Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Still. I didn't buy the first round, so what do I care? NOTE: I did actually buy the next two rounds. I'm not a skinflint.
Anyway, we also had the problem of not having any food. Which meant I was a little more drunk than usual. And I must now say that other than the abysmal 54Degrees in Preston, the Life Cafe in Manchester is the worst music venue there is. Once again, as for the Pipettes, I could hardly see a bloody thing. Except that woman in front of me with her "I'd love a Babycham" knickers. I couldn't help but look, honest.
But then, there I was, minding my own business at the bar when a rather attractive lady brushes past me. I was giving her the eye, (I wasn't really, but it makes the story sound better) and then it dawned on me that she was actually Metric's lead singer Emily Haines. She was a little bit narky, but my god was she beautiful. Lovely hands. I can assure Jenny Lewis though that she's nothing to worry about, it was purely platonic ;-D.
We're not however, going to mention the strangely homo-erotic rapport I had with the lead singer of the support act.
Still enough of that and onto the concert. And what a ripsnorter it was too. Sticking mainly to their Live It Out album, although they did toss in my old favourite "Succexy", this was superb from start to finish. The slightly harder edge they have live over the records suits them well and gives them a real visceral power.
The band are tight, and as I said at the time of my album revue, Emily Haines has that certain star-power that sets her apart from the also-rans.
We could be a little upset at the relatively short set (although to put it in context it was longer than anything we've ever seen The Like do) and they didn't do an encore but it didn't really matter. They were that good.
I should also mention that the show was a very hot ticket indeed. The place was packed and I doubt that anyone went away unhappy. If you get the chance, I'd certainly reccommend checking them out...you won't regret it.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
Charlotte Gainsbourg hits the streets this week with her wonderful new single The Songs That We Sing. It's much more than your typical "actress turns singer" vanity project. It's brilliant.
Also quite brilliant is We're From Barcelona by I'm From Barcelona. I've had this playing on the turntables for ages, and it's still brilliant. Jaunty happy pop, kind of like a less morbid version of the Eels. And hey, you know how I love my "la la na na" choruses. It's also got an awesome video, which you should check out.
Speaking of "la la na na" the Fratellis release Chelsea Dagger this week and whilst it may not be quite of the class of Henrietta, although lets face it the video has more classy totty than you can shake a stick at.
Justin Timberlake's SexyBack gets an official release this week. It's brilliant and is up there with SOS, Maneater and Crazy for pop single of the year.
Talking of quality pop, it's confession time here. I always thought Leave (Get Out) by JoJo was an awesome pop tune. She's back with Too Little Too Late which obviously doesn't come close but is still a perfectly pleasant teeny pop ballad.
I also like Never Be Lonely by The Feeling, and that's arguably the best track from their album.
And hell, I might even have something good to say about Pink's U & Ur Hand and indeed it's a decent tune. But once again the video, where Pink writhes about in various states of undress, seems a little hypocritical given her criticism of certain other artists.
Of course it wouldn't be my singles round up if I wasn't down on a few of the efforts this week.
Karen Overton is hot, there is no question, but her version of Your Loving Arms is a trifle dull. Still, she'll look good on the cover no doubt. There is no need for Mark Morrison or Manowar to be still attempting to crack the charts either. And to be honest, I didn't think Don McLean was still alive.
There are also other abominations out this week, but for once I am going to leave it there. See, I can say nice things every once in a while.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Except lead single, I'm Not Shy, scraped into the public consciousness at number 40 in the charts, and the album has struggled to sell even a thousand copies in the UK, peaking at the dizzy heights of 110 in the Album charts.
So have the public finally seen through the blatant marketing tricks of the music industry? Maybe, but if that's the reason for the poor sales then it's truly a shame. Because whilst this is by no means a classic pop album this album certainly has it's moments, and is an enjoyable listen.
Frank are at their "worst" when palming us off with the kind of tracks that Girls Aloud (or, ok, the "people" behind Girls Aloud) wouldn't touch as B-sides, never mind album tracks.
