Wednesday, January 31, 2007
So for once I caught the support acts in full. Geek Girl were first up and although they were dressed up like Guantanamo Bay detainees they were actually quite good. The Dethkats weren’t so good. But really I wasn’t paying much attention to them if I’m being honest. It all just seemed like noise to me.
I should point out at this point that Alan was quite pleased during all of this that when he’d gone for a Luther Blisset, Soup and Tippi recognised him and said hello. The relevance of this will become clearer in due course ;-D.
So after the support acts were done we moved down to the front, no doubt annoying all the people who were sat down. As opposed to the last time at this venue it was actually quite packed and there did seem a buzz about the place. And it was a buzz that proved to be justified by the time the night was out.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Well it sure was a thrill to brave the traffic disaster that is Poolstock Lane at 5 o’clock on a weekday evening again. As ever the first 3 miles of my journey took twice as long as the next 25 miles of it. But that’s life I suppose; not that that will stop me moaning about it! It did give me plenty of time to listen to the Klaxons album though – review to follow at some point.
After hitting the big M it was off to the Oxford where I reigned supreme on the Golf machine (well there is a first time for everything) and then off to the kebab shop for a bit of jackbit. Having arrived at the palatial (or not) Manchester Academy 2 earlier than we might otherwise do (i.e. more than 5 minutes before the headline act) we wandered in to check out the support act Tom Baxter. 15 seconds later, and that is no exaggeration, we were heading to the bar. Sorry Tom; I’m sure you’re a lovely bloke but you weren’t for me.
Still we had a drink, Gee criticised Nerina’s sister (I bet he wouldn’t have done that if he’d known who she was at the time ;-D) and then we went back into the auditorium for the show itself.
And what a show it was. Nerina was a little quiet in terms of audience banter to start with but she hit the ground running with a lovely version of Idaho and from that moment on was in the form of her life. It wasn’t until her version of Frank Mills (taken from the musical Hair) that the usual Nerina style banter flowed out – she informed us that she felt the song was about “unrequited shagging” and then pondered whether that was possible – and she did seem to loosen up after that. We got tales covering dreams about old boyfriends, Brit award nominations (she told us she wasn’t going to win it but that it would send her record sales through the roof), trying hard not to drink a bottle of red wine a day – it was a nice Jacobs Creek on offer on this particular occasion – and how never getting recognised on public transport is starting to piss her off.
But what really stood out, as ever, was the quality of the songs. Few performers could be as beguiling and charming performing a solo set like this, with Nerina switching between piano, guitar, and synthesiser to perform tracks from both Fires and her debut album Dear Frustrated Superstar. Particular highlights for me were 57 Flavours, Heart Attack and the final song of the set, Sophia. Indeed, my annoyance with the two people behind me who’d been chattering away throughout the set finally boiled over during the latter as I somewhat snapped and told them to “fucking shut up.” That they did somewhat lessened the shame of my outburst, but to be honest, I was only saying what a lot of people around me were thinking.
Having seen Nerina play support at the smaller Academy 3 when only four people actually took advantage of her signing session afterwards, it gave me a warm feeling to see her pack out the larger Academy 2 as a headliner. In fact her success is almost enough to reaffirm my faith in humanity. Doesn’t hurt that she’s bloody lovely either does it?
Learning To Breathe
All Good People
Blood Is Blood
Love Will Tear Us Apart
Dear Frustrated Superstar
Daphne & Apollo
If anyone can tell me where Mr King was in the set list I'd be obliged. EDIT - Thanks to anonymous for clearing that up :-D
Monday, January 29, 2007
Of course things are quickly brought down to earth courtesy of Bowling For Soup. Is there a worse band with a major label deal knocking about today? If there is I'd be surprised.
Apparently it's only today that the actual PHYSICAL version of Mika's Grace Kelly hits the shops. Oh this crazy world that we live in huh? Basically this is the Scissor Sisters but, almost unbelievably, even more gay. It's catchy without ever being really likable. If I had one piece of advice of Mika it would be to make the most of his success whilst he can. It's not going to last.
Lady Sovereign releases Love Me Or Hate Me this week and the title pretty much sums the single, and indeed the lady herself, up. I happen to love her, but can see quite clearly why people wouldn't. Each to their own and all that.
Speaking of my "tips" for 2007, The Little Ones release Oh MJ! this week. Gloriously bright and breezy, check this out now before either A) they break HUGE or B) my tipping of them as stars of 2007 sees them sink without trace. I'm feeling lucky though, and am going for option A.
