Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jenny Owen Youngs LIVE

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You might have thought that a near two hour journey to Manchester would have been a portent for a bad evening (fact fans, it should take about 45 minutes tops) but after one of those stupendous Chinese buffet things (where the waitress was getting rather concerned about just how many pints we were having - for the record we only had four each) we sauntered across to the Night & Day.

Not many people were in, for the first time that I've ever been there they'd left tables and chairs out for people, so after catching the end of support act Dave House's (Air pressener in all of my houses) spot we leisurely made our way to front row spots. And as an aside, we didn't block anyone's view, it was just that there was a raft of space near the stage.

Jenny Owen Youngs was, quite simply, fantastic. Despite the fact she was suffering from a cold (and if I'm being honest, you wouldn't have known from her performance) and thus warned off anyone who "wanted to make out" with her afterwards, and despite some dodgy leads, sound systems, she put on a superb performance.

She was funny too. One particular highlight was "this guitar is fucking me in the ass." Which admittedly doesn't sound funny when written down like that but regardless it had me in stitches. It's hard to pick a highlight from the actual set as everything was just spot on.

She mingled with the public afterwards, asking Jazz Hands to take her to Paris and was just as delightful in that setting as well. All in all, a rather wonderful ending to the concerts of 2007. Roll on 2008.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Scouting For Girls LIVE

I know it's been a bit quiet around here lately but I've been a busy man; meeting a Playboy playmate has been just one way to pass the time recently. (No, really. That is the gospel truth).

But amongst all the fun I did have time to check out Scouting For Girls.

I want to say it depressed me greatly. To be honest, they're not very good. Admittedly place them side by side with the Hoosiers (just to pluck something from thin air there) and Scouting For Girls are the second coming of The Beatles.

I did however, have fun. How much of this was due to me being wasted on booze is open to question but despite the fact that the adulation for the band seemed wasted when you consider the populace virtually ignored Ben Folds Five back in the day one cannot be too churlish.

The girls in the crowd would have been out doing the rounds as sperm receptors and the lads would no doubt have been smashing car windows if they hadn't been having such a grand time with this concert.

So whilst I can hardly say it was great, everyone else seemed to be enjoying their pretty little heads off. And who am I to argue with that?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hits & Rarities - Sheryl Crow

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Just what you wanted isn't it? ANOTHER Sheryl Crow hits compilation. Ok, so the unkind amongst you might suggest that this is preferable to a new collection akin to the underwhelming Wildflower album, but closer inspection reveals this is merely a stop-gap until her new album hits the shelves in early 2008.

On the plus side it is more comprehensive than the last one (witness the inclusion of Tomorrow Never Dies for a start) but that also means that we have to put up with a guest appearance by the ever lovable Sting.

It's difficult to slate the album in terms of its quality, although it is a definite step down from the "Very Best Of Sheryl Crow" given that it adds on some less than stellar tracks. As for the second CD of rarities, it's a decent addition to your Sheryl Crow collection, but not in any way an essential one.

If you've not got a Sheryl Crow album in your collection, this, at least in terms of value for money, is the better compilation to buy. But if you've got the last one this is of no value whatsoever.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A New Hope - Minipop

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Minipop might be the wrong name for the band because their sound is anything but small.

At times Minipop can sound like your typical shoegazing indie nonsense, yes, but they've got that little extra that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.

There's little doubt that lead singer Tricia Kanne voice is ethereal and dreamlike and adds a rich layer to the band's sound, but the tunes themselves are great as well. At times they remind me of The Like (and any long-term readers will know that I will regard that as a good thing), at others there is the hint of Stars.

Not everthing on the album reaches the heights that tracks such as Someone To Love and Butterflies do, but overall this is still a very good effort indeed. Certainly worth tracking down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love - Trisha Yearwood

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Trisha Yearwood was one of the first country stars that I liked, way back in the mid 1990's. This is her 12th studio album, her first for a new label, and it's as if nothing has changed.

And realistically, nothing much has, her 2005 marriage to Garth Brooks aside.

But that doesn't need to be a criticism, because Yearwood had good old fashioned country and western nailed down a long, long time ago.

Equally adept at up-tempo numbers, such as the title track, as she is at the ballads, the pick of those being Help Me, Yearwood once again proves her vocal talent on this great album. She rarely disappoints, but this time she's excelled.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Red Carpet Massacre - Duran Duran

It's easy to laugh when you hear the news that Duran Duran have teamed up with the likes of Timbaland and Justin Timberlake in the making of their new album.

Whilst some might argue that working with such hot and of-the-moment producers and stars of their likes somewhat overstates Duran's importance in the 21st Century even the most po-faced reviewer would have to admit that the album has a certain vibrance and vitality that at least means it avoids the "drunken uncle at your wedding" syndrome that, by rights, this album should posess in spades.

The three Timbaland tracks are as positive as you might expect and would have made welcome additions to his recent "solo" album. Pick of the trio is Nite Runner, a slinky, breathy and funky track that will soon be crawling under your skin. The Justin Timberlake produced Falling Down is less successful, but then for all his success, Timberlake can be very much hit and miss and seems to have very few ideas. Indeed this sounds very similar to that one he did where Scarlet Johannson is in the video (sorry, but I've had a temporary mind freeze).

The only problem with it all is Simon Le Bon. It's faintly ridiculous that he's fronting an album as "fresh" as this, a problem which is exacerbated by his trite and sometime cringeworthy lyrical input.

Still as anyone who remembers the absolute car-crash that their covers album was will testify, this could have been a lot worse. In the end it's far better than I feared it might be, and that has to count for something.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Single Releases 19/11/07

Basically, I'm short of time this week.

Suffice to say that the Spice Girls song is dreadful. But that hardly matters in the overall scheme of things.

I do like Saving My Face by KT Tunstall though. I thought I better add that in.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rilo Kiley LIVE

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Funniest line of the night? The old geezer next to me expressing his disappointment at Jenny Lewis' attire with the words "bloody hell, she's wearing trousers." Least funniest line of the night? Well take your pick from the four ignorant bastards stood in front of us.

Still, nothing can take away the magic of what was a brilliant night's entertainment (including the £5 win on Deal or No Deal).

Shortly after half past nine on Sunday 18th November I saw the most adorable thing I have ever seen in my life. It's no secret that I'm in love with Jenny Lewis, but on this particular occasion she quite simply took my breath away. There's just something about a woman in a hat.

I could go on, but I'll comment on the music instead . This was fantastic. Even better than earlier in the year. The band were on top notch form and every song was a delight.

Seriously, there's little else I can say. EVERYTHING was fantastic. I hope it's not too long before I see them again.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tangled Up - Girls Aloud

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Well you know me. Girls Aloud happen to be brilliant. And as the bloke from The Guardian said the other day, "people who don't like Girls Aloud are like people who say they hate The Beatles; they're either posturing or they're an idiot. Either way, you should pay them no mind."


Still as it's Girls Aloud, I'm going to crack out the "once in a blue moon" track by track review of the new album Tangled Up.

1. Call the Shots
It symptomatic of how great the Girls Aloud "non-cover version" singles are that this is seen by some as a disappointment. It's not really a ballad as such, but is still the best ballad they've ever done which, admittedly isn't saying much. But then liking Girls Aloud for their balladry is like liking the Beatles because of Ringo Starr. In the final analysis it's just too "normal" to be a great Girls Aloud tune.

2. Close To Love
This is another one that is slightly too normal to be classic Girls Aloud. The best Girls Aloud tracks sound like they really couldn't be by anyone else. This is not one of those.

3. Sexy! No No No
I seemed to be in the minority with this one, but I didn't really like this. As a single it was adventurous, but was missing that vital thing. A great chorus. It's not bad (and is better than 95% of the last Sugababes album) but "not bad" doesn't really cut the mustard in terms of the Girls Aloud back catalogue.

4. Girl Overboard
Ok so this doesn't have the manic genius of, say, Biology, but it's a bloody brilliant tune, even if it does scream out "mid 1990's dance tune". One listen is all it takes for the "Girl overboard, I thought I had it but I tumbled" chorus to lodge in your brain. A stomping big gay anthem if ever I've heard one.

5. Can't Speak French
There's a story in this one. Perhaps Xenomania were stood in Subway City on that fateful day I tried to chat up a French girl whilst some Michael Jackson classic was pumping over the PA system. "I Can't Speak French, so I'll let the funky music do the talking" seems pretty appropriate for that night of my life. History will show I failed on that particular occasion, but who knows perhaps she's sat in a Paris Café listening to this song on her I-Pod thinking back to that same night. Anyway, I don't think you came here to listen to my life story so back onto the actual song. It's one of those schizophrenic ones which doesn't really seem to know what it's wanting to be. It's good and the kind of thing that only Girls Aloud do, and whilst it might not convince in the way that some of their tracks of this type do, it's still very good.

