Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Charlotte Hatherley LIVE

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It was another hellacious journey on Poolstock Lane, but at least the traffic on the rest of the journey was clear. Upon arrival in sunny Liverpool it was off to The Crown, where we nearly saw a fight, some fish & chips, another drink in The Crown (and numerous losing efforts on the quiz machine), a swift pint in Ma Egerton’s and then off to the venue…to realise that Miss Hatherley was on at 9 and that there was a distinct lack of people in the venue. Indeed the last time I was at the Carling Academy 2 it was that packed that I couldn’t even see the band. This time, with less than 10 minutes to “show-time” I could have walked almost straight to the front.

Needless to say it did fill up slightly, although it was hardly packed out, which doesn’t really bode well for the success of the new album, but that’s not my concern for this time is it?

With the minimum of fuss the band made their way onto the stage and kicked in with current single I Want You To Know which still remained only “quite good”. Things picked up with a couple of tracks from her debut album, namely Kim Wilde and Summer but the majority of the evening was dedicated to her upcoming album Deep Blue.

Of course an artist previewing new tracks is always going to make for an unpredictable evening, and this was no exception. Some tracks excited me, some didn’t.

The pick of the new tracks, aside from the rather wonderful Behave, were Be Thankful and Siberia. Less successful, on the initial airing at least, were Again and Roll Over. That’s not to say they were particularly bad songs, but they failed to grab me.

Still by tossing in Bastardo and an XTC cover (This Is Pop) there was enough energy throughout the show to just about drift it into thumbs up territory. Sadly though, overall it wasn’t an evening that left me all excited about her new album and it was an insultingly brief show (it was all over and done with within 45 minutes – INCLUDING encores) that probably clocked in shorter than when I went to see her around the time of the release of Grey Will Fade.

Don’t get me wrong, it was by no means a bad evening, but it did little to really enthuse you about Hatherley’s comeback. Still there were enough highlights to show that Deep Blue could be well worth a listen.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Single Releases 26/02/07

It's that time of the week again.

All Saints should have remained consigned to the history books. And if their pension fund really is in need of replenishing they shouldn't have come back with a song like this. I thought the comeback single was bad but Chick Fit is just pure rubbish.

It's pointless comparing their comeback with that of Take That, not least because the people actually wanted TT to comeback, but its worth noting that a) Take That came back with a killer ballad and then b) they followed it up with a killer up-beat number in Shine. It's a great little catchy pop tune.

Gwen Stefani also "came back" with a pretty dreadful single in the respect of Wind It Up. Still at least The Great Escape is a better effort. Still, she's yet to reclaim the charm and spark of her previous solo singles.

It's debatable whether or not the world at large was clamouring all that much for a Tracy Thorn solo album, but that doesn't matter when It's All True is as good as it is. If Madonna released this all and sundy would be heralding a massive return to form.

Cansei de ser Sexy were one of my finds of 2006 - and I mean that in the sense that there were a discovery of mine not that I discovered them for everyone else. Off The Hook is another great jaunty single, albeit a slight notch below the previous singles.

LCD Soundsystem are quite brilliant. North American Scum, the taster for their upcoming album is just what you would expect. That is, it's very very good indeed.

I also like Charlotte Hatherley. I Want You To Know is rather good, although as of yet it's not really "got" me like some of her earlier singles. Still it's quite good all the same.

A lesson now for all those young people out there who want to make it in the musical world. Make a first record that people actually like but then when the record label drops you make it clear that you never really wanted to record the songs that made you famous in the first place. Then, when you sign a new record deal make it clear that for the first time you've got complete creative control. And then watch whilst I say that whilst I never liked your earlier stuff at least that was quite catchy compared to the drivel you've chose to record now. Yes "Big Brovaz" I'm talking to you.

We're getting to the 3rd single for 'Lil Chris and naturally there is a drop in quality. It's not that Figure It Out is all that bad, it's just nowhere near the quality of Checkin' It Out or Gettin' Enough.

Oh the Killers. I bet their concert was good. Anyway you know the main interest in the Read My Mind single is the Pet Shop Boys remixes, which are pretty good. But I do like the normal single version of well. I'm still not going to buy the album though.

I once held a door open for Adventures Of Loki. Very pleasant they were. I haven't heard all the Feminine Side EP but I have heard the title track. I don't think I'll be listening to it again.

Cascada are a bit shit. Miracle is no exception. I must say though, you would. You know you would.

As you might expect, Blind As A Bat is a massive departure from Meat Loaf's unique sound....

I have no idea as to why I haven't got the Howling Bells album yet. Low Happening is yet another great single. I must sort that out.