Josh Groban is the kind of artist that could only come out of America. For the simple reason that his songs will always remind me of New York I will not completely rage against him, but February Song is exactly the kind of song you would expect him to come up with. You'll know without even hearing it whether or not it's going to be your particular cup of tea.
Whether a whole album of the stuff is going to be quite as exciting as Popjustice suggests or not is hardly the point when it comes to Mark Ronson. I can however say that I find his almost jazz style version of Toxic quite beguiling. Still, is it anything other than a novelty? Probably not.
I've always been left cold by Bloc Party, and The Prayer doesn't change my mind one little bit.
I'm sure that the forces behind this "new and exciting" world of downloads didn't foresee their new regulations possibly leading to Randy Newman's first ever UK hit. Of course, they still might not but A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country certainly could provide him with a hit over here. I've a feeling some people might appreciate the sentiment behind the song anyway, although really I've a hard time taking Randy seriously since Family Guy took the piss out of him.
I don't like Kasabian alright! I'm not that keen on Seth Lakeman either.
Honey Bee by My Federation kind of sounds like T-Rex with Patrick Moore providing some musical accompaniment. Not as good as some of their other tracks that I've heard to be honest, but still quite cathcy.
Finally this week we come to Sarah Nixey, formerly the voice of Black Box Recorder. When I'm Here With You is another winner from her burgeoning solo career. If the Pet Shop Boys were a woman, this is probably what they'd sound like.
And yes, I'm ignoring the Noisettes on purpose.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
This meant, unfortunately, that we'd missed the support act Clem Snide, who had been rather entertaining as the support to Ben's Lowry gig but food and beer are of a higher calling aren't they?
As for the concert itself, well it was as good as you would expect from Mr Folds, although I do have one or two reservations, which are more down to my personal taste than any lack of excellence from the man himself. Firstly, there were a few too many of his slower numbers in the first half of the show and secondly this was the most "skewed towards his solo stuff" concert of his that I've been to. Which is understandable now that he has three solo albums under his belt, but still a little sad for those of us who remember Ben Folds Five with such fondness.
Still the second half of the show corrected both of these "faults" as the more upbeat songs came thick and fast and Ben Folds Five classics such as One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces, Underground, Brick (in a superb Ben-only version) and Army were tossed into the set. Ever the showman, this ensured both that the show ended on a sustained high note and that anyone dissapointed by parts of the first half of the show would have soon forgotten about that and left the Apollo in high spirits indeed.
And don't get me wrong; I had a thoroughly enjoyable night as well. But forgive this old fool for shedding a slight tear that Ben Folds Five are no longer with us...
Saturday, January 27, 2007
BEST BRITISH MALE SOLO
James Morrison 4 - 9
Lemar 7 - 2
Paolo Nutini 11 - 2
Thom Yorke 10 - 1
Jarvis Cocker 16 - 1
If the Brits decide that they need a bit of credibility then Yorke & Cocker may make a mockery of those odds, but I can't see them doing so. James Morrison is SO short a price that you can't really look past him, but whilst I can't see Lemar winning, Paolo Nutini could well sneak it.
BEST BRITISH FEMALE SOLO
Corinne Bailey Rae 8 - 11
Lily Allen 2 - 1
Amy Winehouse 7 - 2
Jamelia 14 - 1
Nerina Pallot 25 - 1
Again this one looks like the favourites to lose really. Throw in Rae's recent American success and she should probably walk away with this one. Jamelia is there for no apparent reason and whilst Nerina Pallot most certainly deserves the nomination I think the only thing she'll get from the evening is the chance to buy a new frock. I'd prefer Lily Allen to win, but for reasons I shall explain shortly, I think it's safe to say CBR will pip her here.
James Morrison 11 - 4
Corinne Bailey Rae 11 - 4
The Kooks 4 - 1
The Fratellis 10 - 1
And this is why CBR will probably get the nod in the Best Female category as I would expect Lily Allen to claim this one. Considering the Kooks had the biggest selling debut album of 2006 in the UK though, they may well sneak this one, even more so as this is voted for by Radio 1 listeners.
BEST BRITISH GROUP
Muse 5 - 4
Snow Patrol 2 - 1
Arctic Monkeys 9 - 2
Razorlight 6 - 1
Kasabian 10 - 1
Perhaps the most keenly contested and open category. I can't see it going to Kasabian or Razorlight as its the other three who've really set the world alight in the past year in terms of success. I'd prefer Muse to win it, but fear it may end up being Snow Patrol.