6. Black Jacks
Oh, we're really getting somewhere now. This is a retro sounding track (like something Candie Payne would do) right from the opening drum beats. "Come and get stuck in" might be one of their finest moments ever. In all seriousness, if someone like the Kaiser Chiefs or Franz Ferdinand did this people would be hailing it as an all-time classic. But I'm not so shallow that a "cool" band has to do it for me to say this. This is wonderful,

7. Control Of The Knife
This is one of those songs that on first listen seems a little bit of fluff, but it's another one of those that just lodges itself in your brain. It's a little bit reggae (in the way that some of Gwen Stefani's stuff could be called reggae) and when they sing "you got me hook, line and sinker" that pretty much sums up the appeal of this song. Insistent beats matched to a very catchy tune. A definite winner.

8. Fling
"Its just a bit of ding-a-ling baby, don't want relationships, so swing baby, swing baby." I think that might get Dave a bit hot under the collar. Whilst this once again proves that Nadine shouldn't attempt to rap there is no denying it's power. My only downside about this one is that parts of the guitar backing sound depressingly close to the worst song ever (which as you should all know is that god awful I Like The Way You Move).

9. What You Crying For
Well I bet you never thought that GA would go drum'n'bass? Not particularly my cup of tea, but not bad.

10. I'm Falling
We're continuing the techno style beats here, but to much better effect than on the previous track. My only real criticism is the relatively weak chorus.

11. Damn
It's like someone has unearthed a previously unreleased outtake from the movie Grease. I can see the Arctic Monkeys doing this one really well you know. It's got that insistent, nagging groovy guitar beat that is their trademark.

12. Crocodile Tears
So we finish off with the closest thing to a ballad on the album. For some reason I can see them hanging around in a Western town in the video to this one. If they did a video for this one. It's very good.

So overall? Well it's clear to see that in it's first flush of youth it's no Chemistry, but then that was one of the classic pop albums of the 21st Century so far. No really.

To put things into perspective, it's easily a "four star" album and has a smattering of "five star" tracks. It's also convincingly better than the recent effort by the Sugababes (their closest "contemporaries" I suppose). For the most part it's also the kind of thing that only Girls Aloud could give us (let's face it, Xenomania save their best stuff for the Girls).

No covers, no real soppy ballads...what more could you ask for from a Girls Aloud album?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Greatest Hits - McFly

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It would have been easy to dismiss McFly as just another one of those dreadful boy bands when they first hit the airwaves. The problem was that debut single, Five Colours In Her Hair was one of those undeniably catchy pop tunes that you hear once and then have it lodged in your brain for days.

Of course it would be remiss of me to suggest that all their songs were as catchy, or as good, as that one but it's by no means the only McFly song that stands up remarkably well.

The likes of All About You, Obviously and Please Please were all perfectly good pop songs too. And if they lost their way with attempts to prove they were a "serious" musical act on albums two and three (it can't be a coincidence that Ultraviolet and The Ballad Of Paul K don't make it onto the regular version of this album) you have to say that their attempts at being serious musicians come out better than you'd expect, if never quite convincing you enough. Hell, I'd take them over James Blunt any day of the week.

Any anyway, one of them has "done" Lindsay Lohan...I've got to respect that.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Trick To Life - The Hoosiers

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One review of this album suggested that this is exactly the kind of non-threatening album that seems almost perfect for Virgin Radio Drivetime.

And no, that's not a compliment.

And if I'm being honest there's not an awful lot more that I can add to that description. It sums up the entire Hoosiers project entirely.

I'm not sure if it's the incessant "wackiness" the band seem intent on proving that they have, the idea that they seem to think that they're just so much "fun" to listen to, the terrible singing or the ripped off melodies that annoy me the most with this album.

I was brave; I saw it through to the end. But at the end of it all a great violence was welling up inside me. I hope I never have to listen to this again.

The Feeling have an awful lot to answer for by making 70's style AOR pop music "fashionable" again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Spirit - Leona Lewis

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It's a year since Leona Lewis was taken to the nations bosom, or some such nonsense, as the winner of the 2006's X-Factor. If we're to listen to Simon Cowell it's been time spent making sure that Lewis will be a long-term superstar, globally, rather than cashing in on the one album made whilst her success would be in the minds of the record buying public and then pushing her off into oblivion.

Whatever you choose to believe on that respect the one thing they haven't really done in that twelve months or so is get her some tunes.

First off, irrespective of your feelings on how she was "discovered", there is no denying that she's got a great voice. The problem is that a lot of the time it's surrounded by melodies and tunes that even Des'ree might reject as being a little too bland. Indeed I can't help but think Lewis is missing a trick by not doing a version of Life.

Anyways...Occasionally, such as on the recent single Bleeding Love, we get a glimpse that if she was hooked up with some top notch producers this could have been something reasonably special. As it is, they've pitched her somewhere between Westlife and the worst bits of Whitney Houston. And neither side of that equation is particularly enticing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Greatest Hits - Spice Girls

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I'll admit to multiple live concert trips to see The Spice Girls (both pre- and post- Geri), including that immensely awesome coach trip to Sheffield when me and my mate Gee were the only people on the coach over the age of eleven not there because they were taking their kids to the concert. Indeed the bus driver picked on me as the conscience of the bus to do the head count.

Of course I probably would have gone to see them this time around if it wasn't SEVENTY-FIVE fucking pounds for a ticket. As it happens I won't even be spending the tenner on the CD.

But that doesn't stop me taking a look back at some pop history does it?

Like most throwaway pop (for want of a better term) things are never likely to seem as good as they were 10 years later (though I'd wager I'll still be sat here in 2017 telling you how great Girls Aloud were) but there are a number of songs that still hold up relatively well, most of them from their second album Spiceworld.

Spice Up Your Life might still be their finest moment, Viva Forever and Too Much remain their finest ballads (with one possible exception, which we'll come to in a moment) and Stop is the epitome of a pop party track that appeals to one and all, young and old.

Songs from the debut fare less well. Wannabe, as crucial as it was to the rise of the Spice Girls at the time, hasn't aged well and Mama sounds even more cringeworthy in 2007 than it did at the time. Everything from this period beats virtually all of the dog that was Forever. That was the classic moment when a fantastic pop act gets idea's above their station and don't want to be pop anymore.

The only saving grace from the dreadful final days was Goodbye, quite possibly my favourite Spice Girls ballad if only for the fact that I once used it to make my, soon to be ex, flatmate cry at University when it was on in a club saying that once we left uni, that would be it. For those keeping score I think I've seen her about three times since then (in seven years).

But anyway, whilst perhaps damaging the memory of The Spice Girls in some ways (and seriously, what's with putting that bloody Pepsi advert song on here) when they were being a pop act, they were pretty damn fine. Some people may suggest it was only ever about the hype, but this proves that for at least the first two thirds of their original career they usually had the tunes as well.

I just hope they've no inclination to get "naked" during their tour this time around.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Single Releases 12/11/07

I don't really think that on the surface I'm going to have any better luck with this week's singles than I did last week. But this week I am at least going to make an effort.

So yes, the new Fergie one is absolutely atrocious. But then I ask you people, what did you expect? The Black Eyed Peas are bad enough at times but rarely do they collectively sink to the level of a Fergie solo track for sheer awfulness.

As for Hard-Fi, well let's just say I find them annoying and leave it at that.

They are probably less annoying, just about, than Nickleback. Their new one, Rockstar, is absolutely lamentable. I can only spend a brief moment each day wishing that they hadn't decided to become "rockstars".

That new Rhianna one is awful as well. But it seems that life goes along the lines of "if Matt likes a Rhianna song it scrapes into the top 10, if Matt doesn't like it it storms to number one and stays there for a year." So what do I know?

Love's Not A Competition (But I'm Winning) was one of the most abysmal tracks on the latest Kaiser Chiefs album so only releasing it on a 7-inch through their website is probably a good idea. It doesn't let them off the hook though. If I was genetically engineering a set of lyrics to make Ricky Wilson even less likable, I couldn't come up with anything much better than this I'm sure.

I'm not keen on hellogoodbye either if I'm being honest. And I am.

Maximo Park have sneaked up on me though this year and Karaoke Plays is another winner. There are few bands who, lyrically, seem to hit the right spots on a personal level in terms of my life as Maximo Park. I'm not saying they are particularly insightful in global terms, but they seem to sum up a lot of my life. But that's probably telling you more than you want to know about my miserable love life.

Dizzee Rascal's Maths And English album was awesome (and I'll keep saying that until more people agree with me); Flex is another winner. Not that anyone will listen to me.

To end I suppose we must tackle the new Kylie single, 2 Hearts. It's ok, and at least in terms of her own output is something different. She'd have been better off getting the people who worked on Britney's album though if you ask me. Not that any of these comments will stop the juggernaut that is her career.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Carnival Ride - Carrie Underwood

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Carrie Underwood was once described to me as the proof that even reality shows could introduce us to talent. That would nicely avoid the fact that Underwood, on her second album, only contributes co-writing on three songs. But then again, Underwood isn't pop, she's country. Except pop is exactly what she is, even if she had no real desire to be a pop star.

Second album time is either more of the same in an attempt to consolidate your strengths or the time when the more adventurous might strike out in a fresh direction to prove they're not one-trick ponies (and I'm not saying either route is necessarily incorrect). Underwood has taken the former route but luckily for her she (or those who make the music) has come up with a collection which is better as a whole than her massive debut.