Idlewild pretty much stole the show when I went to see REM (along with The Zutons and Feeder). No Emotion sees them go a little bit "disco" which is better than the lead singer's attempts at whatever the hell it was he was trying to do with his solo album. Actually I like it quite a lot.

The Bluetones hit the comback trail as well this week with Surrendered. It's everything you would want a great Bluetones track to be. It's another bloody good one.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bat For Lashes LIVE

Two hours; TWO BLOODY HOURS. That’s how long it took me to get to Manchester on this occasion. Haven’t Wigan MBC done a wonderful job with their traffic measures? Anyway, I’ve no doubt the Gee kept himself entertained, and we rather luckily did find some free parking right outside the venue in order to be able to pick up the tickets before the box office shut.

A trip into the old days via an “It’s A Scream” pub quickly followed and then it was off to the Royal Northern College of Music for another swift drink before taking our 3rd row seats.

It did seem that some minor problems were holding things up slightly, especially as the “Bat For Lashes will start in three minutes” announcement was followed by approximately fifteen minutes of, well, nothing, whilst various important looking people wandered back and forth.

Still we weren’t privy to what was going on, and nothing seemed untoward as the three musicians and, then, Natasha Khan herself made their way onto the stage. Rather childishly the opening salvo, which saw us treated to a song in French, had me on the verge of bursting out laughing. Not that it was particularly funny or bad in any way, just that it seemed ever so slightly absurd. Still as soon as the band kicked into one of the Fur And Gold highlights (of which there are many) Trophy that feeling subsided and the next hour so was one of delight, wonderment and magic.

It was quite simply, excellent. The first thing that struck me is that Khan is nothing like I imagined her to be in the sense that for all the mystical and “other-worldly” vibes of her album she comes across as a funny and beguiling front-woman, and one who treats the audience as long-lost friends.

The songs are just as impressive, if not more so, in the live setting as well. The band, and Khan herself, switch instruments for virtually every song. Guitars, violins, drums, accordions and various other strange-looking devices (as that Pub quiz proved the other week, identifying obscure musical instruments is not my strong point) were all brought into play. The resulting effect was something rather wonderful indeed.

There wasn’t a duff song in the set, but the particular highlights were a brilliant version of What’s A Girl To Do, the “swamp” version of Sarah (which saw Khan brandishing an evil looking stick as an instrument) and the next single Priscilla. And if to prove that all the instruments aren’t the sum of the show, Khan excelled on the electric piano during a haunting version of Sad Eyes.

We were also treated to a Bruce Springsteen cover, with I’m On Fire which was another winner.

Put simply, this was one of the best concerts I’ve seen in quite some time. I doubt there was a person in the hall that wasn’t completely transfixed. Indeed on the way out there was a definite buzz apparent as if most in attendance were convinced they’d seen something very special indeed.

We also had the pleasure of meeting Miss Khan after the show and I have to say she was utterly delightful….even when Al tried to take a picture of her with a random who’d asked him to do the honours. First time he accidentally clicked the delay button and then he managed to switch the camera off the second time he attempted to take the picture! It took the help of the woman herself to coach Gee through using the camera correctly.

There were no such problems when I took the picture of Al, but again he contrived to take as long as he could when it was my turn to strike a pose. He will no doubt claim that it was an intentional manoeuvre in order to prolong my close embrace, but I think we all know better by now. I mean come on, even Natasha wrote “to the cameraman” when she signed his ticket.

Fickle as I am, Kate Jackson might have found a rival ;-D

But in all seriousness this was pretty much the perfect concert. If I see another one this year that is this good I’ll count myself a very lucky man indeed.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We Thrive On Big Cities - Director

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Well if The Hours were a mystery to me until recently, at least I'd heard of them when their CD arrived in my lap. I'd not a clue about Director until I stuck the CD in the player for a spin.

And my first thought was why the hell not? A cursory Internet search shows that this album was nominated for the Choice Music Prize (which as far as I can gather is the Irish version of the Mercury Music Award) and you can immediately see why. The next thought was "this is a bit like the Editors but with a better singer" and repeat listens somewhat bear that out.

It's a catchy collection from start to finish. Particular highlights include the single Reconnect, which starts off as a somewhat typical indie jaunt before transforming itself into a cacophony of intense bliss. Leave It To Me is another great tune, starting off somewhat mellow before exploding into something totally different, but great all the same.

The pick of the bunch may well be I Only Realise, a great number and with its opening lyrics "I've only just realised, she was drunk both times" it might well sum up my entire life! ;-D

So basically if "indie powerpop" (thanks EG ;-D) is your thing you could do a hell of lot worse than check this out. Any fan of, say, Editors or The Killers would certainly find this a welcome addition to their collection.

