Friday, March 31, 2006

Concert List Update

The ones in RED have been and gone

11th Feburary - Jenny Lewis - Manchester Academy 3
27th February - Editors - Manchester Academy
1st March - Fun Lovin' Criminals - Liverpool Academy
2nd March - Gemma Hayes - Liverpool Academy 3
9th March - The Like - Manchester Academy 3
18th March - Sugababes - Liverpool Philarmonic Hall
30th March - Depeche Mode - MEN Arena, Manchester

20th April - Giant Drag - Night & Day Cafe, Manchester
23rd April - Jenny Lewis - The Lowry, Salford
25th April - Flaming Lips - Apollo, Manchester
28th April - Buddy (the musical)- The Lowry, Salford
22nd May - Divine Comedy - Manchester MDH
27th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
30th May - Nerina Pallot - The Lowry, Salford
2nd July - Pet Shop Boys - Summer Pops, Liverpool

Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet

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15 tracks in a little over half an hour...these guys certainly don't hang about. Which in it's own little way is very much a good thing.

This is the sound of teenage America, but could really be from the point of view of any teenager. BYOP are not for grand statements on the state of the universe (not yet anyway); this, rather exhilarating, album is more concerned with those unimportant things that nevertheless take on great importance when you're young. Take the following line from Bog... "I want a kitty cat my boyfriend wants a dog, We got into a fight I drowned him in the bog" ...hardly Bono espousing on the latest crisis is it?

But really, you're unlikely to pay too much attention to the lyrics anyway. The comparisons to Yeah Yeah Yeahs are obvious (if not entirely fair) and this is unlikely to be an album kicking up a storm on Radio 2 anytime in the near future. However, if you can stand the noise, October First Account being one of the rare melodic exceptions to the general rule here, and are looking for a punky, exciting blast of fun, you could do much worse than check this out.

Sure after a while everything seems to blend into one, but overall this is a dynamic and exciting record which deserves to be heard.

Liz Phair - Somebody's Miracle

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Poor old Liz. She got sick of not selling very many records so hooked up with The Matrix for 2003's eponymous effort...and promptly didn't sell many records whilst at the very same time alienating her core fanbase to an alarming degree.

I for one enjoyed Liz Phair, not least because if we are to be subjected to Lavigne-esqe rock on every corner it might as well be from someone who knows what they are doing and can supply the lyrical edge missing from so much of the banal "by the numbers" rock we get force-fed these days.

The problem is that Somebody's Miracle is more of the same, except without the, dare I say it, novelty value that her previous effort had.

That's not to say that I didn't (or don't) enjoy it. Indeed in a funny kind of way it's exactly the kind of record I would have preferred from Sheryl Crow instead of the somewhat lamentable Wildflower. Tracks like Leap Of Innoncence and Got My Own Thing are perfectly catchy mainstream pop songs, however at times Phair's limitations are all too apparent. Her voice simply isn't suited to the over-produced sound evident here and, worse, the album even makes Phair sound boring, which long time fans know couldn't be further from the truth.

Any number of packaged female rock teens could have been given these songs and the result would have been more than respectable. But when an artist like Liz Phair gives us this the only feeling is one of disappointment. Somebody's Miracle is not a bad record per se, but it doesn't come close to what you would expect from an artist of her quality.

Depeche Mode LIVE

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Tea at the Old Orleans again, but without the women trying to chat me up. Well I say trying to chat "me" up, but really women never try and chat me up. But anyways. The only other noteable thing was the fact I had some Tennessee toffee Ice Cream on my waffle. Sadly there was no Z sauce or anything like that.

Anyway, thanks to the modern wonders of stupid road planners in my home town, by the time tea was over, it was just on 9 o'clock when we got to the MEN, just in time to catch the end of the "specially produced" DJ mix that was playing.