It's telling perhaps that the best moments are the more upbeat songs such as Flat On The Floor and Last Name. That's not to say that her voice cannot carry the slower, torch, songs because it certainly can, but they fail to convince in the long-run. It almost seems as if the producers have similar misgivings given how many of the seemingly more mellow moments suddenly crank up a gear half way through.

It's not likely to give her the worldwide crossover as a Shania Twain as it's a little bit too country for some tastes, but it is a good album which should offer plenty to any country aficionado's out there.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Acoustic Hearts Of Winter - Aly & AJ

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Yes, it's coming up to Christmas so over the next six or seven weeks I shall be reviewing random Christmas CD's as and when the mood takes me.

Now if there's one thing guaranteed to strike dread into my heart, its an album with the word "acoustic" in the title. Even worse when it's a manufactured pop band committing that heinous crime.

Well fear not, this is actually pretty awesome as Christmas albums go.

Funnily enough its not the "pop"ed up attempts to continue their trademark sounds that most capture me, but the more traditional fare. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, We Three Kings and Let Snow quite simply but me instantly in the Christmas mood and more upbeat reworking of Little Drummer Boy and Deck The Halls are superb as well.

Sure some of the rest is cringeworthy, but it's Christmas. Well worth grabbing hold of a copy for your Christmas morning.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Very Best Of...Diana Krall

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If you've heard of Diana Krall then you'll know instantly whether this is the CD for you or not. If you haven't heard of her, or only know her as Mrs Elvis Costello, and feel in the mood for a bit of mellow jazz then you might be well advised to put this on your shopping list.

Fans would probably never agree over which 15 songs should have made the cut from her 14 year career (and consider that three of those are brand new Krall recordings) but on the whole I think it does an excellent job of cherry picking some of her finest moments.

Particular favourites of mine include Peel Me A Grape, Frim Fram Sauce and Let's Fall In Love. Of the new tracks, the only bad thing I can say about them is that it's a pity that Only The Lonely isn't the Roy Orbison classic.

If I was entertaining this weekend, this would be the CD being played as the soundtrack.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Mary Onettes - The Mary Onettes

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Well anyone who likes 80's music, and specifically the likes of New Order, The Cure and The Smiths (or even A-Ha) will be intrigued by what they find on Sweeden's The Mary Onettes album, but they might not necessarily be entranced by it.

There's nothing wrong with wearing your influences on your sleeve but over the course of this debut album you might find yourself wishing that they'd taken the care to marry them to some substantial chops of their own.

There are times when the approach works; the one truly outstanding track, Lost, is a case in point. Just when you think it can't soar any higher, it leaves that assessment trailing in the dust with,

Sadly it's not a trick they can pull off again, at least on this collection. There are other diverting moments, but often your only thought it what New Order song they're sounding like for this three minutes (the most blatant example of this being Slow).

It's a decent effort, but has little to make you come back for repeated listens. Nothing is really an out and out stinker, but precious little of it sails to the stars.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mutha' 'Uckers

You won't belive me but "you fee me 'cause of your mutha 'uckin fee" is the funniest line uttered on television in 2007.

Thanks to r8dkid.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Kate Nash LIVE

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Well all praise my new job. Five minutes after driving off the work car park I was on the motorway. Compare that to the at least 30 minute run from my previous workplace (which lest you people don't realise was only about half a mile further away from the motorway than my current position) and we're already onto a winner.

That said, it led to a problem eventually. After a few games of golf (and having to lend some money to Gee who had spent all his money at the weekend going out with his future wife) and a kebab we headed to Academy One ridiculously early. I did attempt to suggest Kro Bar for a drink, but we pressed on regardless, eager to check out the new and improved venue.

Well basically it was shit. It might just have been the five deep queue for the bar and the irredeemably shit support band (think the Klaxons doing a piss poor Kraftwerk impersonation and you're not even half way to how bad they were) but somehow I doubt it. Unless the venue has something up its sleeve for the final stretch of "improvements" one of my favourite gig-going venue seems to have shot itself in the foot.

As for the concert itself, which is kind of the point, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand it wasn't as captivating as Nash's earlier gigs this year at Night & Day, although at least in a bigger venue it was easier to avoid being stood next to pretentious wankers. The problems I have with Made Of Bricks are well known by now and I have to say that Nash is better when uncluttered by superfluous musical arrangements (read that as a "live band").

That said, despite a feeling of disappointment when the evening was over, I've been singing We Get on ever since the concert. And I dare say that not one of the teenage girls who left the concert into the cold night Manchester air thought that the concert was anything less than one of the best nights out they've ever had.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Single Releases 5/11/07

So amongst others this week we have Paul McCartney, Wet Wet Wet, Bedouin Soundclash, Elvis Presley, The Proclaimers, Nicole Scherzinger , Shitdisco Boy Kill Boy and David Gray.

I tell you what folks, I'll give it a miss this week.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Better Than Blood - Megan McCauley

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If the cover of this album, and indeed its' title, suggests emo goth is in store, then Tap That, the lead single, from Megan McCauley's debut album initially defies that description. Indeed it starts off more like some attempt to mix Rap with P!nk (and if that's not a dreadful idea on paper I don't know what is), yet within minutes we're into the kind of chorus that sent The Offspring into the mainstream. And despite initial reservations, I have to say it's really rather good.

And so the experience of the album goes. Yes there are the Amy Lee cast-off's (Reverie, taken from the Fantastic Four soundtrack, is a case in point) but there is more to Megan McCauley than first impressions might suggest.

Wrong Way Out is the kind of uplifting anthem that could "save" Robbie Williams career (for the, erm, record, by the way I don't think his career needs "saving" - Rudebox was his most inventive and interesting album) and if it's in danger at times of veering a little too close into Anastacia territory its saved by an uplifting and soaring chorus.

Labelling Migraine as Nirvana with a female singer might be pushing the point a little too far, but you get the idea, whilst I'll Pay You To Shoot Him (a true tale of McCauley telling police officers to "deal" with her Father) shows that she cuts the mustard lyrically as well.

Some people probably won't be able to look past the album cover (although some people may well be enamoured by thoughts of a busty redhead) and that's a pity. McCauley proves on this really rather good debut album that she's a talent to be reckoned with.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Delta - Delta Goodrem

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I did like the lead single from this album, In This Life.

Indeed, I have a soft spot for Delta, for no real apparent reason, and whilst I would never suggest her albums are brilliant, they always contain enough to keep me going.

Delta, her 3rd album, is pretty much the same.

Yes, as the single showed, there is a slightly "edgier" slant on occasions but for the most part its just as you'd expect; good but not great.

The one real exception to that is future single, Believe Again. If the people of Britain didn't hate her for taking McFadden away from Kerry Katona, this would have number one written all over it. It's comfortably the best thing she's ever done and even if you don't feel like you can stomach the entire album, at the very least check that out if you can.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Donnas LIVE!

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Well at least the Gee got a taste of the heavy traffic I usually have to put up with when driving to these things. Lovely to see sweat towel bloke waiting outside the venue as we drove past.

I lost at Golf, but discovered that Peeterman Artois is absolutely deadly for me. Seriously, three pints and I was more drunk that I was at the weekend when I'd partaken in a share of about six jugs of Fosters for starters!

Anyway, onto the concert.

And may I just say...I love The Donnas. This was so much better than being Academy 2 last time around and if the turn out was a little on the poor side (and lets be honest, it was) everyone seemed determined to make up for it.

Old hits sat alongside the new album tracks with the pace never really being allowed to slow down. All four of them seemed bang on form and this has to go down as one of the most entertaining concerts of the year!

I dare say the fact I'm in love with Alison Robertson didn't hurt matters either.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Black & White Album - The Hives

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The Hives may well have been "Your New Favourite Band" with the release of Hate To Say I Told You So but it didn't last long. By the time that the follow up to that album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, hit the shops it seemed as if The Hives had already outlived their usefulness.

Yet, here we are in 2007 and despite the introduction of new producers into proceedings, including Pharrell Williams, in an attempt to break new ground it's the "old sound" of The Hives that comes to the fore on the Black And White's not bad at all.

The likes of Tick, Tick Boom and Return The Favour are up there with the best things they've done and whilst they can't keep that up over the running time of this somewhat over-long album (15 tracks of The Hives is too much for me in one sitting) there's more than enough in the album to enjoy.

Subtle and innovative it may not be, fun and worth a listen it most certainly is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Blackout - Britney Spears

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One thing has been overlooked in the Britney Spears meltdown; those people saying that her music career was over have neglected the fact that Spears herself has little input into the songs themselves. As the sublime Toxic showed, Spears is only ever one truly great pop single away from redemption and as long as she's in some kind of condition to turn up and lay down some basic vocals, the producers can work their magic.

And that's the first impression you get from listening to Blackout. Spear's voice is twisted and contorted by any number of technical processes and it's only that peculiar Southern twang that confirms it is indeed Britney.