The only criticism might be that the production job is a little too polished (at times we're almost drifting into Snow Patrol territory) but that doesn't really spoil your enjoyment too much. A delightful discovery. With any luck more people will hear them in 2007.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Narcissus Road - The Hours

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I'm notoriously lax for spotting "the next big thing" unless the "next big thing" happens to be an attractive lady singing pop tunes. The Hours are no exception to that. A little research says that they've been knocking around for a couple of years, have been bigged up by the likes of Jarvis Cocker and have Damien Hurst working on designs for them. Still, until very recently they were not a name that crossed my radar. Which on the basis of a lot of this debut album is a great shame.

For the first 20 minutes or so this album is an absolute delight. That includes the delightful singles Ali In The Jungle and Back When You Were Good. They are, quite simply, two of the best singles of recent memory. If you've heard them then you'll know what I'm on about; if you haven't heard them stop reading this right now and go find them on the Internet somewhere. You can't go wrong.

In the early going these are backed up by Love You More, with its somewhat funny lines like "I love you more than my record collection, I love you more than my football team", and the title track Narcissus Road, which, to me anyway, brings to mind the aforementioned Mr Cocker.

The problem is that after that there are a few songs that let the side down somewhat. Icarus is a piano-drive tune which sounds too much like a dull Keane song to be able to recommend it. I Miss You and Dive In are also pretty dull, and aren't really the sort of songs that make me want to listen to them again.

But the highlights aren't confined to the opening. In fact I Need To Know might be my favourite on the entire album; it's catchy, angry and vital and shows The Hours at their best.

So all in all its a damn fine debut, albeit with a few points that do drag it down slightly. It may make me sound like a prude but there is a little too much swearing peppered throughout the album for my liking and like everything over-exposure lessens the impact. This lack of subtlety also encroaches into the music as well. Everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink seems to have been thrown at this and at times the overall impact is indeed lost. Still, when they get it right, they nail it. And there's enough examples of that on here to make it well worth a listen.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Single Releases 19/02/07

They tell me that The Greatest by Cat Power is released this week. Well it's bloody fantastic so go and buy it. Or download it, as they do these days. Although really you should already have it in your collection. If you don't rectify that error right now!

Right onto more mundane matters.

B'day was a great album. Sadly Beyonce has slipped firmly into Dreamgirls mode and Listen is more like listless. Still her bad songs just make her good ones all the more exciting don't they?

I still remain unimpressed that the Kaiser Chiefs totally new direction has proved to be nothing of the sort but you cannot deny the fact that Ruby is a catchy number. And less annoying than the majority of their other stuff.

My biggest laugh of the year was the email from Sophie Ellis Bextor saying something along the lines of "for those of you who have missed classic pop tunes from one of Britain's brightest stars, have no fear...Sophie is back." Quite. Catch You is like most of her tunes. Catchy but not all that memorable in the final reckoning. And come on love, put some weight on.

She is though a million times better than Stacie Oricco.

Then we get onto The Fray. How To Save A Life must be one of the most hyped records of the year so far...and I just can't see the fuss. It's dull in the extreme.

Dragonette, according to Popjustice are brilliant. On the basis of Jesus Doesn't Love Me Anymore I can't see why. Presumably they know something I'm not yet privvy to.

You know what, I lost the urge to do any more. See you next week.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Long Blondes LIVE

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It’s not often that Spurs get a 4-0 away win at Premiership opposition. It’s even rarer that it should happen and not qualify as the highlight of the day; but then again it’s not every day you fall in love is it?

Ok so “love” may be slightly OTT, but Long Blondes lead singer Kate Jackson is quite simply sex-on-legs. If God himself came down from the heavens and said “Matt, because you are such an outstanding human being I will reward you by making it that you can marry any woman you like” then I would, without hesitation, choose Kate Jackson.

Her appeal is evident from the very moment I walked into the less than palatial Manchester Academy 2. The crowd is literally jam-packed with girls dressed in her inimitable style and it’s pretty clear why most of the young men have turned up as well. (I’m exempt from all this stereotyping as I am –much like Jackson herself – a respectable 27 years old). It’s also clear from the moment the band walks out onto the stage that she’s the star of the show. Indeed apart from the two people near the front who professed their love for the drummer Screech Louder its debatable whether anyone’s eyes were anywhere else other than firmly fixed on Jackson.

And in a way this helps. Because it is Jackson that transforms a good concert into a great one. In an age where there seems to be a distinct lack of genuine pop-stars Jackson shines like a beacon of hope. It’s been a long slog since their formation but time, and practise no doubt, has improved their sound. The rest of the band are tighter than ever and indicate that it's not just about style...the Long Blondes have the substance too.

