Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Flaming Lips LIVE

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Well wouldn't you know was my turn to drive and Poolstock was jammed to buggery again. Still, by some amazing coincidence I managed to arrive at just about the same time as the Gee man was getting off his train. Still that's where the plan went tits up. Sure we got to the Apollo in plenty of time and got a nice parking spot but disaster struck when the nearby chippy was shut.

Please bear in mind that I had not had any dinner, and my entire day's consumption had been a total of a Chunky Peanut Butter Kit Kat and a big bottle of Lucozade. A quick walk around found nothing else except for a pleasant little pub, so my evening meal consisted of a few pints of lager coupled with a packet of Salt & Vinegar crisps and a packet of Pork Scratchings.

We got to the venue itself to see that we'd missed The Go Team supporting, which was a shame I suppose. We were upstairs on row GG (oh the hilarity) and I was rather taken with the KT Tunstall look-a-like a few rows in front of us.

So on with the show...and what a show it was. Starting off with Wayne Coyne in a giant see through inflatable balloon surfing over the know you are in for a fun night. People dressed as Santa and aliens...smoke machines bellowing...tons of orange baloons being let was all there folks.

As for the songs...well for a start there wasn't many of them. Of course when the songs are great (Race For The Prize, Yoshimi, She Don't Use Jelly etc.) you don't need all the trimmings, but there were occasions when you felt that all the extra-curricular activity was covering some pretty mediocre songs.

Don't get me wrong, I had a great night and there is certainly nothing quite like a Flaming Lips concert, but you just wonder whether or not the Lips could captivate the audience in quite the same way with a more "conventional" (i.e. dull ;)) show. Still, in this kind of form, the Flaming Lips are one of those bands you just have to see at least once in your lifetime.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Single Releases 24/04/06

You're All I Have (Snow Patrol) - Look, I said last week I wasn't going to listen to this...and I still haven't.

The View From The Afternoon (Arctic Monkeys) - The only "old" track on the Who The F**k Are The Arctic Monkeys EP. To be frank, the whole "let's release an EP that isn't eligible for the charts" thing strikes me as just as calculating as the latest manufactured pop band shilling their latest release.

Who Am I? (Will Young) - First things first, it's a pretty funny video. But, and this is a big but, the funny video cannot take away the fact that the song is pretty dull.

Bang Bang! You're Dead (Dirty Pretty Things) - Well as if the coked-up junkie wasn't putting enough nails in his coffin himself, along comes Carl Barat to knock a possible fatal nail to the coffin of Pete Doherty's career. Because quite simply, this is around three minutes of indie pop bliss and happens to be better than anything from the Libertines and/or Babyshambles that has preceeded it. Yes it's hardly a million miles away from those two "bands" but more importantly its tighter and better than anything he's done before. So what will be Doherty's excuse now?

Killing Loneliness (HIM) - It's Goth Jim, but not as we know it. Well ok. It is exactly as we know it. It's one of those that if this is your kind of thing then you'll love it...if not, steer clear.

Yo! Excuse Me Miss (Chris Brown) - I've heard worse; lets just leave it at that.

Steady As She Goes (The Raconteurs) - Logically, despite the obvious star power of Jack White and Brendan Benson, this is a clash of styles that shouldn't work. But wouldn't you know it, the end result is something quite fantastic indeed. For once, believe the hype!

Stoned In Love (Chicane feat. Tom Jones) - On the one hand this is a by-the-numbers dance track; on the other hand there is a certain something that elevates it slightly above the norm. Maybe its the guitars, maybe its Tom Jones, but this certainly had me almost bopping along to it.

Dig Your Own Grave EP (Test Icicles) - The worst band name ever? Possibly. Still the song's aren't too band and for sheer wealth of features alone (this is one of those dual disc efforts and comes replete with all kinds of goodies) you have to at least give them credit for putting together a good package.