And immediately we're into the problems. There is, quite simply, something wrong with Britney. She's not right. It's easy to laugh (or indeed compare her treatment to the treatment that the "talented" Amy Winehouse gets) but anyone with the merest touch of human kindness within them must feel at least a little sorry for her. The problem is that it's left us with an album that has not an ounce of her own personality on it and one, if we're being frank, seems to have been put together with only the merest of input from it's "star."

That said, there are enough catchy pop tunes to ensure that the album is far from a complete washout. Lead single Gimme More deserves it's UK top 5 status, and could well be joined by the likes of Hot As Ice, the Neptunes produced Why Should I Be Sad? and Piece Of Me (with it's seminal lyric "I'm Mrs. Oh-My-God that Britney's shameless" - which pretty much sums up the entire project).

Yes, it could be any identikit young female popstrel on the decks and there's little lyrical insight into Britney's descent from fresh faced superstar to the single mother of two kids who can't even get custody of them due to her "personal demons". Yet for all those problems, and with a nod that it might simply be due to the fact that no-one expected much of it at all, this is not the terrible car-crash album that it could have been. Largely soulless it may be, but it at least does have the benefit of some catchy pop tunes.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Single Releases 29/10/07

It surely has to be a cause for celebration that in 2007 we can have a week with new single releases from Brand New Heavies, Cliff Richard, Simply Red, Celine Dion and Elvis Presley.

And whislt we're here, how the hell can Simply Red "split up"?

Anwyay, onto the serious stuff.

Ladytron's Destroy Everything You Touch gets a pointless re-release this week, but my god it is a killer track.

It's better than New Young Pony Club's Get Lucky, but that's a bloody good tune too.

Other good ones this week are Gilt Complex by Sons & Daughters, Terra Firma by The Young Knives and Handle Me by Robyn (no matter how the fact that the likes of Edith Bowman are banging on about Robyn as if she's some totally new artist that no one had heard of prior to With Every Heartbeat annoys me).

Not very good this week are You And Me by One Night Only, We Used To Vacation by Cold War Kids and The Night Sky by Keane.

Absolutely terrible, of course, is the new Westlife one. But did anyone really expect anything else?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hot In Here

The wonderful Jenny Owen Youngs doing Nelly's "Hot In Herre"

It's really rather fantastic.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mano Suave - Yasmin Levy

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The chances are that you will not have even heard of the language Ladino. But then why would you have heard of a 15th Century language spoken by Spanish Jews that is now spoken by a couple of hundred thousand people at most?

It therefore may put you off to learn that Yasmin Levy, a striking Israeli singer in her early 30's has a mission to revive the language and one such result is Mano Suave. But anyone who would ignore this album on that basis alone is missing out on a treat.

The real strength of the album is Levy's passionate and charismatic voice which transcends the language of the lyrics. It's all the more striking when set amid sparse percussion arrangements.

Highlights include the soaring title track (which features guest vocals from Natacha Atlas) and, with it's infectious blend of piano and fiddle, Komo La Roza.

By it's very definition it's not going to be an album for everyone, but anybody with a love of "world" music or someone with a suitably open mind will surely find much to delight them on this stunning album.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amy Macdonald LIVE

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It's not every night I go along to a salsa night. But this wasn't "every" night. Dave joined us, I used my mother's car (my new one will get sorted soon I hope) and I had my brand new phone (and as you will have seen it's still not very good at concert pics...but no worse really than my actual proper camera) which at this point was working.

Anyway, after the salsa it was onto the Barfly to catch the last of the support act and wonder how we were going to get a decent view as the petite venue looked ram-packed to buggery. Thankfully as we went in to the venue, the entire left hand side was empty thanks to a large pole (no, not Gregor Rasiak) and no-one else had seemingly had the great idea to actually stand at the side of the pole and thus get a second row view of the concert.

First impressions were that Macdonald looks like a twelve year old and if I am being honest upon the first song kicking in I had to stifle a laugh at her voice. But I soon got used to it and am glad to report that I had a top notch crew night all of the way.

She packs a powerful punch that you wouldn't expect of her, has some genuinely good tunes and I even have to admit to finding her witty banter compelling. Sadly though, Dave has already decided, thanks to the "music, football, teasely" thing, that she's his future wife so I will have to look on with jealousy.

Seeing her so soon after watching the mighty Tunstall might be a tad ironic, but shockingly I would have to say that I enjoyed Amy Macdonald more tonight than I did KT last week.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Single Releases 22/10/07

Did Leona Lewis, or perhaps more pertinently Simon Cowell, make the right decision by waiting almost a year to follow up her X-Factor winning single? Only time will tell. Having said that, Bleeding Love doesn't sound like the kind of song that's exactly worth waiting all that time for.

In a sense, Amerie shows her how to do it this week with the wonderful Crush. It's even better than the Jennifer Page Crush. Not that there is anything else in common with that song other than the title!

I do like that Kings Of Leon new one. Which makes their credit chart up to two (Molly's Chamber obviously being the other one). Which is a start is it not?

That Freemasons feat Bailey Tzuke track is quite a good one too (I know, what is up with me this week?). Even finding out it was written by Alanis Morissette didn't put me off it. Which is something is it not?

How nice of Amy Winehouse to get arrested just before Mark Ronson's Valerie gets a release. It's better than the Zutons, but then what isn't?

McFly are getting boring. Mutya Buena, meanwhile, just keeps on coming up with new ways of staying boring. Newton Faulkner almost gets a "not bad" for All I Got...but i'm not that crazy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scouting For Girls - Scouting For Girls

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Well, at the very least it's not the Kaiser Chiefs!

In all seriousness though, at least we're not in Hoosiers territory.

But, no, definitely actually starting the review now, for a brief moment you think that this is going to be something special indeed.

The opening trio of songs are really rather good. Keep On Walking is joined by top 5 smash single She's So Lovely and breakthrough hit It's Not About You. And you're thinking "this is really rather great".

But then you hit a wall and realise that this is as good as it gets. It's not to say that the rest is awful, just more of the same in a not as good way.

It is a fun, catchy album which diverts for a while but ultimately fails to totally convince.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Stupid Hair

The one bad thing about the new Girls Aloud single/video is Sarah Harding's hair is as daft as ever.

Friday, October 19, 2007

KT Tunstall LIVE

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A big queue at the Chippy meant that my food for the entire day, Toblerone notwithstanding, amounted to a dodgy burger at the van opposite the Apollo. This all did mean however, extra time for booze in the Union. A very underrated pub experience. Even if I can't repeat much of what was said.

So it was onto the palatial Apollo itself, skilfully avoiding the support act, to take our seats. Now I'm a big Tunstall fan and do actually like Drastic Fantastic very much (unlike some other fans who've been with her since the beginning) but there was something just not quite clicking for a lot of this concert for me. As I've said before, the first time I saw her live was so special (and quite unexpectedly brilliant - in the sense I had no real idea what to expect) that nothing has quite managed to live up to that since.

Which is not to say that this was in any way a bad evening, because it most certainly wasn't, even if it had it's, dare I say it, dull moments.

I'm sure the 10 people in attendance who have Acoustic Extravaganza loved Ashes and Gone To The Dogs, but they were two songs I had no real desire to listen to. And if I'm being honest, making a big deal about swearing ceased to be hilario when I was about seven years old. And continuing in an honest vein, I can't say I cared much for the "witty" banter at times.

Still there were great swathes I thoroughly enjoyed. THE highlight had to be Black Horse & Cherry Tree, which in it's own way is telling. The likes of Suddenly I See and Hold On came close, even if I'm one of the few people who actually thinks Hold On was a great single.

A good night then, but not quite a great one.

As an aside though, I am in love with one of her backing singers.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Overpowered - Roisin Murphy

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It's obvious that Roisin Muprhy was a little upset that her critically acclaimed debut solo album Ruby Blue sold so few copies because Overpowered sees her crank up the, you know, tunes on the follow up Overpowered.

Of course there will be those who accuse her of watering down her sound, or worse still "selling out", but that is all a load of patent nonsense. Yes, its "accessible" but it's no less delightful that the wilfully experimental Ruby Blue. In fact I'd say, without a doubt, it's the better of the two albums as it still packs in more invention and unpredictability than most albums in the name of "pop" do.

From the likes of the title track, current single Let Me Know and You Know Me Better it's really difficult to pick out THE standout track. Most of it is excellent, with the only real disappointment for me being Dear Miami, which never really seems to get going.

A great album, packed with great tunes that never lose the fact that Murphy has a superb voice. Call it disco, call it dance, call it it what you like, it still adds up to one of the best albums of the year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Established 1967 - Radio 1

Well this should be funny; I shall go through this one track by track, not least because it gives me ample opportunity to take the piss out of some of my "favourite" artists. And by "favourite" I mean "least favourite".


1. Flowers In The Rain - Kaiser Chiefs
In a word, dreadful. It's like a really really bad Kaiser Chiefs song, and lord knows that their best ones can get tiresome.

2. All Along The Watchtower - Fratellis
Well this one is going well isn't it. I really really do hate the Fratellis, so this isn't really going to be the most unbiased of verdicts. But really there is something laughable about them even attempting this song and the end result isn't any more pleasurable than you'd expect. But, as its a better song that any of their own twaddle, this is better than anything else they've ever done.