The concert was pretty much the album plus a sprinkling of B-Sides. It’s a sure sign of their popularity that the likes of Fulwood Babylon and Five Ways To End It were met with the same foot-stomping, hand-clapping hysteria that the more familiar singles got. Even so the biggest reactions were reserved for Once And Never Again and Giddy Stratospheres although from start to finish the crowd is riding the crest of a wave and it’s clear that Manchester loves The Long Blondes.

And it seems the feeling was mutual. The Long Blondes don’t always reappear for an encore…tonight they did.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Crane Wife - The Decemberists

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Long time fans of cult bands usually have that moment when their "indie" favourites get that shiny new Major-label deal and they meet that moment with a mixture of happiness and fear. Happiness that a higher profile should ensue, fear that the pressure of major label politics will either change the band's sound or lead the band in a commercially led direction.

In some ways that first sentence was a waste of time; I am not a long-term fan of the Decemberists. I've only listened to the odd song here and there from the band (and been quite impressed with what I've heard) but it's only with this new album that I've taken the leap for a whole album. But its important to know where this album is coming from.

Presumably there is more money than ever before available to the band and from the very first instance it is clear that the money was well spent. Whilst, to a certain extent, previous songs of theirs that I've heard have seemed a little cluttered you can quite clearly hear every little nuance on this album.

The centrepiece of the album is the epic, heroic, barmy and slightly pretentious three part The Island. In a way it's modern storytelling in the old folk music style and it's just about pulled off, although there is no doubting that some listeners would find the whole thing more than a little ridiculous, especially stretching as it does past the 12 minute mark.

Thankfully most of the rest of the album is a lot more brief, even if lyrically it does tread most of the same ground. As I've mentioned previously on this site, the single O Valencia was rather sublime and it's matched here by the duet with Laura Veirs, Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then). It's also a mark of the quality of the group that songs as disparate as Shankhill Butchers (a kind of chilling lullaby) and the blues-driven The Perfect Crime can exist as a cohesive whole.

Its clear to see that everything that made people love The Decemberists in the first place has mostly made the trip over to major label-dom and fans should be in no way disappointed in what they hear. Quite whether the wider world will take it into their arms is another matter. Some observers may find the whole thing a little too preposterous for their liking, although even they should find something to enjoy here.

The Killers LIVE

What can I say?

I do hope that certain someone enjoyed her evening....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Headstrong - Ashley Tisdale

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Ashley Tisdale has been given this great musical opportunity due to the fact she was in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, a programme I had never even heard of until I read up on Tisdale on Wikipedia, and High School Musical. So far so predictable then. Indeed her previous resume (I'll ignore the small role in Donny Darko) in a way tells you all you need to know about Headstrong, Tisdale's debut album.

It aimed at that pre-teen audience with whistles and bells on and indeed if your kids have recently been badgering you about High School Musical then they'll probably love this. But considering that I don't have any young children, at least not that I know of, that's really neither here nor there from my point of view is it? All I will say is that some of the songs, such as He Said She Said and Don't Touch, do drift a little close lyrically to places where I wouldn't be allowing my young children to be going, but then as so much of pop music these days can be, well, questionable on that score it's difficult to pillory Tisdale too much for it.

For anyone over the age of 12 this is an album to approach with deep caution although it's not all dreadful by any means. Of course it helps if you are a bit of a pop tart, which I unquestionably am, but there are some things on here that are quite good indeed. Granted its pretty formulaic stuff for the most part but there are the odd strokes of genius that Britney Spears could well do with if she ever stops flashing her bits long enough to actually release that new album.

So Much For You is the kind of funky, dance-driven tune that Spears would take to the top of the charts with ease, whilst Not Like That makes a decent attempt at copying Gwen Stefani's wild style. What you should avoid at all costs however are the risible attempts at pop balladry. Tracks like Suddenly and Unlove You might work in other hands, but here they're the epitomy of bland.

Ashley Tisdale is just another of those "off the production line" popstrels yet there are few signs that she does have enough personality to stand out from the pack. Better on the upbeat dance-pop numbers, there are a smattering of songs that could be hits in the right hands; unfortunately the evidence, as a whole, doesn't seem to suggest that Tisdale is that right vehicle.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Public Warning - Lady Sovereign

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I've liked Lady Sov for what must be a couple of years now which immediately causes problems. Firstly timing can be everything with these kinds of thing and its an easy suggestion to make that Sov, or her record label, has somewhat missed the zeitgeist as far as releasing Public Warning in this country goes. Secondly many of the songs on this collection are ones that anyone with more than a passing interest in Lady Sov will already be very familiar with, the majority being versions of demo's that have been doing the rounds for a year or more.