On first impressions the stage looked more like a U2 knock-off than anything else (although as I remarked to my mate, if you were sat at the back of the cavernous MEN it probably looked like the greatest thing ever) but once the lights dimmed I have to admit it looked pretty impressive.

The first thing that struck me was just how camp the band were. Martin Gore was wearing some kind of, well...what can I describe it a wooly hat but that was shaped like a mohican hair-do, oh and he also wore a pair of Angel wings! Dave Gahan was more saratorially dressed but he was mincing about on stage in a manner that would have made PJW proud. As for that other chap (Andrew Fletcher) well he looked completely out of place behind his desk and at some points seemed to be doing nothing whatsoever.

Still, all this, I am sure, is boring you to death. You want to hear about the music. Well that was as good as you would expect. New tracks didn't seem out of place (although were not as warmly received as the older classics) and they ran through as representative a set list of their long career as you could expect. Personal highlights were Behind The Wheel, A Question Of Time and Never Let Me Down Again. But the icing on the cake were Everything Counts and Enjoy The Silence, the latter of which is one of the best tunes EVER!!!

So really the feeling is much like the one I had last year when watching REM. Whilst nothing more than a casual fan of the band, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and am glad I took the plunge to go and see them. But having seen them once, I think that's enough for me.

Single Releases 27/03/06

I was away earlier in the week, so this is a shortened version of the singles reviews this week, not least because I can't be bothered seeking out all those hot new hits.

Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me (The Pipettes) - Luckily though, I caught this on XFM Manchester last night (and thank you god for blessing us with that radio station). It's catchy and a whole lotta fun. Whether it will get annoying in time is not something I could bet against at this moment, but for now it does the job.

All Sparks (Editors) - As ever with these guys, at least from my point of view, this is good but not great. But it beats the pants off any similar competition.

When You Wasn't Famous (The Streets) - Ignoring the genius of the John Shuttleworth backing track, the big question surrounding this is just who is that delectable pop tart who Mike Skinner did the nasty with? Any ideas? To be honest, I don't care as long as it's not my Nadine. Anyway, this is yet another absolutely class Streets song and its really whetted my appetite for the album.

Black Sweat (Prince) - Somewhat of a return to form for the pop midget. Goes to show that when he puts his mind to it, he can still go.

Naive (The Kooks) - Well at least its an upbeat number hey?

You Have Killed Me (Morrissey) - Well you certainly know from the very first listen that this is a Morrissey tune. I'll listen to it on the radio, but I won't be buying it.

Raoul (The Automatic) - Nonsense, fun and disco bits...what more could I ask for in a pop tune . This is rather good indeed.

So really, apologies to The Secret Machines, David Gray and the Guillemots, but that's as far as I go this week.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Single Releases 20/03/06

Nature's Law (Embrace) - Well I don't know how they keep getting away with it. I truly am lost for words? Is it terrible? No. Is it in any way memorable? No. I just can't get worked up about this at all either way.

Heart In A Cage (The Strokes) - Ok so they were destined to never really live up to the hype surrounding "This Is It" but this isn't too bad. It's not going to save rock music or anything like this, but it is good.

Bounce, Move, Shake, Stop (MPV) - Do Reel 2 Real (or was it Real 2 Reel) and the Mad Stuntman know about this one? Are they getting any royalties? If not, they should be. Anyway, this is a nice little dancy bop ditty, but its far too unoriginal to really hit the mark.

To And Fro (Mattafix) - As you might suspect from these boys, this is dull beyond belief.

Stupid Girls (Pink) - So let me get this straight. It's ok to parade your flesh in a music video despite criticising people who do that kind of thing as long as you are being "ironic". But just remember, whatever you do, don't call her POP. I'm sorry, but this is the kind of piss-take that Eminem could do in his sleep and he'd do a much better job of it. Still I dare say that won't stop it being a mega-hit.

Ms. New Booty (Bubba Sparxxx) - A song about the delight of ladies' arses. And really, after the travesty that was Black Eyed Peas and "My Humps" we need this kind of cleasning song. As bad as it may be....