BEST BRITISH SINGLE
Take That - 'Patience' 8 - 11
Snow Patrol - 'Chasing Cars' 9 - 2
Leona Lewis - 'A Moment Like This' 6 - 1
Razorlight - 'America' 8 - 1
James Morrison - 'You Give Me Something' 9 - 1
Lily Allen - 'Smile' 10 - 1
The Kooks - 'She Moves In Her Own Way' 20 - 1
Will Young - 'All Time Love' 20 - 1
The Feeling - 'Fill My Little World' 20 - 1
Corinne Bailey Rae - 'Put Your Records On' 33 - 1
Sandi Thom - 'I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker' 40 - 1
Surely this is only going to go the way of Take That, not least because this is a public vote. I'd take anything as long as it wasn't Snow Patrol. Yes, I'd ever prefer the absolutely dreadful Razorlight song to win than them!
BEST BRITISH ALBUM
Snow Patrol - 'Eyes Open' evens
Muse - 'Black Holes And Revelations' 9 - 4
Arctic Monkeys -'Whatever People Say I Am,That's What I'm Not' 11 - 4
Amy Winehouse - 'Back To Black' 9 - 1
Lily Allen - 'Alright, Still' 16 - 1
A two horse race really as women never seem to take the "big one" and Arctic Monkeys shouldn't even really be in this if we were being strict about release dates. Therefore you're either looking at Snow Patrol or Muse and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they split this and the Best British Group award between each other.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Well as ever there is no clear-cut answer. They can’t help but pale in comparison to the Arctic Monkeys and, at 14 tracks, they could have done with tighter quality control, but that doesn’t detract too much from what is a good, if not great, debut album.
The singles you’ve already heard are probably the best things on it. Superstar Tradesmen and Wasted Little DJ’s are joined by the real ace in the pack, Same Jeans. Bright, breezy and catchy…you don’t need much else do you? There are other good tracks too, the pick of the bunch being Face For The Radio, which uses the laid-back melody/vitriolic lyrics trick excellently.
Whether all this is enough to send them on their way to mega-success is open to question. It’s decent, it’s good…but you could say that about a lot of bands out there. There is the feeling that this may only signify the start of the journey, rather than being their one moment of glory, but then again you could quite conceivably think the opposite. Only time will tell on that score I suppose.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The hype gave everyone the bullet point references; a bit of Bjork, a sprinkling of Kate Bush…and whilst those are comparisons that are certainly not off the mark, the end product is something that is so much better than labelling the “new” anything.
It was the Phil Spector stylings of “What’s A Girl To Do” that first turned me onto Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes). It’s 60’s tinged pop melody combined with its spoken word vocal to create something that you rarely get from a record these days, an atmosphere. And this is something that carries on throughout the album. If the Arctic Monkeys give us a witty real-life insight into modern-day Yorkshire life, Bat For Lashes transport us to another world entirely. A mystical, ethereal one that draws you in repeatedly until you are lost in the gothic, almost fairytale world that is created.
Of course it may be sounding all a little too far “out there” for it’s own good, but fear not. Khan may take us on this otherworldly journey, but she has the good grace to accompany it with some sublime sing-a-long choruses and catchy melodies. Particular highlights include Trophy (again with Khan’s narrative vocals), Horse & I and I Saw A Light. But really, this is not an album to skip tracks on, this is an album to immerse yourself in from start to finish. It really is that good.
And let me get on my Lily Allen/Pipettes bandwagon early this year. If this isn’t nominated for the Mercury Music Prize I shall be very cross indeed.
Monday, January 22, 2007
A certain occasional reader of this site has pointed out The Hours on more than one occasion, the gist being that they are better than the whole host of generic indie rock plagiarisers out there at the moment. On the basis of Back When You Were Good he'd be right.
I saw Client support the Pet Shop Boys at the Liverpool Summer Pops. Truth be told, once I was past the "ooh, that's the bird from Dubstar" novelty, they were pretty crap. But on record they have always seemed a different proposition. And lets face it, its a cover of a great Adam & The Ants song, and the three ladies are not exactly ugly to look at are they (especially that one who plays the Keyboards). So although I probably shouldn't admit this, I think this is pretty bloody good.
Little Man Tate are a great singles band. Sexy In Latin is no exception. It is, for instance, a whole lot better than the Fratellis, but what do I know huh?
The new Keane one has the same effect that most of their songs seem to have on me. I quite like it and would listen to it if it came on the radio, but I have no intention of buying it.
Norah Jones is a funny one. On the one hand I think she gets far too much hype but on the other hand I also think that some people unfairly dismiss her as window dressing. Thinking About You is one of her best, in fact probably other than Sunrise it is her best. It's simple, but gorgeously simple. Sometimes, the simple sentiments are the most powerful.
I'll give My Chemical Romance some credit; at least they're not Bowling For Soup. Still, whereas their last effort The Black Parade at least had some mental value to it, Famous Last Words is just dull. So watch it storm into the top of the charts again no doubt.