All of this, of course, is due to the fact that Jay-Z picked her out in the States and as such the main focus was cracking America, a task Lady Sov has somewhat achieved. Over here though, a lot of her buzz has been superseded by the likes of Lily Allen, who may stylistically be miles away from what is on display here but in the terms of the music press is probably seen as a like-for-like contemporary.

What is also clear is that its the tracks that seemingly have the American market in mind the most that are the ones that fall most flat. Those Were The Days comes across all sentimental but just seems false whilst My England seems tailored to American stereotypes of how we English really are. Both fail to shine in the translation.

Luckily most of the rest is quite good indeed. Latest single Love Me Or Hate Me is a catchy one (and appears here twice - the Missy Elliot featuring mix adding little) and whilst 9-to-5 still jarrs in comparison the the rest of the Sov catalogue, both Random and Hoodie benefit from new production jobs and justify the decision, in part, to stick to older tracks for the album.

Much like the single states, your choice really is to love Lady Sovereign or hate her; there certainly seems little opportunity for middle ground. Personally I lean more to loving her than hating her although over the course of a whole album the Lady Sov persona can get a little annoying. Still Public Warning is an enjoyable collection which, whilst perhaps not converting the unimpressed, has enough to prove to her fans that they were right to support her.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Not Too Late - Norah Jones

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I think it's safe to say that there isn't a person alive who won't know what to expect from Norah Jones' latest studio album Not Too Late. Yes, even those of you who are deaf will probably know exactly what you are going to get with Norah Jones.

This isn't, however, necessarily a bad thing in some senses. Jones rarely surprises us but then again she rarely disappoints; she may not do a whole lot different but what she does do is normally more than adequate. This collection is no different, despite what some reviewers would have you believe. In fact the only real difference is that Jones claims co-writing credits on all 13 tracks here and it's this that marks the real change in direction. Lyrically this album is a lot more cynical and uneasy than her previous efforts. It's also more substantial in parts as a result with both Election Day and Wish I Could treading the war/George W Bush ground that so many seem to do these days (although it should be pointed out that Jones seems to go to extraordinary lengths to not offend anyone in either song).

Highlight include Thinkin' About You, a song so delightful that you cannot help but fall under it's spell, the blues-driven Sinkin' Soon and Wake Me Up, although the latter does remind you a lot of Sunrise from her last album (a song which I consider to be her finest).

In the final analysis the choice is yours. If you liked her first two "solo" albums (we're not counting the Little Willies here) then you'll probably enjoy this one greatly too. If, like me, you can to many extents take or leave Norah Jones then you'll have the same opinion of this one. It's soft, warm and rustic music that will quite happily play in the background as you carry on with your life, occasionally beckoning you over to turn up the volume for the odd track before easing back into it's familiar groove and leaving you to carry on doing the housework.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Single Releases 12/02/07

I have no idea why two of Blink 182 have decided to record together again, and to be honest I don't really care. I always thought the weakest moments of theirs were when the fella who isn't in +44 took the helm. So the fact that it's the other bloke leading the way for When Your Heart Stops Beating pleases me. It's a good song, if nothing astoundingly new. But I like it, for my sins.

Charlotte Gainsbourg releases 5:55 on 7' vinyl this week as well and its one of the more gorgeous tracks from her really rather good album (one of my top 25 of 2006) and whilst hardly likely to be a huge hit, or a "hit" of any description, it remains a fantastic song.

I was a bit surprised when I heard the new Corrine Bailey Rae one, which confirms how underwhelming I found her album as a whole. It's quite funky for her really, although like a lot of her stuff it doesn't quite convince me. Still the talent is there, next time around it's just a matter of having the tunes to go with it.

The Decemberists are little more than a cult concern in this country, which is a shame really. I like bands that don't especially look like pop bands. Anyway, O Valencia is a great track. Instantly memorable and it doesn't get any less likable with repeated lessons.

All I Need To Know by Emma Bunton, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. It's crap and gets worse the more you attempt to listen to it. She just about has the range to get away with uptempo numbers, but ballad's like this are certainly not her forte. Still, she's doing better than the other Spice Girls I suppose so that must count for something.

The Feeling release Rose this week. Like much of their stuff I would listen to it but I wouldn't exactly recommend it. I mean lets face it, it's release date is rather cynical as well, what with Valentine's Day just around the corner.

It is however a whole lot better than Dreamers by Jack Savoretti. Dull in every sense and its as if someone set out to record something bland that would appeal to the Radio 2 market.