But there are moments of rare quality which show that with a little more quality control this could have been quite special indeed. Money In Your Pocket may have trite lyrics about how the girls have waited all their lives to be a part of "Frank" but its a punky pop tune that immediately sinks in your brain. Even better is the title track (of a fashion) If The Devil's Got Your Gold. If the 411 had done something as good as that, well they might not have ended up in the girl-group dumper in the sky. It's cool, smooth and silky and well worth a listen. Wake Up is another great track. In fact it's almost good enough to be a Girls Aloud single; and it's definately good enough to be a Sugababes single.
Unfortunately there's too little like this on the album. Whilst a lot of it is perfectly pleasant, there's little individuality on show (which is even more of a crime when one considers they've had two TV series to forge personalities) and too much descends into generic 21st Century pop.
Ironically though there is enough on show here to suggest that with a little push in the right direction, Frank could be something special. Sadly, the complete lack of success of this album is likely to preclude them getting a second stab at it.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Thea Gilmore has long been one of those "undiscovered" artists who's name is met with blank stares by people I know. It was therefore with great happiness that I read the reviews that greeted Harpo's Ghost. Surely this would be the classic that really made a name for her and shot her into the super-selling stratosphere.
So why is it, a week after purchase, that I am still finding it difficult to fall in love with this record to the level that I have done with some of her previous efforts?
Lyrically she is certainly at her best on this collection; Everybody's Numb lashes out out corporatism and the celebrtiy culture at large, Red White & Black muses on war and patriotism and We Built A Monster lampoons globalised capitalism. But whilst that's all too commendable, its the tracks that concern themselves with smaller things in the scheme of things, such as Cheap Tricks and The List that are the most memorable.
But still I can't help but get the feeling that the sum of the parts don't quite provide us with the whole. Whilst the album certainly has grown on me over the past week, there is still the sense that something is missing. This is a good record, and will delight Thea's many fans, but it's not quite the masterpiece that I, personally, was hoping for. Mind you, it still knocks the stuffing out of the likes of Sandi Thom and any number of the James Blunt clones we're being subjected to at the moment.
Monday, August 21, 2006
I mean if you like Keane they've got a new one out this week. Crystal Ball is another of those songs that is perfectly decent but that doesn't actually make me any more likely to purchase their album. Ditto Morrissey's In The Future When All's Well. I've heard worse, but I'm no more likely to buy one of his records now than I was yesterday when I hadn't heard it.
There's quite a bit of "crunk" (I believe that might be a term) out this week. It ranges from passable (Missy Elliot) to terrible (Field Mob feat. Ciara) via pointless (Pharrell ft. Kanye West). In fact I am still at a loss as to how Pharrell and Kanye West could team up and come up with something so, well, dull.
Matt Willis takes another step to greatness with Hey Kid. No, who am I kidding? Whislt I quite like the track it's hardly the best thing I've ever heard ever is it? Still there is hope for him yet.
Betty Curse has another stab at "making it" as well this week. God This Hurts stradles the pop and goth boundaries and is, well, quite excellent...though sadly not as quite excellent as her last effort.
The Crimea wash completely over me again, I'll be honest and admit that I couldn't even bring myself to properly listen to Daniel Powter's new one and Dashboard Confessional are as dull as ever.
Two oldies have a stab at chart success this week. Paul Simon makes a better fist of it that the Rolling Stones, who have now slipped into self-parody mode without the plus point of actually realising it.
Stacie Orrico is as pointless as ever, that Lazy B Underwear Goes Into The Pants song has to be one of the worst of the year and I've never really understood the appeal of The Storys.
Still, fear not, there is some good stuff out there this week.
Tom Yorke's Harrowdown Hill is sublime and just about stays the right side of the "annoyingly random" side of his repetoire. Talking Back Sunday's Twenty Twenty Surgery is one of those that starts off a bit crap but then hits you with its punk-pop-rock brilliance. And finally, we get to my particular choice of the week, Get Myself Into It by The Rapture. I defy you not to get the groove going when you listen to that one.
Ooh and I almost forgot, but Gogol Bordello's (I'd check the spelling but the office manager is hovering) Not A Crime is out this week as well. And that's bloody fantastic. So yeah, that actually might be the single of the week actually.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Its a symptom of how little I looked forward to this internet-sales only, acoustic effort from KT Tunstall that it's been out for months before I've even bothered to check it out.