It is of course a similar thing with Vanessa Hudgens. The fact that the song isn't very good (and if you listen closely is just someone giving Avril Lavigne's Complicated a bit of an R'n'B chart twist) doesn't really matter. What matters is that she was in that High School Musical thing and thus will, in the short term at least, be a superstar. But lets face it, she makes JoJo look good.
Larrikin Love's Well Love Does Furnish A Life is furnished with a fantastic video but to me it's a song that takes too long to really get going and then when it does, the "going" isn't worth the wait. It almost is, but not quite. Quite "Smiths" esque as well if you ask me.
Honeytrap release the Naked Dancing EP this week. I haven't heard it all, in fact I've only heard the lead track Let's Do Naked Dancing. It's a good jangly indie tune but doesn't really have that "spark" that would separate it from the pack. Still, it has handclaps, and handclaps are officially awesome.
Some idiot has taken that Cillit Bang advert and given it a techno backing track. I'm as much of a Barry Scott fan as the next man, but I cannot condone this.
If you're missing Travis (there must be someone out there who is) then you might want to check out Chris Singleton. Get Up is a pleasant enough tune and you will be singing along to the chorus for quite a while but is the kind of thing you can only really see Terry Wogan getting excited about. Or Chris Tarrant.
The Klaxons hit us with Golden Skans this week. It's good and sees the boys in a little more mainstream form. It's no Atlantis To Interzone, but what is these days. I like it, but to be honest I am disappointed with it after the absolute insania (thanks Peter) of their previous singles.
It's good to see Kristin Hirsh back on such good form with In Shock even if her voice does seem to have gone ever so slightly. The song itself though is an epic.
It's as if Sixpence None The Richer have relocated to New Zealand in the form of Goldenhorse. Quite why this is getting a UK release now when it was, by all accounts, the most played record on NZ radio in 2004 (!) is beyond me, but I'm quite glad it is. And whilst you will appreciate that the fact that lead singer Kirsten Morelle is far from unattractive makes no difference one way or the other, I only feel it fair to point that out.
A Brighter Beat by Malcolm Middleton is quite the treat this week as well. It's got that lovely trick of upbeat music disguising slightly downbeat lyrics. It's well worth a listen.
Marissa Nadler released Diamond Hart in June last year apparently, a fact which completely passed me by. Which is a shame because if I'd heard it then I'd have had six more months of being a fan of her's on my resume. I think it was the Guardian who said that her version of Famous Blue Raincoat made Leonard Cohen's sound like the Scissor Sisters so you can be sure that Marissa won't be to everyone's taste. But if you like the more introspective moments of Martha Wainwright, you'll find much to enjoy here.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
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
17th February - The Killers - MEN Arena, Manchester *
18th February - The Long Blondes, Manchester Academy 2
22nd February - Bat For Lashes - RNCM, Manchester
10th March - Lily Allen, Manchester Apollo
20th April - Lucy Porter (comedy gig) - The Lowry, Salford
20th May - Girls Aloud - MEN Arena, Manchester
And don't you worry all you long-term subscribers. I know things are quiet around here, but there will be some album reviews up within the next week or so. Hopefully!
* Subject to me making friends again, of course :-D
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Monday, January 15, 2007
The View are on many "tips" lists for 2007...not least mine. Same Jeans is an instant classic and should be huge. And should see me get at least one out of 10 right.
There is a similar buzz surrounding Just Jack. And I can both a) see why and b) see it ending in tears. I like Starz In Their Eyes, but I don't think it's going to capture the imagination like some people are hoping.
It's a similar thing with The Good, The Bad And The Queen really. Damon Albarn's latest venture sounds decent enough, but isn't going to capture the hearts and minds of the Blur/Gorillaz crowd. I know that's hardly his intention, but still he's not done it to flop, but Kingdom Of Doom doesn't quite grab your attention like you might want it to.
Whisper it quietly, but I don't mind The Ordinary Boys...up to a point anyway. Sadly I Luv U (and has there ever been a more depressingly titled single ever that hasn't involved Prince?) isn't one of those occasions. I can sort of see what the gallant Preston has tried to do; it hasn't worked.
Annie, Let's Not Wait by the Guillemots is another one of those tracks that I want to love, but just can't quite love with all my heart.
I didn't like Jamie T's previous efforts. His latest one, Calm Down Dearest, doesn't even rank close to them in my eyes. You do the maths.