Don't Blame Your Daughter (The Cardigans) - Well I do remember this from the's smooth, mellow, haunting and above all completely unsuited to life as a pop single. Don't get me wrong; it's a good track. But it will sadly sink without trace as a single.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins LIVE

Oh the fun. Let's try a new way to get to the Lowry. Actually the end result was inconclusive as getting slightly lost, although not by much, did mean that we really couldn't come up with any true comparison. Still, we got there and in plenty of time too.

So off to Pizza Express it was. Although really considering all that they really do is Pizza it was a bit of a surpise to be met with the words "there's a table, but there will be a 45 minute wait for food." 45 minutes? It's a Pizza for god's sake. Anyway, we settled down, Gee watched the bintage pass by and then he came up with the statement "they look like the Watson Twins". Of course, knowing Gee I decided to ignore him, so he tried again and lo and behold it was indeed the Watson Twins enetering the same pizzeria as we were in...and then the excitement level raised a little bit higher as we then realised that Jenny Lewis was in the hiz-ooos as well. First impressions were of just how tiny she is.

After considering killing one of her band on the staircase we finished our meal (with Gee's credit card bouncing to much embarassment) and went into the great outdoors to do our paparazzi bit and wait for her to come out. One of the Watson Twins came out first and was very sweet. In fact she was so sweet that I refused to use my pre-planned joke on her (I was hoping one of them would say "are you going to the show tonight" and then I could have said "show, what show?" And yes I know that is lame, but it would have kept the tradition up). Hell, as soon as any woman links arms with me I'm putty.

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So then there was another half an hour wait...only for Gee to go and spoil it by upsetting the lovely Miss Lewis to the extent that she refused to pose for a picture. Of course I am joking. We have since found out she's not really keen on posing for pics and the Dean is cool with that, especially as she was so sweet with both of us, shaking hands and having a good little chat with us. And even almost stroking my chest (ok, I admit she merely pointed in the general direction of my chest and admired my "The Like" pin badge). Of course initially you get a bit upset that she wouldn't pose for a pic, but you can totally accept the fact, especially as she was indeed so nice to us. And as I said to Gee at the time, I've forgiven women who've done a lot worse to me in the past ;-).

Anyway. We decided to watch the support act on the TV in the bar (nice touch by the Lowry there) and then casually made our way to our front row, dead centre, seats. And from thereon in there was, quite simply, one hell of a show in progress. I was a bit frightened to use my camera and after two songs I was absolutely shit scared as Jenny seemed to give me one of the most evil looks I've ever seen...I even turned to Gee and said "she's scaring me" but seconds later she mouthed me an "hello" and I was at peace with the world.

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This was better than Gee getting a wave from Heidi. As well as the afforementioned hello, I got a few more nice smiles, a couple of "thank you's" and some applause for my percussion playing...ok, maybe not the last one, but we did all join in on percussion with some coins.

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Of course, this is supposed to be a music page, so I suppose I'd better stop boring you with tales of my "sexual frisson" with Miss Lewis and get on with the music. And if the previous concert earlier in the year was excellent, this managed to go a couple of notches higher. Spellbinding at ever turn, there were magical renditions of most of the Rabbit Fur Coat album (with only Handle With Care once again missing), the highlights of which were "You Are What You Love", "Born Secular" and "Rise Up With Fists". There was also a beautiful solo rendition of "Rabbit Fur Coat" which almost brought tears to my eyes.

Throw in some quality new songs, including that one about "Jonny Killed Mom" (or something like that) and the one that was described as being about trying to work out the precise moment that Mariah Carey became a slut and once again Lewis and the Watson Twins delivered one of the best concerts I've ever seen. Yes, once again it really was THAT good. Roll on the next time.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Giant Drag LIVE

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Well damn you Poolstock Lane. Damn you to hell. The one weeknight concert that I don't drive to and we meet absolutely NO traffic jams whatsoever. Wonderful.