I'm surprised that Metric are still milking Live It Out with yet another release. Empty is a good song though and it is accompanied by a good video as well.

There's no doubting that the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are riding a wave of success at the moment but am I alone in preferring them when the were a little less "mature"? Probably so.

Snow Patrol release another single? *Shudder*

The Towers Of London release a single? *Shudder*

Monsters by The Sugars isn't exactly brilliant, but I like it. Another funny video as well.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sandi Thom LIVE

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There is definitely something about Chiquito restaurants that disagrees with me. Are two “ill” spells following my only ever visits there coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Still at least this occasion wasn’t as downright evil as the previous one. Of course going there also meant that we missed sharing a pizza with Sandi Thom at Pizza Express, but you can’t have everything.

We got to the venue early enough to see the support act but didn’t actually go into watch him, mainly out of general apathy (and major boredom – sorry couldn’t resist there) and the fact that I was drinking non-alcoholic Holsten Pills. Don’t worry ladies and gentlemen; it was a mere clerical error that led me to drinking that.

Anyway we settled down into our FRONT ROW seats for the concert. It was a bit sad really that there were empty seats on the front row next to me but on the whole the venue was almost full. And yes, I know I gave her album a bit of slating when it was released but if there’s one thing that a Sandi Thom concert can do it is show that she’s not really as shit as you might think. Yes, I still think Punk Rocker is an abomination but she does have some great tunes in the locker. What If I’m Right is a nice harmonica driven rocker, Lonely Girl is a sweet ballad and these were far from the only highlights.

The most intriguing things however were the fact that Sandi has added an electric guitar to her repertoire and the airing of new tracks slated for her next album (due in September according to the good lady herself). The electric guitar gave the more upbeat songs from the first album a harder edge and the new songs were quite delightful.

Days Of Summer was rocking, as was the rather catchy Devil’s Beat. They Don’t Make Mirrors Like They Used to belied its rather, well, crap title (come on, when she said the title half the audience laughed) and was actually a rather sweet and memorable lament on life’s lost dreams. Laugh if you have to, but having been to numerous concerts where the airing of new songs has left me cold it’s a triumph indeed that on one listen to these new songs I am actually greatly looking forward to the album later in the year.

So all in all this was a minor triumph. The songs were good, Sandi showed she has a rather sweet charisma and its difficult to imagine that anyone left disappointed. No spanking this time though ;-D.

And the final word must go to whomever typed up her set list though; next time use the spellchecker mate…

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tones Of Town - Field Music

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Last month I waxed lyrical about A House Is Not A Home, the new single from Field Music. It was quite brilliant. The problem of course is that you always worry that a brilliant opening single doesn't always translate into a brilliant accompanying album. Fears seems to rescind when a plethora of five-star reviews surfaced for Tones Of Town and whilst I would not go as far as to agree wholeheartedly with those "amazing" reviews, the album is still well worth a listen.

Despite the obvious "Englishness" of the sound, there is more of a West Coast USA feeling to the tunes. Indeed one could almost label it The Kinks meet The Beach Boys, although that would certainly be giving it too much credit in terms of reaching the quality of those acts.

The majority of the album provides bright, breezy pop with melodies that instantly stick in your brain. Particular highlights, alongside A House Is Not A Home, include In Context (with it's starting drum beat that brings to mind Nelly Furtado's Maneater!) and Give It Lose It Take It, one of the album's more boisterous moments.

It doesn't always work however; Sit Tight is especially disappointing, being a less effective retread of A House Is Not A Home with the human beatbox interlude being almost laughable. Still these moments are pleasingly few and for the most part this is a delightful album, albeit a one paced one. It's pleasant more than anything else although there are moments which lift it above that less than flattering description. It's unlikely to blow your mind but you will enjoy the experience whilst it lasts.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Infinity On High - Fall Out Boy

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Never let it be said that I don't give things a fair crack of the whip. Prior to the release of the, endearingly crazy, single This Ain't A Scene It's An Arms Race I treated FOB with more than a little disdain. Granted, they were more appealing than the likes of Panic!At The Disco but not appealing enough for me to ever want to sit through the whole of one of their albums.

Still that single certainly caught my ears, even if initially it was something akin to what the Backstreet Boys might come up with (at least until the chorus). But therein lies the surprising charm in their 4th album, Infinity On High.

It's "rock" but with enough "pop" elements to charm me, although by the same token it will probably alienate the more hardcore rock elements amongst us. But with the huge record sales this is likely to rack up what's a few upset rock fans labelling them "sell out's"?