3. Cupid - Amy Winehouse
Hmm. Passable is the best I can get for this one. A bit too close to what you'd expect from her to really get any better than that.

4. Lola - Robbie Williams
All the invention of making the cover version sound as much like the original as you can. That said, Robbie always has a certain charm which makes this one of the better ones.

5. Your Song - The Streets
Is Mike Skinner taking the piss? If this is tongue in cheek then it may well be the greatest thing ever put on record. If he was being serious, then god help us all. But in all honesty if you can get past the first part, in which his "vocals" are beyond piss-poor, it actually builds up quite a crescendo.

6. Betcha By Golly Wow - Sugababes
Out of all the up-tempo catchy tunes they could have done from the past 40 years, they do this, which is very very dull. It's one of those "oh, but look, they can really sing" songs that they do every, oh, three months. And the world is none the better for them doing it.

7. You're So Vain - Feeling
The Feeling may be naff, in a good "Supertramp" way, but this is a step too far even for me. I'm not sure "camp" was what they were aiming for with this one, but it just doesn't suit the singers voice. A valiant effort I suppose.

8. Band On The Run - Foo Fighters
Manages to combine the dullness of their acoustic phase with the head-banging side of their repertoire. I'm already beginning to lose the will to live if I'm being honest.

9. Love Is The Drug - Kylie Minogue
Against all the odds I like this. It's Kylie doing what she does best.

10. Let's Stick Together - KT Tunstall
If KT never did another good song ever, I'd love her for this alone. I've a feeling that the best ones on this whole shebang are going to be the ones where people aren't taking the damn thing too seriously.

11. Sound And Vision - Franz Ferdinand
Very disappointing.

12. Teenage Kicks - Raconteurs
Pointless. But then again, the Raconteurs are pretty pointless when all is said and done.

13. Can't Stand Losing You - Mika & Armand Van Helden
The second good Mika song in existence? Jesus Christ, this week has been tough on me.

14. Too Much Too Young - Kasabian
A "cover version by numbers" if ever there was one. But then again I hate Kasabian so what do I know?

15. Under Pressure - Keane
If ever a cover version should be wronger than wrong, this is it. But remarkably this is very, very brilliant.

16. Town Called Malice - McFly
Oh, look, just like when we did that Who song, we like proper music you know. In other words a totally perfunctory cover version that will enrich your life not a jot.

17. Come Back And Stay - James Morrison
I'll whisper it quietly, but I quite like this one....

18. Careless Whisper - Gossip
I'm sure somebody somewhere though this was "arch" and "hip" in an ironic way. All it is is absolute tosh.

19. Power Of Love - Pigeon Detectives
I was so happy when this was the Huey Lewis song and not the Frankie Goes To Hollywood one. They don't do it justice mind you, but then surely their attempt at the Frankie song would have been 100 times worse.

20. Don't Get Me Wrong - Lily Allen
Another one of those by the numbers covers. But my dad likes it.


1. You Sexy Thing - Stereophonics
Every bit as fucking terrible as you would expect. I'm sorry, I do try to keep the language on this site at PG level, with the occasional trip into 12A, but this deserves the use of the f-bomb. How am I ever supposed to remember with a fondness the time Dawn wrote the lyrics to this on my laptop screensaver? Hell, at least she didn't find my porn.

2. Fast Car - Mutya Buena
As if to reinforce the notion that she hasn't an original idea in her head, Mutya delivers this, very blandly.

3. Lullaby - Editors
The singer's voice really annoys me, more than ever in this song, but it's a pretty decent stab at the Cure classic.

4. Englishman In New York - Razorlight
Does life get any better than this? I'll say no more as I don't really feel the need to unleash any more f-bombs. Safe to say, I sincerely wish that Johnny Borrell was an Englishman In New York, or possibly even somewhere further away that that.

5. Crazy For You - Groove Armada
One of those songs that seems to be going nowhere but has a kind of hypnotic beauty. I like it.

6. It Must Be Love - Paolo Nutini
An absolute travesty. And to top it off it sounds like its UB40 doing it.

7. All That She Wants - The Kooks
Ok, so I'll probably never like The Kooks, but this is pretty damn good. It's a great song anyway, and they've tried something different with it. Thumbs up.

8. You're All I Need To Get By - Mark Ronson
As he does nothing else but covers it's a bit pointless having the Ronson on here. But maybe Nigella Express needed another song for background music. Not as good as anything off his album. Apart from that Kasabian one. But that doesn't count as everyone knows they are rubbish.

9. Stillness In Time - Calvin Harris
I love Calvin Harris and this is a funky 80's style beat-bomb. Or something.

10. No Diggity - Klaxons
Yes, another example of how great the Klaxons are. Yes, that was sarcasm.

11. Lovefool - Just Jack
I didn't think anything could make me hate Just Jack any more than I already do. Patiently, I was wrong.

12. Ray Of Light - Bedingfield, Natasha
Great vocal performance doesn't save this being very annoying.

13. Drinking In LA - The Twang
Just when you thought The Twang couldn't get any worse, they prove you incorrect.

14. Great Beyond - Fray
If I never hear another Fray song, it will still be far too soon.

15. Teenage Dirtbag - Girls Aloud
This is also pretty rubbish; they could at least have done their version of Rehab or something.

16. Like I Love You - Maximo Park
Very, very funny.

17. Don't Look Back Into The Sun - The View
Oh, the irony. I do with The View would disappear from, erm, view.

18. Toxic - Hard-Fi
Well it's comfortably the best thing they've ever done.

19. Father And Son - The Enemy
Hmm. Another bad one.

20. Steady As She Goes - Corinne Bailey Rae
She used to be in a punk band you know. And it's pretty easy to see why that didn't work out.

Overall this is for curiosity value only. There's very little I'd have any great desire to listen to ever again.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Disco 4 - Pet Shop Boys

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It's not very often that I would call something the Pet Shop Boys released "perfunctory"; sadly this is one of those rare occasions.

It's not the concept that is a problem in itself, bringing together as it does some rather wonderful remix collaborations with the likes of Madonna, David Bowie and The Killers, more that with no liner notes there isn't the feeling that this is something of a "must have". It's also not a complete retrospection of their remix work, with the omission of the Girls and Boys remix being particularly sad.

Throw in one excellent PSB own remix (I'm With Stupid) and one so-so one (Integral) and you have a decent collection but not one that that any non-PSB obsessive needs in their collection. Still, at least it's not Disco 2 all over again is it?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Single Releases 15/10/07

This week I LOVE;

The Wombats - Lets Dance To Joy Division
Blood Red Shoes – I Wish I Was Someone Better
Mika – Happy Ending (no, really I do)

This week I QUITE LIKE;

Concretes – Keep Yours
Richard Hawley – Serious
Robots in Disguise - The Sex Has Made Me Stupid
Jimmy Eat World – Big Casino


Common feat Lily Allen - Drivin' Me Wild
Timbaland & OneRepublic – Apologize
Los Campesinos! - International Tweexcore Underground


Orson – Ain’t No Party

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Editors LIVE

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Narrowly avoiding a "fracas" in the Chinese restaurant (it was only the fact that one of the three tosspots on the table near us himself tried to calm down his idiotic mates that saved them) it was onto the Apollo and bugger me it was busy. Or perhaps we were just later than usual. Loved the "you'll get your £5 back if your car is broken into" pledge by Tiger as well.

We missed the support act (which didn't sound a bad thing from what I could hear) and settled in nicely for the Editors. Who I don't really hate, despite my comments from time to time. That said, the lead singer's voice does get on my nerves. And it did get on my nerves.

That's not to say it totally got on my nerves, just during the slow ones. Which I really don't like. That said songs like Munich, Bones, Sparks and that new one are pretty damn good. And this is the third time that I've seen them live, so I doth protest too much on occasions. But that's funny.

Final (?) Concert List Of The Year

And the first 2008 dates...

27th January - Ben Folds - Manchester Apollo
29th January - Nerina Pallot - Manchester Academy 2
30th January - The Hedrons - Night & Day, Manchester
11th February - Sandi Thom - The Lowry, Salford
18th February - The Long Blondes, Manchester Academy
222nd February - Bat For Lashes - RNCM, Manchester
10th March - Lily Allen, Manchester Apollo
28th March - Kate Nash - Night & Day, Manchester
17th April - The Pipettes - Ritz, Manchester
20th April - Lucy Porter (comedy gig) - The Lowry, Salford
20th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
3rd June - Kate Nash - Late Room, Manchester
30th June - Suzanne Vega - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
12th July - Bat For Lashes - Manchester Academy 3
19th July - Feist - Manchester Academy 3
16th August - Sophie Ellis Bextor - Parr Hall, Warrington
21st August - Rilo Kiley - Manchester Academy 3
9th September - Natasha Bedingfield - Manchester Apollo - POSTPONED
27th September - New Young Pony Club - Ritz, Manchester
7th October - Frank Skinner (Comedy) - Lowry, Manchester

14th October - Editors - Manchester Apollo
19th October - KT Tunstall - Manchester Apollo
23rd October - Amy Macdonald - Barfly, Liverpool
1st November - The Donnas - Club Academy, Manchester
5th November - Kate Nash - Manchester Academy
18th November - Rilo Kiley - Stanley Theatre, Liverpool
25th November - Scouting For Girls - Liverpool Academy
11th December - Jenny Owen Youngs - Night & Day, Manchester


1st March - Natasha Bedingfield - Manchester Apollo
4th March - Kate Nash - Manchester Apollo
14th March - Inspiral Carpets - Manchester Academy

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Shotters Nation - Babyshambles

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It's safe to say I'm not a Pete Doherty fan. It's not just his drugs, its the fact that I don't see his talent. Oh yes, he was good in the Libertines they tell me, but just how much of that was down to Carl Barat is still open to question (and truth be told, I never rated the Libertines either).