A relatively easy journey in then, and then off to yet another "all you can eat" Chinese buffet restaurant. Although there was the added touch of class you rarely see as they has deep-fried battered salmon as one of the starter choices. Then it was off to a Witherspoons (which for once actually had some Magners in stock) to attempt to chat up some bar-staff and then through the rough streets of Manchester to the Night & Day venue.

By day a cafe, by night a "pumping" musical venue of choice. One which made me feel distincly "uncool" in comparison to all the hip chaps and chicks in attendance. Mind you, the venue also had its fair share of qumquats in as well. It also soup of the day, which was Tomato & Strawbery! TOMATO AND STRAWBERRY!!! What's up with that?

Anyways, support act Foreign Bodies were ok in a "they'll look good on CD-UK" (or perhaps I should say Popworld these days) way. Or maybe one of those much sought after spots on the O.C. Still, they were quite good without ever really managing to completely enthrall me, but I did shake on of them by the hand for some reason, so I'll wish them all the best.

So onto the main event. And let me get this out of the way right from the off. I'm in love with Annie Hardy. She's a complete and utter barmpot for sure, but you know that's the way I like 'em. I'm not quite sure of course whether the quirky, stand-up comedian style character she came across as on stage was entirely "organic" but what the hell. Although if I saw what I thought I saw, some woman did seem to walk out after Hardy had proclaimed that "it's great to see that people with Aids have made it here tonight...Aids is so gnarly".

The songs were kicking though. How the fella manages to play the drums and the synths at the same time is beyond me, and it is quite an impressive achievment. Higlights included "This Isn't It" "YFLD" and "a new song called "Drugs" but to be honest, the whole thing was pretty damn fine.

The "encore" saw the band not going off, and started with them apologising, tongue in cheek, for not playing the last two songs earlier but that they leave them till last so that everyone stays to the end! And what a finale it was. Their version of Chris Issak's Wicked Game probably sounds like a bad idea on paper, but they make the tune their own, and this was followed by Kevin Is Gay, (or Kevin WAS Gay as Annie informed us), whose daft title belies it's brilliance.

It is, of course, inpossible for a two piece band to completely capture the sound of the album, but they had the energy and the excitement in full spades. Perhaps in years to come, Annie won't have to introduce future singles as "our latest top 1 million Billboard smash hit."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Single Releases 17/04/06

SOS (Rhianna) - Yes, so it seems like this is officially out this week, so downloads may have got it to the top 5 last week. And it's still brilliant. Read my other review if you need to.

This Isnt It (Giant Drag) - Well it may not be "it", but this is still a bloody fantastic song. And, as "off the point" as it may be, how unbelievably cute is Annie in the video to this?

All Night Disco Party (Brakes) - Is this really getting a re-release? I'm sure that when Brakes were completely underwhelming me when supporting Editors, that this was supposed to be their big hit. Well it was rubbish then, is rubbish now and will always be rubbish. To be fair though, it's probably the best track of theirs I have heard.

Spiders Web (Katie Melua) - Taking of songs that were pants live....this is the ever classic tune that had me, Gee and Dave rolling in the aisles with laughter when she debuted it live on tour. It's not got any better in the meantime either.

Music Is Power (Richard Ashcroft) - You know I am conscious that most weeks I seem to just criticise 95% of the singles I review, and I do try to be a little more positive. But then I get faced with something like this. It's just not very good is it? And the fact that Dickie has in the past dome some cracking tunes makes this even more unpalatable. Put some passion back into it Richard please. Turn off the auto-pilot and give us something with feeling.

Dreams (Deep Dish feat. Stevie Nicks) - Another week, another pointless disco dancing remix of a classic tune. One the one hand you could argue that at least this keeps the original singer on board...on the other hand you could argue that this makes the Corrs' version seem cutting edge.

Losing (Tina Dico) - Yes you are love. And this won't help you to start winning. Like everything she does it's not bad, but it's fairly unremarkable.