Our Truth (Lacuna Coil) - This is another one of those that if you've heard of them and you like them...well you'll like this. If you haven't, or you don't like them, then this won't change your mind.

Gold Lion (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs) - Finally they do something which justifies the hype. It starts off all mellow and descends into noisy chaos...and it's also rather brilliant.

Temperature (Sean Paul) - Please. Can people stop buying his records. Thanks.

So Sick (Ne-Yo) - Firmly from the R-Kelly side of R'n'B, this at least has the distinction in being far less naueseous than the piss-lovin' RK ever is.

Grillz (Nelly ft. Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp) - They certainly share the workload don't they these rappers? I have to say though that this is the right side of funky and is actually quite funny. So it's one to listen to, if not actually buy.

Mothers Day EP (G4) - As if the runaway train known as G4 couldn't get any worse, they go and record "Barcelona"...with Lesley Garrett. Don't you dare buy this for your mother. Buy her something good instead.

Love 80's (Lupen Crook) - Well the picture on his Myspace page is enough to put me off, but the tune itself isn't too bad. But really, this isn't going to be huge. Worth checking out if you have a spare 5 minutes though.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sugababes LIVE

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Well the day starts off well. Everton beat Villa. Tottenham beat Birmingham (and drop Stalteri - which proves that Martin Jol takes notice of me) and I drink five pints of the Guinness. Throw in another all you can eat Chinese buffet (although where were the Deep Fried Crab Sticks I ask you?) and England losing in the Six Nations (unpatriotic that may be, but it was funny) and even the fact of me being, shall we say, "ill" outside the palatial Philharmonic hall cannot ruin the build up.

We missed the support act, one Shawn Emmanuel or something, but I dare say that was no great loss. As usual there was the slight embarassment that you're sat in the middle of a load of 10 year olds (although there were a smattering of non-parent oldies like ourselves dotted about) but hey, I've done this enough times now to let all that wash over me.

So it was onto the concert itself.

The good news is that the new girl Amelle fitted in very nicely and the 'Babes were as professional and competent as you would expect them to be.

The bad news, for me anyway, was the fact that other than a raised platform bit and three slightly bizarre boxes later on in the evening, there was very little going on AND the concert only lasted just over an hour.

These bad things were made worse by the fact that last time I saw the Sugababes, there was a hell of a lot more going on onstage (the bit with the bed, the pole dancing etc.) and they did a lot more songs. I know that the fact that the new girl has joined probably meant that they didn't have the time to either learn more of the songs or put on a more elaborate show but really when you are paying £21.50 (plus booking) for a ticket it's not really my problem.

Don't get me wrong; what they did was great, and they have some classic pop tunes in the cannon. Amelle proved to be a great addition to the band and all three looked like they were having a good time. But really I couldn't help feeling short-changed. And the fact that they made no real effort to inform us that Red Dress and Push The Button were the encore seems to me to suggest that they knew they weren't exactly putting their best foot forward.

And also, I have to mention that it is slightly surreal seeing the 'Babes do Overload and Run For Cover when there is only one of the people who actually sung on that left. It's like seeing Gerry Marsden on one of those 60's reunion tours without the Pacemakers :-)

Friday, March 17, 2006


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Ages since I've done a best of, but I'm sat at home bored, and as I'm going watching the 'Babes tomorrow, here is the top 10 list of their best songs, IN MY OPINION :-D