Much has been made of the R'n'B link up (Babyface produces two tracks and Jay-Z cameo's on album opener Thriller) but really its business as usual, although it is true the Babyface collaborations Thnks Fr Th Mmres and I'm Like A Lawyer With The Way I'm Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You) - catchy title - are two of the standouts on this collection.

Other highlights include The Take Over, The Break's Over (which sounds a little Lost Prophets to my ears) and I've Got All This Ringing In My Ears And None On My Fingers both of which marry killer riffs with catchy choruses.

Sure there are moments that are a little too over-wrought (The After Life Of The Party) and a little too full of cliches (Don't You Know Who I Think I Am) and the preponderance of long and supposedly witty song title can grate but on the whole this is really quite a good record indeed.

I would suspect their rabid fans will love it, but I suspect that some "non-fans" might find themselves listening to this on the basis of Arms Race...and those that do might find themselves enjoying a lot of this as well. Much like I did.

Perhaps I'm ill or something ;-D

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Life In Cartoon Motion - Mika

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When someone “wins” the BBC “Sound of 2007" poll you can be sure that they’re going to be huge. You can never, however, be sure that they’re actually going to be any good. Mika is a case in point. You haven’t been able to switch on the Radio without hearing the ubiquitous Grace Kelly this year but whilst some have been raving about the track as if we’d suddenly found our new pop saviour, I was never that convinced. Yes it’s catchy and yes, it has a somewhat infectious chorus but my feelings were, and still are, that if this is the bright new hope then we’re all in trouble. It’s a feeling that Life In Cartoon Motion goes a long way to confirming.

The immediate problems are twofold. Firstly there is nothing that comes close to matching Grace Kelly and secondly there is such a hodgepodge of “influences” on display that in the end it overwhelms you. The feeling is one of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. The obvious starting point would be Queen (Freddy Mercury is even name checked on Grace Kelly); Billy Brown echoes Bring Back That Leroy Brown whereas Big Girl doesn’t even try to hide its similarities to Fat Bottomed Girls. Whether it’s the attempt to ape Queen on these tracks or the misguided attempts at humour on the two, both are amongst the worst of the worst on this collection. They're the kind of things that Chris Moyles would do on his Radio 1 show...and I don't mean that as a compliment.

It doesn’t get much better either. In fact I can hardly think of a good word to say about it. If anything the best thing I could say about it is that the rest of the album almost makes Grace Kelly the “pop hit of the year” that everyone else seems to think it is.

He may well be a mix of the Scissor Sisters, Robbie Williams and Queen, but sadly he’s taken all the wrong bits and has none of the charm. Mika himself calls it his “marmite” album and you can chalk up another one for the “loathe it” column here. Any signs of promise are far outweighed by the dross. Still people seem to like him so he may well get a second chance to prove me wrong.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Girls Aloud

Ok, so the song itself is a bit rubbish, and the video's not all great, but at least the Comic Relief thing has resulted in the picture that now adorns the top of my page.

For those of you who are no doubt disappointed that my gurning features have been removed, what can I say but sorry? ;-D

And as a bonus

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I'll say no more :D

Monday, February 05, 2007

Single Releases 05/02/07

What a special week we have this week. For, finally, Now Listen by Shakin Stevens gets its release. Or does it? Knowing how it's gone so far it probably by now has been put back to June or something. Anyway, its a classic slice of Shaky. What more can I possibly say.

Giddy Stratospheres gets a release from the Long Blondes this week as well. I love the Long Blondes and this is yet another superb track from them. I also love Kate Jackson, and she looks very nice indeed in the video. Not that that kind of thing makes any difference of course...

I dol like Duke Special but I have to admit that whilst he is a knock out proposition live, for me he never quite captures that on his records. Freewheel is no exception. It's good, and has a simply beautiful chorus, but never quite takes off in the way it threatens to. I hope he gets some good success from it though.

The irony about The Gossip is that if Beth Ditto walked past the cool critics in the street then rather than labelling her the coolest thing alive they'd probably be sniggering into their half fat lattes. Those concerns aside, Jealous Girls is a decent song, albeit one that doesn't grab me the way previous singles have.

Perhaps appropriately we come to the Magic Numbers. (And i'm not being "fattist" here - i'm hardly a size zero myself). Their "lack of image" is in fact an image in itself, but no matter about all that - I just can't get into the Magic Numbers at all. In my opinion their debut album was totally overrated and things haven't improved for me with anything I've heard off their second. This Is A Song doesn't change my opinion one little bit.

Cute Is What We Aim For release Newport Living this week and it's your typical slice of American emo-pop which probably sounds a whole lot better if the OC isn't just a show that they used to show on Channel 4 on Sunday mornings to you. Still there is a bitter lyrical edge to this that I quite like.

