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.