10) Round Round - Ok, so it sounds like three completely different songs thrown together but in their defence it sounds like three completely different GOOD songs.
9) Shape - Loses a few places due to the Sting thing, but this is a nice soothing ballad.
8) Virgin Sexy - The one non-single track to make the list (which in itself tells you a great deal about the Sugabaes weaknesses in my opinion) and I'm fully aware it is maybe the rememberence of the poll dancing they did to this one on their last tour that makes it stick in my mind.
7) New Year - Sometimes the Great British record buying public just get it so wrong. Why this wasn't Christmas number one or something I will never know.
6) In The Middle - Again, is it the memory of Heidi in the video that pushes this one so high up the list? Quite possibly.
5) Stronger - It's nice. It's lovely. I love it.
4) Push The Button - What can I say? One of the best pop tunes of 2005.
3) Run For Cover - Moody without being souless, this is another one that was criminally ignored at the time.
2) Overload - What a debut single. In fact it was probably TOO good. I only wish in hindsight that the Sugababes had carried on along this trajectory...
1) Hole In The Head - ...although that would have probably meant that we would have missed this beauty. Pop perfection.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The New Pet Shop Boys Single

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Well, I've just heard the long awaited I'm With Stupid and I have to say....

I'm quite impressed!

It took a couple of listens (as it usually does with these kind of things) but it's good. It's not quite the out and out stomper that I had been kind of hoping for, but hey, it's a new Pet Shop Boys single, so you know I'm going to be happy! :-D

It's more akin to their late 80's stuff than the out and out "poptacular" that was Very and certainly whets my appetite for the album Fundamental. Whether it's going to be quite the song that plants them firmly back in the top 10...well I don't know about that.

Single Releases 13/03/06

Whole Lotta History (Girls Aloud)- Ok. You all know my feelings about this one. For a start its a ballad, and the only decent ballad they've ever done was See The Day...and even that wasn't very good. Heaven knows why they had to release another ballad as a single straight after that one. I can see what they are tyring to do, but really you need a better song than this to do it.

Another Place To Fall (KT Tunstall)- Now this is a good song...but come on peeps, it's the FIFTH from the album. If you ask me, they should never have bothered releasing Under The Weather, because this is a great track...but it's overkill.

Walk Away (Kelly Clarkson) - She seems a game lass and she's done quite well for herself although I still, of course, fail to see how she's made it quite so big. Having said that, I quite like this one, but I have to say...she's looks bloody awful in the video. Oh and it sounds a bit like Word Up by Cameo!!!

Fly (Hilary Duff)- I quite like this one, but I have one small problem with was in my top 60 singles of 2004. This is now 2006. So no matter how they repackage her stuff in the UK, this to me is still an old, old song and therefore I must lament it's release.

Pump It (Black Eyed Peas)- Yet another BEP tune that I quite like but that wouldn't tempt me into buying their album. The Pulp Fiction "miserlou" tune in the background is a stroke of genius though.

No Way Back (Foo Fighters) - Come on Dave, put a bit of effort into it mate. This is your "by the numbers" rock tune that the Foos can churn out in their sleep. I want more from them.

Wisemen (James Blunt)- Another completely non-offensive track from the Chicken lover. The sort of thing I'd listen to on the radio if it came on, but not something I would buy for myself.

Beautiful World (Sara Jorge) - Ooh, me likey this. The sort of song that would be a HUGE hit if Kylie did it (and would probably fail to get Rachel Stevens in the charts :-D) but that will sadly probably sink without trace. Top quality pop.

There It Go (Jules Santana) - Erm quite. Not my cup of tea at all really. Another one of those "rap" things with no discernable tune.

Make A Move On Me (Joey Negro) - One of those "retro" dance tunes I shouldn't really like but I actually do. This is the kind of cracking tune that seemed to be out every week in the mid 90's that we sadly don't see much of these days. I defy anyone not to be caught up with the dancing groove upon hearing this one.

Just (Mark Ronson ft Alex Greenwald)- Well Radiohead have never sounded better have they? ;-) Ok, in all seriousness, this is quite funky but is still nothing more than a novelty record wrapped up in pretensious clothes. It's good, but is there any real need for it?

Advenutre (Be Your Own Pet) - They have the front woman to melt a thousand indie hearts, and finally they have the tune to back it up. A little bit Pixies, a little bit Garbage and a whole lot of fun. It won't be a hit, but why should I care about little things like that when the tune is so good?