Boy George has long since slipped down to being a mere caricature but occasionally he can still prove that to some extent he still has "it". His collaboration with Amanda Ghost aims to be one of those occasions but doesn't quite pull it off. But that's life.

Still give me George over Jessica Simpson any day. Totally vapid and pointless. Whether I mean the song A Public Affair or the lady herself is up to you.

No Simon Webbe, my soul pleads for you! I'll give you a bit of credit though, you're better than Lemarr. It's just that everything you've done since going solo has basically been the same thing.

If I Could Read Your Mind is better than seeing Clinic live ever suggested they could be. It's still not exactly good but it's eerie David Lynch style vibe does at least rescue it from being absolutely rubbish.

I pretty much despaired when I heard It's Not Ok by The Enemy. You do kind of hope when a band is hyped so much that you might find yourself enjoying their first major release. I didn't. It's derivative and those people who suggest that The Enemy are channeling the spirit of the Sex Pistols should remember that they were 99% hype as well.

And I almost forget the rather wonderful Kate Nash. Double A-Side with Caroline's A Victim and Birds. Caroline's A Victim is a rather strange/brave choice as a lead single really although it should do enough to derail some of the "new Lily Allen" posturings that seem to be following her about. Birds is wonderful though and it won't be long before you'll be hearing even more about her.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Walk This Way

Or you could forget the awful Sugababes Vs Girls Aloud version... :-D

Saturday, February 03, 2007

2007 Concert Update

New update, taking into account the fact that I'm no longer going to The Killers (long story that one). The one's in red have been and gone.


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 2

22nd 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

Friday, February 02, 2007

One More Won't Kill Us - The Hedrons

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You might think, what with The Hedrons being close personal friends of mine ;-D, that objectivity would go out of the window when it comes to reviewing One More Won’t Kill Us, their eagerly awaited debut album. Well fear not, I am above all that. Impartiality is my middle name. So when I say that this is rather bloody good you know I mean it.

If the singles taught us anything it’s that The Hedrons have got the three minute or so blast of punk-rock-pop thing firmly in the bag. I still remain, relatively, slightly disappointed with I Need You, but Be My Friend and Heatseeker were the sort of songs that make your radio come alive and make even me want to shake my booty around my living room. Luckily though they are far from the only highlights on this exciting set.

Couldn’t Leave Her Alone is a short sharp blast of excitement, Falling Star could be described as Blondie meets Kenickie and What Am I To Do (clocking in at nearly 5 minutes) proves that the magic can sustain a longer song too. The only real disappointment is that Bad Charm, which ended up as B-side, has been removed since the promo copies were doing the rounds. Once Upon A Time is good, but it’s not the killer anthem Bad Charm is.

Of course there will be the critics who sit back and say that it’s hardly anything original, but that would kind of miss the point. It’s fun, it’s furious, it’s melodic and it’s really rather brilliant. Monster riffs, awesome solo’s and a powerful rhythms…what more could you possibly want people? Superstardom awaits.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Myths Of The Near Future - Klaxons

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So here come the Klaxons, spearheading the New-Rave revival. Except they’re not. After riding that bandwagon, the band chose to distance themselves from it in the weeks leading up to the release of this debut album. Which was initially surprising when one considered the singles Magick and Atlantis To Interzone, but becomes less surprising when one considers the recent chart smash Golden Skans and, indeed, the album as a whole. Other than the incendiary Atlantis to Interzone and a, pretty dull and poor, cover of Not Over Yet there is little that can be so easily pigeonholed into the whole new rave scene.

The first impression from the album was that with the singles, the three aforementioned songs and Gravity’s Rainbow, you’ve already heard the best of the Klaxons. Take away those four songs, and what’s left is neither brilliant nor all that exciting or inventive. It just exists. Which is a shame really.

Not Over Yet may be a live favourite, but the recorded version strips away all the joyous explosion of the original and replaces it with a plodding background and dull, uninterested delivery; Isle Of Her is robotically repetitive and comes off as a worse version of Golden Skans, a trick which Totem On The Timeline repeats in respect of Magick – a similar bass line to a much less enticing effect.

So here comes the strange dichotomy of today’s hype orientated music scene. If I hadn’t heard of the Klaxons before playing this CD the chances are I would be quite impressed due to the quality of some of the songs (the singles in the real world) and would have thought that the better tracks carried the filler. As it is, I can’t help but feel disappointed that the album doesn’t live up to the heightened anticipation that some excellent singles have created.
It’s not a terrible album by any means and it does have its moments. Sadly, for me, those moments are not enough to carry the whole. In the final analysis it falls short of the heights that the singles promised, but it is still worth checking out for those great moments alone.