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

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Dido - Live At Brixton DVD (and CD)

Well the lovely Dido, who gave us one of the best concerts of 2004 now releases a great value for money CD/DVD set of one of said live dates. It has to be said that visually, a Dido concert is hardly an extravaganza, but musically Dido shows here that she is much more exciting and vital than most people would tend to give her credit for. Highlights of the show are Take My Hand (although it does give me nightmares of Gee singing "Take My Hand" over and over again on the way back from her concert last year) and Life For Rent. So basically, if you are a fan of Dido, get this. And if you're not, but think you might be, then get it as well. And if you're not a fan at all, still get it and be amazed at how good she is.

REM (and guests) LIVE

Well it's been a long time since I went to something like this, but there we were, sat in the humid atmosphere of Lancashire County Cricket Ground to see four of Dave's favourite bands. I'll get to the main eventers in due course, but here is a complete run through.

IDLEWILD - I found myself pleasently surprised at just how many of their tunes I knew. And even the ones I didn't know passed by quite well. They're not world-beaters, and are hardly likely to ever be so, but this set proved that they are good at what they do...and there is nothing wrong with that. Bring on the Greatest Hits CD... :D

THE ZUTONS - I still think they are striving too hard to be "quirky" but they do have some killer tunes in their locker. The ones I'd heard of before seemed to be the best of the bunch, but the band did bring an enthusiasm to the gig that was hard to resist. I still don't care what some people say though, that saxsophonist is not all that fit. Nice yes, but let's keep a sense of perspective dudes.

FEEDER - The disappointment of the day for me. There didn't seem to be any fire in the boys and too many of their songs are just too average to me to stand out. On a couple of songs I was enjoying it, but overall not the live act that I would expect.

REM - There is no denying that Michael Stipe and the boys are one hell of a live act. Personally the set list was not what I would have picked, but then for a band who's been going for over 20 years they cannot please everyone all of the time can they? Still, just for the likes of Man In The Moon, Losing My Religion and To The One I Love, REM are a band you simply must take the time out to see once in your life.

So overall, a great day out. But there was little on show that would make me want to see any of the four acts in concert again.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Foo Fighters - In Your Honour

Oh Dave, what have you done? I tried to keep the faith that a 2 cd album (one "loud", one "not so loud") would be a great move, I really did, but when it comes to it, it's not.

This is as if someone has annoyed the Foo Fighters by saying they've nothing new to say so they've decided that a 2 cd set will show all the doubters. Well all it shows me is that Dave Grohl isn't quite the genius he probably thinks he is, and he certainly isn't the genius I was hoping he was.

Thing is, with the exception of the unbeatable Color And Shape, Foo Fighters albums have always been patchy affairs but at least in the past the good has outweighed the bad. This time we aren't so lucky.

The "rock" selection bascially dispenses with any kind of tune you might actually nod along to in favour of "earnest" rantings and loud guitars. I seriously struggle to name a stand out track. Some are passable, one or two even reach the heights of "alright" but most are mediocre.

The "acoustic" selection is, to be fair, better than I thought it might turn out to be, but that still doesn't leave it as being any good, with only the Norah Jones featuring "Virginia Moon" being of any real usefulness.

This is not an awful album, but then again it's not a very good one either. There is just not enough that stands out, and there are just far too many songs that will become piss-breaks when the Foo's next hit an arena near you. Come on Dave, please sort yourself out in time for the next album.

Icon's View - 2 out of 5.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

THE BEST OF...Ben Folds (including BFF)

Ok, so after the wonderful concert here is my list of my 10 favourite Ben Folds tracks...which probably will be competely different this time tommorrow :D