Suffer Well (Depeche Mode) - This is a bit like the Editors would sound if they were a little bit more electronic. It's quite good and harks back to some of their mid-career classics, although sadly it doesn't match up to anything from, say, Violator.

Piece Of My Heart (Beverley Knight) - Why bother sticking the boot into poor Bev when Popjustice has just done it better than I could ever hope to. And I quote "it does not matter whether you are 'the voice' or 'the greatest singer of your generation' if you are boring and useless as a popstar."

The Like - What I Say And What I Mean

Yes, I've reviewed this before (check out the November 2005 archives) but its finally got its UK release, complete with new foxy looking cover and bonus track.

So yes, the package looks more "marketable" than the US version. The extra track, Split Enz cover version One Step Ahead is also a stormer (and is actually one of the best things they've done in my opinion) so really a winning package has just got that slightly bit better than it already was.

Buy it now! :-D

New Concert List

The ones in RED have been and gone

11th Feburary - Jenny Lewis - Manchester Academy 3
27th February - Editors - Manchester Academy
1st March - Fun Lovin' Criminals - Liverpool Academy
2nd March - Gemma Hayes - Liverpool Academy 3
9th March - The Like - Manchester Academy 3

18th March - Sugababes - Liverpool Philarmonic Hall
30th March - Depeche Mode - MEN Areaa, Manchester
20th April - Giant Drag - Night & Day Cafe, Manchester
23rd April - Jenny Lewis - The Lowry, Salford
25th April - Flaming Lips - Apollo, Manchester
28th April - Buddy (the musical)- The Lowry, Salford
27th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
30th May - Nerina Pallot - The Lowry, Salford

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Like LIVE

I love Poolstock Lane. An hour's journey to Manchester is all well and good, but when it takes you the first half of that hour to get the first three or four miles, its pretty bloody annoying.

Anyway. As usual the proper festivities kicked off in the Oxford. Bottles of Magners quickly moved onto Corky's (in my defence, they had the Creme Egg flavour in). Then came what I shall refer to as an unfortunate incident in the Kebab shop. All I will say is that the man really could have let us have the seats we'd been waiting for and saved a whole lot of shenanigans.

So we made it to the venue, avoiding being lynched on the way there, just in time to see the support act Dirty Circus finishing their set. Sadly, a little trouble with exactly what time it was meant that we'd arrived in time to see the first of THREE support acts, with the headliners still 2 hours away...

Thankfully not only did this early arrival mean we could get to the front without having to push anyone out of the way, it also meant that we caught two rather decent support acts. The Adventures of Loki were a power-punk-pop trio with shades of Ash and The Subways about them. They also had a very cute drummer. Which can't be bad. Then it was the turn of Bright Space, who have the pretty boy look to be a hit on CD-UK, plus the tunes to back it up. They're a hell of a lot better than the likes of Orson anyway.

And with that, the time had flown by and it was time for the main event. And what a main event it was. Maybe it was the copious amount of alcohol, maybe it was being closer to the front of a standing only gig than I've ever been for years or maybe it really was the most enjoyable night of my concert going life.

As soon as some guy shouted out "get naked" and Z replied "no, you get naked. If somebody doesn't get naked, I'm not playing" you realised you were in for a fun night. And credit to that curly haired guy in front of me for taking his shirt off and throwing it onto the stage.

The crowd were really into it (the girls seemed genuinely surprised and touched at the resounding reception they received) and it's not every concert night where you see the band asking their bouncers not to hit the guy who stole three tee-shirts from them too hard.

Highlights of the night included the two singles, What I Say And What I Mean and June Gloom, as well as the Split Enz cover One Step Ahead and, my personal favourite, Too Late. And yeah, I am fully aware I kinda lost it during that last one, and probably acted akin to the numpty at the Gemma Hayes concert (although I didn't bash into anyone) but by that point I was completely enthralled.