Something that IS quite brilliant this week however is A House Is Not A Home by Field Music. It's catchy, funny and utterly bonkers and is presumably the kind of song that should be a HUGE hit under these new chart regulations...but no, no doubt another plodding indie track by Razorlight or someone equally dull will take it's place in next week's top 10 instead of this brilliant slice of mayhem.
Luke Toms, on the other hand, seems to have taken every idea under the sun and plonked it on his Fools With Money EP, to little discernable effect. Dull and derivative. Still even that is better than the Blood Brothers single Set Fire To The Face On Fire. It appears to just be lots of noise. And not in a good way either.
Monday, January 08, 2007
But as long as record companies actually release singles I shall be here, rounding up the best of them, criticising the worst of them.
Seems like Nerina Pallot's Learning To Breathe IS out this week. It's still very good.
U2 is out this week apparently as well. Look, I had to pad out last weeks selections somehow didn't I?
The Hedrons released their 3rd single this week, the rather nifty Heatseeker. I know you're sick of me banging on about how good the Hedrons are and all that, but you need to be told. THEY ARE REALLY RATHER GOOD YOU KNOW! So go on, check them out today. You can download the single for 99p or something, which has to be worth a gamble doesn't it?
The Automatic return with Raoul. It's ok, but once again is no "Monster".
Amy Winehouse tells us "You Know I'm No Good" which leaves her open to many a sarcastic comment. But I'm going to resist. Not least because this is an alright song. I still can't quite see why she seems to spark up the critical acclaim that she most certainly does, but credit where credit is due, this is a good one.
Jarvis tells us "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time" this week. Originally written for Nancy Sinatra, this is Cocker at his best. Of course it's no "Different Class" which will probably mean it sinks without trace, but whilst it may not catch the zeitgeist like Cocker once did, it's still a superb song.
Kelis releases Little Star, for no discernable reason other than the fact that Cee-Lo guests on it. Come on love, it's going to be stupid if you don't release "I Don't Think So" soon.
Barry Scott releases some Cillit Bang song this week. GENIUS. Or not.
Siobhan Donaghy is on the release schedules for this week as well, although I'm far from sure that she is actually releasing anything. Still, she started to annoy me at the end of last year with that diatribe against pop music. What she said actually made some sense, but anything I've heard from her in the past few years has been underwhelming to say the least. Still until an album gets a release I can live in hope she's going to match her terrific solo debut.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
So here, just for your delectation, is a little round up.
LAST MAN STANDING - JERRY LEE LEWIS
The killer is back, with his first album in quite a while. They were hyping this up way back in 2004 when I saw The Killer live leading me to suspect they were leaving this for when he popped his clogs. Well as the title attests, Jerry Lee is still with us...and he's ALMOST as hot as ever. I could do without some of the duets I must say (seriously, I have no desire whatsoever to listen to anything Kid Rock is on), but when the album hits the spot, it's great. Just remember that this isn't so much a duet's album, more of a Jerry Lee Lewis album with a few guests, such is his control of the proceedings. ALL HAIL THE KILLER.
LOVE - THE BEATLES
It's not quite the complete overhaul of the Beatles cannon that some early stories had led us to believe but, whisper it quietly, it may be the best Beatles single disc collection you can lay your hands on. There is the slight twinge that you aren't getting the full experience without the Cirque Du Soleil production, but don't let that put you off. If you like The Beatles, then you need this in your collection.
SONGBIRD - WILLIE NELSON
Nelson hooks up with Ryan Adams for this one. And the result is pretty much something you would expect a Ryan Adams helmed Willie Nelson album to sound like. I kinda liked it, but not enough to be able to wholeheartedly recommend it.
BEAUTIFUL WORLD - TAKE THAT
If you want a Take That shorn of all their 90's exuberance and a Take That that have been paying close attention to Coldplay then this may be for you. It's not a terrible record, and there are genuine "moments" such as lead single Patience and Mancunian Way. Of course despite selling about 312 times more copies, it has but the merest touch of the wayward borderline brilliance that Robbie's Rudebox album has...but that's life I suppose.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
It is also as lovely as anything gets this week.
Sir Bono of the U2 releases Window In The Skies. Now no question, the video is something a bit special...but it only really adds to Bono's "I'm God" megalomania doesn't it? Still, whatever I may think of him the video really is a clever idea.
Of course what the world really needed in 2007 was a new Eric Prydz song/video. This time he's using some Pink Floyd, but the chances of it being a hit are lessened by the lack of pornographically gyrating women in the video.
If you can distinguish Soul Seekerz from the Sunfreakz then you are a better person than I. In this case however rule 432a of the pop manual applies. No one who uses a "z" to signify a plural is ever any good. Point proven in both cases!
Not the most auspicious starts to the year in singles my friend...