sadly not about Ian Curtis :D) and "Red Dress" come close (and will surely go down well at the Christmas disco's) and "It Ain't Easy" and "Obsession" would be decent enough as the songs on a great album that weren't quite as good as the others. Sadly they are the best of a pretty poor bunch.

I often contend that Girls Aloud don't get the huge success they deserve because they don't do enough ballads to draw the parents in. Well no worries about that on a Sugababes album. The only problem is that the ballads that they do serve up are trite, forgettable and so tailored for the commercial effect that I am left totally unmoved by any of them. The worst of the bunch must be "Ugly" (not surprisingly a virtual carbon copy of TLC's "Unpretty" due to the fact it's written by the same fella) and "2 Hearts" which ends the album on the most mawkish level possible.

This will sell by the bucketload I have no doubt, but for all the positive press that the 'Babes get (and yes they certainly can sing) the fact remains that just like every other manufcatured pop group in existance, the bottom line remains the money that can be made. This album, ahem, pushes all the right button in that respect, but you are left with the impression the 'Babes crowing moment is destined to be their greatest hits.

Icon's View - 3 out of 5.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine

The is one of the most bizarre "new" albums that I will ever review for the simple fact that I had already heard 90% of it up to a year ago. The long (six year) wait since "When The Pawn" for a follow up album was attributed to Epic not thinking that the album that Fiona Apple and her producer Jon Brion delivered was commerical enough. And to be honest, if that had been the case they might have had a point. In it's "unofficial" form, it was the kind of album that all but Fiona's most ardent fans would have been completly non-plussed by.

Of course the official story now is that Fiona herslef was less than happy with the "original" record and wanted to re-record it, but Epic, having spent in the region of $800,000 on the record, were reluctant to give the green light to more expenditure. But the leaking of the music proved that there was an audience for the album and 50 Cent producer Mike Elizondo climbed on board to help finish the project.

The album was probably never going to live up to the hype that a six year abscence whirled up, but Extraordinary Machine very nearly pulls it off. The first thing that is immediatley noticeable is that there have indeed been many aesthetic changes to the version previously heard, and for the most part these are welcome. Gone are the cluttered arrangements of Brion (which at times seemed willfully designed to alienate listeners) but this is still hardly a commercial pop album.

This is very much a "break-up" album (as are all of Fiona's efforts really) but the sense of strong defiance that permiated When The Pawn is still very much evident. "Get Him Back" is a wry look at the aftermath of a break-up and has the pulsating piano one would expect. "Better Version Of Me" is another such track and is one of the definate highlights of the collection. But really there isn't a duff track on the whole album.

It never quite reaches the heights of "When The Pawn" and, to be honest, isn't quite the leap in a different direction that the protracted release of the album lead to suggest. You aren't going to mistake this for anyone else, it's a Fiona Apple record all the way through. Still, she's yet to make one that's anything less than excellent, and this wonderful album keeps that record going. Let's just hope it's not another six years for the follow up to this!

Icon's View - 4 1/2 out of 5.

KT Tunstall LIVE

So for an unprecidented fourth time in one year it was time to see the Tunstall live again. Of course it should also have been the time to see Ed Harcourt live, but we managed to only get there in time to see the end of his set. Don't know what his music was like but that bird he had playing the violin seemed like proper teasely.

Still it was a good kebab (with that bloody lovely girl having her Naan bread and Chips :) ) and it was nice to briefly meet a few fellow Tunstallation Nation members in the Kro Bar. Which was a nice little bar to drink in as well.

I should point out right now that whatever I say in the next few paragraphs, I enjoyed this concert immensely. BUT, and didn't you know there was a "but" coming the whole thing seemed a little superfluous. It was essentially the same show I'd already seen twice in May although there was a new track, Drity Water, performed. This was a decent enough song, but didn't really grab me by the balls and make me love it.

Suddenly I See and Black Horse were excellent, although it seemed like many in the audience had only come along on the strength of the singles, although thankfully there seemed to be an abscence of the usual knob-jockeys in our vicinity.

Heal Over was at least better than it was in May, and Through The Dark was a nice touch. The problem for me was that apart from the odd "extended" version of a song this was a show I felt like I'd seen before. Now I know that makes me seem hypocritical after banging on about hating the "Sweet Dream" version of Heal Over, but there comes a point when overkill is reached. Once her new album comes out and she tours that then I have no doubt I'll be there, but if she does another tour before releasing any new material, I think I'll be giving that one a miss.

Oh and on a final point, kudos goes to Xavi for being the designated driver :D

Sunday, October 16, 2005

NME Rock 'N' Roll Riot Tour LIVE

First things first. We didn't make it in time to see the Cribs. We simply couldn't be bothered queueing up and so we went for a swift pint, which turned into two. Still it was worth it for the Elisha Cuthbert-esque barmaid :D.

Well where do we start with Maximo Park....? I've heard great things about them and they certainly have had some good reviews. But to be honest, I thought they were pretty poor on the night. All their songs sounded very similar, and as I didn't like the first one they did it just got worse from thereon in. They were quite entertaining I suppose, but perhaps I'm getting old, but I just don't get the point of them.

As for the Kaiser Cheifs. Well its quite simple really. They have three quite good songs (Everyday I Love You Less And Less, I Predict A Riot and Oh My God) and this fools you into thinking they are better than they actually are. Well folks, it's all hype. Were they terrible? No. But they are hardly the best band ever to have written an album ever or anything like that.

So all in all, I was pretty underwhelmed by both the acts I saw. There isn't really much more I can add to that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Laura Veirs LIVE

Oh it's always fun to go to a new venue, and on this particular occasion it was the Life Cafe in Manchester. Finding it was no problem, but parking anywhere nearby certainly was! After about half an hour of driving around we finally hit upon a place which didn't seem to far away. And it wasn't too far away although it was a rather eerie walk from the car park to the venue, and certainly one I wouldn't want to try if I was on my own.

Anyways, a nice burger and chips was procured at Squares (very tasty) and then we headed on down into the Life Cafe "Late Room." And what a nice little venue it was. There was the initial fear that we woudn't be able to see the stage once the people at the front deciced to stand up but in a nice little schiznit, they stayed sat down throughout, enabling us a very good view indeed.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the support act. His name was Karl something, and all I will say is that the Bjorn Borg look-a-like gave Mummy & Daddy and The Kills a run for their money in the "most bizarre support act ever" listings. Still, he was certainly memorable.