10) Landed
His latest single, (rock on for Radio 2's airplay of it), and truly one of his all-time classics. This has been known to make me cry (actually it did today as a matter of fact) although it is very uplifting in many ways.
9) Mess
Another of the more mellower ones in the cannon, this one hits home because I can relate to the feelings behind this one.
8) Rockin' The Suburbs
Fuck you Limp Bizkit. Well at least that's what this makes me think of when I hear it. What's more I can remember that prick Zane Lowe getting all arsey about this tune because it took the piss out of his beloved earnest rock music, so that's Tommy Two Thumbs fresh for this one.
7) Emaline
Obviously I've never known a girl called Emaline, but this is another one I can SO relate to. Well at least in what I think its about anyway. Sometimes I do indeed wish it was last September. Well not literally, but you see what I mean.
6) Song For The Dumped
Ha ha. You have to love this one. This is superb in both the original version and the slowed down solo live version.
5) The Battle Of Who Could Care Less
I remember watching MTV one day and they showed a clip of the video to this, with all the funny angles, and then they showed an interview with BFF at some house and then in walked the Kate, of Kate fame. But anyway, this song is where the love affair started.
4) Brick
Oh the tales. I remember Jonathan King being on GMTV and saying that if there was any justice in the world this song would be number one for weeks. Alas it wasn't. But this is haunting, and another one that makes me cry at times.
3) Where's Summer B?
Just a classic pop tune. What else can I say?
2) The Last Waltz
Brilliant, just bloody brilliant. Slightly barbed lyrics as well for such a nice melody.
1) Smoke
Truth be told this is one I skipped past for about the first two years I had the Whatever & Ever Amen album, but one proper listen was enough to captivate me. I can honestly imagine that this song is me and some woman arguing the toss about a relationship. It is that personal to me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nine Black Alps - Everything Is

The much anticpated debut album from Nine Black Alps finally hits the shelf, and it's as if Kurt Cobain never left us. There is little subtlety in these 12 songs. The band obviously love the whole Nirvana "Grunge" thing, and have set out in making a collection jam packed of the kind of music that would sit side-by-side with Nevermind, without ever threatening to reach the heights of musical genius of that particular classic.

Derivative it may be, but if that kind of music is your thing, you will find much to rock out to on this great album. Singles "Not Everyone" and "Shot Down" are mini-classics, but my personal favourite is "Ironside", which sadly has nothing to do with Raymond Burr but is a sub-3 minute slice of power pop that Dave Grohl would do well to replicate these days.

The pace is ferrocious (with only "Behind Your Eyes" slowing proceedings down at any stage) but Nine Black Alps have thankfully realised that making "loud" music doesn't neccessarily mean that the tunes and melodies have to go missing as well. Much like Cobain, Nine Black Alps probably wont appreciate talk of pop "sensibilities", but that's exactly what they have. And long may they continue in that vein.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Girls Aloud - Girls On Film DVD

Ok, so this is actually a load of old tosh if one really considers it, but honestly this DVD is just 90 minutes of wonderful boon-tastic entertainment. It's got all the videos (which I shall rank in a seperate post in due course ;) ), the rather wonderful "Show" MTV programme and a few other TV performances and behind the scenes schizzle...who could ask for more?

It's worth it just for the guacamole incident :D

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Ben Folds LIVE

It was a long time coming (it's six months since Mr Folds should have graced these shores) but in the end, this was well and truly worth the wait. A last minute work committment meant that young Xavier could not join the party as planned, which meant that Caroline (or Deviate if you like) had the honour of being a part of the 50th ever concert that me and Gee have been to together. And apart from her swearing outburst at me whilst having a drink ( :D ) she was great company. And I suppose even me and Gee were preferable company for her to a weird looking American unappropriately dressed in unfashionable shorts.

Ben was on top form as he rattled through most of the highlights of his two solo albums (although on a couple of occasions there were too many "slow" songs following each other for my liking - a minor gripe I know, but hey...) with his band before settling down to his piano and playing requests. Some old Ben Folds Five favourites were pounded out (including Brick - which welled up tears in my eyes), the highlight of which was probably Army, complete with the conducted sing-a-long. Then the band came back out and they rattled out some more top quality tunes.

It's hard to fault this concert. At nearly two and a half non-stop hours of great tunes, who could ask for more. Most of the favourites were there (Landed, One Angry Dwarf, The Last Waltz, Where's Summer B? I could go on and on), and he'd have to play for seven or eight hours to do ALL the songs you would like to hear. Quite simply Ben Folds is a musical genius, and I simply can't wait until next time.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Sons And Daughters - The Repulsion Box

Last year's Love The Cup EP was excellent, so it was with great anticpation that I took delivery of Sons and Daughters first long-player.

The first thing that sprung to mind was just how "Franz Ferdinand" they've become in some senses, although ultimately Sons and Daughters are unique and fresh and inhabit a world entirely of their own. Single "Dance Me In" is a joyous and highly sexually charged sing-a-long, "Medicine" is sparse and almost tribal and "Choked" higlights the sparring vocals of Adele Bethal (who, it has to be said, sound extremely sexy) and Scott Paterson to their fullest effect.