Of course it all depends on your perspective on these things. Some people will see this as Tunstall sticking it to the system and recording what she wants; others might see the low-key release strategy as a tacit acknowledgement that it's one for the afficianado's only.
As ever, your intrepid reviewer falls between the two stools. Let's get things straight off the bat, it's not a bad album. It's professionally done and certainly doesn't have the air of a rushed cash-in that one feared it might have.
Indeed her cover of Beck's Golden Age shows a certain charm and Boo Hoo is up there with anything off her Eye To The Telescope album.
But then, did we really need an acoustic version of Universe & U? Ditto Minature Disasters. And as nice as the new version of Throw Me A Rope is, does it come anywhere near the original and thus actually have a point to existing? Not quite.
And to be honest, two of the "new" tracks The Girl & The Ghost and One Day are not really up to the standard of the studio B-side versions we have already heard.
So all in all I can take or leave this album. It's a nice enough saunter through some album and b-side tracks done in a different style and if you're looking for something to plug the gap until her next "proper" album then this will do the trick. But I doubt in the weeks to come that this will be the album I pick up off the shelf if I'm in need of a Tunstall fix.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
In this day of the Unique Selling Point, The Veronica's must have been a record companies dream. A pair of cute twin sisters with the punk-pop sound that's seemingly so in demand these days, as the success of Kelly Clakrson would appear to suggest.
So all that remains really is for any decent tunes to be supressed in favour of leaden and dull tunes that will appeal to the neccessary demographic. Except the story isn't quite like that at all.
Yes, the Veronicas are packaged like any other "teen sensation" but what really sets them apart are the songs. Whilst the likes of Avril Lavinge (and it's no surprise that Lavigne contributer Chantal Kreviazuk turns up here) and Lindsay Lohan provide good albums with a modicum of filler, the Veronicas deliver a remarkably consistent album which delights almost from start to finish.
I doubt there are many albums this year that start off so strongly. 4Ever has to be right up their with co-writer Max Martin's best work, and Everything I'm Not and When It All Falls Apart are almost as good. And just when it seems to be getting all a little one-paced (Revolution sounds nothing more than a Lavigne knock-off), we get the standout track Secret, which starts off sounding like some bizarre Bond theme before hitting us with one of the catchiest (and funniest) chorus' you'll hear all year.
The one down point is the pointless cover version of Tracy Bonham's Mother Mother, which in it's day was a classic slice of feminine angst but sounds weak and tired in this superfluous version. It might have made a diverting B-side, but as an album closer it's out of place.
Still that disappointment aside, this is a fantastic pop album. Indeed, they've got the looks, they've got the tunes...what more could you possibly want people?
Friday, August 18, 2006
My sources tell me that Cheyenne was the winner of some "America's Most Talented Kid" competition back in 2002 by singing a self-penned song and recently had her own reality show on MTV. So, as you would expect, Cheyenne gets co-writing tracks on the majority of this album and, apparently, plays guitar on most of the tracks as well.
So far, so "pop idol". And as you might expect at times this album does have that "throw everything at it" style that is so evident in pop music these days. We'll have a healthy dose of Avril, throw in some Sheryl and toss is a smidgen of Jewel whilst we're here.
Yet there's something else going on here. She's worked with Blind Melon's Brad Smith and Christopher Thorn and has co-writers of the prestige of Chantal Kreviazuk (responsible for most of what was good on Avril Lavigne's last album). So whilst the MTV ready package is firmly in place, there seems as if there could be more to Cheyenne than you might first expect.
She certainly seems to know what she's doing. Lead single Hanging On is a catchy indie-pop song which is as good as anything Lindsay Lohan has ever been given to sing whilst Hello Goodbye is probably the kind of song that Avril Lavigne would kill for as her comeback single. The standout for me would be One Original Thing, which brings to mind Green Day's more poppier moments and is the sort of thing that could quite easily be a huge hit.