It got better though when, after the set, the lovely ladies came out to mingle with the fans. Whilst Gee was too drunk to really know what was going on, at least he kept his hands steady enough to do the honours behind the camera for me so I could procure the neccessary shots for the Dean Hall Of Fame.

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Tennessee was very sweet, and she's as cute as a button. Sorry Nadine, but I think you're going to have to find someone else now. Charlotte was also very sweet, as was Z (and as is the tradition made a comment about my nice, (red), marker pen). As I was drunk I was being awfully polite in a kind of foppish Hugh Grant manner, but it went down well.

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Prior to the concert I liked The Like, but now i REALLY like The Like. They are, quite simply, bloody fantastic.

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Oh, and by the way Gee...sorry about that "tattoo" on your hand mate ;-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Shakira - Oral Fixation Vol. 2

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The woman is quite barmy. Endearingly so. But what people tend to dismiss, or ignore altogether, is that fact that in a world filled with by-the-numbers pop by pretty faces Shakira is not content to follow the path well-trodden. No, she wants to come up with something unique. Until now, this attitude has been watered down for her "English" releases, but now, with Oral Fixation Vol. 2, Shakira has finally let loose for the English speaking world.

Take the opening track How Do You Do; what other pop artist would dream of starting their album with a souped up version of the Lord's prayer sung by some form of Gergorian choir? I think you know the answer is no-one. But the madness doesn't stop there. Stacatto guitars, and a chorus seemingly embellished with backing vocals from a baby...and yes, we're still only on the first track!

Things don't calm down either. Lead single Don't Bother is pretty much a "Whenever Wherever 2006" lyrically, although with added bile (and really love, you don't need to move to a communist country to please me, Wigan will do). Album-ender Timor sees a childrens choir pitted against synth drums that were already out of fashion in the 1980's whilst Your Embrace isn't a million miles away from the modern Nashville sound.

When it works, Animal City or Hey You, Shakira's bold attempts to defy catergorisation lead to some perfect pop monents. However it would be fair to say that she doesn't always hit the mark. Illegal, featuring the smooth guitar skills of Carlos Santana, is one such example and Something is just a trifle dull.

So whilst this is a little hit and miss, such a scatter-gun approach is always likely to be. But considering just how safe most pop stars play it these days such an approach should be welcomed (especially as you wonder just how the record company let her get away with it). There's nothing else quite like a Shakira record, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Single Releases - 06/03/06

June Gloom (The Like) - They've been on the Dean-dar for a good while now thanks to my good buddy Gee, but it has to be said that this isn't one of their best. Of course Tennessee looks unbelievably cute in the video (a fact I may just have to mention to her on Thursday if I get the chance) and it's not a bad tune, I just fail to see how it can be a hit when the superior What I Say And What I Mean failed to trouble the top 250. Still, people should buy it anyway just for the Leonard Cohen cover...oh and because it's three hot chicks playing rock music; what's not to like people?

Touch The Sky (Kanye West) - I still maintain the guy is not a very good rapper. But when he produces a sound like this, even if it is courtesy of the Curtis Mayfield sample/riff/whatever the technical term is these days for plaugurism, who really cares that we'd be better off if he produced this kind of stuff for a guy who could really rap instead of doing it himself.

Red Dress (Sugababes) - The "debut" single for the 3,243th line up of the band and thankfully although it is a bit "all over the place" it's one hundred times better than the turgid album version. It once again goes to prove that whilst the Sugababes might have an upsetting knack for bad albums on the whole, the day when their greatest hits CD emerges will see an all time classic pop collection within our midst (but the Girls Aloud Greatest Hits - due in November 2006 ;-) - will still be better).

Industry (The Modern) - With its synthy 80's style vibe, this is the kind of thing I really like and the male verse/female chorus brings to mind the Human League. This is the kind of thing Girls Aloud could do quite well, and that's quite a compliament from me. It's also a bit "Bis" esque, which is another reason for me to love it.