Look At Me Now (Faders) - Well credit to them for continuing to plug away over here. It's never going to work, so they'd better hope that the American success continues. This isn't an awful tune by any stretch of the imagination but then again it isn't a good tune by any stretch of the imagination.

Cosy Prisons (A-Ha) - If their last single was a bit of a welcome return, this sees the law of diminishing returns applying. It's not bad, but lets put it this way, in another 20 years time you'll still be listening to Take On Me rather than this.

Dance Dance (Fall Out Boy) - What can I say? It's not my cup of tea but they seem to be quite popular these days. Bit high pitched though.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (Flaming Lips) - Ok, so you know its likely to be weird (and boy is it) but you can always rely on the Lips to come up with at least a few storming tracks every time they release an album...and this is one of those. The moralistic question and answer style lyrics could grate in lesser hands, but you never lose the feeling during this that the Lips know exactly how preposterous they are constantly on the verge of being. Which add up for fun, fun, fun.

Lie To Me (Daniel Powter) - Who is worse do you reckon? Powter or Blunt? In my book at least Blunt has a little spark of personality and verve going for him...two traits that seem to have been surgically removed from DP. So really even if you haven't heard this, you'll know exactly how dull it sounds.

From Paris To Berlin (Infernal) - It's little more than your usual thumping Euro disco tune I know, but it is one hell of a catchy thumping Euro disco tune.

Never Wanna Say (Soundbwoy Ent Ft. Doctor) - Say what? Anyway against my better judgement this isn't too bad. It's certainly nice to see a UK slant on the whole R'n'B thing actually being something different and not a watered down attempt to be American.

APPARENTLY there is also a new Snow Patrol track available on download from Friday, but don't expect me to be listening to it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Death Cab For Cutie - Plans

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Death Cab For Cutie are one of those bands I would normally avoid simply because of their name; indeed, this album came out in the UK last August and completely bypassed me. Indeed it was only upon giving their recent single "Crooked Teeth" a review that I happened upon a copy of this. (In case Atlantic Records are reading this lets say nothing else than "thanks EG").

Of course, the question amongst long-term fans seems to be whether or not this major label leap has made for a better DCFC or not? Well as I've never heard them before I cannot comment, but I can say that Plans is a wonderful little record.

My first impression was that Death Cab are somehow the missing link between Jimmy Eats World and Coldplay. Plans mixes the emo sound with a more plaintive and mellow sound and indeed when it works well, such as on the sublime What Sarah Said, where by the lines "But I'm thinking of what Sarah said/That love is watching someone die" come out, you're almost on the verge of tears, the results are spectacular. You get the feeling that if Chris Martin had come up with this, you'd have a multi-million seller on your hands.

And this is not the only stand out moment. In fact the other two stand out moments for me effectively highlight just how varied Death Cab seem to be able to be. Soul Meets Body is perhaps a little too melodramatic for it's own good, but it's one the most ambitious track on the album. It takes a while to get going, but when it does, the results are impressive. However it's followed by an even better track in I Will Follow You Into The Dark, which has nothing but an acoustic guitar for backing. The story maybe the age old fear of losing a lover rearing it's ugly head, but its simple delivery produces something that is genuinely affecting.

However it's not all as good as this. Someday You Will Be Loved is a fairly catchy melody that's ruined by some of the most mawkish and cringe-worthy lyrics you'll ever here; Different Names for the Same Thing is another ambitious musical production, which is definately too melodramtic and spends far too much time going nowhere in particular.

Still the overall impression is good, with the good stuff far outweighing the dross. And whilst sometimes I did find myself wishing for them to pick up the pace somewhat and offer something different, when they get it right, there are few that could do it any better and its definately good enough to ensure I'll be taking the time to check out their back catalogue.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Streets - The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living

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Such is the life of a successful recording artist. Feted as the "voice of the people", Mike Skinner took The Streets from an underground cult to a national phenomenon with the classic album A Grand Don't Come For Free. But of course, the success led to a massive change in Skinner's personal life.