Down In Albion certainly suggested cynicism was in order; to be frank it was a complete mess. But that's what you get when you let a junkie have control over proceedings.

Still at least someone has had the sense to draft in producer Stephen Street in for the recording of this album. The producer, famous for his work with The Smiths and Blur to name but two, brings a nice touch of decorum to proceedings. Indeed this album actually feels like a finished product and, quite surprisingly, results in some decent tracks.

The likes of Lost Art Of Murder and There She Goes approach something special, which I suppose will add fuel to the fire of those who insist that Doherty is a genius, not just a dirty, disaffected drug abuser.

The thing is that this is only a handful of tracks. Most of the rest is the kind of standard indie Rock that is slightly a cut above The View's of this world but is still distinctly average. More depressing still is the realisation that this counts as an improvement in the world of Doherty. The main problem remains that Doherty has confused the endless Tabloid stories about himself as a sign that his life is interesting or worth talking about. It's not. And not even Stephen Street can make it worth listening to.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Little Voice - Sara Bareilles

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I love women and I love piano's. So anything that combines the two is sure to be a winner with me, right?

So despite the fact that it's certainly easy to get blasé about yet another female songwriter, if you ignore the delightful Sara Bareilles then it's you that's losing out.

This is quite simply a delight.

Love Song, a former I-Tunes Single Of The Week, is a good indication of what to expect from a lot of the album. Straight up, catchy melodies backed up with Bareilles' gorgeous voice. The likes of Fairytale, Morningside and Vegas are delightful, but Bareilles can also excel on the slower stuff as well. Gravity, in particular, is a real tear-jerker.

If I was summing her up, I'd probably go for "a less willfully uncommercial Fiona Apple". And whilst she can never quite match up to Apple, on more than a few occasions she comes mighty close. And that's more than good enough for me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Superstar; The Hits - Jamelia

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I'll pause momentarily whilst you laugh.

But I am being serious; this really is a "hits" collection from Jamelia. Of course she's had 7 top hits in her time, but really the fact that there's no new tracks, no new artwork or, well, no new anything on this collection should be proof enough that this is merely a chance for her ex-record company to make a last bit of money off their old employee.

It doesn't even include all her "hits".

Still you have to give some credit where it's due. Beware Of The Dog was the best number 1 that never was in 2006 and Superstar is at least a memorable track. No More, with it's Golden Brown sample, was another winner (despite failing to trouble the top 40 this year) and I've always thought See It In A Boy's Eye's is a great tune; and yes, I am aware of the Chris Martin connection with that one!

On the merits of the songs alone, this isn't too bad at all, but its difficult as a listener to avoid the fact that it's compiling a career that there's no real need to compile.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Change - Sugababes

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Isn't it funny that the Sugababes, who are as "put together" as the next pop band could get such critical acclaim. Actually that's not strictly true is it? They are more "put together" than the average pop band, currently onto their third incarnation.

It's also doubtful if that, early hits such as Overload and Round Round aside, the babes have ever really laid down a marker in terms of personality. Indeed, whilst there is no denying a Girls Aloud single these days means something quite unique, for example, there are many songs on Change that could be any half decent pop band.

And this has always been the problem with the Sugababes. Their early brilliance soon gave way to more commercial concerns and ever since their albums have been by their very definition patchy affairs.

A couple of radio friendly stompers are mixed with some dull, but commercially viable, ballads and joined with a load of filler that we are told they wrote themselves (albeit it with a cast of thousands helping out).

So as it goes, current single Feel About You provides the upbeat lead single (though it's no Hole In The Head), 3 Spoons Of Suga backs this up, whilst the likes of Undignified and the title track provide the dull but parent friendly ballads.

There's no denying my Girls Aloud bias in the Sugababes/GA "battle" but when faced with an album like this there is little doubt I'm in the right corner. Far from the feisty, independent trio the Babes claim to be, this album shows them to be little more than the much decried "norm" of pretty faces for pop backing tunes. And that needn't be a criticism, but when they're provided with a set of "tunes" as lacking in originality and pizazz as these you start to wonder what the point of the exercise is.

No doubt the marketing will make sure it sells by the bucketload; but that doesn't make it any good.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Single Releases 08/10/07

Back after a week off, singles wise.

Alj & AJ's Potential Breakup Song is first up this week. And it's a corker. It's got more invention than you've any right to expect from an American Manufactured Pop single.

As you'd expect, the law of diminishing returns is at play with Amy MacDonald's new single LA. And is it just me or does she have a total of ONE idea for her promo video's?

Curvy Cola Bottle Body by Chico is so funny. Probably becuase it's terrible, but in a very funny way. If you could believe he was taking the piss you' be proclaiming him as a genius.

I mean it's miles better than Gwen Stefani's latest effort, Now That U Got It. Someone needs to reign her in if you know what I mean.

I hate the Hoosiers. So there.

They're better than Biffo Clyro though.

On the other hand, I love Roisin Murphy. Let Me Know is a stomper. Pity about those distracting nipples in the video. Wear a bra love.

Natasha Bedingfield attempts to save her career this week with a "featuring Adam Levine" tag line...she fails.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Flight Of The Conchords

THE funniest thing on TV at the moment.

It helps I suppose to have a bit of musical knowledge to get all the "homages", but I just find it hilarious.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Silver Lining

Jenny Lewis. As a bride. Jilting the groom at the wedding. I'm sure they've nicked this plot idea from one of my dreams...

Thanks to dkimster.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Casket Letters - Monkey Swallows The Universe

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Despite what the Daily Mail might tell you, the Internet is a good thing. A case in point are Monkey Swallows The Universe. I simply don't listen to the cool music programmes in "real life" that might introduce you to them, and the likes of Jo Wiley are never going to find them until someone has told her to. So the Internet is a great thing for discovering bands you wouldn't otherwise have heard of.

Ok, so it means that you have to sit through a hell of a lot of dross but when you come across something as good as Monkey Swallows The Universe you can forgive any number of dreadful artists with a Myspace page.

Oh yes, The Casket Letters is good. In fact it's very good. It's certainly one of the best "unknown" albums I've come across this year...hell it's one of THE best albums full stop.

First of all it clocks in at 35 minutes, well within the 45 minute maximum that should be made a law. Secondly it has some of the catchiest, and loveliest, folk pop songs you're likely to hear all year. Little Polveir is one of my favourite tracks of the year although it's got a lot of competition from the likes of Science or Elizabeth and Mary.

Lead singer's Nat Johnson's vocals are to die for, bringing a dreamy quality to the proceedings. But the tunes back it up superbly.

Frankly, if you're reading this, the very next thing you should do is go and order this album. It really is that good. I wish I had more time to wax lyrical about it, I really do, but trust me on this one. You need to hear this.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pictures - Katie Melua

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I tolerate Katie Melua. Mainly because young Dave is quite keen on her and whilst she's hardly at the cutting edge of musical invention, she's a pleasant enough girl with a decent voice. If that seems like I'm damning her with faint praise, you might be right.

But it's not her fault. I can attest to that 100%. It's all Mike "Fucking" Batt's fault. The guy is a grade A knob-head. I went to a Katie Melua concert once, but half of it was taken up with his unfunny anecdotes and stories. Yes Mike, we know you wrote the bloody Wombles song.

And he writes all her lyrics.

So we get gems like "Douglas Fairbanks wore a moustache, must have had "much cash" too". And thus, less than 30 seconds in to this album we have already reached a low point from which there is no hope of return.

Simply put, the melodies are lilting enough to woo the Radio 2 crowd but anyone who takes more than a cursory glance at the lyrics is going to be in pain for days. There is quite literally nothing on this album that I'll be listening to ever again.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Duets - Reba McEntire

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Country LEGEND Reba duets with the Country likes of Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts and Vince Gill. And just in case it's all a little too Nashville for you, the youthful likes of Kelly Clarkson and Justin Timberlake pop up as well. Strangely there's no Tito Santana though.

Anyway, there's nothing out of the ordinary here. It's exactly like you'd expect Reba to sound with the addition of a few special guests.

If Reba's your kind of thing then you're in for a treat. If not, aside for the curiosity value of a few tracks you really needn't bother yourself with this.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Normal Service Will Resume

I've either

A) Been arrested.