Imagine our horror then when the support act turned out to be one of Laura Veirs' band. But he kept himself to himself thankfully and the fun could begin. This was quite simply an excellent performance. Most of the show was based around the recent Year Of Meteors album, and as that is a bloody cracker, so was the show.

Highlights were stunning versions of "Galaxies", "Cool Water" and "Spelunking" (which as it is about Caving saw Laura and her band sporting headlamps whilst the lights were turned down completey.

I should also mention the magical "galaxy dust" that Laura passed around and told us to spread on our faces. Yes, I am a muppet so I did as she requested. Still it was funny.

All in all this was a wonderful concert. Laura may be a little too much "out there" to ever gain the recognition and success she deserves, but on nights like this that really doesn't matter.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Missy Higgins - The Sound Of White

People I "know" in this vast inter-web world wide landscape have been waxing lyrical about young Missy for absolutely ages now. So finally I decide to properly check her out.

First impressions would appear to be favourable. She's a woman. She plays the piano. So what's not to like huh? And initially on putting the album on there is a sense that we are on to a bona fide winner here.

Opening track "All For Believing" sends shivers down the spine; this is followed by "Ten Days" which is another winner although sadly it has to be said that already her Australian accent is wearing thin. Now that may seem like a triffling and somewhat baffling reason to put her down, but whilst I certainly don't mind a bit of an accent, at times Missy almost sounds as if she is a non-Australian taking the mick.

Which is a bit of shame really. Current single "Scar" is a decent enough tune, although it does seem over-produced. Missy is at her best on the sparser tracks such as "Nightminds" and "Any Day Now" which really allow her talent to shine through. The problem for me is that it all gets a bit pedestrian at times with a few too many songs all seemingly merging into one. It's only towards the end of the album, with the jazzy "This Is How It Goes" that the tempo picks up, although this is merely a prelude to more miserablism.

It sounds from the above like I hate this record, and I really don't. But whilst Missy certainly has talent, it doesn't shine through often enough on this promising but ultimately disappointing album. Still, it should ensure enough success for her to get a second stab at making the album she is clearly capable of making.

Icon's view - 2 out of 5

Supergrass LIVE

Well there were no hospitalisation incidents leading up to this one, so I FINALLY got to see Supergrass Live in Concert.

But the story starts a little bit earlier than that. Being that it was a Sunday, me and the Gee man decided to have a spot of jackbit prior to the gig and decided to go to Mosa Mosa Chinese restaurant. We're there, tucking into the starters when a few fellas with security laminates around their necks walk in. A bit weird to be sure but we thought no more of it...until five minutes later the one and only James Blunt walked in! Of course at first I'd only noticed the rather attractive teasely who was accompanying him :D

Still the salient points of this are that a) he's a bit of a short arse and b) he likes Chicken (he had it for starter AND main course).

Anyways, this was a new venue for a concert and I have to say that the Manchester Ritz is quite a nice little venue. The support act was on when we walked in. All I can say is that I am glad we didn't catch all of his act. He was called "Son Of Dave" and he used to be in the Crash Test Dummies. Don't bother remembering his name though, as I hardly think he'll be troubling anyone with any musical taste.

Supergrass were pretty cool though. Love the hat as well Gaz. Anyways, they rattled through most of their latest (somewhat underrated) album Road To Rouen and put in most of their biggest hits inbetween. Particular favourites were Richard III (their greatest ever song in my humble opinion), Moving and Late In The Day. They didn't however do Alright. Which is a bit like Robbie Williams not doing Angels or something. But still, although it would have been a welcome addition to the set list, its absence wasn't critical. A good effort from the boys, apart from that utterly pointless Gaz solo half way through. I could have done without that.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better

It doesn't seem all that long since I first discovered the delights of the Ferdinand, which is probably due to the fact that it isn't all that long since their debut album was released and thrilled so many people.

The good news for the record company accountants is that Franz have stuck to that old adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." From the minute you first put this cd into your player (or download it onto your MP3 Player if you're being all technological about it) you know exactly what it is. Which is no bad thing if you ask me, when 'what it is' is so good.

Lead single "Do You Want To" is little more than an updated "Take Me Out" but that doesn't change the fact that it is bloody fantastic. And there are many more delights to enjoy on the collection. "The Fallen" is a wonderful opener (who indeed gives a damn about the profits of Tesco?) and "Evil And A Heathen" would already fit nicely on to a "Best of Franz" compilation.

But it is tracks such as "Walk Away" and "Eleanor Put Your Boots On" that really strike out, being as those are the "least-Franz" compositions on the album and bode very well for a successful and rewarding future listening experience with the band. Although even these songs retain their Franz-charm (Walk Away references Hitler and Mao-Tse Tung) and overall there can be no doubt. Their debut album wasn't a fluke, and on this showing the best could even yet be to come!

Icon's view 4 1/2 out of 5.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Kanye West - Late Registration

As a rule, I don't particularily like rap. But every so often an absolute CHOON hits the airwaves that not even I can ignore. 2005 sees Kanye West's Gold Digger fill that spot very nicely indeed. It is without doubt one of the classic singles of the year, but it also sets an impossibly high standard for the album.

First single Diamonds From Sierra Leone was disappointing (although kudos for the Shirley Bassey sample) but Gold Digger was SO good, that I just had to check out the whole album. The immediate problem that springs to mind is the sheer amount of guest vocalists on display (heaven help us if Kanye ever teams up with Gwen Stefani for a collabortation album) with the feeling at times that Kanye is struggling to make himself heard above the crowd.

And this leads to another problem...Kanye just isn't that good at rapping. Tracks such as Touch The Sky, Drive Slow and Hey Mama are good tracks, but they would be great tracks with a better rapper.

This is a good album., but can be frustrating at times. If you're a fan of the genre then it's a must...if it's not usually your cup of tea, tread carefully and you could be rewarded.

Icon's view - 3 out of 5.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Shout Out Louds - Howl Howl Gaff Gaff

The Sweedes certainly can proffer up some hot bands these days, and the Shout Out Louds certainly have the tunes and style to follow the worldwide success of bands such as the Hives and the Cardigans.