Of course the album is not without its problems. We must remember Cheyenne is still in her teens and so is not quite the polished article just yet. Still viewed as such, that is the first drawing of the sword of a promising artist, this is a good, and occasionally great, slice of pop which not only shows hints of promise but delivers a couple of tracks that will fit in nicely in the inevitable Greatest Hits collection in years to come.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Ok, so you know me. I heard Sewn and thought well that's a load of forgettable nonsense. Which at the time it was. But then I'm not one to totally close my ears and although initially I had little love for Fill My Little World it grew on me. So, thus, the album finds its way into my collection.
Is it the most exciting, vibrant and fresh album you'll ever hear? Not bloody likely; it's firmly entranced in its 1970's rock vibe from start to finish. But whilst the concept doesn't really set your heart on fire the execution has a charm that you cannot ignore.
Sewn is a mechancolly number that, retrospectively, is deserving of the buzz around The Feeling that it helped to create; Fill My Little World is good enough to keep that buzz going. The singles aren't the only strong points either. Kettle's On is the kind of epic that shows, just plucking a for instance out of the air here, Snow Patrol how "epic" really should be done, whilst Rose is a tender moment that sticks in the heart.
Of course too much of the same can get a little overbearing (Same Old Stuff ironically proving that point) but for the most part this is a hook-laden catchy pop record. And sometimes, that's enough.
Jeff Lynne would be proud.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Looking down the list there's some familiar faces this week, and some not so familar faces. So without further ado I'll get to it.
First up is Alesha. You might remember her as the one from Mis-Teeq who had Tourette's syndrome. Lipstick is a track which people "in the know" have been raving on about for ages and I have to admit that it's a lot better than you might have expected. It's a good pop tune, but not a great one in my opinion. But lets face it, it knocks spots off most of Rachel Stevens back catalogue.
I suppose as things goes she's got a bit of competition off newcomer Cassie this week, with the minimalistic Me and U. I had to laugh when Jo Whiley debuted this song on her show but I think I'll save my patented Whiley rant for another day. It's not bad and I'm sure it will be a big hit.
We'll keep things Urban with a bit of Beenie Man feat. Akon and Girls. Mind you the only thing I ever remember about the homophobic idiot that is Beenie refusing to hug Simon Amstell on Popworld. So really I'm not giving this drivel anything more than a cursory glance. Back Like That by Ghostface Killah feat. Ne*Yo is more worthy of consideration, just, and actually does have a nice piano melody thing going on in there.
There is also some BRILLIANT cover versions out this week. Say a big "welcome back" to Chico, that loveable X-Factor rogue, and his unbelievably brilliant cover of D.I.S.C.O. Chico...Disco...C.H.I.C.O...D.I.S.C.O...! See what he's done? Ok, I'll admit it's rubbish.
Less rubbish, of a fashion, is Ronan Keating's attempt at the Goo Goo Dolls, Iris. But what is more frightening, that he recorded it or that it's really no worse than the cloying original. In fact, whisper it, it may even be an improvement.
Chico isn't the only X-Factor reject out this week. Maria Lawson is having a bash with a boring soul(less) number which might give her 15 minutes of fame but little else on this evidence.
Goodness, this is taking a long time this week. But as I've little better to do I'll crack on.
Iron Maiden return this week, sounding, as they do, that little less important than the last time they returned. Credit for the preposterous title The Reincarnation Of Bejamin Breeg for the single though.
At least Iron Maiden were relevant at one point though, which is more than I could really say about Rooster. "But they bring rock to the kids" was the cry when they hit the scene...and then we complain about the sanitised music we get these days! Good To Be Here is everything you would expect; bland, boring, pointless.
I can't make my mind up about The Young Knives. 'Weekends And Bleak Days (Hot Summer) is a case in point. I saw the video and immediately thought "what the hell is this rubbish" but I was still watching it when it finished, so it can't be all bad can it? Still I can't quite "love" this one. Still I prefer it to Worry About It Later by The Futureheads, which is yet another one of their tracks which makes me personally wonder what the fuss about them is all about.
And talking about heavily hyped, the Arcitc Monkeys return with Leave Before The Lights Come On this week. I mean come on, the albums hardly been out half a year and they hit the charts with new material. Sadly it's not all that "new". Could the magic be wearing thin already? Hopefully not, but they'll have to do better than this in the future.