And so now, his new album presents the less glamorous side of fame and fortune...and some critics are getting snotty. Of course, they'd have probably have been even more snotty if the millionaire (if he still has any of his money left...and after listening to the new album there are moments when you wonder if he does) superstar had done another album about losing a thousand pounds, not getting your video back to the rental shop on time and chatting up women in kebab shops.

Of course this does, to be fair, raise an issue. Skinner found his fame as a "voice of the people" but much like Jarvis Cocker discovered after A Different Class, its difficult to maintain that when celebrity hits. (And to go off on a tangent, it will be interesting to see how the Arctic Monkeys tackle this particular problem).

So out go the tales mentioned above and in come ones of dalliances with pop stars, an unhealthy spread betting habit and "pranging" out on copious amounts of cocaine. And the result is a mixed bag. Skinner just about avoids the "woe is me" rockstar angst that can tire you out very quickly thanks to the fact that a lot of the lyrics display Skinner's trademark verve and wit...even if on occasions he seems to have fogotten about providing them with a tune.

There is also the unavoidable fact that a lot of the album compares unfavourably with his previous effort. When You Wasn't Famous is funny, but not as funny as You're Fit And You Know It; Never Went To Church is a touching ode to Skinner's deceased father, but it's not half the tune that Dry Your Eyes was.

Still when it's good, such as Can't Con An Honest John and War Of The Sexes, you sense that Skinner may well already be winning the internal battle that wages on inside of him.

Getting back to the Pulp analogy, this is certainly no "This Is Hardcore" but neither is it a complete dud. There are enough flashes of Skinner's genius to suggest that this may only be a temporary low point on the road and that there is still another classic album in him. If I were you, I'd snatch the high points off I-Tunes and leave the rest on the shelf.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rhianna - SOS

Is this out this week? Have I really messed up? Or is it just going to crack the top 20 on downloads alone this weekend?

Anyway, just in case I have missed its release date, here are the salient points.

* It's really rather good. In fact it's the best pop single since Biology.
* No really, I know it's Rhianna, and I know that she's rubbish, but believe me, this is one of the best pop singles of the decade so far.
* No, honestly it is.
* It manages to sample Soft Cell's Tainted Love and sound better than it would have done if Mylo had thought of the idea, so it must be one of the best pop singles in ages.
* It's rather good indeed.
* It's so good if Rachel Stevens had done it, it could ALMOST have saved her pop career.
* Oh, and the video is fantastic too.

Hope that clears everything up.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Singles Releases 10/04/06

No Promises (Shayne Ward) - No promises that you aren't going to "do a Gareth Gates"? Or heaven forbid "do a Michelle McManus"? But anyway. It's dull, of course it is, but it's no more dull than hundreds of other "pop" tunes of its ilk. I mean seriously, is it any more offensive than Westlife? And on the plus side there's only one of him.

Better Do Better (Hard-Fi) - Well to be honest all objectivity goes out of the window with this lot. I cannot stand 'em. And to be honest, I cannot stand this song. Rumours abound that they've "relocated" to America in a bid to crack the US market. I for one wish them ever success and hope they stay there.

The Hardest Part (Coldplay) - Now this is another place where all objectivity should go out of the window. I don't like Coldplay. In fact I cannot stand them. But they kinda swung me around with the Kraftwerk sample in "Talk", well at least to the extent that I wondered whether I had been a bit too harsh. Of course, I haven't. They are dull. But against all the odds, and even though this is one of the dullest of the dull in their cannon by all accounts, I actually almost like this. I mean, and whisper this quietly, I was whistling along to the song when they played it on Radio 2 this morning....

I Feel It (Lorraine) - I feel it too. Lazy reviewers will call them the new A-Ha. I would never stoop that low. But if you cross their epic sound with the pop sensibilities of Pet Shop Boys, you are in the right ball park for how good this single is.