10 songs lasting barely over half an hour in total, but not a second of that half and hour is wasted or boring and the sheer spread of styles and sounds is amazing. Some call them the "new Franz Ferdinand" but in all probability the songs are too dark and gothic and too far removed from the "pop" of the Top 40 for Sons and Daughters to scale those heights. Nevertheless this is a stunning collection which will enchant all those that listen to it.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Subways LIVE

Or not as the case may be, as this was cancelled. "This date should never have been labelled as a Subways headline gig" said the band. Then why the hell was it then? The more I think about it, the more I think they never had any intention of playing this and it was merely a trick to get you to watch the other bands on the line-up. Bah humbug!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Kraftwerk - Maximum Minimum

Damn that Vince McMahon for booking WrestleMania 20 for the approximate time that Kraftwerk were in the UK for their first tour for donkey's years (and probably their last knowing my luck). But there is a god, with the release of this superlative 2 cd collection of choice cuts from the whole of their 2004 tour.

This set is pretty much a live greatest hits collection from one of my favourite bands ever. And the remarkable thing is how fresh the music sounds. It's difficult to comprehend that most of the tracks on this collection were written over 20 years ago, yet could be brought up to date by the original artists in such a thrilling manner.

All their best stuff is here, including killer versions of The Man Machine, The Model, Trans-Europe Express, Autobahn and, most impressively of all, The Robots. This is, quite simply, a superb collection from one of the most infulential bands in history, and you only hope that some new material will come from them soon which lives up to this impressive legacy.

Icon's View - 5 out of 5

The Irresistable Cathy Dennis

Not a new release, but deserving of a mention nonetheless. Cathy Dennis was the first woman to adorn my bedroom wall. I remember cutting out a picture of her from the Daily Mirror and pinning it to the wall at the side of my bed...

Anyway, this is a wonderful little trek down memory lane. Cathy had 11 top 40 hits (although criminally the two tracks she recorded with D'Mob aren't included on here - my bet is publishing issues) over a period of 8 years, although looking back she probably wasn't as successful as a) I thought she was and b) she deserved.

Essential tracks include the debut solo single Touch Me (All Night Long), Just Another Dream, and my personal favourite You Lied To Me (which was produced by one-time Madonna cohort Shep Pettibone, which explains it's Madonna-ian sound 13 years on :D).

There is some rubbish tossed in amongst the good tunes, but for a bargain price of £3.33, you can't really complain about this collection. It's a reminder of how underrated Cathy Dennis still is, and a clue as to how she can knock out quality pop tunes such as Toxic and Can't Get You Out Of My Head today.

Icon's View - 3 out of 5

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Kasey Chambers - Wayward Angel

The idea of an Australian Country and Western singer doesn't sound all that appealing, but those willing to look past prejudices and take a listen will find much to impress in Kasey's third solo album. Whilst not as striking as The Captain and Barricades and Brickwalls, mainly due to the fact that stylistically this album is ploughing the fields planted by those two albums, this is still a quality Country-rock collection, albeit straying a bit more to the "traditional" side of things than she has previously recorded.

Each songs seems to be a quality story in itself, with Chambers singing from many different perspectives, from that of a child in "Pony" to that of an eldery gentleman in "Paper Aeroplane". Indeed it seems that Kasey is hitting top form in terms of her skills as a songwriter.

Despite the songs being sung from these different perspectives, there is the feeling that Kasey is baring her own soul on this quality collectiong and the busy, but at the same time uncluttered, musical background adds to this feeling. She'll probably never be seen as a "major" star, but trust me, Kasey Chambers is every bit the superstar.

Icon's View - 4 out of 5.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Rachael Yamagata - Happenstance

Rachael is a lady who has been around for quite some time, but is only now officially releasing her debut album here in the UK. It comes sufficiently hyped up, but can it live up to that hype? Well the answer is almost.

First things first. If you are one of those people still anxiously awaiting the next Fiona Apple album, then Happenstance will quite easily fill that gap for now, and that is exactly the kind of music fan that this colllection is targeted at. Tracks such as Letter Read and Meet Me By The Water sound so much like Fiona Apple that if you heard them on the radio unsolicited you would think it was Apple herself.

There is slightly more to Rachael than that, but again it is comparisons being made with other artists. She has the smokey echo's of Norah Jones coming through in places, and Wear Me Down sounds like U2 if they were fronted by a woman.

It seems a bit churlish to compare Rachael to a multitude of other artists, but as evidenced by the sticker on the cover, these comparisons are being used to draw potential new fans in. Whilst this is a classy collection of great (and sometimes excellent) songs, there is still the nagging feeling that Yamagata has yet to truly find a sound of her own. But then again, this fine collection will more than pass the time until she does.

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