Friday, February 27, 2009

Tonight - Franz Ferdinand

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Critically the knives seem to have been out for Franz Ferdinand ever since their “disappointing” second album failed to produce a smash hit along the lines of Take Me Out. Me? Well I liked You Could Have It So Much Better almost as much as I liked their fantastic debut and it certainly provided enough catchy pop hits to keep me entertained. However when the stories abounded about the difficulties they were facing producing their third album even a dedicated fan like myself had to pause and wonder if it really was all about to implode. As it turns out I needn’t have worried.

Setting out to make a fantastic Dance-Rock record, Franz Ferdinand achieved that aim with a style and panache that leaves you wanting to put the record straight back on once it’s finished. Lead single Ulysses is a fantastic electro-pop record that at once sounds completely fresh and unmistakably Franz Ferdinand. The likes of No You Girls, Turn It On and What She Came For keep up that pace and the result is an album that might lack a little of the characteristic wit you might expect from the boys but gets you onto your feet and onto the dancefloor every time.

If “Tonight” was a girl, she might not be the one you’d want to marry, but you would sure enjoy her company whilst it lasted. This is a fun, danceable and downright catchy album which, to my mind, confirms that Franz Ferdinand still do have it, indeed if they ever actually lost it in the first place.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Katy Perry LIVE

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It’s not a good sign when you don’t really know why you are even going to a concert. It’s not as if I particularly like Katy Perry. I Kissed A Girl is fine as a novelty pop hit, and Hot and Cold does enough to save Perry from being a one-hit wonder but other than that there’s nothing I would ever want to listen to on her album again with any great relish.

Of course the rantings and ravings of a man who left high school almost 14 years ago matter little in terms of Perry’s core audience. She herself may be under some illusion (although I actually think that Perry is savvy enough to know which side her bread is buttered on) but a quick glance around the sold out Manchester Academy sees a definite bias in her audience towards teenage girls. I was certainly one of the few straight males there who wasn’t either dragged there by their girlfriend (chance would be a fine thing I suppose) or by their daughter’s.

So whilst I could bang on about the fact that I don’t rate Perry all that highly, that her stage set up was something akin to a low budget Elton John (or Flaming Lips) presentation, that her lyrics are at times cringe worthy and that her between-songs banter was, by turns, irritating and hugely annoying all that might be somewhat missing the point. The fans sung heartily (even along to selected album tracks) and there wasn’t a disappointed face to be seen as the fans shuffled onto the streets when it was all over. When you please your audience to that extent, what does it matter about that one miserable bastard in the crowd anyway?

And even I would have to admit that, after an admittedly dodgy start which could kindly be put down to the effects of flu that were noticeable at last week’s Brits, Perry can sing. And as her acoustic version of Thinking Of You proved, so can play too. But, frankly, I spent most of the evening in a state of mild irritation, wondering how better I could have spent my Wednesday night.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Fame - Lady Gaga

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I dismissed Lady Gaga as a flash in the pan upon hearing Just Dance. It was a decent enough pop record, or so I thought, (well if you take that bloke’s bit out of it) but hardly suggested that Gaga’s album would be anything worth hearing. But then it kind of lodged itself in my head and wouldn’t go away. When follow up single Poker Face did the same there was little point in resisting. Even if the album only had those two good songs, it would have two more good pop songs than the last Madonna album.

Thankfully, The Fame does indeed have more than those two singles to offer. Granted, at 16 tracks the UK Special Edition drags on for FAR too long, but if you jettison five of six of the tracks you’ve got the makings of a really rather decent pop record. The likes of Love Game, Eh Eh and title track The Fame are just as good as the two singles and should keep her in hits for the rest of the year.

Ok so there isn’t much going on lyrically (half of the songs seem to be about liking rough sex – not that you’ll find me complaining on that score) and if you played a drinking game where you drank a shot every time she sang “cherry cherry boom boom”, “love game” or “ga ga” it wouldn’t be too long before you passed out.

However, Gaga’s avowed intention with this album was to make a fun pop record that people would enjoy listening to. With a little bit of judicious editing of the track list, you can certainly say she’s achieved that aim.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Imelda May LIVE

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The first concert of 2009 kicked off in style at the swanky Baby Blue in Liverpool’s Albert Docks. I have to complain about the scallops’ starter though. For £8.95 (minus my 20% discount of course) I expect more than 3 scallops the diameter of a penny and the thickness of, well, something not very thick at all. They won me back with the delightful Black Pudding Mash that accompanied the lovely Pork Tenderloin though.

The venue itself was a little but strange (getting in to it was a bit like Eyes Wide Shut) and I have to say that it was the “oldest” crowd I’d ever seen at a “non-oldie” concert. To explain that, I have seen “older” crowds at things like Neil Diamond, but Imelda May, despite her retro sound, isn’t old herself is she? Well, you hopefully know what I mean.

What isn’t in any doubt is that Imelda May is absolutely bloody fantastic. Her love of Rockabilly, Jazz and SKiffle may not be conducive to mega-chart stardom but there is no denying that if you are into that kind of thing, May is sublime. Most of her impressive Love Tattoo album was unleashed, with my particular favourite being Wild About My Lovin'. We were also treated to some entertaining cover versions, including wicked versions of Patsy Cline’s Walking After Midnight and, best of all, Tainted Love.

Sure at various times you could have felt like you were in some bizarre episode of Heartbeat but that’s just my warped mind at work. I was quite taken by Imelda May prior to this concert. Now I think I may just be in love with her.