Unpredictable (Jamie Foxx) - Touche Jamie. Because I'm pretty sure you know full well that this average, generic R'n'B tune is about as far from unpredictable as you can get. He likes his bitches and he's well versed in getting jiggy with them. How novel.

Kids With Guns/El Manana (Gorillaz) - There seems to be a grand total of me and Miquita Oliver who don't like the Gorillaz. And as you would expect from the fourth single from Demon Days the quality is down from previous efforts. What else can I say?

Here We Go (Trina ft. Kelly Rowland) - It seems like every week there is something like this. Still at least this has a bit of novelty value in its humour, although that soon begins to grate.

Crooked Teeth (Death Cab For Cutie) - Oh the irony of the band name; it never fails to get to me. In years to come you may look back on this tune as one that reminds you of summer 2006. Me? Well I'll have probably forgotten all about it, but the dark lyrical undertones make this an interesting which almost makes me want to take a little time getting to know them better.

Crosses (Jose Gonzales) - Delicate and sweet...but also pretty average.

C'mon Get It On (Studio B) - Surely you've heard their "smash" hit I See Girls... Yes, you have? Congratulations then because as this one is exactly the same as that one you don't need to listen to this and you can spend those extra 4 minutes of your life doing something worthwhile.

Message In A Bottle (Filterfunk) - To quote Popjustice "...that Filterfunk single is absolutely fucking terrible...". And I for one am not going to argue with that point of view.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Single Reviews 03/04/06

Crazy (Gnarls Barkley) - Ok, so there is little point reviewing this considering it has just made history and become the first song to hit number one on downloads alone, but I can't very well ignore it. I like it, but every time I hear it I get this sneaking suspicion that it's not quite as good as I would like it to be if you catch my drift.

Why Wont You Give Me Your Love (The Zutons) - Upon first listen this was a cracker. But sadly, repeat listens have somewhat laid the tune bare for what it really is. It's decent, but it's not all that good. Which in a funny way kind of sums up my whole thoughts on the Zutons themselves.

One (Mary J Blige & U2) - A pop band does a dodgy cover and it's the end of the musical world as we know it...Mary J Blige murders the U2 "classic" and it's the greatest thing ever. Listen, if you want to hear a version of this song that really is excellent, check out Johnny Cash's stab at it. Then you really will see how crap this effort is.

The Fallen (Franz Ferdinand) - Ok so here is the FF chart. I loved their 2nd album when it came out, cooled on it considerably and currently think it is way better than I gave it credit for when I had a downer on them. And as luck would have it this is one of the stand out tracks on it You Could... as well. Add in a cracking "B" side and you can't really go wrong.

Speechless (MishMash) - The Scissor Sisters have a lot to answer for. I dare say without their success, this would never have left the drawing board...and we'd have been a whole lot better off.

Wigwam (Wigwam) - Betty Boo. It's been a long time coming, but finally she's back on the scene...ok, so it's hardly up there with Jesus rising from the dead, but back in the day Betty Boo was relatively entertaining (and Sharon, if you read this it's not too late to give me back my Betty Boo album) and throw in one of the geezer's from Blur and you have a great "comeback" single. Ok, so it's throwaway pop, but I defy you not to be singing along when you hear it.

Creepin' Up The Backstairs (The Fratellis) - "Indie" it may be, but there is on hell of a catchy pop melody lurking around in this one.

The Blues Are Still Blue (Belle & Sebastian) - It's got a retro sound that I can't quite love, but all the same this is a perfectly pleasant pop tune.

Laffy Taffy (DL4) - Terrible. Quite possibly the worst record so far this year. Yes, it's THAT bad.

White Russian Galazy (The Crimea) - Ok, so I believe this is a re-release, but then this is a song that deserves one. An overlooked gem, so please Britain, don't make the same mistake twice.