B) Got a new job and haven't much time at the moment.

Take your pick.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Somewhere High - Stalingrad Cowgirls

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If only for the headline on their myspace page ("SAVE A HORSE - RIDE A COWGIRL!") I'd love the Stalingrad Cowgirls. Even the fact that they make me feel old, with the three Finish girls all being under 20, doesn't change my opinion.

Somewhere High might not be the most original album you'll hear all year, with its guitar, bass and drum punk-pop set up, but it's another one that is pure fun from start to finish.

Catchy tunes such as Rainmaker and Love To Make You Cry successfully merge some heavy metal chops with a pop sensibility to great effect.

The only criticism would be the one-paced nature of the album; indeed there is a relentless pace that has it's charms but does leave the album starting to sound very familiar once you get into the second half. Still, as a debut album this is great stuff and could lead to them gaining a good fan-base, with the promise of more to follow.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Echoes Silence Patience And Grace - Foo Fighters

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It must be nice being Dave Grohl. He's pretty much the lauded gentry of modern rock, feted everywhere he goes as a great musician and a great bloke. Indeed he's in such good grace that most people have ignored the fact that the Foo's last studio album, 2005's In Your Honor, was, frankly, rubbish. The rock disc was turgid, the acoustic disc was limp and whilst Grohl called it a "fitting" tribute to the Foo's 10th anniversary, I thought it was pretty much an admission that the Foo's had done all they could.

Still, rapturously received live dates and the reappearance of Gil "The Color & The Shape" Norton at the production helm meant that there were reasons for me to look forward to the album. And whilst it never comes close to matching the majesty of The Color... (which is their finest album by far) it happily never threatens to sink to the depths that Honor did.

Lead single The Pretender is exactly what you'd expect from the Foo's - hard hitting, punchy rock - and as such effectively highlights where this whole experience is heading. In many ways it reminds me of One By One, in that it's definitely a top-heavy disk.

Let It Die shows that the idea of an "acoustic" Foo Fighters need not always be a desperate thing, the use of strings on Erase/Rewind adds a wonderful edge to the Foo's traditional sound and Long Road To Ruin highlights Grohl and his band at their very best.

Once you get over halfway through though, it begins to disappoint and the realisation hits me that despite their best efforts, the Foo Fighters seem unlikely to ever better The Color And The Shape. Sure, occasionally they can reach the same kind of heights for a couple of songs, but never for a whole album.

So this is solid, rather than spectacular, but that in itself is a reason for elation after the disaster that was In Your Honor. And no doubt, there's enough here to ensure that it sells by the bucket load.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

New Young Pony Club LIVE

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Back at the Manchester Ritz. And this time I could see the stage! Woo, and indeed, hoo.

A nice Chinese banquet to kick off the proceedings (although really it was far too much for a pre-concert shindig - I was stuffed after the starters!) and it was indeed onto the Ritz. Which may or may not be famous for something to do with The Smiths.

The support act was playing as we went in. Tings Tings or something. They seemed relatively good. Plus there was a good chance that the singer was fit. The two songs I heard where almost enough to make me regret not getting there earlier.

Scanning the venue two things became clear. I am not trendy enough to be a fan of the NYPC. Nor am I gay enough. I didn't feel out of place because I just don't care about these things, but if I were the kind of guy to feel out of place at concerts I doubt I would ever have felt as out of place as I would have done at this. And that includes that coach trip to Sheffield to see the Spice Girls.

At least fellow attendee Mike Pickering has the gravitas to back up his out of place vibe.

Anyway onto the concert itself. It was a good one, although not a particularly great one. My immediate thought whilst listening was that live, at least, NYPC are little more than the credible version of Rogue Traders. Sadly the vitality that comes across on record wasn't quite there.

Lead singer Tahita Bulmer was certainly exuberant enough, but the rest of the band added little to the visual flow of the show. I have to admit mind you to being entranced by keyboard player Lou Hayter's hips. She can wiggle that's for sure.

It's perhaps telling that the biggest crowd reaction of the night came for a cover version, Technotronic's Pump Up The Jam. Indeed the bloke in front of me, who had been fairly still all evening, whirred into action for that one and became somewhat of a blur.

So all in all it was a decent night out, but failed to live up to the album, which is fantastic. And to top if off, the only song they didn't do was Jerk Me. Which just happens to be my favourite. What a bunch of bastards ;-D

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Necessary Evil - Deborah Harry

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She's 62, it's fourteen years since her last solo album and Blondie are doing great business on the revival circuit. So the question is, is there any real need for a new Deborah Harry solo record in 2007?

Maybe not, but if she uses the opportunity to come up with something as willfully odd and undeniably brilliant as You're Too Hot then I'll forgive her anything. I swear to god, if Beyonce did this song it would be at number one for weeks. It sparkles with a wit and invention that is increasingly missing from the pop charts these days.

Of course it goes without saying that a whole album of this is too much to ask for but there are enough sparks to make this a worthwhile purchase for any existing fan. Dirty & Deep is the best song Madonna has never done, Paradise slows things down a touch to great effect and the title track is another winner.

To be fair there is a fair share of stuff I won't really listen to again, but you can't have everything can you? Patchy it may be, but at it's best it reminds you just how vital Deborah Harry has been...and still is.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Family - Leann Rimes

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Well at least she's jettisoned the attempt to become a "pop" star. (I don't care what you say Mercy, Don't Fight The Moonlight was awful).

Well, no, she hasn't actually done that, but has at least realised that commercial Country might be her best bet of crossover success.

Lead single Nothing Better To Do is one of her strongest songs yet (ah, not difficult I hear you say) and is really rather good. You could even say it's far better than anything Leann Rimes does has any right to be.

Sadly it is by far the best song on Family, apparently her TWELFTH studio album, with only a couple of others, Upper Hand and Something I Feel (with it's Pretty Woman esque drum intro) coming close.

It's not awful - Rimes can sing and there are a number of ballads which are just screaming out for Radio 2 airplay - but it's just not memorable enough in the final analysis. Still, it's better than Whatever We Wanna, which surely is a step in the right direction.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Single Releases 24/09/07

I can't find my usual list of singles, so this might be a short one.

That new Katie Melua one, If I Were A Sailboat, is a bit saucy for her isn't it? It's crap of course, but you have to give a modicum of respect where it's due.

It's miles better than Shayne Ward's new one mind you. But then he is useless, so really you don't expect anything from him do you?

Spooky by the Puppini Sisters is ok. Maybe the joke is wearing thin now though. Enjoy it whilst it lasts Sisters.

Annie Lennox really does annoy me. But then I have a thing against rock/pop stars telling me how I should lead my life, so it's nothing that personal love.

I was surprised to see the Stereophonics are still plugging away...ok I kid. I know they're successful, I just don't see why they are! It Means Nothing is another in that long of line of Stereophonics songs that are alright but don't exactly rock my world.

The problem with Duke Special and Ed Harcourt is that I don't think they're as quite as good as a lot of people tell me. Thus it is the same with their new singles. Good, but not great.

Colbie Caillat's Bubbly hits the singles market this week. It's nice and pleasant but nothing that will be staying with you for that long.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Under The Influence - Terra Naomi

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I know. You're sat there thinking not another female singer-songwriter to digest...and another one who has taken the "overnight" route to success via the Internet, this time with Say It's possible causing quite a stir late last year. Of course that would be unkind, given that she's been releasing unheralded albums independently for quite some time and that's before we've even got to question what exactly is wrong with using all the tools available to make a name for yourself.

Under The Influence may well strike some as an ironic title; one presumes that it's a reference to strong substances (Naomi not having been shy about previous dependencies) but one might also see that title and immediately come up with a list of influences the length of your arm. And indeed whilst it may not be anything we've not heard before (I'm thinking Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morrisette) that's not to say that it isn't without merit.

Naomi has a strong and inviting voice and has a knack for creating very catchy choruses the problem seems to be one of record company pressure. Like a lot of artists these days, Naomi seems a little too intent on chasing the pop single (and I'm not blaming her for that by the way) when if somebody somewhere had the gumption to let her strike out completely then we could have ended up with something very special indeed.

So in the end we've an album that is half suited to sound tracking the next American teen drama and earning airplay from Terry Wogan on Radio 2 (evident on the likes of Million Ways) and one that hints at something a little more expressive and special (such as on New Song or Flesh For Bones). Here's hoping that someone lets her concentrate on the latter next time out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bitchin - The Donnas

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Have I woken up in a Life On Mars style world or did someone take me out in a Delorean, because it's as if the 1990's never happened on Bitchin, the new album from the Donnas. It's certainly as if their last album Gold Medal never happened. Indeed this new album is released on their own label largely because Atlantic wanted to take their sound in a different direction again.

This is, for all intents and purposes, 80's hair metal spiked with a Noughties attitude...and it ROCKS!

It's not their best album (I'm partial to Turn 21 and Skintight myself) but it is the crispest and makes the best use of the big studio production that was, presumably, beyond their budget earlier in their career.