This is the kind of album that will immediately make you think of one hundred and one other bands. The Strokes, The Wannadies, the Kings Of Leon, the afforementioned Sweedes...all will spring to mind over this perfectly formed collection of pop-rock tunes.

Pick of the pack are "100°" and "A Track And A Train" both of which would, with any justice in the music world, be massive world-wide hits. They can't quite keep up to this level throughout the whole album, but that is a small complaint. Get it now, before they become massive.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Sheryl Crow - Wildflower

Truth be told, the prospect of a new Sheryl Crow album in 2005 does not fill me with the same kind of anticipation that I would have had back in 2000. The Live at Central Park CD was a bit rubbish, her greatest hits was something and nothing (good, but hardly something that was needed) and her date at the MEN last year was a bit underwhelming. Then of course we come to C'mon C'mon, which was in my opinion a pretty poor album and not one that I have listened to in all honesty since about the first four weeks that I had it.

The good news is that Wildflower is not as bad as some reviews would lead you to believe. It's still not a patch on her first three albums, but it kicks the proverbials out of C'mon C'mon. Its definately a mellower affair than anything we've collectively seen from Ms Crow before, and, to almost paraphase the lead single, when it's good its good.

The problem is that once you've heard one track, you've pretty much heard them all. Which doesn't make it neccessairily a bad album, but makes it one that doesn't bear up to too much repeat listening. Fans will probably find enough to entertain themselves, but there will always be the feeling that her best work maybe behind her.

Icon's View - 2 out of 5.

Nerina Pallot - LIVE

Ok, so much like Paddy Casey earlier in the year, I didn't stay around for the "headlining" act Arthur Joseph (or is it Joseph Arthur?) but really what would have been the point. There is NO way that anything he did could have come remotely close to what preceeded him.

Despite my paranoia that the doors didn't open until nearly 8 o'clock, (coupled with the big queue for Nine Black Alps in Acadmey 2), we were in there in plenty of time. The rather rude "who should mind where they're going" woman did her best to sully my mood (I tell you, that's the last time I attempt to be chivalrous to a Mancunian lady) but another pint, and the prospect of Nerina warmed me up.

Quite simply, she was fantastic. She only did six songs, but they were all top notch crew and she's just a very funny woman too. And I mean funny as in hilarious, not weird. In amongst the songs were tales of pyjamas with red spacemen on, the invention of a new word "Chavesty" and the confession that "All Good People" was from the Shania Twain-esqe part of her musican cannon. She also forgot half a verse of Geek Love, which was quite funny, although the uninitiated wouldn't have noticed as she didn't miss a beat.

But as FANTASTIC as all that was, the best was yet to come . After a short wait (in which a woman thought we were queing for the gents bog's, which gave way to a discussion about how Gee and Me could be living pieces of performance art outside a hospital) we toddled over to meet Nerina. There was some boring git from a radio station who seemed intent on wooing Nerina but anyway, I bought another copy of Nerina's excellent album Fires and as it was passed to her for signing, she looked up and my new favourite conversation ever kicked in. A brief synopsis is included below;

Nerina - Have we met before?
Me - Yes, we have.
Nerina - So you're a dedicated fan.
Me - I sure am.
Nerina - Is it Stephen?
Me - Hmm, no.
Nerina - John?
Me - No.
Nerina - Bugger.
Me - It's ok, I've got all night.
Nerina - Erm..
Me - It's Matthew.
Nerina - Yeah. That's right. Where was it...
Me - Well...
Nerina - Let me think.
Me - Ok
Nerina - Wait, was it at the Paddy Casey gig in Liverpool.
Me - Bloody hell. Yeah. And also at Warwick.
Nerina - Oh yes, I remember...Have you come far tonight?
Me - Only from Wigan.
Nerina - Oh not far then.
Me - Only about seven hours drive or so...

And then I went off. Although I went back as Gee needed his CD signing (the stingy bastard FINALLY getting around to buying his own copy) and then there were pictures to be taken, with the hilarity of me thinking Gee didn't know how to use my camera and thus moving as the first picture was being taken.

But anway, all that remains to be said is that the concert was bloody fantastic, Nerina is bloody lovely and, brilliantly, I was recognised by a celebrity. I was recognised by a celebrity. And a bloody fit one at that. So Gee man, you can take your Liz McPram Face picture and shove it :D

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Editors LIVE

An absolute hellacious 90 minute journey to Manchester didn't bode well for the evening in prospect, although the sight of the Gee already on his way to drunkeness as I arrived certainly was hilarious. The long-haired foreign-looking idiot who was clearly off his head was a minor annoyance, although more of my energy was being put towards eyeing up the bintage on display in the pub. Quality teasely.

Anyway, we wandered into the venue in time to catch a bit of the support act We Are Scientists. They were quite good in a "I'll never actually buy one of their records" kind of way.

The Editors on the other hand were good in a "I might actually trade in my Cd-R copy of the album for a proper copy" kind of way. Of course, being so early in their career, the concert was more or less their debut album live, but even the weaker album tracks were injected with a steely intensity that made them rise above the versions we already know.

Quite simply, this was a top notch crew night, and for once the hype is justified. The Editors are going places.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Super Furry Animals LIVE

A day of insanely heavy drinking, for sure. I was half cut before I even met the Gee, and we carried on from there. About 15 minutes before bell time, the venue seemed empty and we feared the worst, and we took the opportunity to push our way quite a way up to the front of the crowd...which turned out to be a bit of mistake once the crowds belatedly filled up.

An hilarious video package set the scene, (and who can fail to sing along with the A-Team theme whenever they hear it?) and the band made their big entrance on something akin to a golf cart. So far, so good. But then it went a little pear-shaped. I'm not a huge SFA fan so it was obvious I wasn't going to know all the songs, but the ones they did play at first were totally unfamiliar to me. Coupled with a being in close proximity to a load of idiots, being hot and sweaty and getting high of the smell of, shall we say, controlled substances and the evening was taking a bit of a bad turn.