Anyway I've panned nearly everything so far (god, I am a grumpy bugger at times) so let's, at least momentarily, get to some goodies courtesy of The Divine Comedy and Hot Chip. DC's To Die A Virgin should have been the first single off their album being as it is everything you would want from Neil Hannon, and just that little bit more to boot. Hot Chip meanwhile return with Colours which is perhaps a little less chaotic than you might expect from them. Well if you ignore The Boy From School, which was quite mellow as well. Well you get my point anyway. It's good, that's all that matters.
And credit must be given to All In My Head by Good Shoes. A good sparkling catchy tune which you should check out as soon as you can.
Back to the rubbish and let's have a rapid fire round. Morning Runner's Oceans is dull, Always and Forever by Chocolate Puma isn't the Eternal tune and is awful, Love Don't Let Me Go by Egg and something is off that car advert is is pretty pointless and finally Ridin' by Chamillionaire ft. Krayzie Bone does at least have a nice strings section on it.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Whilst we're on a download frenzy, we might as well mention Beyonce's latest effort, Deja Vu, which is downloadable NOW! Although to be honest folks, don't bother downloading this one. I thought Aguillera's new one got a bit boring, but at least that was alright in the first instance. This one is just all around average.
Mind you, she could release a song where she farts to plinky hip-hop "beats" and it would still be better than anything Orson could ever come up with. Their new one, Happiness, is as bad as you would expect, but with slightly less "enthusiasm" than their previous efforts. All of which makes the "Britain's Favourite Band" tagline on their adverts the second most preposterous advertising ploy this year. (For the record, the worst is that Snow Patrol advert for their album which proclaims Chasing Cars as the "song of the year." I mean come on, even if it were any good, would it seriously be anywhere near being the "song of the year?")
Another hyped record this week is Seth Lakeman's Lady Of The Sea. Sorry, but I just don't get it. Perfectly reasonable tune I would admit, but given the press he gets I was expecting something rather more than the Corrs without the sisters.
Another act that is failling to thrill me this week is Primal Scream. Dolls is like their last effort; perfectly hummable but instantly forgettable.
Nice to see that Outkast are back; sadly their new one, Morris Brown, is no "Hey Ya" (but neither is it a "Deja Vu"). More of a "Big Boi"track than an Andre 3000 one, which is a problem with Outkast these days. They'd be better off persuing solo avenues really wouldn't they?
Two acts who have a certain heritage to live up to release singles this week too. Not for one minute that I am suggesting that Cerys Matthews' previous life as the Catatonia lead-singer deserves placing in the same light as Damian Marley's family history, but you get my drift. Both make a decent effort at creating something new but really they're not going to escape from the shadows of their past with these tracks.
Finally we get to Mousse T vs. Dandy Warhols and Horny As A Dandy. Pointless "mashing" and not even a very competent "mashing". Pure novelty and nothing more.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Hmm, deep fried crab sticks. There is something to be said for them. Especially as part of a £8.50 all you can eat Chinese buffet. Anyway, we had our usual meal, a few drinks in some nearby pubs and it was off to the Barfly.
I'd forgotten I'd been to the Barfly before, and it was relieving when we got in and it wasn't as empty as when Gee had been to see The Like there. Sure a lot of it was family and friends of the support acts, but there was a fair turn out for the Hedrons themselves.
We "watched the support act" with one of the Hedrons, the delightfuly named Chi. Little were we to know that one of us would get a lot closer to the Hedrons later in the night.
The Hedrons may only just have got around to releasing their first single (the incendiary and uproaring Be My Friend), but this was no sparse set. In fact it was filled with potential singles and, to my ears anyway, found pretty much the perfect balance between "rock out" and "melodic" and did more than enough to suggest that if they get the breaks, there should be a successful future ahead for the Hedrons.
The highlight though came towards the end of the set when the lead singer, Tippi, went walkabouts into the crowd. Quite apart from me thinking at that precise moments that this was one of the coolest things ever, the clincher came when she, well, took the piss out of the stationary Gee and his "Phil Hewitt watching Steps" arms folded "routine". I kid you not, I don't think I've ever seen anything funnier and I feel I should take this opportunity to thank Tippi for providing me with a new joke which will no doubt last me for the next 12 months.