Waste A Moment (Fightstar) - Charlie from Busted, you can keep doing songs like this till the cows come home, but people will never love you like they did when they were in Busted. Although really, is this any worse than Son Of Dork?

Photograph (Jamie Cullum) - You know what, I'll come clean. I couldn't even be arsed trying to listen to this. So I'll guess. If you like Cullum, you'll probably love this. If you think he's, well, a bit rubbish, I doubt this will change your mind.

One Wish (Ray-J) - Just for the fact that he called his album Raydiation, I'm going to reccommend this. (Even though really it's not very good).

Unbelievable (Craig David) - Unbelievable that you were ever seriously considered as a bright musical hope who would be having hit after hit for years to come Craig? The sound of an artist treading water, or the sound of an artist who doesn't really know how to do anything decide. Still, at least he's not as bad as Daniel Bedingfield is he? I wonder if in 40 years time they'll have a "Solid Silver 2000 Show" (you know like the 60's ones they do with Gerry And The Pacemakers now) with the likes of Craig David and Daniel Bedingfield? And perhaps more pertinantly...would anyone bother turning up?

Because I Want To (Placebo) - Well its definately Placebo. You can tell that straight away. Whether it's of any relevance to the music fan today who doesn't already like Placebo is another question, but this is track that will surely please their fans.

Billie Jean (Michael Jackson) - Take your bets on whether the whole "Elvis" thing will be quietly pensioned off due to poor sales, but don't deny that this is one of THE all-time top pop singles, EVER! And as such, it's better than anything else released this week singles wise.

Rise Up With Fists (Jenny Lewis) - ...well I'll take that back. Billie Jean is still the best pop single of the week, but this is THE best single of the week. Is it gospel, is it country, is it pop....or is it a compellingly unique mixture of everything and more? I know this probably won't chart in the top 40, but it should. It really should.

Undercover (Gemma Hayes) - This is a lovely track from the much underrated The Roads Don't Love You album. Hopefully the Radio 2 support will ensure a modest hit, and lots of success for the album as a result.

Incredible (Shapeshifters) - Remember Lola's Theme? Well that was quite good. This, on the other hand, isn't.

Like You (Bow Wow feat Ciara) - Does anyone else remember the days when he was Lil Bow Wow? Anyway, this is a cracking chorus surrounded by a dull song.

Geek In The Pink (Jason Mraz) - This is the kind of thing you just know the Americans will lap up. Sadly for Jason, I don't think us Brits really need another Maroon 5 style act to love, despite the fact I think this is quite a catchy little number.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gemma Hayes LIVE

A much easier drive into Liverpool this time, although seeing the gritting lorries on the road at 4 in the afternoon doesn't fill you with confidence for the drive home. Few bottles of Magners (isn't that becoming a new tradition) down the throat, nice £8.50 all you can eat Chinese buffet (loving the deep-fried crab sticks) and then it was once again a mighty difficult task to find a car-parking space anywhere near the Liverpool Academy venue.

Still at least on this occasion we were closer than we were for FLC. Got to the venue in plenty of time and so for the second time in a week we managed to catch the support act. Now if that had been a mistake on Monday night, it was a huge stroke of luck on this occasion. Not that Duke Special looked up to much as he wandered on stage, but it didn't take long for me to rememeber that old adage "never judge a book by it's cover." I shall definately be checking them out when their headline tour hits the North West.

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And so then it was onto Gemma herself...or at least it was once a multitude of technical problems were sorted (of a fashion mind you; the problems seemed to resurface throughout the night). She also apologised for having a bad cold, but to be honest, it's not something you would have noticed as she performed with the vim and vigour of someone 100% healthy.