However a diplomatic retreat for water supplies and a more spacious view towards the back did the trick as SFA pumped out some of their biggest hits. And not even the technological problems during the encore could spoil the mood from there. A frustrating night in some respects, but in the end, it was all gravy.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Fun Lovin' Criminals LIVE

So it was time again to see THE coolest man on the planet and his band.

What can I say about FLC other than they are a bloody good live act who never fail to entertain. As you would expect, there was a heavy emphasis on tracks from the latest album, some of which were great, some of which were less so. But really, its the hits, such as Scooby Snacks, The Fun Lovin' Criminal, Loco, Love Unlimited etc. that you go for, and you can't help but bounce along with the vibe.

I could have done without the Al Green cover "Let's Stay Together", which really was a bit crap, but other than that it is impossible to have many complaints about another great evening of entertainment.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Laura Veirs - Year Of Meteors

A Seattle based folk musician, whose first four albums managed to completely pass me by, doing a loosely based concept album about travelling on the road doesnt't sound like much of a thing, but fear not. Laura Veirs is the girl who "put an enema into folk music" in the words of one critic.

For the first thing, whilst it is clearly allegorical in terms of the "travelling tales" idea, you wouldn't know it without deeper inspection of the lyrics. The setting is an eerie world, with unsuspected imagery drawing the listener in. Veirs sees the universe through a prism of eels, spiders, homing pigeons and snakes and yet I, for one, never sat back thinking "what the hell is she on about?"

Of course, all this may still be failling to convince anyone to whom "folk music" is a dirty phrase. Well be assured that "Galaxies" adds a layer of fuzzy guitars (that's the technical term you know) and synthesisers whilst "Black Gold Blues" turns out more like something the likes of Liz Phair or Sheryl Crow would come up with than a "folk musician".

But no matter what arrangements play behind her, its the voice that constantly grabs your attention. Constantly knowing, articulate and hauntingly beautiful throughout, always drawing the listener in deeper and deeper with each play.

Icon's View - 4 1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Dandy Warhols - Odditorium or The Warlords of Mars

I read it somewhere that every great band does a bad album at some point in their careers. This may well be the Dandy Warhols effort on that score.

You can always rely on the Dandy's for a good single or two, and lead single "Smoke It" doesn't disappoint. "All The Money or the Simple Life Honey" and "Down With Disco" are two other songs which would comfortably sit up there in a best of... collection. But after this, it is rapidly downhill.

"Love Is The New Feel Awful" is a great opening track, for two and a half minutes. The problem is that the track goes on for nearly 10 minutes, disintergrating into a pseudo jam session. Close in spirit to the ethos of the Dandy's live shows it may be, but on record, with skipping facility I doubt even hardened fans will listen to it all for a second time. It's pure musical heaven though compared to the closing track "A Loan Tonight", which meanders on for nearly 12 minutes to no discernable effect.

When this album is good, its bloody brilliant, but sadly it isn't good often enough. They've reverted back to the languid, sprawling sound of their debut album (Dandy's Rule Ok) yet without the hazy charm that shone through on that effort. The Dandy's have always been clouded by their apparent emptiness, but usually there's enough smart, slick and slighltly smug genius to over-shadow on it. On this occasion, the balance has tipped the wrong way.

Icon's View - 2 1/2 out of 5.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Fun Lovin Criminals - Livin In The City

First of all, let me get my bias out of the way. Huey Morgan is, in my opinion, THE coolest man on the planet. There is no shaking my belief in that fact, so don't even try. But still, I am more than prepared to admit that FLC haven't always hit the mark. Come Find Yourself remains their high point, 9 years after it's release, and whilst 2003's Welcome To Poppy's album was somewhat of a (patchy) return to form, 100% Coumbian was half genius, half retread and the less said about Loco the better.

The bad news is that Come Find Yourself STILL remains the greatest collection of FLC's career...the good news is that Livin In The City is definately their best since then. "Mi Corazon" is their best single since Big Night Out and "That Ain't Right" could comfortably sit on Come Find Yourself. There are also some surprises, such as the piano driven "Gave Up On God" and "How It Be", which brilliantly switches pace halfway through. Sadly there is some drivel, but nothing as bad as the low-points of Loco, which were very low indeed.

If you don't like FLC, then this album will do nothing to change your mind; it preaches to the converted 100%. But whilst sticking to what you are good at might not win too much critical acclaim, it has resulted in a very entertaining album which is a must for any one who has ever liked more than one FLC song.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tennant/Lowe - Battleship Potemkin

What could possibly be better than my favourite band ever (no sarcasm there) doing a soundtrack to the greatest flim ever made EVER (slight saracsm there)? Well a fair bit actually.

First things first though, what other "pop" act would have been asked to undertake such a task? None that I can think of. Battleship Potemkin is one of the silent cinema's most celebrated films and given the boys fondess for playing with Russian imagery (the "from Lake Geneva to the Finland station " line in West End Girls charts Lenin's route back into Russia from exile in April 1917 - SEE, you learn some stuff in these reviews too) it seems as ideal a match as you are likely to get.

The end result is good rather than great, and needless to say it pretty much loses the point of the exercise to listen to the music as a stand-alone piece. There are only two "songs" on the collection as such, the best being No Time For Tears, but where these fall into the overall PSB cannon, i.e. about halfway down the list at best, tells you all you need to know.

This isn't a bad record, and it is an interesting exercise, but it falls someway short of being a great record. Still as something to tide over until the next proper PSB album (due in 2006) it just about does its job.

Icon's View - 3 out of 5.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Supergrass - Roud To Rouen

You're always in trouble when reviews of a band's new album continually focus on a band's new found maturity. That usually means that the band have jettisoned all that made them great to listen to in the first place in favour of a duller sound. And whilst this is not entirely true when it comes to Road To Rouen, its clear that the youthful exuberance that once fuelled Supergrass has long gone.

As ever though, with a new Supergrass album comes a new classic single to devour. This time its the delightful St.Petersburg which sounds delightfully Beatles-esque, and deserved to be a far bigger hit than it was. Other highlights include Kick In The Teeth, and the delightful Sad Girl.

Kicking in at around 35 minutes, this is a concise album which threatens something wonderful and falls just short. Credit should be given for Supergrass resisting the temptaion to release "another" In It For The Money or I Should Coco, but however much we credit them for evolving their sound, you can't quite escape the fact that they just don't manage to pull it off 100%. And if you are going to alienate large swathes of your fan base, your new direction has to result in a killer album. This, sadly, isn't quite it.