I've long ago given up on the girls making a real breakthrough, but if there was any justice the likes of Girl Talk, What Do I Have To Do and Here For The Party would make at least a small dent in the charts.

The real star of the show seems to be guitarist Alison Robertson, who's licks and riffs transform this from a decent album to a good one. It's one that Donna's fans should love, as should anyone with more than a little liking for 80's rock (and for once that's not to disparage it). It's not subtle, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Updated Concert List

27th January - Ben Folds - Manchester Apollo
29th January - Nerina Pallot - Manchester Academy 2
30th January - The Hedrons - Night & Day, Manchester
11th February - Sandi Thom - The Lowry, Salford
18th February - The Long Blondes, Manchester Academy
222nd February - Bat For Lashes - RNCM, Manchester
10th March - Lily Allen, Manchester Apollo
28th March - Kate Nash - Night & Day, Manchester
17th April - The Pipettes - Ritz, Manchester
20th April - Lucy Porter (comedy gig) - The Lowry, Salford
20th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
3rd June - Kate Nash - Late Room, Manchester
30th June - Suzanne Vega - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
12th July - Bat For Lashes - Manchester Academy 3
19th July - Feist - Manchester Academy 3
16th August - Sophie Ellis Bextor - Parr Hall, Warrington
21st August - Rilo Kiley - Manchester Academy 3

9th September - Natasha Bedingfield - Manchester Apollo - POSTPONED
27th September - New Young Pony Club - Ritz, Manchester
7th October - Frank Skinner (Comedy) - Lowry, Manchester
14th October - Editors - Manchester Apollo
19th October - KT Tunstall - Manchester Apollo
23rd October - Amy Macdonald - Barfly, Liverpool
1st November - The Donnas - Club Academy, Manchester
5th November - Kate Nash - Manchester Academy 3
18th November - Rilo Kiley - Stanley Theatre, Liverpool
25th November - Scouting For Girls - Liverpool Academy

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Graduation - Kanye West

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I can't believes I's only got seven minutes to write this review.

Anyway, my take on Kanye West is pretty well known. He can usually be relied upon to give us a handful of genuinely brilliant moments on an album, but will also back it up with a lot of filler. He's also not a very good rapper. Competent he may be, but purely on rapping he's not going to be top of the list.

Does Graduation change any of this in my eyes? Hell, no.

Lead single Stronger was/is fantastic and the Daft Punk nod was a welcome one for sure. The Glory sneaks in a bit of Laura Nyro to great effect whilst Flashing Lights is another winner, pitching it's self as something between a Bond theme and Bernard Herrmann produced soundtrack. Having said that though, I really could have done without the proclamation on that track the paparazzi are worse than the Nazi's. Nice one Kanye.

And that really points to another weakness on the album; West's self-importance came across as surprisingly tongue in cheek on his recent Friday Night Project presenter stint (hell he came across as extremely likable) but on Can't Tell Me Nothing, where the "impact" of his blast at George W. Bush's supposed ineptitude in respect of Hurricane Katrina is deemed more important than the aftermath of the disaster itself.

So lyrically there are many moments to cringe to, in one way or another, and there is a fair share of interesting, but misfiring, attempts to do something different (really, Chris Martin's appearance on Homecoming does neither man any favours whatsoever - although that won't matter to those who will see Martin's singing slot here as some kind of rallying call for real musicians).

Still the moments of genuine class just about drag this into thumbs up territory. But much like his previous two albums, in the months to come I'll be very selective over which tunes make it onto my playlist.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pop Life - David Guetta

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Everyone will be aware of Love Don't Let Me Go after it was in some car advert (forgive me, but cars in general interest me so little that I've no idea what particular car it was) but the question remains, does anyone particularly need a whole album of David Guetta? If you're immediately thinking no, then you might be surprised to hear that this is his 3rd album.

Of course as with, what seems like, every dance album these days you're pretty much going to like it or not. There is precious little ground. If it's your kind of thing you'll be jumping in the air, if it's not then you might as well switch off now.

Looking at it with a critics eye, it's not bad but not brilliant. When it hits the spot, such as Delirious its poptastic. When it's bad, chief criminal being the Public Image Limited cover This Is Not A Love Song, it's pretty dispiriting.

Unfortunately for Guetta, there's more tracks like the latter than there is the former.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Donna Marie

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A bit of a change of pace from my usual rantings and ravings, although this is actually the first in an, occasional, series where I hope to spread the word about some artists you may not have heard of.

First in line for this is Donna Marie, a Warrington based singer-songwriter who is already a favorite with radio/internet DJs from as far as Guatemala to the USA with her self produced debut EP Paint The Sky.

One quote alone from her website is enough for me to reccommend Donna Marie;

"I think lots of people see the word POP MUSIC as a dirty word, but not me....I love to write pop. I don't see the point in writing 10 minute long songs that don't really have a hook to it."

and therein is her appeal. She has a soaring voice and specialises in catchy pop songs which immediately lodge in your brain.

It was seeing the likes of KT Tunstall and Nerina Pallot live that gave her back her passion for music and it's not too much of a stretch to compare her to those two. Top quality, pop songs that achieve their melodic aims without any compromise on quality.

With an album scheduled for later in the year and artists like Amy MacDonald asking her to support at concerts, Donna Marie is not going to remain off the radar for long. Now's your chance to impress your friends by getting in there first.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Single Releases - 17/09/07

Jack "The Gay Lumberjack" Penate comes back this week with Second Minute Or Hour. It's dreadful, but then everything this fella does is dreadful. So what else can you expect?

As a rule, Leann Rimes is also dreadful. So it IS a surprise that Nothing Else To Do is quite good. Thankfully she's also jettisoned the attempt to be a pop star and stuck to something a little bit Country.

Oh Kate Nash, what are we to do with you? Mouthwash is undeniably catchy but I'm still reeling with the relatively disappointing album. The video is absolute tosh too.

Ashely Tisdale attempts another breakthrough in the UK market. He Said She Said is certainly a decent enough slice of pop, but nowhere near the big hit that would give her a name over here.

WigWam died a death didn't it, but it hasn't put Betty Boo off trying to re-make a name for herself and Jack Rocka enlists her help for Take Off. What can I say, because it's Betty Boo and is therefore automatically awesome.

Mutya Beuna has got past the two, sorry ONE, decent song on her album so really there is no need for you to listen to Just A Little Bit.

I'm getting sick of hearing that bloody Peter Bjorn & John song. Young Folks is a good tune but I'm suffering from over exposure to it.

Still, they're doing better than Will.I.Am It only took one listen of his new song I Got It From My Momma to get sick of it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Glorious: The Singles 1997-2007 - Natalie Imbruglia

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Yes, she really has been going for 10 years, but no with only 10 singles in that time (including title track Glorious, which was one of the customary new tracks on such an album) and only three albums is there really a clamour for a Natalie Imbruglia singles collection?

Way back in 1998, thanks to my erstwhile flatmate of the time Duncan, Natalie Imbruglia was quite the "in" thing. Indeed rare was the night playing Doom on the Playstation that Left On The Middle didn't get a spin on the CD player. Since that time though, I've had no real interest in the former Beth Brennan. Sure there would be the occasional moment when a new single came out and I alternated between "oh is she still carrying on" and "that's alright but not something I'd want to buy."

At least Imbruglia had the sense, on a recent appearance with Graham Norton, to admit that this wasn't a "greatest hits" but rather a "singles collection". Not that success hasn't been achieved in the UK with 5 top 10 hits but with Imbruglia I've often got the feeling that success, in itself, isn't what it's about for her. She wants respect and to be seen as a real musician.

Which kind of went tits up when the hit that introduced her to the world, Torn, was revealed to not even be an original song. Imbruglia claimed that she'd never said it was, but by the same token she was quite happy to let people think that.

Even now, almost a decade on, Torn is still a fantastic single though. And in fact it's probably too good for her to ever match; it certainly is the best thing on here by a fair distance. It's not the most interesting thing mind you, that honour would go to Smoke which for a brief moment suggested that there may have been more to Imbruglia that the ex-soap pop princess hype machine would suggest.

Sadly the other tracks from Left Of The Middle haven't aged as well. Wishing I Was There is so formulaic that it could have been done by anyone from Meredith Brooks to Alisha's Attic whilst Big Mistake makes you wonder if Kurt Cobain's revolution was all for nothing.

Follow up album White Lilies Island bombed if we're being honest and That Day and Beauty On The Fire show you why. They're not terrible but not tracks that I had any real memory of and "pleasant but forgettable" must be one of the harshest things you can say about a record. Wrong Impression isn't much better, but I at least remembered it so that counts for something.

Third album Counting Down The Days quite inexplicably reached number one in the UK charts, although Shiver, it's lead single, is definitely the best thing that isn't Torn on this collection. We return to averageness with the title track from that album.

Recent single Glorious is one of 5 new tracks and again follows the nice enough, but not memorable trajectory that most of Imbruglia's career has followed. But as Be With You, another of the new tracks, shows occasionally she can create something truly special. It's just a pity she doesn't do it more often and as a result, she's never likely to get the respect as a serious artist that she so obviously desires.