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There really wasn't a duff track in the set. Whether it was the slightly more edgy, rockier tracks from her first album or the more introspective cuts from her latest album, everything was done with aplomb. Highlights included Back Of My Hand (my favourite Gemma Track), forthcoming single Undercover or the Reckless Eric cover Whole Wild Word. However it's not just rocking out with the band where Gemma excels. Her solo rendition of Evening Sun (even with the "I'm going to kill that fucking snare" incident) was proof that Gemma really is a talent.

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Other British/Irish female singer-songwriters may sell more records but, and whisper this quietly, Gemma may be the best of the bunch. Nights like this certainly make you think so.

Concert 2006 List - Update

11th Feburary - Jenny Lewis - Manchester Academy 3
27th February - Editors - Manchester Academy
1st March - Fun Lovin' Criminals - Liverpool Academy
2nd March - Gemma Hayes - Liverpool Academy 3
9th March - The Like - Manchester Academy 3
18th March - Sugababes - Liverpool Philarmonic Hall
30th March - Depeche Mode - MEN Areaa, Manchester
20th April - Giant Drag - Night & Day Cafe, Manchester
25th April - Flaming Lips - Apollo, Manchester
28th April - Buddy (the musical)- The Lowry, Salford
27th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
30th May - Nerina Pallot - The Lowry, Salford

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Giant Drag - Hearts And Unicorns

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Giant Drag are essentially Annie Hardy (singer/guitarist) and Micha Calbrase (drummer/keyboardist) and success, of a kind, came as far back as 2004 in the UK with their well received EP, Lemona, three tracks of which are contained on this really rather good debut album, including the stand out from that EP This Isn't It.

It's clear now, as it was then, that Hardy is the group's trump card. Mixing Liz Phair, PJ Harvey and Kim Deal into one intriguing package, Hardy is every bit the star, even if some live performances have suggested she's the reluctant star. Calbrase seems pretty much an after-thought but is every bit as important to Giant Drag as, say, Meg White is to the White Stripes.

The tunes themselves bring a hundred and one different artists to mind. My Bloody Valentine seem to be the critics favourite reference post, but there are touches of the Breeders, the Pixies, the Beach Boys and Nirvana at times. The latter comparison particularly fits given some of the dark and twisted lyrics espoused by Hardy, especially prevalent in tunes such as YFLMD....which actually stands for "you fuck like my dad".

The album is a bit of mish-mash at times, but there is more than enough quality to keep anybody satisfied and despite some low-brow song titles, the afforementioned YFLMD, My Dick Sucks and Kevin Is Gay, the whole thing is quite a wonderful experience. Hell even the cover of Chris Isaak's Wicked Game works well!

They have the tunes, they have the lyrics and they have the frontwoman with oodles star-quality to spare...they should be huge in 2006.

Fun Lovin Criminals LIVE

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Once again it was time for the Huey roadshow to hit the town. An hellacious drive to Liverpool (thanks to the football international) momentarily dampened spirits, but then a pub with a supply of Magners was found and it is a well known fact that that is a drink that cures all known ills.

Onto the venue, which had rather confusingly changed it's point of entry, and the immediate shock was that the previously roomy Liverpool Academy 1 was half cordoned off, no doubt down to poor advance ticket slaes one must suspect. But little things like that make no difference once the FLC get on the stage.

As ever Huey was coolness personified as FLC rattled through most of their big hits. The highlights of the set included Mi Corazon (a "romantic" song about a woman, Huey admitted, who couldn't stand the sight of him), Loco and, of course the classic songs from the FLC cannon Scooby Snacks and, for the finale, The Fun Lovin' Criminal. Unexpected bonuses came from Ben E.King and Led Zepplin covers which were better than you might expect.

As ever Huey was on top form inbetween the songs and as ever, anything he does is watchable. Like the Editors concert, this was pretty much the same songs I'd alread seen FLC do live, but in a marked contrast to that experience, the extended FLC back-catalogue and Huey's all-round showmanship made this yet another unforgettable FLC experience.