Icon's View - 3 out of 5.

Editors - The Back Room

Most critics are at pains to point out how heavily influenced by The Cure, Echo And The Bunnymen and Joy Division the Editors are. Well, I've never been a fan of any of those three acts and, to be honest, have never really took the time to check out much of their stuff (as brief initial forays left me cold) so I can come to The Back Room with a completely clear palete.

Initially this reminded me a little bit of Nirvana. Not in the sense that the music sounds anything like Kurt Cobain's grunge masters, but there is definately that knack of twinning catchy choruses with dark and brooding sentiments.

The one problem is that whilst the album starts off with a blast, the first five or six tracks could be taken off some long standing group's Greatest Hits collection, the rest of the album can't quite match up to this early promise, as if the inspiration has run a bit dry. It's by no means an awful second half, but its the musical equivalent of taking a two or three goal lead in the first half and then just settling back into a comfortable stroll after half time, safe in the knowledge that the match is already won. Still, there is enough here to suggest that the early promise could be molded into something very special indeed next time around.

Icon's View - 3 out of 5.

Stars - Set Yourself On Fire

First things first, lets acknowledge the the obvious comparisons with Arcade Fire, another Canadian band currently wowing the critics and the fans. There is definately the same grandiose and epic imagery on this album that there is on Funeral, but whereas Arcade Fire can be very dark, Stars take, on the surface, a much breezier approach, with more of a "pop" feel to this album.

We start off with the sublime "Your Ex Lover Is Dead" which set up the almost conversational element of the album, with lyrics which tell a story more eloquently than half of the novels currently taking up the bestseller lists. The sheer breadth of arrangements on the album is also striking; the title track breezes by in a whirlwind of strings whereas Reunion almost personifies perfect guitar pop. And no matter what instruments are playing, the quality of the songs remains the same.

Much like the recent effort from Goldfrapp, Stars never lose sight of the fact that it is the melodies that make a great pop song. And the result in a charismatic, energetic set of tunes, which cannot fail to delight anyone with a keen ear for a killer melody. It really does seem that Arcade Fire have a true contender for their crown of Canada's greatest band.

Icon's view - 4 1/2 out of 5.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Anna Nalick - Wreck Of The Day

Well surprise suprise that I should be drawn to a rather attractive piece of teasely that plays the piano... :D

Anyway, such concerns are not relevant here, the point is whether or not the album is any good...? And for the most part it is. Definately striking for the same kind of sound you would expect from Tori Amos or Fiona Apple, this is a very good album indeed, all the more satisfying considering it is a debut, and Anna recorded it at the age of 21.

However, as it is a debut, she seems to have been rail-roaded into the occasional over-production of tracks when it seems clear that her voice is more suited to more subtle, paired-down surroundings. Hit US single Breath (2 Am) is the kind of song that should have been a huge success over here (being as it is about 300 times better than the warblings of James Blunt) whereas Citadel aims to match the best that Fiona Apple has, and very nearly succeeds in doing so. The standount tracks however are Paper Bag and Satellite, both of which add a bit more tempo to proceedings and have the kind of sing-a-long choruses that Radio 2 listeners seem to love.

The album does petre out towards the end (save the sublime Catalyst) but even so, for a debut album this is a wonderful slice of piano driven pop. It augurs well for the future.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5

Friday, August 26, 2005

Goldfrapp - Supernature

Black Cherry certainly was a critically acclaimed album, but the fact was that only Strict Machine and Train really stood out as blinding tracks. Lead single "Ooh La La" (which would have been number one for years if Kylie had done it) was a clear indicator that we were in for more of the same, but thankfully the overall quality of this album is markedly higher than Black Cherry, and suggests that the time might indeed be now for Goldfrapp to really break out.

This is one of those albums where everything seems to remind you of something else (Number 1 sounds a lot like Blondie for instance) and yet the record remains fresh and unique in many ways. A lot of that is down to Alison Goldfrapp's breathy and sensual vocals, which come into their own on tracks such as Fly Me Away.

Although I think some critics have been a little over-keen to lavish this album with praise, it's still a remarkable piece of work, which never forgets that the secret of a good pop tune is that fact that it indeed has a memorable tune. There is enough on here to suggest that Goldfrapp will be riding high in the charts for some time to come.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5

Weezer LIVE

The Xav man was back in da hizzoouse for the long awaited chance to see the one and only Weezer in concert, and what a night it was too. The mega rich Xavi got me my tea in that nice pub whose name I can't remember for a start. The burger tasted like one of those in a "100 for £1" packs you get, and the barmcake was a bit stale, but bloody hell, the Onion Rings were bloody gorgeous.

Then it was over the road, just in time to catch the support act, the rather fabulous Nine Black Alps. Ok, so it's as if Nirvana never died (well Kurt Cobain) but if you like that kind of thing then they are bloody good at it. And I truly like that kind of thing. Looking forward to seeing them headline their own show later in the year.

Then it was onto the main event. Walking onto the strains of When You Wish Upon A Star, Rivers and the boys then proceeded to spend the next 90 minutes blowing the crowd away with a stream of classics. There was none of that "we must promote the most recent album" malarkey here (only 4 tracks off Make Believe, and two of them were singles of course), instead they treated us to tracks from right across the board.

Particular highlights for me were Say It Ain't So (my favourite Weezer song EVER I think), Buddy Holly, We Are All On Drugs, Undone - The Sweater Song, El Scorchio...hell it was ALL top notch. Add in Rivers solo acoustic version of Island In The Sun - PERFORMED ON TOP OF THE FUCKING BAR!!!! AND RIGHT IN FRONT OF US!!!- and him having to crowd surf his way back to the stage, and you have what was, quite simply, an absolutely AWESOME night. I was singing so much and so loudly that I virtually lost my voice. A definate contender for gig of the year!

Plus, I was able to purchase a freaking awesome green Weezer sweatband - and a big WHATEVER to that mardy bitch at the bar who thought it was the height of sadness for me to be wearing it - and what must be one of the finest Tee's ever, the soon to be classic WEEZER - ROCKIN' THE BITCHES SINCE 1994 shirt, and you have the icing on the cake!