But anyway, if you get the chance go and see the Hedrons; you won't be disappointed. For once, all the things the NME said about them were true!
Thursday, August 03, 2006
So far, so Sandi Thom one might suspect, but CSS (the name is the Poruguese for "Tired Of Being Sexy) weren't ever expecting to "make it", they merely wanted to have fun. In fact they would readily admit that when they started they couldn't play "properly", but despite the fact that they now can play "properly" their sound hasn't lost any of the, some might say, nieve excitement that being in a band brings.
The end result is an album which, if not quite living up to the promise that the sublime Let's Make Love znd Listen to Death From Above suggested, is a wonderful slice of eccentric electro pop-punk rock. (You see, despite me trying to catergorise them, it's difficult to pin them down).
For instance how can you not love a band who's use of English as a second language means they can crank up the smut level "I can see how you're doing by looking in your pants", deconstruct Paris Hilton "I went to the bitch, the bitch was hot. She came to me and said, ‘Do you like the bitch, bitch" and create a song out of the phrase "CSS sucks" yet still retain a sense of tongue-in-cheek humour?
Yes, some of the album isn't all that hot, for instance I still can't get over Artbitch's "suck my arthole, lick my art-tits" lyrics, but the parts of it which are good are, well, really good. You'll not be able to resist dancing, and the lyrics will have you laughing as you do so. In a world where a lot of music seems planned and constructed to the Nth degree this, for the most part, is a joyous and riotous album which if it doesn't get your hips shaking, will get your head banging.
MATT'S PICKS - Lets Make Love & Listen To Death From Above, Music Is My Hot Hot Sex, Alala, Off The Hook
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Yes, I'm bored again and so I've decided to rank the Pet Shop Boys singles in order of my preference. You might see that the top 10 of this is not quite the same as the one I did in May 2005, but then again, this list probably won't be the same if I do it in six months time.
1. Being Boring
2. Can You Forgive Her?
3. So Hard
5. It's A Sin
6. West End Girls
7. What Have I Done To Deserve This?
8. Always On My Mind
9. Love Comes Quickly
10. Left To My Own Devices
13. Go West
14. I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing
15. I’m With Stupid
16. Domino Dancing
17. Home And Dry
18. I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More
19. Se A Vida e (That's The Way Life Is)
20. Where The Streets Have No Names (I Can't Take My Eyes Off You)
23. I Get Along
25. Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)
27. You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk
28. DJ Culture
30. Paninaro '95
31. Yesterday, When I Was Mad
33. New York City Boy
35. Was It Worth It
37. A Red Letter Day
38. It's Alright
I've purposefully left out How Can You Expect To Be Taken Seriously as that was in effect the B-Side to "Streets...". The remix of DJ Culture doesn't count, and neither does Absolutely Fabulous as that was not released under the PSB name. Break 4 Love, London and Sexy Northerner don't count as they didn't get UK releases. Hallo Spaceboy with David Bowie doesn't count because PSB didn't get a namecheck and don't get me started on Electronic ;-D.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
First things first, you cannot deny that the voices are good and the three-track harmonies do indeed sound special; in fact vocally, The Pipettes have nothing on this trio. But where the Pipettes write their own songs and deliver them with a knowing wink, the Puppini Sisters stick to cover versions and never seem to quite know whether to play things straight (Mr. Sandman) or to turn up the cheese factor and acknowledge the joke (Wuthering Heights).
Covering Wuthering Heights is a trick that works, and the "doo wap she wap" interludes throughout Blondie's Heart Of Glass had this particular listener crying with laughter. And I mean that in a good way. When it hits the mark this is a very entertaining album. Other highlights include Tu Vuo' Fa L'Americano (which is better than the Jude Law & Matt Damon version ;-D) and the album closer, In The Mood. In fact this vocal-only track shows just how good this album could have been if there had been more like this.
However once the novely of the act wears off, there seems precious little else to bring you back to the album. Their crack at The Smiths Panic has a mild comedy value on the first listen, but really begins to grate after that. Still as something to dip into when you're "in the mood" this has its charms but you are left with the feeling that there could have been so much more on offer. Who knows, maybe that will come next time.
Matt's Picks - Wuthering Heights, In The Mood