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

New Stuff On The Way

It's been a while, but some new reviews are on the way in the next few days. So strap in and get ready for the following....

Stars - Set Yourself On Fire
Anna Nalick - Wreck Of The Day
Supergrass - Road To Rouen
Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft
Goldfrapp - Supernature

And of course, the Weezer concert review will be up in due course :D

Take care my friends, until the next time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Supergrass LIVE

Or not as the case may be. Ill health (via hospital stay) meant I was unable to make this one. By all accounts it was good, but I am seeing them later in the year in all their electric glory so all is not lost.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Raveonettes - Pretty In Black

Well this is a CD which will go down in the varied history of CD purchases as the CD I bought purely because it had four extra bonus tracks on it. Honestly. I hadn't heard a Raveonettes song before, and I really did look at the cd case and think "wow, four bonus tracks...that's really good value" and that is why I bought it.

But anyway, what of the end result? Surprisingly good as it turns out. There is very much a 50's pop feel to this and to me there is often the feel that the songs would play off wonderfully in a David Lynch or Quentin Tarrantino production (and yes, I do mean that as a compliament :D ).

Here Comes Mary sounds like the Everley Brothers at their best, Twilight had the amazingly funny moment upon hearing for the first time (before knowing the name of the tune) of thinking this sounds like the Twlight Zone theme and bonus track Black Wave is the kind of haunting melody that sticks in your brain immediately.

The standouts for me are Ode To LA (in which the Phil Spector sound is aided by Mr Spector himself on backing vocals) and Love In A Trashcan, with its handclaps (and boy, do I love handclaps).

I can take or leave the cover versions (Everyday, I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, My Boyfriend's Back) which really only have comedy value and some of the tracks are too samey, but for an impulse buy this is pretty good stuff and a welcome addition to my CD collection.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Aimee Mann - LIVE

She's been flying solo now for 12 years and at last The Dean gets to see Aimee Mann in concert and back at the old favourite Manchester Academy too. A nice warm up to proceedings saw me kick Gee's ass as the golf game in the pub opposite, and copious amounts of alcohol were drunk leading to a real feel good atmosphere, which rarely subsided throughout Miss Mann's classy set.

Ok, so there was a bit too much of an over-reliance on stuff from new album The Forgotten Arm (but hey, I've been going to concerts long enough now to know the score), but there was very few songs which didn't sweep you off your feet. And to boot she did my absolute favourite (Driving Sideways) AND also the Big Gee's fave (Amateur) as well. In fact most of her solo albums were well represented, and it is perhaps a sign of her class that songs from right across her back catalogue were warmly received.

This was, quite simply, a top notch concert from a top notch talent and throw in a bit of Phil Collins :) and you have all the ingredients for a great musical night out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Charlotte Church - Tissues and Issues

Look, lets get the whole "Matt fancied Charlotte Church" six years ago thing out of the way before we go much further. I was mis-quoted. Well ok, not so much mis-quoted, more mis-interpreted...Ok, so mis-interpreted might be a bit, to hell with it, let's just move on before I dig the hole for myself any deeper.

Only the deaf (or pop pariah's) could deny the charms of Crazy Chick, with it's Mowton-tinged groove, and there is little doubt it my mind that it is one of the pop singles of the year so far. It also proves that Miss Church is more than capable of carrying a decent pop tune.

The problem seems to be that the pop industry has spent so long with artists that can't carry a tune, that they don't seem to know what to do with a girl who really can sing. The album starts with a bang. Call My Name is the kind of sexy pop song that Girls Aloud would do really well, the afformentioned Crazy Chick is a mini-classic, and Moodswings is that pop rarity - a ballad you don't need to skip. The problem is that it's pretty much downhill from thereon in.

Playing the "which songs were written with Guy Chambers" game is as easy as it always is, Let's Be Alone sounds like a blatant attempt to sound like Girls Aloud (and fails to come anywhere close to being as good) and after a while, young Charlotte's seemingly constant whinging about how bad her life gets can get a bit tiresome. Pop music is about fun and at times Charlotte would do well to remember that edict.

This is not the terrible album it could have been, but nor is it the blinding success that it perhaps could have been given Church's obvious talent. Memo to her record company...give her better songs to sing next time.

Icon's View - 3 out of 5.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Feist - Let It Die

Ok, so this was originally released in 2004 BUT i only bought it this year AND it is now being released in America for the first time. Which means that in this increasingly global community that we live in, this album counts as a new 2005 release for my collection.

The first thing that immediately strikes you when you put this CD on is her vocals. Aural booning indeed, at once sultry yet delicate. The next thing that hits you as you listen to the album is the vast range of styles that Feist can work within, yet always sounding fresh and original. That she has been compared to varied artists such as PJ Harvey and Norah Jones shows indeed that Fesit is not easily catergorised.

Highlights of the album include US Single "Mushaboom", a song so immediately catchy that McDonalds attempted to license it, and "Gatekeeper" which both accenuate the warm and mellow side of her personality. The pick of the bunch however are renditions of Ron Sexsmith's "Secret Heart" and the Bee Gee's "Inside And Out", the latter being what the Dean could only describe as being foxy.

Not everything on this varied collection works, but even the weaker tracks are emboldened by the feeling that this is an artist working on her own terms. This is the soundtrack to my summer, and is perfect for those long, hot days.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Tara Blaise - Dancing On Tables Barefoot

You would never guess upon listening to this album that the same bloke who discovered the Corrs also discovered young Tara. Ok, I jest. That thought may very well be the first thought you have when you listen to this album. It's got that polished gaelic charm that one would associate with the Corrs, but Tara is an artist in her own right, writing all her own lyrics and co-writing all the music.

When the songs are good, such as the summery The Three Degrees, which is sure to get copious Radio 2 airplay when it is released as a single in the near future, Later and Radio Star which is perhaps my particular favourite on the entire album, they are very good indeed. But far too often the arrangements drift into bland Terry Wogan Radio 2 territory and frankly some of the lyrics are not exactly relevatory or interesting.

This album will sell well, and does have a great summery feel, but unless a little more substance is introduced in her next effort, I cannot see the success continuing. If she takes a few more risks next time, she might come up with something really worth listening to. Still this is a good effort and certainly has more than enough to keep you going on a slow day. And a couple of the tracks are crackers. So hopefully the best is yet to come.

Icon's View - 2 1/2 out of 5

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Nouvelle Vague - Nouvelle Vague

As a concept Nouvelle Vague, a collection of two multi-instumentalists producers teaming up with French and Brazillian singers to reinterpret some classic songs in a bossanove stylee, is somewhere down there with the Mike Flowers Pops and seems like someone has set this up purely for a joke. But to dismiss this album as mere frivolity would be to do it a great dis-service.

Yes at times it is playful and will bring many a wry smile to the faces of those familar with the originals, but many of these songs could easily stand on their own feet without the weight of history behind them.

The joy in this collection is two-fold. You can delight at hearing new versions of some classics tunes you know and love (Love Will Tear Us Apart, Teenage Kicks) but you also have the excitement of rooting out the original versions of those tracks you haven't heard before (and shame on you for not having heard of them).

The picks of the bunch are the afforementioned Love Will Tear Us Apart (which rather surprisingly captures the hopelessness I always felt was prevalent in Joy Division's song), A Forest (giving the Cure classic a totally tropical taste - Copyright LILT) and Too Drunk To Fuck (which turns the somewhat dark Dead Kennedy's version completely on it's head).

Whilst not all the collection can reach these heights (and there is only so much of this style of music the Dean can take in one sitting) there are very few stinkers, with even the lesser tracks, such as Making Plans For Nigel, being perfectly pleasant, if somewhat instantly forgettable on occasions. Still this is a worthwhile purchase to say the least for those looking for something a little different.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Subways - Young For Eternity

Much hyped, and hotly anticpated, it was always a question of could the Subways debut long-player live up to two great singles (Rock And Roll Queen and the absolutely fan-bloody-tastic Oh Yeah) and wow across the board...the answer is not quite, but it's not bloody far off.

The two afformentioned singles both play off the tension between lead singer Billy and his lovely guitar playing girlfriend Charlotte and much like last year with the Von Blondies, I fail to see why more rock groups haven't gone for the male/female dynamic, which is totally underused. Sexual frission burns the air throughout this album, and it's all the better for it.

The two great singles are not the only highspots on the album; Lines Of Light slows things down somewhat, and remarkably doesn't bring the quality down, and Holiday, clocking in at a wonderful 1 minute 50 seconds, would be a punk rock hit in any era.

There are some duffer tracks in amongst all this, but for a band so young this is a remarkably strong debut and makes you salivate at what else might be in store in the future. It's brash, it's cocky and it's hormonal. You just have to hope "maturity" doesn't set in too near in the future...

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5

Arcade Fire - Funeral

Anyone who is anyone has told the world just how great this album is, which always fills me with a slight sense of dread. How can it possibly live up to the hype and even if I like it, will it just look like I am following a trend to be "hip."

Well screw any of you who would think that of me, because this is one record which proves the hype is totally justified AND is one that I would be failing in my duty not to shill just as much. The cracking single Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) is surely one of the tracks of the year so far with its rousing and uplifitng chorus, but it is by no means indicative of the whole album with only Rebellion (Lies) really matching the tempo of that.

But that's not to say that the rest of the abum is a disappointment. Neighbourhood #2 (Laika) is a song Franz Ferdinand would be proud of (if indeed decent lyrics were anywhere on their particular check list) and Neighbourhood #4 (7 Kettles) captures the mundane everyday existance yet makes it seem alive with passion and love.

As evidenced by the title, the making of Funeral was shrouded with death and despair (witness the dedication to recently departed familty members in the cd booklet - the song Une Annee Sans Lumiere sums this up as well) but this album does not leave a feeling of despair. If anything, it's underlying message is that love truly can conquer all. Let this album conquer you.

Icon's view - 4 1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Family Guy - Live In Vegas

Family Guy may well be the single most funniest programme of the last 10 years or so, and really does beat off the likes of The Simpsons and Futurama to certainly take the prize of best animated show of the moment. And much like the Simpsons before it, music has always been a big part of the shows; but can the Family Guy make the transformation to a full on musical extravaganza?

Including a 48 stong orchestra, all your favourite characters are here and it's certainly pant-wettingly funny in places. "Babysitting Is A Bum Deal" sees Stewie duet with Haylie (sister of Hilary) Duff and also was nearly responsible for me crashing my car with Stewie's "Go Fuck Yourselves" opening and Quagmire's sexual perversions are laid bare in the classic "The 'Q' Man Loves Nobody." Stewie and Brian's medly of 1980's Theme Tunes is hilariously funny too (The Different Strokes and Golden Girls themes are worth the price of admission alone) but the show-stealer has to be "All Cartoons Are Fucking Dicks" where the likes of Barney Rubble and Elmer Fudd's supposed faux pa's are laid wide open by the whole Family Guy crew, and guest star Jason Alexander.

Not all the jokes hit the spot, and there are a couple of Lois and Peter songs which only raise a mild chuckle, but overall this is a dangerously funny "show" which no Family Guy fan should miss. As ever, Stewie and Brian are the stars, and even Mr Hubert makes a welcome appearance. As always with these comedy music albums, it's debatable whether six months down the line that this will be quite as funny as it is now, but this is a wonderful stop gap until Season 4 hits our shores.

Icon's View - 3 1/2 out of 5.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers

First things first, lets get the "they don't look like your average pop stars" bit out of the way. Ok, so they may not, but then The Magic Numbers are hardly appealing to those music buyers who place a great importance on "image" anyway.

There has, and indeed IS, a great deal of fuss surrounding this quartet but, sad to say, my first reaction upon hearing the album was more "what's the fuss?" Still, you have to give these things time, but here we are, two weeks down the line and the album still strikes me as decidely average.

First of all the flowery "summer" attitude of the whole thing starts to get annoying about three or four tracks in, and secondly whilst the harmonies certainly impress (until you get sick of hearing them over and over again), there isn't much else that does. "Forever Lost" is a good single, and Long Legs is pleasant enough, but really the album is the same old, same old, and not very good same old at that.

So if you're in need of a summer lift-up, this might work in the short-term, but there is just not enough of interest, and not enough variation to sustain the interest. Much like The Thrills found out second time around, The Magic Numbers routine might not pack anywhere near the same punch. They should enjoy the adulation whilst it lasts.

Icon's View - 2 out of 5

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Suzanne Vega & Nerina Pallot LIVE

AKA, Dean and Gee's Summer Holiday trip to Coventry! :D

Anyways, yet another stacked and loaded tour date on the resume, held on the lovely campus of the University of Warwick...which isn't actually in Warwick, but is in Coventry. Which is strange, but hey! As this contained a support act who was worthwhile, lets tackle them seperately.

Last time out, Nerina's set was somewhat ruined by drunken Scousers and Irishmen prattling on rather rudely during her songs (although I don't include that nice Irish family who let me to the front to take some pictures in that) but here, in somewhat more sedate surrounding of the Butterworth Hall, the atmosphere was much more respectful. And, quite frankly, it's difficult to imagine anyone sat in the theatre not being a fan of Nerina after her bloody awesome performance here. Solo, with only a guitar or a piano for company, Nerina's star quality shone through, as evidenced by the frankly obscene queue for her little meet and greet after her set. And by the wonders of modern technology here is the set list...

All Good People
Geek Love
Mr. King
My Last Tango

A nice selection from both of her albums, and substantially different from last time out (which is always a good thing). The highlights for me were Geek Love (which quite frankly is perhaps my favourite song of 2005 so far) and Damascus, which never really was one of my favourites...although it certainly is now. So really, I cannot eulogise enough about how great Nerina was, and I felt like a proud parent afterwards watching everyone battle it out to get hold of her CD before it sold out. Mind you, that's the kind of thing that would peg me as the stalker Nerina probably now thinks I am. Ah well...

So onto the main event, and although my patient wait to get my picture taken with Nerina meant I missed three quarters of the opening song Marlene On The Wall, which just happens to be my favourite songs of hers...anyway, that couldn't be helped. Considering how few of her songs I thought I knew beforehand, there seemed to be something reassuringly familiar with a quite a few of the tracks she did. Not that this was a night solely dedicated to the hits as she took the opportunity to unveil some new tracks. Some new tracks that were so new that she had to have lyric sheets in front of her to remember all the words! All I can really say is that Suzanne Vega was a revelation and, despite not having ever purchased any of her records in my entire life I am wholeheartedly looking forward to her next album. And I think it is time to peruse t'internet for her back catalogue. So yes, this was bloody brilliant as well, and special mention to the midget Greg Rusedski on bass guitar :D

So really what more could I ask for from a concert than what I got here? I tell you, I'm dreading December coming around and having to formulate a "best of" list, because this was yet another top notch crew concert.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Yes, I am the kind of sad person who thinks a discussion of this nature IS a worthwhile way of allocating my time! So here it is, all the videos, from "worst" to best, and with a "Most Valuable Girl" (an MVG) award for each one too! :D

8) Sound Of The Underground
Look, I'll come clean. I don't really like this song. And I don't really like the video all that much. To be honest if, on the basis of this ONE song, they'd done what is known in the trade as a "One True Voice" I don't think I'd have missed them. I mean really, they don't look half as nice in this as they do these days do they? MVG: Nadine. It's the legs.
7) Life Got Cold
This always reminds me of that Oasis one where they are on the bus. Not that other than the bus thing there is any correlation between the two video's, but come on, you love these little pointless nuggets of my train of thoughts don't you? This is an alright song, and an alright video, but nothing special. MVG: Sarah. For reasons I probably best not go into...
6) Love Machine
Now here is where it gets bloody stupid. This is a book of the dick video, as are all from hereon in, but hey, if you are going to rank the videos you have to make some tough decisions. And here it's just some small imperfections that knock this out of the top 5. Why on earth would Cheryl even be interested in that Double Bass player who looks as if he is in his 40's? And I'm sorry if you find her entry into the World Gurning Championships appealing, but I think she just looks stupid. Plus look at her orange tan!!! Needless to say I don't think this is Ms Tweedy's finest hour. MVG: Kimberly. That pink dress leaves little to the imagination, but crucially it leaves just enough to the imagination!
5) I'll Stand By You
Another song I'm not overly keen on, but there is no denying the charms of the video. I shan't repeat Gee's thoughts about the sand getting everywhere on here...Still I don't see why they are on a "beach" for this one, but then again, these things don't have to make sense do they? MVG: Cheryl. Oh you know why... :D
4) No Good Advice
Now this is where the love affair started. This is just a cracking song and the Spice Force Five parrallels simply cannot be ignored. Although funnily enough, the Girls look better in the two videos above, but there is just something about this one that I love. MVG: Nadine. I love the fact that she is just so bad at doing the dance moves.
3) Jump
I am of course referring to the video sans Monseuir Grant. This is a fun track with a suitable fun video, and it of course has the most blatant lesbian come-on bits in a mainstream pop video ever. You know the bits I mean fellas, although the mere fact that the five of them are prancing about on a bed is sign enough of what I'm going on about. MVG: Bloody hell, this is a tough one. Nadine in the backless schizz...Tweedy's C.A.T. on display...Kimberly looking hot as fook in that Harley Davidson top thing...Sarah and Nicola looking like they're from some lesbian track meet team...ooh, what to decide. Well, i shall plump for Kimberly.
2) Wake Me Up
Ha ha. Oh my god, what a video this is. Superb. Girls on Motorbikes...what an idea that was. There is something quite sexual about that idea isn't there? MVG: You know what I am going to say here don't you...come on, you can't really expect me to look past Nadine's "glad to see that you're still sugar" booby shake can you? Throw in the Asda price ass slapping and there is no contest here.
1) The Show
Well there had to be a winner, and this is it. Truth be told, after the first album, whilst I liked Girls Aloud, it wasn't an obsession, but this funky "comeback" single was just one of the finest slices of 21st Century pop I'd ever heard, and just like that I was in love. And then i saw the bloody video and I was in Boon-heaven!!! This is funny, sassy, funky...well lets just say it is absolutley bloody brilliant and be done with it! MVG: Geesus, what to decide here. Cheryl is at her finest here and you have to love Sarah's laughing at the end, but as depressingly predicatable as it may be to you, I shall have to plump for Nadine again. It's the cherry thing really...:D